In the Beginning Conference
This is a dump of the “raw” notes I took during the conference. It does not include any conclusions or commentary by me, but only reports the presentations made by the speakers.
Wed. 6/15/11 – John Lennox
Defending Christianity as a truth claim, rather than genetic
Although true, not defended with violence
1 Pet 3:15 Forthright engagement with love and humility
Fact of creation agreed upon, its manner and timing is debated
Under attack from atheists, Christians may be confused about Genesis and its interpretation
Aristotlean and Copernican views of earth as center of universe, and the Biblical indications supporting this; Galileo disproved this. Why do we as Christians believe this? Have we disregarded Biblical teaching?
The issue is really how the Bible is interpreted. Genre, cultural context important. One should be guided by natural, customary meaning (literal method) of the text, in context of the other Biblical teachings. Can be more than one natural reading of a word. Earth – as the planet, or the ground. Other times literal not meant – Jesus says I am the door – meant as a metaphor. Metaphors stand for something real. So different levels of literality. Literalistically (exactly as written) vs. literally (as the author means it).
If meaning not obvious, then what? Scripture and science – some think Bible isn’t relevant to science at all (non-overlapping magisteria). Doesn’t work because Bible does talk about some things that science talks about, like origins of universe and life. God encourages man to investigate natural world. God loves an inquiring mind – “love Him with all our mind”. The Bible is not a textbook of science, but has truth to tell us about same objective reality that science discusses, so we need to try to understand that truth. True knowledge of science by Christians gives credibility to the Christian message. If my views of something non-fundamental to the gospel are in conflict with others, it may be that my view is just my interpretation. Must know difference between what scripture says and what it means. In order to discern truth and come together charitably, conferences are helpful.
“Foundations of the earth” are metaphors for something real – not literal metal cement and stone, but real nonetheless. Earth doesn’t have to be the center of the universe to be in the center of God’s attention. Science and reason helps us come to the most probable interpretation of the Bible. Once it became evident that the earth did move and that the Bible could be consistently interpreted in that way, it was not foolish to believe so in light of the new science.
“Creationist” – meant someone who believe God created. Currently usually means “young earth creationist” Many prominent church fathers and theologians have interpreted Genesis to be young or old.
The interpretations morph into the following views:
Young earth – 10000 years or less
Old earth – “days” are of unspecified length
Framework – days are not chronological, but descriptive. Genesis days form a literary parallel or framework, where days 1-3 balance 4-6. Cosmic temple view – (theistic evolutionists). Could still contain sequence all the same.
Different interpretations of the same text. Must think about what the text says before we interpret. We bring preconceived notions to the understanding of what the text says to what it actually says.
Genesis 1 – “day” Hebrew “yom” – one use in the Bible – daylight hours, 12 hrs , other evening and morning – 24 hr day. 7th Day, Sabbath, is different in that no mention of evening and morning. Some say the seventh day extends through the present. Another use of day could be as in “in my day” – an indefinite period of time.
Genesis 1:1-2, following the 6 days of creation. Could indicate that 1 & 2 is not included in day 1. Logically possible that universe is ancient, and that the creation days were 24 hrs as well, on the reading of the text. No definite articles used on day 1-5, but on 6 and 7. “A” day, vs “the” day. Noteworthy for logical possibilities. Could be a sequence of creation time periods of differing length, or 24 hours separated from one another by unknown lengths of time. Opposite of unguided non-intelligent process – no movement towards more complexity without God’s word. Textual sophistication gives room for these different interpretations.
Objections to framework –
- Far fetched, goes against natural straightforward reading of the text.
- See question of fixed-earth – increased scientific knowledge didn’t undermine authority of scripture. Experience of the real world already helps in understanding scripture. If we applied objection above to fixed-earth, we’d still hold the view. Must know why the view is held and if there is good reason to change view. (epistemic duties) Number of people believing something is not enough reason to reject change in views. Does a change in view have important theological implications, or can it consistently be applied to scripture’s teachings?
- Even if possibility granted, later Genesis chapters rule it out that it creates major theological problem – since life came before day 6, death been in the world a long time. Sin and death closely related.
- There are clear pains taken to show difference between man and beast. Death before entry of sin among plants and animals, “Death passed among all men” (Paul) – *human* death is a consequence of sin. Animals do not sin. Question of animals and plant death before the fall is left open. View of non-death of animals before human sin, raises questions of animal development and life arise. Did the physical features of these creatures develop after sin, or in anticipation of it? Corruption, disease, and human death may be consequence of sin, but animal and plant death is not.
What of the serpent, before the fall? Something had already corrupted at least part of the creation, and it was corruptible.
Uniformity of nature – the present has the only key to the past. But with creation, we know that the past is not absolutely uniform. Theistic evolution – creator engineered the parameters universe to be able to evolve life. God creates universe; sets laws; sustains the universe; let life develop without any further intervention, except perhaps infusing souls into humanity.
- Most physicists comfortable with singularity as the beginning of the universe – God is first cause
- Theistic evolutionists believe origin of life and humans involve some supernatural intervention
- Supernatural intervention also in the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus
Evolution – cannot account for origin of life. Presupposes but doesn’t explain first life. Unguided processes do not create new information. The materials cannot create the outcome without the intellect.
Don’t overlook the main message of Genesis – that God created it, not the method. Also remember to be charitable as it is not a crucial issue of orthodoxy.
Saturday, June 18, 2011 Q&A with John Lennox
Science is not the only source of knowledge, and science is not coextensive with rationality.
Youtube: dueling professors
Thursday, June 16, 2011 – Terry Mortenson and Hugh Ross
Terry Mortenson – young earth creationist view “A Defense of Biblical Creationism”
God created the world in six literal 24-hour days about 6000 years ago and judged the earth with a flood
Genesis 1-11 is history
- Literary form – narrative
- Sentence structure – verbs used
- Lacks poetic features – parallelism etc. missing
- Gen 1-11 and 12-50 – no break in style or format, and end of Genesis is clearly historical
- “Toledot” – 11 times in Genesis “these are the generations of”
- Description of real time and places
- Gen 1-11 lacks signals of parables, visions and dreams
- This is Jesus’ view
- This is the view of Biblical writers
- Historic orthodox view of church
Why Galileo affair is not relevant to origins debate:
- No sustained discussion in bible of the physical structure of solar system, but there is of Creation, Fall and flood
- The few brief references are mainly in poetic sections of the Bible
- The structure of the solar system is not connected in any way to the gospel, but Genesis 1-11 is foundational to it.
Gen 1:5 – God called day, and the darkness he called night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. Clear what the meaning is by context – literal – cardinal, not ordinal
Numbers modify days: one, second,…
Modified with “evening” and “morning”
Genesis 1:14 God created lights to measure days, years and seasons.
Vs 17 says that God placed them in the expanse of the heavens which was made on day 2.
So the sun, moon, and stars were not made on Day 1 or any time before Day 1 – but on Day 4
Psalm 33:6, 8-9 – by the word of the lord the heavens were made and by the breath of his mouth all their hosts. For he spoke and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.
Exodus 20:11 – For in six days the Lord made the heavens and earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.
5 days before Adam – 5 days
Adam to Abraham – ~2000 yrs
Abraham to Christ – ~2000 yrs
Christ to present – ~2000 yrs
Total - ~6000 yrs
Gen 1:21, 25 – “after their kind” – not changing from one kind to another kind (ie evolution)
“It is not important when, how, or how long God created, what’s important is that God created” – he disagrees because Genesis is foundational to the rest of the Bible. Has theological implications on other Biblical doctrines.
Doctrine of death: why is there death and disease, and why is it tragic? Rom 5:12 says through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin.
Natural disasters – did God make the earth like that? Fossil record shows record of pain, suffering, death, disease, killing, and extinction over millions of years. Nowhere does the Bible clearly state that animals did not die or kill before the fall, but neither does it say that God is triune or that Jesus is fully God and fully man either. Context and other doctrine imply these.
Gen. 1:29-30 – “I have given you every plant” Man and animals are originally vegetarian. Eating plants doesn’t kill, animals do not have life. Only after flood is man explicitly told to eat meat (Gen 9:3).
Consequences of fall
-serpent was cursed – more than the cattle and the beast, so other animals were cursed also.
- Eve cursed with pain in childbirth, Rom 5:15 – physical death
Vs 17 ground cursed, outside garden
Vs. 21 Coats of skin to cover their nakedness – first mentioned death of animals
Vs 18 thorns and thistles grow – fossil thorns in records millions of years ago (ie. Before original sin)
Rom 8 – creation waiting for the sons of God, creation subjected to futility, hopes to be set free from slavery. Whole suffering groans. Most commentators say subjection happened at the fall.
Many dinosaurs seem to have had cancer – if cancer in dinos millions of years before man, god must have said it was “very good”
4 major extinction events in fossil record over millions of years – again “very good” during creation process.
If there were millions of years of natural evil, was not the curse of Gen 3 completely meaningless? What did it do? We would call the curse a blessing by greatly improving things, since we don’t see the massive extinction afterwards.
Doctrine of God
Gen 1:31 – God created heavens and earth – it was very good, then sin came. How does he teach sinners to relate to the fallen world? You are to rest on Sabbath, also your ox and donkey (Ex 23:12). Not to abuse their animals but treat them well (Prov 12:10). Matt 6:26 God cares for the creation, even in fallen world. Animals and earth are cursed, many destroyed in flood, all because of man’s sin.
- How could this caring God spend millions of years creating, then allow millions dying before sin enters the world and call it good?
- How can God tell man to care for the animals if they lived before man was around?
Genesis foundational to the doctrine of God.
Dembski’s book – The End of Christianity – Finding a Good God in an Evil World. Assumes that the millions of years of evil and says it is part of the consequence of sin because of God’s foreknowledge. Answersingenesis.org – Mortensen and Dembski for his response.
Doctrine of the Gospel – build on foundations of Genesis
Seed of the woman will break the work of the serpent. Jesus is the second and last Adam – came to solve problem started in Garden of Eden. Rom 8:19-23 – creation waiting eagerly for revelation of the sons of God – creation will be set free from corruption. So Jesus return will eradicate pain and death of the curse. Is. 11 and 65 – time in future when wolf lies with the lamb and lion will eat grass. Gospel is not just about spiritual salvation, but redemption of entire creation.
“You have to believe in young earth to be saved” – He certainly does not say this, only belief in Jesus work. But this does not mean age of the earth does not matter. Genesis is foundational to the credibility of the gospel, must be history and reliable, or the rest of the Bible is questionable.
Scientific question – Grand Canyon –280 mi long, 4-5 miles wide, 1 mile deep. Millions of years to form on evolution. Evidence that it happened catastrophically (ie. Flood). A global flood changed things and in minutes, hours, or days, gave the impression of much greater age. Challenges the dating methods of the earth of millions of years.
Uniformitarian view – earth movement before works the same as now. Rejected by some geologists, because some past catastrophic events could have changed things faster than the gradual changes (Catastrophism). Assumptions affect the outcome of their hypotheses.
Radiometric dating? The problem is the assumptions in the dating methods – circular reasoning
Hugh Ross – “Old earth view”
Reasons to believe reasons.org
Constructive integration – bible has detail description of natural history, works with data of science
Belgic confession – God known by natural and special revelation, and we should study both (book of nature)
Sola Scriptura – Bible is the only verbal propositional authority, but not the only reliable revelation, ie. Nature; they will agree with one another. Bible is inspired by God, universe is created by God. Impossible for God to lie, so they will agree.
Theology: human interpretation of Bible’s word
Science: human interpretation of nature’s facts
1 Thess 5:21 – “test everything, hold onto the good.” Test and act on established truth.
Scientific method from within scripture. “Biblical testing method” encourages investigator to research before drawing conclusion. Repeated over and over again to approach the truth more closely. 27 chapter length or longer descriptions of creation in Bible.
Slows down process causing faulty interpretations
- Identify frame of reference
- Determine initial conditions
- Note what occurs, when, where, and in what order
- Note final conclusions.
- Form hypothesis about how and why of the phenomenon
- Test hypothesis
- Revise hypothesis
- Repeat sequence
Many different Biblical creation accounts on reasons.org
Integrate all disciplines of science for a more complete picture
“All attempts to harmonize our biblical story of the creation of the world with the results of natural science have been useless and must always be so.” Disagrees!
“Yom” – “day” in Gen. 1 with four different possible meanings. Only word that can stand for a long finite period of time in Hebrew, so Moses had to use it if he meant a long indefinite period of time.
- Part of the daylight hours
- All of the daylight hours
- One rotation period of earth
- Long finite period of time
Gen 1 miracles
- Creation of the physical universe, and space/time
- “Any universe that expands on average must have a beginning where a causal agent outside space and time creates space, time, matter, and energy.” Borde, Vilenkin, Guth
- Gap between Gen 1:1 and 1:2? “Stretching the heavens” – expansion of the universe? Job 9:8, Isaiah 40:22, Isaiah 44:24, Isaiah 48:13, Zech 12:1… etc
- On big bang, time needed for correct rate of universal expansion for stars, planets, life etc. formation
- Fixed physical laws – Gen 1-2, Gen 3:17, Eccl. 1:4-10, Eccl. 3:11-15, Jer 33:25, Rom 8:18-23, Rev 20:7-22:5
- Reference frame shift Gen 1:2
- Atmospheric transformation – opaque to translucent
- Job 38:9 clarification – I made the clouts its [the earth] garment
- Formation of abundant, stable water cycle
- Formation of land masses
- Production of land plants “all plant life” then gives non-complete list
- Plant fossils before Cambrian explosion
i. Knauth & Kennedy Nature 460 (2009) 728-32
ii. Strother et al., Nature 473 (2011): 505-509
- Atmospheric transformation: translucent to transparent. Gen 1:14-15 Lights not created, only now visible
- Vs. 15 – “to serve as signs to mark seasons, days, and years for advanced life” – which life? The advanced animals and man, who need it for mating, feeding, etc.
- Vs. 16 – “God made two great lights…He also made the stars.” – Hebrew verb form means completed sometime in the past, not instantly when mentioned on fourth day
- Emergence of small sea animals (bodies)
- Creation of birds and sea mammals (soulish) – mind will and emotions
- Creation of three kinds of advanced land mammals (soulish)
How much evolution?
If YE: after the fall some herbivores rapidly evolved to become carnivores. After flood, thousands of species rapidly evolve to become millions. Radical evolution
Old Earth: micro evolution, small changes within the species
Theistic/naturalistic evolution: micro and macro evolution
Does the Bible allow for evolution? Lev 19:19 – “min” translated “kind” cannot refer to genera, families, or orders given in the prohibition in Lev 19:19 – “Do not mate different kinds [kil’ayim = two kinds] of animals” Different owls separate “min” Lev 11:15-16. So Bible rules it out
No discernable change in human DNA over the last 25,000 years – DNA not evolving in any significant way. No discernable change in Neanderthal DNA over 80,000 year period. Long-term evolution experiments on yeast and bacteria show only micro-evolution.
- Creation of humans (spiritual)
“there was evening and morning” omitted from seventh day – we are still in the seventh day. God’s rest answers the fossil record enigma. Average of one new species/year before humans arrive, virtually none afterwards. God targets evil and suffering on seventh day, but at the end it will be eradicated. God’s Sabbath (epoch of rest) explains why present-day science reveals only natural processes at work.
More scientists in physical science believe in God than in natural science. Anthropic principle responsible for their conversions.
Adam (Genesis 2)
- Adam created outside Eden
- Sees Eden’s trees grow
- Tends the Garden
- Names all the “nephesh” creatures (20000+ species); man was lonely, only after 24 hours?
- Undergoes surgery
- Sees Eve
- Exclaims “happa’am” – “at long last”
Genesis 1 score
With yom = epoch and reference frame = earth’s surface, science accuracy score is:
Initial conditions 4 of 4, creation events: 10 for 10
The more we learn about nature’s record, the more reasons we gain to trust in biblical inerrancy.
The more we learn about the Bible, the more reasons we gain to trust the reliability of nature’s record.
13-14 billion years ago universe created
60,000-30,000 years ago man created
Friday, June 17, 2011 –Michael Behe
Michael Behe –Intelligent Design
“Intelligent Design at the Foundation of Life”
Design – Psalm 139:13-14 “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”
David knew this, not from revelation, but from empirical observation. Can we tell if a system was purposefully designed by an intelligence? This is the question, not taking position on the creator itself. Intelligent Design could have been conducted through the process of evolution. A designer can design something to change over time. ID does not take a position though, just says it is possible.
Why science and not just the bible? Prov 25:2 – glory of God to conceal the matter, to search out is glory of kings. World is mysterious and it glorifies God to search out the mysteries. Mendeleev discovered the periodic table of elements and the hidden relationship between the elements.
What is Intelligent Design, how do we recognize it, and why is it a compelling theory for the biology we have discovered?
- Design is not mystical. Deduced from physical structure of a system.
- Design: the purposeful arrangement of parts; we infer design whenever parts appear arranged to accomplish a function
- Strength of inference is quantitative – more parts arranged to perform the function, the more sure we can be that it was designed.
- Everyone agrees aspects of biology appear designed. (even those who oppose the reality of design)
- Richard Dawkins – “biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” Any engineer can recognize design in an object. “The living results of natural selection overwhelmingly impress us with the appearance of design.” But thinks it is misleading.
- There are structural obstacles to Darwinian evolution.
- Darwin: Weakness of irreducible complexity to his model.
- Irreducible Complexity: mousetrap example – all parts must be in place and functioning in a certain way or it does not function at all, not just at a reduced level. In other words, Darwinian process cannot account for its development. Function only appears when the system is complete, there’s nothing to “select” for along the process.
- Are there irreducibly complex natural organs? Yes, many, some of which:
i. Bacterium flagellum
ii. Macromolecular machines in the cell
iii. The more studies done in life science, the more complicated the systems of life are – they are not becoming simpler to understand.
- Grand Darwinian claims rest on undisciplined imagination
- Franklin Harold – “We should reject as a matter of principle, [intelligent design, but]…we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical system, only a variety of wishful speculations.” He doesn’t say what principle that may be. May be because it points beyond the natural.
- Follow the evidence wherever it goes!
- Bottom line: Strong evidence from design, little evidence for Darwinism
- Life overwhelmingly impresses us with the appearance of design – Dawkins. Is there good reason that we go against the obvious?
- Inductive argument – using established facts to draw general conclusion – normally used in sciences, based in empirical facts.
Intelligent Design is rational
Michael Behe Q&A
Google: bacterial evolution experiment lenski
Round Table Q&A – Behe, Ross, Mortenson
Faith and science –
Mortenson – when in conflict, allows science to influence his thinking, but only the text of the Bible to determine meaning. Nature is cursed; Bible does not say that the evidence of nature is infallible, only God’s word. Since Bible is written word, it is a different kind of revelation than natural revelation, and proper interpretation may be more difficult. Science doesn’t change interpretation with authority, but by driving back to the scriptures for reconsideration and reconciliation. “Established” scientific theories are overthrown all the time, so must be cautious in depending on science to interpret the Bible and reality.