DeChickifying Halloween

thetrickSome General Thoughts About Christians Celebrating Halloween

When I grew up as kid in small town Missouri, Halloween was a favorite time of the year. Not only did it indicate that Thanksgiving and Christmas were not far behind, but it gave us kids an opportunity to dress up in some fun costume and traverse our town begging the folks to give us candy; and they loved giving it to us.   And in those good ole days, people handed out those full-sized candy bars. None of that “fun-size” non-sense like now. Little dinky 3 Musketeers bars are neither sizable nor fun. But I digress.

Our costumes were not all that fancy.  We didn’t have any of those specialty stores like they have now-a-days where I guy can get a full on elf warrior suit or some gal one of those sleazy outfits like “sexy ebola patient” or whatever. Nope. The only store bought costumes came from Wal-Mart and they just sold stuff like Casper the ghost, Bugs Bunny, Mork from Ork, Batman (Adam West version), or if I was really, really lucky and could secure one of those X-wing fighter costumes for the size of a “husky” 8 year old. Those, regrettably, were hard to come by. 

halloweenNever once did we as kids equate Halloween with anything sinister or evil.

I do recall when my brother and I would get home with the candy haul, mom would empty out our plastic pumpkin containers and quickly toss any homemade treats like brownies, rice krispy bars, or caramel apples. That’s because she believed there were murderers among us who would bake Drano in the brownies or slip razor blades in the apples.  Of course, I got my caramel apple from Mrs. Peters, who was an otherwise sweet and kindly neighbor the rest of the year. Who knew she had a dark side to her that made her want to kill children. Makes me wonder what my mother secretly thought lurked in the underbelly of our small town.

Urban legends aside, Halloween was always a great time for us kids. We certainly weren’t thinking about the devil or Satanists. That all changed, however, when I got saved in college.

During the first year after I became a Christian, as summer moved into fall and October began to approach, I became exposed to sermons and literature that told me how Halloween was the devil’s night when satanists would emerge from their grottoes and prowl the countryside seeking out human prey for their devilish rituals. No Jesus loving Christian wants to have anything to do with Halloween, I was lectured. Pandering to trick-or-treaters was only putting out a welcome mat for demons to possess your soul and satanists to abduct you out of your bed.

Indeed.

Oddly, it was a mannish, atheist sociology professor at my university who really pushed the “satanists-will-get-you-on-Halloween” narrative. She had it in for religion in general, but satanism was her specialty. I want to say she had written her dissertation on the subject of international satanist groups in which she likened their criminal organizations to the Italian mafia. Every year around the week or so before Halloween, the local “alternative” free-thinkers newspaper would publish her multi-page exposes on the generational satanists whose family lineage went back hundreds of years with roots in Europe, and apparently operated in the shadowy corners of the rural, farming communities of northeast Arkansas. Who would have thunk…?

The fundamentalist Baptists and Pentecostal churches ate her conspiracy nonsense up. One of the moron associate pastors at my church at the time had her come one Wednesday night and give her lecture on the subject. Never mind the fact she is an atheist and spoke against God and Christianity in other venues. She had a sensational talk about satanism that played to the local Christians and their superstitious tendencies about devils, Satan, and warlocks.

Her wild-eyed fantasy about murderous satanist cults also lent “academic” credibility to the crackpot Chick tract version of Halloween already present in the psyche of many of the folks at my church. His cartoon tracts have sort of evolved over the years.  The early ones I came into contact with fed the myth about stealth witches living among normal, middle-class Americans, who desired to poison children with tainted candy on Halloween. There were also to ones about roving mobs of hooded satanists kidnapping blonde girls for human sacrifice. According to those Chick tracts, you are a devil worshiper even if you carve a smiling Jack o lantern to sit by your door.

pumpkinChick must’ve realized there was money to be made off dumb Christians who participated in Halloween anyways and never heeded his absurd take on the subject, so his later tracts on Halloween published in the 2000s played down the demon possessed, serial killing satanist angle, and moved to promoting the idea of buying large, bulk quantities of his tracts and giving them away to trick or treaters along with candy. I mean, who knows, maybe some Catholic kid will read Chick’s hair-brained Death Cookie tract he received from that Fundy family and become a KJVO Independent Baptist!

Being something of a stupid, undiscerning baby Christian when I was first exposed to Jack Chick Halloween history, and fueled by the atheist professor’s satanism legends, I became a crusader against Halloween. I preached against Christians doing Halloween almost as hard as I defended the KJV as the only reliable translation. I was nuts.

There was one sweet gal in our college group who loved cutesy Halloween decorations like jolly Frankenstein and happy ghosts. She’d dressed up in some fun outfit, like Cat Woman, when she handed out candy to kids who came to her apartment. I would self-righteously “separate” from any fellowship times at her place during Halloween because I didn’t want to give any affirmation to her foolish, Satan inspired decorations.

Thankfully, the Good Lord has patiently matured me in those areas of my thinking. My wife and I talked long about whether we would let our kids participate in Halloween. When we first got married, we turned out the porch lights and closed the curtains so as to dissuade trick or treaters.  But after much reflection, we decided we would participate in Halloween by handing out candy. We didn’t want to come across as those sourpuss, hater Christians.

Now that we have children, we let them participate as well. Our emphasis with them is more on the Reformation side of Halloween, but we still let them dress up and get candy. At this point, none of them have an interest in the gory, scary side of Halloween.

With that all being stated; if I may, let me offer up some general thoughts I have on the subject.

First, Christians must grant liberty with other Christian families who enjoy participating in Halloween. There is nothing satanic about carving faces in pumpkins and dressing up in costumes to beg for candy. Besides, the neighbors want you to come beg for it.

Those folks who insist Halloween IS satanic (or Roman Catholic) are really pandering to superstition and attributing to the devil authority he does not have. And neither are Christians unwittingly synchronizing their convictions with paganism or Roman Catholicism. To suggest as much is silly. But again, if it is your conviction about Halloween, I will not judge you for maintaining those convictions. Just don’t tell me I am a compromiser or dishonoring God because my family goes trick or treating and has pumpkins sitting on our door steps.

halloweenhorrorAre there dark, ghoulish and even occultic  elements to modern Halloween? Absolutely yes, I recognize that. Living in LA, Halloween is a huge business for various groups, production studios in particular,  putting on state of the art haunted houses and theme park attractions. But I believe Christians are perfectly capable of exercising discernment so as to separate those dark, macabre elements like gory haunted houses and dressing like Texas chainsaw killers from the benign trick or treating and general costume parties. I don’t need to have a pulpit slapping Fundy preacher telling me such things are ungodly. I can figure it out.

On the flip side, I think those Christians who believe we must reclaim and redeem Halloween for Jesus are misguided, and ultimately wasting their time. As a believer, I really appreciate the fact that Halloween is tied to Martin Luther hammering his 95 thesis to the Wittenburg door and thus marking the start of the Reformation in 1517. As I stated, my wife and I emphasize the solas of the Reformation with our children around the week before Halloween. Our church does as well.

But I find it a tad goofy when Reformed minded – *cough* Postmill *cough* Reconstructionists *cough* – believers try and “Christianize” all the images and themes when they are in reality not. Most of those folks trying to rewrite Halloween point to an old article written by James B. Jordan called, Concerning Halloween, in which he desperately attempts to reinvent Halloween as a time when Christians dressed up like spooks and devils in order to mock Satan as a defeated enemy. Of course, there is absolutely no historical record that Christians even thought about devil costumes as “mocking the devil” or engaged the celebration of Halloween in that way.

Those Christians today who take the tactic of revising history need to face the fact that Halloween was originally a pagan festival celebrated in the pre-Christian British Isles and Northern Europe. Now it wasn’t the mobs of murdering druids roaming the Irish countryside kidnapping innocent people as Jack Chick wants us to believe, but Jesus being Lord over all the Earth doesn’t change the record of history.

Any reliable historical encyclopedia will tell you under the entry on “Halloween” that the pagans did believe the spirits of the departed walked the land for a time between fall and winter and the living folks dressed up in costumes and set fires in order to frighten them away. Moreover, the Catholic church did co-opt some of the practices and merged them with established Catholic holidays like All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day. Luther strategically nailed his thesis on the church door on All Saint’s Day eve because the church would be opened to the public on November 1st in order to receive indulgences for the dead in Purgatory.

Rather than revising the history of Halloween in a Christianized allegorical fashion, I think the better thing for Christians to do if they wish to “redeem” Halloween is participate in some wholesome fashion like handing out candy bags with good, theologically sound tracts packed along with the candy. Churches can put together a fun activities night like a lot of the churches in my hometown. Preach sermons on the history of the Reformation. Do a series of talks on the Solas of the Reformation. Do a biographical sketch of the main Reformers. There is a rich history grounded in reality with those items. No need to create fantasy history that will only make the world mock you rather than you allegedly mocking the devil.

Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool [8]

ralph w.0

Is Christianity Anti-intellectual and Anti-science?

I continue with my evaluation of Chaz Bufe’s 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity.

We come to the 8th reason why Chaz believes we all should lay aside Christianity as a viable worldview: Christianity, according the Chaz, is anti-intellectual and anti-scientific.

The claim of an anti-intellectual Christian faith is a common urban myth among those in the atheistic community. Images of dim witted, superstitiously gullible Christians with their fingers in their noses are regularly recycled among the atheists as being true. They love to draw the mental picture of all Bible-believing, fundamental Christians as being bare-foot, wild-eyed hillbillies who believe all science is of the devil and any college schoolin’ is going to steal your salvation.

Chaz is no different. He too delights in laughing at these cartoonish characters he has drawn up of Christians. However, it is not really thinking for someone who prides himself as a “free-thinker.” In fact, when it comes to ridiculing Christians, the concept of “free” is dropped by atheists and they all think with a herd mentality. That is because atheists find intellectual comfort with believing in a fantasy Christianity, because it allows them the ease of dismissing them out of hand as unworthy of engaging in meaningful debate.

hillfamily.1Think about it: if you believe your opponent is stupid and not worth the breath used to argue with him, you can be confirmed in your own belief without even uttering a word. But, this is truly a false assurance and reveals that atheists who imbibe such myths about Christians are just lazy. They don’t want to do the serious work of establishing their claims of “anti-intellectualism” they attach to Christian believers.

Chaz’s point is long and tedious, so I will leave it to the readers to check it out on their own but there are some general observations we can make:

First, Chaz again demonstrates his ignorance of history. He seems to believe that true science of any sort didn’t come onto the scene until the Enlightenment in the 1700s. Moreover, he talks about the Renaissance period as if it were led by brilliant atheistic philosophers, all the while forgetting the bright lights of that time were all Roman Catholic monks for the most part.

He raises the favorite example of Galileo, but if any one were to truly study the whole affair rather than taking by blind faith the atheistic mythos that has popped up in their popular literature, a person would realize that he wasn’t the lone, scientific mind persecuted by the flat earth superstitious, but a man who was butting up against the accepted “scientific” community of his day. The academics persecuted Galileo more so than the Pope. Galileo is more akin to modern day ID proponents who are calling the Darwinian’s evolutionary emperor naked.

Secondly, Chaz seems to forget that highly advanced societies like the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, and even the Mayans if we hold them to the same standard, were religiously superstitious even more so than any Christian. Yet, they had these flourishing cultures featuring great engineering feats without the use of modern day technology like cranes and bulldozers. Interestingly, their engineering feats were designed to honor their gods in some fashion with either a temple or pyramid. How could that be if religion only darkens humanity to think irrationally as Chaz suggests. It makes me wonder what Chaz considers intellectual science.

Thirdly, the secular scientists that Chaz holds up as the great rescuers of humanity can be just as superstitious. A number of Chaz’s anti-religious, anarchist comrades, as well as academic elites, believe our government pulled off the terrorist attacks of 9/11. They genuinely choose to believe in a massive conspiracy rather than the facts.

My all time favorite secular superstition on the part of atheists is the belief in panspermia, or that life on earth came from some source outside the bounds of our planet either by a comet or extraterrestrial intelligence. Even the late Francis Crick, one of the two men who unraveled the DNA strand, believed this scenario to explain the complexity of life, rather than submit to what the Bible reveals of our Creator. Amazing how a hatred toward God leads an “intellectual” to embrace pseudo-science.

And then Fourthly, Chaz must not be aware of some of the more “anti-intellectual” comments coming from his side of the aisle. The way he carries on, you would think scientists are humble individuals who honestly follow the evidence where ever it leads. Because the hard, scientific “evidence” supposedly points away from any idea of God and always disproves the Bible, there is no choice on the part of the serious minded intellectual but to separate religion from science; to place them into two compartments where never they shall interact. Hence, in order to be intellectual, you have to lay aside a belief in the Bible or your scientific endeavors will be ruined. Is that how these so-called intellectual really think? Consider some of my more favorite candid quotes from atheistic “scientists:”

Professor D.M.S. Watson, once a leading biologists and writer:

Evolution is a theory universally accepted not because it can be proven by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible.

Science writer Boyce Rensberger,

At this point, it is necessary to reveal a little inside information about how scientists work, something the textbooks don’t usually tell you. The fact is that scientists are not really as objective and dispassionate in their work as they would like you to think. Most scientists first get their ideas about how the world works not through rigorously logical processes but through hunches and wild guesses. As individuals, they often come to believe something to be true long before they assemble the hard evidence that will convince somebody else that it is. Motivated by faith in his own ideas and a desire for acceptance by his peers, a scientist will labor for years knowing in his heart that his theory is correct but devising experiment after experiment whose results he hopes will support his position. [Rensberger, How the World Works, p. 17-18]

Then an all time favorite that I have already cited in a previous response, Richard Lewontin, a fellow Marxist anarchist like Chaz, wrote in a 1997 The New York Review article,

We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so-stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

Does it sound as though these scientists are being intellectual? Intellectual implies using the rational faculties of the mind. Is it rational to believe in something utterly absurd like non-living inanimate material gave rise to complex biological life just because the only option is to recognize a creator? Sure, the Church has had its share of superstitious beliefs over the years, to which those purveyors of superstition should be faulted and rebuked, but Marxist, anarchist atheists also have their superstitions that are equally anti-intellectual.

Christmas in the Hands of Reconstructionists

christmasSo for the last few weeks, I have been tussling off and on with some strong critics of Kirk Cameron regarding an interview he gave to a Catholic radio program and the assertion that he is sliding into a slough of ecumenism. You can get the background to those sparring matches with this POST.

I highlighted in that post how Kirk has a movie coming out on the subject of our Christmas traditions called Saving Christmas. As you would expect, lot of the same folks who didn’t like Kirk’s Catholic show interview also have problems with his forthcoming film.

If you have seen the trailer, it tells about a guy who is all down on Christmas because he has been told by glum legalists that it was originally a pagan holiday that has become heavily commercialized and dishonoring to baby Jesus. Kirk plays the long suffering friend who walks the fellow through the true meaning of Christmas by evaluating each of the treasured Christmas traditions, like Christmas trees, why Christmas is on December 25th, and even Santa Claus. Just from the trailer, the movie does look like it will be fun.

Recently I had the opportunity to hear Kirk speak at my home church for an Institute for Creation Research conference. To be honest, I thought the bulk of his talk was disjointed and awkward. He seemed like he was only half-way prepared, as if he threw together some stuff at the last minute. It may be that he wasn’t on his game that night, so I don’t fault him too much.

At any rate, his session got a bit better as he moved into talking about the Gospel and Christ’s redemption of men and the world. That is when he spoke a bit on Saving Christmas. He did a great riff poking at folks who think Christmas is pagan and none of the Christmas traditions should be utilized in any serious fashion by Christians as a way to explain the Gospel.

He then moved into addressing Christmas trees and showed a clip from Saving Christmas that talked about how they represent the Second Adam, Christ, putting Himself on the tree of Calvary to pay for our sins. The lights somehow represented the light of the Spirit and the fact that Christmas is celebrated in December, during winter, which typifies death, adds emphasis to what Christ did when He died for sinners on the cross.

Afterwards, my friends and I were left scratching our heads. Did we just see what we saw? Basically a contrived allegorized reintepretation of Christmas trees as figures for Jesus on the cross? We were all like,  “That. was. Interesting.”

Fast-forward to a few days later. I’m looking through my twitter feed when someone retweeted a tweet by a guy named Darren Doane who was responding to a Kirk Cameron dissenter who had tweeted him. He had this to say,

SC1aI was familiar with the dissenter because I had interacted with the person at a previous time. However, when I checked Doane’s profile, it said he was THE filmmaker who made the last few Kirk Cameron movies/documentaries and the guy who wrote and directed Saving Christmas.  He also plays the character in the film who is all down on Christmas. I thought, “Okay, here’s my chance to ask him, the writer/actor, about the contrived Christmas tree=cross idea Kirk presented.” And this is what our exchange looked like:

SC2SC3SC4SC5SC6SC7Wowzers.

The tendency of Reformed oriented guys these days is to “Christianize” culture or connect it to the Bible in some fashion so as to “Redeem it for Jesus.” They argue that Christ is Lord of all things and because He is Lord over all things, Christians can reclaim everything (though the primary focus is generally booze and movies or other forms of entertainment) by “redeeming” it. That is accomplished by redefining whatever it is you want to redeem according to some fanciful Reformed hermeneutic, which is okay to do because Jesus is sovereign over everything, so it’s His anyways. See how that works?

ccmI encountered that Reformed, “Jesus is Sovereign” hermeneutic once with a SBC pastor named Jared Moore. Pastor Moore, who is, by the way, a terrific fellow and all around good guy just so that you folks won’t get any wrong ideas about the man, wrote a book I reviewed called The Harry Potter Bible Study.

You can check out my review, along with my rejoinder to a critical response he gave of my review to get more details, but in a nutshell, Pastor Moore claimed that the Harry Potter stories can teach us how to properly apply discernment with engaging our culture for Christ and the Gospel. He did that by drawing his readers to consider all of the spiritual “truths” found specifically in the last four Harry Potter films. Like they are the Chronicles of Narnia or something. And in case you need to know where I stand on the matter, I don’t believe there are spiritual “truths” to be gleaned from Harry Potter.

It is exactly what I see Doane suggesting with his tweets. Looking over his profile and considering the company he and Kirk are keeping these days, he is advocating his hermeneutic from a reconstructionist, postmillennial, theonomic perspective. The postmillenial reconstructionist vision believes God has appointed the Church to triumphantly spread the Gospel over all the earth. But it is much more than what is read in Matthew 28.

Accomplishing that victory entails subjecting all human authorities and institutions under the Lordship of Christ. One of the key strategies employed for completing that goal is reconstructing the culture according to God’s law as revealed in Scripture. In turn, that reconstructing of culture may include redefining our societal norms and reality along the lines of reconstructionist terminology, or in this case, hermeneutic.

So, take our Christmas tree for example:  God assigned certain trees in Scripture with typological significance; i.e., Tree of Life, lampstand in the holy place, cross of Christ (called a “tree” by Peter in Acts 5:30). Hence, it is perfectly fine to utilize God’s typological hermeneutic regarding trees in the Bible in order to pour new meaning onto the Christmas tree, along with presents, the decorations, the lights, and even Santa Claus. In doing so, Christians are redeeming culture for the sake of Christ’s Lordship.

I have three problems with the reconstruction typological hermeneutic used in that manner:

1) God doesn’t desire to redeem things, like culture, or movies, or holidays. God redeems people. He desires to call men unto Himself, delivering them from His just wrath and fellowship with them forever. He accomplished that by Christ’s death on the cross.

Now certainly cultures will be impacted by redeemed people living in society. If a strip club owner gets saved, he shuts down the strip club. The same happens with any other element in society. But that is God changing people who then live godly among their neighbors. Think of John the Baptist’s words to his hearers in Luke 3:10-14.

2) I’ll develop this next point a little more when I do a fuller review of the film, but there is something dishonest with telling people the real meaning of Christmas trees, along with all the other festive trappings of Christmas, is now redefined according to this contrive hermeneutic. It is especially dishonest when you suggest to people that the new, imaginative meanings are biblical, derived from God’s Word, when in point of fact they are not. That is where a person begins to wander into David Barton territory claiming Thomas Jefferson was a Christian. Doane can argue all day long that God gave trees this meaning, but again that is dishonest because it doesn’t reflect the truth regarding the real history of Christmas trees.  It also misleads those who hear his and Kirk’s promotion of this movie as having a biblical basis. God most certainly did not intend for us to make a type out of Christmas trees so as to “redeem culture.”

3) This reconstructionist hermeneutic does a great disservice to God’s Holy Word and borders on undermining the authority of Scripture. If a person feels, according to his eschatological outlook on the world, that he can play fast and loose with the types of Scripture, giving them newer meaning for the sake of “redeeming culture” that goes way beyond what God intended to convey, the floodgates are opened to the introduction of all sorts of theological error.  It’s the same stuff we saw with neo-orthodoxy mangling the Bible.

Look it: I disagree with my detractors who insist Kirk was putting his arms around Catholics in his interview on Busted Halo. I really have no problem with him, or even Doane, plugging their movie on various radio venues whether they be Christian or secular.

I do, however, have a serious problem with their reconstructionist revisionism that I am seeing played out, because this is where I see the crux of their debate with their critics. Those critics, I believe, have yet to identify the problem of their hermeneutic and if they are serious about engaging them accurately, they’ll sharpen their focus upon it.

Hard Truths For Theistic Evolutionists [3]

creationGenesis as absolute beginning out of nothing

Christianity has historically affirmed that the first chapter of Genesis describes God speaking the material universe into existence for the first time out of nothing. What is traditionally called creation ex nihilo by divine fiat. So: when Genesis 1:1 states In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, this was God speaking into existence the absolute beginning of all things both in space and on our planet earth. Nothing in our known, material universe existed before Genesis 1:1. There was only the eternal, Triune Godhead.

The doctrine of creation ex nihilo has been held by the Christian Church since its formation on the day of Pentecost. Early Christian apologists clarified and defended the absolute beginning of creation ex nihilo against the pantheistic cosmologies when they interacted with the Roman-Greco philosophies that entailed belief in gods creating out of eternal matter. The Shepherd of Hermas, written sometime between 90-150 A.D., was one of the first extra-biblical, non-canonical sources affirming creation ex nihilo. The second book of The Shepherd called Commandments, under the first command states,”First of all, believe that there is one God who created and finished all things, and made all things out of nothing.” This view of creation was articulated and defended by such men as Tatian, Irenaeus, Theophilus of Antioch, Tertullian, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, and Augustine.

Even the major theological creeds and confessions of the Christian Church affirmed the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. For instance, the opening lines of the Nicene Creed state, “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.”

Later, during the time of the Reformation, many of the major confessions affirmed the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. The Belgic Confession under Article 12: The Creation of All Things, states, “We believe that the Father created heaven and earth and all other creatures from nothing, when it seemed good to him, by his Word– that is to say, by his Son.” The Westminster Confession of Faith 1646, in Chapter 4 on creation, even expands on the understanding of creation by affirming six day creationism. It states,

  1. It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good.

The same is affirmed in the cousin confessions of The Philadelphia Confession of 1742, and The London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689.

During the last two and half centuries, however, uniformitarian philosophy and Darwinian evolution have ascended as the governing principles over the various scientific disciplines. Since that time, the truth claims made by scientists regarding the origin and history of the world have been granted a certain intrinsic infallibility that allows those claims to not only challenge Scripture, but to also correct the biblical record of creation. As a result, the Church has slowly conceded the propositional teaching of creation as revealed in Scripture to those so-called scientific constructs. Across the broad spectrum of denominational conviction, what the historic creeds and confessions have taught about creation has largely been abandoned, or radically modified and redefined.

Instead, accommodational perspectives have been adopted in order to find common ground between modern, scientific ideas about origins and the Genesis narrative.

Typically, the opening chapters of Genesis are re-interpreted in some manner so as to fit in the millions and billions of years of earth’s history the scientists proclaim is undeniable. One of those re-interpretative methods is to say Genesis 1:1 is not addressing the absolute beginning of the creation. Rather, what is being outlined in Genesis 1 is a re-creation of some sort or a re-telling of creation in a theological fashion modeled after ancient near-eastern cosmologies. Theologian, John Walton, who is one who takes the position of a re-telling in Genesis 1, states that though God certainly was the original creator billions of years ago, Genesis is not recording that initial event in the first 2 chapters. It is an event that just hasn’t been revealed to us.

But is that view sustained by the whole of biblical doctrine? Or is it merely a clever capitulation to what has been misperceived as scientists speaking authoritatively regarding the “inerrancy” of the alleged “scientific” evidence? I believe a clear, comprehensive survey of God’s Word teaches without doubt that Genesis 1:1 is a statement of God creating from an absolute beginning out of nothing. There are six reasons I say that:

startThe Hebrew phrase In the beginning speaks to an absolute beginning. There are a number of reasons why the Hebrew phrase bereshith, or as is translated in our English versions, In the beginning, means an absolute beginning. I’ll highlight two important ones.

First, the word “beginning” is often paired in the O.T. with its antonym, “end,” acharith. For example, Job 8:7, 42:12, and Ecclesiastes 7:8. The idea being that the author, in the case of Genesis, our Creator, the LORD God, has at the outset initiated specific activity that has a beginning with a future goal intended, or what would be an end. This is particularly seen in Isaiah’s contrast of God with the pagan false deities in chapters 40-50 of his prophecy. Isaiah 46:10 states, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure.

A second reason comes from the history of translation. Since about 1920, a few liberal oriented modern translations like the New English Bible and the Anchor Bible render bereshith as a temporal clause so that the opening verse reads something like, In the beginning of creation, when God made heaven and earth. That translation has more to do with the higher critical idea that Genesis reflects ancient, near-eastern cosmology like the Babylonian Enuma Elish, rather than the actual exegesis of the text.

The implication of rendering Genesis 1:1 as a temporal clause would be the possibility that some matter pre-existed the creation narrative and thus God used pre-existing material to shape the earth. That in turn supports the reconciliation of Genesis with the idea of the earth being 4 billion years old as maintained by modern science.

Even though one can still affirm Genesis 1:1 as absolute beginning if the verse is rendered as a temporal clause, the grammatical grounds to translate the verse as such is problematic. Theologian Robert Reymond points out the reasoning for translating Genesis 1:1 as a temporal clause cuts against the vast majority of translations of Genesis both ancient and modern that regarded bereshith as an absolute. He further notes that bereshith is accented with a disjunctive accent indicating that the word has its own independent accent and was constructed by the Masoretes as an absolute noun [Reymond, 390]. Isaiah 46:10, noted above, is constructed in the exact same way. Isaiah makes it clear that God has established an absolute beginning and distinguishes that beginning from an absolute end that is the stated goal of His counsel.

The uniqueness of the word bara to God’s creative activity. The word bara, or “create” in our English translations, is use 38 times in the Hebrew Qal stem and 10 times in the Niphal stem. The word bara in those two stems is used only of God. The biblical writers reserved bara exclusively for God’s creative activity.

As it pertains to creation, God’s activity must be supernatural and miraculous. Meaning Genesis must be the initial creation of the heavens and earth and not some event of re-creation. A re-creation implies matter was already in existence from which God formed or fashioned the world and its inhabitants. Such would mean matter existed eternally with God, which would make God no longer unique as a creator as He is revealed in Scripture.

If God’s “creating” in the Genesis narrative was from matter He had created billions of years before as John Walton and other theistic evolutionists suggest, that would cut against the entire testimony of the Old and New Testaments that places the creation of the world at that starting point of Genesis 1:1.

The testimony of the Old Testament. Genesis is not the only place in the O.T. addressing God’s creative activity. Throughout the entire O.T., the writers of Scripture clearly identify God as the unequaled, sovereign Creator. They contrast His eternality and power as the sovereign creator to the impotence of the false gods of the pagans and they mark creation at the beginning as recorded in Genesis. Allow me to point out a small handful of passages.

For example, Psalm 90:2 states, Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

Psalm 33:6-9 speaks of God’s creation by divine fiat, or the creation directly by His Word, By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.

Citing the Genesis narrative, God explicitly tells Moses in Exodus 20:11 that everything created in the heavens, the earth, the sea was created during that sequence of activity as recorded in Genesis 1 and 2, For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. The phrase “all that is in them” covers the entire created realm in the physical universe. Exodus 31:17 further reaffirms that truth.

The testimony of the New Testament. The N.T. also has an exhaustive list of references to Genesis 1:1 being the absolute beginning point of creation ex nihilo. I’ll focus our attention upon some key passages.

Acts 4:24 reads almost word for word as Exodus 20:11, So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them. The testimony of the primitive church was one that recognized God as the ultimate creator who put His creative activity at the first week of Genesis 1.

Revelation 4:11 is a doxology identifying the creation of all things by the hand of God, what the Christians, as we just saw, affirmed in Acts 4:24 which was taken from Exodus 20:11, You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created. Again, the phrase “all things” is all encompassing: everything in the known universe and the world.

Probably one of the clearest proclamations of the absolute creation of the world ex nihilo in Genesis 1 is recorded in Hebrews 11:3. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

That verse is direct in affirming what Genesis 1 says regarding the creation. First it states that “all things” are created by God. “All things” being a comprehensive expression describing the entirety of the whole created realm. Next, it affirms creation by divine fiat, or by God’s very word, when it says the worlds were framed by the word of God. Then lastly, the verse affirms creation ex nihilo when it states that the things seen (the material universe) were not made of things which are visible (or pre-existent matter or eternal matter).

earthThe phrase “Before the foundation of the world” as a marker for absolute creation. A more narrow piece of biblical evidence placing the absolute beginning of creation in the first verse of Genesis is the phrase, Before the foundation of the world. It is used in the N.T. at least 10 times. Its primary use is tied to the work of God’s salvation through Christ in at least 8 of those instances: Matthew 25:34, John 17:24, Ephesians 1:4, Hebrews 4:3 and 9:26, 1 Peter 1:20, and Revelation 13:8 and 17:8. The use of the expression in relation to redemption is noteworthy, for within the next two chapters after the record of creation, Adam fell into sin. God had purposed the redemption of sinners before He created the world, a redemption tied directly to the first man’s sin.

The obvious question to ask is: What “foundation of the world” is being referenced in those passages? And, what does the writers mean when he writes that those things took place “before” that foundation of the world? If the initial creation of God was billions of years ago yet is never really revealed in Scripture as some theistic evolutionists argue, the expression would be strange; especially in light of God’s redemptive purposes in Christ. The only “foundation of the world” in the minds of Christian readers could only be the creation as recorded in Genesis. Colossians 1:16, 17, when identifying Christ as our Creator, states And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

The testimony of Jesus Christ and the Apostles. Then of course, the ultimate testimony to the absolute creation of the world in Genesis 1:1 is our very Lord and Savior Himself and His apostles who wrote the N.T. documents. This is an important point to consider, because a good many Christians adhering to and promoting some form of theistic evolution or other deep time views of the world are Reformed in their theological convictions and put a high premium upon a Christological hermeneutic where the N.T. interprets the O.T. The words of Jesus and the apostles should have some significance upon this issue.

Probably the greatest testimony concerning Christ and creation is found in John 1:1. The apostle clearly connects the person of Christ to the creation in Genesis when he opens his gospel in the exact same way as Genesis, In the beginning was the Word… John goes on to state this Word was Jesus Himself and John says the Word was our creator: All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

Throughout the pages of all four gospels, the truth regarding the creation is utilized by Jesus and the apostles. The expressions “From the beginning” and “The beginning of creation” are used by both Jesus in the Gospels (Matthew 19:4, 8, 24:21; Mark 10:6, 13:9; John 8:44), and the apostles who used similar expressions in their epistles (Romans 1:20; Ephesians 3:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrew 1:10; 2 Peter 3:4; 1 John 1:1, 2:13, 3:8; Revelation 3:14).

With this brief overview, I believe it is clear the Bible, God’s infallible Word, teaches the following as summarized by Robert Culver, 1) The world, including heaven and earth, all that exists, was created by God, and 2) the world had a beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, at which moment both time and space came into existence [Culver, 147].

The doctrine of creation ex nihilo also has significant ramifications upon our view of biblical infallibility and inerrancy, because Scripture provides chronological markers with the various genealogical lists recorded in the book of Genesis, 1 Chronicles, and Luke. Though there is a possibility some gaps exist between the names, there is no indication whatsoever long, deep time gaps exist allowing for hundreds of thousands, even millions of years old earth advocates need for their system to work. From the point of the creation week to the coming of Christ is no more than a few thousand years.

Also, Andrew Kulikovsky notes Isaiah 45:18 where the prophet states God did not create the earth to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited. [Kulikovsky, 175]. Yet old earth creationists and theistic evolutionists would have us believe the earth was uninhabited for billions of years, a direct contradiction to what Isaiah wrote.

For a Christian committed to the infallible and inerrant authority of God’s Word, any evolutionary explanation of earth’s history appealing to deep time of billions of years is unsupportable by the biblical data. The two systems cannot be harmonized and it is foolish to think they can. When two opposing “authorities” compete for the acknowledgement of a believer’s convictions, one has to give way to the other, for they cannot be united. Regrettably, for a good many Christians, the “inerrancy” of the so-called evidence takes precedence over the clear teaching of Scripture.

Sources:

Commentaries on Genesis

Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis: From Adam to Noah
Davis, From Paradise to Prison
H.C. Leupold, Genesis 1
Kenneth Matthews, Genesis 1-11:26
Brian Murphy, Genesis 1:1-2:3: A Textual and Exegetical Examination as an Objective Foundation for Apologetic and Theological Studies

Theological Resources

Duncan Culver, Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical
John Feinberg, No One Like Him
Andrew Kulikovsky, Creation, Fall, Restoration – A Biblical Theology of Creation
Jaroslav Pelikan, Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600)
Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology
John Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One

Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool [7]

stakeIs Christianity Cruel?

I wish to return to my critique of Christ-hating anarchist and blues guitar aficionado, Chaz Bufe and his 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity.

With this post, Chaz complains Christianity is cruel. I will lay aside what I have already mentioned in previous critiques, that being how Chaz conveniently ignores the cruelty of secular anarchists in the past century as they attempted to establish their enlightened utopias free from the bondage of religious superstition.

Rather than quoting the entire point, allow me to summarize the two examples Chaz raises when he accuses Christianity of being cruel: sexual repression and burning witches.

Let us begin with the first, the charge that Christians have repressive attitudes toward sex. Chaz lays out an extended citation from William Lecky to illustrate his charge of sexual repression on the part of Christians:

For about two centuries, the hideous maceration of the body was regarded as the highest proof of excellence. . . . The cleanliness of the body was regarded as a pollution of the soul, and the saints who were most admired had become one hideous mass of clotted filth. . . . But of all the evidences of the loathsome excesses to which this spirit was carried, the life of St. Simeon Stylites is probably the most remarkable. . . . He had bound a rope around him so that it became embedded in his flesh, which putrefied around it. A horrible stench, intolerable to the bystanders, exhaled from his body, and worms dropped from him whenever he moved, and they filled his bed. . . . For a whole year, we are told, St. Simeon stood upon one leg, the other being covered with hideous ulcers, while his biographer [St. Anthony] was commissioned to stand by his side, to pick up the worms that fell from his body, and to replace them in the sores, the saint saying to the worms, “Eat what God has given you.” From every quarter pilgrims of every degree thronged to do him homage. A crowd of prelates followed him to the grave. A brilliant star is said to have shone miraculously over his pillar; the general voice of mankind pronounced him to be the highest model of a Christian saint; and several other anchorites [Christian hermits] imitated or emulated his penances.

There are three things to note with this citation:

First, it is from the book called History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe by 19th century atheist historian William Lecky. Lecky published a two volume puff piece under the guise of genuine history that supposedly exposed the backward, anti-rational superstition of the Christian faith and the triumphal victory of Enlightenment rationalism in the societies of Europe.

The problem is that Lecky is about as competent an historian on the retelling of church history as I am a competent brain surgeon. Chaz’s source is of dubious origins, because it’s ridiculously biased and lopsided. It is further compounded with problems because he doesn’t tell us where Lecky is getting his information about these two men.

Second, the section Chaz chose to quote is a biographical description on the lives of two mystic hermits, Simeon the Stylite and Anthony of Egypt. Both men were wackos.  They were monastic ascetics who cut themselves off from the world to live in the desert for the pursuit of “deeper spirituality.”

Ascetic monastics represented (and still represent) an unbiblical view of Christian spirituality. The goal of the ascetic’s spiritual life is to pursue spirituality by utterly abandoning all the comforts life has to offer. Simeon, for example, took the idea of loving not the world to the point of building himself a house on a pillar and making it his home for 30 plus years. In his mind, he was loving not the world by physically removing himself from it. I, too, readily reject such absurd notions of Christianity. Jesus and the Apostles never taught that type of discipleship, and it represents just another fraudulent example of Chaz’s dishonesty against what he is criticizing.

Third, what exactly does that section from Lecky’s book have to do with sexual repression? There is no mention of sex in the entire citation. I agree with him that monastics are goofy. So, what? How exactly are those monastic examples prove Chaz’s complaint that Christianity is cruel?

Is Christianity really sexually repressive? Let’s consider the facts, shall we.

Take for instance the Puritans. They are held up as the model of sexual repressiveness, right? The red A pinned to the dress of a forlorn Puritan woman who was caught in a so-called adulterous relationship with a man who would truly love her as the woman she wants to be.

But most people tend to ignore the fact that Puritans had large families of 8 plus children. That sounds like they are sexually liberated to me. A recent example is the Duggar family of Arkansas.  The family is hated and vilified by both atheists and Christians alike. Think what you may about the family, the one thing no one can say is that the mom and dad are sexually repressed.

Back in the mid-2000s, when the Duggars were gaining notoriety as the family who ruined all the stereotypes that leftist love to hurl at Christians, it was none other than single, free thinking secular progressives who really lit up the hate for them. San Francisco columnist, Mark Morford, wrote a bigoted piece decrying the Duggars as freakish weirdies with too many babies to feed.  He apparently didn’t like their expression of sexual ethics.

But Morford is a classic example of the so-called liberated free thinker. Let us be reminded of how Chaz considers himself a “free thinker.” Remember, “free thinker” is really just a code word for sexual deviant: a pervert. When secular atheists boast that they are “free thinkers” they want you to believe they have opened minds and consider many areas of intellectual pursuits. That is dishonest nonsense. In truth, the idea with the term “free thinker” is of a person longing to be free to have as much sex with whomever (or whatever) he or she desires with reckless abandon and impunity, and without fear of judgment from societal norms.

Irrational fuddy duds, like Christians and their stone age morality, which tells individuals to control their sexual impulses, teaches faithful, sexual commitment to one person of the opposite sex, and maintains a sense of propriety with those restrictive age of consent laws, are frowned upon by “free thinkers” as being “dinosaurish” and unenlightened.

Even more disdaining is the idea that sexual encounters will result in … *gasp* … the birth of children. The very thing Morford, and I am sure, Chaz, fears happening with sex starved religious folks. In reality, it is Chaz’s view of sexual relationships that is repressive and I would add, warped. His view of sex is sexist in that Chaz just wants to use and reuse women for his own pleasures.  His sexual philosophy is also ultimately self-destructive, because he doesn’t want the responsibility of raising the next generation of Christ-hating anarchists. In short, Chaz is nothing but a adolescent minded playboy who refuses to grow up.

witchNext is his complaint that Christianity is cruel because Christians are notorious witch hunters and worse, witch burners. (I bet you all were wondering when we would be getting to the witches? Atheists just love defending witches and witchcraft).

It is a common charge by feminist revisionists of world history that the Inquisition burned millions of ladies both young and old for being witches. The images of naked girls being burned at the stake by the millions is a fantasy not only passed along by fringe feminists, but even affirmed by more reputable critics of religion like the late Carl Sagan in his book Demon Haunted World. I reckon he got bored with astronomy and thought he would try his hand in world history.

As any rate, the common figure cited by Sagan, along with other feminist historians, is that the church burned close to 5 million women as witches. I believe this is the number Dan Brown provides in his novel The Da Vinci Code.

Let’s do the math.

5 million women over a period of 300 years?

Dividing 5 million (witches burned) by 300 (years of the Inquisition) by 365 (days in a year) we get roughly 46 women being burned at the stake a day.

There is no way that figure can be supported. It is utterly absurd. One point of commendation is that Chaz just mentions hundreds of thousands of women, which is more accurate. Historically, the number is closer to 30,000 witches burned over a course of 300 years. That number is still outrageous, but is it due in part to a superstitious Church? Not entirely. Philip Sampson, who has written an excellent little book called the 6 Modern Myths About Christianity and Western Civilization, points out how,

In fact, detailed studies have shown that the Inquisition, far from “stimulating the prosecutions,” acted as a brake on lay courts and popular zeal. As the historian William Monter notes, “The mildness of Inquisitorial judgements on witchcraft contrasts strikingly with the severity of secular judges throughout northern Europe”; ” most secular European legal systems punished their prisoners more severely than the Inquisition.” In Southern Europe the execution rate was low, especially in Italy and Spain – precisely where the Inquisition was involved – because of the higher standards of proof that it demanded …

the Inquisition demanded evidence, investigated the truth of charges and was suspicious of fantastical confessions. Contrary to Carl Sagan’s belief that the Inquisitors disregarded motives of jealousy or revenge in those who made accusations, they were in fact required to investigate such matters carefully. Thus, when Anastasia Soriana presented herself before the tribunal at Murcia in 1584 and declared that she had had a carnal relationship with the devil, she was told to go home because she was suffering from delusions. She presented herself again at the tribunal at Toledo with the same story. Again she was sent home. Far from encouraging prosecutions the Supreme Council of the Inquisition protected women against charges of witchcraft.

Once again, Chaz, who really represents the bulk of start up, internet atheists these days, has demonstrated that he is clueless as to what he hates. He attacks cartoons, not Christians.

Mom’s Night Out – A Review

momsMy wife and I had the opportunity over the weekend to watch Mom’s Night Out. I am probably 4 or 5 months behind with this review (I think the movie came out in May), but we have children; the days of seeing movies during their theatrical run are no more. We have to schedule a sitter like weeks in advance, and with a movie like this, by the time that can all be arranged, it’s gone from the theaters. We have to do the Netflix route.

This was probably one of the better so-called “Christian” movies I have seen in a long time. It was excellent in all the major categories where “Christian” movies seem to always faceplant in an epic fail sort of way: Good acting, a fun script, excellent production value. Even more surprising was how great it worked as a comedy, because the characters and situations reflected so well our lives as a married couple with kids, sans the big house, designer clothes, and high end mini-van. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

The movie centers around Allyson, a  dutiful wife and mother who is becoming frazzled as she frets over her abilities in those roles of wife and mother. She worries about how well she maintains her home, how she raises her kids, if she’s there for her husband, and whether she gives the appearance of having it all together for her friends.

Surrounding her is her good pal Izzy and the pastor’s wife, Sondra. Allyson arranges a “mom’s night out” for her and her two friends at a fancy restaurant, and of course, through a series of serendipitous events (or better, acts of providence), all sorts of comedic mayhem unfolds and life lessons are learned.

The movie, as I noted, works in all the ways Christian films typically do not. That may be because the producers actually work in LA and know the business much better than outside companies, say for instance, in Colorado or the deep south somewhere.

Be that as it may, first, the production team managed to pull together a superb cast of players. Samwise Gamgee is the long-suffering husband to Allyson and Debra Barone from Everyone Loves Raymond is the pastor’s wife, Sondra. I want to say it was Debra and her real-life husband who were behind the production. The talent of the cast certainly adds a measure of excellence that is often times missing from films like this.

It was clear the writers are familiar with the audience they intended to reach. The writing is also crisp and engaging, and the comedy worked well; never did it come across as “forced” for the purposes of getting a laugh. My wife and I were both amused with the various conversations our mom Allyson talked with herself about. The opening montage that introduces us to her was a running commentary on my wife’s life. The same can be said about her supporting friends. A lot of them reflect our friends in real life.

And the production was well done. For a movie intended to be a “Christian,” or maybe more along the lines of a “Red state Evangelical” movie, none of the cheapness and cheesiness flashed before our eyes pretending to be serious film making. Of course, I have in mind the gold standard for all bad Christian movies, A Thief in the Night, that birthed generations of anti-fundy, anti-homeschooling Patheos blogging atheists. In other words, this was not that. I was glad Mom’s Night Out wasn’t the Sharknado of Christian family films.

The question among my circle of Reformed, Bibley-oriented friends is going to be: How “Christian” was this movie really? Apart from a few scenes taking place at what appears to be a large, SBC facility, Sondra the pastor’s wife bringing the occasional comedic timing, and a big, loveable teddy bear biker guy reminding Allyson that she can be a good mom and wife because Jesus loves her, the movie isn’t in your face about the Gospel or Christianity.

Some may see that as a slight. I don’t necessarily. Certainly my friends and I will talk more of Christ and how He matters to us, but what the film may have skipped over as far as the Christian faith, the underlining theme was certainly Christian.  Now, whether the film makers intended to dumb-down the Jesus talk or not in order to reach a secular audience, I couldn’t tell. I mean, they had one supporting character talk about Jesus specifically, and not the generic “God.”

Could the characters have spoken more about Christ? Sure. But, I did appreciate what components to may faith were present. I liked that Allyson was a stay-at-home mother, not a woman conflicted with having to juggle her successful career and her commitment to her family. She cared about her abilities to love her husband and children. Her friends were the same way. Her husband was a faithful, loving man that cared about her sanity. When the moms do their night out thing, the fathers were not portrayed as these sexed up teenagers that turn into a bunch of idiots with kids. They are responsible and fun. Sondra, the pastor’s wife, who worries about the direction her teenage daughter is taking, has a great talk with her about why she has those concerns. There was a lot of good material along those lines.

The one area where I think the film could have improved is with a bit more diversity among the characters. Everyone was white. Like when you go into Wal-Mart in Seacy, Arkansas. They were also upper middle-class families that lived in massive homes and were more than well off financially.

I don’t point that out because I have a missional streak or am all self-righteously indignant with my multicultural proclivities and I feel I need to expose some ignored hypocrisy. Nothing of the sort.

Perhaps it is because I live in LA, one of the largest metropolitan cities in the nation, but the church folks I am friends with come from a variety of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. What I love about our church is the fact that the diversity of the body of Christ is displayed among my friends with people from all parts of the world from all different kinds stations in life, and yet we all have the same focus in Christ, as well as the same struggles Allyson has when it comes to raising our families and trying to be wise parents. It would had been nice to have seen those differences portrayed for us.

Overall, this was a good movie. If you and your spouse need a date night, this would be a stellar movie for you. I honestly hope they consider making a sequel called Dad’s Night Out with the same characters. I think it would be an equally fun movie. Though, if it’s the kind of dad’s nights I personally like, the movie would be a boring 90 minutes of watching a guy meander around in a used book store with a cup of coffee.

Hard Truths For Theistic Evolutionists [2]

shepherd_thumb5On Death, Dying, and Suffering

Theistic evolution is the belief God brought about the present variety of life on earth by the process of evolution.

In a manner of speaking, the very term “theistic evolution” is oxymoronic. A radical discontinuity exists between the tenets of modern evolutionary theory and the eternal creator God revealed in Scripture. Yet, as sharp as the inconsistencies are between what is taught in Scripture about the origin of creation and what evolutionary theory believes about origins, theistic evolutionists insist the biblical revelation of creation can be woven together with evolution.

But could God have providentially used evolution to create? Can one hold to modern evolutionary theory and still fully confirm the infallibility of God’s Word? I don’t believe so and I think there is clear reason why I say that.

Consider death and dying. The death of living things is taught in Scripture as being a bad thing; an unwelcomed intrusion in God’s creative order.

After God originally created the world, He declared that all He created was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). But, Adam’s act of disobedience in the garden by eating from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 3) is understood as the introduction of death and suffering into God’s creation. Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, separated from an intimate relationship with God and the earth was also cursed so that it would no longer serve Adam in the manner it once did.

The end result of Adam’s sin was physical death, and the eventual physical death of all of his progeny. Within the genealogies of Genesis 5, the repeated phrase that rings in the ears of the reader is …and he died.  Ultimately, eternal death would result when men were divinely judged for their rebellion against God. Adam’s sin did not stop with only him and his human descendents, however, but it plunged the entirety of God’s creation under the curse of sin so that all living things will suffer the pains of dying and eventual death. As Paul summed up the situation in Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is death.

Evolutionary theory, on the other hand, understands death as one of the mechanisms that is a part of the process of evolution. The author of the article Evolution for Beginners notes the second important thing that drives evolution is,

the disproportionately high percentage of deaths of organisms who are less well suited to their environments and predatory conditions, and therefore are unable to leave as many offspring.

The idea being that death of a weaker, individual organism allows the stronger organisms to thrive and pass along their offspring. Additionally, competition among species contributes to the function of natural selection and the evolution of those species. Competition then,

occurs when two species each require a resource that is in short supply, so that the availability of the resource to one species is negatively influenced by the presence of the other species.

Hence, when environments lack the food sources necessary to sustain the life contained in it, weaker species will thin out due to the inability to adapt and survive. In other words, they die off.

Theistic evolutionists, instead of understanding that death is the negative consequence of Adam’s sin, insist “death” is an important part of God’s creation and it is necessary to maintain God’s “perfect” world. Death is viewed as a creative agent facilitating the majestic work of God as He providentially guides His creation to reflect His glory. That is also the position of other old earth creationists who would reject the concept of evolution. For example, Hugh Ross and the apologists at his ministry Reasons To Believe as well as Greg Koukl and Stand to Reason.

But seeing “death” as a creative act of God and a necessity for His created order is strange in light of the fact the Bible identifies the introduction of death with Adam’s sin. Death is the eventually curse upon man’s sinfulness, and the Bible states the entirety of creation groans under death’s curse. Death is an enemy to be abolished at the coming of the new created order (1 Corinthians 15:26).

If “death” is a work of God’s creative action, why does Revelation 21:4 say, And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away? The “former things” are contrasted here with the New Heaven and New Earth. Whereas the “former things” – our current world in which we live – are marked by death, sorrow, crying, and pain, the New Heaven and New Earth are not. The “former things” are certainly not described as being good or an important part of God’s perfect creation.

On top of this, famine and the scarcity of resources is revealed in the Bible as a judgment by God against His people and against sinners in general. For example, in the curses promised to Israel if they did not obey the covenant made with God, the LORD says in Deuteronomy 28:24 that He will change the rain of your land to powder and dust; from the heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed.  We see this promise kept in 1 Kings 17 when the prophet Elijah announces no rain will come upon the land for 3 years. In the prophecy of Jeremiah, chapters 14, 42, and 44 particularly, God threatens to send famine and pestilence upon the people as a means of judgment. Other prophets record similar threats and acts of judgment by God. In all of those instances, death, disease, and famine, is an extremely negative thing and never is creativity attributed to them.

deathA lot of the dying of God’s creatures involves the scarcity of resources – the idea of competition noted above. Yet it is clear from Genesis 1:11-13, 20, and 22, that God originally created His world with the abundance of life in the seas and on the land, and the necessary resources for that abundant life to thrive.

That is especially true with God’s command to “be fruitful and multiple” because the resources must be available for His creation to fulfill that mandate. But the lack of resources in a given environment on the earth is one of the primary causes of death. In light of what God stated about His original creation multiplying abundantly and being fruitful, the reality of competition, the struggle to survive, and the lack of much needed resources conflicts with theistic evolution. It is dishonest to claim affirmation of God’s inspired Word regarding His creation, while at the same time believe that death is a positive mechanism for the evolutionary process. Such ignores the curse of sin upon the creation.

The typical response by theistic evolutionists, and even old earth creationists, is to say the death spoken of in Genesis is “spiritual” death, not physical death. Some even redefine the word “death” to mean only “separation” and chide those who think no physical death existed before Adam sinned as misunderstanding the theology of death.

The reason Adam didn’t die, they argue, is because he and Eve were in fellowship with God and had access to the tree of life mentioned in Genesis 1-3. It wasn’t that they wouldn’t die, per se. Their obedience to God and resistance to the Devil’s temptation merely promised them immortality. But once Adam and Eve disobeyed, they were separated from God and they could no longer partake of the tree of life. From that point onward they were to continue being subjected to physical death.

But that is a strained interpretation of Adam’s sin and the death that followed when one considers Paul’s argument for Christ’s cross work of redemption. There are at least two reasons why death by Adam’s sin was not just “spiritual,” but also physical and that physical death had not happened before he sinned.

First, In both Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, Paul explains that redemption was only secured when Christ physically died and then physically rose again from the grave. In 1 Corinthians 15:21 and following, Paul contrasts Adam’s act of sin which produced physical death with Christ’s physical resurrection from the dead. If Adam had only died spiritually, then it would only be logical to say Christ was only “raised” spiritually. There would be no need for the bloody death of a substitute to pay the penalty for sin as Paul outlines in Romans 3-5, and then His resurrection from the dead (see also Hebrews 9:16, 17).

Secondly, Paul ties the restoration of creation at the eschaton to the physical resurrection of the saints and the defeat of death as the “last enemy.” He writes in 1 Corinthians 15:42-58 how the corruptible (fallen, mortal, sinful men), cannot inherit the incorruptible (the new “sinless” creation). The corruptible becomes incorruptible when Christ returns and God’s kingdom comes to earth and transforms it. The contrast between the corruptible and the incorruptible and the identification of sin as the “sting of death” in verse 56 clearly implies the condition of “corruptibility” did not exist before sin.

Now, if physical death existed before Adam’s sin and was a part of God’s perfect creation, why is there a need for our redemption from “corruption”? Why is physical death even considered an “enemy”? Why would a good thing necessary to God’s perfect creation even be considered an “enemy”? Something that is to be abolished? And if physical death existed before Adam sinned, why is it tied to Adam’s transgression?

What I am seeing with the arguments made by theistic evolutionists – and by extension, old earth creationists – is that physical death isn’t really considered a “big deal” to them. But the theology of death presented by theistic evolutionists creates major difficulties with the whole of Scripture and how the Bible understands death. A person has to wonder what impact theistic evolutionists believe Adam’s sin had first to his progeny and then to the rest of the world. A person also has to wonder how seriously theistic evolutionists believe the plain teaching of Scripture in these matters. From what I can tell, biblical theology suffers horrendously in their hands.

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A lot of my thinking with this article came from this paper, Theological Problems of Theistic Evolution, by Fred Van Dyke

Hard Truths For Theistic Evolutionists [1]

creation_thumb[3]God’s Character and the Doctrine of Inspiration

Theistic evolution has emerged in recent years as the “go to” explanation that attempts to accommodate the historical narrative of Genesis with the evolutionary theory of life. Even though theistic evolutionary proponents claim to uphold the inspiration of the Bible, they typically undermine its integrity by yielding to so-called scientific conclusions thus diminishing the authority of God’s Word.

Biologos is the primary mouthpiece popularizing and disseminating theistic evolutionary propaganda to the general pubic.  Under the “Questions” page the curators summarize their position by differentiating theistic evolution from atheistic evolution, intelligent design, and creationism, by writing,

Theism is the belief in a God who cares for and interacts with the creation. Theistic Evolution, therefore, is the belief that evolution is the way by which God created life.

On the webpage where the Biologos Foundation outlines what they are about and what they believe as a group, they write under point 1,

We believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. We also believe that evolution, properly understood, best describes God’s work of creation [emphasis mine].

Here we read a clear statement from the Biologos Foundation affirming a devotion to the inspiration of the Scriptures, and that is important to note, because the Bible specifically defines for us the word “inspiration.” In 2 Timothy 3:16, 17, Paul writes, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 

The word translated in our English Bibles as “inspiration” is a Greek word meaning “God breathed.” Some English translations even render the word as “God breathed.” In other words, Paul is saying the Bible – the Scriptures – is a written, divine revelation directly from God.

Paul goes on to identify the effectual nature of Scripture. It is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. Now, the constituency of Biologos would argue Paul’s description of Scripture pertains only to moral issues of a spiritual nature. The daily issues a pastor will encounter when shepherding the Church of God. Hence, when the Bible addresses ethics, morals, and spiritual values of the Christian life, it is a reliable source of information. When the Bible addresses physical reality, however, areas of the world where modern day scientific theory attempts to assert itself as the dominant authority, it isn’t particularly useful and in some instances may be mistaken.

But, if the whole of Scripture is, as Paul describes, God-breathed, then such would imply the whole of Scripture is invested with a uniquely divine authority. The Scriptures, being breathed out by God, would certainly bear the qualities of God’s attributes. The most important of those attributes as it pertains to Scripture is God’s truthfulness. In God dwells all truth.

The Scriptures themselves repeatedly declare God is the source of all truth. For example, Deuteronomy 32:4 says God is called A God of truth. Psalm 31:5 states the same thing about God. Through out the Scriptures, the Word of God is called God’s truth and to obey God’s Word or to keep His law is equated to obeying the Truth. See for example Psalm 86:11 which says, Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name. Also, Psalm 119 describes God’s Word as truth and obedience to His Word by believers as “walking in truth” five times in verses 30, 43, 142, and 160. Those are just a smattering of passages from the OT.

The NT states the same thing about God’s Word. Jesus, in John’s gospel, calls Himself the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). When He prays to the Father, Jesus says God’s Word is truth and that truth sanctifies the believer (John 17:17, 19). The Holy Spirit is called a “Spirit of Truth” in John 14:17 and 15:26. It is also important to note that “walking in light” is seen as walking in truth and is contrasted to “walking in darkness” which is described as error or deception.

Several more passages in both the OT and the NT could be considered, but it is clear the Bible identifies God and His Word as being “the truth,” and it is “truth” identified with God’s character.

So. When God breathes out His revelation it will always be truthful in all the matters it addresses. That can be the only possible conclusion one can draw from Scripture if we take it seriously as a divinely given document. If the Bible is God-breathed and, as its own pages proclaim, it is truthful, then it has to be without error because being by its very nature God-breathed, the Bible is invested with God’s character which is truth.

Returning back to Paul’s words to Timothy, the apostles states “all Scripture” is God-breathed. “All” means more that just those things only pertaining to spiritual or moral values. That means God’s Word is without error when it speaks to physical reality and historical matters. There isn’t a dichotomy within Scripture where some is God-breathed and other portions are not.

In other words, God’s Word cannot be God-breathed yet filled with error or deception at the same time. It cannot be both inspired yet errant. If Scripture is inspired or God-breathed it has to be inerrant and infallible in all that it addresses both in spiritual matters and physical and historical matters.

The presence of any error in the Bible with regards to physical matters (read “science”) and historical matters (read “origins”) would impugn God’s character with either intentional deception or making a series of mistakes. If either one of those scenarios are true the Bible could no longer be confidently believed as trustworthy or said to be infallible.

The drafters of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy recognized inspiration and inerrancy are wed together as one in the historic orthodox doctrine of Scripture. Those two doctrines stand or fall together and cannot be separated. Under article 11, the drafters state,

We affirm that Scripture, having been given by divine inspiration, is infallible, so that, far from misleading us, it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses.

We deny that it is possible for the Bible to be at the same time infallible and errant in its assertions. Infallibility and inerrancy may be distinguished but not separated.

and under article 12 they write,

We affirm that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.

We deny that biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creaton and the flood.

Even though the folks at Biologos claim they affirm a high view of Scripture, they regrettably reject the unity of inspiration and inerrancy in the one orthodox doctrine of Scripture. Though they say they believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, they reject inerrancy. They are acknowledging an inspired, but errant Bible, especially when it addresses the subjects of our World’s creation and man’s origins.

One has to wonder if theistic evolutionists recognize how their position speaks against the character of God. They are unintentionally saying that God breathed out a divine revelation that was inscripturated in the Bible, but what God revealed was misleading, deceptive, or mistaken.

If theistic evolutionists insist they believe in a divine, sovereign God and that the Bible is inspired, I would expect them to explain the numerous theological problems their position creates. The disconnect between an inspired, yet errant Bible and God’s character being just the first among many. In a handful of up-coming posts, my objective will be to highlight those problems and consider whether theistic evolution really reflects a high view of God, let alone a high view of Scripture.

What I have seen so far from theistic evolutionists, particularly the people at Biologos, is unbelief. A full out denial of Christian orthodoxy. In a manner of speaking, it is a form of stealth atheism.

Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool [6]

I once again pay a visit to Chaz Bufe, the Christ-hating anarchist, and his 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity.

This post brings us to Chaz’s 6th complaint against Christians, that Christianity breeds authoritarianism. I won’t provide his entire point because it is rather lengthy, but I will hit on some of the more salient thoughts Chaz provides:

6. Christianity breeds authoritarianism. Given that Christians claim to have the one true faith, to have a book that is the Word of God, and (in many cases) to receive guidance directly from God, they feel little or no compunction about using force and coercion to enforce “God’s Will” (which they, of course, interpret and understand). Given that they believe (or pretend) that they’re receiving orders from the Almighty (who would cast them into hell should they disobey), it’s little wonder that they feel no reluctance, and in fact are eager, to intrude into the most personal aspects of the lives of nonbelievers.

This is most obvious today in the area of sex, with Christians attempting to deny women the right to abortion and to mandate near-useless abstinence-only sex “education” in the public schools. It’s also obvious in the area of education, with Christians attempting to force biology teachers to teach their creation myth (but not those of Hindus, Native Americans, et al.) in place of (or as being equally valid as) the very well established theory of evolution. But the authoritarian tendencies of Christianity reach much further than this. …

This Christian hatred of freedom of belief—and of individual freedom in general—extends to this day. Up until the late 19th century in England, atheists who had the temerity to openly advocate their beliefs were jailed. Even today in many parts of the United States laws still exist that forbid atheists from serving on juries or from holding public office. And it’s no mystery what the driving force is behind laws against victimless “crimes” such as nudity, sodomy, fornication, cohabitation, and prostitution. …

If your nonintrusive [sic] beliefs or actions are not in accord with Christian “morality,” you can bet that Christians will feel completely justified—not to mention righteous—in poking their noses (often in the form of state police agencies) into your private life.

That particular complaint was funny. Here we have a communistic sympathizing anarchist whining about Christians being authoritarian and poking their noses (and guns) into areas where they don’t belong. Sorry, but communists wrote the book on authoritarianism and nose (and gun) poking.

Chaz’s list becomes more laughable with each of his reasons we examine.  Even more amusing is Chaz’s employment of the term “police state” to describe alleged Christian authorities forcing their laws onto everyone else.  Of course, his pamphlet doesn’t take into consideration the recent plague of the pink Gestapo and their homosexual jihad against bakers who don’t want to bake cakes for a gay wedding or don’t want to rent out their facilities for a homosexual party.

Whereas Chaz’s Christian concentration camps run by gun toting nuns is a complete figment of his deluded mind, the ideological secular camps are all too real with the censuring of any descent against the secular norm. And those concentration camps are all too physically real in the atheist nation state of North Korea.

I won’t bore you with how Chaz’s arguments for anarchism can be stripped bare and shown to be utterly ridiculous in the bright lights of historical fact. I have already done that enough in some of my previous posts. I do wish to address a couple of Chaz’s charges, however.

First, I stated way at the beginning when I took up critiquing Chaz’s 20 Reasons that his venom is spewed more toward Roman Catholicism than biblical Christianity. I am not sure of Chaz’s motivations, but I would venture a guess that much of his anti-Catholicism is due to personal experience. Perhaps he grew up in a rigid Catholic home. Maybe he attended parochial schools and suffered harshly under the dictatorial enforcement of brutish, man-like nuns who slapped his palms with a ruler if he stepped out of line.

What ever the case, the typical anti-Christian bigot like Chaz wrongly equates his negative personal experience with a religiously authoritarian group who pay lip service to a warped understanding of Christian faith with true, biblical Christianity. I see that all the time among ex-fundy, survivor blogger atheist/apostate types on the internet.

I would be happy to stand beside Chaz and offer my criticisms of all the evils perpetrated by Christians over the centuries as well. However, heretical deviations from biblical Christianity does not equate true Christianity.  Any religious group claiming allegiance to Jesus Christ and the Bible, yet advocating some perverted abstraction of Christianity are not Christian.

That is why it is vital for Christians to have 1) a high view of Scripture as a revelation from God, 2) a working knowledge of Scripture and what it actually teaches, and 3) engage in the proper handling of God’s Word when interpreting it as Paul explained to Timothy (2 Tim. 2:15).

Chaz also reveals a little bit of his agenda with his comments. Notice that the key example he provides supposedly demonstrating the authoritarianism of Christianity has to do with sex.

I won’t go into a lot of detail here, because we will address Chaz’s sexual hang-ups in a future critique, but suffice it to say he desires the life of a playboy that allows him to engage in any guilt-free sexual vice he so chooses without impunity and severe consequence, especially for himself. That is why he adds on the little comments about abortion and abstinence; he can use all the women he wants and when he’s done, its really just the “victimless” crimes of nudity, sodomy and fornication.

I can understand why Chaz doesn’t care for Christianity. I mean, if you are an anarchist who wants to be able to copulate with any person (or animal if we want to be purely consistent with our beliefs) of your choice, and an absolute, divine authority reveals that such reckless behavior is not only an act of disobedience against His sovereign law, but also destructive to your personal life and the life of the persons involved with you in that behavior, you wouldn’t want God cramping your style.

dawkinsIn reality, it reveals utter selfishness on the part of Chaz. He’s nothing but a misogynist; a sexist pig. In his worldview, he should have easy access to women made available for the feeding of his sexual appetite. Maybe he can do some “mansplaining” of his sexy anarchist philosophy to the numerous women and children who are the victims of sex trafficking. I’m sure they’ll understand.

Refusing to submit to God’s authority on this matter, however, won’t change the fact that a cascade of problems begin raining down when a person pursues sexual perversion with foolish abandon. In spite of all the complaints, those problems make a person responsible and beholden to all sorts of authorities, like those irritating child support laws and medical bills for sexually transmitted diseases for example.

Like all sinners in rebellion against the true knowledge of their creator, Chaz views God’s authority on the matters of sex as preventing him from being fulfilled. But in reality, God’s authority concerning sexual relationships is a matter of love, because God wants the best for men and women. God’s law not only confirms His holiness and the behavior He expects from mankind, but it also protects men from the disastrous harm that could befall them.