CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Nothing to Fear from the New Atheist Crusaders

Mar 4, 2008

With all the zeal and energy of a religious crusade, the new atheists have come out in force, rattling their secular sabres. They are on a fundamentalist crusade to rid the world of religion and faith. The new missionaries for atheism have embarked on an evangelistic mission to proclaim the merits of unbelief and the horrors of religious faith.

Their chief target of course has been Christianity. But Christians really need not fear this onset of atheistic jihad. Their attacks are often just so much bluster and rhetoric, with little actual intellectual ammunition involved. But what they lack in argument they make up for in numbers. Book after book has poured forth from the atheist camp in the past few years.

Consider some of the titles. The big daddy of them all has been The God Delusion by arch misotheist Richard Dawkins (2006). Other titles include Breaking the Spell (2006) by Daniel Dennett; The End of Faith (2005) and Letter to a Christian Nation (2006) by Sam Harris; God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (2007) by Christopher Hitchens; and Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam (2007) by Michel Onfray.

Unfortunately these titles have been selling like hotcakes. Hopefully more people are buying them than actually reading them, but their popularity shows how successful the militant atheists have been in their war against faith. As an example of this surge in atheist book sales, consider an experience I had in June of last year when I walked into a downtown Melbourne bookstore. These were the top five best sellers:

1. God is Not Great, How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens
2. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
3. Romulus, My Father by Raimond Gaita
4. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
5. Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam by Michel Onfray

Three atheist diatribes and a New Age moonbat title made up the top five! No wonder why we are in big trouble, if that is the intellectual diet we are lapping up.

Nothing to fear

But if you actually read some of these titles, you will discover that they are in many respects fairly lightweight affairs. One thing seems certain: the authors all seem to have graduated from the same Atheist Academy. All their complaints and attacks seem remarkably similar and unoriginal. They roll out the same old tired clichés, red herrings, straw men and ad hominem arguments. There is really little of substance to these atheist jeremiads.

Indeed, you will quickly discover three main weaknesses in these works. First, they may claim to speak in the name of science, but much of their writing more accurately reflects scientism, not real science. Scientism is the idea that science alone is the source of truth. As Bertrand Russell put it some years ago, “Whatever knowledge is attainable must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know.”

Aligned with this idea is philosophical naturalism, the idea that only matter matters. There is no supernatural, only the natural. There is no metaphysical, only the physical. This of course is not scientifically provable. It is a faith-based commitment. Materialists cannot prove their case empirically. Instead, they have smuggled their naturalism in as an unproven presupposition.

Thus one must weed out the real scientific claims being put forward by the atheists from their philosophical naturalism, which is just part of their secular worldview. Much of what passes for hard science in the writings of these atheists turns out instead to be mere scientism.

Second, a deep-seated hatred of God is revealed in much of their writing. Why they seem to be such ardent misotheists is a good question, but it certainly shows in their books. Consider Dawkins for example. He says in The God Delusion that the Old Testament is “just plain weird” with parts of it “systematically evil”. God’s judgments are described as “God’s jealous sulk,” “God’s maniacal jealousy,” “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide”. Yahweh is simply a “cruel ogre” and a “monster”.

Moreover, the atonement is just plain “vicious, sado-masochistic and repellent,” is “morally obnoxious,” and should be dismissed as “barking mad”. On and on this venomous tirade goes. This is not scientific or philosophical discussion. This is a kindergarten temper tantrum.

Third, when they do critique religion in general and Christianity in particular, they are usually way out of their depth. They really do not know what they are talking about here. Dawkins is so bad at this that fellow atheist Terry Eagleton had this to say:

“Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology. Card-carrying rationalists like Dawkins, who is the nearest thing to a professional atheist we have had since Bertrand Russell, are in one sense the least well-equipped to understand what they castigate, since they don’t believe there is anything there to be understood, or at least anything worth understanding. This is why they invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince.”

He continues, “The more they detest religion, the more ill-informed their criticisms of it tend to be. If they were asked to pass judgment on phenomenology or the geopolitics of South Asia, they would no doubt bone up on the question as assiduously as they could. When it comes to theology, however, any shoddy old travesty will pass muster.”

Atheism 0, Theism 1

Perhaps one major reason why the new atheists are so hot and bothered is because they have suffered a major setback. You see, there has been a defection in their ranks. And when someone defects from the atheist camp that is big doo doo indeed. The God-haters are not happy about this, and have turned on the renegade with all the bitterness and nastiness which they can muster.

For over a half century Antony Flew was perhaps the world’s most important and most vocal atheist. He had been a world-class philosopher and author of dozens of books. Yet he did the unthinkable a few years ago. He renounced his atheism and became a theist. He said he had to follow the evidence where it leads, and argues that the evidence for theism is quite profound. Things like the new Intelligent Design movement had helped him to change his mind. He wrote up his story in the 2007 volume, There is a God.

This was all too much for his atheist colleagues. They have declared a secular fatwa against him. He is now a traitor, a turncoat, a persona non-grata. And do they provide any rational arguments to counter his position? No. They simply throw mud at him. They make bizarre claims that he is old and senile and demented, and that he did not really write the book, and that Christians coerced him to do it, etc.

This is called the ad hominem fallacy. It means you simply attack the person instead of addressing the arguments. And that is all the atheists have done. If you don’t believe me, check out this blogsite. I have written extensively on the Flew defection, and the atheist responses have been appalling. They have simply attacked Flew instead of dealing with his arguments.

What you can do

If you have a sense of calling to engage in the battle with the new atheists, there are a few things you should do. First, this is a spiritual battle. The god of this world is out to deceive and mislead people, and turn them away from serving the true and living God. So this is idolatry and spiritual deception of the highest order, and we need to be spiritually protected via prayer and spiritual warfare as we enter into these debates.

Second, if you really want to take these people on at their own intellectual level, you really do need to be well read. You need to be up on a whole range of areas, from philosophy to science, theology and history. To do this, can I suggest that you start a reading program. To be an intelligent and articulate apologist, you really should read the works of some great 20th century giants, including Francis Schaeffer and C.S. Lewis.

Other top notch scholars and thinkers who are fighting the good fight today include Ravi Zacharias, R.C. Sproul, J. P Moreland, Alister McGrath, William Lane Craig, Norman Geisler and Paul Copan. Buy their works, read them and read them again, and you will be more than able to fulfil the calling of 1 Peter 3:15.

Third, you can get involved in online debates with atheists and others in various places. My website is one of many places where you can practice defending the faith with love, respect, firmness and knowledge.

This war of ideas is part of a bigger spiritual battle we are in. Not all are gifted to enter these intellectual arenas, but some can use their God-given talents to stand up for their faith, and withstand the onslaught of the new atheist warriors.

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71 Responses to Nothing to Fear from the New Atheist Crusaders

  • Just found your blog…good post!

    Cheers, Nathan Gann

  • Excellent post and good overview!
    Brian Auten

  • Bill,

    Regarding apologetics and C.S. Lewis, I am working to sort out a recent claim that C.S. Lewis had no problem with Darwinian Evolution.

    Would you contend that “C.S. Lewis had no problem with Darwinian Evolution”?

    I am not herein asking about the subject of evolution per se, but rather the positions Lewis held on the subject. I consider clarification to be important if Lewis is being misrepresented, thereby giving strength to the evolution argument more or less through appeal to expertise or popularity of Lewis.

    Thanks,
    Shane Coley

  • This is an important suggestion, Bill. It’s something I need to remind myself often as I’ll all too readily shoot from the hip sometimes. When I was a new Christian in my late teens/early 20s, I remember reading very widely about what Christian cults believed – in particular, the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The wisdom my father-in-law told me at the time when he found out I was doing this was: don’t learn what other cults believe; learn what we believe and why. Good advice.

    As someone else said: you learn to spot counterfeit bills not by studying counterfeits but by learning what the real currency looks like.

    Likewise, study what our great Christian minds have studied (alongside a healthy portion of Bible and prayer) and we will find our task of not only defending our belief to be easier, but we’ll also be better equipped to tackle the fraudsters onto the back foot, as well.

    Mathew Hamilton

  • Bill,

    Very few Christians seem capable of defending their beliefs. I am part of the group that runs the website unbelief.org. We strongly question fundamentalist belief in the inerrancy of the Bible, but Christians who take part in our discussion forum seem only capable of defending scripture by quoting it. Their level of knowledge and intelligence must be an embarrassment to Christianity.

    I suspect that few Christians have actually bothered to read the extensive scholarly literature on biblical criticism. Perhaps they are afraid of what they may find.

    Are there any biblical Christians who can actually mount a logical and reasoned argument for their faith?

    Bronwyn Thompson, Sydney

  • While there is nothing to fear as far as their arguments are concerned, I think there is a legitimate concern that they are getting so much exposure in our community, and expressing such hatred and vehemence in their works.

    We all know that ideas have consequences, and their influence in the general populace can, in my view, spill over to some very nasty scenes. It was the writings of atheists that created the climate for the French Revolution and the Bolshevik Revolution.

    In my view, it would be nice to see these atheists soundly humiliated.

    Tas Walker

  • Hi Bill,

    Do you also hold Hindu’s and Buddhist in such low regard? They are also atheistic to the Christian God.

    In regards to Antony Flew, I partake in a couple of other religious based forums and over the last six months or so I have kept an eye open for any topics pertaining to him. In that time I think I have only seen one mention of him. Flew’s deistic view has had little to no impact and why should it? I know of a couple of church ministers that have become Atheists and this really did not start a cascade of defections from Christianity. You cannot compare Flew to the the above mentioned Atheists. To the general populous, Flew is all but unknown. To claim him as the worlds most notorious Atheist is just wrong. Why would Flew claim that of himself anyway?? Makes no sense! I believe Flew’s views were derived from the views of a one Gerald Schroeder. All I can say is that I am glad Schroeder did not teach me Physics at Uni. Anyway, I still fail to see how someones deistic view supports that of a theistic view. They are both quite different ideas as I am sure you are well aware.

    It is interesting to note that in a Buddhist country like Japan they do not debate Buddhism like we do Christianity. They do not teach it in schools. It is not apart of the political process. It is not justified by using pseudo science. Most people generally live by the philosophy yet do not actively practice it (exceptions made for funerals). Why is Christianity so different?

    I guess what upsets many Atheists is that some Christians try to justify their beliefs by the use of science or pseudo science as the case maybe. I do not have a problem if someone is trying to support a theory with the use of science. That is what science is for. A tool for discovery. If a creationist has a theory about how something might work etc, then that person should produce a paper outlining the theory and the supporting evidence. This paper can then be submitted to the broader scientific community for verification. To date, I have not seen a creationist do it. Why?

    Ben Green

  • Thanks for another good article Bill. It is, indeed, unfortunate that the atheist material is “selling like hotcakes.” Like Tas Walker, I’m concerned about the negative effects these ideas are having on the community. I hope, though, that all the publicity will cause some people to reconsider the issue, and maybe take another look at Christianity. As you say, we Christians should be ready for the opportunity, and present both refutations of popular anti-theistic arguments and strong positive arguments for Christianity.

    Shane Coley, I was pondering that same question quite recently, having started to dig into some of Lewis’ books. I found a helpful article from CMI, C.S. Lewis and evolution.

    During his early years as a Christian, Lewis didn’t appear to have problem with evolution. The article states:

    In The Problem of Pain , written in 1940, Lewis showed his willingness to accept virtually any view of evolution provided the biblical doctrine of the Fall was retained.

    I have yet to finish my copy of The Problem of Pain , but this is indeed the impression I get so far.

    However, during his later years, Lewis seemed to steer away from Darwinism. At the very least he became sceptical of it. The article quotes him:

    What inclines me now to think you may be right in regarding [evolution] as the central and radical lie in the whole web of falsehood that now governs our lives is not so much your arguments against it as the fanatical and twisted attitudes of its defenders.’

    Maybe that’ll help you a bit.

    Samuel Sparks, Qld

  • Thanks Bronwyn

    Your first sentence is unfortunately largely correct. But I suspect the same could be said about nonbelievers.

    As to the “scholarly literature on biblical criticism”, it of course depends on what you mean by that. If it is textual criticism and the like, they are plenty of world-class scholars who defend the reliability and historicity of the biblical documents. The real question is, have you read them, and if not, why not?

    As to your last query, if it is more than just a rhetorical question, you really should know the answer, if you were even remotely fair and honest about this whole issue. I trust you heard of people like Augustine, Aquinas, or Jonathan Edwards, to name but a few massive intellects of the past.

    As to more modern names, consider C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Ravi Zacharias, Alister McGrath, Norman Geisler, J.P. Moreland, William Lane Craig, Alvin Plantinga, C. Stephen Evans, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and N.T. Wright, just for starters.

    After you have given them all a fair and unbiased reading, then come back to me and ask a few more questions.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Ben

    But some errors need to be dealt with here. Hinduism is of course polytheistic, with belief in as many as 300,000 gods in some versions of it. Buddhists can well be atheists.

    As much as atheists downplay Flew’s defection, it was a remarkable turnaround by any account. And Desim is of course a type of theism.

    Your statement, “Most people generally live by the philosophy yet do not actively practice it (exceptions made for funerals). Why is Christianity so different?” is more revealing than you perhaps realise. Christianity is not just a intellectual belief system. It is that but much more. If Christianity is true, then Christians will both believe it and live it. It would be hypocritical not to do so.

    A non-practising Christian is almost a contradiction in terms. Actions should follow from beliefs, otherwise those beliefs are not worth clinging to.

    And real science, as opposed to scientism, which so many atheists cling to, is quite at home with Christian beliefs. Indeed, modern science largely arose because of the Christian worldview.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Shane, see this CMI article C.S. Lewis and evolution.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  • Shane Coley 5.3.08 / 8am

    Bill,

    Regarding apologetics and C.S. Lewis, I am working to sort out a recent claim that C.S. Lewis had no problem with Darwinian Evolution.

    Would you contend that “C.S. Lewis had no problem with Darwinian Evolution”?

    Shane as well as checking CMI’s article on that, you might like to read widely within Lewis’s materials.

    As a literary person, he had no scientific background to validly dispute the scientists of his time. So with literary integrity he refrained from “doing a Dawkins”. 🙂

    But if you read say “Miracles” you will see that he had a lot to say against “naturalism” which we might call philosophical materialism, as Bill does above, with its underlying evolutionary assumptions.

    So, I would say that the evidence is mixed to leaning away from evolution, but mainly because of terminology. He used “naturalism” as Bill does here, and attacked it philosophically on its inadequate presuppositions.

    But others used “evolution” more narrowly then to describe (with a confidence since forfeited) supposed scientifically verifiable processes.

    Nowadays, of course, those of the faith of ‘scientism’ use “evolution” to slide between two meanings – the narrow “pseudo-scientific” and the broad all-encompassing as it suits them to confuse us as their opponents.

    John Angelico

  • Thank you both to Samuel and Ewan.

    I recently attempted to engage with atheists on one of Melanie Phillip’s Bloggs entitled, “We are at War”

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/506891/we-are-at-war.thtml.

    If anyone is interested in viewing blood sports, I put my toe in the pool at the twentieth entry, 9.15 pm. I felt as though I had fallen into piranha infested water and it was feeding time.
    I sent Bill a desperate SOS and quick as a flash he responded by sending some coaching from outside the ring.
    It was a bruising experience and I would endorse all that he says about the necessary preparations for such a combat. However, it taught me a great a deal about how isolated as a Christian I have become and how we can never know what our protagonists are thinking unless we engage with them. It caused me to question and affirm my own beliefs and to go off and do some homework. They are very well informed and utterly rude and contemptuous of anyone who in their eyes is un educated. However, the mere fact that they never tired of the contest, showed a spiritual hunger, plus, and most importantly, there were others reading on the sidelines.

    To me this was – albeit briefly – a kind of intense, internet Alpha or Christianity Explored and a tremendous opportunity for telling others the good news of Jesus Christ. It may well also be preparation for when we are forced to stand up in public and say what we believe. Thank God for Bill and CultureWatch.

    David Skinner, UK

  • Thanks guys

    Yes there is some ambivalence regarding Lewis and evolution. I pulled out my well-worn and dog-eared 1972 copy of The Problem of Pain and see scrawled in the margins at the relevant sections my disconcerting exclamation, ‘Theistic Evolution!’ He seemed to accept the biology of evolution, but he opposed its various corollaries. Thus he could say, “In my opinion the modern concept of Progress or Evolution (as popularly defined) is simply a myth, supported by no evidence whatever.” See his essay, “The Funeral of a Great Myth” in Christian Reflections.

    And he certainly blasted naturalism. See his Abolition of Man (1947) and his space trilogy, especially That Hideous Strength (1946).

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks to all.

    Your comments are significantly in line with my observations thus far. Here is my view based on having read a dozen related C.S. Lewis books, essays or excerpts.

    In my view, Lewis divides evolution into three categories.

    First is the Popular Myth which deals with “improvement” or “onward and upward.” He clearly disbelieves this, perhaps as far back as 1927, but certainly in the 40’s. The easy evidence is what Bill pointed out, i.e. the essay “The Funeral of a Great Myth.”

    The second category is more properly termed “Adaptation” which was first described in the context of Mendelian genetics. This is the category that John mentioned being used in the Darwinist slight-of-hand. And, as John said, being a literary person, Lewis simply conveyed “Adaptation is real, but your theorem cannot explain more than that which we can observe scientifically; or if it can explain more, please show us using valid science, not via claims based on pseudo-science.”

    The third category is where things get sticky. Lewis also used evolution as fodder in Myth-making for effect. This thoroughly confuses some people because Lewis’s clear statement that he is now going to present a Myth is lost when quoting the wild evolutionary claims that follow. In any case, where Lewis seems to lean toward evolution, back up a few pages and see if he is in the middle of a Narnia-like story. Alternately he may be setting aside what YOU may believe about evolution, stating such a position as evolution has no bearing on the Fall, for example.

    This could be much better developed, but hopefully the quick overview will be useful. I am primarily interested in your thoughts on the three categories I have noted and the implied position that Lewis held on evolution when viewed in this context.

    I look forward to reading the articles that have been presented! Critique or other thoughts will be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks, Shane Coley

  • Regarding the theory of evolution, we have to acknowledge that it it had a lot going for it throughout the latter half of the 19th and well into the 20th centuries and many notable evangelical Christians choose to accept it under the rubric of “theistic evolution”. I studied Zoology in 1961 under LC Birch at Sydney University and I had no defences against evolution, certainly in its macro form, until I came across Bernard Ramm’s “Christian View of Science and Scripture” in the mid 1960’s.

    Today we are the beneficiaries of such progress in science as the Big Bang theory which posits a beginning for the universe, the extraordinary complexity of creation being demonstrated by micro biology (irreducible complexity) and of course the ongoing saga of missing intermediary forms in the fossil record.

    Whilst I can’t come at a young earth for scientific but also scriptural reasons, I find a creationist position very defensible today in a way that was simply not possible 40 years ago.

    David Palmer

  • Hi Bronwyn,

    I understand what you mean with many Christians not being intellectual heavyweights, but I just think this reflects proportionally on the general population. But does this matter as to the truth or falsehood of Christianity?

    Allow me to use a personal example: I grew up with a scientist father who worked for the CSIRO and a Bible-believing mother. Dad picked and chose what bits he agreed with, but mum, a housewife, pretty much just believed.

    Now, my dad could run circles around my mother with arguments – mum was too often irrational, emotional and simplistic. If I had just limited myself to the observation of two people from different classes engaging on deep philosophical subjects – in German, mind you – I might have ended up in a similar place to where you are. On points, dad won hands down.

    But, by the time I was about 14, I had noticed something else – my dad was indeed smarter than my mum, but he was noticeably unwiser. That is to say, I began to see that on the odd occasion where mum scored a legitimate point about something, dad would obfuscate, equivocate and hedge his way around. I began to see that he was more likely to try to justify his beliefs internally by his own reasoning, rather than defer to an outside source for guidance – and, importantly, avoided at all costs to change his life when a deficiency in his reasoning was exposed. He was clearly not as wise as my mum. Mum cared about things applicable to real day-to-day life. Dad just cared about winning arguments.

    It was pathetic because I can tell you that my mum compared to my dad in terms of compassion, generosity and long-suffering was a giant. Not that my dad was bad at this, it’s just that my mum’s work ethic and love for others was (and is) so clearly demonstrably better. I observed a similar difference in other family members who fell on either side of the fence of belief in God. It began to occur to me that intellectual arguments are not enough to live a full life, it’s how you use what you have.

    Then when I was 18, a family friend directed me to C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. Well, it was over for the kind of argument that my dad (like you) effectively proposed – that Christianity is somehow lacking in intellectual substance. One thing I love about Christianity is that it can be believed by both the dull and sharp in mind at the same time. The gospel is truly for everyone. It’s both simple, and profoundly deep and mysterious. Bill has given you a list of notable Christian authors that will almost certainly have engaged any question or issue you care to mention. Are you willing to change your life if you discover your own intellectual and philosophical ideas have holes? I know I am.

    I’ve currently started with a group studying the Gospel of Matthew. We have just completed a quick overview, and on the basis of any reasonable assessment of how to approach history, the historical basis for the Christian faith is unquestionable. The amount of evidence is literally gargantuan. Jesus lived on this earth, taught, performed miracles, died, and confirmed his authority above any other by raising himself from the dead as he predicted. There was a preponderance of eyewitnesses to this. Every argument that sets itself up against God must be viewed in light of this fact, because the resurrection changes everything about even the nature of physical reality itself. Science is God’s plaything, so it’s silly (as Ben Green attempts to do) to require God to work within those parameters. Those parameters were originally His idea. They serve Him, not the other way around. (Besides that, a God who couldn’t work outside physical reality is not worth believing – Ben Green infers that he would accept this ‘god’, but I would reject him as impotent.)

    Bronwyn, I’m never going to be an bona fide intellectual – God hasn’t called me to that anyway so I’m not overly concerned. But I’ll certainly try to defend my faith with what I have as best I can. Maybe there’ll be holes my reasoning sometimes and maybe even I’ll fall flat on my face. And maybe I’ll hit your arguments for six. I’ll certainly always consider any legitimate question. But given that I grew up with an environment where I observed an intellectual using his smarts simply for selfish pride and point-scoring, compared where I watched someone using a comparative lack of this to their best to bless others, I suspect strongly that I would be unlikely to observe a genuine desire to find out the truth in you or those on unbelief.org Most of the people on the forums there don’t even use their real names! That’s a dismal start if you want to have an intellectually honest discussion, and it’s enough reason for me to steer clear. Other Christians may think differently, but I would rather engage my limited time wisely in using my particular gifts for His Kingdom and engaging those I meet face to face who hear the word and are willing to understand it.

    Matthew 13:1-9,17-23
    2 Corinthians 10:1-5
    1 Peter 3:8-17
    Proverbs 9:9-11
    1 Corinthians 3:18-23
    1 Corinthians 15:3-6
    1 Corinthians 12
    Matthew 7:6

    btw, my Dad began to attend a Lutheran church 18 months before he died suddenly in 2004. I have good reason to believe he got wise. How about you?

    Mark Rabich

  • Mark,

    Your apologetics style reminds me of a blogging friend of mine, Royce Buzinski. A very attractive quality in an ambassador for Christ that I haven’t quite mastered yet.
    Check him out.
    http://home.people.net.au/~DuanesMind/wpblog/?p=146

    Thanks for your refreshing comment.

    BTW, I think that perhaps after some brief dialogue with these people, it may become obvious that Matthew 7:6 is quite appropriate advice to heed. Some quiet prayer never goes astray though.

    Duane Proud

  • Bill,

    I’m confused by the discussions here about CS Lewis and evolution. I gather that for someone to accept evolution as fact would not be approved by you and most of your correspondents.

    But can someone kindly explain how they rationalise the alternative? The history of life on this planet is very well known. There is an abundance of evidence for new species developing and dying out, stretching millions of years back in time, long before the recent appearance of homo sapiens on the scene.

    How do biblical Christians rationalise this “pre-history”? If God personally intervened at intervals to create each new species, what would be the point if he was eventually going to kill them off? And why exactly is it so hard for some Christians to accept that God would allow evolution to do the job for him?

    Please don’t respond with the “young earth” nonsense. The evidence for a very old earth is beyond rational dispute. I’m trying to get a handle on how “old earth creationism” is rationalised.

    Steve Angelino, WA

  • Thanks Steve

    The short answer is there are a number of positions a believer can hold on this question. Theistic evolution has been one of them, but it has a number of shortcomings. There are in fact quite a number of creationist theories. While old earth creationists and young earth creationists have their disagreements, they are united on a number of areas, including having grave concerns about the theory of evolution in general with its many outstanding problems.

    Many in the Intelligent Design movement happen to be old earth creationists. All would agree that purposeless, mindless and random macro-evolutionary theory is very problematic indeed, and perfectly good competing theories positing an intelligent creator can be rationally maintained.

    It is up to you whether you are in fact genuinely interested in these. There is a large and growing literature on the theistic case for design and a creator. If you were a genuine seeker, you would be reading these books first, instead of simply taking potshots at those who disagree with you.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Nice reply Bill and likewise your article had excellent points on taking the challenge up to atheists.

    Steve, a first-rate little book largely written as a response to Dawkins is by John Lennox, Reader in Mathematics, a colleague of Dawkins at Oxford, is “God’s Undertaker – has Science buried God?”

    I’m prepared to argue that God could have used evolution and certainly find no problem with micro evolution. Aside from wishing the role of undertaker for God (a rather unenviable task I would have thought, despite the atheists’ rant) macro evolution is reeling at the level of scientific evidence (read Lennox) and fails to answer simple questions like “what is the origin of the universe?”, why is there something and not nothing?”, “how do you get matter and energy from nothing?”, if the Big Bang is seen as the mechanism for creation, “what caused the Big Bang”, “what is the origin of life – how do you get life from non life?”, “what is the origin of mind – how does a living being become a self conscious being?”, what is the origin of good and evil – how does an amoral being become morally aware?”

    And it is not good enough to say, it just happened that way. Religion and more particularly Christianity has answers, satisfying answers to these questions.

    David Palmer

  • David Palmer says:

    Whilst I can’t come at a young earth for scientific but also scriptural reasons, I find a creationist position very defensible today in a way that was simply not possible 40 years ago.

    I understand why some Christians would think this way because of ‘scientific’ arguments, but as for “scriptural reasons” the evidence all goes one way and that is in the direction of a young earth.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  • Steve Angelino says:

    The evidence for a very old earth is beyond rational dispute.

    I might wonder why then there exists no small number of intelligent and highly qualified scientists who doubt this so-called indisputable evidence for an old earth?

    See: http://creationontheweb.com/content/view/4983/

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  • Oh dear, Steve.

    “…The history of life on this planet is very well known. There is an abundance of evidence for new species developing and dying out, stretching millions of years back in time, long before the recent appearance of homo sapiens on the scene.”

    and

    “Please don’t respond with the “young earth” nonsense. The evidence for a very old earth is beyond rational dispute.”

    Steve, I am sorry to say but there is nothing more than assertion here.

    “Millions of years” is a time period beyond scientific verification, and consequently enters the realm of philosophical belief.

    Thus “beyond rational dispute” is far too strong. There are significant assumptions behind long ages (itself an unproved assumption and the source of much circular argument), the broad tenor of which is
    a) uniformitarianism – all of past history can be explained in terms of the slow processes of present history (“the past is the key to the present” mantra), and
    b) modern science is capable of explaining all of past history in terms of processes currently open to scientific investigation.

    These amount to variations on the theme of determinism. They also exclude apprehension of truth via other means such as historical study, and religious revelation.

    Along the way, determinism (particularly of the closed-system evolutionary kind) deals a death-blow to any rational concept of free will, and Francis A Schaeffer would also say to rational thought itself (see “Escape From Reason”).

    But I think that has been well and truly done in this forum already, hasn’t it? 🙂

    John Angelico

  • That fifth book on the shelf there, Bill… “Romulus My Father”… is about a man of profound human dignity, compassion and courage. One might say, God getting some kind of a showing on that shelf after all!

    Alister Cameron

  • Steve

    I come at this issue a little differently from the other Christians on this blog. I certainly believe that the evidence for an old earth is overwhelming – See my article here from dendochronlogy http://www.reasons.org/chapters/seattle/newsletters/200411/200411.pdf – I do not believe that therefore implies that Neo-Darwinian evolution occured. That is, evidence for an old earth and millions of years of species coming into existence and dying out doesn’t mean that the species or genus barrier was crossed with regards to evolution.

    Frequently what you see is species existing as they are for some period and then a catastrophe and being wiped out with a sudden burst of total new species (and new complexity) that would defy the slow and gradual rate that evolution would predict. For example, the asteroid collision that wiped out the dinosaurs was proceeded by a sudden burst of mammalian creatures that had not existed before (which appeared in around 10,000 years time if memory serves me well).

    Such is not consistent with evolution but a Creator that makes way for new creatures and then creates – as is detailed in Ps 104. Keep in mind that it is the death of previous species that has given us the biofuels that makes advanced civilisation possible today. So everything was within the Creator’s purpose.

    There is a lot of good information on this model of Biblical creation here – http://www.reasons.org/resources/apologetics/index.shtml#creation_vs_evolution

    Damien Spillane

  • Damien and Steve,

    All dating methods are based on assumptions and you can get any age you like depending on the assumptions made. The choice ultimately is a philosophical one.

    No geologist will accept a date from radioactive dating methods unless it agrees with what he thinks it should be. Otherwise he will re-interpret the date so that it does fit with his preconceived ideas.

    The problem for a Christian with accepting that the earth is millions of years old is that we end up with death and suffering before Adam and Eve sinned. It contradicts the plain teaching of scripture that God created a good world and that death is a consequence of sin. It reflects on the nature of God because it says that God used pain, bloodshed and extinction as his method of creating.

    Check out some of the Q&As about Radiometric dating here: http://creationontheweb.com/content/view/3059

    Tas Walker

  • Thanks for your comments Samuel Sparks!

    I waited until I could get to my copy of The Problem of Pain to respond.

    I suspect the quote you supplied from an article about The Problem of Pain makes claims that refer to this quote from page 67.

    If by saying that man rose from brutality you mean simply that man is physically descended from animals, I have no objection.

    I believe Lewis is simply stating that objecting to his particular thoughts, in that particular writing, on the basis of evolutionary claims, is of no concern to him.

    His argument is simply that evolutionary claims are irrelevant to his points about the Fall of Man.

    He is ignoring one area of thought in order to focus on another. He leaves the question of showing evidence for an animal based evolution of man open and untouched, while immediately dealing with any evolutionary implications that would be claimed relative to the Fall.

    Taken in context:

    ‘There seems to be a complete confusion here. Brute and savage both belong to that unfortunate class of words which are sometimes used rhetorically, as terms of reproach, and sometimes scientifically, as terms of description; and the pseudo-scientific argument against the Fall depends on a confusion between usages. If by saying that man rose from brutality you mean simply that man is physically descended from animals, I have no objection. But it does not follow that the further back you go the more brutal – in the sense of wicked or wretched – you will find man to be.’ C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain p 67

    In addition, when taken in the context of other statements about evolution by Lewis, at least one earlier and others later, I don’t perceive this as being tolerance of evolutionary theory. Instead Lewis simply treats evolutionary claims as useless and irrelevant in his discussion of The Fall of Man.

    Here is another interesting C.S. Lewis quote on the subject:

    ‘More disquieting still is Professor D. M. S. Watson’s defense. “Evolution itself,” he wrote, “is accepted by zoologists not because it has been observed to occur or… can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible.” Has it come to that? Does the whole vast structure of modern naturalism depend not on positive evidence but simply on an a priori metaphysical prejudice. Was it devised not to get in facts but to keep out God?’ C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, Is Theology Poetry? 1944 p 89

    Samuel, the article you and Ewan referred me to is excellent. This helps confirm my thinking that Lewis was being very careful to not give ammunition to those who would diminish his effectiveness in his apologetics work based on his stand on evolution. It seems Lewis held very clear positions on evolution, but, by design, one has to really pay attention in order to extract his positions and keep them straight.

    I think the subject is worthy of more in depth analysis in order to be fair to Lewis and clear in describing his documented position, based on his own writings.

    Bill, I am hopeful you will have more to share on this.

    Thanks,

    Shane Coley

  • I can not countenance such ideas from Tas, it contradicts too much of what we know from the hard sciences. We have multiple independent lines of evidence that corroborate to inform us that radiometric dating reaches well beyond the 10,000 year mark.

    Dendochronology is very simple and not susceptible to misinterpretation. I mean, how hard is it to count varve layers? Or tree rings? Or Ice layers? And how easy to date bacterium in a varve layer with C14 dating that directly agrees with the amount of layers counted? Thus the 23,000th layer counted gives the same date as the bacterium in that layer dated with C14, for example?

    Or are we lead to believe that this is just pure coincidence when it is done multiple times with multiple different methods (ice layers, tree rings etc), all confirmed through radiometric dating? It stretches credulity to chalk this up to pure bias or coincidence.

    I mean, we can even date historical events like a volcanoe erupting (eg ash in the ice layer) in 79 AD (Vesuvius) in an ice layer that gives the same age as the historical date. And this is in the same Ice core that stretches back 100,000 years! Or are we lead to believe that a global flood packed down 100’s of thousands of layers to make it look that old? I don’t think so!

    There is nothing to contradict scripture in animal death before the fall. The young earth argument is that such a world is not a GOOD world as God described. But Ps 104 is a psalm praising God and gives evidence from creation that we should praise him for what he has created. And what is one of the examples worthy of praise? Why its in vs 21

    “The young lions roar after their prey,
    And seek their food from God.”

    Thus part of God’s good creation that we should praise him for is the carnivorous activity of lions!Thus animal death is not a result of the fall of Adam at all.

    Cheers.

    Damien Spillane

  • When it comes to these topics, the line between science and conjecture is severely blurred.

    e.g. The earth and universe are billions of years old and beyond dispute… the dinosaurs were destroyed by an asteroid… evidence of new species is evidence for evolution (or a new creation)…

    ‘big bang’ and ‘science’ can be mentioned in the same breath and no-one bats an eyelid. Dating methods are claimed as being reliable, yet Argon can be invoked at will to achieve a desired date, and that ain’t the only rabbit in their hats (Woodmorappe has written extensively on this).

    You will hear honesty from some scientists if you know where to look (e.g. George Francis Rayner Ellis or Richard Lewontin) or have the discernment to read between the lines of some journal papers. But the average newspaper reader is not likely able to distinguish the scientific from the philosophical when it comes to many of these claims. And we certainly are not likely to hear about it via a media that is entrenched in evolutionary doctrine, publishing stories such as ‘Researchers verify Flores Hobbit as new Species’ or ‘Fossils prove that birds evolved from dinosaurs’.

    One thing I have learned. The evolutionary worldview I was taught uncritically in high school – and the many other claims that fall in behind it (such as the age of the earth) – are not established at all. Perhaps Flew is starting to see that too?

    Duane Proud

  • Bill, and others,

    No one, except perhaps Damien, has attempted to address the questions I asked.

    I asked:
    “How do biblical Christians rationalise this “pre-history”? If God personally intervened at intervals to create each new species, what would be the point if he was eventually going to kill them off?” (as a species).

    Damien at least tried to address my question with the claim that “the death of previous species that has given us the biofuels…”. But there was no need for entire species to become extinct to create our present fossil fuels. They only had to die.

    So my question remains. Given that life on earth is unquestionably old, how do Christians who refuse to accept evolution explain the extinction of species long before the arrival of humans in terms of God’s plan? Take dinosaurs as an example.

    And secondly, why is the concept of evolution so objectionable to some Christians, yet presents no problem to many others?

    (Once again, I am not interested in the views of young-earth creationists. I’ve read your websites and books, and it’s all bunk.)

    Steve Angelino, WA

  • Hi Bill,

    Great to see active debate.

    With all respect my comment relating to Hindu’s and Buddhists was more about your opinion of them and their beliefs.

    I know theism and deism are in the same camp much like water and acid’s are both liquids but they are not the same thing. I only mentioned it because you would be astonished at the number of times they are swapped especially when referring to Flew.

    Modern science may have been partly born out of Christian times but I am not sure what influence the church had on it. There are many documented cases where the church was apposed to some of the research. I am also not aware of any church sponsored/sanctioned research programs of that early time.

    I take your point on practicing Christianity, but the truth is there are many people who are only part timers. ie Wedding’s, funerals, Baptism and maybe a Xmas or Easter thrown in. I live only a few doors down from a Catholic church and the attendance patterns are quite noticeable. Would you say these people are upholding the faith? Do you really need to attend church every week to be a true Christian? That might be an interesting topic??

    John Angelico
    Yes the estimation on the age of the earth is a theory but it is supported by some strong evidence. The use of Pb/Pb isochron does provide consistent results across a range of different materials. Please not that the Church also uses isotope aging to date many of its artifacts. If you would like to read a more in depth explanation then here would be a good starting point

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-age-of-earth.html

    Damien
    It is not true to say that there were no Mammals during the time of the dinosaurs. Megazostrodon were around during the Jurassic period. There was no sudden burst of mammals as you put it.

    As I said above, if young/old creationists have a theory with supporting evidence then submit it for peer review.

    Ben Green

  • Damien Spillane seeks to lecture Dr Walker, who is qualified in geology and radiometric dating. And as I point out in Refuting Compromise, that Psalm passage is referring to God’s provision in a fallen world, and can’t be used to infer conditions pre-Fall, which clearly state that all animals were created vegetarian.

    While he’s at it, as a member of the Sydney Hugh Ross Fan Club aka Reasons to believe, he might ask Ross why he refused to debate me.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • David Palmer:

    Whilst I can’t come at a young earth for scientific but also scriptural reasons,

    Is this serious? What makes him the fount of human wisdom compared to the Church Fathers and Reformers, who all came at nothing but a “young’ earth for Scriptural reasons? Fact is, churchians taught an “old” earth only after the rise of deist-inspired uniformitarian geology and the desire to marry Scripture to it.

    Oh, please spare us all the Rossite nonsense about the Bible talking about “old” and “ancient” things as though this disproves a “young” earth. These are of course relative terms; I think anyone over 50 is “old” 😉 And thousands of years is really ancient compared to modern human lifespans.

    The Rossite argument is analogous to someone disputing my paper on “high temperature superconductors” on the grounds that liquid nitrogen is bitterly cold, not “high temperature”. But it does have a high temperature compared to liquid helium.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Psalm 104 was praising God’s provision in a fallen world. Another provision is the death penalty for murder that God gave to Noah. Neither of these proves that there was carnivory or murder before the Fall. Indeed, both humans and animals were clearly given vegetarian diets (Gen. 1:29–30).

    Yawn, I covered all this in Refuting Compromise, and Damien’s guru Hugh Ross refused to debate me because this book had ‘”hurt” him.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • I’m just asking as a layman here. Is there any relevant correspondence between the layers at Vesuvius and Mount St. Helens? If someone were to come and see Mount St.Helens 1000 years from now with no knowledge of its history, how would they determine its age?

    Would layer-counting suffice? Or could they use Potassium-Argon as a dating method perhaps? I know some would object that K-Ar is not to be used for dating such ‘young’ formations, but (as Tas has pointed out elsewhere) if you have to know the age of a rock before you can confidently use the method, then of what value is it?

    Re: Psalm 104
    I guess God recognises that even in a fallen world, a lion has to eat. And Hallelujah, I ate a lamb casserole last night too.

    Duane Proud

  • Thanks Ben

    As to Hindus and those of other religions: they may be nice people, but they are still sinners in need of redemption, and Jesus is the only way to get right with God. Buddha isn’t, nor is Moses, nor Muhammad, etc.

    You are still wrong on theism and deism. Deism is theism. Theism simply says God exists. Deists agree completely. It is just that their God is more of an absentee landlord. But they are still theists. Flew is a theist. The fact that he may yet be a deist still places him firmly in the theistic camp, and that is the only point believers are making about him: it is a huge and significant leap from atheism to theism. Yes, there is still another step if he decides to become a Christian. But he seems open to that possibility.

    Almost all of the early modern scientists were in fact Christians, men of deep faith: Bacon, Kepler, Galileo, Pascal, Boyle, Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, etc. As sociologist and historian Rodney Stark puts it, “The rise of science was not an extension of classical learning. It was the natural outgrowth of Christian doctrine.”

    As to practicing Christians, meeting together with other believers is both enjoined in Scripture and an important part of spiritual growth.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Ben Green:

    As I said above, if young/old creationists have a theory with supporting evidence then submit it for peer review.

    Ah yes, the last refuge of someone refusing to look at the actualy evidence: rely on the gatekeepers of the paradigm as an excuse. But see Creationism, Science and Peer Review and Professional, peer-reviewed scientific journal: Yes! Creationist scientists do publish in peer-reviewed science journals.

    Does anyone actually care about Steve Angelino’s ipset dixit regarding YEC? Someone whose main claim to fame is misotheistic agitprop is hardly anyone to take seriously.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Jonathon

    That is fallacious reasoning. You were not qualified in Astronomy and yet that didn’t stop you lecturing Hugh Ross in these areas. Its an argument from authority and goes nowhere.

    I can understand that perhaps Ps 104 may suggest a fallen world but I don’t think it works. The commencing and concluding passages of the Psalm extoll the greatness of what God has created, and (vs24)

    ‘O Lord, how manifold are your works!
    In Wisdom have you made them all;
    the earth is full of your creatures.’

    So it praises God for the way he made the world and rules over it. There is celebration throughout the whole psalm. At the end it says (vs31)

    “rejoice in His works”

    But God’s creation is contrasted with the wicked (vs 35)

    Let sinners be consumed from the earth,
    and let the wicked be no more!
    Blessed the LORD, O my soul!
    Praise the LORD!

    Thus, these points, along with the commentaries that show its parallel with Gen 1 establish that God created the carnivorous activity and we should praise him for it! It is not a curse of sin, that is not mentioned at all in the passage.

    The Genesis 1:29-30 passage is not evidence of a vegetarian diet for all animals pre-fall. The list is not exhaustive or prescriptive on what must be eaten. Eg there is no mention of creatures that live in the water whom are carnivorous such as jellyfish, crabs and starfish.

    These arguments come from C. John Collins’ Science and Faith; Friends or Foes? and not Ross specifically, so engaging in smear tactics (Ross is my Guru) as well as arguments from authority will not work. Either side can use such an unscrupulous tactic.

    Damien Spillane

  • Ben

    I am not sure I said there were NO mammals at that time. The main period of Mammals came after the dinosaur period.

    Damien Spillane

  • Andrew Bolt even had a recent comment on the peer review process and how it is being used to suppress challenges to the present global-warming paradigm. It’s not just Creationists but any scientist who challenges the ruling scientific paradigm of the day who suffers censorship at the hands of the peer review ‘gate keepers’.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  • I probably shouldn’t have come on to this debate and am in fact an infrequent visitor to Bill’s website, it’s just that I’m making a study of atheism, saw Bill’s post and liked it.

    I have been taken to task by both Jonathan Sarfati and Ewan McDonald over my statement that I don’t support a young earth on the basis not only of science but also for scriptural reasons.

    We are talking on contested ground, even amongst Bible believing Christians. As an example Sydney evangelical Anglicans for the most part are theistic evolutionists. Presbyterian ministers generally are either young earth creationists or old earth creationists, and so on. It does no good to accuse one another of bad faith.

    It is not correct to say as a kind of blanket statement as per Jonathan Sarfati, that “the Church Fathers and Reformers, .. all came at nothing but a “young’ earth for Scriptural reasons”. The Church Fathers had considerable debate over the sun only being created on the 4th day and in fact there were two camps of thought – one camp tended to interpret the days figuratively or allegorically (so for example Origen and Augustine) whilst another camp held to the days as normal calendar days (so Basil, Ambrose, Calvin and the Reformers generally).

    The Hebrew word for “day” is yom. It is not correct to limit yom to a 24 hr period, so within the confines of Genesis 1&2, we can say there is no sun to define the length of the day for days 1 to 3, the seventh day is not bookended by “there was evening and there was evening”, in fact the 7th day, the day of rest, we know from Hebrews 4 still continues. Furthermore in Gen 2:4 the literal translation from the Hebrew reads “these are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created in the day (yom, singular) that Yahweh God made the earth and the heavens” In other words what is described in Genesis 1 as 6 day’s work in Genesis 2 is encapsulated in God’s “day” of creation (those with a NIV will see that it has truncated v4 and left out the reference to yom, the NJKV is much closer to the Hebrew). Also, I suggest the naming of the animals in Genesis 2 might have required more than a 24 hr day, even without sleep.

    I know there is a whole range of other issues like were the original animals herbivores and only became carnivores after sin entered. Just may be there issues that we don’t know, will never know this side of glory. I can live with that.

    For the record I adhere to the literary view of the days of creation as set out in Henri Blocher in “In the Beginning” but I can name at least 6 different views of the days of creation held by Bible believing Christians.

    My concern with the young earth view is

    a) Not wanting a repeat of the Galileo debacle – Christians really did believe the earth was the centre of the universe and could quote Bible texts referring to the rising and setting of the sun in support of their view – but they were wrong, and we all agree they were wrong.
    b) The evidence as I read it is the universe is very old – remember God’s revelation comes to us in two ways – natural revelation from the study of creation and special revelation, and whilst we read natural revelation with the spectacles of Scripture (Calvin) we should neither ignore or deny what our study with God given talents of the natural order tells us, even if we do so, as we should, provisionally.
    c) Apologetically against secularists and atheists, we don’t get to first base on the basis of a 10,000 yr old earth, not only that I could not with integrity argue for a 10,000 year old earth.
    d) I’m only explaining why I’m an old earth creationist. If someone loves Jesus, believes as per John 14:6 and can offer a coherent argument as to why they are a theistic evolutionist, I say God bless you brother/sister; if likewise a young earth creationist, I say God bless you sister/brother! I want to engage atheists, not fight my fellow Christians

    Shalom
    David Palmer

  • Hi Bill,

    I am not sure where I am wrong. My thoughts are

    Theism: The belief that gods or deities exist and interact with the universe.

    Deism: The belief that a god or gods exists, but does not intervene within the universe.

    Can these be one in the same thing? An intervening/interacting God is vastly different from one that does not. Also, the definition of the God is derived from different sources. One via deduction, the other by scripture. I guess the only common element they share is one of creation and even then it is not much of a match. Purpose comes to mind. The other problem is that deism can mean so many different things to different people. There is no firm definition. As you say, Theism and deism are grouped together but I feel by concept only. In reality, they are quite different. Hence my liquid analogy. I think it is disingenuous to interchange them.

    Jonathan, I agree that non believers cite proof/evidence as an easy get out but likewise believers often cite victimization or prejudice of their views. The thing is, proof or evidence is a valid claim. Without it, we would be living in a world where Tarot card reading would be considered a valid science. I think I would turn to God if that was the case! Michael Behe and others have entered the scientific arena and presented their cases. This gives the scientific community time to digest what was being said and come back with their views. I do not see what the problem is here? For the cases I have followed I have not seen bias or prejudice. Take irreducible complexity as an example. The case was put forward and it was shown not to be correct. As you are well aware, this happen in science many times. Another is cold fusion. Listened to then debunked. The list goes on…. In regards to the Journal you linked to, I cannot comment. I have never read it let alone seen it. Is it something library’s would carry?

    Damien, Sorry if I misread what you said. I guess I was thrown by the 10,000 year comment. Of course it happened over many millions of years. If you are interested you can read the following link. If you think they are wrong, you also have the opportunity to submit changes.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mammal

    Ben green

  • Thanks Ben

    But as I say, both positions affirm the existence of God or gods. Thus Deism is a type of theism. Of course theism can be many things, including the belief in the aloof deity of Deism. It can also mean the loving, interacting and personally involved God of the Judeo-Christian position.

    They are both the same in that they posit God’s existence, but they differ in their understanding of what that deity is like and how he or it is involved with the rest of the universe. Thus pantheism is a type of theism, but it equates the world with god. Polytheism says there are many gods. Monotheism (as in Judaism, Christianity and Islam) says there is one God. And Christianity, with its belief in the Trinity, argues that there is one God, but in three persons. But it shares with Judaism the belief that God is actively involved in this world, and cares very much about it.

    In Deism, God created the world, but then left it to its own devices. So again, both are theistic positions, but both have quite differing views on how God interacts with the created order.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I’ve already answered all of David Palmer’s tired old justifications for denying that Genesis means what it says in Refuting Compromise, so I will respond briefly and provide links.

    Origen and Augustine believed in instantaneous creation, not long creation days, and they vigorously defended a “young” earth, denouncing pagan old-age ideas.

    Everyone knows that yom has a wide semantic range. But when it has a numeric, as well as evening and morning, it means an ordinary day. In Genesis 2:4, it is beyom, i.e. prefixed by the preposition be, and is a Hebrew idiom for when, as the NIV correctly says. The days in Genesis 1 don’t have this preposition, so it’s illegitimate to wrench the meaning in Gen. 2:4 onto a totally different context.

    The seventh day of Genesis 1 is just as closed as the seventh day of our working week, which is connected in Ex. 20:8–11. As the last day of creation week, it had a different but no less definitive concluding formula, “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made”. There is not the slightest evidence to connect the rest of Hebrews 4 to the seventh day of creation. This is just a modern dodge to try to fit Scripture into uniformitarian “science”.

    Naming all the animals that God brought would take only a few hours: it was only livestock, birds, and beasts of the field. And the kind is much broader than modern “species”. It needed less than four hours, even if Adam had a 5-min break every hour.

    Blocher admits that his main aim for his novel Framework view, that somehow eluded the best exegetes in the Church for 1800 years, was to submit to “science”:

    ‘This hypothesis overcomes a number of problems that plagued the commentators [including] the confrontation with the scientific vision of the most distant past.’

    Of course, it eluded the Church precisely because it is not what Scripture says!

    I agree about not wanting to repeat Galileo, so stop repeating it!! The church in Galileo’s time tried to marry the Bible with the Aristotelian geocentric “science” of its day. Now you want to marry the Bible to the long-age, evolutionary science of our day. But all you’ll end up with is being widowed tomorrow.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Damien, you are the leader of the Sydney RTB chapter, and RTB is Ross’s organization. You whinged when we exposed the way Ross mocked the saintly Archbishop Ussher by portraying him in a dunce cap, as though it was our fault. So what are we supposed to think?

    We have reviewed that Collins book and its “analogical days” stuff (too bizarre even for Ross) in Journal of Creation 21(2):35–39, 2007.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • David Palmer:

    I appreciate your thoughtful approach to these difficult questions.

    You state:

    in fact the 7th day, the day of rest, we know from Hebrews 4 still continues.

    However, without getting into interpretations of Hebrews 4, this passage from John contradicts the time fact or implication you seem to reckon from Hebrews 4:

    But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.”

    New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Jn 5:17). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

    Christians believe time is a created thing. Therefore in our view God exists outside of time, which can place His rest beyond now and outside time as we currently experience it. This thought together with the passage from John may help shape one’s interpretation of Hebrews 4.

    Blessings,

    Shane Coley

  • Jonathon’s response totally neglects Hebrews 4 (the main bulk of the argument) which couldn’t state more explicitly (with the use of present tense verbs) that we are in the 7th day right now. In fact, in referring to right now being in God’s rest, the author quotes Gen 2:2 the statement that God rested on the seventh day. So he specifically links the seventh day with entering God’s rest right now.

    But it doesn’t end there. In John 5 Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath and gets in trouble from the religious authorities. In response Jesus says that he is still working as his Father is still working. In other words, I am working on my sabbath just as my Father works on his sabbath. This only makes sense if we assume that the sabbath has continued to this day.

    In fact, it was Augustine in Confessions that states God’s sabbath “has no evening and has no ending; you sanctified it to abide everlastingly.”

    Jonathon’s attacks are desperation tactics, he quoted me on the website in a desparate attempt to discredit Ross. Ussher in a dunce cap in a children’s comic? So what! It is meant to be entertainment for children and should be taken light heartedly for goodness sake.

    Jonathon can’t respond to arguments so he engages in smear. He invokes the fallacy of guilt by association by lumping me with Ross and then saying he discredited Ross so he discredited me.

    Damien Spillane

  • Steve

    If you are still reading this debate I will try and answer some of your questions.

    You stated that whilst the biofuels argument could be a good answer to why species died out you then asked why should whole species go extinct? My simple answer is; do you think we could survive with dinosaurs still around? Could civilisation have formed and prospered, much less any standard of living be maintained?

    On evolution, different Christians come at scripture and science in different ways so it will effect how well they marry up evolution and scripture at all. Young earth creationists are the most extreme in this way, they take an extremely literal (even wooden) view of Genesis 1 and then interpret all science in the light of this. Whereas I would sanction a more moderate view. Science is a gift from God and nature is also God’s revelation and thus should help us interpret scripture but not contradict it. Science should aid our interpretation of scripture, our interpretation of scripture should be informed by science and not totally contradict it.

    Just as understanding history can help us understand scripture, so to can science help us understand Genesis.

    I don’t accept full blown neo-Darwinian evolution because it contradicts so much good science (and philosophy) and sound interpretation of scripture.

    I suggest you peruse the reasons.org website if you want a credible alternative to young earth creationism. There is a lot of articles on the specific questions that you had.

    Damien Spillane

  • Damien,

    You ask the question “do you think we could survive with dinosaurs still around?” I would answer with an unequivocal ‘yes’. The problem is that most people including most Christians have this concept of an ‘age of the dinosaurs’ that owes more to Hollywood fantasy than it does to reality. More likely is that dinosaurs and man happily existed side by side for millennia as man still does cohabit the planet with very dangerous creatures. Most dinosaurs would not have been a threat to man and the few that were could’ve been killed off with a few simple weapons. The reason for the extinction of the dinosaurs is most likely to be no more mysterious than that an increasing human population saw them as a danger and so eventually hunted them to extinction. CMI has a wealth of information on dinosaurs.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  • Damien,

    In Hebrews 4 there is a mixture of symbol and reality, present and future, as with Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom of God. God’s Kingdom and God’s Rest have common features.

    You wrote:

    we are in the 7th day right now

    If God’s Rest is literally here and now, describing time and locale, in this age, how were the Israelites unable to enter His Rest? They were already here, therefore this Rest must have some other meaning than an indirect reference denoting time.

    Clearly God’s Rest is not a unit of time or measure of time.

    Clearly God’s Rest is about our relationship to God and His redemption of Man through Christ.

    18 And to whom did He swear ?a?that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were ??disobedient?
    19 So we see that they were not able to enter because of ??unbelief.

    New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Heb 3:18-19). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

    Augustine’s quote that you reference speaks of the Sabbath Rest as eternal and outside of time. This idea does not create any binding between this age or locale and God’s Rest.

    Shane Coley

  • Dear Shane,

    Re the 7th day, John 5 and Heb 4, Damian’s response to Jonathan is an excellent one. Additionally, I googled “Sabbath rest” and note there is excellent material available there that you may find helpful.

    I also endorse Damian’s last post, the only thing I would add is Calvin’s point that Scripture acts as spectacles for reading natural revelation right. However as we know Copernicus/Galileo’s work was required to remove a faulty interpretation of Scripture.

    Dear Jonathan,

    I’ve never come across you before, never debated anything with you. Why are you so rude and aggressive?

    Young earth, old earth are contested matters in the Bible believing part of the world (though nowhere else as far as I know). I was just giving my best shot at justifying something I said earlier that had been called into question.

    As far as I’m concerned you are free to investigate, propagate the young earth viewpoint, but I think whether your case succeeds or not, will not depend so much on your Biblical exegesis but whether you can demonstrate your case from natural revelation, ie from the study of creation itself, which is why I for one follow with interest the intelligent design approach. I commend to you John Lennox’s excellent little book, “God’s Undertaker – Has science buried God?”.

    For the record, I do very much identify with Blocher’s statement that you quote, though you quote him in an unnecessarily pejorative way. Blocher is not “admitting”, he is declaring his motivation.

    Regarding your textural comments I don’t believe you can so lightly dismiss the connexion between the 7th day and Hebrews 4 – in fact I cheerfully assert you are plain wrong.

    You are on very thin ice with respect to Gen 2:4 – “beyom” is “day” in the singular, with the “be” added as the preformative preposition “in”, ie “in the day”, and not “in the days”. The NIV is definitely not the best translation if you want an accurate translation. “beyom” can be translated “when” (as per the dynamic equivalent translations, NIV and NRSV) but literally (and I already know you are a literal man) it is “in the day (sing)” as translated by the KJV, NKJV and ESV and all the other more accurate (literal) translations.

    I’m astonished that the vast array of “every animal of the field and every bird of the air”, ie “every living creature” could be named in a mere 4 hrs minus 15 min rest periods, and such an accurate estimate too.

    However, not withstanding my response to you, I wish you well, having googled you and found you to be involved professionally with the creation science movement.

    I’ve probably said all I want to say.

    Shalom, David Palmer

  • If I understand David Palmer correctly he is saying that one of the reasons he refuses to accept the clear implication from Scripture that the earth is thousands not billions of years old, is because to do so is risking the credibility of the church should science ever conclusively prove that the earth is indeed billions of years old. This thinking demonstrates a common misconception about age dating methods. As Tas Walker said above:

    All dating methods are based on assumptions and you can get any age you like depending on the assumptions made. The choice ultimately is a philosophical one.

    In other words, it is simply not possible to directly measure age. Dating methods always involve making assumptions about the past and always will involve making assumptions about the past. Christians can confidently hold to a biblically faithful and theologically consistent young earth position without the slightest fear that ‘science’ could ever prove them wrong. Besides which 90 percent of the methods that have been used to estimate the age of the earth point to an age far less than the billions of years asserted by evolutionists.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  • Damien,
    There is no humour in showing children an image in mockery. It is an educational tool to train children in mockery. So you want the children reading your comic to learn to laugh and mock the archbishop in a dunce cap. Children are the most literalistic of us all.

    Rebecca Field

  • Hi Damien,

    Thanks for your response. I’m still reading the debate, although the noise from the young earthers is not helpful.

    You still haven’t answered my fundamental question though. I’ll put it another way. What was God’s purpose in creating dinosaurs? The question applies equally to the millions of other animal species that became extinct before man appeared.

    Do you accept that humans and apes had a common ancestor? The work of Hillier and others on the human genome beautifully illustrates what happened to the “missing” chromosome pair in humans – it is fused into chromosome 2, and the fusion position has been identified. There is no explanation apart from a common ancestor to explain why there are telomeres (chromosome end segments) in the middle of chromosome 2.

    I’m familiar with the reasons.org site, but it doesn’t address the question I have asked, nor can I find any analysis of Hillier’s work there.

    Steve Angelino, WA

  • Steve,

    They are good questions. Like you, I’ve not heard any old-earth Christian give an answer.

    To these questions you may add, ‘Where do Neanderthals fit into the picture? Were they humans with a soul? They could play music and had burial rites for their dead. Were they descended from Adam and Eve?’ If they were not human then what were they? And why did they go extinct? For that matter, why did they die?’

    And another, more pertinent question: ‘How do the Australian aboriginals fit in? They are supposed to have been in Australia for over 60,000 years (5 independent dating methods from ANU). They buried their dead with ritual. Were they descended from Adam and Eve? If not, then who? And if not, are they human? Can they be saved?’

    Welcome to the jumbled, tangled world of old-earth theology.

    Tas Walker

  • I am not a “literal” man but an originalist, i.e. interpret Scripture according to what an original reader would have understood in that grammatical and historical context. So an original reader would understand beyom to mean “when”, and a numbered day as a 24-hr day or part thereof. For more, see R.V. McCabe, A Defense of Literal Days in the Creation Week,
    Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 5:97–123, Fall 2000, which thoroughly addresses the grammar of Gen. 2:4.

    I “totally neglect Hebrews 4”? One of my cited links was to the paper God’s rest in Hebrews 4:1–11 by Andrew S. Kulikovsky, so it’s a funny way of neglecting it! This paper points out: “God’s rest should be viewed as a long period of time beginning with the seventh day of creation, not as equivalent to the seventh day.” Just suppose you started your holiday on Friday, say, and are still continuing: it doesn’t mean that Friday itself is still continuing. And again, how come no one saw this connection to Creation Day 7 till the rise of modern uniformitarian “science”.

    “I think whether your case succeeds or not, will not depend so much on your Biblical exegesis but whether you can demonstrate your case from natural revelation, ie from the study of creation itself,”

    By that “reasoning” you’d better ditch the Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus, since modern “science” says that virgins don’t conceive and dead men don’t rise. The likes of Bishop Spong are actually more consistent.

    It is not a fallacious “guilt by association” argument if in fact the association is real, as shown by Damien’s leadership of RTB (Sydney branch) and promotion of same.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Dear Bill

    The New Atheist Crusaders motivation is more political than religious or scientific. Most are the product of a marxist influenced education. Their frustration is that Christianity has not “naturally withered” in the face of the revolution and died as predicted by Marx, therefore it must be stabbed to death by a poison pen. My question is if evolution is such a powerful force, why does it need their assistance to succeed.
    A recent study in the USA showed that 78% claimed to be Christian and 1.6% athiest, which means that they are not being as influential as they think and have a long way to go to achieve their goal.

    Richard Coonan

  • Shane

    I am no theologian but I will try and address your concerns.

    The Israelies didn’t enter God’s rest because they rejected the Messiah. Heb 4 is talking about rest for those whom find salvation in Christ and thus enter God’s rest. The Israelis rejected Christ and thus found no salvation and rest.

    I agree as you say that God’s rest is about our entering salvation but how does that mitigate my argument? The Heb 4 passage is very explicit and even quotes Gen 2:2 to make the point that we are able now to enter God’s original rest.

    Your point about Augustine is interesting and perhaps you have a point, but I do not know enough to say for sure. But even if that is Augustine’s point it is hard to say because the context of Heb 4 is definately on our side of time and not God’s. Salvation and God’s rest is going on in this world such that we may enter it now.

    Steve

    I am not sure I have much of an answer regarding Dinosaurs. But they are marvelously designed creatures and part of God’s work as an artist. Many of the Cambrian creatures created 540 million years ago have been responsible for the petroleum we use today but as for dinosaurs I am not quite sure.

    I do not accept that humans and apes had a common ancestor since the fossil record doesn’t show a smooth evolutionary transition in the bipedal hominids but one of sudden jumps in complexity.

    Damien Spillane

  • Thanks Richard

    I think you are quite right.

    And thanks for drawing us back to the main topic of this post. As the comments have started to get off track a bit from the original post, I would ask that the age of the earth debate be wrapped up for now. But more opportunities will arise soon to debate that important issue here – hopefully in the next day or two.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • A recent study in the USA showed that 78% claimed to be Christian and 1.6% athiest, which means that they are not being as influential as they think and have a long way to go to achieve their goal.

    Unfortunately they don’t have to convert people to overt atheism; practical atheism is sufficient. They have fooled many Christians into thinking that their faith should have nothing to do with their politics, business or science. Moreover, they have persuaded Christians to hand over their kids to them for education, and even to pay them for this indoctrination!

    That is the only explanation for the election of so many politicians who support gay marriage and partial birth abortion. They wouldn’t have a hope if 78% of Americans actually thought like Christians.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Bill,

    Not that the subject is uninteresting, but I was disappointed that the conversation tracked off into evolution and earth age. My original question is in direct reference to your closing section What you can do.

    You provide a good overview of the preparation and contributions that enable a person to have an impact.

    Deception is a tool of the adversary, as you note, and we must be diligent in preventing people (including ourselves) from being deceived. A primary driver for successful deception is the appeal to popular opinion or appeal to expertise.

    First, this is a spiritual battle. The god of this world is out to deceive and mislead people, and turn them away from serving the true and living God. So this is idolatry and spiritual deception of the highest order, and we need to be spiritually protected via prayer and spiritual warfare as we enter into these debates.

    You also list C.S. Lewis as a primary apologist with whom we should be familiar, thereby confirming his importance in this arena.

    You list in another area, as an apologetics resource, a book which uses C.S. Lewis as weighty apologist who is claimed to have “had no problem with Darwinian Evolution”. I find this to be a false statement.

    I have had dialogue with the author of the book and plan to write a response to his assertion and hope that others will do the same. However, prior to doing so, I want to run my observations through the mill first.

    As yet, neither the author nor anyone else has provided support for this assertion about Lewis and evolution.

    I find this point to be important because I think C. S. Lewis held clear positions on evolution which can be understood and those positions are different than typically ascribed to him. In what I have discovered thus far, even those who doubt his support for evolution miss some of the strong and clear statements he left with us.

    When Lewis is used as part of an already weak argument for evolution in a book that is handed out as a useful apologetics work, we have a prime opportunity for deception to take root.

    What I am hoping to see develop is a clear and concise distillation of Lewis’ positions. It seems that you doubt Lewis went any farther than theistic evolution, but I am suggesting that is an unnecessary point to concede. Lewis clearly debunked the Popular Myth of Evolution. The “micro-evolution” or adaptation he supported is scientifically observable and incapable of modifying “kinds”. Lewis’ Myth-making for effect is meaningless with regard to evolution.

    Thanks,

    Shane Coley

  • Hi Bill,

    Thanks for your explanation re Theism/deism. I still have difficulty with “G” vs “g” when referring to the relevant G(g)od’s. I cannot see how a deistic god could be referenced with a big G. I always thought that the “G” god was strictly for the Judeo-Christian God. As we agree a definition of a deistic god can be quite variable. Is there such a thing as a Christian “version” of a deistic God? If so, that would not make much sense because the bible points out there is only one God. I still cannot see how the terminologies can be interchanged within a Christian paradigm. For me, an apple is not an orange but they are both fruit.

    Ben Green

  • Thanks Ben

    There have been believers who have also espoused deism. But I would regard a deistic Chrsitian as a contradiction in terms. A biblical Christian believes in the thorough interaction of God with the created order, most supremely demonstrated in the incarnation of his son, and his saving work at Calvary. God becoming man, walking among us, and dying for our sins, sounds like an involved, concerned and relational God, not the absentee landlord of deism.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Damien,

    As for the Israelites, the passage I quoted above regarding unbelief is a good scripture reference for what you are attempting to explain. I’m not sure exactly how you see that issue given your comments.

    Please consider this:

    Is a Christian immediately a New Creation? And at the same time does this new Christian continue in the temporal world and according to the laws of the natural order? I.e. sleep, eat, work, vacation, read, learn, grow, etc.

    If you say yes to both, then how do these two conditions coexist? How and in what ways are these two conditions or states of being related? How do they interact?

    Shane Coley

  • ‘Is a Christian immediately a New Creation? And at the same time does this new Christian continue in the temporal world and according to the laws of the natural order? I.e. sleep, eat, work, vacation, read, learn, grow, etc. If you say yes to both, then how do these two conditions coexist? How and in what ways are these two conditions or states of being related? How do they interact?’

    I would answer “yes” to your question. One’s circumstances don’t fundamentally change when one becomes a Christian but what does happen is that God uses challenges and hardships to mold one’s character through God’s grace. God’s providence ensures that you will encounter challenges that require purging you of your sinful character and intentions.That is how God has set up the universe – to deal with our sin and drive us to Christ.

    That is why life isn’t always so grand and that there are challenges to be taken! When human beings sinned God made sure that life got harder so as to deal with our characters and inward intentions – to drive us to Christ.

    Hope this helps in some miniscule way.

    Damien Spillane

  • Thanks Damien.

    You touched on a good point regarding trials and character. I enjoy reading what James says about this. However, you didn’t talk about the relationship between a New Creation and the ongoing temporal and physical life of a person. Here we have something (a New Creation) that is not of this world and which includes eternally becoming adopted sons of the Father, coexisting with a temporal body which is “appointed once to die.”

    Are there two separate tracks that these events run on?

    Would you say that Jacob’s son Joseph was a “type” or “picture” of Christ? Would you say that Joseph lived out his own personal life, albeit with visible instances of Divine Providence, at the same time that his life represented a “type” or “picture” of Christ? If yes, how do aspects of the eternal life and truth of Christ find expression in the temporal events of another person’s life?

    If yes, how does something that is timeless (Messiah) find expression in something temporal and bound by time (Joseph)? If yes, what purpose does this image serve for us? Are there good lessons in Joseph’s life and character?

    Which message do we accept? The one about Jesus or the one about Joseph?

    Viewed as a type of Christ, did Joseph inherit the eternal life that is to come and remain with us or did he die?

    I am attempting to understand, with regard to space and time, where you place eternal and heavenly things. What bindings do you believe exist between God’s Heaven and our present temporal environment? Are symbols used in scripture to correlate ideas and teach us what is to come, or are these Heavenly things bound here with us in the temporal environment?

    Does any scripture ever carry more than one direct meaning?

    Shane Coley

  • In response to John Sarfati, there is a vast difference between atheism and apathy. As Edmund Burke said, “All this is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. The greatest error that man makes is to know that God exists but assert that we know equal to or better than God, which is the lie man fell for in the Garden of Eden and reinforced in the “Enlightenment”.
    Isaiah 23:13 says “The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men”.

    The tragedy of the church over the ages is that the message of God has been diluted by the substitution of the teaching of man. Therefore the church has become weakened and has become closer to being atheistic than theistic. It is an error to think that the church and atheists are polar opposites. Rather they are closer than people think.

    The turning away from the word of God is the reason that politicians and others feel that they can do what they like to be popular regardless of moral and scriptural constraints.
    Perhaps the greater danger is within the church, rather that the “New Atheist Crusaders” outside it.

    Richard Coonan

  • Thanks Richard
    Yes often the church is its own worst enemy.
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • ‘“Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.’

    Everybody knows the Book of British Birds is not inspired by the designer and creator of all British Birds.

    Listening to somebody who has only read the Book of British Birds is like listening to a convert to Christianity who has only read the Gideon Bible in his hotel room and been convinced by it.

    Dawkins has read the Bible.

    So what on earth makes him consider himself to know anything about Christianity?

    Steven Carr

  • Regarding Ben Green comments on 8/5/08 4pm
    Phillip Johnson had insight on things others did not for his time, ID does go hand in hand with science, Ben science was never made to condrtidict the existence of God or creation but to accompany it. When Bill talks about evolution being a “religion” he does make a good point, it’s taught in our schools and universities and is widely believed. What your core values are in life becomes your theology of faith which in essence determines how you live.
    Dayo Iyiola

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