Reviewing Navigating Genesis [5]

How Far the Fall? Genesis 3 – Chapter 11

After a bit of a break, I’m returning to reviewing Hugh Ross’s book, Navigating Genesis. The four previous reviews can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Skipping ahead to chapter 11, I’m addressing how Ross deals with Genesis 3 and the consequences of Adam’s fall, especially death.

Before I work my way through this chapter with a review, we need to acknowledge what the Bible tells us about death. It is clear throughout its pages that death is an intrusion into God’s creation brought here by Adam’s disobedience in the garden. Physical death demonstrates God’s judgment, and death is likened unto an enemy, (1 Corinthians 15:26).

The first death recorded in Scripture was that of an animal from which God made skins to cover Adam and Eve immediately after they had sinned. With that death of an animal, God demonstrated the need for atonement that turns His judgment away from man and restores divine fellowship. All of creation, without exception, has been touched by Adam’s sin. Because of his fall, the entire creation groans, longing to be set free from its bondage to corruption, (Romans 8:20-21). Physical death of all living things is a stark and grim reminder of the creation’s bondage to that corrupting curse.

Ross, on the other hand, rather than teaching that physical death is a curse upon all of God’s creation, teaches that death is beneficial. Death was originally one of the good aspects of God’s creation because it was necessary for God to care for the carnivorous animals by allowing them to eat other animals to survive. Death was never intended for mankind, however, and became a curse for men when Adam disobeyed. That is the position Ross attempts to defend in chapter 11.

Review and Analysis

Ross opens his chapter briefly mentioning the rebellion of Satan. Why that is relevant to his discussion of Adam’s fall and the impact of death is unclear. I take it that he is contrasting Adam’s rebellion with Satan’s, because he states in a previous chapter that Satan rebelled first, [91].  His comments appears as if he is attempting to explain away physical death as a consequence of Adam’s sin. Like he is saying, “Well, Satan rebelled first, so Adam’s fall really has nothing to do with death.”

He does make this baffling assertion, though, “Whether it [Satan’s rebellion] occurred before or during God’s creation of Earth the Bible never says, but we do know it predated Eden,” [109]. If the Bible never says when Satan’s rebellion happened, how exactly does Ross know it predated Eden? But I digress.

His chapter is outlined in four main sections. I’ll consider each one in turn.

Adam and Eve’s Expulsion from Eden

This section recounts the scene of Genesis 3. Ross provides a fair summary of the events: God forbidding the first couple from partaking of the Tree of Knowledge, Eve being tempted by the Serpent and eating, and then Adam following his wife in disobedience, and the consequences of their banishment from Eden. He then makes some comments about how Adam’s one, small act of eating a forbidden fruit leads to the avalanche of sin in the world. However, physical death overall was not a part of that consequence as he will go on to explain.

Did the Fall Change Physics?

It is in this section that Ross’s egregious apologetics on death begin to surface. He builds his presentation on strawman arguments against young Earth creationists and illogical category distinctions.

First, he focuses a lot of his discussion on the false notion that YEC teach that the second law of thermodynamics was initiated at the fall. He seems to assume that it is the commonly held view of all creationists. Now, it could be that Ross has engaged a few young earthers in the past who held to that perspective, but the idea that the second law of thermodynamics was initiated at the fall has never been the standard position of the YEC community.

In fact, sloppy, out-of-date research is probably one of the biggest problems with this entire chapter (as well as the book). His objections to his detractors are built upon material he published back in the 90s in his book, Creation and Time, and The Genesis Question, the first edition of Navigating Genesis, published in 2001. If he had bothered to spend time reviewing and updating his work, he would have discovered that creationists have written quite a bit in the intervening 20 years or more answering those sorts of false charges. See HERE for example.

Continuing his case for the second law of thermodynamics, Ross mentions Paul’s words in Romans 8:20-22, but his understanding of those verses are so wildly off target I wonder how he can be taken seriously as a Christian apologist. He believes Paul is describing the affects of the second law of thermodynamics, referring to “the whole of creation” “right up to the present time,” [112]. In other words, the work of the second law of thermodynamics has always been a necessary part of God’s created order from the very beginning. “The thermodynamic laws are good,” he writes, “in spite of the “decay,” “frustration,” and “groaning,” [113]. They are part of God’s plan for preparing people for eternity and the new creation.

Ross, however, over looks the one, crucial point Paul makes in Romans 8:20-22. The apostle writes that the creation was subjected unwillingly to that state of frustration, corruption, and groaning by the very sin of Adam. His sin wasn’t limited to only impacting humanity, but it corrupted the whole of creation. That key, theological element seems to fly entirely over Ross’s head.

He also manufacturers a category error. He writes, “Some people presume that the natural tendency toward decay (the second law of thermodynamics) and carnivorous animal behavior, for example, must be attributable to human sin, not to God’s design,” [111], and then a little bit later he writes, “The universe and its physics have not changed, as some suggest,” [ibid]. He cites Jeremiah 33:25 and Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 as proof-texts for his assertion.

The problem, however, is that the changed nature of men and animals due to Adam’s fall is unrelated to the principles of physics governing our world. That would be such things noted in Jeremiah and Ecclesiastes, like the fixed orbits of the sun and the stars, and the water cycle. We can also include the laws of thermodynamics as well. No creationist is arguing that the laws of physics changed after Adam’s sinned. However, the fundamental nature of men and animals did. Men are called in Scripture, “by nature, children of wrath,” in Ephesians 2:3.

It is impossible to separate man’s sin nature from manifesting in the physical world. Men were changed from a state of innocence to a state of guilt, shame, and hostile rebellion against their Creator when Adam fell. Adam’s fall did bring the creation into the bondage of corruption, physical death being the key element to that corruption.To deny that reality is ignoring the clear teaching of Scripture.

Did the Fall Initiate Death and Predation?

Ross firmly rejects that Adam’s sin had anything to do with physical death. Instead, he understands human death to be connected to man’s separation from God. It is not that physical death is bad, but physical death for humans that is bad. I’ll discuss his position a bit more when I review the next section.

He also rejects that Adam’s fall has anything to do with animal death and carnivorous animals preying on other animals. He cites Psalm 104:21 and Job 38:39 that speak of God providing prey for the lions as proof-texts. But he seems to assume that those two passages are talking about animals in their original, created state. That predator animals were created to be predators. But we have clear revelation that predation was not God’s original intent.

Genesis 1:29-30 states that God gave to man and to animals every seed bearing plant as food. That restriction was not limited to only human beings or plant eating animals in Eden, but was given to every animal on the surface of the earth. The only logical conclusion is that included ALL animals without exception.  Ross makes the absurd passing remark that all animals are dependent upon and eat plants when the carnivorous animals kill and eat the herbivorous animals. But that is just a painfully strained view of what Genesis 1:29-30 clearly states.

Additionally, the prophet Isaiah speaks of a Messianic kingdom when predatory animals like wolves and bears will dwell with non-predatory animals like lambs and oxen (Isaiah 11:6ff. and 65:25ff.), so the prophet’s words seem to indicate that animal nature was impacted by Adam’s fall and that will be reversed in the future. Hence, something had to have changed in the nature of the animals so that they became predatory and began eating meat.

The Death Benefit

Lastly, Ross closes out the chapter by reiterating that death is only a bad thing for mankind to experience. At the same time, physical death is good and beneficial. For instance, Ross writes that, “It limits the amount of harm those who reject God’s offer can do to themselves and to others,” [114]. He then ends with the comment, “The story of Adam and Eve’s sons paints a horrific picture of what it can do — and of physical death as essential for the preservation of life,” [115].

Essential for the preservation of life? I personally find it a stunningly bizarre comment that claims physical death is a benefit to God’s creation. The Bible identifies death as an enemy. It is considered corruption from which men need liberation (Romans 8:22), as well as the wages of sin (Romans 6:22). How can something that is the result of God’s curse ever be thought of as a good thing?

Even more to the point, if death is beneficial, what is in need for the creation’s liberation from that corruption? Christ’s death accomplishes the redemption of mankind from death, but their redemption directly effects God’s creation according to Paul in Romans 8:20. The apostle John even reiterates that truth in Revelation 22:3 when there is no longer anything that is accursed.

Ross’s apologetic for death is extremely problematic, in my opinion. It comes precariously close to altering the doctrine of Christ’s redemptive work. For if death is a good and necessary benefit to God’s creation, what is the point of Christ defeating something that God has made good?

Book Review – Do Not Hinder Them

I had the opportunity to review Justin Peters new book addressing childhood conversions, Do Not Hinder Them: A Biblical Examination of Childhood Conversion.

The book is brief, only 100 plus pages or so, but it is a concise, withering analysis as to why youth are leaving church and drifting away from the Christian faith.

The so-called youth experts on social media want us to believe it is because Christian kids lack the training in the basic apologetics to answer skeptics they will encounter at college. Or perhaps they don’t feel connected to church. In reality, as Peters’s explains, it is because kids have been led to pray a prayer of confession at an early age, and then rushed through the waters of baptism. Often times, the baptism of kids is for the purpose of bolstering numbers for the local church so they in turn can report those figures to the denominational headquarters.

The result is a kid who never really understood the Gospel message, who then prays a rehearsed prayer of confession given to him by his parents and youth pastor, and him becoming essentially a false convert. When he leaves home, he leaves the Christian faith because he never had genuine faith to begin with.

I would highly recommend parents, youth directors, and pastors to read this book and ponder the study Peters provides within it’s pages. My full review can be found over at the Bible Thumping Wingnut page,

Do Not Hinder Them – A Review

Books I Heard or Read in 2016

libraryMy yearly review of all the books I either heard on audio or read via print or ebook. Reviews for previous years can be located HERE.

Audio Books I Heard

The Great War of Our Time: The CIA’s Fight Against Terrorism – Michael Morrell

Morrell is the former deputy director of the CIA. The book tells his life story of how he was recruited into the CIA, how he worked his way up through the ranks to eventually become the daily CIA briefer for George W. Bush. The book really picks up when he gives his eye-witness recounting of the events of 9/11 and the decade long manhunt for Bin Laden that ended in his eventual killing. That section of his book was fascinating. Where I thought the book began to go off the rails is the latter portion. There he attempts to defend Hillary Clinton and President Obama’s incompetent handling of the Benghazi attacks.

Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle the Set Them Free – Hector Tobar

This book tells the story about the San Jose mine collapse in August 2010 down in Chile. I remember being riveted to the news when it was discovered the men were still alive and the subsequent attempt to rescue them. The author does a great job of detailing the individual lives of each of the 33 miners. In fact, it was so detailed that the flow of the story got bogged down a bit with the human interest angle. He even goes into the personal background of all the Chilean government officials and special operators who led the rescue efforts. It wasn’t until the 8th hour of listening that I finally got to the rescuers breaking through to the miners and the book focusing on keeping the miners alive and getting them out.

The Wright Brothers – David McCullough

This book started out a bit slow. The first disk was a dry, biographical sketch introducing us to Orville and Wilbur, their sister, and parents. I suppose it was necessary to set the story up. But once I made it past that section, the book picks up pace as McCullough recounts the experimentation the brothers went through to build a working glider, then an engine propelled glider, and their eventual triumph becoming the first men to ever successfully fly a working airplane.

Normal Books I Read

I actually read more books this year than I heard.

History of Western Philosophy and Theology – John Frame

An outstanding and well done overview of the key philosophers and theologians, beginning with the ancient Greeks and moving through to early Christian apologists, Medieval theologians, the major Reformers, Renaissance philosophers, Enlightenment era skeptics, and modern era philosophers like Bertrand Russell. Frame provides a brief biographical sketch of all the thinkers, what it was they taught, and offers a biblical critique. I’d highly recommend this book as a solid reference work. I was thankful I picked this up the first of the year when P&R publishers was offering it on sale through Westminster books.

The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance–Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters – Sinclair Ferguson

I heard Ferguson lecture on this topic a number of years ago, so I was glad to see his material written up into book format. The topic of the extent of law-keeping and Christian liberty has always been a struggle for believers to work through. Ferguson frames his study around the events of the Marrow Controversy that took place in Scotland in the early 1700s. The controversy is still relevant for us today as Christians need to have a working understanding of Christ’s liberty and how the law of God should shape our faith given to us freely by grace.

17 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be on September 22nd, 2017 – No Man Knoweth

Title and author is fairly straight forward what this book is about. See my fuller review HERE.

The 10 Myths of Teen Dating – Daniel Anderson, with his daughter Jacquelyn Anderson

I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing. The primary focus of the two authors is to help teen girls specifically navigate the perils of teen dating and how if they do it stupidly, their choices will wreck their futures. The book was a big disappointment as I explain in a fuller review HERE.

Truth or Territory: A Biblical Approach to Spiritual Warfare – Jim Osman

Pastor Jim Osman works through all the false teaching on spiritual warfare from charismatics and provides a thorough rebuttal. He evaluates the concepts of praying hedges, binding the devil, and generational curses, while at the same time presenting a biblical perspective on how Christians should think about spiritual warfare. See my fuller review HERE.

Evangelical White Lies – Mike Abendroth

My good pal Mike has written a splendid little book that addresses a number of bad teachings that have appeared throughout the years in evangelical churches. The book is short, to the point, and would even be a worthy of a men’s Bible study. See my fuller review HERE.

One of the cool things about Logos, or any Bible software program I would imagine, is the app gives me access to my Logos library on my tablet and phone. It is kind of neat to be standing in line waiting to board the Matterhorn at Disney Land and being able to search all my commentaries on the pastorals. Maybe folks have been aware of this wonderful tech for years, but I just discovered that beautiful feature and it is like aliens have landed. My entire reading habits have been expanded and transformed. Along with reading the commentaries I have for 2 Timothy when I prepare my sermons for my volunteers, I have been reading other books in my library.

Heretics for Armchair Theologians – Justo and Catherine Gonzalez

A brief study on all the main heresies that have popped up ever since the first century to trouble the church. He covers Marcion, Montanism, Donatists, Pelagius, and Arianism to name a few. I would recommend this as a handy introductory work for new Christians who have never been exposed to church history.

The Expectant Prophet: Habakkuk Simply Explained – John Currid

I have the Welwyn Commentary series on Logos and they have published some short, but well written commentaries on a number of OT books. I found that they have a large collection of the minor prophets. My goal is to read through the titles covering the minor prophets because my knowledge of those books is lacking. I like Currid’s work, so I started with Habakkuk, which I found to be an encouraging devotional study of that short little book. I plan to do Zephaniah next.

I am currently reading three books that I was unable to finish before the years end, so they will be on the 2017 book review post next year. I have liked them so much I did want to briefly mention them.

First is Matt Waymeyer’s, Amillennialism and the Age to Come: A Premillennial Critique of the Two-Age Model. It is his dissertation work from TMS and is an excellent treatment critiquing the most recent of Amillennial authors like Sam Storms, Kim Riddlebarger, and NCT advocate, Dean Davis. He not only offers a rebuttal to amillennial arguments against premillennialism, but his primary focus is to show clearly the biblical teaching of an intermediary, earthly kingdom.

Next is Richard Heitzenrater’s biographical study on John Wesley, Wesley and the People Called Methodists. I have a friend who graduated from a Wesleyan college and he recommended it because it is one of the better biographies that is not ashamed to mention Wesley’s theological errors and other personal foibles.  I am not a fan of Wesley and I believe his false doctrines he promulgated during his life, and that were picked up by his ardent followers, are the seed of a lot of theological ills in the modern church.

Next is Jason Lisle’s book, Understanding Genesis: How to Analysis, Interpret, and Defend Scripture. The book talks about reading Genesis, but the bulk of Lisle’s study deals with the hermeneutics of reading Scripture and applying what you read. I would highly recommend this book for both new and seasoned believers. We can never get enough teaching about studying the Bible accurately and correctly.

Reviewing Navigating Genesis [3]

scienceChapter 2 – Reasons for Resistance

I am doing a review and critique of Hugh Ross’s progressive creationist book, Navigating Genesis. Introductory post can be read HERE.

With chapter 2, before he delves into his study of the creation week, Ross attempts to identify obstructions many have to the Christian faith that pertains to the book of Genesis. One of the key objections he hears frequently when he interacts with non-Christians is that the book of Genesis is unscientific. People will skeptically ask, “Why should I believe the message of a book that at the start contradicts the known facts of science?”

Ross then highlights four creation models that have been developed by believers and unbelievers alike in order to answer that objection.

First is a separatist model that says science and Scripture are completely independent of one another. Stephen Gould’s philosophy of non-overlapping magisteria is probably the most notable example.

Second is a conflict model, or the idea that science and Scripture are in direct opposition to one another and can never be reconciled. Atheist Richard Dawkins is a proponent of this model. He says that because religion makes existence claims, that obviously means scientific claims, and because religion is wrong about science, it is ultimately wrong about our existence. It then cannot be trusted and should be rejected.

Third is a complementary model that says science and Scripture compliment each other. Generally, those who hold to theistic evolutionary beliefs will utilize this model.

Fourth, is a constructive integration model, also called concordism. It states that both the words of the Bible and the record of nature provide trustworthy and reliable revelation from God. Ross and his apologetic crew would fancy themselves as constructive integrationists.

After discussing the models, Ross further explains how he has identified additional forces he says is working to sustain separatism between science and faith. Ultimately it is a “turf war,” writes Ross, that erupted a few centuries ago when scientific specialists and biblical specialists were competing to establish the ownership of truth.

First is a database difference. The canon of Scripture was completed at the end of the first century and is now a closed database, whereas the database of science is always growing with the inclusion of new discoveries. Second is the isolation of specialization, in which scholars who specialize in the various sciences remain isolated from those scholars who specialize in biblical studies and theology. And then third is the intellectual resistance people have to what Genesis records and what it tells us about reality.

By identifying those obstacles, Ross is hoping that the remainder of his book will help tear down any mistrust anyone has in Scripture.

Review and Critique

turfwarRoss is partially correct when he writes that the battle between Christian faith and so-called science is a “turf war” between specialists for the ownership of truth. Where he is mistaken is that this war did not erupt only a few centuries ago around the time of the Renaissance and Reformation, but it is a battle that began as soon as Satan asked Eve, “Yea, hath God said?”

According to Ross, unbelievers cite intellectual problems they have with Genesis as one of the motivating factors why they reject Christian faith. People regularly ask him why they should believe the message of a book that contradicts the known facts of science right from the start. He even notes how “new atheists” and popular skeptics like Michael Shermer, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris openly mock the book of Genesis in their talks and written materials.Their widespread appeal and intelligent articulation of their views is compelling argumentation with audiences who are largely ignorant of what Scripture teaches. But is that entirely accurate?

I’ll outline a few problems I have with his thesis regarding the unbeliever’s resistance to truth.

First, skeptics of the Christian faith are not hostile to Christianity because they have an intellectual problem attempting to reconcile alleged contradictions between modern science and the Genesis record. They are hostile to the Christianity because they are sinners who have a moral problem with their creator. That is what the Bible clearly teaches throughout its pages, for example Romans 3:9ff., 8:7,8; 1 Corinthians 2:14-16;  Ephesians 2:1-3, 4:18,19.

Ross, and his RTB gang of apologists, could provide all sorts of airtight responses that soundly answer all the objections of a skeptic, but that skeptic will still find something to be skeptical about. As much as he wishes to think he is removing stumbling blocks to faith with his apologetic, it is doing no such thing. The skeptic’s problem is a rebellion against God problem and only a supernatural work of God can change that.

Second, a so-called “turf war” between Christians and skeptics vying for ownership of truth didn’t first appear just a few hundred years ago. Skeptics challenging biblical truth have existed since the world began. In fact, the NT church was forged in a crucible that involved refuting challenges to their faith, even during the time of the apostles. Consider that by the end of the first century AD, early Christian apologists began writing against skeptical Jews like Trypho and hostile, non-religious sectarians like Porphyry.

By the end of the first millennium, Christians were interacting with Muslim critics, and by the time of the Reformation, Roman Catholic apologists threatened the claims of sola scriptura and the other theological truths the Reformers were proclaiming. The challengers from the so-called scientific realm really didn’t come around until the last two hundred years or so, and they stand at the end of a long, long line of other sundry cranks. In all of those instances Christians interacted with skeptics long before the science specialists came on the scene, and none of them took Ross’s approach of constructively integrating the truth of Christianity with perceived “truth” found in their challenges.

Third, one may object that what Ross has in mind with “constructive integration” is specifically identifying truth from specialists who deal in the science pertaining to nature, or God’s creation. Seeing that Scripture speaks of nature telling forth God’s existence, it is entirely appropriate to apply constructive integration between those two areas.

Ross claims the Belgic Confession even confirms his constructive integrationist model. He writes, “Article 2…states that both the words of the Bible and the record of nature provide trustworthy and reliable revelation from God, giving testimony to God’s attributes and handiwork,” [19].

However, he is overreaching.The entire article from the confession states,

Article 2: The Means by Which We Know God

We know him by two means:

First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: his eternal power and his divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20.

All these things are enough to convict men and to leave them without excuse.

Second, he makes himself known to us more openly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for his glory and for the salvation of his own.

Reading article 2 carefully, it is saying that God is known by His creation, which would be the nature part. That is standard orthodoxy with regards to general revelation. But that is not what he has in mind exactly.

Ross tends to overemphasize the importance of nature as a revelation for God, conflating it with the modern views of the specialists. For example, because cosmologists say the universe is billions of years old or geologists claim a global, Noahic flood could never have happened, those positions are considered to be legitimate revelation regarding nature. Hence, the biblical record has to be accommodated to explain that “revelation.” That is not what article 2 of the Belgic Confession, or any historic confession for that matter, is saying about general revelation.

What Ross is saying represents the so-called revelation of nature is really man’s interpretation of the nature, and interpretations that have only existed for as little as half a century or so. Such knowledge is not only questionable as legitimate, but it has not been accessible to all men at all times, a crucial component to general revelation.

Additionally, I take his unquestioned confidence in the findings of those specialists to be a major weakness for his apologetic. It is as if he just assumes all of them are biased-free and reporting their findings honestly. In many cases, they are not; but they have a significant agenda to promote. Any attempt to constructively integrate biblical truth with what Ross has mistakenly identified as the “truth” of nature is a major compromise that has manufactured a hybrid view that is comprised of truth, partial truth, and maybe even intentional lies.

Fourth, Ross has something of a troubling, continuationist view of natural revelation. He writes,

“The biblical canon…has been completed since the first century…AD. In the sciences, the databases never stops growing and in some cases doubles within a decade or less. Because scientists’ aim is to break new ground and replace old understandings with new ones, science claims exclusive rights to tell the unfolding story of what really happened,” [21].

He goes on to suggest there may be some instances when misinterpretations of texts need to be revised due in part to these new discoveries in nature.

That is an extremely dangerous position to hold with regards to revelation, and in my mind, it is the most disturbing area of Ross’s apologetic. He essentially places God’s special revelation of Scripture in conflict against the general revelation of nature. Whereas the special revelation of Scripture is fixed and unchanging, according to Ross, general revelation is fluid and can change every year depending upon what specialists discover. Not only that, those new discoveries can influence how Christians interpreted Scripture for centuries.

I am left wondering if he is aware of the significant inconsistency he has created? If new discoveries within general revelation can revise interpretations regarding special revelation, then what exactly were generations of Christians believing before those discoveries? They taught a view of Scripture according to what was a normal, exegetical interpretation of a text that is now overturned due to a discovery by specialists in a field of study. If this is the case, God’s revelation is in conflict with itself. How can Christians be certain that what they teach from Scripture today will not change next week depending upon something supposedly added to the database in nature?

Ironically, this continuationists, neo-orthodox apologetic of God’s revelation unintentionally creates a separation between biblical authority and nature’s “authority,” the very kind of separation Ross is attempting to bridge with his book. We will see it play out again and again as I work through his book.

Reviewing Navigating Genesis [2]

 

creationChapter 1 – Personal Journey

Summary

I have taken up reviewing Hugh Ross’s book, Navigating Genesis. My introductory post explaining my reasoning can be found HERE.

Ross opens up his book recounting his personal journey as a young man putting the Bible to his rigorous scientific testing. As an apologist, he encounters many people these days who complain that the Bible is an ancient book full of scientific nonsense and blatant contradictions. When he asks folks for examples of that scientific nonsense, many of them cite Genesis 1-11.

Ross, however, sees their rejection of Genesis as an opportunity, because “the scientific discoveries of the past few decades…present some of the most persuasive evidences ever assembled for the supernatural authorship, accuracy, and authority of the Bible,” [9]. He goes on to explain how Genesis can withstand rigorous scientific and biblical testing, and because of that those first 11 chapters of Genesis present some of the most persuasive evidence of the divine authority of the Bible.

He tells how when he was a young man, his singular passion was science. He was particularly drawn to astronomy and he specifically believed the big bang model of cosmology was the best model ever conceived that fits the observational data, [11]. That led him further to be convinced that the big bang model implied that a creator existed.

When he turned his attention to studying the world’s religions, the one religious book that stood out above all the others as a reasonable explanation of that scientific data was the Bible. The “scientific method was clearly evident in Genesis chapter 1 as in a modern research paper,” [12]. After reading the entire Bible he failed to discover anything within its pages that could be label as a verifiable error. Once his study was completed, and he saw that the Bible lined up with everything he knew scientifically, he gave his life to Christ as his savior. The book, Navigating Genesis, is his attempt to navigate the record of Genesis with his reading audience, while answering challenges raised by skeptics, both inside and outside the church.

Review

With this introductory recounting of his personal faith journey, Ross announces that he will build the argument in his book upon a number of what are clearly faulty premises. Let me highlight a few important ones that will direct the trajectory of my forthcoming reviews.

To begin, he is going to treat the book of Genesis, a book that is a historical record of God’s creation and the events of the early earth that lead up to the call of Abraham, as if it is a scientific research paper. He writes, “As a scientist I would say these events beg to be tested,” [9]. But how exactly does one scientifically test events recorded in a historical document? Ross believes those events are a record of the past, but unless he has access to a special Delorean, he cannot possibly scientifically test them. All he can do, and what he will do throughout his book, is force upon the historical record of Scripture modern presuppositions from secular science he unquestionably accepts as valid. That is not doing science; that’s gaming the facts.

Additionally, he attempts to distinguish his scientific test for the events recorded in Genesis from miraculous events like the Virgin Birth and Jesus turning water into wine. He seems to think that the miraculous, divine interventions recorded in Genesis like the creation week, Noah’s flood, and the confusion of languages at Babel, are scientifically testable, but the resurrection of Lazarus is not. He assumes that verifying the miracle of creation according to the various scientific disciplines, will somehow verify those other miracles.

Yet all of those events, the creation, Noah’s flood, Christ feeding the 5,000, and His bodily resurrection, are all equally miraculous. For some reason, Ross believes we can scrutinize the miracles recorded in Genesis because they apparently fall into the realm of the scientific disciplines, whereas the other recorded miracles do not. (Why wouldn’t a Resurrection fall into the realm of medical science, for instance). What he fails to inform the reader is that he will evaluate those Genesis events according to the various presuppositions of secular science and the conclusions of secular science tend to deny the miraculous and explain it away.

Ross also notes three biblical tests he believes are important to his presentation. How exactly those biblical tests come together with the scientific tests just mentioned is not really explained. The reader is expected to roll with the disconnect.

First he notes what he calls the Berean test taken from Acts 17:11. Like the noble Bereans (who were unbelievers, by the way), who tested all the claims made by Paul about Jesus, all the biblical passages that parallel and overlap Genesis 1-11 must cohere with what ALL of Scripture teaches. That raises the question as to whether or not when those biblical passages contradict the scrutiny of the so-called scientific disciplines used to evaluate the events of Genesis, what gives way? The biblical testimony or the scientific discipline evaluating that testimony?

If Scripture cannot be broken as Ross asserts, can the scientific discipline in conflict with the point of Scripture be broken? He writes, “…understandings of Genesis 1-11 that contradict any other part of the Bible must be rejected,” [10]. But does that apply to any of the scientific disciplines?

Next is the spirit test that the apostle John writes of in his first epistle. Christians are to “test the spirits” to see if whether they come form God. But lots of the scientific scrutiny comes from “spirits” that are hostile and opposed to God. In fact, a number of modern practitioners of the scientific disciplines do not care for God at all. If they are religious, they tend toward synchronizing Darwinian evolution with what religious faith they may have to produce some weird, unbiblical theistic evolutionary hybrid. There certainly is a spirit behind such overt hostility to God.

Thirdly is the biblical language test. Ross writes, “A precise understanding of the text is crucial for interpreting the scientific and historical details as well as the theological context,” [10]. He goes on to explain that a precise understanding includes knowledge of the original language, the grammar, and its usage in various passages.

The problem, however, is that as one works his way through his book, nothing indicates that he has a working grasp of the original languages or the grammar. He is dependent upon secondary sources, which is understandable, because many writers and theologians may not have a full, working knowledge of the original languages. But his dependence, as I noted in my first review, relies almost exclusively upon the Theological Workbook of the OT. In fact, his appendix B, which is a breakdown of all the important Hebrew words in Genesis 1 is taken solely from the TWOT.

While I would certainly agree that the TWOT is a fine reference work, if you are an apologist who is writing a book length treatment advocating your unique apologetic of creation and the book of Genesis, and insisting to your readers you alone have the correct understanding of the text, it would behoove you to expand your sources beyond just one resource, albeit a good one. Moreover, the TWOT is limited in its scope in that it doesn’t cover grammatical and syntactical matter of the Hebrew texts under consideration. A number of Ross’s assertion about how the original language should be understood doesn’t even take into mind those grammatical and syntactical nuances.

And then one final, faulty premise is Ross’s “Nature is a 67th book of the Bible” argument. Ross, and the RTB apologists, believe that nature is a unique revelation all unto its own that is self-sufficient and self-authenticating. In one of his earliest books that sets forth his apologetic, Creation and Time, Ross writes that,

“the Bible teaches a dual, reliably consistent revelation. God has revealed Himself through the words of the Bible and the facts of nature…So, God’s revelation is not limited exclusively to the Bible’s words. The facts of nature may be likened to a sixty-seventh book of the Bible. Just as we rightfully expect interpretations of Isaiah to be consistent with those of Mark, so too we can expect interpretations of the facts of nature to be consistent with the message of Genesis and the rest of the canon.” [Creation and Time, 56-57]

He states that he is NOT putting nature on equal footing with the authority of the Scripture, but he does just that when he assigns nature, or better, secular interpretations of nature, the authority to correct and/or re-interpret Scripture so that it conforms to the scientific consensus.

Richard Mayhue takes apart Ross’s 67th book presupposition with a withering analysis in the book, Coming to Grips with Genesis, pages 105-129. He points out a number of flaws with Ross’s overreach with general revelation, but the one that is particularly problematic is that it presents an open canon. In other words, rather than the biblical canon closing at the writing of Revelation, it suggests the canon is still very much open and incomplete as new, and yet to be discovered, scientific discoveries present the possibility of reshaping our understanding of Genesis and creation.

God’s revelation is then not settled and fixed as the historic, Bible-believing church teaches, but is still in flux as modern science allegedly discovers new understandings of origins. Such a position leads one precariously close to heresy.

May I Exhort You, Dear Christian, to Invest in a Well Made Bible?

bibleI remember, after the Lord saved me, receiving my first official Bible as a brand new Christian. Sure, I had a stubby, little gift KJV Bible my mom bought me when I was in 6th grade after I completed my confirmation classes at my old United Methodist Church, but receiving a new Bible after I came to know the Lord was extra special.

It was a Ryrie Study Bible (I still have it), black, genuine leather in the King James. It is filled with my hand written notes and yellow marker hi-lights I made on verses as I began to fully understand biblical truth for the first time. I am sure readers may be familiar with what I am talking about because you probably have the same kind of Bible somewhere in your house.

A couple of years later, my mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I requested a KJV super wide margin Bible.  At the time, those Bibles were packaged in cheap, bonded leather, (the new versions come in Moroccan leather), but it was thin and carried nicely in my hand. The interior was awesome with the massive wide margins where I wrote copious study notes (and lots of KJVO apologetic stuff). That Bible looked sweet at first. It even had Authorized Version 1611 on the spine (though it was a 1769 text). However, within a few years of use, the edges began rubbing off and the backing starting coming loose. The bonded leather was slowly deteriorating and it started to look ugly. I still have that Bible as well.

By 1997, I was in California attending seminary and working at Grace to You. That was the year the John MacArthur study Bible, in the NKJV, was published. I secured a copy of it in a nice leather version, but within a few years, it too began to look worn. Later, I was able to get the ESV MacArthur study Bible, as well as find a slightly damaged NASB edition I rescued from a give-away bin. The Crossway ESV edition of the MSB is fantastic, by the way. Excellent craftsmanship for a mass produced Bible.

I have pretty much used those two Mac Study Bibles as my primary reading/studying/carrying to church Bibles for the last 5 years or so. Recently, I began taking up only the NASB edition and reading it. I like the translation of the NASB, even though the ESV is the go-to translation these days. Yet once again, that Bible is showing the signs of wearing out with use. It is only a matter of maybe a year before it begins to fall apart, too.

My first thought was to mail it into a place that specialized in rebinding old books and Bibles, like ACE Book Binding, to put on a new cover. They did my wife’s first edition MacArthur Study Bible, and they did a tremendous job. They even have a large selection of colored leathers and orange appeals to me.

Then, in the last year or so, I heard Mike Abendroth mention on his podcast about him getting a really good Bible from Evangelical Bibles. He said it was a handcrafted NASB Schuyler Quentel edition. I texted him for the details and he sent me the links. I was immediately overcome with awe of those Bibles. The 220 buck asking price, however, was steep. I fluctuated between weighing spending the money to do the rebinding on the old Bible, which would had been a bit cheaper, against adding an extra 50 dollars or so and getting a new Schulyer.  I finally landed on the Schuyler.  I began to save my money by selling off commentaries and books in my library that I now had on Logos. It took me a number of months, but I was finally able to secure one, and it is absolutely gorgeous.

As one can tell by the picture at the top, I picked up the firebrick red version. Everybody I know carries a black, tan, or burgundy leather Bible, so I wanted one that stood out. As soon as I unpacked it and breathed in that new Bible smell that came wafting up from the box, I knew I had a thing of elegance in my possession. Picking it up, I can just feel the quality in my hands: supple, natural grain goat leather, the stitching around the edges and the spine, the way it lays open on the table, it is a piece of art in Bible making.

While the exterior of the Bible is breath-taking, it is the interior that is truly amazing.

When I was weighing my options between getting my old MSB rebound and spending a bit more to purchase a Schuyler, I was telling an acquaintance of my choices. He told me that most folks only consider the exterior of a Bible, what it looks like and whether or not it is covered in a good leather. Rarely do folks think about the interior of the Bible, what kind of paper its printed on and the way the text looks and is laid out on the page.

We just so happened to be standing in the church’s book store when we were discussing Bibles and the guy grabs a cheap edition off the shelf and opened it up. He held a single page against the light of the store. “A Bible printed on cheap paper will have what are like little pin pricks all over the page, like this one here.” Sure enough, I saw the little pin pricks on the page. He went on to explain that the bulk of mass produced Bibles that folks pick up in their local bookstores are printed on that low quality paper. A really good Bible paper will not have any of those pricks or maybe just a few here and there on a page.

The first thing I did when I unpacked my new Bible was to hold a page up to the light. There wasn’t a prick one anywhere to be found.

But even more wonderful is the way the page actually looks.

biblepageThe font is 11 point, and the letters crisp and bold and easily read without my reading glasses. Also, each chapter is a red number matching the exterior color of the Bible itself. And it is not a “Words of Christ” red letter edition, another feature I insisted upon.

And the one fun perk is the edge of the Bible. If you close the Bible and look at the paper edge, there is the standard gold tinting. Once you open it and fan the pages, the edges turn firebrick red.

edgeI cannot be more thrilled with this Bible. I actually get excited anticipating studying the Scripture. That is why I would encourage all believers to consider making a worthy investment in a good, well-made Bible. Evangelical Bibles have more than just this version, though I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Check out their page and look over their ESVs, KJVs, and the NKJVs. There are a number of excellent choices.

Men and women have bled and died to preserve God’s Word for us. We hear it preached every Sunday, and we are supposed to do our daily reading from one. While I am grateful for the mass production of relatively inexpensive Bibles of all shapes and sizes and editions because God’s Word is spread far and wide, if we really maintain a high view of Scripture, why not get a really good one that is worthy of the God who gave us His Word? It may take saving a little every couple of weeks from a year’s worth of paychecks, but I think it would only serve to elevate your love for God and Scripture.

Reviewing Navigating Genesis [1]

genesisPreliminary Remarks 

I want to embark on a new blogging project with this post.

For sometime now, I have been reading through the book Navigating Genesis: A Scientist’s Journey Through Genesis 1-11 by Hugh Ross, founder of Reasons to Believe ministries (RTB). My goal is to provide a review and critique on what he teaches regarding Genesis, creation, and deep time over the course of a series of blog articles. I am not entirely sure how long my series will be. I won’t commit to a chapter-by-chapter review, but I certainly will work through the major arguments presented in the book from beginning to end.

With this introductory post, I’ll explain why I want to go through it.

Those who are frequent readers of my blog know that I have published a lot on the topics of Genesis, creation, and evolution since I began writing in 2005. I have a number of articles that can be found HERE. Additionally, I have taught three series on matters of origins, Genesis, creation, and evolution (one that specifically interacts with Hugh Ross’s progressive creationism) that can be downloaded from my other website, Fred’s Bible Talk. I am convinced that what we as Christians believe regarding origins is foundational to our overall biblical worldview and our apologetic engagement with unbelievers

For a while now, I have noticed a heavy dependence upon Ross and RTB among a number of online apologetic web hubs and social media groups as the default, go to expert authority when defending Genesis and creationism against evolution and scientism.

If one were to scan over the reposted articles at such sites as The Poached Egg, Apologetics 315, or the Christian Apologetic Alliance, for instance, the overwhelming majority are written by Ross, or RTB staff, or bloggers sympathetic to his old earth views of Genesis. For example, search the category tag “creation” at The Poached Egg site. All the articles that pop up addressing the topic are written by RTB team members or surrogate bloggers and favor Ross’s deep time interpretation of the book of Genesis.

Moreover, Ross and members of his staff, like Kenneth Samples and Fuz Rana, are frequent commentators on apologetic radio programs and podcasts. They will be interviewed about the latest evolutionary/creation controversies on such programs like Stand to Reason and the Bible Answer Man. Often, their particular brand of progressive creationism and their views of Genesis is the only perspective many listeners are ever exposed to.

I personally think that is a troubling trend for a number of reasons which is why I wish to offer some reviews of this book. I’ll note three areas of concern,

First, the mishandling of Scripture on the part of RTB apologists is appalling, especially the book of Genesis and other texts that recount the creation event. I will demonstrate this as I move through my series. Suffice it to say, RTB and their associates are essentially training a generation of apologists in sloppy exegesis that takes passages out of context and violates any number of simple rules pertaining to hermeneutics. Ultimately, that diminishes the authority of God’s Word, not to mention making those apologists to appear foolish to anyone who actually does know how to handle God’s Word.

Secondly, RTB apologists allow the conclusions of mainstream science to govern their interpretation of Scripture. That is because they adhere to an erroneous hermeneutic about nature being a 67th book of the Bible that is an equal authority with Scripture. Because nature is God’s nature (He created it, after all), it is self-evident and sufficient as a source of truth in the same way Scripture is. Thus, when the consensus of scientific researchers make authoritative claims about the age of the universe or the formation of the oceans or whatever, if what Scripture states on the matter appears to be at odds with the scientific “truth,” it is Scripture that is often adjusted in order to fit around that so-called truth.

That apologetic talking point of RTB can be inconsistently applied at times. For instance, on the one hand, scientists will dogmatically insist that overwhelming evidence proves no global flood could ever have happened, the view held by the RTB apologists. Yet on the other hand, those same exact scientists will also insist the overwhelming genetic evidence proves modern man share a common evolutionary ancestor with chimpanzees, a view obviously rejected by RTB apologists. Why is the application of their “nature is a 67th book of the Bible” hermeneutic appropriate in the first example about a global flood, but rejected in the second example regarding men and chimps? That clearly comes across as cherry picking what fits your presuppositions and makes the whole idea of “all truth is God’s truth” to be subjected to the whims and fancies of men.

Thirdly, because of that “nature is a 67 book of the Bible” hermeneutic, they believe general, secular science, represents a fairly accurate understanding of events in earth’s historical past. Their commitment to those conclusions often times leaves them no other choice but to accommodate biblical revelation to that misplaced certainty in those so-called scientific authorities. Thus, the plain teaching of Scripture is typically adjusted to account for the “science.” That, however, results in their apologetics manufacturing troubling theology.

One significant illustration of their troubling theology is RTB’s views regarding what they call “soul-less hominids.”  Secular anthropologists have cataloged the remains of a number of man-like creatures that supposedly represent an ancient relation to modern human beings. Hence, according to their research, evolutionary theory is affirmed as true. Ross, and RTB, on the other hand, teach those so-called ape-men are to be understood as extinct, soul-less hominids that predate the creation of Adam and Eve by hundreds of thousands of years if not more. Neanderthals, then, would be one of those extinct soul-less hominids.

However, forensic anthropologists have shown what appears to be a genetic connection between Neanderthals and modern humans. That, in turn, creates a problem for the RTB view of soul-less hominids. Rather than recognizing that Neanderthals are more like an isolated ethnic group of people who went extinct after the dispersion from the events of the flood and the Tower of Babel incident, what young earth creationists believe, they developed a stunning apologetic talking point to explain that data. They basically state that humans and Neanderthals mated and the mating was sinful per Leviticus 18 and the prohibitions against bestiality. Their response, however, creates some terrifically bad theology regarding what the Scriptures teach about the sin of Adam and the imputed righteousness of Christ to all humanity as I document in this article HERE.

I’ll flesh these points out as I move along in my series, but it is those areas of concern where I see a need to address this book.

Overview

Now, just to give a quick overview so as to close out this introductory post. Navigating Genesis is an updated reprint of Ross’s The Genesis Question published in 2001. The book is a study of Genesis 1-11 in 23 chapters. Topics covered,

Chapters 1-2 – Ross’s personal testimony and the reasons why people resist Christian belief because of what Genesis says.
Chapters 3-9 – An overview of the creation week itself.
Chapter 10 – A spiritual perspective on creation from Genesis 2.
Chapter 11- The fall of man from Genesis 3.
Chapter 12 – The Cain and Abel events.
Chapter 13 – The genealogies from Genesis 5-6 and the possible explanations for their long lives.
Chapter 14 – A study on the Nephilim in Genesis 6.
Chapter 15 – The boundaries of God’s wrath and an introduction of the flood events.
Chapters 16-18 – Ross’s defense of a local flood and critique of a global flood.
Chapter 19 – The origins of the nations and races.
Chapters 20-23 – A discussion about higher criticism, “creation science” (in scare quotes), and new criticisms of creation.

Three appendices round out the book.

I have to admit that I was expecting way more from this book than what I found. The only original language work he seems to be familiar with is The Theological Workbook on the OT. He cites it frequently throughout his book for the definition of specific words. I would think if a person was going to insist upon a particular way to read the creation account, he would do much more than cite repeatedly from one lexical source for the background to the OT text.

However, the real let down was how he ignored the apologists and theologians who are young earth creationists. In fact, that was rather surprising. I believe if he would have engaged their arguments in greater depth it would have improved this book tremendously.

The original edition was published in 2001, and in the dozen years between the original and the new, updated version published in 2014, there has been a lot written in defense of the positions of young earth creationism. At least three major creationist apologetic ministries have come to the forefront of this discussion, Creation Ministries International, Answers in Genesis, and ICR.  All of them have published some excellent material in both print and media content providing a sound presentation of creation in 6 ordinary days. For instance Andrew Snelling’s massive two-volume work on the flood, Terry Mortenson’s work on the history of early earth geologists, and Jonathan Sarfati’s detailed critique of Hugh Ross himself and the RTB apologetics, Refuting Compromise.

Yet Ross seems to be oblivious to the existence of any of those works and others like them. Granted, he references some things in the footnotes; but he either never fully interacts with their objections to his position at all, or does so in a shallow fashion. And the objections to his apologetics is rather solid. I am not talking about simple, “Oh, we could look at creation this way” kind of arguments. Sarfati’s book, Refuting Compromise, is a devastating rebuttal to the RTB apologetic. Other than providing a general citation of the book, he doesn’t even attempt to offer anything close to a refutation to any of his arguments.

My desire with my reviews is not to needlessly bash Hugh Ross and RTB. I don’t question his salvation, or that of his co-workers at his ministry. I do, however, wish to raise alarms to what I see is an a-biblical approach to defending the Christian faith and the creation account. I maintain that the secular, deep time interpretations of earth’s history can never be synced with what Scripture tells us about creation. They are two entirely different worldviews at odds with each other. Ross’s apologetic that attempts to marry them ultimately has a  deleterious impact upon the Christian faith and evangelism. The RTB apologetic does much greater harm for the Church that Ross and his surrogates believe, and Christians should be warned away from it. That is what I hope to demonstrate with my reviews.

Evangelical White Lies – A Book Review

whitelies

Evangelical White Lies
Mike Abendroth
146 p., paperback

Pastor Mike Abendroth has graced the Christian church with a new book. When he is not hosting his No Compromise podcast or preaching at Bethlehem Bible Church, he is writing and publishing insightful, cutting edge material addressing sloppy thinking among Red State, Evangelical Christians.

Unlike his previous book, Sexual Fidelity – (see my review HERE), that focused on a singular topic, biblical sexuality and ethics, Evangelical White Lies addresses and corrects a variety of shibboleths that have become pronounced among evangelical Christians because of bad teaching, or bad doctrine, or just an overall mishandling of Scripture. For example, the common myth that missionaries must suffer and live in near poverty conditions to really be missionaries, and the idea of making the OT stories simply illustrations of moral character in a flannel board fashion.

Other topics include the claim that Christians must tithe per Malachi 3:8 (I heard a sermon at least once a year about that when I attended an SBC church), addressing the imbalance of Christians focusing too much on marriage and family, and the silliness of churches pursuing environmentalism and so-called “green” initiatives.

Overall, there are 12 chapters covering specific white lies that have wormed their way in among the pews of American, evangelical Christians. Each subject is written in Pastor Mike’s signature NoCo style that is fun and conversational for the average believer. They are also mercifully short; a person can probably read this book through in a couple of sittings.

The chapters are,

  • You can live the Gospel
  • You just need more time
  • Christians must tithe
  • Missionaries must suffer to stay humble
  • Work is only a means to an end (work is strictly secular)
  • The focus is on the family
  • Bodily exercise does not profit
  • Green is God’s favorite color
  • God fits in a box
  • The weather is a thing
  • God speaks outside His revealed word
  • Bible characters make perfect models for morality

In a way, Evangelical White Lies is a specially unique apologetic work. Rather than presenting a defense of the historicity of Jesus, or the reliability of the Bible, or arguments against the existence of God from atheist critics like the standard apologetic books, Pastor Abendroth presents an offensive against the terrible application of bad teaching that has become the default conviction of many in evangelical circles. Instead of training Christians to defend the faith against hostility, he is training them to defend the faith against stupidity.

As I understand it, Pastor Abendroth has a list of several other evangelical white lies he can expose. I would certainly encourage him to pursue cataloging them with the hope that he will publish them in an ongoing series of books. They would be a fabulous blessing for the Church.

Beth Moore Loves Her Some Evangelical White Lies!

beth

Truth or Territory – A Book Review

truthTruth or Territory: A Biblical Approach to Spiritual Warfare
Jim Osman
227 p., paperback

Shortly after I came to know the Lord, I began attending a Baptist church that had an unhealthy fixation with spiritual warfare techniques. Leaders modeled such practices as praying hedges of protection around individual people, their homes, and our church, binding Satan, and identifying territorial demons who ruled over neighborhoods and cities.

I remember once how a prayer walk was organized during which members of our church marched around the parameter of the state university campus in our town in a “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho” fashion binding demons and claiming authority over the place in Jesus’s name. Thankfully, the campus wasn’t too big, because I just remember it being blazing hot that day.

On another occasion, a deacon teaching our Sunday school class solemnly warned us of how foolish it is to leave your house or dorm room without spiritual protection from God. He lectured us on the importance of praying a hedge around ourselves and our families so as to prevent demonic influences in our lives.

Still another time, we had a Southern Baptist “evangelist” named Sam Cathy come to our church to lead a series of revival services for the week. Each evening he entertained us with his fantastic adventures fighting demons. He told us of how demons were typically behind every sinful choice a person made. He told us how he commanded demons to tell him their plans, and in one case, the demons were arranging homosexual liaisons for a particular pastor with the intent of bringing him to be the president of the SBC and exposing him in a devastating, nationwide scandal.

My church was supposed to be a non-Charismatic Baptist church, mind you; yet the books of Frank Peretti and the counseling of Neil Anderson shaped the spiritual environment.

What I was taught about the devil, demons, and spiritual warfare is not isolated. The average church-goers today, both charismatic and non-charismatic, believes genuine spiritual warfare involves binding Satan, identifying and fighting off territorial spirits, and praying up hedges of protection around themselves and their families. This extremely misguided perception of our enemy is why Jim Osman’s book is an important polemical work addressing the topic.

Osman is the pastor of Kootenai Community Church in northern Idaho. Like me, he came to the Lord in Christian circles that had an aberrant perspective of the demonic. He was taught the same superstitious nonsense I was taught about fighting Satan. Methodologies that Osman rightly identifies as more akin to Harry Potter novels than biblical Christianity.

His study is broken into four parts (all beginning with the letter “E” so you can remember them).

Part one is where Osman establishes the biblical principles regarding spiritual warfare. He opens by bringing us to our starting point, the authority of holy Scripture. As he points out, one’s personal experience often trumps Scripture, especially among the modern spiritual warfare practitioners.

He then provides a brief overview of 2 Corinthians 10 and explains how our battle with spiritual forces has to do with defending biblical and theological truth and nothing at all with taking back physical territory allegedly held by a hierarchy of demons. He ends the first section discussing our true enemy that is a spiritually lethal combination of the Devil, the world, and our flesh.

The second part exposes the key, unbiblical practices of spiritual warfare teachers. He spends five individual chapters exploring what he calls “carnal weapons,” that he defined in the first section in his study of 2 Corinthians 10. Those five practices are praying hedges, hexes, binding Satan, rebuking Satan, and spiritual mapping. Osman thoroughly goes through each one, looking over the proof-texts spiritual warfare experts use to defend them and explains why many of them have nothing whatsoever to do with “spiritual warfare.”

Part three explains four important biblical perspectives that comes along with spiritual warfare teaching. He answers three questions, Can a Christian be demon-possesed?, Is Christ’s authority ours?, and What about exorcisms? The fourth perspective is what the Bible teaches regarding spiritual warfare and Christian sanctification and he answers the notion that demons are the source of a person’s sin problems.

Lastly in the fourth section, Osman spends a couple of chapters examining Ephesians 6 and the whole armor of God. He provides an exposition of the passage, contrasting what Paul actually taught on the subject of spiritual warfare and what spiritual warfare proponents teach. It is a well done part of the book.

In my opinion, pastor Osman has provided Christians with a valuable apologetic resource. He is training Christians how to think about spiritual warfare by addressing a topic that is pretty much avoided because no one really knows exactly how to interact with the claims put forth by a number of alleged spiritual warfare experts. His book not only debunks their assertions, but also gives the reader a much needed response in dealing with a pervasive false teaching that has infected numerous congregations. It is well worth the investment.

The 10 Myths of Teen Dating – A Book Review

10mythsThe 10 Myths of Teen Dating: Truths your daughter needs to know to date smart, avoid disaster, and protect her future.

Daniel Anderson, MEd, with his daughter Jacquelyn Anderson, MEd

254 pages, paperback.

 

 

 

On occasion I receive promotional emails from publicists plugging an author and the new book he just wrote. They’ll ask me if I would be interested in a copy so I can write up a review for my tremendously high quality, but low trafficked blog. Typically I give them a pass, because the books I am offered are usually oriented toward women issues or topics I have absolutely no interest in, like red hot Amish romance novels.

Recently, however, I was contacted about a book written to debunk the myths of teen dating. My interest was stirred with that offer for a couple of reasons.

First, the book is specifically aimed at the parents of teen girls. I have two girls who will be teenagers in a few years, and any club I can obtain to beat back the hordes of hormone riddled boys intent on grabbing them by the hair and dragging them away is appreciated. And secondly, the book is advertised as helping parents navigate the dark, murky waters of teen dating where all sorts of unsuspecting peril lurks underneath the surface ready to pull a father’s little princess to the drowning depths below. So yes, obviously I have an interest.

I responded with my mailing address and promised the folks that I would read over the book and provide a review, so here we are.

The author is a fellow named Daniel Anderson, and according to the bio blurb on the back cover, he is a veteran high school teacher in Oregon who was troubled by the way teens conducted their dating lives. If the teen dating scene is anything like the various raunchy, teenage angst movies that dominated the late hours of early era HBO, Showtime, and Cinemax that I used to sneak watching as a kid, I can completely understand his concern.

His adult daughter, Jacquelyn, who is also a school teacher, participated with the writing as well. She provides her perspective and color commentary on what it was like to be raised by her parents as each dating myth is debunked.

In the introduction, Anderson further explains that over the course of his high school teaching career he watched teenagers date each other and what he saw was not pretty. He was so moved by what he was witnessing he started teaching his students about dating relationships. Eventually, he accumulated enough material that he was able to pull together the book I hold in my hands.

Anderson picks, in no particular order, what he considers the top 10 dating myths teen girls evidently struggle with. Each chapter explores and debunks one of those myths.

They are,

1) If I had a boyfriend I would be happy
2) I should trust my feelings
3) I’m in love
4) Sex will enhance my relationship
5) Love and sex are the same
6) Sex comes without consequences
7) It’s okay to break up and get back together
8) He will never hit me again
9) A rebound relationship is just what I need
10) Serial dating and living together will help me stay married

Now. Does Anderson and his daughter debunk the myths? Well, I suppose so. Each chapter is filled with lots of statistics about teen pregnancy, divorce rates after couples live together, and how premarital sex will ruin a girls life. If you are looking to get academic like information about teen dating, packaged in a readable style, the book pulls together a lot to mull over.

But honestly, any number of relationship themed books meant to address the terrible blight the American hook-up/dating culture has pushed on to the average teenager will contain similar information. Laura Schlessinger, Focus on the Family, and Family Life Today, all offer a cornucopia of books addressing how girls and guys are to navigate the teenager dating scene. I’m sort of at a loss as to what this particular book is meaning to offer that those other ones did not.

What I was expecting with this book, after receiving the promotional email discussing it, was a helpful presentation on how to navigate our teen daughters through the dating/courtship rituals while honoring Christ. At least that is what I took away from the email I received. Maybe I read too much into it.

Regrettably, I was disappointed, because the book had none of that at all. The focus was not on Christ at any point, and the Christian worldview took a backseat to the statistical presentation. In fact, the author even stated that the book would intentionally avoid focusing upon the Christian faith in his introduction under the section, “The Bible is Not Enough.” He explains how he is a Christian, but his perspective as a teacher in a public high school in the very liberal city of Portland, Oregon, provides him a unique clarity as to how the secular world views the Christian faith.

Even though he believes “the ancients” (what he calls the wisdom of the Bible) have a voice to be heard in the discussions regarding teen dating, the Bible is not enough in our modern culture. (Evidently, guys and gals were different before the 20th century, who would’ve thought!?). “I think the Christian community often believes that the word no, some extra prayers, a few sermons, and the spiritual bromide of Scripture are all that every person needs for a better life,” he writes. “What is missing from Christian writing on sex and dating,” he laments, “is scientific information and practical tools to help your daughter.” His book is designed to correct that deficiency in Christian relationship literature, or so he claims.

I am not sure what Christian books he read in research for his, but they cannot all be lacking a discussion of scientific and statistical data when it comes to relationships. He mentions Josh Harris’s I Kissed Dating Goodbye, but certainly that can’t be the only one he read?

Like I noted above, there are tons of Christian dating/relationship books on the market; and I have read over a lot of them given my circumstances raising five kids. Everyone I have read definitely employed the data-mining of statistical and scientific information interwoven with the discussion of the biblical text. I mean, Focus on the Family practically thrives on statistics about sex and dating.

As a Christian father who seeks to raise his family in the fear and admonition of the LORD, statistical and scientific data is really a secondary issue for me. I could care less how many couples who live together before marriage wind up getting divorced. What I care about is focusing my children on what God thinks about the purposes of relationships between boys and girls. I place a high premium on boys and girls dating because God places a high premium on boys and girls getting married. Sure. Getting pregnant as a teen girl has grave circumstances, but I want my sons and daughters to understand that sex outside of marriage is sin before a Holy God, not just that having sex could lead to pregnancy and messes up their lives in the future.

I thought this book was a missed opportunity. While the information presented by Anderson may be statistically scientific, and perhaps helpful, I believe the readers would had been better served if it had been interpreted and applied through a Christian worldview. Ultimately, what girls, and even the guys, need is a right relationship with the Lord. Only the Gospel can orient their hearts to think correctly about dating.

Even if a girl or guy has the best, most truthfully accurate information about busting dating myths, unless they have a desire to act upon that information, it is pointless to know. Only a spiritual change can apply that knowledge correctly, and the means for obtaining that spiritual change was completely ignored in the pages of this book.