Mohler vs. Theistic Evolutionists

Albert Mohler’s address on the age of the earth has rattled the cages of the evolutionists at the Biologos website. If you missed Mohler’s address, you can watch it here or read a transcript
. In short, Mohler argues that many of the theistic evolutionists are simply allowing general revelation to trump special revelation and that the most straightforward reading of the creation narratives in Genesis presents a young earth view of creation.

As I noted a month ago, Mohler’s address has provoked a spirited conversation with the theistic evolutionists. At the Biologos site, Peter Enns, Darrel Falk, and Karl Giberson have all responded to Mohler. And now, Karl Giberson has written another response which appears on the Huffington Post blog.

This latest salvo, however, has a shrill tone to it. Giberson has taken his argument to a secular forum and airs some pretty outrageous accusations against Mohler. Chief among them is the notion that Mohler simply doesn’t care about the truth. Phil Johnson has an extended response to Giberson that rightly questions Giberson’s chosen forum for airing this unseemly (and untrue) accusation against Mohler. Mohler himself tweeted today that he will be responding to Giberson very soon, and I am looking forward to reading it.

In the meantime, my question for Giberson is simply this. Why not respond to the central issue that Mohler raised in his original address? Mohler argued that general revelation must never be allowed to trump the special revelation given to us in the Bible. The plain sense of the Genesis creation narratives does not support an evolutionary version of human origins. Mohler warns against letting science drive the interpretation of the Bible rather than letting the Bible drive the interpretation of science. Why can’t Giberson answer these central concerns?

That is the real issue that Giberson fails to address in his Huffington Post article. If Giberson thinks the real issue is the dating of Charles Darwin’s lapse of faith, I think that he has really missed the point.

95 Responses to Mohler vs. Theistic Evolutionists

  1. Nathan August 24, 2010 at 2:51 am #

    If there is a supposed contradiction between special revelation and general revelation, then our understanding of one or both need to change. It seems that people think that their understanding of special revelation is 100% accurate and the inconsistency MUST lie in the interpretation of general revelation.

    If one type of revelation is going to trump the other, then the one that trumps has to be known with certainty. Does Mohler claim to have perfect knowledge of the Bible?

    I think there is value in allowing the supposed contradiction to remain rather than choosing a side — maybe the resolution of the contradiction won’t become apparent unless you release your death grip on your own understanding.

  2. Brian W August 24, 2010 at 8:36 am #

    The “plain reading” of the Bible would lead me to believe that babies are “knit” by God in a mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13) contrary to what is evident through science and that the only people saved after the (supposed) great Tribulation are virgin men (Rev. 14:4).

    A good exegete is looking for the intended reading, not the plain one.

  3. RD August 24, 2010 at 8:53 am #


    I think your comments are dead on. It’s very difficult to let go of a long held positions (whether they be the absolute belief in science or the absolute belief in the inerrancy of scripture). Christians know and understand clearly what the literal teaching of Genesis states with regard to the creation. I think Christians need to be aware of the ongoing findings and discoveries of science, though. At some point the two “revelations” will have to be re-examined and the Holy Spirit will have to intercede to provide wisdom. I don’t know many Christians today who, when they get a sinus infection, have a problem with seeing a doctor and taking an antibiotic to cure the problem (verses viewing the problem as a result of sin or evil). Christians have become very comfortable with saying “I believe that God answers prayers and heals, and that he uses doctors and medicine (science) to do it.” Eventually most Christians will offer similar statements regarding the creation, but they are going to have to remain open to new insight and then be willing to re-examine long-held believes about certain parts of scripture.

    “The most difficult subjects can be exlpained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him.” -Leo Tolstoy, 1897

  4. Nate August 24, 2010 at 8:57 am #

    Brian, So are you saying that the maker of life (God) did not create the uterus, the ovaries, the sperm, and everything else that it takes for two people to biologically have a baby? The plain reading is accurate. God is the maker of life. He has been from the beginning. He upholds everything by the word of His power (Heb 1:3). So, yes, the miracle of a baby being formed in the womb can be plainly called God knitting, which is to say formed.

  5. John Holmberg August 24, 2010 at 9:18 am #

    The phrase “plain sense of Genesis” is being used as a club against those who do not accept a young earth view of creation. This phrase is unhelpful in advancing the discussion, because it is a completely loaded phrase which nobody in their right mind follows 100% of the time. The issue is not who reads the Bible “literally” or “plainly” and who does not. The issue is what the genre is of Genesis 1-11. Is it just a straightforward historical account of how things came to be, as if a video camera were there and it’s just giving the “plain” facts? Or is it theological and literary, a document the author crafts for his theological purposes? One doesn’t completely rule out the other, but the emphasis of one leads us to not hold the other as important.

    This debate is getting ugly and I thought we were past this. It is scary to see Mohler hold such a view as if it’s a sine qua non of the Christian faith. We should have been past this 2 decades ago, and now it’s making Christians on all sides look bad, thanks to both Mohler & Giberson. That Mohler even notes that “it should be fun to go after this” suggests the controversy excites and drives him. This spirit is troubling to see.

  6. RD August 24, 2010 at 9:21 am #

    I think the problem that a lot of Christians have with Dr. Mohler’s stance is that it does not accurately depict Darwin’s true beliefs nor does his stance honestly address the reality of modern understanding. We utilize the technology of x-ray because we understand the scientific nature of radiation. It’s a reality. We harness this reality to be able to see beneath the skin without cutting into the body. Christians readily accept this (ask any parent whose child has fallen off a swingset). Yet, using the scientific reality of radiation to address the age of geological formations or the distance of stars from each other and from the earth is scoffed at. Why does it have to be either/or? Because, it seems to me, the importance of defending the Bible as a literal text is more important than understanding truth. And, I think, by clinging to this position, we are robbing ourselves of a deeper, richer understanding of our Creator.

    As for Darwin, I have always loved this statement: “Among the scenes wich are deeply impressed on my mind, none exceed in sublimity the primeval forests, undefaced by the hand of man, whether those of Brazil, where the powers of life are predominant, or those of Tierra del Fuego, where death & decay prevail. Both are temples filled wth the varied productions of the God of nature: –No one can stand unmoved in these solitudes without feeling that there is more in man than the mere breath of his body.” -Charles Darwin, 1836 from a personal journal entry reflecting on his trip aboard the Beagle

  7. Derek August 24, 2010 at 9:29 am #

    Brian W, the “knit” example you gave is not a plain reading – it is a wooden reading. When we talk of a plain reading we’re talking about using our common sense and context.

  8. Nate August 24, 2010 at 9:45 am #

    RD, “Because, it seems to me, the importance of defending the Bible as a literal text is more important than understanding truth.”

    Jesus said plainly in John 17:14-19, “Your Word (God’s) is Truth.”

    So, yes it does have to be either/or. Paul writes in Romans chapter one that General Revelation, while revealing God, is misused by sinful humanity into us perverting it into idols of our own choosing. (Rom 1:18-23)

    When mortals attempt to disregard God and assume they have a fuller understanding, then we show ourselves to be the corrupt idolators we refuse to believe ourselves to be.

  9. RD August 24, 2010 at 10:01 am #

    Jesus said plainly in John 17:14-19, “Your Word (God’s) is Truth.”

    Jesus was speaking of the the OT (the NT wasn’t compiled for another 400 years) and there is a HUGE difference between a text being given to us as a representative of truth and it actually being factually true. That’s the either/or that I don’t understand. Why can’t Christians read and receive truth without it having to be true?

  10. Nate August 24, 2010 at 10:16 am #

    RD, without a baseline there is no truth, it will always be a moving target. If you, as it appears, are saying that the NT is not the word of God, and want to argue that the NT was not completed until well into the 4th century you will have difficulty with this post.

    Reading and receiving truth that is not true is an oxymoron. Everyone that reads something and believes it to be true has a baseline for that truth.

  11. RD August 24, 2010 at 10:54 am #


    I didn’t mean to imply that the NT isn’t God’s word. I wholeheartedly believe that it is. If I left that impression, I apologize.

    As to the difference between truth and true fact, well, I have to disagree with you. There are plenty of instances where stories convey truth but are factually untrue. Was the prodigal son an actual person, or was the Good Samaritan? Perhaps they were, but they could have simply been fictional character that Jesus used to express a deeper truth. The truth that God created the heavens and the earth can be evident without the account we are provided in Genesis being factually true.

  12. Charlton Connett August 24, 2010 at 11:04 am #


    If you read something and say it is “truth” but it is not “true” then what does that mean? If I tell my wife, “A deer ran out in front of the car and I hit it,” and she believes that, but the reality is that I hit a tree, then she did not receive the “truth” she received a “lie.”

    Truth, in order to be called truth, must be true. To even argue over whether we can read “truth” without it being “true” is like saying I have married a woman, but she isn’t my wife. The two are necessarily connected.

    Your argument fails one of the basic laws of logic, either you are failing the law of non-contradiction, or you are failing the law of identity. To say, “The truth does not need to be true” either fails to understand that in order for a thing to be called “truth” it must necessarily be true, or it fails to understand that what is true cannot be both true and not-true at the same time. A = A, and A =/= -A (I hope my shorthand is written correctly, it has been a long time since I have used it).

  13. RD August 24, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    Ahh, Charlton, we meet again!! 😉

    See my comment #10

    Just to elaborate, the three little pigs story delivers the truth that proper preparation can end up saving your life, but I go against the literalists who insist that the little pigs of the story were actual factual pigs who built houses.

    I know that last paragraph was snarky. I don’t mean it to be. I use it as an illustration only. Truth can be imparted apart from something being factually true. And much of the Bible, especially the OT, is not factually true. That does not diminish the truth that is conveyed in this God inspired collection of writings.

  14. RD August 24, 2010 at 11:38 am #

    If I tell my wife, “A deer ran out in front of the car and I hit it,” and she believes that, but the reality is that I hit a tree, then she did not receive the “truth” she received a “lie.”

    If the Gospel of John tells us that Jesus was crucified on the day before the Passover meal was celebrated and Luke’s Gospel tells us he was crucified the day after the Passover meal was celebrated. Which is true? Both accounts can’t be factually true. But both accounts impart the truth of the crucifixion.

  15. Nate August 24, 2010 at 11:39 am #

    RD, while parables depict a truth to be learned, and poetry espouses truth that is relevant (ps 139), to state that the bible is not factual is to call God a liar.

    Furthermore, to make the argument that most of the Old Testament is not factually true assumes that you know better than the writer. Jesus spoke of Genesis chapters one and two being true (Mk 10:6-9), as well as the flood of Noah(Mt 24:36-44).

    So what parts of the Old Testament do you believe to be false? As it pertains to this thread, do you believe Genesis 1 and 2 to be a parable or do you believe it to be factual? Notice that I didn’t ask you to state whether you believe it to be a literal six day creation. Perhaps I could ask if you believe that death took place on the earth prior to the sin of Adam and Eve.

  16. RD August 24, 2010 at 11:54 am #


    I believe that Genesis 1&2 is a creation narrative, a myth if you will, that is based on an ancient oral tradition that was passed from generation to generation. Almost every ancient culture has some type of creation narrative to explain how the earth was created, how death came into being, where people came from, etc. etc. I believe God is the divine Creator but I don’t believe that Genesis 1 & 2 is a factual account of how God did this. And, yes, I do believe that death took place before “Adam & Eve”. Death, I believe, is a natural part of the entire system of organic life that God created.

  17. Derek August 24, 2010 at 11:58 am #

    Indeed, we have to look at the way a writer uses words and terminology. Idiomatic expressions, Metaphorical language and terminology (e.g. “knit” in Psalm 139) are usually not too difficult to identify if you look at the context of the manuscript and at the way an author spoke.

    If Moses had ever used the term “yamin” or “yom” to refer to “eons”, I’d actually be somewhat inclined to accept a theistic evolution or OE interpretation. But when you look at the way Moses used these terms in other passages, he is referring to an actual, ordinary day. You have to impose a biased and unusual rendering of Moses’ words in order to prefer the “eons” interpretation.

    So the real question is why the “old earth” crowd is ignoring context and author’s intent.

  18. Donald Johnson August 24, 2010 at 12:03 pm #

    I highly recommend John Walton’s recent book, “The Lost World of Genesis One”. I continue to mine it for its insights. It showed me I could misread Gen 1 in a big way by not knowing the cultural context in which Gen 1 was written.

    One crucial insight is that the creation narrative is written from a functional and not a material perspective. Before reading his book I could figure out that some aspects of Gen 1 were from a functional perspective, but I did not see that the whole thing could be seen that way.

    P.S. He (and I) says/say that God is also the Creator of the material Creation, just that Gen 1 is not a narrative of that.

  19. Derek August 24, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

    Why am I not surprised that Donald Johnson offers us another author and esoteric theory that turns a traditional rendering on its head?

    FWIW, Walton’s theory is based on the idea that Moses was referring to the practical functionality of the created world, not the physical composition or creation of the world. Even if we go along with this hypothesis (and at the end of the day Walton can only speculate), we still have to wonder how it took so long for us to decode and properly understand Moses’ creation narrative. We have to wonder why Moses assumed that everyone would recognize this separation between function and composition. It would seem that even Christ was confused because he linked the actual creation with the functional descriptions (see Mark 10:6).

  20. Donald Johnson August 24, 2010 at 1:09 pm #

    Walton is claiming that everyone back then thought in functional terms, one can see this by looking at the other (pagan) Creation/Origins narratives and comparing and contrasting it with the Genesis account. The material aspect was acknowledged, but just was not seen as being important, what was important was how the parts fit together to make a coherent whole.

    This contrasts with our modern views, where the material aspects are seen as foundational, but this is a scientific viewpoint and the ancients did not think that way.

    Jesus was never confused and correctly interpreted Torah on every occasion, but we today can misunderstand Torah and/or Jesus.

  21. Nate August 24, 2010 at 1:15 pm #

    “Jesus was never confused and correctly interpreted Torah on every occasion, but we today can misunderstand Torah and/or Jesus.”

    Donald, you use this statement often. One could almost take this as a Gnostic understanding with that logic. Not saying you are, just that it carries similar characterization.

  22. RD August 24, 2010 at 1:26 pm #

    “Jesus was never confused and correctly interpreted Torah on every occasion, but we today can misunderstand Torah and/or Jesus.”

    I think there were certainly times in his humaness that Jesus was confused. The idea that he was completely aware of his divinity at all times in his life completely diminishes the point of his being human. I think there are instances in scripture where Jesus makes proclamations based on his human understanding of Jewish apocalypticism which end up not being true.

  23. Derek August 24, 2010 at 1:29 pm #

    everyone back then thought in functional terms, one can see this by looking at the other (pagan) Creation/Origins narratives and comparing and contrasting it with the Genesis account

    Sure, they thought primarily in functional terms. No argument there. Everyone in Moses’ day was agrarian and was exposed to the elements 24/7. But ancients also looked up into the sky and wondered how it all began too. To think that Moses’ readers/audience – not to mention future readers of Scripture – would be unable or restricted from drawing any ideas about the physical creation of the world from this narrative seems highly implausible, IMHO.

  24. Derek August 24, 2010 at 1:37 pm #

    I don’t agree that Jesus was confused. Scriptures do inform us that His knowledge was gained progressively and that he accepted limitations by taking on human form. However, I do not think this is the same thing as being “confused”.

    I also do not think that Christ would have ever misunderstood the meaning or intent of the Torah. The Holy Spirit clearly guided His understanding from an early age. In fact, many of his interactions with Pharisees centered on ideas generated by Hillel and other prominent rabbi’s misconceptions and distortions of the Torah. Jesus corrected these secondary sources and flawed interpretations with divine wisdom and authority.

  25. Donald Johnson August 24, 2010 at 2:19 pm #

    As I recommended, read Walton’s book to see his full argument and conclusions. He is a highly respected OT scholar, having also written the NIVAC Genesis, etc.

  26. Donald Johnson August 24, 2010 at 2:33 pm #

    FWIIW, I teach an anti-Gnostic understanding of Scripture, mostly because I believe we need to restore a Hebraic understanding to much of it. One of my previous Sunday school teachers commented on this aspect of my teaching in regards to another subject.

  27. RD August 24, 2010 at 2:53 pm #

    It is scary to see Mohler hold such a view as if it’s a sine qua non of the Christian faith.

    I am in complete agreement! This is what troubles me about Dr. Mohler and his insistance that, in order to be an accepted evangelical Christian one must completely accept as indisputable fact everything that is written in the Bible. I believe it’s troubling to a growing number of Christians who can no longer ignore scientific witness to God’s majesty by dogmatically holding onto a literal view of all scripture.

  28. Derek August 24, 2010 at 3:04 pm #

    Mohler did not characterize the OE crowd as if they are a rabble of heretics. He offered a vigourous case and said that there are dangers in the OE position, but he did not make this a test for orthodoxy. He also set up the whole speech by outlining some of the significant, even compelling reasons that Christians might adopt the OE view. Still, many OE’ers have been demanding a significant and compelling case from the YEC crowd and Mohler has replied.

  29. Donald Johnson August 24, 2010 at 3:14 pm #

    In effect, Mohler graded groups. To YECs he gave an A, to OECs he gave a passing C and suggested how they might improve and to TECs he gave a failing E.

    For myself, I accept that there are various interpretations among evangelicals and one can differ on this and still be a faithful follower of Jesus, just like one might differ with others on end times.

  30. Darius August 24, 2010 at 3:15 pm #

    RD and others, Derek is correct, Mohler never made this a Christian litmus test. Please stop slandering him.

    On the other hand, Bruce Waltke DID make it a litmus test from the other side. He said that anyone who believe in 6-day creation was in danger of becoming spiritually dead.

  31. David Rogers August 24, 2010 at 3:41 pm #

    Death before the Fall?

    Plant death?

    What did sharks eat?

  32. Charlton Connett August 24, 2010 at 4:43 pm #


    Thank you for the greeting. I heartily extend a hello to you as well.

    To be honest, I think this debate is an area where you will have great difficulty in interacting with Dr. Mohler’s position. The reason I make this statement is that he has assumed something in this discussion that simply does not apply to you: that those in the argument actually hold that Scripture is inerrant and infallible. Thus his argument is, essentially, not with you, because you don’t hold to an inerrant or infallible Scripture. Your argument would have to be addressed on a level one step removed from Mohler’s position, by first addressing whether Scripture is both inerrant and infallible. That is a discussion better suited for another time and place. (To be honest if I lived near you I’d love to get together for lunch and a long conversation, but alas I must assume that you are not located in the West Georgia area.)

    Now, if you are willing to put aside your own qualms about Scripture and except Dr. Mohler’s premise, that Scripture is fully authoritative and accurate in everything that it speaks about, then you can engage his argument from a perspective more akin to that which he is addressing. Why should anyone who reads the Scripture, believing it to be true, think that theistic evolution, or an old earth, is a more compelling reading of Genesis 1 and 2 than a young earth position? His argument is not that those who take such positions cannot be Christians, but rather that they embrace positions that lead to serious theological difficulties, and their position can undermine the authority of Scripture, holding special revelation as subservient to general revelation, when the claim of special revelation is that the exact opposite is true.

    However, even more at issue in the article before, did this man, who would claim to be a Christian brother handle his complaints in the correct way? He accused Mohler with having no respect for the truth. It was not just a possible insinuation, it was a direct accusation. He also chose to make this accusation in what is basically a secular liberal publication. Was there a better way to address his complaint?

    He notes that he was waiting two months for Dr. Mohler to respond, and I’ll grant that is a long time, but did he make any calls to speak to Dr. Mohler directly on the issue? Did he consider that Dr. Mohler’s other obligations may have precluded him from giving the response the attention it deserved? (I’ll admit that two months is a long time to wait for a response, and it would be hard to say there was no opportunity in all that time for Dr. Mohler to address the issue.) Basically, what was to be gained within the Christian world and for the sake of the gospel by making such crass accusations against a fellow Christian in a secular forum? My personal position is that we, as Christians, ought to have greater respect for one another, and our mutual identity in Christ, than to do such a thing, unless there was a significant and overriding rationale that demanded this action.

  33. Donald Johnson August 24, 2010 at 5:46 pm #

    There can be a HUGE GAP between what Scripture says and what someone might THINK it says. It can be easy to take Scripture out of context if you do not know the cultural context, the goal is to not do this, but we do this as a best effort, not a perfect solution.

    There can also be a HUGE GAP between what scientists claim about evolution and what some evolution deniers say that evolution says. If you wish to know what evolution teaches, I do not recommend using someone who denies it as a primary source, go to someone who accepts it.

    It seems Mohler made some claims about Darwin that were not the case, I hope he revises his statements.

  34. RD August 24, 2010 at 7:10 pm #


    Thanks for the kind greeting. I’d also enjoy a long discussion over several cups of java, unfortunately I don’t make it to west GA very often. Isn’t Denny’s blog the next best thing, though?? 🙂

    I understand your comments about my differing ideas on the nature of scripture keeping me from engaging Dr. Mohler on a level playing field. However, I think that Dr. Mohler is absolutely correct when he says that, to take the OE position one has to alter their view of Genesis 1 & 2 (and, quite possibly, a great deal more of the biblical text). The difference between us is that he’s not willing to risk the theological “damage” that such an altered view might unleash and so he believes that it is imperative that Christians hold to the basic notion, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.”

    My whole point in constantly arguing against such a position is that, eventually, that kind of logic boxes Christians into an intellectual corner. When Dr. Mohler proposes the basic notion that the universe only appears to be billions of years old it, to me, rings of those who must have said, “there is no WAY that the earth revolves around the sun. Earth is the center of the universe. The Bible clearly teaches this. Are we going to believe what the Bible says or are we going to believe what this latest group of rebel scientists, with their newfangled eye-scope-thinga-ma-jiggies, are writing about?” For how many decades (centuries?) did certain Christians hold fast to old notions of the organizational structure of the solar system because they refused to concede that science had proven certain passages of scripture to be incorrect (not as theology, mind you, but as science).

    One of the commenters made the great point earlier that the passages in Gen 1-2 are not even meant to be read as science. That was not their purpose at all. This is a theological text, a text that passes on the glorious story that our universe, our earth, all that is in it, all human life is “fearfully and wonderfully made” by a loving God. But, when Christians insist that the text be read not just as theology but also as true science it actually ends up making a mockery of the text (IMHO) and, also, a mockery of the Christian message.

    As for Giberson’s article in the HP, well, that might have been a little tacky. But, I suppose it could be argued that Dr. Mohler referenced his book about Darwin in a somewhat negative light in front of a huge audience. Besides, because of Mohler’s standing, anything he says gets circulated out into the wider web and into mainstream media at a far greater velocity than anything Dr. Giberson might offer. So perhaps Giberson felt he needed to express his feelings in a forum that would give him a similar level of exposure.

    At any rate, I’m very anxious to read Dr. Mohler’s response.

    Thanks again for the kind greeting!

  35. Donald Johnson August 25, 2010 at 9:57 am #

    Mohler claims that no believer should let general revelation trump special revelation.

    But there is no question that we have let general revelation correct our misunderstandings of special revelation. Most of us no longer think that the Bible teaches some things about astronomy or the weather that in the past some might have thought it did, see Galileo, etc.

  36. Nate August 25, 2010 at 11:02 am #

    “It seems Mohler made some claims about Darwin that were not the case, I hope he revises his statements.”

    He made no claims that were not true and he reiderates it with his response.

    It’s hard to imagine that we are here in the 21st century still trying to prop up Darwin as if there has been any real proof to his hypothesis’

  37. Derek August 25, 2010 at 11:19 am #

    Donald Johnson said:
    It can be easy to take Scripture out of context if you do not know the cultural context

    As I said in #17, we can also ask why OE’ers might prefer a mapping of “yamin” or “yom” to “eons”, when a careful examination of the usage of these words in the OT is out of step with this mapping.

  38. Donald Johnson August 25, 2010 at 12:18 pm #

    I have read some OE books and I find SOME of their arguments quite convincing. “The Biblical Case for an Old Earth” by David Snoke makes some good points, altho I do not agree with all of it.

    It is easy to think another is not being faithful if one only reads those with which one already agree and do not study opposing arguments in their own words.

    I did notice that Mohler used some “big tent” terminology in his Ligonier lecture while not actually stating what he himself believes on some points he makes.

  39. Sholom Sandalow August 27, 2010 at 11:13 am #

    Jews have been dealing with these issues for over 2 millennia, and have asked and answered a lot of the same questions. Seems to me that you could benefit greatly by simply doing a google search on “Torah and Science”.

  40. RD August 27, 2010 at 6:57 pm #


    I didn’t have time to address Enoch this morning when you asked if we believed that Cain, Abel and Enoch were real people.

    The key to my seeing these writings as literary narrative (based on long told oral tradition) is the fact that there are at least three clear writers who are responsible for Genesis 1-11 (I believe it was 6 different writers). The first writes Gen chapter 1 through Gen 2:3. Writer number two picks up with Gen 2:4-25. I think there are different writers for each of chapters 3, 4 and 5.

    I mentioned earlier about the completely seperate accounting of Adam and Eve that is found in Gen chapter 5 (well, Eve is never mentioned in this account, only Adam). It is clear that this is a new writer giving us a new version of the creation of humanity, using the character of Adam as the beginning. He follows Adam with Seth (no mention of Cain or Abel). Look at the geneaology provided and compare the names with the geneaology provided in chap 4 for Cain. Cain’s son is named Enoch whose grandson is Methushael and whose great-grandson is Lamech. Now, look in chap 5. Seth’s son is named Enosh (linguistically very similar to Enoch). Down deeper in the geneaology we see Enoch as a distant relative of Seth. And in this lineage Enoch is the father of Methuselah (again, very close linguistically to Methushael in chap 4) who became the father of Lamech. It seems pretty clear that chapter 5 is a reconstructed version of chapter 4 that interjects very similar proper names (even having almost identical father, grandson and great-grandson names with regard to the character of Enoch).

    From chap 5 the flow of the ancient biblical narrative picks up and moves forward with Lamech’s son, Noah (well, with the exception of the brief interlude of the story of the tower of Babel – written by the 6th writer – which seems to have been oddly dropped into place between Gen 10:32 and 11:10).

  41. Scott Buchanan August 30, 2010 at 8:48 pm #

    G’day folks,

    Just sitting here at my computer in Australia, and waded into this debate. I read Mohler’s remarks at the Ligonier Conference, and was somewhat disappointed with the response he gave as to why the earth is/looks young. He suggested that it appeared to be the case, and that God had somehow made it that way. What troubles me is the fact that at no point did he engage with the scientific data that does suggest an old earth. Now, I know that his remarks were probably not for that purpose, but I couldn’t help but think of perhaps the most simple and basic evidence there is for an old earth – starlight. By calculating the time it takes for distant starlight to reach earth, we can determine the distances between various parts of the cosmos, and therefore come to a reasonable conclusion regarding its age (which far exceeds 6,000-10,000 years). I do understand the consternation this kind of data can cause people, but I would argue that it is hard to ignore or bypass something that seems so basic and elementary.

  42. Donald Johnson August 31, 2010 at 9:18 am #

    A YEC response that I have seen is that if God created the stars, he could also create the starlight. That is, even tho the universe LOOKS as tho starlight has been travelling for billions of years, it is all (just) appearances, it has really be travelling for only a few thousand years.

    Another is the possibility of the speed of light changing.

    Such are the proposals of those that wish to promote concordism, the idea that while the Bible is not a science book, when it speaks on science topics, it is not in error. Others call this approach intellectual suicide.

  43. RD August 31, 2010 at 9:23 am #


    Excellent point! The speed of light is a fixed equation and because of that we can use it as a measuring tool (the same way we can use radiation as a kind of measurement, because it’s life is consistently measurable). These are aspects of the glory of God. When we use these God principles to understand more about God’s universe and our own planet, we are getting a glimpse into the way God did things. This is no different than understanding how God uses cell division to sustain life. In the times of the Biblical writers they had no knowledge of cell division. Today it is unquestionably a fact. It is a process that God has given us the intellectual capacity to discover and to comprehend. Understanding and measuring the age of ancient objects (the universe, our own earth and everything in it, etc) is no different. So, if our discoveries disagree with what scripture tells us concerning matters involving history or science then we should not be afraid to believe what we have discovered instead of what the bible records. The bible is NOT the complete and final authority on every aspect of God’s creation. God also reveals himself through reason and experience.

  44. RD August 31, 2010 at 9:26 am #


    Count me in the “intellectual suicide” category.

  45. Chris August 31, 2010 at 11:45 am #

    Actually Scott and RD there is scientific evidence that the speed of light was not always constant. Check out John Moffat and Christopher Churchill.

    Also the speed of light does change as it changes mediums.

    It all comes down to whether you believe scriptural authority or man-made scientific authority! Sometimes they do line up, other times they don’t.

    So it comes down to where we put our faith.

  46. Chris August 31, 2010 at 11:45 am #

    Also for me I would rather commit intellectual suicide then spiritual suicide!

  47. Sholom Sandalow August 31, 2010 at 1:16 pm #

    It all comes down to whether you believe scriptural authority or man-made scientific authority!

    Not true. Science isn’t about authority, but about using our god given minds to understand the world around us. For example, the earth is obviously round and obviously orbits the sun. Denying those facts in not about disbelieving scientific authority, but rather disbelieving your own rational mind. So too, if you know enough about biology, evolution and common ancestry are undeniable facts.

    So it really all comes down to wether you believe in your own rational mind.

  48. Donald Johnson August 31, 2010 at 1:23 pm #

    Yes, it was the speed of light in a vaccuum that I was discussing. Since that is the most often discussed, the qualifying phrase is often omitted, at least in casual conversation.

    Yes, if the choice that one finds themself in is whether to commit intellectual suicide or spiritual suicide, then by all means, I agree that intellectual suicide is to be preferred. But there are some that think neither type of suicide is also a option.

  49. Chris August 31, 2010 at 1:43 pm #

    “Denying those facts in not about disbelieving scientific authority, but rather disbelieving your own rational mind. So too, if you know enough about biology, evolution and common ancestry are undeniable facts.”

    That’s not correct! I do know about biology since it was my major. None of those things are undeniable facts. Saying that it is is being intellectually dishonest!

    I don’t know your faith Sholom or what you believe but the bible and experience is very clear that our “rational minds” cannot be trusted! After all how many rational people have been completely and totally wrong about things?

    Proverbs 14:12
    There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

    Donald in this discussion I think qualifying phrases are absolutely necessary. So to base a conclusion on a standard that really is not a standard is itself intellectual suicide.

    Newtons laws do not work sub-atomically. Gravity behaves differently in certain areas of space. Space seems to not be a complete vacuum (Dark matter).

    Let me ask you:

    Do you believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus?

    Do you believe in the miracles of the bible?

    If you do how can you resolve that with your rational scientific minds?

  50. Donald Johnson August 31, 2010 at 1:59 pm #

    I am a believer in Jesus as Messiah. I believe Jesus physically rose from the dead, appeared to disciples and ascended to the Father.

    I believe God did and still can do miracles, altho some things in the Bible that are thought by some to be miracles may not necessarily be such.

    God is a God of order, which is why the scientific method works.

  51. Nate August 31, 2010 at 2:12 pm #

    “God is a God of order, which is why the scientific method works.”

    Rising from the dead is anything but order! It is extraordinary and impossible under scientific method.

  52. Chris August 31, 2010 at 2:19 pm #

    Donald that’s great! If you have put your faith in the resurrection of Jesus and science tell us that it’s an impossibility, why is it impossible for you to extend your faith into other areas that science tells us is impossible?

    Also God is a God of order but God’s created order is not the same thing as mans understanding of the current natural order.

  53. Derek August 31, 2010 at 2:53 pm #

    Also God is a God of order but God’s created order is not the same thing as mans understanding of the current natural order.

    Great point, Chris. And I would suggest that we could extend this to the heliocentricism example that was brought up early. Isaiah 40:22 actually “backed up” Galileo and yet many church leaders preferred to interpret passages that spoke of “the four corners of the earth” in an overly literal and wooden manner.

    The OT dietary laws and rules governing everyday life demonstrated an awareness of microbiology, at least in terms of the Law Giver’s perspective. There was a period during the Enlightenment in which many marveled at the degree to which the Jews’ practices demonstrated awareness of scientific discoveries that Moses had no direct access to. For example, circumcision’s health benefits were not well understood until just a couple hundred years ago and this brought widespread appreciation for the practical health guidance and awareness found in Scripture. As anti-semitism spread through Europe, this appreciation and understanding became “debunked” by Aryan propagandists and this revisionism is still with us today, but that is a story for another day.

  54. Sholom Sandalow August 31, 2010 at 2:54 pm #

    You said…

    I do know about biology since it was my major. None of those things [evolution, common ancestry] are undeniable facts. Saying that it is is being intellectually dishonest!

    There’s no point in trying to deny the validity of evolution from a scientific standpoint. It’s enough to simply say “I don’t believe it because it contradicts scripture”.

    I am not a christian, and I do not believe in Jesus’ ressurection (since it falls under the category of things which don’t have any evidenciery support).

    Also, as to your point that science is sometimes contrary to our ‘rational minds’. There’s a difference between common sense and rationality. It is irrational to deny proven facts (such as relativity and quantum mechanics) despite their ‘nonsensical’ natures.

  55. Chris August 31, 2010 at 3:08 pm #

    Thanks Sholom! I appreciate your clarifying your beleifs.

    All I can say is this: What you claim is scientific fact is not fact at all! Science is based on observable data.

    We understand very little about our observable universe. So we have extremely limited data! Its not very intellectual to base a conclusion on the very little that we observe or understand. In fact I would say it’s foolish!

    Not too mention that our universe and the observable universe are not the same thing. The observable universe only indicates the region of space it is theoretically possible for us to observe. Even if we did understand everything in our observable universe there would still be potentially a infinite amount of data that we would be incapable of observing.

    I’ll stick with God!

  56. Derek August 31, 2010 at 3:41 pm #

    Darwin’s theory of evolution took less “faith” to accept in his own day than it does now. The belief at his time was that a living cell was a pretty simple organism. The idea was that if you could get one simple cell that functions as a living organism, you could get two and then 4, etc. But modern science has demonstrated that a single cell is extremely complex, more complex than the engine in your car. Take one piece out and the cell can’t function. In order for random mutations to work and to create a cell that can even survive, you need the simultaneous of multiple, very complex organisms to fit AND function together at the same time. And that’s just the problem you have at the microbiological level. The miraculous process of creating a single cell doesn’t even address how you get millions of cells together that form an eye or a skin cell and other fundamentally different organs. This is the idea of irreducible complexity. When Darwin wrote in Origin of the Species, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”, he was basing his theory on the idea of a relatively simple cellular structure.

    Look – evolutionists have answers to surmount challenges like this (they have to), but at the end of the day, it takes a certain amount of FAITH to accept their explanations of how a single complex cell could have ever succeeded without the aid of an intelligent designer. I’ve come to the conclusion that it is intellectual suicide to insist that a single cell, much less an eye or hand or bird could have been created by evolutionary mechanisms, unless an intelligent being orchestrated it all. And I don’t think He did that either.

  57. Chris August 31, 2010 at 3:58 pm #

    Derek have you seen Stephen Hawkings new TV series? It’s extraordinary! Especially the episode linked below where he talks about the big bang and what happened after.

    Whats incredible about it is the series of precise reactions that needed to happen with no margin for error to get where we are today.

  58. Scott Buchanan August 31, 2010 at 8:25 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your response. I do know of one or two theories that suggest that the speed of light has not remained constant. One such theory is the c-decay hypothesis, which was first developed by Barry Setterfield if I’m not mistaken. He proposed that the speed of light has actually slowed significantly, and this explains the presence of distant galaxies in a young cosmos. However, the theory is not vey persuasive for a number of reasons. First, there are too many statistical errors to make his plotting of the speed of light over the past few centuries reliable or accurate; second, he assumes as a matter of course that light began to slow after the fall. This strikes me as circular reasoning, and something that the bible does not speak of. Third, most creationist organisations caution against this theory because of its problems.

    I have heard of other attempts to harmonise a young earth or cosmos with distant galaxies/starlight, but I always get the feeling that they are more an exercise in straw-grasping than rigorous science. However, I am happy to be proved wrong.

  59. Charlton Connett September 1, 2010 at 8:17 am #


    I think the issue with light really can be fairly easily addressed in the same way discussions of rivers can be addressed. That is, in Genesis we see that the river that flowed through Eden split and became four rivers, and that it was part of the initially described creation. When this river was created was all of the water simply stacked up on one end and then let to run until the river formed, or was it created as a running river, that is with the “appearance” of age? Similarly, when the stars were created would they necessarily have been created with all of their light simply beginning to travel, or could they have been created along with the all the light already “flowing” (to use the river metaphor) so that they appear as they are today? Why is it foolish to say that the same God who created the entire universe and gives order to all of its laws could also have created the light from the stars so that we could see them on the first night they were created?

  60. RD September 1, 2010 at 8:58 am #

    “…it takes a certain amount of FAITH to accept their explanations of how a single complex cell could have ever succeeded without the aid of an intelligent designer.”


    I couldn’t agree with your statement above more. Personally I don’t understand how the “new atheists” can rely only on evolution as an answer to the origins of the universe, the earth and all plant and animal matter that exist here. I think, as you so eloquently discussed it, that observing even just a single cell and how it’s structure delicately rests on a series of proper protein alignments, etc demonstrates that there is something larger at work behind the mechanics of the universe. Did God create the heavens and the earth? Absolutely! I just don’t understand why it has to be an either/or scenario (evolution or creationism). Well, yes I think I do. It’s either/or because many Christians feel they have to stand by scriptural literalism or they’ll no longer be faithful to God.

    Here’s something I’ve often pondered. If the Bible did not have the creation narrative in it how many Christians would look at the scientific data and have absolutely no problem accepting that the earth is billions of years old and that some type of evolutionary process was responsible for the makeup of the universe, the earth, and all life within it while still not denying that God was responsible for the process.

  61. RD September 1, 2010 at 9:09 am #

    Chris asks, “Do you believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus?”

    Nate comments, “Rising from the dead is anything but order! It is extraordinary and impossible under scientific method.”


    I know my reply to your question/statement will likely send this whole discussion in a new direction, but I’m not sure we can categorically say that when Jesus was resurrected that he was in the same bodily form as when he was placed into the tomb. My point being, his resurrection and his appearances thereafter were outside the normal realm of created order (as Donald discussed). As the apostle Paul phrased it, there is the aspect of the spiritual body, which is not an earthly, fleshly, physical body at all.

  62. Charlton Connett September 1, 2010 at 9:34 am #


    You are quickly slipping into heretical territory. Christ himself says to Thomas to feel the holes in his hands and the wound in his side. Peter says Christ was physically raised from the dead (Acts 2:31, note that his body was not left to decay). Paul says the same thing (Acts 13:34-35, cf. Romans 6, 1 Corinthians 15:12-34).

    We are not saying that Jesus was in the same bodily form, his was a resurrected body, not the same as a mortal body. However, resurrection used throughout Scripture has a definite physical understanding linked to it. To deny the physical resurrection of Christ is to deny a crucial part of the faith as it was handed down to us. To deny an historical resurrection of Christ, according to Paul himself, leaves us still dead in our trespasses and sins, so that we have no hope before God.

    Perhaps I am misunderstanding what you are saying. But, if you are taking the position I am describing, I caution you to come back from the precipice, for you have all but abandoned the faith. Do not be deceived, denying the physical resurrection of Christ for a mere “spiritual” resurrection is not a small thing. To believe in only a “spiritual” resurrection is to believe in a different gospel than the one given us by God, it is a different faith, and it will lead to condemnation according to what Scripture has taught us.

  63. Donald Johnson September 1, 2010 at 9:41 am #

    As I understand Jesus’ resurrection, he did have a physical body, but it was not limited in the same way that our physical bodies are limited, that is, he had a transformed physical body, and a metaphor of this transformation is how a butterfly comes to be via metamorphosis.

    On Gen 1, what Walton claims is that this is NOT a story of physical/material origins, it is a story of functional ordering origins. Therefore reading it as if it was a material origins story is misreading it. Noticing this in turn frees the reader from insisting that God did material creation in any particular way and allows for discovery of the details.

    I have not read what he might say on Gen 2, but the way I read it is that one does not need to think that God formed a human from mud like a human forms a clay pot; rather, that this is metaphorical/poetic language.

  64. RD September 1, 2010 at 5:12 pm #

    But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else….All flesh is not the same…There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another…So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown [i.e. buried] is perishable, it is raised imperishable…it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body…I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. -1 Corinthians 15:35-50

    Charlton, my friend, good to hear from you!

    The comments you reference the apostle Paul making come right before the passages I’ve quoted above. Yes, Paul emphatically believed in the resurrected Jesus. He saw him! But when asked by a follower about the kind of bodily form a resurrected believer would have, Paul makes some very interesting comments. He indicates that the form of the resurrected body is not the stuff of earth (my paraphrase) and thus it’s outside the realm of the natural order. His own experience of seeing Jesus seems to be at the basis of these comments. And, he lists all the folks that Jesus appeared to after his resurrection, listing himself as the last to have seen him, but he makes no distinction between his own encounter and the encounters of James or Peter or any of the others. In other words, as far as Paul is concerned, Jesus appeared to the original apostles in the same form that he appeared to him.

    My own reading of the accounts that address the form of Jesus’ resurrected body lead me to understand that the earliest witnesses saw Jesus in the form of this “spiritual body”. As we get later and later accounts we see the idea subtly changing to the belief that his body was physically raised (complete flesh and bone). I think the transition line for this thinking was somewhere around the time of the writing of Luke’s Gospel. In Luke’s Gospel both ideas are present. At times Jesus appears and disappears. He walks with disciples yet is able to somehow hide his identity (until they eat). In one gathering in Luke Jesus is even mistaken for a phantom; yet within just a few verses he is allowing Thomas to touch his wounds. The later letters – including the writings in the Book of Acts – and the even later 2nd century church tradition is that he was physically raised as flesh and bone.

  65. Larry S September 1, 2010 at 7:52 pm #

    I’m jumping into an interesting conversation quite late.

    You wrote: “My own reading of the accounts that address the form of Jesus’ resurrected body lead me to understand that the earliest witnesses saw Jesus in the form of this “spiritual body”. As we get later and later accounts we see the idea subtly changing to the belief that his body was physically raised (complete flesh and bone).”

    You might find NT Wright’s big Resurrection book interesting in this regard. He’s a historian/biblical theologican.

    As I recall his argument it goes this way (and works quite the opposite than your post). The earliest witnesses were deeply immersed in a Jewish worldview. They had no category for a ‘spiritual’ mystical body – resurrection was physical. Reading Paul’s reference to a ‘spiritual body’ (whatever that may mean) and turning the phrase into something ghost-like or wispy is to read the texts through dualist platonic lens. The later view was also taken up by later ‘liberal’ (no pejorative intended) theologians.

  66. Charlton Connett September 1, 2010 at 9:04 pm #


    Thank you, once again, for your most kind greeting. I am glad to see that you are doing well (or at least well enough to engage in discussion on Denny’s blog). I regret that I must stand at odds with you on the physical resurrection of Christ, and I hope still that I am simply misunderstanding you. You are not saying that the physical body of Christ remained in the tomb and that all that was raised was some “spiritual essence” of Christ are you? If so, then I must contend, this is not at all what Scripture teaches.

    In addition to what Larry has written above I would point you also to what the text itself says, “The body that is sown [i.e. buried] is perishable, it is raised imperishable” from your own post. Note that the body that is sown is the same one that is raised. Yes, it is raised in a different form than it is sown in, but it is the physical body that is raised. It is like the kernel of corn which Paul discusses. When planted the kernel itself sprouts and becomes a stalk, it isn’t as though the kernel is planted and a stalk happens to come from that same location. The one is raised as the other.

    As to your argument that the tradition of Christ’s physical resurrection was a later addition from the church, I have to say there is simply no evidence to support that position. I say this as one who majored in history. (My B.A. is in history.) All of the attestations to Jesus’ resurrection as given in the New Testament come from books and authors that have the earliest attestation. I honestly do not know of any major historians who argue that the early church did not believe that Jesus was physically raised from the dead. Whether the historians believe it or not, to my knowledge, it has been almost universally conceded that the early church certainly did.

  67. RD September 2, 2010 at 8:38 am #


    I commented on the nature of the resurrected Jesus because of some comments that Donald and Nate made about Jesus working within the ordered natural structure of the universe (with regard to miracles, primarily). But someone had asked Donald if he believed in the physical resurrection of Jesus. My comment was to offer the idea that Jesus’ resurrection happened but was not necessarily something that was in conflict with the natural order of God’s created universe. The early witnesses of Jesus having some type of spiritual body (not a human flesh and blood body) indicates to me that he had become metaphysical. In other words, Donald and Nate are both correct with regard to Jesus raising from the dead.

    This opened a whole new thread of discussion concerning Jesus’ resurrected form. We seem to have moved away from the original discussion of natural order vs miracles/resurrection and how the two relate (or don’t).

    But since we have moved in this direction, let me address my thoughts on this new line of discussion.

    You made the following comment:

    All of the attestations to Jesus’ resurrection as given in the New Testament come from books and authors that have the earliest attestation.”

    I don’t agree. I think that there is no doubt that Jesus was raised from the dead and that he made appearances to certain followers, but I don’t think we have very clear attestations of these actual encounters (beyond Paul’s own writings of his encounter, and he really doesn’t give details about it himself other than to say it happened). The Gospel accounts were compiled years after the event and reflect the various stories that were circulating among the various Christian communities. Matthew and John were the only apostles to have written gospel accounts, but had they both truly been the authors of their respective Gospels they would be much more similar in the details they describe. Compare Matthew and John’s Gospels and you get almost no similar retelling of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In Matthew Jesus dies the day following the start of Passover, Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” go to the tomb, see an angel who tells them Jesus is going back to Galilee and then Jesus himself tells them to tell the disciples to go to Galilee where they will see him. John’s Gospel recounts that Jesus died the afternoon prior to the start of Passover, that only Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw Jesus. The disciples stayed in Jerusalem where they encountered Jesus but, in the last chapter of the Gospel, they were back in Galilee and saw Jesus. These two were members of the inner circle. They would have been in the same setting when Jesus first appeared to them following his resurrection so they would not have had such differring accounts of his resurrection. Nor would they have differed with regard to the actual day Jesus died! It would be like Lyndon Johnson and Bobby Kennedy recounting alternate days on which JFK was assassinated. If you were observant Jews with a life history of celebrating Passover, and a member of the original 12 disciples of Jesus, you might not agree on some matters, but concerning the day on which Jesus was crucified you would be in complete agreement! Unless, these writers were NOT Matthew and John and were only retelling accounts that had been retold to them. (I won’t even get into Luke and Mark except to say that Luke, both in his Gospel and in Acts, recounts that Jesus commanded the disciples NOT to leave Jerusalem and so they NEVER went to Galilee.)

    My point? All of these “earliest attestations” are retellings of stories that have circulated about what people heard other people say happened and in what form Jesus appeared to his disciples. I know that most scholars think that the earliest believers thought Jesus was physically flesh and bone in his resurrected body, but I don’t agree. I believe Paul gives us the best description based on his idea of the “spiritual body”. Does that mean Jesus’ actual earthly body remained in the tomb? I believe his body was transformed and raised, but should there ever be some scientific evidence that proves the discovery of Jesus’ bones, I don’t think it would at all negate the power and reality of his resurrection (because of the descriptions that Paul has given us).

  68. Donald Johnson September 2, 2010 at 9:08 am #

    I agree there are “narrative story reconciliation” challenges with there being 4 gospels, but that does not mean they cannot be reconciled. It turns out there was disagreement among 1st century Jews about when Passover should be celebrated, there can also be use of Jewish terminology that is different from Greek terminology that ends up with the appearance of the story being different (and unable to be reconciled), when the case (as I understand it) is that the story is the same being told different ways.

  69. Scott Buchanan September 2, 2010 at 10:36 am #

    Hi Charlton,

    I am not sure that I understand your analogy (regarding the four rivers of Eden) in regards to starlight. Are you saying that God made the light “in transit”? I am a little confused. God certainly would have to create the light in transit in order for it to reach us within the space of 6,000-10,000, but then we would not be seeing stars…we would simply be seeing created light that gave the illusion of heavenly bodies.

    In any case, I still maintain that the issue of appearance doesn’t really come into play when we are talking about starlight. For one thing, we can’t actually see the stars (not physically) so we cannot speculate on how they may “appear” in terms of age. For another, the distance of stars from earth, combined with the time it takes for light to travel in, say, a year, suggests that the light we are seeing is quite old. This would seem to come down to a simple matter of logic and maths (I apologise if that last sentence sounds condescending…it’s not meant to) 🙂

  70. Scott Buchanan September 2, 2010 at 10:37 am #

    Pardon me…I meant 6,000-10,000 years.

  71. RD September 2, 2010 at 10:46 am #


    You’re right. Essenes observed Passover at a different time. And Passover, technically, is a celebration that lasts over several days. Still, those facts don’t change the fact that if two of Jesus’ original disciples had been with him at the last supper and then written about it, they would be in agreement on what day it took place. John’s Gospel doesn’t even mention it being a Passover meal (nor, by the way, does Paul). John goes to huge lengths to show that the crucifixion took place prior to Passover (this is why, in John, the Jews could not enter Pilate’s chambers without becoming ceremonially unclean prior to Passover celebration; Pilate had to come out and meet them. Matthew and John would have been there (at least initially) and would not have related two completely different days (unless, as is likely the case, the writers of these gospels aren’t Matthew and John). True eye-witnesses would not confuse the actual days and times of an event like the death of their leader (especially in relation to such a major celebration as Passover).

  72. RD September 2, 2010 at 10:56 am #

    One more comment:

    This also doesn’t address the fact that the gospels differ in other very specific ways. Does Jesus insist that his disciples not leave Jerusalem (which in Luke and Acts they don’t). Or do they go back to Galilee where Jesus then appears to them? These are individual accounts of differing stories concerning Jesus’ death and resurrection. These writers were not there. Need we go back to the birth narratives as yet another example of completely different stories about an event? These are accounts of stories that were being told by Christian communities at that time! In the case of the birth narratives it’s as if, in different communities, someone asks another, “Do you know anything about Jesus’ birth? How did he become God’s son if he was just a man?” and the response was probably something like, “I heard this account from Jacob who told me he heard it directly from Matthew and here’s what he said….”

  73. Scott Buchanan September 2, 2010 at 11:04 am #

    Hi RD,

    Just reading your comments about the resurrection body. Not sure if I agree with you. You seem to suggest that Paul was speaking about a spiritual body as if it were opposed to a physical body. But this is a false distinction. The passge in 1 Corinthians is contrasting the present body – wracked as it is by sin and death -with the resurrection body, which will be incorruptible and beyond death. Nevertheless, when Paul speaks about present life and the spiritual life to come, he is still contrasting one form of bodily life with another.

    I must also take issue with your suggestion that the church began with the notion the Jesus’ resurrection was somehow “merely” spiritual(assuming again that you are playing it off against a physical resurrection), before moving towards the idea that Jesus’ raised body was flesh-and-blood. This is erroneous on a fw counts.

    First, the early church consistently used the idea of resurrection to describe the raising of Jesus. As Larry S rightly pointed out in his post, resurrection always – always – meant a physical occurrence. That is not to say that Jesus’ body was not transformed, but the transformation was nonetheless bodily. Allied to this is the fact that the early church preached this resurrection from the beginning. This was not a later development in the church’s preaching and witnessing; it was at the heart of its foundation and initial expansion.

    Second, you are asking us to believe that the church somehow went from what really is a Hellenistic view (a spiritual “body” as ultimate hope) before moving back to a more Jewish view of the body and creation. In other words, you are effectively asking us to believe that the early church – whose theology flowed directly and organically from Judaism – spoke of Jesus’ using very foreign philosophical categories, and only after an inderminate period, reverted to the more “familiar” (that is to say, theologically consistent) notion of a bodily resurrection. It just seems too implausible that a church could allow its foundational belief to shift and change in that fashion in such a short period of time. Moreover, it would seem strange for what as at first a Jewish sect to use Hellenistic categories to explain the ultimate fate of a Jewish Prophet, Teacher and Messiah.

    Lastly, I don’t know that you give Luke as much credit as you should. To suggest that the dividing line between a non-physical and physical understanding of Jesus’ body probably doesn’t acknowledge the theological sophistication of Luke’s narrative. It’s hard to believe that he could be so slipshod as to play fast and loose with these theological ideas in the one narrative. I mean, I find it hard to believe that Luke could envisage Jesus’ resurrection body being anything other than physical (albeit transformed) when you read a verse such as Luke 24:39. You have argued that verse 37 suggests that both ideas are present in Luke’s gospel. But that would also suggest a very inept narrator, and I don’t think that that’s the case.

    OK, I have said quite enough now!

  74. Donald Johnson September 2, 2010 at 11:20 am #


    Many people write a harmony of the gospels and solve these challenges in various ways. And part of the challenge can be that church tradition gets involved and is not always correct, so some can think some text means something but it does not when read in original cultural context.

    It is trivial to find (supposed) contradictions in the gospels, just read them like a Greek thinker, skeptics do this trying to convince peopel to toss these texts away. But they were written by people that thought like Hebrews.

  75. Charlton Connett September 2, 2010 at 1:31 pm #


    I’m sorry, I have contemplated how to respond to you and erased about 5 posts now. As of yet you have not clarified whether or not you believe that Jesus actually physically rose from the dead. I take issue with your method of reading Scripture, and I think that this method of reading undermines any ability to trust in the bible. All that aside though, can you answer, simply, do you believe that Jesus Christ was bodily raised from the dead? (What I mean is not that Jesus has a physical body exactly like ours, but that his physical body was raised.) Everything else you have raised, while major issues, can be addressed in turn, but the question of whether or not Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day, even as we have been taught, this is an absolute separator between heresy and simply being “non-traditional”.

  76. Charlton Connett September 2, 2010 at 2:10 pm #


    Basically, yes, I am saying that God could have created the light we are seeing from the stars “in transit”. Likewise, when the sun was created, was it dark on earth for the next six minutes, or is it possible that God created both the sun and the light that revealed the sun at the same time? Yes, the light we are seeing, if it has only been traveling for 6,000-10,000 years only gives us the “appearance” of the stars that are 50,000 years away. But, that does not mean the stars are not there. I’m not sure what your point with noting that we don’t see stars is, the fact is this argument could be made for almost anything, from the sun to the moon, to Mars.

    As for your second point, where “appearance” does not come into play, I am at a loss as to what you mean. For instance, what do you mean that the distance of the stars, the speed of light, and simple math suggests that the light we are seeing is very old? The very idea of a “suggestion” assumes an appearance. That which is suggested is what appears to be. Perhaps you could rephrase what you are saying?

    The only thing the light we see from stars suggests, as far as I understand the idea of appearance, is that what it is representing is real. That is, those planets which we can detect based on variations in light are real planets. Those supernovae which we are able to detect are either real supernovae, or the energy (all energy not just light) was created in such as way that the radiation explosion is somehow a necessary part of creation. Perhaps the explosions we can detect are only revelatory of the fact that with the fall of man the stars which were created did begin to explode, so that they are no longer all there as they once were. My point is only that when we assume that the light we see and the energy we can detect tells us about the age of the universe, we may be asking questions of that light and energy it was simply not created to answer. (Asking these questions would be like looking at the river I mentioned before and concluding the world is 5, 10, or 50 years old based on how the pebbles in the river have been smoothed, how the algae has grown on certain rocks, or on how deep the river has cut into the local terrain. Those conclusions about the age of the earth are based on assumptions of what the river was created to reveal, and not all of those assumptions are necessarily true.)

  77. Derek September 2, 2010 at 2:22 pm #

    There’s a good article about this topic in the latest issue of World Magazine:

  78. RD September 2, 2010 at 2:35 pm #


    I need to respond to Scott and to Donald but don’t really have time to address their comments at the moment. I did want to clarify for you my own belief concerning Jesus’ resurrection. Actually, I thought I had stated my belief and personal thinking on it: “I believe his body was transformed and raised, but should there ever be some scientific evidence that proves the discovery of Jesus’ bones, I don’t think it would at all negate the power and reality of his resurrection (because of the descriptions that Paul has given us).”

    I know that sounds like I am waffling or “hedging” somewhat. What I mean is that I don’t think we can difinitively know the form that Jesus’ body took when he was resurrected. I don’t think we can clearly define what Paul means when he discusses the spiritual body. It’s a mystery to us in many ways. I personally do think the tomb was empty. I don’t think his body was like mine, though. He had become a metaphysical part of God’s Kingdom and was, therefore, outside the physical realm of our natural universe.

    Having said all that, though, what does it do to Christianity if at some point there is an archaeological discovery that catagorically proves Jesus was not physically raised? Does that mean our entire faith is washed up and of no value? Does that negate the resurrection?

  79. Nate September 2, 2010 at 2:43 pm #

    “Having said all that, though, what does it do to Christianity if at some point there is an archaeological discovery that catagorically proves Jesus was not physically raised? Does that mean our entire faith is washed up and of no value? Does that negate the resurrection?”

    yes and yes!

    If the curse was not reversed then sin previled and if bones are found then death has won.

  80. Charlton Connett September 2, 2010 at 3:05 pm #


    I think Nate makes the point well. Apologies that I missed that you had explained what you personally think. However, I will add that I am not worried that Christ’s bones will ever be discovered, for as it has been proclaimed on the Sunday after Passover for nearly 2000 years, “He is risen! He is risen indeed!”

  81. RD September 2, 2010 at 6:54 pm #

    “It just seems too implausible that a church could allow its foundational belief to shift and change in that fashion in such a short period of time.”


    Thanks for the comment. You adress a lot in a short amount of time and I wish I had more time to respond in a manner more deserving of your well documented post. I’ve been trying to comment all afternoon but the day at work has been mad-busy!

    I note your comment above as a kind of fulcrum point on which to address your other comments. Hope I can make it make sense.

    I think the early church was, indeed, in flux over it’s foundational beliefs. I’ve discussed my thoughts about the different theological views of James at Jerusalem and Paul’s teaching in other comments around here somewhere. If interested I can email you more specifics (ced3-at-allmail-dot-net).

    I believe the Bible demonstrates to us that Paul and James (as leader of the Jerusalem church) had different ideas regarding the divinity of Jesus (was Jesus God incarnate or a human being who was God’s annointed servant/messiah). It is not at all surprising that the earliest descriptions we get of the bodily form of the resurrected Jesus is from Paul (whose theology is hellenistically influenced). My point merely is that we can not know what the “transformed” body of Jesus was like. We weren’t there. We have attestations from an eye-witness (Paul) and from several non-eyewitnesses (the Gospels). Each of these descriptions contain differences. I personally believe that Jesus’ physical body was somehow transformed and entered the metaphysical realm while still being able to interact in the natural universe of the creation. What the nature and substance of that form is I have know way of knowing.

    Like Nate, I don’t believe anyone will ever conclusively discover the lost remains of Jesus, but should that happen, I do not agree with his assessment that the Christian faith is then bankrupt and a fraud. The resurrection of Jesus – how it took place, what kind of transformation happened, what substance of form Jesus took on upon rising, etc – is a great mystery. We incorporate it into our life through faith and through faith we see Jesus moving in and through us. I am a Christian not because of what the Bible says, I am a Christian because I have experienced personally the renewing, redeeming power of Jesus first hand.

  82. Chris September 2, 2010 at 7:43 pm #

    RD the scenario you describe makes the gospel irrelevant. If Christ did not defeat physical death and rise with a purely physical body then we are all lost!

  83. Scott Buchanan September 3, 2010 at 5:09 am #

    Hi Charton,

    There is a fair bit there in your response (Sept. 2nd). First, when I used the word “appearence” I did so in a physicalist sense, which is they way in which I believed you were using it. In other words, how something would appear to the naked eye. I think that was probably a misunderstanding on my part. But my overall point remains…the speed of light combined with the distance of the stars means that in all likelihood the light that we are seeing is many many eons old.

    As for your suggestion regarding God making light “in transit”, that supports my point about not really seeing the stars. If God creates the light in transit, then that light is not actually emanating from the stars. Thus, what we may see in the night sky really aren’t there. There may well be heavenly bodies out there in the cosmos, but if God is creating the light in the way you suggest, then we really can’t see them. The fact is that we can see stars, which suggests the light is emanating directly from them. You say that the light we see from stars suggests that what we see is real. But how can it be if God has had to make the light somewhere between them and earth? I hope that makes sense.

    In any case, why would God create light in transit? It all seems rather arbitrary. There is no reason for it. Moreover, it seems like a hypothesis designed to shore up belief in a young earth, rather than a serious theory that tries to grapple with the data before us. You say that starlight shouldn’t be pressed to answer questions regarding the universe’s age. But it really is an elementary process (assuming you leave aside the hypothesis that God made the light in transit), given what I have already said about the stars’ distance from earth and the speed at which light travels.

  84. Charlton Connett September 3, 2010 at 9:00 am #


    What are your underlying assumptions as to what the purpose is of creation? And what does it mean to “see” stars?

    In your own words, even if the light we see is and has been traveling for millions of years in some cases, we still aren’t seeing the star. We are seeing a distant memory of the star. How do we know that any of those stars are still out there? How do we know that anything exists at all, unless we make necessary assumptions which are not science?

    My point is not to say the stars don’t exist, I’m quite sure they do, but I want to point out that you have a lot of underlying assumptions that you have to take into account in order for your ideas to hold true. You have assumed that the light exists, in part, in order for us to determine the age of the universe. That assumption cannot be proven, it is an assumption behind the science. Is your assumption necessarily wrong? No, but it is also not necessarily right.

    Likewise with my own assumptions though. I could be wrong about what I think is the purpose of creation. We could try and find scientific tests to determine what the star light really says, but again we would have assumptions under those tests that we would need to address. Or, we could go to Scripture, determine what it says the purpose of creation is, and then do our best to change our assumptions. Science will always contain a theology, the question is simply whether it holds the right theology. (I am not claiming here that mine is the only right one. Old Earth theology may be right, but as of yet I do not find it convincing based on Scripture.)

    Yes, if you leave behind other possible explanations, we have an earth that certainly looks very old. But, what is the theology behind leaving those explanations behind? To say, “God is not a deceiver, so we won’t assume the earth could be young” is to throw out the whole point of Scripture, which serves to correct us. God isn’t a deceiver if he has clearly told us that what we think we see isn’t what we really see. Why throw out young earth explanations if they comport with Scripture?

  85. Donald Johnson September 3, 2010 at 9:20 am #

    It is not just starlight but many other physical evidences for deep time, some of which were not even known to exist when deep time was first being discovered!

    It is a question about how we know what we (think we) know. I accept all of the multiple physical evidences for deep time, billions of years for the universe and billions of years for the earth. A YEC claims that ALL of these physical clocks are deceptive, as only thousands of years have passed and it only APPEARS to be old.

  86. Charlton Connett September 3, 2010 at 10:09 am #


    It goes again to assumptions. If I look at stars and assume that the light has been traveling for millions of years, they appear old. If I look at stars and assume that they exist for another purpose (navigation, telling seasons, demonstrating the glory of God) then the question of age does not even enter into the picture. The same is true with every piece of evidence. The evidence is only evidence if there is an assumption behind it. The evidence is not deceptive, our assumptions about the evidence might be deceptive.

  87. Donald Johnson September 3, 2010 at 10:26 am #

    As Gus Grissom on CSI says, “The evidence never lies.”

    I believe the Bible is written using phenomenological language, as things appear, and therefore it cannot conflict with science so Christians who are also scientists are free to discover what they will about reality, to follow the evidence where ever it leads.

  88. Larry S September 3, 2010 at 11:04 am #

    Perhaps it’s just me but the last two posts quite clearly demonstrate an understanding of reality (worldview). Both posts could be correct. From my perspective the second is the most brave and ‘honest’ (no pejorative intended). It seems to me the first view saddles itself with arguing against common sense reality (much the way folk rejected the early discovery that everything doesn’t revolve around the earth). Charlton I absolutely do not mean this as an attacking (although short little posts make it difficult for nuance).

    It’s just that the two posts sitting side by side are a lovely example.

  89. Donald Johnson September 3, 2010 at 11:57 am #

    P.S. I think God created the stars for navigation, telling seasons, and to reveal the glory of God, as the Bible asserts this, but I do not stop there. I also think the stars “cooked” most of the elements we find today in our bodies (as the evidence suggests/shows), this does not diminish my belief in the former sentence, but rather enhances it as this reveals even more of the glory of God to me.

  90. Scott Buchanan September 3, 2010 at 12:21 pm #

    Hi Charlton,

    Just a short post, since it’s 2am where I am. Charlton:

    When I say “seeing” the star, I am referring to what we view in the night sky. I agree with you…what we see is often a distant memory of what was once a star. But the very fact that we are seeing a star at all suggests that there once was a swirling ball of gas somewhere in that part of the cosmos.

    I don’t assume that part of the point of light is to tell us the age of the universe; I don’t think that is the point of light. However, I don’t think that this is opposed to the assumption that it CAN actually do that (which I believe it can do). Moreover, I don’t think I agree with your characterisation of Donald’s position at precisely this point (which has some bearing on my own). You say that if he assumes that light has been travelling for millions of years, then he will of course assume and old cosmos. But why is he “assuming” this? Because light travels at a certain distance; stars are certain (great) distances from earth; therefore the light travelling from them must be as old as it takes to get from those stars to us. This is a conclusion based on logic, not an unwarranted assumption. In the absence of better explanations, I wouldn’t know what else to conclude.

    And yes, I understand that everyone works with assumptions, and that is the case here. However, I do believe that at a basic level, what I have said strongly suggests an old cosmos. We can speculate about God creating light in transit, or what have you (although that seems like this is an unwarranted hypothesis). But I do think that we need to honestly grapple with the data before us (even if that data does appear to contradict our interpretations of scripture – and yes, I am well aware that we interpret the data too!).

  91. Charlton Connett September 3, 2010 at 1:26 pm #


    Thank you for your kindness in noting that you were not intending to be insulting, please be aware that I was not insulted by your statement at all. I think you are quite right, that this is an issue of worldviews. I have no problem with someone holding to Donald’s worldview at all. In fact there are some areas where I think Donald’s world view would be easier for me to hold. (For instance as a YEC I have no immediate and good explanation for radioactive decay rates.) However, I think Donald’s view also stretches Genesis beyond what its normal and accepted meaning is.

    I recognize that there are others who hold different views, and I have no problem with that. Donald may not (and I assume he does not) see any contradiction in how he reads Genesis. That is why this is not an issue of heresy vs. orthodoxy, it is rather an issue of differing positions that can each claim to be attempting to understand reality through the best lens we have.

    The only thing I would take issue with is those who attempt to characterize YEC individuals as ignoring the evidence, or foolish, or a host of other insulting characterizations. Likewise those YEC individuals who say that all OEC proponents are attempting to subvert Christianity and are torturing the text of Scripture need to check their accusations as well. My only point in posting what I have was to illustrate that there are potentially valid answers to OEC questions, not that I know all of the answers, and not that everyone will find those answers compelling.

    For instance when Donald said that he viewed the attempts of YEC proponents to reconcile our views with what we see in science as “intellectual suicide” that seemed a little harsh to me. (Donald, please do not think I mean to attack you with this, just that your comment is the one that made me want to wade into the whole discussion.) To me that was harsh because I was an OEC supporter for years, coming to a YEC position is something that I have wrestled with immensely as I want to make sure I always align with the truth. Thus my attempts have only been to show that there is a wisdom and logic in the YEC position. This position is not intellectual suicide but requires serious and deep reflection upon the purpose of creation, the valid limits of knowledge, and how we can most glorify God. (Admittedly some people take a YEC position and do not reflect on the “whys” and “wherefores,” but the same can be said of some who hold to OEC.)

    YEC and OEC proponents can both learn from each other, and can engage in reasonable and edifying discussion. Not that either will necessarily be moved to the other’s position. Some of the earlier posts seemed to be getting into ridicule, which is not helpful to either side of the discussion.

    That’s why I think Dr. Mohler’s address was a good speech. He acknowledged that there are Christians that hold to different views of reading Genesis. But, he then noted that there are theological issues that come from each of those views. The challenge to us is to determine what will drive us: what are our underlying assumptions about reality? Thus, when we engage in reading Scripture and looking at the world around us, what theology will we bring with us? Will it be one that is informed and shaped by the bible, or will it be one that is created by the god of the present age, who seeks to lead us not into truth, but into lies? (All of us need to regularly check our theology, OEC and YEC proponent alike.)


    To be brief: What are you doing awake at 2:00 AM? Go to bed man!

    To be a bit longer: when you say, “But why is he “assuming” this? Because light travels at a certain distance; stars are certain (great) distances from earth; therefore the light travelling from them must be as old as it takes to get from those stars to us. This is a conclusion based on logic, not an unwarranted assumption. In the absence of better explanations, I wouldn’t know what else to conclude.” You have assumed already that the light has to have originated, strictly speaking, with the stars themselves. In light (pardon the pun) of absolutely no other evidence, that is a perfectly reasonable assumption. But, does the evidence from Scripture support this?

    In other words, yes, it would be deceptive of God to have created the light so as to appear old and then not to say otherwise and expect us to come to a conclusion opposite of what appears to be true. (If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, its a dog!) But, if God told us what he did, and told us when he created the stars, then the assumption that the light originated at the same place as the star (thus it emanated and has been traveling for millions or billions of years) is based on a faulty assumption. The conclusion is only logical so far as it assumes no other valid data can be entered into the equation other than, “What I see must be what is.” As soon as someone says, “Here is an eyewitness who saw it all, and he says it didn’t happen that way,” if we don’t listen to that witness then we are not longer making logical conclusions, we are acting illogically.

    Our starting point cannot be the stars. It cannot be the stars because the stars can only be appearances, they cannot actually be testimony. They are evidence without context. Once we start with Scripture, we have context, and then we can examine the evidence and determine if our assumptions about how it fits in are valid. Thus, I agree with you, if all I had were the stars, you’re right, I should assume they are millions of years old, but, combined with Scripture, I am now forced to ask which is the most plausible answer, that they are young, or that they are old? (Thus we come back to the point Larry made, it is all about worldviews.)

  92. Donald Johnson September 3, 2010 at 2:01 pm #

    My sis is a YEC, so I have heard some of their reasons.

    The Bible can be interpreted to say that the Earth’s age is numbered in thousands of years and some do so interpret it that way. But this is not the only feasible interpretation as books like “The Biblical Case for an Old Earth” (and similar) point out.

    Gerald Schroeder, a Jew, points out that Jewish scholars in the Middle Ages (before modern science) wrote about things in the origins accounts that indicated to them that something was different about the creation days. I think the official Jewish dating system says there were 6 creation days and so many years since then, recognizing that people have different understandings of creation.

  93. Donald Johnson September 3, 2010 at 2:07 pm #

    P.S. When I said “intellectual suicide” that would have been what it would have been for me. I did investigate YEC claims for a while, but found them wanting.

  94. Larry S September 3, 2010 at 3:06 pm #

    “Our starting point cannot be the stars. It cannot be the stars because the stars can only be appearances, they cannot actually be testimony. They are evidence without context. Once we start with Scripture, we have context, and then we can examine the evidence and determine if our assumptions about how it fits in are valid. Thus, I agree with you, if all I had were the stars, you’re right, I should assume they are millions of years old, but, combined with Scripture, I am now forced to ask which is the most plausible answer, that they are young, or that they are old? (Thus we come back to the point Larry made, it is all about worldviews.)”


    I don’t think anybody realy ‘starts with the Scriptures.”

    I would argue that your are view superimposes as view upon the Scriptures and forces the texts to comply with your view. [this is very short-hand post sorry, i hope u get my meaning]

    and in my journey the early universe comsmology would force me to “leave the reservation” – abandon fath altogether. So for me it would be both intellectual / faith suicide to go that route.

    And of course, if we are honest, both ‘sides’ tend to look down on those who hold other views (although we dress up our language). We think our view best deals with reality and the materials. Thats why we hold the view. 🙂

  95. Larry S September 3, 2010 at 3:07 pm #

    sorry for the butchered grammar. quick posts when i should be doing some family things. so i’m off to fullfill my duties as a good son to my aged parents. blessing.

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