My Banner Article
July 3, 2014
Updated June 19, 2018
97 comments 840 views
I have deliberately kept a low profile for the past year since the Banner published the article, Tomorrow’s Theology. I have watched as the church responded, and now that Synod has acted upon the various overtures related to it, I think it appropriate to re-enter the conversation.
Essentially Synod 2014 decided to do nothing significant, merely expressing “lament” over two articles in the Banner. Synod regrets that the Banner published those two controversial articles, but decided not to take any substantive action regarding either one.
Looking back on that action now, it seems as if it was a wise decision. I had personally hoped that Classis Wisconsin’s fine overture would have resulted in the appointment of a blue-ribbon committee to investigate the theological implications, if any, of modern scientific discoveries. But perhaps the church as a whole isn’t quite ready even for that, needing more input from the colleges dealing with the relevant scientific data. There is, of course, a lot of writing on the subject, but perhaps it just takes time for the significance of those discoveries to penetrate into our collective psyche.
Now I would like to address one of the concerns of those who criticized the article. There have been accusations that the article moved outside of the parameters of the Reformed confessions. Two points in response: 1) The article itself did not do this. Basically the article is an “If, then” essay. If these scientific discoveries are true, then what, if any, theological implications do they carry? 2) I do, agree, however, that if the lines of inquiry I suggested do prove in the future to be reasonably accurate, it will be necessary for us to move beyond where we now are theologically.
So here is the challenge to those who criticize the article: If the Lord should indeed show us that we can do better theologically, are we willing to listen and obey? Or do we say to the Lord, You have given us good and excellent things in the Reformation confessions; we accept them gratefully and we will not change them even if scientific data shows that we should?
Of course we do not change our theology merely because some scientists think we should. We change it only when the Lord prompts us to. So, suppose that the Lord is using the scientific community to do this prompting. Suppose that the Lord is telling us that it is time to reconsider our decision that it is heretical to think Adam and Eve are not historical persons. Suppose that it is possible to re-define the connection between Adam and Jesus without making this historical connection, but instead following up on Paul’s explanation in Romans 5 that Adam is a type of the one who is to come, a typological connection rather than a historical one.
All right, that implies another challenge. What do we make of the fact that Genesis One says ten times that God spoke? Ten times he spoke and ten times something happened. Let there be light, and there was light. Ten times until God had brought into existence a world in which human beings could exist and thrive. So then, what is the Word of God according to Genesis One? Is it not that which God says in the shaping of the universe? And is it not that world which our scientists are constantly studying? The whole world is as much the product of the speech of God as is the Bible. God made a world that works, and he made it by speaking. So when scientists figure out some aspect of how the world works they are listening to God fully as much as our theologians who are studying and explaining the Bible.
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In my perception, it is ironic, Edwin, that on the one hand, in your world, Adam never existed, yet on the other hand, God still spoke. As your own arbiter of what to accept and what not to accept in scripture, it is difficult to carry on a rational discussion. By your standards it would be as easy for me to deny that God spoke at all. Especially that he spoke creation into existence, which you seem to deny anyway. (or are you now suggesting a punctuated equilibrium? or God of the gaps?).
It sometimes seems that the strongest believers in raw evolution theory are those who do the least examination of the empirical difficulties with it.
Scientists who study origins without considering God' s word, and His role, just might be the same as a mechanic trying to understand an engine without considering the fuel that makes it meaningful Just because they are studying God's world, does not mean they are listening to God, anymore than a teenager riding a God-created horse down a God-created trail to a God-created stream is listening to God. Although scripture does say that even those who have not heard of Christ are still without excuse before God, because they can see God's hand in the world around them, if their hearts are open.
Thank you, John, for the courtesy of your reply, and for the candor with which you write.
I “seem to deny” that God spoke creation into existence? I do find that deduction difficult to understand. The fact is that I affirm that doctrine wholeheartedly and make much more of it than is customary in our theology. So if we ask Genesis One what is the Word of God? we get the reply: that activity of God whereby he brought the whole universe, including humans, into existence. We need to listen to what God is saying in the creation fully as much as we need to listen to what he is saying in the Bible. Or don’t you agree that God is speaking in the creation?
You say that I am my own arbiter of what to accept and what not to accept in scripture. Surely you can’t mean that. I accept anything and everything that God says, whether in natural revelation or in special revelation. Perhaps you come to that strange conclusion based on the recognition that the Adam and Eve stories in Genesis 2 and 3 can be interpreted, as Paul suggests in Romans 5, as typology rather than as historical. This is not an arbitrary decision on my part to deny part of the Bible, but to attempt to understand both what the Bible teaches and what science teaches (special and natural revelation) without contradiction. Of course you may disagree with that method of reconciling the two, but it should not lead you to make such unfounded and somewhat disrespectful accusations.
But taking into consideration everything you wrote in this reply, I think you didn’t address the main point of what I wrote. I asked the question whether or not we are willing to listen to what God says in creation, to believe what he says there, and make whatever adjustments appear to be necessary, if any, to our theology. It is indeed my conviction that the Adam and Eve stories in Genesis are typological, not historical. And if this is true, then it seems clear to me that theological revision will be required.
Edwin thanks for your response.
Yes, as to your main point, God speaks to us thru creation, thru what is seen. It is for that reason that even those who have not heard the gospel, are still without excuse, as scriptures say. In other words, creation itself speaks of the majesty of God through its beauty, order, complexity, and magnificence. It amazes us! That should lead us to its creator and sustainer. So we need to ask why it amazes us. Why is God's goodness evident in it? Why is God's power evident in it?
I have a confusion and disunderstanding of your implication that God spoke things into existence while at the same time these things evolved from a spec of virtual nothingness. Perhaps it is a problem of communication, of using words differently, but it is like saying that mechanic built an engine, while all he did was purchase it and install it. or all he did was put fuel into tank. Your use of the terminology means that you are speaking an entirely different language.
So you can say you accept everything in scripture, but you are speaking a different language when you say that. You accept everything provided you can use a different connotation of the words? For example, you seem to imply that if Adam is identified as typology in Romans 5, that this is an argument against Adam being historical. There is no need for such a conclusion. Historical figures can obviously be typological as well; one does not exclude the other. It is an irrelevant point to the real item of discussion.
One main issue you seem to be stuck on is the false synonyms of science= evolution. They are not synonymous. Just as geo-centrism and science are not synonymous. The issue is not what science teaches, but whether evolution is scientifically proven. In addition, if you are insistent on reconciling this according to the prevailing consensus, simply because it is a prevailing consensus, how then will you reconcile the miracles in scripture, with "science"? How will you reconcile the resurrection which the prevailing science will reject?
Since I work in natural science, I ask you with no disrespect, how informed are you of the scientific objections to evolution theory? Are you familiar with the findings and evidence and interpretations of creation.com, answers in genesis, Walt Brown's book, Ian Juby's explanations of fossils and fossil layers? Are you aware that Darwin never published anything in a peer reviewed journal? Are you aware of the creation science journals? Are you aware of the antithesis imbedded in this whole discussion?
It seems to me that many people are aware that evolution leads naturally to theological revision of a major kind, but that such discussion is completely premature since evolution has so many scientific problems with it. Furthermore, the potential for evolution to co-exist at partial levels with major God-spoken initiatives in the creative process is rarely considered. So without understanding exactly what is proven and what is speculation, then any theological revision itself becomes mere useless speculation, likely (on theory of probability) based on half-truths or on complete falsehoods.
As an aside, it also seems to me that you are being "somewhat disrespectful" to Adam and Eve by suggesting they didn't exist. Also disrespectful to all the geneologies, and other scriptural references to Adam and Eve, including Romans 5. By implication also, if the first Adam didn't exist, then the second Adam also becomes somewhat anomalous or pointless, trying to solve a problem that doesn't really exist. And in that case, you are trying to really listen to physical reality while making scripture a mere sideline. I say this bluntly with candor.
The reality is that scientific endeavor has limitations. Historical science and the interpretation of fossils and age of rocks has even greater limitations. Unchallenged assumptions are a major stumblingblock. Christian scientists would do well to challenge those assumptions. Theologians with a marginal understanding of science should not inhibit these scientists, nor marginalize their efforts, merely on the basis of a naive unfettered belief in science, which in essence is merely the study of nature. Science is not lord over the creator of it.
ty·pol·o·gy....noun 1. the doctrine or study of types or prefigurative symbols, especially in scriptural literature.
2. a systematic classification or study of types.
If Adam was not historical, then how could you have a typology of a one man who brought sin into the world? Wouldn't your typology simply be untrue... a lie... a falsehood? Did a different one man bring sin into the world? what man? how would we know? Typology only works if there is truth in it. If no lambs were ever sacrificed, could they still be a typology of Christ? If Moses never led the people out of Egypt, could he still be a type of Christ? If David was never king, how could he be a type of Christ (never mind an ancestor of Christ). If Abraham never existed, then how could there be an Israel?
If Adam and Eve never existed, then they never sinned. Then God never said to them anything at all. Then they never disobeyed God. How do we know that anyone ever disobeyed God? Cain then was not the son of Adam, and no promise was ever made to Eve and Adam about crushing the serpent's head. No prophecy of Christ at that time.
The more I think about this, the more I realize how susceptible we become to the simple phrase: "did God really say?"
The tastiness of the forbidden fruit was science/nature. To say that this tastiness revealed God's word in the fruit is what Satan wants us to believe.
Response to your first communique.
Thank you for your candid and fair response. You make excellent observations in the beginning of your comments, regarding what Paul writes in Romans about people being without excuse because they have constant contact with the creation that God made and through which he speaks. Right on. We have something at least in common!
But then you go on to write, “I have a confusion and disunderstanding of your implication that God spoke things into existence while at the same time these things evolved from a spec of virtual nothingness.”
I take it you mean, How can I affirm the truth of Genesis One while accepting the theory of evolution? I do not find any contradiction here. Why can’t we see that God employed the method of slow development over billions of years to accomplish what he wanted with the world he was bringing into existence? So far as I can tell, to believe that what the scientists are telling us about such things as the age of the universe, the age of the planet earth, the appearance and developoment of life, as well as the emergence of human life does not in any way contradict what we read in Genesis One. The scientists are describing as accurately as they can, with what they now know and are continually learning, how these things came to be. In so far as they are accurate, Christians may understand that such truth also comes from God our Creator.
And that is where, it appears, that you have your difficulty. You write, “The issue is not what science teaches, but whether evolution is scientifically proven.” I agree. But it seems that where you and I disagree is whether the developmental theory is scientifically proven. I don’t know whether or not it is even possible to prove conclusively that it is so, but from what little I have read I am personally convinced that this is the way God has brought the world into existence. You are not convinced. That’s fair enough. The CRC as a whole is not yet convinced either, and I suppose that is the reason why Synod made the decision it did not to appoint a committee to investigate the theological implications implied.
What you write about the typological interpretation of Adam involves is again good. I know very well that it does not prove that Adam and Eve are not historical. But it does suggest that if it should prove to be true that they are not historical, there still is a solid Biblical way of interpreting their significance in the Bible.
You challenge me at some length to read the creationist authors you cite. I have no expertise whatever in scientific matters and have not read very much along the lines of young earth theology or flood geology, but what little I have read does not appear to me to be convincing, whereas the other side of the matter does appear to be convincing. I don’t consider myself capable of debating the science involved, and I do therefore rely on the people who do know the issues involved. I recognize that the issue is still being debated, and I am content to let them work at it until some degree of unanimity is reached. This may well take several more years, by which time I will be dead. I trust the Lord will lead his church where he wants it to go, and for my part I am doing what I can to examine what the implications might be if indeed it becomes clear that the developmental theory is accurate.
You write, “By implication also, if the first Adam didn't exist, then the second Adam also becomes somewhat anomalous or pointless, trying to solve a problem that doesn't really exist.” This is indeed an important point. But your conclusion does not appear necessary. If the Adam and Eve stories of the Bible are not historical, they are still typological. If Adam represents, typologically, all of us human beings, then the reality of sin remains and the work of the Second Adam is just as necessary as we have always maintained. The problem of sin does exist even when Adam is understood as typological. We are all sinners, we are all Adams, we all make the same decision Adam did, and we are all saved by Jesus who is like unto us in all respects except for sin.
I have no problem with your bluntness and candor, and I do appreciate that you did not resort to being “somewhat disrespectful” in your response. I think we must relate to one another as brothers in Christ, not unfairly judgmental either way, but allowing God to be the final judge of the issues involved.
Reply to Communique # 2 from John Zylstra
Thanks again for your analysis of the idea of a type of Christ. You write, “If Adam was not historical, then how could you have a typology of a one man who brought sin into the world? Wouldn't your typology simply be untrue... a lie... a falsehood?”
The answer is: the same way Christian could be a type of all of us in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. In that allegory the person of Christian is understood as Everyman. In the same way the Genesis stories about Adam can be understood as meaning Everyman.
When, accordingly, I read Genesis 3 I can substitute my name or your name when the name Adam is used. I am confronted with the necessity of choosing whether or not to obey God. Outside of Christ I choose wrongly, getting bad results rather than the good results I had been expecting. I find myself, consequently, outside of God’s blessing, outside of Eden, under God’s curse for my wrong decision. Yet I also have the promise that the serpent will be crushed under the foot of the seed of the woman, an event that for us is past, having been accomplished by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
I do not need to maintain that Adam and Eve were real historical persons in order to perceive their importance for understanding myself and understanding God’s sovereign control over all of life and history. In fact I find it a more powerful way of understanding how the Bible impacts my life. Surely to maintain a typological view of Adam is not “simply untrue … a lie… a falsehood.” It is, on the contrary, a most vital and humbling call to repentance and faith.
I take now the liberty of congratulating you on your personal interest in coming to understand the way God works and how the Bible functions in his plan and purpose. Not many people take the time to articulate their problems and difficulties with new ways of thinking. It is good that you do so.
That being said, I think we need to recognize that God reveals new things to us from time to time, new insights that require us to rethink and reorient our faith. He gave the Israelites at Sinai an entirely new pattern to control their national life, the Torah. He gave the Jews in Jesus’ day a new covenant which mandated that they regard the previous covenant as outdated and no longer in force. He gave the medieval Christians new insights into the gospel at the time of the Protestant Reformation. It is becoming more and more apparent that God is now giving us new insights into the matters that scientists are discovering about the universe and time and life.
I find that what Moses said to Israel at Sinai is a powerful insight into this method of God. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that have been revealed belong to us and to our children to do all the things of this law.” (DT 29:29) There is always a great deal we do not know, but God requires of us that we go by what we do know, what he has revealed to us. In our day this means what God is revealing to us via the scientific community.
You have profound doubts about the matters relating to the age of the earth and the provenance of humanity. This is not a bad thing in itself; it is a process that the Lord is leading you through. On an ecclesiastical level it seems also that the CRC is at somewhat the same stage, not being yet convinced one way or the other, and hence perpetuating the tradition.
For myself, while I am not a scientist and unable to argue scientific matters, I do think the Lord is calling us to better insights into his world and into the way he has been guiding its history. It took God about seventy years to bring me to a breakthrough, so maybe there is good hope for you as well, and for the denomination we both love! God go with you; he has all the time in the world to teach us what he wants us to know!
Edwin, thanks for your response.
Yes, we have some things in common, ie., scriptural authority, God creating the universe. However, the extent of scriptural authority, the way we understand scripture, and the way God created the universe and people is important also. It is interesting that you as a non-scientist, and me as one who has a B.A. in philosophy and English, as well as a B.Sc. in Agricultural science, should have somewhat opposing perspectives on the validity of evolutionary science, as well as on how to understand literature (the Bible).
Is it important to some degree to have a fall-back position that if evolution were incontrovertibly true in every aspect (mud to man, goo-to-you, microbes to microbiologist) then how would scripture be still relevant. Is that what you are proposing? An insurance policy?
Back to your comments. Yes you are convinced of evolutionary theory in its totality, in spite of your stated lack of expertise; and I am convinced there is a lack of evidence for macro evolution, even though possibly the actual material of the universe might possibly be older than 10,000 yrs. Although, I think our minds cannot totally wrap around the possibility of time change, accelerated or decelerating expansion of the universe, etc. Cases of radio carbon dating not able to deal with recent volcano formation accurately remains unexplained. Cases of C14 material imbedded in much older(supposed) rock, remains unexplained. Macro evolution as far as I can tell is based on speculation, on the basis of faith in the theory, on only one interpretation, and not on actual fossil evidence. Documented fraud and error has been perpetrated by the evolutionary theory both in scientific papers and in classroom textbooks, particularly for the more well known assumptions of evolutionary theory, and particularly when it comes to theorizing on descent or evolution of humans.
But, you remain convinced that evolutionary theory is inviolable, so lets consider the typology problem. You suggest that even if Adam did not exist, people still sinned against God. However, you have not provided a mechanism for their sin. Why have they sinned? Why are they disobedient? Evolution theory suggests that there is no moral or ethical element in man’s development. Evolution is a process of death, competition, destruction, elimination of the less able, of survival and selection of species and individuals. Those are the morals of evolution. Why would God counter his own creation process through his commands to people. Or, why would God use a creation process so different from His own stated ideals for holiness, purity, kindness? Even Cain’s murder of Abel would merely be a natural evolutionary act.
If Eden is merely part of the typology, how does it relate? How could Eden then be anything other than the competitive, destructive, death dealing evolutionary process? What is the relevance in the typology of the fall into sin creating death? Doesn’t that make the typology entirely absurd? As a mere typology without substance, it would be seen to be absurd in the context of the evolutionary theory. The question would be asked: repent from what? From my evolutionary instincts and process?
The difference between Adam, and Christian in “Pilgrim’s Progress” is that “Christian” is a reflection of the redeemed man (not Everyman), not the presumed ancestor or progenitor of everyman’s sinful nature. Furthermore, if Adam did not exist, and if our sinful nature is merely our evolutionary process in action, then the validity of Pilgrim’s Progress will also be questioned. The significance of the creation story perhaps lies as much in whether God really did create everything good or not, or what God’s definition of “good” really is. Or in fact, whether God really spoke to man at all, or whether man created God rather than God creating man.
I find your identification of “new” and “old” somewhat limited, or perhaps lacking in depth. We often say “new” in generic comprehensive terms without identifying what is old and what is new. Ecclesiastes says there is nothing new under the sun. Yet it seems new to us. Hebrews 8-10 talks about the old and new covenenant but concentrates specifically on temple, worship, and sacrifices in particular. But it maintains that in understanding this new covenant, he who continues to sin places himself outside of this new covenant, which sounds suspiciously like the old covenant, doesn’t it. In other words, the old and the new covenant are different, yet inseparable.
So the Christians during the reformation brought new insights which were actually a return to old insights and precepts. Having just read the first nine chapters or books of Augustine’s confessions, it became obvious to all of us in this study group, that Augustine’s experiences of 300 AD were very similar to our own in 2014. New information does lead to new insights, true, but we should be very cautious about generalizations which are often untrue in specific cases.
On the science side, I would suggest that you not idolize the scientific community. They are human beings like everyone else, like mechanics, doctors, engineers. They do a lot of good stuff, but they make mistakes. Doctors bleeding people in order to cure illness. Lacking an understanding of bacteria, viruses. Slowly finding ways to treat AIDS but not cure it. Not yet anyway.
Scientists can work with things they can experiment with. But going back in time? Not so simple. Lots of assumptions. They may well find they were wrong on several significant points. I am finding too many problems with their assumptions about layering of sediment, placement of fossils, age of volcanic rocks, undocumented leaps of evolutionary progress.
I am only 60 years old, so I have not yet seen everything. One thing I have seen is that there are more scientific problems with evolution today than there were in the past. Another thing I have also seen is that for many, evolution is a religion or faith, held to most strongly by those who have the least information on it. So that makes me doubly cautious, something like Augustine’s eventual suspicion of the Manichees who lacked knowledge of the basics.
God will lead and teach us, but not all will be willing to accept His teaching until forced to at the last day. Evolution is the primary present day tool to lead us philosophically and morally away from God. On its own, it justifies our unlimited pursuit of money, superiority, material possessions, power, aggressive wars, lack of care for the poor. It provides a rationale for abortion and euthanasia. It supports the idea of a god as a blind watchmaker, if he exists. If evolution can convince us to deny that God created everything good, and that Adam and Eve (man) were not originally responsible for sin, then Satan will be happy when people begin to think that really god is to blame for sin, not us, and that it is just and right that Jesus as god died for his own sin, and is absurd that he could pay for ours.
I am not quite so pessimistic as I sometimes sound, so I trust God will use all of this for his honor and glory. But we must not lose sight of the antithesis, of the battleground for the souls of men. People of the church have too blithely assumed that Satan is no longer active, and that our sinful nature is barely relevant. This sinful nature inclines human beings to look for an origin and solution outside of God. This is the present day struggle, which is not a new struggle. Jesus warned about all those who came to God in the last day saying: “Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophecy in your name, didn’t we cast out demons, didn’t we heal the sick” and God says to them, get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.” “Only the one who does the will of the Father in heaven will enter”. This warning is always in my mind.
An interesting side note: Just this morning I was reading Hebrews 10 and into 11. It seems God led me to a new awareness of a relevant passage in Hebrews 11: 3. "By faith we understand that the universe (the worlds, the entire universe) was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." NKJ, NIV, NLT all have the same general translation. By faith we understand that what is seen of the universe was not made from what can be seen.
And verse 4: "...Abel gave a more acceptable sacrifice... although Abel is long dead..." It does appear that Abel actually lived, or he could not have died. His faith was an example to us. Hmm.
It seems as though, we have a “comment war” between two people, Ed and John. And I doubt that the two of you will ever reach agreement. It seems as though you both have different starting points that will not allow your paths to cross in a significant way, or come to the same conclusions. Ed is asking a “what if” question in his article, and John won’t allow for any “what ifs.”
I’ll also ask a “what if” question. What if the Bible is not the inspired word of God, as you both seem to propose. The opening chapters of Genesis are antiquated in their origin, like many of the other ancient religious writings of ancient history. They speak of realities that make no sense to the modern mind. These chapters speak of a pseudo reality that fits an antiquated mentality that didn’t have the benefit of developed thought. Religions of that time spoke of the gods existing on a different plane (pseudo) but yet who interacted with humanity on earth. There were good gods and evil gods. There were national gods and the false gods of other nations. Not unlike these other ancient religions, Judaism and Christianity have a good God and a demigod, Satan, the archenemy of God. The Bible records fanciful stories of God’s creation in six literal days, by which each day God brought about another aspect of the then known world. It tells of God stepping down from his pseudo reality (heaven) and instructing humans (Adam and Eve), but also of the pseudo demigod doing the same in the form of a talking serpent and giving a conflicting message than God’s. The fanciful stories (the creation and fall of Adam and Eve, the tower of Babel, Noah’s arc, Cain and Abel, etc.) abound in the early chapters of the Bible, as well as throughout. These fanciful stories had been retold over thousands of years before finally being put down in written word. And now you, John, and many other Christians, want to hang on to these stories as though they are solid fact.
Are scientists today to assume that these fanciful stories of creation should become the bedrock of science and scientific endeavor? Are psychology and human relationships to be built upon stories of Adam and Eve’s fall and redemption? These stories are acknowledged as true and reliable by you John (and also I think, you, Edwin) by faith alone. It is the accepting as true that which does not make, even, common sense. But for you, the Bible is the God breathed word of God and is absolutely reliable and truthful, unfailing in telling us the realities of life.
How is the Bible different from the Koran and the book of Mormon or the Hindu writings which also claim to be the true inspired word of God? They say their own writings are absolutely true and the Bible is a false revelation of God, just as we say the same about them. We say their stories are fanciful and therefore untrue, but the Bible’s stories are different. Maybe all formalized religions are a weak attempt to further explain the God that is clearly revealed in his creation of the world. And each religion puts its own spin on their attempts to reveal God who has already revealed himself in the creation. I agree with Edwin, that the creation speaks the truth of God. But I disagree that God needs further help to clarify his reality and his relationship to human kind.
Your original article, Edwin, hits the nail on the head. Something is going to have to give with Christianity or it will become the ridicule of future generations. Five hundred years from now, maybe less, Christianity will make little sense, especially seeing as it is based on fanciful stories and miracles, and seeing as science will increasingly make these stories seem very foolish. I have a feeling that you, Edwin, are afraid to step outside the pale of Christian thought, and you, John, are afraid to move at all from an historic conservative perspective of Christianity which is already losing its credibility in our society. It is, indeed, true that the teachings of the Bible have to be accepted by faith, because it has little or no concrete evidence to back it up. That being true it doesn’t really matter what God is revealing in his creation or what science is discovering about our world. The Bible (in Christian thought) is the final authority. Christians today are obviously trying to bend either science or Christian teaching to line up with the other. But to me the gap is becoming larger and larger.
Roger, thanks for your comments. I am curious to see how Edwin will respond to them. On my part, I am not sure you really exist, since I have no real evidence, outside of some words written by someone appearing here on this page. It might be a real person; it might be a pseudo person. :) I won't say much right now... maybe later, other than that your suggestion that I am afraid to step or move outside (of something) is presumptious, and a bit school-boyish. ("Scaredy cat, scaredy cat...") . In that case we are all motivated by fear. Edwin or I might suggest that you are afraid to step into Christian reality, and treat Scripture like a normal piece of literature rather than like a fable which it was not intended to be.
The interesting thing to me is that common sense and a bit of research indicates that the theory of evolution is having more and more difficulties as time goes on; yet many people continue to steadfastly believe in it without question. I think they are afraid to let go, or even to examine it critically.
Hi John, But indeed I am a real person. And it would take very little effort on your part to verify it conclusively, to in fact shake my hand and to talk in person, and to evaluate my DNA. It would not be so easy to verify Baal’s existence or any of the gods that Israel’s neighbors thought were real, as well as the Jews thought at various times, or even the gods of other present day religions. And I’m not daring you to step outside of your box (or calling you a scaredy cat, as you suggest).
But if I were to step into what you call Christian reality (as you suggest), which Christianity should it be, the one claiming the stories of a literal six day creation, God’s appearance to Adam in the garden of Eden, as well as Satan’s as a talking serpent, all of this as factual reality or the Christianity that claims this as fable? Do I step into a Christian reality that wants me to believe that Adam was the first actual created human being, or that he was more of a mythical character, or that he was the first human being to enter into covenant with God? Or does it make any difference? . Which Christian reality should I step into, John? I would guess that like you, the author of Genesis (some say Moses) thought he was describing what he thought might be real and what was handed down to him in story form, as factual reality. But recognize that all ancient stories of creation were not science based (there was no science) and had little or no connection to reality. But just because Moses thought his story of creation and Adam was real it didn’t make it any more real than the other stories that circulated back then in early and ancient recorded history. Even Christians would argue for the foolishness of these other stories. What makes the Christian story of creation any more reliable than the stories of other religions? They all claim inspiration from God, just as does the Bible. Why Christianity?
It might be one thing to argue within Christian circles as to what is real and what is not in the opening chapters of Genesis. Within the Christian box, debate makes sense to those debating. But put the Christian in a different box that debates science and origins, and should this Christian put the story of Biblical creation on the table as his foundation for science he would be thought to be totally unrealistic. He would probably be asked to leave science to the real scientists. The Christian might even argue that the earth was created with the appearance of age (young earth proponents) to explain away the scientific evidence for an earth that is millions of years old.
Evolution may not be scientific fact, it’s still a theory (like Biblical creation), but it is gaining a lot more credence and support in the scientific fields, where God’s existence is not a factor one way or another. You can’t say that for Christian science, the Bible is the foundational factor. But I’m guessing that few scientists (other than Christian) would claim or agree that the world was created in six literal and actual days. Where does that come from? Oh yah, the Bible.
I'm really waiting for Edwin's response... But, since you claim you actually exist, I will respond as if you do, to some of your statements.
You mention various Christian realities. Yes, they exist. How would you determine which were man-made and which were God directed?
What makes the Biblical story of creation more reliable than other stories of creation? You'd have to be specific. But one of the other stories that would appear to be less reliable is that of the world living on the back of a turtle. The biblical story is more reliable first because it was written down, second because it fits with what is observed, third because it makes a more realistic distinction between man and the rest of creation, fourth because it points out that light (in other words, energy and physical laws) was created before various distinct heavenly bodies. It's also not a vague story about undefinable things, but actually leads to the first person who could be traced back through a lineage that was defined. The other creation stories often resemble the biblical story, but an examination shows where the other stories seem to have lost either the realities, or the defined characteristics of the biblical story.
The biblical story also explains the origin of the struggle between good and evil, and why God wants to bring us back to the good creation as he originally created it.
However, no matter how accurate it is, and how much one simply believes it because he trusts scripture, the other reality is that evolutionary theory reached its apex some decades ago, and in fact has more problems today than it did twenty or fifty years ago, from a merely scientific perspective. As an aside, when you say that there was no science in ancient times, it reveals that you need to learn a bit more both about ancient times, and about science. Science is merely observation of nature, and utilization of it. When people planted crops, they were using biological science thousands of years ago. The bible even talks about creators of musical instruments, tools, workers of iron, etc., long before the flood. These are all scientific endeavors. Scientific knowledge has increased and continues to increase over time, but it has always existed. Knowing that plants need water, and that a boat can float, is scientific knowledge.
Evolutionary theory still lacks the evidence of transitional fossils that we would expect, if it was true. It still has no explanation for the development of the intricacies of various components of the human cell, or for the mechanisms of propulsion of certain single cell animals, nor for the origin of biological life using merely evolutionary mechanisms. There is a lack of believable explanation of why certain organic particles can be found in supposedly millions of years old layers of rock or in dinosaur fossils. There is a problem with being unable to accurately date recent volcanic rock with K-Ar methods.
Whether these things would eventually have explanations, the fact remains that there are more problems with evolutionary theory today, than there were in the past.
Christian science must use scientific principles to evaluate evidence, regardless of motivation. There is much faith in evolution underlying the way it is examined and taught by evolutionists; evolutionists tend to give their theory the benefit of the doubt, and that is probably causing them not to examine the problems with the theory in the same way as an objective non-partisan approach might do.
I'm glad though that you are willing to examine some of these things.
Well John, all I can say is, “my bad.” I misspoke when I said that there was no science back in early historic days. We could probably say though, that it (science back then) was very primitive. In looking up the definition of “science” on the internet, the first definition I came to was, “a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws.” I don’t know if that is what primitives were doing when they learned that wood floats in water better than rocks, but I think you know what I was getting at when I made my comment about primitives and science. We have come a long way since the time of the ancients. I doubt that the ancients’ belief in a pseudo reality in which the gods of that reality interacted with the people on earth had anything to do with science, but rather with superstition.
You went to some length to explain why evolution is a dead end street. I will agree with you, that there are a lot of kinks to work out of this theory. I would imagine that evolutionary scientists will say the same. And it may even take hundreds of years to get it all figured out. But it still seems to be the best hope and the best direction that today’s scientists want to pursue as to dating the age of the earth and the origins of life. It seems to have more in favor of it than what can be found against it. You may disagree with that, but with the comments you have made in this post, as well as other posts, it seems like you present very little to discredit evolution. Volumes and volumes have been written, and years and years of research have been done to support evolution. So it is hard for me to agree with your premise. I don’t claim to be a scientist of any kind so you can fire away at me at will. My disagreement with you comes at a different level.
But now, what about the science that you support. You are suggesting that on the first day some ten thousand years ago, God said abracadabra, and instantaneously (within a day) there was light. On another day, God said abracadabra, and instantaneously there were all the sea creatures and birds of the air. On another day God said, abracadabra, and within that single day all the earth creatures including humans beings were brought into existence in their present forms. Within a total of six literal days all that exists was magically brought into existence.
Wow, the renown scientists of the world are going to jump on that theory. That’s not what you could even call science. Do you really think there are no holes in your theory? Scientists would have a heyday finding fault, if they would even consider your theory. You say there is fault with the theory of evolution, but none with your theory? Come on John. Listen to yourself.
I’m not sure what you are doing as to your own scientific endeavors. It sounds like your scientific ambition is to disprove evolution, rather than to prove Biblical creation. It doesn’t take science to prove or support God saying, “Let the earth produce all the animals of the earth, including human beings,” and it’s done in a single day. That’s religion, not science and has nothing to do with science. So should it be any wonder that scientists reject your theory?
Perhaps this is why, in part, other Christian realities make more sense, such as the Bible’s creation account being myth or fable. It leaves space for God being the creator God and yet let’s science unravel the “how” of how he did it. And along the way to gain many valuable insights for the good of humanity. I’m sorry John, you haven’t convinced me yet, and I doubt that you come close to convincing the scientists of today, other than so-called Christian scientists.
Thanks for your reply. You admit you are not a scientist. I have said many times before, and now again, that it is interesting how strongly those who have the least understanding of science are often the strongest defenders of evolution. My scientific ambition is not to disprove evolution. I will leave that to others. My objective is simply to open minds to the possibility that macro-evolution is a myth. Based on observable scientific evidence. And based on the lack of evidence to demonstrate macro-evolution "microbes to microbiologist". In any case, regardless of length of days, and regardless of age of the earth, evidence is required beyond coincidence and beyond conjecture to support evolution. The number of transition fossils should outnumber the number of defined species, due to the numbers required statistically to get evolution to work. We don't find that. We have also found that just because animals were absent in the fossil record doesn't mean they were absent in real life; so that is a problem for saying both when they appeared and when they disappeared or became extinct. Genetic similarities are just as much an argument for common design, as for common descent, so they don't provide proof of macro evolution.
There are many other reasons for not trusting the theory of evolution which I will not get into. However, you can check creation. com, answers in genesis, and Ian Juby's Genesis Week for more scientific explanations of why evolutionary theory is suspect. They are all available on the web, and present dozens of scientific reasons for distrusting evolutionary theory.
Keep in mind also that one of the great inhibitions for many to accept Christ is his scientific claim of rising miraculously from the dead. Scientific because it was observed by many people, and because he demonstrated that he could eat and drink afterwards. Miraculous because it is against the normal reality of death, which is irrevocable. And that's the wonder isn't it? The God who created the universe is not bound by the normal limitations He has put on it.
All the best to you.
Hi again, John. I hope I don’t come off as mean spirited toward you. I know I have blogged, either on this site or on others, and have given the impression that I don’t like those I’m blogging with. Please don’t get that impression of me. If I sound caustic, it may be toward aspects of the Christian faith, but not toward individuals. I do appreciate your willingness to debate, even argue. I’m sure, for you, like me, it helps to clarify some of your own thoughts.
I have heard you suggest to others, and now me, that it is those who know the least about evolution that seem to grab on to it most firmly. But it also seems to be the opposite at the same time. Those who know the most about it (the scientists) who also hold most firmly to it. And as I’ve suggested before, even though the evolutionary scientists would admit problems with evolutionary theory, they see it as much more viable than the other theories that are in the arena, including Biblical creation. That has more problems than you can shake a stick at. In your last response, you said, “evidence is required beyond coincidence and beyond conjecture to support evolution.” What evidence beyond coincidence and beyond conjecture is there to support that the whole universe, and our world and its inhabitants were all created in a span of six single days? That, to me, sounds like the impossible theory. I’d like to sit in while a Christian scientist explains this to a group of secular scientists.
The arguments that you give for acknowledging the Christian faith are similar or the same as those given for acknowledging the truth and reliability of many other religions including the Mormon religion (and they believe in a friendly universe). In fact, most religions will make claims for the miraculous and to verify those claims they all maintain their writings are inspired by God, and therefore completely trustworthy. And they too (the Mormons for example) claim witnesses to validate the truthfulness of their religion. And all religions would assert that their God is not bound by the normal limitations that he has placed on the natural order. Therefore the miracles of their religion should be considered as trustworthy and true. As absurd as the miracles of other religions may sound, they are no more absurd than the miracles of Christianity, such as a six day creation. So how does on decide which religion is the one true religion? Thanks for your listening ear.
Roger, thanks for your comments. It is a bit difficult to lump all other religions or faith beliefs together when comparing to Scripture. There are various points on which each falls short.
Christians understand scripture to be inspired by God and to be speaking the truth. Yes there are sometimes different emphases, but differences are discussed in the framework of trusting scripture. Whenever human ideas are placed on an equal plane with scripture, is when we have problems with heresy, lack of understanding, etc. This was shown even in scripture itself, and also led to a need for the reformation. But coming back to scripture allows for reconciliation, renewal, and unity.
Other faiths that believe in more than one god, or that make material things into gods, such as pieces of wood or stone or money or nature, are by and large irrational from the beginning. However, scripture also indicates the ancient greeks worshipped the "unknown" god, which the apostle Paul suggested was the true God, whom they did not yet know. The human desire to worship is a reflection of the way we were created; so how do we find our way to the true God? or, how do we let God reveal Himself to us?
A couple of belief systems built on christianity or historic scriptures but have added stuff, include mormons, bahai, and islam. They basically orginate in somewhat of the same way, but are not the same. How to compare these? Mormons have added an entirely new revelation which was not even hinted at in scripture. Golden plates, ironically only discovered by europeans rather than by aboriginals, and has anyone even seen pictures of these plates? It's far fetched, but the main thing is learning when the book of Mormon contradicts scripture. Furthermore, scripture is open, revealed, and available to all. The things in scripture are by and large verifiable by history, ie. rulers of Israel, roman conquest, syrian and babylonian rules, egypt, persecution of the church. Scripture is written by numerous writers over a thousand years, yet makes a relatively consistent whole, with a direction, a beginning and end both historical and spiritual. The books of the bible tend to refer to each other, and in that sense, validating each other. The new testament writers had all met Jesus, and had met each other. Of course, Mormons will claim their book is consistent with history, and in some peripherals it could be... but by and large it is a great stretch. ( I have only read about a third of it.)
Islam also claims the prophets of christianity/judaism. They even claim Christ as a prophet. But scripture is clear, that Christ claimed to be much more than a prophet. So if Christ is a prophet, somethings he said were false, according to Islam. Which means there is an inconsistency and incoherency. Of course, they say we don't have the true sayings of Jesus... which they would have to say, but as we find older manuscripts we are amazed at how similar they are to the newer ones. So Islam tries to worship the true god, but because of their reliance on one man's words, they end up contradicting much of scripture. This appears to put Islam into the category of false prophets which scripture warns us about. Islam in some ways tries to do good things, ie. moral purity and daily prayer. But it destroys the effect by forgetting that we must be born again in repentance, and that our thoughts condemn us, for which we need the sacrifice of Christ to redeem us. We cannot redeem ourselves by our devotion nor by good works, we can only praise God with them. And their methods of punishment often make them more impure than the ones they punish. The immorality of the inquisition in Spain lives on in Islam today, and seems to be promoted by the Koran. The inquisition at least was inconsistent with scripture, and so was an unchristian practice done by those who called themselves christian, thus requiring a reformation.
Bahai also claims another prophet. But faiths built on prophets will fail as the prophets fail. Jesus said that even the jews who claimed Abraham as their father, and Moses as their prophet, would miss out on God, if they did not realize that only God had the ultimate claim on them. Mormonism depends on Joseph Smith, and Islam depends on "Mohammed". Without them, their system fails. Christianity depends only on Christ, as revealed by all the writers of the old and new testament. Additional writers and prophets such as Origen, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Huss, John Calvin, John Tyndale, Abraham Kuyper, Charles Wesley, Billy Graham, C.S. Lewis and many others, are only revealing scripture, not re-writing it, nor adding to it (or they shouldn't be, anyway), nor contradicting it. If these other men contradict scripture, then scripture becomes the final authority, even though these may be sincere christian men.
In the end, just as believing in a piece of wood, or in nature, or in your self-sufficiency will let you down in the end, so believing in a false god will let you down also, either in this life, or in the life to come. It is faith, not religion, that brings you close to God. But religious life practices and beliefs can reveal truth or falsehood; thus when mormonism advocated more than one wife in direct opposition to the epistles of timothy and titus, which said elders and deacons should be husband of one wife, they revealed a contradiction with scripture. Most mormons have changed this now, but they had based this belief apparently on the book of Mormon, and so the book of Mormon has been somewhat discredited I would think. I think in many ways, mormons are admirable people, but they follow a false book.
Islam is more problematic, because they follow a false prophet. It would be like us following King Henry VIII as a prophet, or following John Calvin or Martin Luther or the Pope as a sinless individual. Even King David of the bible was criticized by his generals and punished by God for his sins. Certainly, has Mohammed not revealed his own sins, while being unrepentant? Should the words of such a man be considered inspired by God, and should he be followed as demi-god?
Sometimes there is no easy way to decide. But pray to God that he will reveal to your heart who He is, and what He has done for us.
Hi again, John. I’m sorry if we seem to be keeping Edwin out of the loop in our dialog. It might be interesting to know some of his thoughts.
Your last response, John, was quite lengthy and got off target, at least from the topic of evolution. Maybe that wasn’t really the main topic. Maybe the topic or question is “what is truth?” And that can have to do with evolution versus Biblical creation or which religion, if any represents truth best. Maybe this is where Edwin’s perspective might be interesting, in regard to his original article in the Banner.
As to evolution or not, I have not tried to imply that evolutionary theory has all the answers or doesn’t have problems of its own. As you have pointed out, it seems as though there are many problems. But I do think that today’s scientists would still say, problems or not, evolution (including macro evolution) offers the most reasonable and logical explanation to the age of the earth and the origin and development of life. And eventually answers will be forthcoming to your criticisms, if many of them have not already been answered. To scientists today, evolution is the much more logical approach, than whatever other explanations can be offered up, including a literal understanding of Biblical creation. As to origins my bet rides with the scientists of today.
But now to the crux of your last response. It seems as though you are more concerned with finding the fault with other religions than pointing out the logic of Christianity. Find fault with the opponent. If fault can be found, then that leaves Christianity (especially Reformed Christianity) standing tall. And of course, you would say there is no error in Christianity. So I would like you to consider just one area of Reformed Christianity or what you might call Biblical Christianity. That area has to do with the “election” (predestination unto salvation) of the saved. And of course this really touches on the heart of Christianity. It has to do with salvation in Jesus Christ, your only “comfort in life and in death.”
I hand it to Reformed Christians, historically they have taken the Bible very seriously, as you seem to do, as well. Of course, that means you can’t ignore what it teaches or sweep its teachings under the carpet. Hence, the teaching of Scripture on election is upheld and not denied in Reformed thought. But the question of what does the Bible teach about election has been debated through the ages. Does the Bible teach an infralapsarian or a supralapsarian perspective. Does it teach only an election of the saved or also the election of the lost unto damnation, single predestination or double predestination. Most today, even within the CRC, hold to an infralapsarian position, although the confessions are not altogether clear on that; it could go either way. Consider the Canons of Dort, 3rd and 4th main point, arts. 1-5. They seem to support the more severe view of election.
Double predestination (supralapsarians) dictates that not only the saved, but also the lost, were predestined from eternity past to their final state whether it be salvation or damnation, even in the mind of God. Of course this means God never had a sense of love in Christ for the lost, in fact his only intention for the lost was eternal destruction. In fact, God created them for that very purpose (eternal damnation). Therefore, there is no sincere offer by God of the gospel to those whom he has determined for eternal damnation in hell.
To verify this position, there needs to be Biblical support, which there is. First, to gain God’s acceptance and love by one’s own effort, a person has to be perfectly good, an impossible standard to attain. All have sinned and fallen short. In fact it is impossible to please God by one’s own effort. This is the first barrier that God has placed before humanity, a standard of absolute perfection, which cannot be attained. Secondly to insure that this impossible standard is not met by humans, God has credited to every person the sin of Adam. So even before birth, a person is a condemned sinner, condemned by God. This is something that God has done, apart from human decision. And then third, God has imputed the sinful nature of Adam to every human being. By this sinful nature, given by God, it is impossible to live up to God’s standard from birth on. In fact, according to the Bible, a person can’t help but to sin continually. So God makes salvation for the majority of humanity (all, other than the elect) an impossibility. He does this by giving an impossible standard for people to achieve, also, by crediting all of humanity with Adam’s sin even before birth, and also by imputing a sinful nature to all people so that they cannot help but to sin and therefore meet with failure. These are the actions of God.
In Romans 7, the apostle Paul talks about his struggle with sin, apart from Christ. He paints more than a helpless picture, but even a desperate picture. Although in his mind he knows what is right and good, he can’t do it. He fails every time. He has no power to do the good he knows he should do because of this sinful nature. He concludes by saying what a miserable person he is, one whose life is dominated by sin and death. He is describing here the human condition, the condition of all people who have had this sinful nature imputed to them by God.
When Paul cries out, who will deliver me from this helpless condition, the answer is Jesus Christ. Paul is in no way taking credit for his salvation or even for choosing Christ. He is just thankful that God in Christ has chosen him for salvation. He’s thanking God for his election in Christ. Anything more, would be giving Paul himself credit for choosing Christ. According to Reformed thought it’s the other way around, Christ always chooses us. For those not chosen by God’s electing love, they remain destined for destruction by which God’s has insured their lost estate and damnation. It’s really hard to understand why God would blame humans for their sin and hold them accountable, when God is the one who has insured that they could do nothing but fail. Logic says that God is the one at fault.
So Christianity has a God who has predetermined that the majority of the human race will go to hell for eternity. Reformed Christians talk about God determining not only the ends but also the means to accomplish the ends. And now you see how God has determined both in regard to the lost. This is the picture of God that the Bible portrays to the world. Is this the desirable picture of God that the Bible holds up to the world? Is this what we mean when Christians talk endlessly about the love of God. Obviously the love of God in Christ is only for those whom God has predestined for salvation from before the beginning of time and not for the majority of the human race.
Of course when a person, especially one who is damned by God to hell for eternity, protests his plight the apostle Paul gives this answer. “Why does God blame people for not responding? Haven’t they simply done what he makes them do?” No, don’t say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?” When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who were made for destruction.”
You may claim that when Scripture is taken as a whole, we get a different picture. But this points out either a blaring inconsistency in the Bible’s teaching or shows that the apostle Paul was not on the same page as other Bible writers. We know he did have disagreements with Peter, and probably with most of Christendom today. This certainly says something as to how one should understand the inspiration of the Bible.
The Bible’s inconsistent teaching about salvation in Christ is so glaring that it doesn’t sound any better than other religions, in fact it sounds far worse. So now I wonder if your last response in this blog about the failure of other religions really holds any water. Maybe it is time to start evaluating the teachings of the Bible, as Edwin suggests. Sorry about the length of this comment, but I could have said a lot more.
Well said, Roger. You have stated well your perspective, and the perspective of many about christianity and scripture. One sentence however, caught my attention: where you quote, "why does God blame people for not responding? Haven't they done what God made them to do?" Paul responds that we do not have the right to question God in this regard. As humans, we have no right to blame God, nor our parents, for our own sin, or for our own rejection of God. It is still we who reject God, isn't it? We know that people accept God, and follow Christ. Is it physically and mentally impossible for humans to follow Jesus? Obviously not. So why would we blame someone other than ourselves? It is our tendency to blame someone else that reveals our sin and our rejection of God. But at the same time, if we love God and accept Jesus as Saviour, it would be a denial of our sin to suggest that we could do this on our own. In all cases, we give God the credit for our salvation and for the gift of faith, and realize that in our failures it is we, not God who is to blame.
Suppose you were trusted with your parents money, but then stole it, and your father brought you to justice, and you went to jail. Now your father pays the bail, and you get out. If you refuse to leave the jail, is it now your father's fault? Is it your father's fault that you stole because he trusted you with his money? Is your father unjust because he brought you to court?
Infralapsarianism is where man's responsibility is determinative, while supralapsarianism relates to God's responsibility being greater. While these are interesting perspectives, it is better not to over-doctrinalize too much and simply live our lives, and not try to live God's life for Him, If God gave us the choice to follow him, and we discover that without God's grace and gifts, we would always reject him, we find that our free choiosing always makes the wrong choice by itself, and makes the right choice by God's grace. In trying to take credit for making the right choice by yourself, you might simply be making yourself your own god. On the other hand, be thankful when you follow Christ.
"Heb 6:10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised."
Thanks, John, for your comments. I think you fall way short in your logic. Your analogy of the father entrusting his son with his money falls way short of the picture of God’s love or discipline. Your story assumes that the son has the ability and freewill to either obey or disobey his father. But the fact is, the son does not have the ability or free will to obey him. That is the point of the apostle Paul’s recounting of his own helpless condition and enslavement to sin.
A more faithful characterization is the story of a father who tells his son to get upstairs to his bedroom after the father has broken the son’s arms and legs, and now the son has no ability to get upstairs. And so the father, because of the son’s disobedience, takes him out behind the woodshed and beats him unmercifully for his disobedience. He couldn’t obey his father, even if he knew he should, because his father has disabled him. He was disabled by the father by imputing to his son a sinful nature (broken legs) by which he was not able to obey, as well as crediting him with Adam’s sin (broken arms) and giving him an impossible standard to achieve, absolute perfect obedience. But you are saying it is still the son’s fault for disobeying his father, and he is responsible for not doing what he had no ability to do.
You see your analogy does not measure up in the least to what Paul describes in the Bible. Are you writing your own infallible Bible now?
But now for an analogy of God’s electing purposes. I think you would admit the Bible teaches a limited atonement. Here’s the analogy. A father takes his five young sons out fishing in a lake. The boys all get rambunctious and tip the boat over. Boys will be boys. They all were at fault. The problem, though, is that none of the sons can swim. But the father is an excellent swimmer and has many medals in life saving. But to the surprise of those watching on shore, the father saves only two of the sons and leaves the other three to drown. He could have saved all five if he had wanted to but chose only to save two. That’s the limited atonement of election. This is neither love nor justice. In a court of law in our land the father would never be pardoned. But I’m guessing you will say that God’s love and justice isn’t measured by our courts and we shouldn’t question him. But logic to anyone’s thinking today, would say something is rotten in Denmark. If we are God’s image bearers, is this the kind of love we are to display to those who surround us?
You see, it is this teaching in the Bible, that makes the Bible either inconsistent, illogical, or abhorrent. But Christians can hide this teaching, that is central to the Bible's teaching of salvation, by continually ranting that God is love and wants everyone to be saved. Really? Or are you going to point me to a Biblical inconsistency?
Roger, I was just listening to a video on facebook, and on this video was being read the verse where Jesus says that not all who say, "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom. But only those who do the will of the father. In spite of your sinful nature and your inclination to defy God, you don't have to deny Him. You can accept, trust, and obey. Arguing about it theologically will neither justify you, nor will it save you. I disagree with your analogy, because your sinful nature does not prevent you from accepting the gift God gives; it only inclines you against accepting. If you are controlled by your inclinations, that is a problem. We know that from personal experience in our daily life. So pray for God's spirit to control you.
God never broke anyone's legs in the sense of your analogy. God did not create us with a sinful nature. Man broke his own legs thru the choice God gave him, thru his fall, and his inability to run the race is part of his fallen humanness, not the humanness that God created him with. God provides the wheelchair, but man refuses to sit in it or refuses to operate the controls. He complains that he should not have broken legs, and says that God should have prevented him from breaking his own legs.
God provides the means to be saved from drowning, but often people swim in the wrong direction, or refuse the lifeboat or flotation device or the rope or plank offered to save. They have their own conditions for salvation, and thus die.
"God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes on him, shall not perish but will have eternal life. Whoever believes on him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already. Everyone who does evil hates the light..." God provides the light, but "men love darkness instead of light, because their deeds are evil..."
Blaming God for your own sin is inconsistent. Blaming God because some people reject him is illogical. Blaming God because he does not ensure that everyone exercises their free will to obey him, is making yourself God, while at the same time making people robots, also a logical inconsistency. When God exercises a special grace to rescue someone like the apostle Paul, that does not justify others who reject the obvious gift of grace God has made known to them through scripture or the witness of others.
God's grace is sufficient for everyone. Christ's sacrifice was big enough for anyone and everyone. But rejected by many.
Romans 7 indicates that Paul says that when controlled by the sinful nature we bore fruit for death. But now, dying to what previously bound us, dying to our own notions of our own goodness, we serve in the way of the spirit. I have the desire to do what is good, but cannot carry it out in the way I want, says Paul. So Jesus rescues us from our sinful nature, and we may live in the way of the spirit, instead of in the way of the sinful nature. Do we want to reject this rescue? Can we accept it? Many have accepted it, and the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. Do not let your argument with God keep you from accepting his gift.
Thank you John for your comments. You have helped to clear some things up. I see you are not a five point Calvinist, so you should have difficulty signing the form of subscription for the CRC. I think that might have been one of your criticisms of Edwin Walhout. You obviously don’t believe in total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, probably even “irresistible grace.” And you obviously can’t accept all the statements in the Canons of Dort.
From what you say, it sounds like a person can both accept or decline on God’s offer of grace. He’s almost totally depraved but not quite. Your analogy of the father entrusting the son with his money, as well as your comments in this last response completely support a depraved person, but not ”totally depraved,” maybe just a bad person. Not a Reformed understanding of total depravity. As to “unconditional election”, again you indicate that a person’s acceptance by God is based on the condition of his willing acceptance of God’s offer. So you see (according to you), there is a condition that God looks for in an individual before accepting that person into his kingdom. That’s conditional, and maybe you can’t even call it election. God chooses those who choose him? Sorry John. You are way off base as to Calvinistic leanings. As to “limited atonement”, your perspective is that God’s salvation is only limited to those who choose God first. In other words it’s an unlimited atonement. The offer is made to all, and now all can either respond or not. Any and all can make their way to God. You sound more like a Freewill Baptist than Reformed. I laud you for taking such a position while claiming to be Reformed. But in your heart, you’re obviously not Reformed.
When Paul describes his enslavement to sin in Romans 7, he is not describing a person who can walk away from his enslavement. He’s a SLAVE, and a slave does not have walking rights, as you suggest. You say in your last response, “You can accept, trust and obey.” That’s definitely not Paul is saying. You misrepresent him terribly. His freedom from slavery came to him when God chose him in Christ. Don’t you remember his Damascus road experience? That was not Paul coming willingly to Christ.
So thank you, John. You cleared some things up for me. One, you are not a Calvinist or Reformed. From previous articles that you have written, I thought you were, but maybe I’m mistaken. You obviously don’t like the inconsistencies that are taught in the Bible either. I would gather that you don’t much like Jesus’ teaching regarding salvation by works either. Jesus obviously teaches that the distinction between those who go to heaven and those who go to hell is a matter of works. The sheep are accepted into the Father’s kingdom and the goats are consigned to everlasting anguish in hell. His parable of the talents also support a salvation based on works, what we do with our talents. His story of the good Samaritan, again supports acceptance by God based on works. Even the parable of the wayward son demonstrates the father’s forgiveness based on the son’s willing return. In fact the majority of Jesus’ teaching shows that acceptance with God is based on the mark we leave, whether good or bad. Again this just shows the inconsistencies of the Bible’s teaching. Paul’s teaching does not match what Jesus taught And to reconcile these differences with each other, Christians have to do a lot of manipulation.
But all this comes back full circle to the inspiration of the Bible. How do you reconcile the inconsistencies of the Bible and call them all inspired by God. And of course, Christians have been throwing out different parts of the Bible or manipulating them to say what they want from before the time of Christ right up to the present. Hence the varieties of denominations. How can one even think (with any integrity) that the Holy Spirit will lead his church in all truth? So what makes the Christian faith the one true faith? And what makes you think that God really created all there is, including our world when the physical evidence for your position is lacking? Thanks again for your listening ear.
Roger, it is interesting how you make adamant extended statements about what I believe based on so little evidence. But I understand you are doing this in order to find out how I will respond. My basic response is that sometimes we over-doctrinalize things. By that I mean that we make definitive distinctions that scripture does not make. For example, we are saved by faith. Jesus even said to at least one individual that her faith had saved her. The epistles also say the same thing. Not saved by works. But James clears up how works fits with faith. We can only show our faith by our works. (The woman whose faith had saved her, had annointed Jesus with oil.) Abraham was justified by his obedience, which came from his faith. No works, no obedience, means no faith. Beyond that, we should be careful not to make more definitive statements than what scripture makes.
Bible is also clear that we are sinners. Psalms say there is no one without sin. Paul says he was controlled by the sinful nature. But God's spirit changes that nature. To talk about this in the abstract is sometimes interesting, but is not valuable as applying it to your own life. The question is not how many people has God saved. The question is: do you love God? If you love God, then you know you belong to Him, that God loves you, and you know that you want to do what God desires.
The mystery of whether God chooses us in spite of our rejection of Him, or because of our love for Him, or both, or either, is not something that we need to butt heads about. The difference between reformed thinking and free-willism is not as big as some like to make it to be. Left to ourselves we all sin. We all deserve judgement. We all have a tendency and an inclination to reject God. With God's grace, with God's spirit, we can love God and live for God. The details are mysterious. Some people accept Jesus quickly and willingly while others fight, kicking and screaming before they accept him. Others reject Christ until the day they die. Our job is to accept Christ, and then to share Christ. To give God the glory and not take the glory for ourselves.
If scripture speaks of this relationship between God and the believer in different ways, then we should not deny our ability to speak of it in different ways.
We cannot save ourselves by blaming God for our own sin. We cannot save ourselves by our own good works. We must accept Christ, and then acknowledge that it is a free gift, including even the faith to accept.
Ephesians 1 gives God the glory for our salvation, and for granting his spirit. Even blaming God for not saving everyone is a backwards way of praising God for saving some. Suppose he had saved no one? But the mystery and uncertainty of not fully understanding God's mind is not something we will solve on this side of heaven.
When you say I don't like this or that about scripture, you are mistaken. I don't say I like this or don't like that about what scripture says or about what Jesus says or what the epistles say. What it says is what it says and I simply try to understand it, or at least accept it. When it says seemingly contradictory things, I believe these things fit together in a comprehensive whole. I do not claim to have more wisdom than God. I certainly do not have the authority nor even the ability to judge God. So if I did not like something that Jesus said, that would be an indictment against me, not against Jesus, nor against scripture.
So you ask me, "what makes you think that God created all there is, including our world...". My question to you is this: do you think God is the creator? Did he create everything? Did someone else create some of it? Did it create itself? Are you concerned about whether God is the creator, or about how he created?
Hi, once again, John, and whoever else may be listening in. I apologize for an error I made. When I logged on to this site just now, it was to make a correction that I realized I had made. I was in a rush to get somewhere. In the next to last sentence of my last response, I said, “And what makes you think that God really created all there is, including our world ((all in six literal days)) when the physical evidence for your position is lacking?” I meant to add the five words in brackets. I do believe that God is the creator God and that he works within the natural laws that he has established. That’s the reason scientists can do science. If God worked outside of his established laws, as you suggest, then there is no need for science. Even conclusive evidence would prove nothing, and the study of origins and the age of earth would be meaningless. So why are young earth scientists trying to disprove evolution? They believe in a literal Biblical creation apart from any evidence.
You still surprise me. You seem to cast a lot of suspicion on doctrine. You say, “The question is: do you love God? If you love God, then you know you belong to Him, that God loves you, and you know that you want to do what God desires.” Do you really believe that? The Muslim will make that same statement, as well as the Mormon, the Hindu, the Jew, and myself, as well. I guess we all fit into the category of being God’s children. But I’m guessing that your statement needs some clarification. You probably mean, if you love the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, inferred in the Bible, and believe in Christ’s atoning sacrifice, and now live in grateful obedience to him then you belong to him. You see John, it’s your theology or doctrine that defines your belief system and where you stand in life and death in regard to him. Reformed Christians have said it is very important what we believe, even in the details. That’s why the Reformed Churches and it’s members subscribe to the three forms of unity, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dort. It’s those three confessions and what they teach that binds all these members together, giving them a single voice. You see, to some, what a Reformed Christian believes is very important to the body as a whole. But I guess you are saying, no it’s not really that important.
Reformed Christians have said, when it comes to salvation, it is all a credit to God, completely. We can’t even add our faith, for faith comes from God. Human kind stands at complete odds with God. If the Holy Spirit doesn’t enable a person to believe, he will definitely not respond to the gospel. If the Holy Spirit does enable as person to respond in faith, then he will definitely respond. There is no ifs, ands, or buts. There are no exceptions, because God will not fail to accomplish his purposes, according to Reformed teaching. God’s purposes in electing a people to himself and in determining the damnation of the rest of humanity is set in stone. God will not waiver or change his mind. This sovereignty is a cornerstone of Reformed faith.
Doctrine is at the heart of Reformed ministry training. Reformed seminaries make theological study the cornerstone of their curriculum. The difference between “reformed thinking and free-willism is not as big as we make it?” Are you kidding? It’s huge. One says God is sovereign in everything, especially salvation, the other gives much credit to human will.
But I do believe that you probably give more credit to doctrine than what you are letting on. Otherwise, why would you be arguing so vehemently about differences of opinion as to how God created the world. And why would you write articles about how retired ministers that don’t conform to our confessions should be disciplined?
But then if what the Bible teaches (doctrine) isn’t that important, then why make such a big deal about creation versus evolution? If God does it one way or another, why split hairs? Edwin, along with many others, including myself, are not trying to take away from the grandeur of God. He gets all the credit. And if (as you say,) “you love God, then you know you belong to Him,” why split hairs over doctrine? Edwin and I are both well within the ballpark. I think I hear you speaking out of two sides of your mouth.
It appears to me that this discussion is going nowhere between John and Roger. John appears to be the ultra-conservative and Roger appears to be the ultra-liberal. I find myself in disappointment with both. However, I do recognize that John might well see me as a liberal, and Roger might see me as too conservative. There would be good reason for both opinions.
I look at my stance as one foot in and one foot out. I am, after all, an emeritus minister of the CRC in good and regular standing, and that is important for me. When I function in a somewhat official capacity in that regard, I do try to stay within the Reformed fences; as for example the article in the Banner some time ago. I’m looking over the fence in that article but I haven’t jumped it. That being said, in my private life, in my retirement years, I exercise the freedom of following wherever the Lord leads, even if that should be on the other side of the Reformed fence. Which, I am forthright to say, is where I am in my private theological life.
I hear the Lord calling all of us to new horizons of truth and service, and I hear that message mainly from the scientific advances that are being made in recent times. All truth is God’s truth, however and wherever it may be found. When God calls it is our obligation to listen, to understand, and to obey. John points out that there are numerous unknown quantities in the scientific picture. I suppose that will always be the case. There will always be things we do not understand or know. But God gives us what we need to know in our own times and circumstances. And that is what he is doing now. God is calling us to listen to new insights into his truth, and is summoning us to follow its lead by the indwelling guidance of his Holy Spirit.
So that is why I may well appear to John as a raving liberal. I’m willing and ready to re-examine and redefine our entire theological system, retaining that which is necessary but scuttling what is not necessary. One person cannot do this adequately alone, so I am hoping and expecting that God will raise up better theologians than I to continue this work in the future.
But there is also a sense, and perhaps Roger senses it more than John, that I am trying too hard to hang onto outdated theological positions. For example, I am totally enamored of Genesis One, which I regard as the most important and influential document ever written. So I am doing my best to orient my forays into theology using the basic insights of that document as the pattern. I am discovering that the old horizons of ancient Jewish thought have been compromised to an alarming extent throughout the history of the Christian church, so much so that a great deal of what the ancient church defined as true theology is in fact a mixture of Jewish and pagan Greek philosophy. So I am of the confirmed opinion that we need to go back to the beginnings of a theistic and monotheistic pattern of thought, and to understand the sending of Jesus in that context, without the admixture of subsequent theological definitions from the ancient church.
So, to conclude, I see myself as more conservative than John and more liberal than Roger! Blessings on you both!
Edwin, it is immaterial to me whether you consider yourself liberal or conservative, and it is useless to me for you to consider me ultra-conservative, or ultra-liberal. Neither terms explains anything in the context. Rather, I take scripture fairly literally, the way it was intended. But I also understand science and understand nature fairly well. I have attended churches of more than 15 denominations, and have found brothers in Christ in all of them. I love to listen and sing to Christian music of almost all genres, and I enjoy all types of instruments in church. I have serious issues with the way the church order is written, and would be considered liberal on that topic. I absolutely detest being put into a box such as liberal or conservative, since it is not the point. I think theological positions are not dated or outdated, but rather they are scriptural or they are not. I find your understanding of theology as a mixture of Jewish and pagan Greek philosophy rather sad. Since I have taken philosophy courses for three years in university, both secular and Christian, I understand a bit of it. Just because there are some similarities in some ideas, doesn't mean that what scripture says, or what theology has said, is in fact a mixture of it. Rather, it could as easily be that what people see through a glass dimly in pagan philosophy, is actually a blurred observation of some of the ways God has revealed himself. Rather than saying that the pagan blind man sees the leg of the elephant, and that therefore the Christian who sees the elephant has adopted pagan vision when he too sees the leg of the elephant....
So if you are truly interested in educating yourself about evolution, why don't you watch the latest issue of Juby's youtube video on the whale and the cow, and vestigal organs, and what evolution has done with them? www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFchbdbQEA4&feature=youtu.be&a
In my experience, both reformed and baptists have said that God is sovereign. Both give God the credit for salvation in bringing it and providing it. Both give God the credit for connecting it, one says by determination, the other says by grace and gift of faith. It gets very close to semantics after that. It is in limiting God's choices and God's power, that they sometimes differ. One says God cannot be at the whim of man's choosing, so God determines. The other says that God cannot determine or force someone to love him, so man's voluntary choice is necessary. I say that God is all powerful so He can force someone to love him, if He wants. I also say that if God is all powerful, can He not allow people to make choices, if He wants? In any case, we have to live our lives, not God's life. God calls us to trust and obey, not to debate about whether we have a choice or not.
Hi John and Edwin, as well as others. Good to hear your latest contribution Edwin. You make an interesting distinction, whether speaking or thinking from a personal perspective or from an official capacity as a minister in the CRC. Kind of like the pope in the Roman Catholic church when he speaks ex cathedra. I’ll have to give that some thought. Certainly I’ve allowed my personal thoughts to flow out into the public arena. But by speaking out of two sides on one’s mouth, or from two sides of the fence, I question a person’s integrity to one’s true self.
The issue of Biblical creation versus evolution has been an eye opener for me. But place that issue alongside a host of other issues that has come to the forefront in CRC history over the years and you realize that what was once considered the sure teaching of Scripture in the past is no longer the sure teaching. In the not too distance past, marital divorce was totally forbidden except for very few exceptions, and then anyone divorced was forbidden from church office and often from even serving in any capacity. Today, divorce is seldom even noticed. Was the Holy Spirit leading in truth in the past on this issue or is he presently? And the list of areas of concern could go on to a very large list. Today’s position on divorce if held 50 years ago would be cause for discipline or excommunication. Was the Holy Spirit leading in truth then, or now? Six day creation or evolution. Was the Holy Spirit leading in the past to take a literal approach to Genesis, but what about now when scientific evidence is leading toward evolution and more of a mythical understanding of Genesis? As John might suggest, the support of evolution is just opening up a can of worms.
To my understanding the Bible sends some very contradictory messages, which makes me question how do we understand the inspiration of Scripture when the Bible doesn’t always agree with itself.
As I suggested to John, Jesus taught a whole new perspective from what was being taught among the Jews of his day. When the Jews were thinking that formal rites and rituals could make them right with God, Jesus basically said, you put too much stock in these things. What really matters is how you live your life, a life that demonstrates love for God and neighbor, that is what brings pleasure to God. This is what was taught in nearly all of Jesus’ stories and parables, such as the separation of the goats from the sheep, the story of the good Samaritan, the parable of the talents, and on and on. It was good works that was the deciding factor in separating the sheep from the goats. Did faith play a part in Jesus’ teaching? Of course it did, but it was a faith that believed how I lived my life would make a difference in God’s disposition. “As you did it to the least one of these you do it unto me.” Over and over again Jesus taught a life of servanthood to others, and Jesus demonstrated such a life.
Paul on the other hand taught quite a different message. Our actions count for nothing in gaining God’s salvation and favor. People are helpless creatures bound only to win God’s disapproval. People are dead in sin. Don’t count on winning any points with God by your own actions. They are only filthy rags. And beside, one sin, was enough to condemn you for eternity. So one’s object of faith is not in a life of serving others and doing good, but now (in Paul’s teaching) it’s the object or person of Jesus Christ who has done it all for you. Sure you still want to do good, but Paul says you can’t do it. All you can do in your own effort is sin, and sin miserably, you’re a total failure. I don’t hear Jesus saying that. He’s saying ritual counts for nothing, but a life of service is everything. Check out Jesus’ own teaching and example and you will see this is Jesus’ emphasis.
There’s a contradiction here. You can try to harmonize these two teachings (Jesus and Paul), like John Z has shown. But remember, John, the object of faith was different for Jesus than it was for Paul. Martin Luther wanted the book of James removed from the Bible. His frustration was not that there was too little talk of faith in James, but rather that faith was not directed toward Jesus Christ but more toward works. James didn’t have a Pauline emphasis, as far as Luther was concerned. Luther thought James was saying that if you lived a good life seeking to please God then you would have God’s favor. James stood with Jesus rather than Paul. You can be assured (trust/faith) if you were trying to please God, that he would be happy with you. Your faith influences your actions and vice versa. That didn’t sit well with Luther because Christ wasn’t the focal point of faith, but works were.
So you see, you can talk about faith all you want. “Just have faith.” But what is the object of your faith. Jesus taught: by trusting a life of service, God will separate you from the goats. Paul taught that your works count for nothing so trust completely in Christ and works will follow (but they don’t count for anything, not even reward in heaven).
So you see it’s not just our inconsistencies as to how we interpret the Bible, but also the inconsistencies within the Bible itself (and they are glaring). These make me question the doctrine of the inspiration of the Bible or at least how we understand inspiration. I like what Jesus teaches. So does that make me a Christian. Some would say yes (Thomas Jefferson) and some would say no. How far are we allowed to go before we get pushed out of the barn yard. Would Jesus himself get pushed out because he was not Pauline? Does Paul have more authority than Jesus in order to change his emphasis. Unless you can synchronize what Jesus taught with what Paul taught then for many denominations (including the CRC) you’re out. I may be extreme, but with Edwin I think until we make some changes to become more inclusive or change some our doctrinal ways of thinking, a narrow Christianity may have a hard time making it down the road. And holding to a six day literal creation with no evidence to support it doesn’t help. Also espousing a God who has, from eternity past, determined the eternal damnation of the majority of human kind while the gospel of grace is only intended for the few, doesn’t bode well for the Christian faith either.
I agree Edwin, our (John and I) arguments sound like an endeavor in futility. But by taking a different point of view from John it always ends up the same. John, you may accuse me of extended arguments but look at your arguments against evolution on this website and others, and how many books have you written? And you haven’t budged from the beginning, and the same is true with other arguments you have gotten into. I enjoy the debate, and I think our discussions are having little impact on anyone, so I don’t get bent out of shape over any of it, nor should anyone else. If one doesn’t like the debate, then don’t read it.
Roger, I appreciate your comments, and I think I understand what you are saying. Many/most of your comments in the first two paragraphs I agree with... particularly the questions about how do we decide when the spirit was leading in understanding of scripture. That is a conundrum. I understand your comments about the seeming divergence between Jesus and Paul. I certainly see a difference in emphasis between the two dominant themes as you suggest. However, the two themes are brought together. They are brought together in James, and in the epistles of John. They are also brought together by remembering Jesus saying to the woman who annointed him, "Your faith has saved you" (not her action, not her works). Also Jesus said, that many would say, " 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ They prophecied, drove out demons and performed miracles. Are these not good works? Yes, they are somewhat rituals, and yet Jesus disciples did them too, and Jesus did not condemn them. In fact, he several times said to them, oh ye of little faith...
In other words, I think James does not indicate that we are saved by a faith in works. Nor does Jesus indicate this. Rather the faith must be evidenced in works, but the faith is in Jesus, in God, not in the works themselves. An analogy: someone who cooks, may provide food for many people in a restaurant, so that he can get paid. does he do it for love of the people in the restaurant? Yet, he cooks for love of his wife and children, so that he can buy food for them, and perhaps cooks it. Works done to earn salvation, and not done for love will in fact not earn salvation. And works done for love will also not earn salvation, but do prove the love which Jesus seeks. That is what the gospel of Christ says.
Luther was mainly irritated by James because of the context in which he lived. He had been trying to earn his salvation by being good, being a priest, visiting the relics, suffering, doing penance, obeying all the commands. When he realized the magnificence of grace, the reminders of his former life were difficult for him.
As far as the evolution discussion is concerned, for me the issue is not the six day thing. It is the issue of evolution. The six day thing is only pertinent in terms of how it affects evolution. Even though the way scripture talks about days as having a morning and evening, and the sense of the word seems to mean a literal not figurative day, even so, if a day was longer, having millions of hours, or if it somehow consisted of eons of time, that does not really change how God says he made man from the dust of the earth, and woman from man's rib. It does not change the fact of creating each species or kind separately from similar building blocks of carbon and proteins and amino acids and DNA. It does not automatically require that evolution must have happened just because of long periods of time.
In this video, Juby also explains how evolutionary thought has hindered true science in the understanding of vestigial organs. You seem to keep repeating that there is no evidence. But evidence not seen, does not mean that there is no evidence. The eyes need to be open to see it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFchbdbQEA4 Season 4, Episode 2. of Genesis Week.
Enjoying your questions and comments.
And I should also have added what does Paul say on the other side of grace? He says, "Shall we sin more, so that grace may abound? By no means. " He often said that murderers, adulterers, sexually immoral, perjurers, thieves and lovers of money and others, would not inherit the kingdom of God. This seems to be works. But again, it needs to be put into context, and it is obvious to me that Paul and James are saying exactly the same thing.
Hey John, it’s not always easy to get thoughts put into words. Sometimes I’m in such a hurry to get something on paper that I step on my tail in the process. And afterward, I wonder if I should have made a particular comment differently. I think that’s why I go to extremes in making a simple statement. I appreciate your willingness to listen as well as to show some soft edges in your thinking.
But let me say something about your comment in regard to Reformed and Baptist thinking. From some of your comments elsewhere, I remember you talking about the form of subscription that office bearers sign in the CRC, pledging their allegiance to the three forms of unity. So I’m guessing you are a CRCer. Now I realize there are a multitude of shades within Baptist denominations. If we think there is variety in the Reformed denominations, we have nothing on the Baptists. They have a truckload of them. But by a very big margin, they tend to be Arminian. Again, the first definition that my online dictionary gives for Arminianism is, “the doctrinal teachings of Jacobus Arminius or his followers, especially the doctrine that Christ died for all people and not only for the elect.” There is a Reformed Baptist denomination that would not fall for Arminius’s teaching. Other than that most Baptists are Arminian. And Calvin is a naughty word. Now you must realize that the Canons of Dort were formulated to contest vigorously such a view. And it’s the Canons of Dort that is one of the CRC’s three forms of unity. This is what officebearers subscribe to, and I’m guessing you, as well. It has never been thought to be a small difference when it came to the Reformed teachings and the Baptists’, even though many CRCers seek out a Baptist church when they are away on vacation. Do you ever wonder why that might be? For the most part, it’s because Baptists tend to be much more experiential in their expressions of faith and worship. The emphasis is on my experience (my faith) unlike the Reformed who emphasizes what God has done. Enough of that.
I want to come back to Jesus and Paul. Thanks for your admission of seeing a difference of emphasis between the two. Of course you go on to say they are reconciled to each other in the writings of James and John. So most Christians would say (and perhaps you) that there is only an apparent contradiction. These two apparent ways of viewing salvation are not really so different, and it only takes a James and John to bring them together into a cohesive whole. But Luther didn’t quite see it that way when it came to James. For Luther, there just wasn’t enough of Paul in James’ letter, in fact for Luther James went counter to Paul, and his letter was not worthy of being included in the Bible. Good thing he didn’t have to sign the Reformed form of subscription. I hope you realize that the difference of emphasis between Jesus and Paul was not small. This is where most Christians don’t scrutinize their own beliefs to any great degree. Most acknowledge the truth of the Bible on a Sunday School education or less, especially if they have just gone forward at a Billy Graham crusade. And yet this (they claim) is the most important influence in their whole life.
I hope you know how radical the difference is between Paul and Jesus. By far the greatest emphasis for Jesus is living a life of service to God and neighbor. In the vast majority, it is what a person has done to glorify God and serve his neighbor that separates a person from going to heaven or hell. And it’s not that every single thing has to be done with God in one’s mind. “As you have done this unto one of the least of these, you have done it to me.” And Jesus doesn’t even call for perfection. Sure faith is involved. How could anyone serve his neighbor without having faith that God is pleased with such service. Unless you are Paul or a Pauline.
Paul tells his readers that works count for nothing. Everyone is deserving of eternal damnation and is an abomination to God. One sin, not just an inclination to sin, will sentence you to hell. Even the sin of Adam, credited to all, is enough to (and will) damn you for eternity. Paul, in his discourse on Adam, points out that everyone following Adam up through Moses, when the law was given, was condemned to die. Why did they all die? Because they were guilty of Adam’s sin, and not because of their own sin (how could they know without the law?). Everyone is evil and deserves damnation in Paul’s mind. I don’t hear this in Jesus’ teaching. In fact Jesus teaches you can and should do good and in so doing you win God’s favor. Paul says, no, no! You can’t do good even if you want to because everyone is helplessly controlled by sin. Is this really how God looks at us?
Common sense says, tells me to stick to Jesus’ teaching. Does God really think everyone is so miserable that they deserve an eternity in hell where there will be gnashing of teeth? Common sense tells me that people were created as people, not as gods with the perfections of God. God is all knowing, yet he doesn’t expect people to be like him as to knowledge or intellect. God may be perfectly holy but does he really expect the same degree of holiness from his creatures? Sure he wants us to be good, but perfectly good? He did give us a free will, and with a free will, bad choices are bound to be make at times. And don’t people in general, do a fair amount of good? I don’t personally know anyone who has murdered another person, and I know very few who have stolen. But I do know a lot of people that have been kind and loving toward me, whether in the church or outside. My wife and I are part of a walking group (twice a week) and I doubt that many of them would claim to be Christian (two are atheists). Yet, when my wife was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer some six months ago, this group along with many other neighbors have reached out and sacrificed for us in so many ways. (Her cancer is already in remission.) The point is, the great majority of people I know get high grade for goodness. Their goodness far outweighs their evil. Common sense tells me that God will look at people and judge their entire life. To me it sounds like a Jesus emphasis, and he encourages us to live loving and caring lives. A teacher will judge a student by his/her effort throughout the course. The student many not get 100%, but he still will likely get an A, B, C, or D, all passing grades. But according to Paul, God only gives out F’s, no chance for anyone apart from perfection, which is impossible. If we were to follow the example of God, according to Paul, instead of giving our children a kiss at night and tell them we love them, we would instead tell them how bad they are and that they deserve nothing but damnation.
On top of this, in Paul’s thought, God never had a purpose to save all, but his intent was to save the chosen few and send the rest into eternal damnation.
In contrast, Jesus’ emphasis was to encourage goodness in those he taught, even self sacrificing goodness or a life of service. And with attempting such a life, God would be pleased. Perfection? You always set the goal at perfection, even if you don’t reach it. But you’re not an utter failure if you don’t reach it. Makes sense to me.
This is no small difference between Paul and Jesus. But if I’m not mistaken, the Bible teaches that it was Jesus, who is God, who came to earth to show us the way. Now it sounds like Paul is trying to correct Jesus, or that Jesus didn’t get the whole story right. Who am I to argue with God, or to tell him, he got it wrong. It certainly sounds like an inconsistency to me.
Oh, thanks for the additional comment, that on the other side of grace, Paul calls Christians to sin no more. Of course it’s on the other side of grace, or after having been chosen in Christ by God. On the forward side it doesn’t really matter, does it, because for most, they’re going to hell anyway, and God takes no pleasure in one’s attempt to do good. Again, that’s Paul, not Jesus.
Roger, wow... lots of words. I do that too sometimes. You might enjoy some of George MacDonald's books; he influenced CS Lewis quite a bit, and hints at some of what you say in one or two of his fiction novels. He suggests thru one of his characters that when someone is interested in doing good, he is halfway to getting to know God.
Anyway, I wonder if you missed my comment on what Jesus said to the woman who annointed him with oil. He said, "Your faith has saved you." He did not say your good work has saved you. So Jesus is basically saying that faith is evident thu action. It's true he did commend the good samaritan in the parable, by saying to those who claimed to want to serve God should do likewise. However, it seems to be that obedience must be done in faith and trust, not in the works themselves, but in the creator and redeemer. If our good works honor ourselves, they become useless to save. If they honor God, they become evidence of our faith in God ( not faith in our works). Again, remember when Jesus said there will be those who claim God's favor because of their actions, their good works, and God will say, "I never knew you". The reason is that those works were done to make self better, and perhaps proud, and were self-centered, rather than God-centered. Jesus said the first will be last and the last will be first, because of this, or in connection with this thought, I believe.
Also, the apostle Paul also balances faith and works in this way: "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness." Rom 6.
So works without faith are not what God desires. That is not real obedience. Faith without works is dead, and is also not real obedience, and is not pleasing to God. Real faith is inseparable from the obedience and the works that accompany it.
Each age and situation has its own temptations. The temptation to try to earn God's favor simply thru laws and rules, especially by continually making even more rules, is always there. The "teachers of the law" had this, and it was to them that Jesus said they must be obedient by serving and loving neighbors, the less fortunate and less powerful, not just by being "good" religious people. And what Jesus emphasized in fact, was their inability to keep the real law of God. He showed this by mentioning that they used their gifts to church to neglect their parents, and by mentioning that not just murder but hatred, and not just adultery but lust was already breaking the law.
Loving their neighbors and serving the less fortunate would be evidence of their faith in God, rather than faith in themselves and in their own ability to keep the law.
Paul on the other hand was writing to a variety, both those who emphasized God's grace, and those who tried to earn God's grace by works, and those who took advantage of God's grace thru disobedience. Grace through faith, not works. But the disobedient would not inherit. He wanted to strike the right balance, and make the balance clear. James wanted to do the same thing. John also, when he says, those who love God can no longer keep on sinning.
I believe God said, be ye holy as I am holy? Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”[a] I Peter 1.
When you talk about grading good works, how do you deal with it? Some say, I hope my good works outweigh my bad. I've never murdered anyone. Is a B+ a pass, while a B- is a fail? How many good works are needed?
Now to comment on your reference to Arminianism. You refer to the universalism, but usually arminianism is referred to in the ability of someone to reject the gospel call. With reference to the universalistic aspect, I heard a preacher in a community church once preach that Jesus came to save everyone, that God loves everyone. Well, that is scriptural, isn't it... John 3:16: God so loved the world, that he gave his son, that whoever believes might be saved. But I said to the preacher (not a CRC), that his sermon might be seen to lack balance, because I knew he was not a universalist. And even John 3:17 says that those who do not believe are condemned already. He agreed, and at his bible study that week he pointed this out. We agreed that Jesus death was sufficient for everyone, but not everyone would benefit. So at a practical level, we must be careful not to overjudge, or to push people into a position not of their own making.
I have heard it said by a reformed that because salvation is a free gift, we have to do nothing to be saved. God does it all. What about believing, I asked. Do we have to believe? The reply was that our believing did not save us, but Jesus saved us thru his work, his choice, his selection. Our belief is because of our salvation, and does not cause it. Well that seems to be true, but it is not balanced, because even scripture clearly says we must believe and have faith to be saved. Gal 2:16, Rom. 10:9-10. This is an example of over- doctrinalizing to the point of contradicting certain statements of scripture. If we are not allowed to say certain things even though scripture does say them, then our doctrines have become the sort of extra rules that Jesus did not approve of from the pharisees and sadducees.
We dont' want to let our semantics kill us do we? But I will say that if someone says he believes on God in spite of God, rather than because of God's spirit working in him, then we know that he is a true hyper-arminianist, who is like the man who enters the wedding feast but refuses to put on the robe of righteousness, because he thinks he is righteous enough already on his own.
Have a good week.
It's interesting where this discussion is going. Roger and John going at it together, following up on their own problems and insights.
As I recall, what triggered this exchange was some comments I made about the effect of a developmental process on our theology. We have wandered somewhat from that topic into items that have been debated for years, all the way back to Dort. Concerning Roger's idea that Paul and Jesus contradict each other - I have recently written a commentary on the Gospel of John and on the Book of Romans. I have found no contradiction whatever between the what John says about Jesus and what Paul writes. But now here is something else you might wish to chew on.
THE TRINITY. Ihave examined three distinct doctrines of trinity, that of the Apostles’ Creed, of the Athanasian and Nicene Creeds, and of neo-orthodoxy. There may well be others that have appeared here and there in the history of theology, with which I am not conversant. I have done my best to delineate and distinguish these three, and to push hard for a return to the basic Biblical viewpoint of the Apostles’ Creed.
God the Father is the creator of the heaven and the earth, the entire universe. He is and remains in absolute sovereign control over everything he has created, including not only the vast reaches of space but the ongoing process of human civilization. He therefore has a divine plan and purpose toward which he is guiding all things, and has produced a human race to effectuate that purpose. That human race has emerged slowly out of animal origins and is slowly learning how to live as images of God.
We find ourselves in the twenty-first century at a certain place in that historical development, one which we can easily recognize as a definite improvement over sheer animality but nowhere near the perfection of humanity that God intends. So we need to accept that vision, learn as best we can from what God has been showing us how to live and how to proceed. We must not become mired in the past or in the present, but recognize that we are in process, on a journey, toward a destination, and therefore that we need to be open to the constant nudging and and prodding of God through whatever means he chooses to speak.
Jesus the Son, the second person of the trinity, is and remains the touchstone of our faith. It is he, both in his life and in his teaching, who is the constant reference point of truth and life. He incarnates the absolute best of what God wants from the entire human race. He is the Man who incarnates perfectly what Genesis One pictures first as adam, created to image God in its subjugation of the earth. There is no other such person. Only Jesus, born miraculously of the virgin Mary such that he is not only the Son of God but also the Son of Man, born of a woman. Jesus meets temptation and overcomes it. He understands people who do not know very well what it means to serve the Lord God. He puts himself at their disposal such that he allows them to execute him on the cross. He also puts himself at the disposal of God in heaven such that he trusts the creator to raise him from the dead. Having done all he could in one human life he ascends into the clouds, gone forever, leaving the field to his and God’s Spirit.
The Holy Spirit. So we understand that God the Father is now exercising his divine control and sovereign direction of history by means of what his Son Jesus has done on earth. That is, by means of the gospel and the church of Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit. What God sent Jesus to accomplish is now being carried on by those who believe in Jesus and who follow him as best they can. It is always God’s purpose and God’s instruction and God’s guidance that is in control, but since the time of Jesus this purpose of God is channeled through what Jesus has done and revealed, and thus by the Holy Spirit working in committed Christian believers.
But it is of paramount importance to keep our understanding of this process in Genesis perspective. That is, of the explanation that humans are to subdue the earth and gain dominion over it in such a way as to image God in that process. We are talking here of human civilization. God’s desire is that we humans create a civilization, all of it, in such a way that the virtues of truth and love and justice and all around goodness characterizes all of our politics, economics, education, health services, business, and everything else that we do collectively. All of us, not just the church, but the entire human race. That’s the work of the gospel, of the church, to bring about that kind of civilization. So that, let us confess, is the work of the Holy Spirit, the third item in the Christian trinity.
I can see how your perspective on evolution has influenced your theology and philosophy of life, Edwin. Evolution is a religion of progress. Progress defined as ever improving physically and materially and socially. You have added in a mystical spiritual element to this "progress". You have also redefined the work of the gospel and the church as bringing about a civilization, rather than bringing about a relationship to God. A kind of heaven on earth.
This highlights a distinction between two perspectives. One perspective is that if we do all the right things, follow the virtues, make the right laws, and work for social change on this earth, that society will become better. That this is the renewal of the earth that we are looking for. The other perspective is that evangelism changes the hearts of men and that when their hearts are changed, they will act in accordance with the will of God, and it will reflect in their influence on society. The first emphasizes the kingdom on earth. The second realizes that God's kingdom will only be complete in heaven.
Your perpective on the human race slowly learning to live as images of God.... where do you get that from? what evidence do you have for that? How do you measure the progress? Do you base that on World War II being more God-imaging than world war I? Do you compare ISIS to the Babylonians or the ancient Israel, and say they are more civilized? What is your criteria?
You say that not just the church but the entire human race creates a civilization that truth, love and justice and goodness characterizes everything we do collectively. Or should. But on what basis? Where is the standard for this? What makes this better than the standards of the Russian mob, or ISIS, or Hitler, or Pol Pot or Stalin?
Is your concept of evolution entirely different than the common view, or is it the same, which includes random change(mutations), survival of the fittest, adaptation and selection, and extinctions of the less adaptable?
This gets difficult when trying to respond to two people that seem to hold somewhat different positions. I appreciate your input and distinctions. Edwin, you’re right when you categorize me as the flaming liberal (I know, you didn’t quite say that). In my responses I’ve wanted to show that from within the Christian faith (especially the Reformed faith) that there are inconsistencies. It’s arguing from within a prepsuppositional apologetic the inconsistencies or unreasonableness of the Christian religion. But if I disregard the Christian presuppositions then that pretty much ends the debate right there. It would be like a Hindu arguing with a Christian. You can’t argue two completely different religions and expect to get anywhere.
As I understand the Christian religion (and I think there is no other way to understand it), Christianity is different from all other religions. The difference is that Jesus, who is God in the fullest sense, came to earth from heaven to pay the supreme price for sin. It is only in Jesus that there is salvation and apart from him, there is no salvation. He is the propitiation by which he appeased the wrath of God against sinners. And since all people are sinners (even come in the world as sinners) all are deserving of eternal damnation. Apart from Jesus and his payment for sin all are destined for hell. No other religion offers such a perspective on the condition of the human race or on such a plan for the salvation of people. It is unique. Jesus is the cornerstone, not only by his example, but especially by who he is and what he has done to accomplish salvation, making payment for sin. Apart from Christ’s saving work all are lost, because all are sinners. The good a person does counts for nothing because sin negates any good a person may have thought he has done.
I haven’t really heard too much from either John or Edwin on this central teaching of Christianity. It is only by faith in this saving work of Christ, that a person can experience salvation in the present and for eternity. And even this faith comes from God, given only to the elect. (Side note: Arminians believe that Jesus came for the salvation of all and all can respond.) This is the faith and rescue that the apostle Paul speaks about when he describes his struggle with sin. This is the faith that Paul agues for in his letters. It is a specific faith with a specific object. And there is no other faith that will save. “There is no other name under heaven...” This is the heart of Christianity.
John, you have talked a lot about God, but not so much about Jesus, and you have said a lot about faith, but not the object of faith. And Edwin, although you seem to acknowledge Jesus as fully God, and miraculously taking on a human nature, you don’t say much about this necessary propitiation made by Jesus or the helpless state of human kind.
Once again about “faith,” John. “Just have faith and you will be ok.” That’s what a lot of people might say. But not Paul. But, in contrast to Paul, when Jesus talked about faith the object of faith would change according to the situation. When the author of Hebrews talks about faith, the object of faith varies. “It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts.” The object of faith was the sufficiency of his offering to God (works). No propitiation necessary. By faith Noah built the ark. By faith Abraham left his homeland. None of these mention the propitiation of another, but trust that they were doing (what God asked of them). They all believed they could please God. Anyone who truly believes in God will trust that their attempts to please God (love for God and neighbor) will be accepted by him. That’s not the faith Paul is talking about. You don’t trust your efforts even with faith in God. They won’t do it. Propitiation has to be made. And once again Paul and Jesus are at odds. Jesus says the difference between heaven and hell is in loving others, and by loving others you demonstrate your love for God. And Jesus’ teaching was revolutionary, especially in the context of what the Jewish religion had become. Paul’s addition is not just a new twist to what Jesus teaches, but different altogether. I don’t know how to make myself any clearer.
It seems to me, whether you acknowledge Jesus as God or not, whether you acknowledge him as a prophet sent by God, or whether he was just very insightful into where the Jewish religion (which he was part of) had gone amuck, however you see him, his teaching was insightful in his context, as well as insightful for all people in any age. He taught we could please God. It was his teaching and his insight into given situations that made him revolutionary. It’s here that you will fault me to no end. Paul came along and made an idol of Jesus, something I don’t think Jesus wanted for himself. Jesus came to teach a new way, the way of love. But now realize that many or most religions teach the same thing, perhaps with a different prophet. It’s just that Jesus is the teacher par excellence, at least in my thinking.
Well, I see that another response has come in from John. I'll send this as is, and then respond to the next responses later. Wishing both of you health and happiness (God's rich blessings).
Roger, you are very close to understanding the truth. The central teaching of Jesus as propitiation you have stated well, but then seem to say that Jesus was just a good teacher. When I mention God, or Jesus, since they are the same, it is only for aspect or emphasis, not for distinction. As for works, its not that they count for nothing at all. They have their rewards as Jesus often said. But they do count for nothing in terms of eliminating guilt. The thief on the cross was saved in spite of not having an opportunity to do any works after his faith, and after his repentance. His guilt was not removed by his own doing, but only by God's grace, by the grace of Jesus Christ. If works were required, he could not have been saved.
Now for a comment especially for you, Edwin. Again, I appreciate your perspective. And I agree that we have got off target. I think the original article can easily lead into other areas, as it has seemed to have happened here. I don’t expect either you, Edwin or John, to agree with me in the least. That’s ok, but at least you will know where I’m coming from.
I think all religions are manmade and are an attempt to explain the God who has revealed himself in creation. Most religions are ancient and are archaic in many of their basic premises. And certainly scientists today have a host of doubts when someone tells them that the earth, life and even human beings were all created in a matter of six days. Not only do scientists have to defend themselves against the likes of Christians, but also Hindus, Muslims, Mormons and a host of other religions that have their own ideas on origins, because these other ideas of origins come from their inspired Scriptures just as Christians assert. Like other ancient religions, Christianity has a central theme (just one of several) of the wars of the gods (the creator God and the demigod, Satan) who are in constant battle from the beginning of time and will culminate at the end of time. Also, like the many other religions, Christianity’s God acts outside of the created order and laws (such as with creation and a multitude of other miracles).
I think that creation tells us enough about God that I can stand in awe of him and desire to honor him with my life. And when someone as insightful as Jesus appears on the scene, it is cause enough to stand up and listen. In the fact that Jesus’ teachings makes so much sense, I could easily feel I’m a follower of Jesus, myself. But it would be very difficult to feel the same for Paul, who seems to have a very different perspective and emphasis on God and finding acceptance with him.
Also the personal nature that Christians portray God having with Christians raises flags for me. Prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit are the impetuses for such thoughts of a personal God. They both are very subjective. When someone asks, what would Jesus want me to do, what they really mean is what do “I think” Jesus would want me to do, or what do I want Jesus to tell me to do in any given situation. The Holy Spirit can be thought to have led people and groups in a thousand different directions. And yet the Holy Spirit leads in all truth. I wonder if looking for the Spirit’s voice is no different than let your conscience be your guide. As to prayer, a person can feel that in a given situation God has answered their prayers (healing from cancer) but at the same time a hundred other Christians pray for the same but never recover. Then there is all kinds of rationalizing, as to the answers we get in regard to prayer, even though Jesus taught on more than one occasion that we could pray for anything we want and we will be given what we prayed for. I don’t think that the creation reveals these things but from the beginning of time people have been crying out to the gods with no more success than Christians. Maybe having a personal God is part of the myth of made up religions. Does God care for his creation? In my mind, definitely. He has brought it into existence in one way or another and preserves it wonderfully. Why would I doubt his care of his world. But a personal relationship?
So you see how easily questions (or doubts) about creation and evolution can lead to other areas of concern? Or maybe, more than likely, I’m not very disciplined in staying on track.
John, You ask, “Your perpective on the human race slowly learning to live as images of God.... where do you get that from?” Answer: Genesis 1-3, the rest of the Bible, and history. What Genesis One tells us about the image of God and the cultural mandate means that God intends to have a human race that subdues the earth as his image. Then Genesis Three tells us that God is not getting it from the humans he brought into existence. Then the rest of the Bible tells us what God is doing to bring the human race along, step by step, in the direction of what he wants f rom us. First Abraham taken out of the polytheistic culture of Babylon. Then the nation of Israel to be shaped into a holy nation by the Torah given to Moses at Mount Sinai. Then David and Solomon to typify something of the kingdom of God. Then the Babylonian Captivity to eradicate all vestiges of idolatry. Then Jesus to begin the process of expanding the work of salvation to all nations. And so on till our times when the gospel continues to draw people from all nations into the kingdom of God. Wherever large numbers of people follow the Lord Jesus, there we see significant advances in people working for justice, truth, integrity and all kinds of virtues that image God. The result can be seen by comparing the best of Christian civilization with any and all other civilizations.
John, you cite the imperfections that still plague us, but you should be concentrating on the huge advances we have made, or better, that God has made in the human world, recognizing that the evil that exists is still there for us to overcome by the help of the Spirit of God. But always go back to Genesis One to define the goal toward which God is leading us, and do not belittle the effectiveness of the gospel in history. Consider that it was the gospel that changed the barbarian tribes that overran the Roman Empire from marauding destroyers to the creators of a magnificent new civilization beginning in Europe. Don’t despise the real beginnings and the real progress that God has made in shaping the world as he wishes it to become. God’s work is a work in progress.
Edwin, I agree God's work progresses. I am just reading Revelations now, and it is fascinating (and a bit confusing). Everytime I read it I see it differently. I also agree that it is entirely plausible that as people become Christians, they influence society for the good. I'm not sure that I would equate technology with social progress, but nevertheless, technology is fascinating and can certainly be used for good. But it can also be used for evil, and often it has. We all know that nuclear fission can make bombs or useable energy. Cars can save lives, or destroy lives. Art can glorify God, or mock God.
Man was created in God's image. "Let us create man in our image" Man was created to rule over every creature on earth. Plants were given to mankind and to the animals for food. It happened right then and there. No progression necessary. It doesn't say man would rule over some of the animals at first and slowly more and more animals. It doesn't say that man was an animal but would rise above the rest. It's kind of important as to what it doesn't say, don't you think?
Then, Genesis 3: 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. Man had already achieved everything he needed. But then he disobeyed God, and now he knows good and evil. So now he cannot live forever. Unless he obeys God in repentance... then living forever with God is a promise. With God, promise made; promise kept.
So, should I be concentrating on the advances "we" human beings have made? Well, I do see some progress which I appreciate. I like most of the modern conveniences. I like being warm in winter, having enough food on the table, and a warm soft bed to sleep in. I like not having to work 16 hours a day, six days a week. I like the reduction of slavery. I like what scientific research has done for food production, soil conservation, clean drinking water, clean air emission reductions. Its great. But I'm concerned that we will take the credit, rather than giving thanks to God. That our progress will be like the wheat in the barn of the farmer in Jesus parable. The farmer built his barns, took his pride, and God took his life.
In this century more people have died in wars and starvation and genocide than any other century that we are aware of. Maybe just because there are more people. So while I see technological progress, and while I do see some blessings of God on those nations that honor God, I do not see an evolutionary progress as a whole. In God-fearing nations, we are finding fewer people attending church and fewer people claiming to be Christian than in past decades and centuries. Materialism and hedonism often replaces worship. If our "progress" is a result of God working in us, in our hearts, then we might wonder what the apparent spiritual decline might portend for the future of this "progress".
It would seem to me that putting your trust in evolutionary progress is trusting in a false god. Rather, Isaiah 65, I peter 3, and Revelations 21 talk about a new heaven and new earth. This does not appear to be a gradual progression or improvement of the old.
There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death." "...Rev 22:5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light."
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So tell us what you think, Jolanda. :) <- this is my poor immitation of a smile emoticon....
Hear, hear Edwin. I like your comments that direct us toward the advances and progress that are being made in history. There may be plenty of evil, but culturally and politically our societies are making progress. I can’t tell you the name of the project or the authors, but recently a research project pointed out that today there are many less homicides per capita committed than in the past decades or centuries.
It may not seem it, but if we focus on the negative we will not see or appreciate the good. Christianity tends to focus on the sin of a society and individuals; we are part of a fallen world. Sin will only increase until God intervenes. So it’s a difficult thing to see and appreciate the good that is taking place outside the narrow confines of the church. Christian theology tends to belittle the good, with many Christians longing for the good old days and belittling the progress being made in the areas of science, technology and cultural growth. Even Christian evangelism tends to point toward the negative. The good of the gospel cannot be recognized until the evil is first recognized, especially personally, and confessed. So there is no good news until the bad is recognized. Christians are very good at pointing the evil. And of course, Paul is one of the greatest contributors to this negativity (total depravity).
The progress that you point out, Edwin, can be seen as the slow development of the human race (whether it takes hundreds of years or thousands, or more) It can be attributed to God and his mysterious intervention or to the long and slow process of evolution, also attributed to God. But Christianity, on the whole, will have a difficult time acknowledging any progress, because to them the world is on its way to hell in a hand basket.
And thank you, Jolanda, for the reminders to be kind and to stay on target. We love you.
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. Psalm 14. ...All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. Psalm 53 - The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good.... Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. Mark 10 - “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.
So you see, Roger, Paul did not dream up total depravity. He had read the Psalms of David (the righteous king), and knew the words of Jesus.
But I agree that being negative about everything is .. well. its negative. Still you are right, that you cannot appreciate Christ, and cannot appreciate the gospel, and God's goodness, unless you realize how far we are from what God made us to be.
Scripture seems to indicate it will get worse before it gets better. It will get worse before the end. But yet, God's grace will remain. Paul and Silas were singing songs of praise to God when they were in prison. It seemed quite bad for them... but then, not quite.
I'm wondering what religion you actually follow, Roger. It seems you know a lot about christianity, and about reformed theology, and yet don't accept it. You have hinted that Jesus is not God, that he is just a good teacher to follow, and that scripture contradicts itself, especially Paul's epistles probably shouldn't be scripture. So I'm curious. Or did I get you wrong?
Hi all. Thanks, John, for pointing out, from Scripture, the bleakness of the human race, and you might as well include the creation that groans along with humanity (according to Paul). Humanity, culture and all of creation is in one sad state according to Scripture. And that is so often the way Christians look at culture and humanity, with a negative lense. And of course the Reformers do it best. You might think that the Reformed cultural mandate would make a difference, but in reality that mandate is more a separatist movement, Christians separating from the world in order to say we can do it better. Christian education (grades K - 12) looks at secular education as the playground of the devil. So thinking they can do better, they build separatist Christian schools. Is this what you call a Christian cultural mandate? The Reformers build their separatist colleges and universities (Abraham Kuyper) and when the first ones they build become polluted they separate and build new ones again. Christians form their own labor unions to separate from secular unions. Science foundations separate from the secular so they can do true science. And there are many other areas where Christians look negatively at their surrounding world and shake their finger. That negative Christian perspective has left its influence on Western culture. So when Edwin thinks we can see and encourage a sense of growing good in culture Christianity, especially the Reformed side says, you gotta be kidden; what glasses are you wearing?
Now, for your quotes from the Jewish Scriptures, regarding the total corruption of people. Christianity has nicely piggybacked upon the Jewish religion, changing completely the character of the Jewish faith. The Jewish experts and scholars from the time of Christ to present have never thought that Christianity has been any kind of culmination or fulfillment of their religion. That is only the Christian perception. Jews have thought that Christians have defiled their own Scriptures by interpreting their Scriptures through the lens of the New Testament. Now the Mormons believe that they can do the same thing to the Christian faith by rightly interpreting the Christian Bible through the lens of the book of Mormon. And now Christians, like the Jews did, are crying foul play. Piggyback upon piggyback. I’m glad you included the quote from Jesus who includes himself among humanity as not being good, but credits God only as good. I know you’ll will have something to say about that, but taken in the normal sense as Jesus said these words it supports the idea of Jesus as a insightful teacher, rather than the second person of the Trinity.
Now your final question. Yes, I do know a fair share about Christianity, as that is my background from childhood on. But now, I do not claim or follow any formal religion. As I have said previously in this string of responses, I believe all religions are an attempt to explain the God who reveals himself in creation. Religions go to great lengths to fill in what they think are the gaps and what God himself has failed to reveal to humankind in creation. And most religions have an archaic foundation, including Christianity. I try not to formulate a religion of my own or follow one. If I did, I would probably be accused of formulating my own religion. For me, creation is enough to tell me there is an incredible creator God and his preservation of the world is enough to tell me he cares for his world, including humanity (even me). People come along in history (whether God has sent them, I don’t know) who are insightful and worth listening to. But I realize that by saying too much, I may be shown to be wrong in the future, so perhaps the less said, the better.
Roger, thanks for your reply. Your last comments have been very revealing and put other of your comments into perspective. I will only say something about your reference to Jesus comment that only God is good. Just as many of Jesus statements (ie. about his death and resurrection) were not understood until later, so this one too is understood later as ironical. The Jews were only saying that Jesus was a good man.... maybe like Job, or King David, or Elijah. But Jesus pointed out that because no one was truly "good", as the Psalms pointed out (and they would have understood this alluded reference), Job, David and Elijah were also not truly good. Therefore, if Jesus was truly good, then he would also be God. If he was God, then he could be truly good. So this statement does not deny the divinity of Christ in any way, but hints at the truth of their description of Jesus as good.
John and Roger,
You both are surprised that I think God is succeeding in making the human race better. You point out a long list of evils, seemingly proving that we are getting worse instead of better. May I suggest that you have clearer eyes to see what Satan is doing than what God is doing? The evils you point out highlight the task that remains to be done, but it does nothing to delineate the progress the gospel is making.
Recall that Jesus said, prior to his ascension, that all authority in heaven and on earth belongs now to him. If the world is getting worse instead of better, would this not negate Jesus’ affirmation? We say now that Jesus sits at God’s right hand. What do you think that means? It means that God, who has absolute authority over everything he has created, is now exercising that authority by means of his “right hand man” Jesus, that is, by the gospel preached by the church and effectuated by the Holy Spirit.
Then, when we put all that in the context of Genesis One, image of God and cultural mandate, we see that God is slowly getting us, the human race, to learn how to be the humans God wants us to become. That includes everything we do, not only as individuals but also as nations and as an entire human race. Actually, it is precisely in the effect of the gospel on our cultural institutions that we must learn to see the power of Christ at work, not only in our personal lives. Are the United States and Canada more just societies than ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome? How can you doubt it? That is because the gospel has had enormous effect in transforming our barbarian ancestors in Europe into the constructive nations of the western world. The evils you point out, accordingly, point to the task remaining to be done.
Another item on a somewhat different tack. God is calling us today in the twenty-first century to listen to what he is saying via the scientific community. John, you are concerned with the gaps in scientific knowledge, rightly perhaps, but we need to listen when such matters as the age of the universe, the construction of the planets, the appearance of life, the provenance of the human race, and other dramatic breakthroughs such as the genome list – when these things are demonstrated to be true. I personally believe we need to adopt an entirely different paradigm around which to reconstruct our theology, a paradigm of developmentalism. You will both recognize that if we do that, then the notion of God guiding us into a better and better life by means of the gospel makes a lot more sense.
At the risk of overloading Edwin, and of getting Jolanda concerned, I am pasting a quote from Philip Westra from another thread on this topic, which Edwin has never responded to directly. I would love to hear his response.
"About the article itself: 1) The author (Walhout) frames the whole thing in a reading of history that is simply inaccurate. Purgatory, indulgences, relics, etc. did not form the "backbone of Christianity" 500 years ago. When these became too important, the Reformation happened. To put creation, sin and salvation (think Apostles Creed) on par with these is simply wrong. 2) Apart from the concluding blurb from a synodical report, Walhout fails to mention anything about how the church has already been wrestling with these issues for the past 150 years. This includes the various ways Genesis 1 has been interpreted well before Darwin came along, the numerous scholars who have described Adam and Eve as the representative head of the human race, and the work of scholars today in wrestling with these questions (i.e. books and articles by the Haarsmas at Calvin College). 3) This article lacks helpful distinctions, such as the difference between evolution and naturalism, which help us ask and answer the important questions. 4) He does suggest evolutionary theory calls for a reworking of doctrines like creation, sin and salvation. About sin, he says, "We will have to find a much better way of understanding what sin is, where it comes from, and what its consequences are. Theologians will have to find a new way of articulating a truly biblical doctrine of sin and what effect it has on us." In other words, evolutionary theory will enable theologians to be true to the Bible in our theological articulations. The implication being that now we will really understand the Bible. I think the problems in this are obvious. I am a bit floored that anyone in this forum might suggest that sin and salvaiton are not core doctrines of the Christian faith. 5) The author makes a prediction about the future, a prophetic claim, if you will. If history teaches us anything, it teaches us that we humans with our best sciences cannot predict the future. Unless Walhout received this from God himself (including being from Scripture), he should not put this forward as something that will inevitably happen. Being a false prophet is a serious matter in the Bible."
John, you want me to respond. OK.
Item # 1. 1) The author </em>(Walhout<em>) frames the whole thing in a reading of history that is simply inaccurate. Purgatory, indulgences, relics, etc. did not form the "backbone of Christianity" 500 years ago. When these became too important, the Reformation happened. To put creation, sin and salvation (think Apostles Creed) on par with these is simply wrong.
Response. I believe in creation, sin and salvation. I also believe in the Apostles’ Creed. I would not put the items mentioned “on a par with” more important doctrines. I am simply affirming that the time has come when God is asking us to re-examine our traditional formulations in the light of scientific discoveries, and if found defective, to improve them. Who knows, it may even result in another upheaval the size of the Reformation?
Item # 2. 2) Apart from the concluding blurb from a synodical report, Walhout fails to mention anything about how the church has already been wrestling with these issues for the past 150 years. This includes the various ways Genesis 1 has been interpreted well before Darwin came along, the numerous scholars who have described Adam and Eve as the representative head of the human race, and the work of scholars today in wrestling with these questions (i.e. books and articles by the Haarsmas at Calvin College).
Response. It is because I have read these and similar books and articles that I have come to the conclusions I have. There isn’t room in one Banner article to summarize all that; I articulated the insights that such documents have suggested to me.
Item # 3. 3) This article lacks helpful distinctions, such as the difference between evolution and naturalism,
which help us ask and answer the important questions.
Response. What one person considers “the important questions” will probably vary from person to person. I addressed those that were important to me, and in my judgment important for the church as a whole to address. To expose what the article does not do may help some, but it would be much more helpful to address the items it does propose (as in the next item #4).
Item # 4. 4) He does suggest evolutionary theory calls for a reworking of doctrines like creation, sin and salvation. About sin, he says, "We will have to find a much better way of understanding what sin is, where it comes from, and what its consequences are. Theologians will have to find a new way of articulating a truly biblical doctrine of sin and what effect it has on us." In other words, evolutionary theory will enable theologians to be true to the Bible in our theological articulations. The implication being that now we will really understand the Bible. I think the problems in this are obvious. I am a bit floored that anyone in this forum might suggest that sin and salvaiton are not core doctrines of the Christian faith.
Response. I did not suggest that sin and salvation are not core doctrines of the Christian faith. They are. I simply suggested that we may need to find a better way of understanding them. The paradigm of developmentalism will help us to do that.
Item # 5. 5) The author makes a prediction about the future, a prophetic claim, if you will. If history teaches us anything, it teaches us that we humans with our best sciences cannot predict the future. Unless Walhout
received this from God himself (including being from Scripture), he should not put this forward as something that will inevitably happen. Being a false prophet is a serious matter in the Bible."
Response. What prediction is he talking about? That people a millennium from now might look back on our times with amazement? If so, I do plead guilty. It’s interesting that he says history teaches us we cannot predict the future, but in this case I am pleading the actual precedent of history, the exact opposite of what my critic suggests! From where did I receive this? Where does anyone receive truth from? All truth is from God. So, in so far as my article is truthful, of course it comes from God. I think he misread the article if he says that I am predicting that it “will inevitably happen.” It appears to me that it will happen, but this is a far cry from inevitability. And his last comment. Indeed it is a serious matter to be a false prophet. However, perhaps my critic should raise a mirror. What if it turns out I am right and he is wrong? Would that make him the false prophet?
Thanks for your replies, Edwin. Developmentalism. That is what you believe in... apparently. Hmm. See I believe that God develops things, and we develop things... but I believe not in developmentalism. I believe in God and trust scripture.
Although the renaissance did believe in enlightenment, but that did not have much to do with God's purpose, but rather with a humanistic approach to life.
So you believe in sin... but have difficulty explaining it, if it is simply a natural outworking of evolution which god used to create. How could you say that sin is not just a human construct? Why is sin not just the natural impulses of the evolutionary process? And if it is, why would god want us to change these predatory impulses? The predatory impulses which he created? (I mean lying, stealing, lusting, adultery, cheating, killing....)
The reason why distinguishing evolution and naturalism is significant, is that naturalism implies that God has nothing to do with evolution. On the other hand, if God does have something to do with evolution, then you need to ask what and how. Because evolution certainly defines sin differently than God does.
You say that Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father. That he is ruling in the world. Where do you think he was sitting when the world was created? When you attribute progress or "more just" to Canada and USA and Europe (presumably) than Egypt and Greece and Rome I would agree that you are possibly right. But the issue is not developmentalism. The issue is God's grace and the witness of Christians. For example, the abolition of slavery in the USA and the destruction of the slave trade in Britain. Mostly motivated by christian men. But keep in mind, the USA was already a country for almost 100 years before that, and settled as colonies 200 years before that. And not by barbarian hordes.
Anyway, it is not in citing examples of this and that, which we can prove progress or not. One nuclear bomb seems to outweigh a lot of progress, especially since it is part of the progress. Scripture is a better guide. And scripture promises times of blessing, and a time when Satan is released, that great beast. It also promises a judgement of those who disobey God. It also promises that there will be a time when no one has to teach his neighbor about God or salvation, because everyone will already know. But this seems to be heaven itself. There is no sense of an evolutionary process leading us to become better. Rather there is a declaration of needing faith and God's spirit, not to evolve, but to become new. To be born again.
Thanks for your reply. At least we are beginning to understand you.
You know, John, it is only of secondary importance for you to understand me or for me to understand you; what is of primary importance is for us together to understand God. I am hearing God speak to us via the scientific community, and, frankly, you appear reluctant to listen. You appear to be listening to what God said to our forefathers centuries ago but to be closing your ears to what God is saying to us now. Is it so strange that God might be asking us to move ahead in our thinking and in our obedience? You would not be wanting to close your ears if that were so.
You are right it is primary to consider what God is saying to us. But it is debatable that what you are looking at is from God. It is debatable what is "moving ahead" and what is moving backwards, or regressing. The world today often thinks that homosex is a completely natural activity, for example. I would characterize that not as moving ahead, but as regressing to a more primitive state. The world often wants to promote that all religions and values are equal in value; this is not "moving ahead" but moving sideways into an absurdity.
During the rennaissance, many enlightened philosophers were heralded as leaders and "lights" of the day. Many were atheists, agnostics or mere spiritualists. They were thought to be moving ahead, but in fact were often moving backwards to greek philsophy or semblances of it, and side stepping God's authority of creation and redemption of our daily lives. Some of them planted seeds that led to eugenics, and ethnic cleansing, and to racial superiority. Racial superiority is a direct natural consequence of the theory of evolution. Is this what we are moving forward to?
Psychologists consider themselves scientists as well, and have in the past often promoted certain behavioural and psychological theories which have done great harm to individuals as well as to society as a whole.
I'm a scientist too. I have some understanding of what kinds of evidence are required for a theory to stand up against challenges. I have a reasonably good understanding of C14 half lifes, and understand how similar principles apply to K-Ar, and other rock-dating methods, etc. I have seen fossils of pachyrhinosaurus being excavated. I understand genetics enough to understand selection of characteristics through heredity, and I have some cursory understanding of various types of GMO and GEO. I understand technological progress and development in the areas of direct seeding, GPS plant protection and nutrient management, robotic milkers, real-time moisture monitoring, 4-R method of crop nutrient management. I understand that some soils have declined in quality, while other soils have improved in quality in the last fifty years due to improved understanding and management. To suggest that I want to close my ears is ludicrous. Might I ask if you have really checked out and come to grips with the scientific objections to the "grand theory of evolution"? I mean scientific objections, not scriptural objections. Or perhaps it is you who wants to close your ears?
John, I apologize for the suggestion that you may not be listening to God. I did not intend to insult you, but I guess I did. You have a much right to say the same of me from your point of view. For whatever good it might do, I withdraw the comment. I’m sorry for it. We are all trying our best to listen for the truth that God has for us.
Further, I have nothing whatever to say in reply to your scientific insights. I have no expertise whatever in that field. I can only say I have been convinced by what Van Till wrote back in the early nineties and what the two Calvin profs wrote in the scientific journal a couple of years ago, and what I heard from a biologist about chimpanzees being 97% the same genetically as humans.
My concern is theology and Bible interpretation. And I do see progress, development, in the Bible. Genesis One describes the successive stages in the creation, moving step by step toward the shaping of the world as God wanted it to be. Each day’s work presupposes the work of the preceding day. That’s development, is it not?
Similarly the work of God in shaping the nation of Israel in the Old Testament. Abraham was called out of the polytheism of Babylon into monotheism, the one only God of Israel, Yahweh. That’s a good and necessary development. God gave Israel the Torah at Mount Sinai; that too is a step forward for them, shaping a coherent nation out of a group of slaves. The return from Babylonian captivity was also an advance, once for all eliminating idolatry from the people.
I think we need to see also that the ministry of Jesus is also a step forward in God’s plan to save the world, the extension of the gospel to all nations, not merely to the Jews. So I see also this same process continuing as the gospel overcomes all obstacles in the ancient Roman empire, resulting in 390 in Emperor Theodosius declaring Christianity to be the only legal religion in the empire. That’s progress, development. Then look at what the gospel did for the barbarian tribes that overran the empire. It transformed them from destructive to constructive, producing the beginnings of the western civilization which we have inherited.
You have constantly pointed out the failures and inadequacies and evils that still plague us. Nobody denies that. But for myself I keep looking at what God has done and what he is continuing to do, and I am confident that the work he has begun he will continue to do until such time as he determines will be the telos toward which he guides all things.
God’s work has encountered major setbacks all throughout history, but God always has a way of using those setbacks as the occasion for making a major step forward in his plan to get us as a human race to greater obedience. We can have all confidence that God will use the evil things you mention in order to have us rebound from them into a better world. That’s what I believe with all my heart. This is God’s world, not the devil’s.
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