Does Science Show The Bible To Be A Myth?

If we have science, does this mean the Bible is false? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A friend messaged me wondering what I’d say to someone who says the Bible can be relegated to the category of myth because of science. Now for this, I am going to be assuming that the person means a false tale, although myth does entail a wide genre of categories and would not necessitate something false. That is not a discussion I’m going to be entering into at this point. For now, I simply want to address the objection. It is a common one in our day and age where it looks like science has become the new priesthood and many people think the only way something can be demonstrated is scientifically.

To begin with, when we look at this question, we are not going to be arguing that the Bible is true. We are just going to be arguing that the Bible has not been shown to be false. Of course, it’s up to the apologist to still make the positive case. Therefore, if someone thinks I have not demonstrated Christianity is true by this, yes. I have not, at least not in this post. I have simply made it my aim to remove a defeater.

A stance a Christian should not take in this is to denigrate science. Science is a wonderful tool and it is our ally. If we think that Christianity is true, then that means we should be able to accept everything that can be demonstrated scientifically. I also want to advise Christians that if you have not read up on a scientific topic, do not debate it. When you meet someone who knows it better than you do, you will be embarrassed and even worse, Christianity will be embarrassed by what you say. This is one of those times it pays to know people in the field of scientific apologetics who can help you.

One of the first steps with how science supposedly disproves Christianity is to look to the creation accounts. As readers of this blog and listeners of the podcast know, I am not persuaded this is a creation account per se. I think John Walton has made a powerful case. You can listen to my interviews with him here and here. Does this mean I subscribe to the idea of macroevolution? No. It doesn’t even mean Walton does. It just means I do not see it as a defeater for Christianity. Keep in mind that even if I was incorrect, the worst case scenario would be we’d lose Inerrancy. We would not lose the resurrection.

Miracles are a more common objection, but it’s hard to see how this is an objection. A miracle is a being outside of our space-time world in some fashion acting on that world. The only way you could recognize a miracle would be if you had at least some rudimentary science. You only know a virgin birth (Which I of course affirm) is a miracle because you know what it normally takes for a birth. You only know walking on water is a miracle if people don’t normally walk on water. It’s quite bizarre to hear so many atheists say that dead people stay dead, as if this is a new discovery of science. Ancient people also knew that. That’s why they did something called burial.

Can an outside force interfere? The only way to really establish that would be to say that there is no outside force. Of course, saying that there is one does not mean that a miracle will necessarily take place, but it opens the door. In that case, we just look at a historical event and decide what we think the best explanation is. There’s nothing wrong with wanting an explanation that falls within known causes first, but if we find nothing, then we should be open to an unknown cause and if we have evidence that there is a cause beyond us, then that makes it all the more likely.

It’s also important to bring up an idea of God of the Gaps here, where we have this idea that there have been all these gaps and that theists plugged in “God did it” throughout history. This simply isn’t the case. The medieval period, often called the Dark Ages, was actually a great time of scientific advancement. It doesn’t mean that we have the rapid advancement we have now, but the preliminary steps were taken then, such as first off bettering agriculture so that people would have more free time for scientific pursuits since food was more readily available.

We should also state that contrary to what people might think, science cannot answer every question. It can answer a lot, but not all of them. Most of our day to day decisions are not made based on science. When we make a major decision like choosing a spouse, we do not do a scientific experiment to find out if the other person loves us or if we love them. We have other ways of knowing. When it comes to the God question, philosophy is a much better route to take. When it comes to the question of understanding Scripture, history and anthropology and literary studies are much better routes to take.

Overall, it’s the kind of position I do not find convincing, but in our day and age, science has become the new priesthood and it is one that we must answer.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 3/7/2015: John Walton

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast this Saturday? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Back in 2013, we were blessed to have John Walton come on the show and talk about The Lost World of Genesis One. Now John Walton has brought us another excellent book, The Lost World of Adam and Eve. As soon as I saw this was coming, I knew I wanted Walton back on the show again and indeed, he was happy to come back again to what I believe could be the first podcast interview on the book that will be done.

So who is John Walton?

Walton

According to his bio:

John’s research and his energized presentations are rooted in his passion for drawing people into a better understanding of God’s self-revelation in Scripture. John (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is a professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College and Graduate School. He focuses his research on the literature and cultures of the ancient Near East and the Old Testament, with a particular interest in Genesis. Before his role at Wheaton, John taught for 20 years at Moody Bible Institute.

John has authored many articles and books, including The Lost World of Adam and Eve, The Lost World of Genesis One, Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, and Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament. John also served as general editor of the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Old Testament and co-author of the IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament.

John’s ministry experience includes church classes for all age groups, high school Bible studies, and adult Sunday school classes, as well as serving as a teacher for “The Bible in 90 Days.

I have found John Walton’s viewpoint on the Old Testament to be incredibly eye-opening. Prior to reading the book, I had done my own research project on science and Christianity and came to the conclusion that the best arguments I could find are metaphysical arguments and it does not help to marry our apologetics to science. If some want to do scientific apologetics, that’s fine, but it’s really not something that I prefer to use. Also, N.T. Wright had been a scholar definitely helping with my understanding of the New Testament. For years, I had been working to learn how Jews at the time would understand Jesus and thought “How would Jews at the time of Moses understand Genesis?” John Walton provided the answers.

That’s why I’m thrilled to have him come back on the show again. We’re going to be talking about his views on Adam and Eve and asking the hard questions. We will be asking what role scientific data does play and how much impact should it have on our reading? We will be asking him what the impact is of other human beings besides Adam and Eve being around. Doesn’t that go against what Jesus said in the Gospels? We will be asking about the serpent in the Garden and what was the impact of the event called the fall on humanity?

So be watching your podcast feed! You won’t want to miss this one!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Lost World of Adam and Eve

What do I think of John Walton’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

AdamandEve

First off, I wish to thank IVP and John Walton both for this. IVP sent me an advanced copy and John Walton and I have interacted on the book. I consider him a friend and I thank him for his care in discussing these matters with me.

The Lost World of Genesis One was a book that I considered to be revolutionary. It’s the kind of study of Genesis One that I hope will keep going onward. In fact, nowadays, whenever someone asks me about the age of the Earth, I just tell them to read John Walton. For a long time I had been wondering if I had been reading the first chapter of Genesis wrong and trying to think of how it is that an ancient Israelite would have read it. John Walton’s book provided the answer. I was simply thrilled to hear that he had a sequel to the book coming out in the Lost World of Adam and Eve. (Although he tells me that at this point, there are no plans for a Lost World of Noah, but who knows how that could change in the future.)

So in this book, we have a focus largely on Genesis 2-3 and it is meant to address a lot of the questions that come up later, such as where did Cain get his wife? In this book, Walton continues the line he was going down in his previous book and emphasizes the account is not about material creation but it is still about what he prefers to call sacred space. In the past, he had used an analogy of a temple, but sacred space is the path he’s going now, although we could certainly say that all temples are deemed to be sacred spaces, not all sacred spaces are temples.

In Walton’s view, Adam is not so much the first man as he is the archetype. This means that Adam was meant to be the one who would represent humanity. This makes sense since if we want to say it’s a chronological thing and Adam is the first Adam, then what are we to make of Jesus being the last Adam? Chronologically, Jesus is definitely not the last man to have ever lived. Everyone reading this post was born after the time of Jesus. From the position of an archetype, Jesus is the last one. Just as Adam was our representative in the garden, when we get to the New Testament, Jesus is seen as our representative.

Thus, the text would not be seen as having a problem with other people. It’s just that those people are not the subject of the account. If that is the case, then the question of where Cain got his wife is answered. Cain married one of those other humans. It was just that Adam was the chosen representative and he brought the knowledge of sin to the world by his wrong actions. Walton is open to the possibility of there being sin beforehand, but people did not have a law that they were accountable to. When Adam fell, then people had something that they were accountable to and sin had to be dealt with.

Eve in the account meanwhile is made to be an ontological equal. She is not really made from the rib of Adam but from the side. Walton says the language is used of a deep sleep for a trance like purpose. We should not read modern anesthesia into the account. The Israelites were not scientists and God could have just as easily made Adam impervious to any pain. Instead, what it is is that Adam is having a vision of himself being cut in half by God and from that half Eve being made. Thus, quite literally, when Eve shows up, Adam can happily proclaim that he’s found his better half. (To which, I have consulted a number of Hebrew scholars who tell me that the bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh that Adam said when he saw Eve is more appropriately translated as “YOWZA!”)

But what was Adam to be doing in the garden? Adam was to act as a priest. In essence, he was to do what Jesus came to do also according to Hebrews. Unfortunately, as our priest, he failed. Adam was meant to bring order to a world that had non-order in it and even some agents of disorder wandering around, chaos creatures as Walton calls them. This would include the serpent, and while whatever the nature of the serpent was is unclear still, it represents a creature that is opposed to the plan of God and thus a threat. It’s also interesting that Walton points out we are not told where the encounter took place. We just think it was in the garden.

As for the tree, Walton says there was nothing magical in the fruit of the tree and that it could have just as easily been a command to not walk on the beach at night. The question was simply is man going to be faithful to God or not. Man gets to choose. One can easily think of C.S. Lewis’s Perelandra at this point. Walton also argues that Adam and Eve were not created immortal, to which I was certainly thrilled to see that as that was a point that I concluded years ago. After all, if they were immortal, why would they need the fruit in the garden, especially the tree of life, to sustain them at all?

Another bonus in the book is that Walton has an excursus by N.T. Wright on Paul’s view of Adam. It’s hard to think of something more thrilling in academia than to see John Walton and N.T. Wright working together on a project. Walton’s view in fact falls in incredibly well with Wright’s, which is one reason I think it’s simply such an amazing interpretation. It fits in with the whole role of vocation and how we are all now in the place of Adam in the sense that our vocation has not changed from the garden. We are still to rule over the Earth and to take control. That having been said, Walton is clear we are not to misuse what we have been given. None of this belongs to us by nature. It is all God’s. We are just the caretakers of what He has given us.

Along with all of this comes the point that science is no threat to Christianity. Studies in modern genetics are not a threat. Evolutionary theory is not a threat. There’s no doubt that at times science can inform our interpretation. For instance, it would be wrong to interpret Psalm 104:5 in a geocentric way and to have read it that way in the past was a misreading as if the Psalmist was interested in telling us about the relation of the planet to the sun. We definitely need to avoid anything such as science vs. the Bible. If a theory like evolutionary theory is to fall, let it fall for one reason. It proves to be bad science. All truth is God’s truth after all and that includes scientific truths. If we want to know the purpose of our existence, we look to the book of Scripture. If we want to know the how of our existence, we look to the book of nature. It is true in a sense that we can say of everything that is that God did it, but Scripture is not meant to answer the question how. It is the glory of God to conceal a matter and the glory of man to search it out. Let’s benefit from both the book of nature and the book of Scripture.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Reading The Bible As Literature

Is there a reason so many debates about the Bible just miss the point? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Okay. We get it in the atheism/theism debates. Some people believe the Bible is reliable. Some do not. That’s fine and until the return of Christ, that’s not going to change. Yet I have been pondering lately that the way we talk about the Bible is part of the problem, and this isn’t just how atheists talk about it, but also how theists talk about it.

It seems while we speak about if the claims of the Bible are true, which we should, there is a lack of the recognition that the Bible is a piece of literature. It speaks with allegory, hyperbole, metaphor, simile, etc. It uses poetry and narrative and proverbs and apocalypses to make its point. The Bible exists in one book, but it is itself a collection of many books, books written by different authors in different times and locations.

Considering all of this, the Bible is not going to be an easy book to understand! Add in that it comes from languages different from our own, a culture different from our own, a time different from our own, and a place different from our own.

I started pondering this the most recent time I saw someone describe the Bible as a book of fairy tales. This is a common claim, but quite frankly a strange one. Fairy tales are really wonderful works of literature that show a richness of imagination and insight into the human predicament. What kind of person would laugh at a fairy tale for being a fairy tale? Yet this kind of statement is not an insult to the Bible alone, but it is also a lowering of the kind of writing that is a fairy tale.

Now why do many atheists say this? I suspect it’s because our culture has been heavily influenced by scientism. We have this idea that all truth should be amenable to the sciences and that science is the highest way of knowing anything if not the only way of knowing anything. We expect then the Bible to speak in scientific language because we are a scientific people.

It doesn’t, and that’s not because the Bible is anti-science. Many of us are not anti-science and we don’t speak in scientific language. The Bible has a totally different purpose. Even if you don’t think it is from God, the authors at least were really trying to make a message about God and they did not have to do it in a way that is convenient to modern listeners. They would write in ways their immediate audience would understand.

Besides, how many of us would really like to have many events described in scientific language? Consider for instance the union of man and woman in the act of sex. Which account would you rather here to describe what happens in the event? Would you prefer a purely scientific account or would you prefer to get an account perhaps from the lovers themselves? (Naturally after they’re done. There won’t be much desire to explain in the midst of the act.)

If you choose the first one, I pity you. I really do.

What needs to be done is to wrestle with the literary forms of the Bible and see if maybe our modern ideas of what the text means are wrong. Perhaps the Bible is not interested in the questions we are interested in. Perhaps one really needs to wrestle with the text to understand it. Still want to disbelieve it? Fine. At least do your part to really try to understand it as a text.

I’ve spoken about the atheists, but frankly, I think the theists are just as guilty. In fact, in many ways, I think my fellow theists are more guilty than the atheists are because we’ve set the standard that the atheist will follow.

For us, it really boils down to one word.

Literal.

Immediately, some people reading this who are Christians are going into a defensive stance because I have just made a statement that is going to dare to suggest that we don’t take the Bible literally. Why I must just be a liberal Christian who rejects miracles and inerrancy and everything else.

On the contrary, I believe we should ALWAYS take the Bible literally.

Why?

Because literal really means “According to the intent of the author.” If the author meant the text to be taken straight forwardly, then do so. If he meant it to be a narrative, then do so. If he meant it to be a metaphor or an apocalypse or a generality, then take it that way as well.

Too often, we have taken literal to mean something more like a wooden reading of the text. That’s not what a literal meaning is. That’s why in today’s parlance if I was asked if the Bible is the Word of God to be interpreted literally, I would say no, because sometimes the Bible is not straight forward.

Why should this surprise us? Jesus told his own parables in a confusing manner. In fact, he did so purposely. Job in his book talked about the search for wisdom and compared it to mining and digging deep for great wealth. It would not be easy to understand and considering all we’ve said about the Bible, why should it be?

Thus, when we hear Christians talk about the literal interpretation, too often it sets up atheists who think that this is always the way the Bible should be read and when read in that sense, they reject most of it as nonsense, and who can blame them? In fact, none of us take it that way or else in reading the words of Jesus, we’d all be blind and have no hands. (Too many people heavy into inerrancy fall into this trap of literal interpretation.)

In fact, when I put a short form of this up on Facebook, what happened immediately but a debate started about Genesis 1, which shows the problem! It’s immediately jumped to that Genesis 1 must be read in scientific terms! Surely this is what the author of the text meant to convey!

But maybe it wasn’t! Could it be someone like John Walton is right with his interpretation of Genesis One. Of course he could be wrong, but isn’t it worth listening to to consider first instead of assuming our presupposition is correct?

The theist, you see, is often guilty of not treating the Bible as literature as well and not really being able to wrestle with the text and ask the hard questions of the text. Some of us have this idea that we should not question the Bible. I disagree entirely. We should question the Bible with every question we can bring to it. In doing so, we can best find out what it is the text is saying.

Ironically, the two sides mentioned both have similar mindsets. Both of them tend to view the Bible always in a straight forward sense and both assume the Bible was written in a way that is directly fitted for modern 20th and 21st century people in a Western civilization.

Maybe it isn’t.

That’s not the fault of the Bible then. That’s the fault of us for wrestling with the text.

If you are on a debate site and you are arguing about the Bible, then for this part, it doesn’t really matter what side you’re on. You owe it to yourself to wrestle with the text as literature and seek to find out what it means and why you think it means what it means. If someone questions that, then it’s up to you to defend your position and if you can’t, be open to changing your mind.

Will we still disagree about the truth claims of the Bible? Absolutely! Yet if we follow a procedure like this, hopefully some of us will have instead better informed disagreements as to the nature of the text and what it is saying rather than a quick dismissal of it all or a quick embrace of it all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Four Views on the Historical Adam

What did I think of this counterpoints book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

A friend sent me this wanting to see what I thought of it. He also figured I’d eat it up since I am a major fan of the work of John Walton. In that case, he is entirely correct and it’s not a shock that in my eyes, Walton did indeed deliver.

I will say also that at this point, I do believe the case for a historical Adam is far stronger than the case against. At the same time, I am not ready to make the belief in the existence of Adam a point of salvation. Salvation is based on belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is not based on belief in Adam.

The one essay in the book that argued against a historical Adam, that of Denis Lamoureux’s, also contained a wonderful story about his coming to Christ and it’s apparent throughout the work that he has a great love for Jesus Christ and a high regard for Scripture.

In reviewing this book, I’d like to look at in order the essays that I found most persuasive and why.

It is not a shock that I found Walton’s to be the most persuasive. Since reading The Lost World of Genesis One, I have been amazed by Walton and that book has forever shaped the way I read Genesis. Naturally, I have a great admiration as well for the book he co-wrote with Brent Sandy called The Lost World of Scripture.

Walton argues that Adam is the archetype of humanity. The text does not say anything about if Adam was the first human or if he was the only one at the time before Eve was created, but it does argue that he is the one who is the representative of us all. Walton also argues that the text says nothing about the material origins of man but rather a statement such as being dust refers to our mortality. He also argues that God did not really perform divine surgery but that the text is written in a way to show that Adam realized Eve was of the same nature as he was and was meant to be his helpmate.

The argument is impressive, but I would like to have seen some other points. For instance, I would have liked to have seen more about his view of the Garden of Eden itself, though I realize that that was not the scope of the book, it would have helped explain the relation between Adam and Eve more in their historical context. Also, the biggest pushback in the counter essays to Walton was on his view of the firmament in day two and this wasn’t really addressed. I know his view has become more nuanced since The Lost World of Genesis One was published and I would have liked to have seen more on that.

The second essay I found most persuasive was that of C. John Collins. Collins comes from an old-earth perspective more along to the lines of what one might see from Reasons To Believe. I found Walton did make a case for how his view would fit consistently.

Yet at the same time, I wondered about some aspects of his essay. Did he really make a case for reading Genesis as he suggested to refute the young-earth position, especially since one scholar in the book is a young-earth creationist? I did not see that presented enough. I also did find his essay contained more concordism than I would have liked.

The next on the list is Denis O. Lamoureux who argued that Adam did not exist. I found it amazing to see that Lamoureux did hold to a high view of Scripture in fact proclaiming his belief that it was inerrant. His case was a fascinating one for no Adam and he did seek to bring into play the NT evidence as well.

Yet I found myself wondering if this was really necessary. The genealogies and other such arguments do lead me to the position of a historical Adam. I do not see how Lamoureux’s position does in fact explain the origin of sin in the world and the problem of evil. Still, it is worth seeing what that side has to say.

The least convincing to me was that of William D. Barrick who argued for a young-earth and a historical Adam. It is not because I hold a disdain for YECs. My ministry partner is a YEC. My wife is a YEC. I do have a problem with dogmatic YECs however, and that includes someone dogmatic in most any secondary position. I would have just as much a problem with a dogmatic OEC.

Barrick too often was pointing to Inerrancy and seeing Scripture as the Word of God as support of His position and agreeing with what God has said. Now naturally, every Christian should want to agree with what God has said, but your interpretation might not be what God has said. This is built on the idea sadly that the Bible was written for the context of a modern American audience. I do not see this.

I have also seen firsthand the damage that is done by assuming that if you believe in Inerrancy, then you must believe in a certain interpretation of Scripture. I would not argue against a Jehovah’s Witness, for instance, that he denies Inerrancy, even though he denies essential tenets of the Christian faith. I would argue against his interpretation. Inerrancy says nothing about what the content of Scripture specifically is. It only says that whatever the content is, that when Scripture affirms something, it affirms it truly.

Also, Barrick did not make any arguments for a young Earth that I saw from a scientific perspective. Now he might discount this as man’s reason and such, but I would have liked to have seen something. I do not think these arguments work since I am not YEC, but I still would have liked to have seen them.

After all, if we are going to just simply say “We don’t need man’s reason” then my reply to that is “Then I do not need to read Barrick.” I do not need to go to his seminary and sit in his class and learn from him. I do not need to go to a church service and hear a pastor speak. I have everything I need with just myself.

Yet I will not be the one who thinks that the Holy Spirit has only guided me into truth and everyone else is just ignorant.

Sadly in many ways, it comes across as just a self-righteous and holier than thou approach to argumentation. I do not think that that is at all conducive to good debate and discussion and while of course the case of Scripture is supreme, there is no harm in looking at extra-Biblical sources. The Bible was not written in a vacuum and we dare not proclaim there is a cleft between the book of Scripture and the book of nature.

The book ends with essays by Greg Boyd and Philip Ryken with Boyd arguing that Adam is not an essential to the faith and Ryken saying that if we don’t have a historical Adam, then Christianity is seriously undermined.

Frankly, I see Ryken’s argument as a kind of paranoia in Christians that if you take this one step, then everything goes down from there. I do not see the argument that if there is no Adam, there is no original sin and thus no need of a savior. If I need to see original sin, I just need to turn on the evening news and see that there is a need for a savior. If I want to see if Christianity is true, I look and see if Jesus is risen. I find it bizarre to think that we could say “Yeah. Jesus came and died and rose from the dead, but Adam didn’t exist so Christianity is false.” I can’t help but think of what G.K. Chesterton said in Orthodoxy:

“If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat.”

I highly recommend this volume as an important work on an important question. While I do not think this is a salvation question, I do think this is an important one and one worth discussing.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Clarification On Discussing Evolution

Is Evolution an important question to discuss? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

My post on the Ham/Nye debate has been getting a lot of attention and it’s been getting a lot of questions, which is understandable! A number of people have wondered about my position and asked if I really think the question of evolution is unimportant.

Yes and no.

Suppose you want to know if Christianity is true. All you need answered is one question. Did God raise Jesus from the dead? If that is true, then Christianity is true and Jesus is the King of this world. If that is not true, then Christianity is not true and you can move on.

How do you establish the resurrection question? You do a historiographical study of the evidence that we have such as found in the NT and in the surrounding culture of the time and other writings outside of the NT. You find the explanation that best explains the data.

Do you need Inerrancy to do this? No. Inerrancy is an important topic, but if there was an error in Scripture, it would not mean Jesus did not rise. The Bible is not an all-or-nothing game and it would be ridiculous to treat it as if it was.

So let’s make a hypothetical situation here. Let’s suppose for the sake of argument, and I do not believe this at all, that the first two chapters of Genesis are in error. Does that mean the whole NT is untrustworthy? No. It does not. It just means we need to change our doctrines of inspiration and Inerrancy. Note I am taking a scenario that is unfavorable towards us intentionally and using it to show that the central truth can still stand.

So in that case, I again repeat, if you want to know if Christianity is true, you don’t need to answer the question of evolution. If evolution is wrong, I would rather someone come to Christ with a belief in evolution, than to avoid Christ while having a true belief that evolution is wrong. I am more interested in getting people to Christ and removing as many hurdles from them as I can. I don’t want them to think they have to overcome a hurdle with evolution. Just show them what alone is essential.

So then, is the question of evolution important? Yes. But this is in a scientific sense.

The Bible is a book of history. I do not believe it is a book of science nor is it intended to be. This is not to fault the Bible or science. It is simply to admit the Bible is interested in teaching us God’s activity in the history of the universe and is not interested in telling us how the planets in our solar system move. It is also not interested in telling us how to do math, how to paint a masterpiece, or how to get in shape, even though there is nothing wrong with any of these and many are important.

Of course, I say this realizing the Bible contains other aspects such as moral teaching and Wisdom, but these are not to be separated from its history. The history is central to the text and the moral teachings are an outworking of that history.

As I said, the view I take on the matter is that of John Walton. You can hear my interview with him here. In this view, the creation account as it were is not a scientific account but is a functional account. You can have literal 24-hour days where God gives the orders on how everything is to behave and still have billions of years of Earth history prior.

What does this say then about how God created? Nothing. Not one thing. God could use fiat creation in Genesis 1 and 2 and Walton’s view is safe. God could also use evolutionary processes and Walton’s view is safe. Now where do you go to determine which view is accurate? You go to the sciences.

Evolution is a scientific question and if it is to fall, and I care not if it succeeds or falls, then it will fall scientifically. Right now, it is the leading naturalistic theory. There is no denying that. That does not mean it is true, but it means it is a serious contender.

So why do I not speak on if evolution is true or not? Simple. I am not a scientist. I do not possess the knowledge in the field. If I was up against a scientist and had to discuss it as science, I would not stand a chance whatsoever. I could not critique evolution from a scientific perspective. I could not defend it from a scientific perspective.

And I’m fine with that.

Too often in the apologetics field, someone can think they have to master everything and have an answer for everything. You don’t. It’s okay to say you don’t know some matters. Many of us have seen the atheists who think they are such experts on history and philosophy and really, they are just embarrassing themselves. Unfortunately, too many Christians when they speak without knowledge on scientific matters are also embarrassing themselves and this only presents a barrier to those atheists who are skilled in the sciences that will keep them from entering the Kingdom. It will give them the impression that Christians just believe what they are told without thinking about it. (Like we do when we see atheists quote “The God Delusion” as an authority.)

Now if you want to critique evolution, then have at it! Go for it! Just make sure that it is a scientific critique and not a Bible critique. The last thing we need is to have this be the case of science vs. the Bible. As soon as we put that to the world, guess which one they will go with.

Also, we must be clear on evolution. I am fine with anything that can be established scientifically as I believe fully that God wrote two books, Scripture and nature, and all truth is God’s truth. If something can be shown through science, then we should accept it.

So could it possibly be shown through science that mankind evolved through a long process of time? Sure. The process could be possibly shown scientifically. Could it be demonstrated that there is no God behind the process whatsoever? No. That is then philosophy and not science. In the same way, I do not think we could use science to PROVE that there is a deity. I think we could establish probabilities either way, but hard proof relies on metaphysics.

This is one reason I hesitate with Intelligent Design. If one takes Intelligent Design to mean do you believe there is a designer behind the universe, where every Christian would be an IDer, but it depends on what kind of universe. What I see most in the ID field is concern about the mechanism which makes God more of an engineer.

The mistake we often make is thinking that if evolution is shown to be true, God is out of a job. Atheists and Christians BOTH make this mistake. This is a concept that I do not think does justice to the Biblical concept of God. For instance, in Colossians 1, we are told that God by His power sustains the universe. The same is said in Hebrews 1.

It is not the case that the universe can just exist on its own. What is holding it in existence? What is sustaining it. Evolution does not answer the question of existence, the most important question to answer.

What this means for me is I can go to someone like Richard Dawkins and say “I will grant you anything about evolution you can show scientifically. Now what is your argument against theism?” If he wants to establish an eternal universe, fine. We’ll do it! If he wants to establish an eternal multiverse, well he can knock himself out! We’ll do it! None of those answer the question of existence itself as you need to explain not just the existence of the universe, how it came about, but the existing of the universe, how it is today.

If someone wants to go out and argue against evolution, I say let them. Just make sure the case is scientific. If evolution will fall, it will fall because it is bad science and the God who gave us Scripture is the one who gave us science as well. Bad science can be shown scientifically. Maybe it cannot be shown right now. Maybe it can be. I don’t know. I just know that I won’t comment on it because it is not my field and the truth of Christianity does not depend on it.

I am an active defender of the new creation beginning in Christ. I am anxiously awaiting its full fruition. My salvation does not lie in Genesis. My salvation lies in Easter Sunday.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Ham/Nye Debate: Why I Don’t Care

So why did I not even bother watching the big debate? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Awhile back, I first heard the news about how Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis was going to debate Bill Nye, the Science Guy. I had great frustration as soon as I heard about the debate. On Facebook after the debate, someone in apologetics I know posted asking who won. My pick obviously didn’t win, and that was the meteor shower that should have come through and knocked the satellites broadcasting it out of the sky or else the winter snowstorm that could have cancelled the whole event. I replied that I don’t know who won, but I’m sure the loser was everyone on the planet.

Yet a few people did ask me what I thought about it and wasn’t I excited about this debate. Therefore, I figured I’d write something so that those who want to know my opinion on the whole matter could see what it is and why that I hold it.

As readers know, I am an old-earth creationist. I do not hold hostility towards YEC. My ministry partner is a YEC. More importantly, my wife is a YEC. What I have a problem with is a dogmatic YEC. I in fact have just as much a problem with a dogmatic OEC. Someone is not more or less of a Christian because of their views on the age of the Earth. There are people who love Jesus more than I do who are YEC. There are people who love him more than I do who are OEC.

Having said that, part of the problem those of us who are OEC have to overcome is constantly having it be assumed that if we’re Christians, then that means that we believe in a young Earth and we don’t. Too often, YEC is presented as the biblical model. As readers know, I happen to think John Walton has the right model. My review of his book on the topic can be found here and my interview with him can be found here.

I also have another viewpoint that can be considered different from a number of Christians and that is that I do not consider the question of evolution important to Christian truth. That does not mean the question is unimportant in itself, but if you want to know if Christianity is true or not, you do not need to ask if evolution is true or not. Now if matter is all there is, then of course Christianity is not true, but because evolution is true, it does not necessitate that matter is all that there is.

In my own work, I refuse to speak on evolution as evolution and my reasoning for doing such is quite simple. I am no scientist. If evolution is to be critiqued, I believe it should be critiqued scientifically. I do not possess the necessary study and/or credentials to do that. If I fault the new atheists for speaking on philosophy, history, biblical studies, etc. without proper background and/or study, then I will follow the same pattern.

For those who do wish to critique evolution, there is no reason to bring Scripture into it. The claim of evolution is a scientific claim and if it falls, it will fall on a scientific basis. I have no problem with people critiquing evolution. I hold no position on the matter simply because I could not scientifically defend or deny evolutionary theory. It is the same reason I do not use Craig’s Kalam argument for the origin of the universe. I am not a scientist and it is not my language. I will stick to the metaphysical arguments instead.

So when I see the Ham/Nye debate, I see the perpetuating of a stereotype that I do not want perpetuated. I see it being made as again, science vs. the Bible and if you hold to the Bible, well you have to hold to a young-earth.

When we are trying to get people to become Christians, our goal should not be to get them to a viewpoint on the origins of old creation but rather on new creation. We want to get them to the risen Jesus and not to a 10,000 year old Earth. Suppose that someone believes in evolutionary theory and a 4.5. billion year old Earth, but also believes Jesus is the risen Lord. Such a person is in the Kingdom. No doubt about it.

Now on the other hand, suppose there is someone, perhaps a Jew, who will stand with Ken Ham and say that the Earth is indeed 10,000 years old and macroevolutionary theory is a fairy tale. Suppose also that this person being a Jew and not Messianic denies that Jesus is the risen Lord. Such a person is not in the Kingdom. No doubt about it.

So which one should we be emphasizing and getting people to realize the most? The age of the Earth and a stance on evolution, or should it be that we are getting them to recognize that Jesus is the risen Lord?

What we do too often is tell atheists that if you want to be a Christian, then you must deny what you are certain of by the sciences. What we also do is tell Christians that if you want to be a follower of Christ, you must believe that the Earth is 10,000 years old. Both positions I am sure will keep people away from the Kingdom.

It is my hope not that Christians will embrace evolution as I do not care about that, but that they will realize that it doesn’t matter and the ultimate hope is to realize that Jesus is the risen Lord of the universe. If you are someone who is capable of presenting every argument you can for the Earth being young, but you are unable to make an argument that Jesus is the risen Lord, then you have made a mistake somewhere along the way.

It is because it feeds a debate then that I do not support in any way that I refused to watch the Ham/Nye debate and so far, no one has given me any reason why I should.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 10/26/2013 Brent Sandy

What’s coming up on today’s episode of Deeper Waters? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Recently, I reviewed a book called The Lost World of Scripture and recommended it as one of the best books I have ever read on getting a handle on the world of the Bible. Today, I am pleased to say that one of the authors of this fine book, Brent Sandy, will be my guest. Due to scheduling complications, we are also holding the show a little bit later and thus it will air from 6-8 PM EST today.

If I were to recommend one book on understanding the world of the New Testament it would be this one. I hope that this interview with Brent Sandy will bring out all the benefits that you’ll get by reading this book. (Unfortunately, John Walton did not come along for the ride this time, People who want to hear my interview with him on The Lost World of Genesis One are advised to go here.

The Lost World of Scripture brings out more than any other book I’ve read on the topic just how different the culture was for the average person back then than it is today. It is also a highly readable book yet one that still uses some of the best scholarly information that is out there. If readers will take the time to absorb the material that is in this book, they will approach the text in a far better light.

But what about Inerrancy? Now that will have to be discussed as this book will be controversial to some who hold to a more wooden form of Inerrancy. The authors do hold to Inerrancy however and that is an important part I think of why it is that they wrote this book. They want to make sure that we are really understanding what it is that the Bible is saying and are applying to properly.

I recommend that you keep this episode on reference and perhaps even consider taking some notes while you listen. (Unless of course you’re driving at the time) Learn the material in here and you will be able to deal with a good number of the skeptical objections that you will encounter in the world when it comes to questions about the nature of Scripture.

Skeptics of the Bible should also read this book. What happens too often is that too many skeptics think they’re informed on the Bible when they’ve simply read their own culture into the text, said it doesn’t make sense, and moved on as if they’ve demonstrated that the Bible is false. Not all do this of course, but too many do this. (Of course, too many Christians also read their own culture into the text and think they find biblical justification for their own biases.)

So please be joining me today to hear Brent Sandy speak on this important topic and when the book comes out on December 1st, please be sure to pick up a copy. The show airs from 6-8 PM EST and the call in number is 714-242-5180. The link can be found here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Lost World of Scripture

What do I think of this volume by Brent Sandy and John Walton? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

One of the perks of being in the business of having a radio show on apologetics and getting great scholars on is that you can get to read advance books. Some of you reading this will want to go straight to Amazon and get this book. Unfortunately, as of this writing, it’s not out yet. It’s due out on December 1st. Yet if this is what you were wanting to do, then I tell you this in the strongest terms. Put this on your wish list immediately! If I could, I would give the book 6 stars on Amazon.

If you want to be keeping up with biblical studies at all and have a thorough knowledge of what is going on in the Bible, this book is required reading. This is the kind of book I think every skeptic should have to read before they go on about how many errors are in the Bible or ask questions like “Why didn’t anyone write it down immediately?”

As I started reading this book, after just finishing two chapters I knew I was reading one of the most important books in biblical studies that I would ever read. The information was also presented in an easy to approach format and even though I have read books in this field for years, much of the information was new even to me.

LWS (Lost World of Scripture) seeks to bring us back into touch with the historical background that the Bible was written in. The name is familiar to some since John Walton, a co-author, wrote The Lost World of Genesis One. I have high hopes that the viewpoints of people like Walton and his co-author, Brent Sandy, will soon became the norm in the world of biblical studies and maybe we’ll actually begin reading the Bible the way it was meant to be read instead of treating it like it was a modern book sent to us, a fax or email from Heaven as it were.

The largest emphasis I see in this book is on the orality of Scripture. We live in a world after what the authors have called the Gutenberg Galaxy. Want to get information out there? Write it down! (This blog post is just such an example!) In the ancient world, the rule was “Want to get information out there? Start talking!” The oral word was seen as more valuable than the written word. If you could go read a book by someone or else hear someone talk about what they said, the spoken word would be seen as more valuable. (And much more accessible as fewer people could read.)

This might sound odd to us, but it shouldn’t be. Many of us can know what it is like to get to read a book by someone and learn from it, but better still is it to get to sit down and talk with those people and learn from them. I do not doubt I have learned much from this book, but I also realize it could be possible to learn even more when talking with the authors (Which such a chance granted does not usually come in our world) and really get to discuss it with them.

When we treat the Bible as if it was meant to be read more than heard, then we will have problems in our society. Of course we should read the Bible, but the original recipients of the gospel would hear it. Even with the written words, they would still hear it as most could not read and would rely on a reader telling them what the written text says.

Also important is what this all says for Inerrancy. The authors make statements that will no doubt be seen as controversial for Inerrancy, but I think they are certainly true. We really need to examine what it is that we mean by Inerrancy. As each generation often needs to say what the truth is they uphold, so do we. We have uncovered more information than was had at meetings like the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. Even saying “The Bible is true in all that it affirms” might not be enough, because there are times that we have to ask what is being affirmed. Proverbs are not iron-clad rules, for instance. They are generalities. Are we then saying Proverbs are generally inerrant?

Walton and Sandy do not have an answer to this that is definitive, nor should they. This is not a statement for just two people to make. This is something that would require the evangelical community as a whole coming together. This would require as many scholars as willing in the relevant fields to come together in light of new information and say that we today still want to uphold the truth of Scripture and give it the high place it deserves. How shall we go about doing this?

After finishing this book, I definitely conclude it is one of the most important ones I have read and so much of what I see online from atheists could be dismantled if they would be willing to engage with this book. So many Christians would have a deeper appreciation and understanding of Scripture if they would read what is in this book. If you care at all about biblical studies, you must go straight to Amazon now and put this in your wish list!

It is time to find the world that has been lost to us.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Genesis One: The Lost World

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast this Saturday? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

How old is the Earth? Is it 6-10,000 years old, or is it 4.5 billion years old? Most of us have decided the place to go to is Genesis 1 and this has been the battleground for the topic. Each side has been ready to cast out the other and charges of heresy fly around. (For all concerned, I am an OEC who has a ministry partner that is YEC and a wife that is YEC)

The underlying assumption for each side has been that this is what Genesis One is talking about. This Saturday, I will be interviewing a guest that says “No. Both sides have it wrong. Genesis One is not talking about that at all.” My guest is John Walton of Wheaton who wrote the book “The Lost World of Genesis One.”

Walton says that in our scientific mindset due to the enlightenment, we have had an emphasis on the material aspects of creation, but Walton says the ancients didn’t think that way. For them, something wasn’t truly said to exist until it was given a function, and thus the account of creation as we call it is not about the material creation, but the functional creation of the universe.

And what is the whole purpose of all of this? Walton tells us that the main goal of creation was to make a temple for which God would dwell in. The deity’s idol would often sit in the temple as well, which would be that which bore the deity’s image. This means that we are an integral part of the creation. We were made to serve in a temple that reflects the glory of God.

This thesis I find extremely fascinating. It fits in so well with the NT and the writings of N.T. Wright on God wanting to dwell with His people and on eventually the new heaven coming down to Earth. It also has the advantage of doing what I’ve said should be done for some time, getting to the way the ancients would have read the Bible and trying to move away from our modern presuppositions.

Yet this view is not without its critics. There are two especially we will be discussing. One is William Lane Craig who has made a number of statements with regards to Aristotlean philosophy. Has Walton committed a grave blunder in his reasoning? We will be asking him.

Another is Hugh Ross of Reasons To Believe. I do wish to state upfront that I do respect both Ross and Craig. I am a member of the local chapters of Reasons To Believe and Reasonable Faith, but I am of course allowed to disagree. Ross comes from another perspective.

Ross does believe the Bible contains scientific information in the account and defends a more concordist position. Ross is concerned about removing a scientific witness to the world from the Bible and what it means to tell modern man the Bible says nothing in regards to science. There are also concerns about Inerrancy that have come up. (Not that we’re unfamiliar with the code word of Inerrancy being used to drum up suspicion)

Chances are, you might have your own questions as well for Dr. Walton. If you do, I welcome them. The show time will be from 3-5 EST on June 22, 2013. Our call in number is 714-242-5180. I hope you’ll be listening in for an enjoyable episode of the Deeper Waters podcast.

The link to the show is available here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters