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Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of systematic theology today by continuing to examine God’s will. Dr. Spencer, we ended last time by looking at 1 Peter 1:18-20, and in verse 20 it says that Christ “was chosen before the creation of the world” [1]. You also pointed out that he was chosen for the purpose of becoming incarnate and giving his life as an atonement to save his people from their sins. And that all of this is part of God’s decretive will.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it is part, God decrees everything that happens, even our sin. Listen to what the apostle Peter said to the crowd on the day of Pentecost. We read this in Acts 2:22-24, “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”

Marc Roby: And in Acts 4:28 we read that the believers were praying about the authorities crucifying Jesus Christ and they said, “They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.”

Dr. Spencer: God’s will is wonderful. He can work directly in this universe, as he did in creation and as he does in regeneration, but he normally uses secondary agents to accomplish his purposes. In this case, he used this horrible sin of crucifying the completely innocent God-man Jesus Christ to bring about the redemption of his people. It completely boggles the mind. God used what was the worst sin ever committed to bring about the greatest good ever achieved.

Marc Roby: And yet Judas, who betrayed Jesus, was still morally culpable for his sin. And so were the Jewish leaders who conspired against him and condemned him, and so was Pontius Pilate, the prefect of the Roman province of Judaea, who acceded to their demands; they were all morally culpable for their sins even though they were accomplishing God’s set purpose in doing so.

Dr. Spencer: They most certainly were morally responsible for their sins. No one forced them to sin, even though God had ordained from before the creation of the world that they would do so. The theological term used to describe the fact that God’s free will and our free will can work together to accomplish exactly what God has foreordained, or decreed, is called concurrence. It is a very important concept.

Marc Roby: And, of course, the crucifixion of Christ is not the only dramatic example of concurrence. The story of Joseph being sold into slavery in Egypt gives us another great example.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it does. But in order to give that example, we need to remind our listeners of some of the facts relating to Joseph’s life.

Marc Roby: Alright, let me begin. Joseph was one of the twelve Patriarchs of the Jewish people. He was the favorite son of his father Jacob, who was the son of Isaac, the son God promised to Abraham and Sarah. Joseph’s brothers hated him because he was his father’s favorite, so they sold him to some Midianite slave traders who were heading down to Egypt and then told their father Jacob that he had been killed by a wild animal. Joseph was later sold to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard.

Dr. Spencer: And we read about all of that in Genesis Chapter 37. But God was gracious to Joseph in Egypt and through a long process, which included his being unjustly imprisoned for years, he miraculously became second in command in Egypt as we read in Chapters 39-41 of Genesis. We also read that there was a severe famine in the land and Joseph was in charge of Pharaoh’s storehouses of grain.

Marc Roby: And in Chapter 42 of Genesis we are told that there was also famine in the land of Canaan, where Joseph’s brothers and father lived. And because they heard that there was grain in Egypt, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy grain for their families. In doing so, they came before their brother Joseph.

Dr. Spencer: And there is a lot that we are leaving out in order to get to our main point. This is a marvelous story of God’s grace and sovereignty and I encourage our listeners to read it if they don’t know the story. But to move on, Joseph’s brothers didn’t recognize him because he now spoke, dressed and acted like an Egyptian, but he recognized them. I will again leave out a lot of wonderful and edifying material from Chapters 43 through 49 and just say that Joseph eventually revealed himself to his brothers and then his entire family, including his father Jacob, moved down to Egypt.

Marc Roby: And Jacob died in Egypt, which then left Joseph’s brothers worried. In Genesis 50:15 we read that “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?’”

Dr. Spencer: And we finally come to the verses we want to discuss today. In Genesis 50:19-21 we read, “But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.”

Marc Roby: What a gracious response that was.

Dr. Spencer: It was incredibly gracious, but Joseph saw God’s purpose in all that had happened. I’m sure that as a human being he must have struggled with all of the trials he went through because of his brother’s hatred, and in the material we skipped over we do see him exacting a bit of revenge. But the main point here, just as we saw in Acts regarding the crucifixion of Jesus, is the concurrence between the free, sinful actions of human beings and God’s ultimate purpose and decrees.

Marc Roby: Now I suspect that that will sound very strange to many of our listeners. The idea that God would, in any way, concur with sinful acts.

Dr. Spencer: I’m sure that does sound strange to anyone who has not heard of this doctrine before. The word concur is often used to indicate agreement or approval, but it can also simply mean to act together toward some common goal, in which case it does not imply approval of the actions of the other person. And that is the sense in which we are using the word here.

God’s actions and the sinful actions of human beings can work together to bring about a result that God has decreed will happen, but there is no implication that God approves of the sinful actions.

Marc Roby: Louis Berkhof gives a good definition of concurrence in his systematic theology text. He writes that “Concurrence may be defined as the cooperation of the divine power with all subordinate powers, according to the pre-established laws of their operation, causing them to act and to act precisely as they do.”[2]

Dr. Spencer: That is a great definition. We will have more to say about concurrence, which is part of the doctrine of God’s providence, when we finish with God’s attributes. But for now, let me just point out a couple of things. First, note that Berkhof talks about divine power and subordinate powers. God is in complete control of his creation. That does not mean that we are all puppets, but it does mean that we are completely subordinate. No one can thwart God’s plans. He brings about exactly what he has decreed will happen. When we sin, he uses our sin, together with other factors, to bring about his purposes.

Marc Roby: That’s an amazing thing to think about.

Dr. Spencer: It really is. But I also like the fact that Berkhof mentions the “pre-established laws” that are in operation. There are, for example, the laws of nature, which God himself established and upholds, but there are also laws, if you will, of human behavior. As we noted in Session 84 and will talk about more when we get to biblical anthropology, we do have free wills, but our wills are not absolutely free. We cannot violate our own nature. Which is perfectly logical and reasonable. It strikes me as exceedingly strange, to say the least, to think that I have the freedom to choose to do something that goes completely against all of my own inclinations and desires.

Marc Roby: That is indeed illogical. But, now that we have established that in order to accomplish his decretive will God works through secondary agents, including even the sinful actions of human beings, what else do you want to say about the will of God?

Dr. Spencer: Well, since we have been talking about human sin and its relation to God’s will, I want to stick with that general idea and talk about what is usually called God’s permissive will. I can’t find a good definition of this term in any of my theology texts because theologians seem to not use the term. But Christians use it reasonably often, so I think we should discuss it. I think that what people usually mean by God’s permissive will is that it encompasses all those things that God allows to happen even though they are not what he desires or commands to have happen.

Marc Roby: And these actions may include sin as well as things that are not, in themselves sin.

Dr. Spencer: I think that’s right. And although I can’t find a theologian speaking about God’s permissive will, Berkhof does talk about the fact that God’s eternal decree, which is basically synonymous with what we have been calling God’s decretive will, is permissive with respect to human sin.

Marc Roby: Now, that’s an interesting statement, can you explain what he means by that?

Dr. Spencer: Yes, I can. He wrote that when God decrees human sin, “It is a decree which renders the future sinful act absolutely certain, but in which God determines (a) not to hinder the sinful self-determination of the finite will; and (b) to regulate and control the result of this sinful self-determination.”[3]

Marc Roby: This sounds like concurrence again, mixed in with God’s sovereign control of all things, including human sin. Berkhof’s point seems to be that God permits sin, but it is never outside of his control and is used by him to accomplish his own purposes.

Dr. Spencer: I think that’s a fair summary.

Marc Roby: When people speak of God’s permissive will, it is usually in some way contrasted with his perfect will.

Dr. Spencer: That contrast is what you typically hear.[4] And what is usually meant by God’s perfect will for us is almost synonymous with his revealed, or preceptive will. It is what God has commanded us to do, although it often goes beyond that. For example, someone might talk about it not being God’s perfect will for them to marry a particular individual, whereas Scripture, of course, does not command us to marry or not marry a specific individual. It only gives us the command that as Christians, we must marry another Christian.

Marc Roby: I’ve certainly heard that kind of talk, and it does make a valid point. We can make decisions that are not necessarily sinful, they aren’t the wisest choice. God will not usually intervene in any direct way to stop his people from making bad decisions, or even from sinning, so we need to be careful to not conclude that just because he allows us to do something, that it is the best thing to do, or even to conclude that it isn’t sin.

Dr. Spencer: I agree that is the point usually being made when people talk about God’s permissive will versus his perfect will. And it is an important point. It should scare us to know that God will allow us to make bad decisions. And it should scare us even more when we read, for example, that God allowed King David to commit adultery and murder. We would prefer to read that David was prevented from doing so. But the reality is that, for his own perfect purposes, God allows his people to sin, sometimes grievously. And we cannot take any solace in the fact that he is sovereign even over our sins and will somehow use them to accomplish his good purposes. It would always, without exception, be better for us to not sin.

Marc Roby: I completely agree. We need to seek to be led by the Word of God, with the help of the Holy Spirit, in order to avoid sin and even decisions that are not sinful, but that are also not the wisest choice.

Dr. Spencer: And we have a great promise from God about temptation to sin. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 we read that “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

Marc Roby: Yes, that is a great promise. But it does not say that God will not allow us to be tempted. It only says that he will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear.

Dr. Spencer: And the painful truth is that we sometimes give in to temptation in spite of God keeping it limited to what we can bear. We need to be very careful to watch our life and doctrine closely as the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:16. God will provide a way out of every temptation, but we must look for it and avail ourselves of it. If we don’t, we will suffer harm.

Marc Roby: Yes, and very often others will be harmed as well.

Dr. Spencer: That’s quite true. This is why Jesus taught in the Lord’s prayer to pray that God would deliver us from temptation. He also told us to pray “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10), which is obviously speaking about God’s preceptive will; in other words, we are praying that people, including ourselves, would obey God’s commands. It would make no sense for this to refer to God’s decretive will since whatever God decrees will, in fact, happen. Therefore, if this referred to God’s decretive will we would be praying that God would cause what is going to happen to happen.

Marc Roby: That certainly wouldn’t make any sense. But I doubt that many people are consciously aware that they are praying for their own obedience when they pray the Lord’s prayer. What else do you want to say about God’s will?

Dr. Spencer: I think it is important to distinguish between what theologians call God’s necessary and free wills.

Marc Roby: We have already pointed out that there are things that God cannot do, so his necessary will must refer to those things which he must do because he is God. Things like continuing to exist and always telling the truth.

Dr. Spencer: That is exactly what is meant, so in a sense we’ve covered God’s necessary will already. But the important point I want to make is that God also does many things freely, and it is particularly important for us to know that creation was God’s free decision. He did not need to create this universe for any reason. Nor did he need to redeem anyone after the fall.

Marc Roby: You do sometimes here Christians talk about God creating us for fellowship, which sounds a bit like he would be lonely without us.

Dr. Spencer: That is precisely the view I want to oppose. It is unbiblical. God is love as we are told in 1 John 4:16, and that is an essential attribute of God. It is part of his fundamental nature. It was true before he ever created this universe. There was absolutely perfect love and fellowship between the persons of the Trinity prior to the creation of this universe. God did not need to create. Wayne Grudem states it well in his systematic theology. He wrote that “It would be wrong for us ever to try to find a necessary cause for creation or redemption in the being of God himself, for that would rob God of his total independence. It would be to say that without us God could not truly be God. God’s decisions to create and to redeem were totally free decisions.”[5]

Marc Roby: That is a very important, and humbling, point. Is there anything else you wanted to say about God’s will?

Dr. Spencer: I want to go back to the Lord’s prayer and note again that in that prayer Christ taught us to pray that God’s will would be done on earth, which certainly includes in our own lives. If we have surrendered our lives to Christ, we must work hard to submit our will to his will. When Jesus was crying out to the Father from the Mount of Olives prior to his crucifixion, we read in Luke 22:42 that he prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” That is the kind of complete submission to God that all of us should strive to achieve in our own lives.

I’ve heard that people used to add the letters D.V. to statements of their intentions for the future. For example, I might write that I will visit you in Oregon this summer, D.V. The letters D.V. stand for the Latin phrase deo volente, and mean God willing.

Marc Roby: Which comes, of course, from James 4:13-15, where we read, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’”

Dr. Spencer: I assume that is where it comes from, yes. And although I’m sure it can easily become a meaningless cliché used to try and sound godly, it is a good sentiment to have in mind at all times. As Christians, our job is to seek to know and do the will of God. As Jesus himself told us in John 13:17, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

Marc Roby: I think that is a good place to end for today, so let me remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org and we’ll do our best to respond to them.

 

[1] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[2] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1938, pg. 171

[3] Ibid, pg. 105

[4] It shows up, for example, in a popular old daily devotional called My Utmost for his Highest by Oswald Chambers, see the entry for December 16.

[5] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Inter-Varsity Press, 1994, pg. 213

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Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of biblical theology today by continuing to look at external evidence that corroborates the Bible. Last time we discussed a few different views of the creation days in Genesis 1.

Dr. Spencer: before we move on to the next topic, I would like to ask a couple of final questions having to do with the Bible’s account of creation: first, what do you think of the view commonly called theistic evolution?

Dr. Spencer: Well, to be completely honest, I don’t think much of it. First, as I understand it, it assumes evolution to be basically true and simply says that God guided it in some way, or that he created the natural world in such a way that natural processes had the power necessary to produce life. But, I don’t think it is at all possible that natural processes can explain the origin of life, as we discussed at some length in Session 1. Living beings are simply not produced from non-living chemicals without the introduction of a vast amount of information, which requires intelligence. I also don’t think the evidence is there to support evolution as a plausible explanation for the diversity of life, although, as I said in Session 1, I do think that biological organisms are able to adapt, which is often called micro evolution.

Marc Roby: But you do believe that God used natural processes, starting with the Big Bang, to produce our sun and our planet, so why couldn’t natural processes also have produced living creatures?

Dr. Spencer: For two reasons. First, because, as I just said and argued at length in Session 1, life is different! It is not just quantitatively more complex than inanimate objects, even objects as complex as entire solar systems. No, it is qualitatively different, in other words, there is a radical, fundamental difference between nonliving and living things. Life is not simply the result of having the necessary chemicals around and then allowing the physical laws of the universe to operate on those materials for some length of time.

You will notice in Genesis 1 that most of the history of the universe, at least if the Big Bang theory is at all correct, is covered in the first verse; “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”[1]Then the account tells us, in verse 2, that “the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” I think John Lennox, in his book Seven Days that Divide the World, was right when he wrote about this verse that, “reference to the Spirit of God hovering near earth could be understood as a dramatic indication that God’s special action is now going to begin. The aeons of waiting are over. The Creator is about to shape his world, to create life and fill the earth with it in preparation for God’s crowning final act, the making of man and woman in his image.”[2]

Marc Roby: I will certainly grant that there is a significant difference between the inanimate creation and life. But, you said you had two reasons why the creation of life is so different, what is the second?

Dr. Spencer: The second reason has to do not just with life in general, but specifically with man. Theistic evolution has at least one very serious theological problem when it comes to man. The Bible is clear that Adam and Eve were special creations of God, they were not the result of a long process of evolution. It isn’t acceptable, theologically, to say that at some point God gave a spirit to some hominid that had evolved from lower animals. Such a view would require that the creation account for Eve would have to be taken as pure fiction, but the apostle Paul, for example, does not treat it as fiction in his argument in 1 Timothy 2:13. I think John Lennox does a good job of discussing theistic evolution in an appendix to the book I mentioned a moment ago.

Marc Roby: Alright, I have one more question before we leave the creation narratives of Genesis. What about the different order of presentation for the creation events in Chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis? Some people claim that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 present, essentially, two different and incompatible accounts. What do you say to them?

Dr. Spencer: My answer to that is taken directly from the very fine Hebrew scholar E. J. Young and his book Thy Word is Truth.[3] He points out that the phrase in Genesis 2:4, which in the ESV begins “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth”, is a critical phrase. It occurs eleven times in the book of Genesis and always as a heading. Young proposes that it could be translated “These are the things generated …” and he says that “in these words, there is a clue to the fact that Genesis 2, instead of being a second account of creation, deals rather with the creation of man.” If you read that chapter with this thought in mind, it makes perfectly good sense.

Marc Roby: Can you flesh that thought out a bit for us?

Dr. Spencer: Certainly. Genesis 2 is not giving a chronological listing of events, it is focused entirely on man as the creature God made to tend the garden, and it presents us with a picture of a benevolent God who gave man everything he could want or need. We are told in verse 9 that there were “trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food”, so man’s physical needs and aesthetic desires were satisfied. We are also told there was the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, there was gold, there were precious stones, and there were rivers, man was giving everything he needed or could possibly want. Then, of course, we also read that man was given the job of naming the animals and, in the process, discovered that there was no suitable helper for him, so God created Eve. Now, when you look at the account this way, you see clearly that there is no conflict at all with the first chapter, there is a very different focus and purpose.

Marc Roby: Alright. You have provided very reasonable arguments regarding the Genesis account of creation. What about the rest of Genesis? Do we have external evidence to corroborate what the Bible tells us about the early history of man?

Dr. Spencer: There is a tremendous amount of evidence, but certainly not all of it is archaeological evidence. For one thing, the biblical account of the fall of Adam and Eve, as I mentioned in Session 8, must be considered factual by a true Christian. It is treated as factual in the Bible itself and is a very important part of Paul’s arguments in the book of Romans. And I think we can clearly see evidence of the fall in the present-day world and in world history. All are sinners. And I don’t mean to be at all trite in saying that, I mean it as a profound and depressing truth. And the history of the world, or the daily newspaper, give us ample evidence for the fact, as do our own hearts if we are at all honest. But, we must be careful to define sin biblically, as the answer to Question 14 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it, “Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.” Sin is not the same thing as crime. Societies define what actions are crimes, but God is the only one with authority to define sin.

If the evolutionary view of man were true, we would be seen to be getting better all the time, but world history simply does not show that to be the case.

Marc Roby: I can completely agree with that assessment. Is there any other external corroboration for the biblical narrative between the time of creation and Abraham?

Dr. Spencer: I think so. Let me go back to the headings that E.J. Young notes, which begin with “These are the generations …” as we saw in Chapter 2 verse 4.

After discussing the creation of Adam and Eve and the fall, the Bible goes on to tell about Cain slaying his brother Abel, which is the first example of the terrible consequences of the fall. Then, in Genesis 5:1 we see the next of these headings, which in the 1984 NIV Bible we are using begins “This is the written account of Adam’s line”. That is followed by a listing of some of Adam’s descendants and a description of the increase in human sin, which culminated in the famous declaration in Genesis 6:5, that “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” This led to God’s deciding to wipe out almost all of mankind with a flood. And that account begins in Genesis 6:9 with the third of our headings, “This is the account of Noah”.

Marc Roby: And is there external evidence to support the flood narrative?

Dr. Spencer: There absolutely is. There was clearly a massive flood in the ancient world that we call the Near East. I’m not going to get into a discussion of whether that flood was truly global or local, I don’t consider that to be an extremely important point; it is much like the age of the earth, it can be a severe distraction and divide Christians unnecessarily. But, it is relatively clear that there was such a flood if for no other reason than it is a common theme in several ancient accounts, not just the Bible.

For example, in Kenneth Kitchen’s excellent book, On the Reliability of the Old Testament,[4] he cites three Mesopotamian “Primeval Protohistories”, as he calls them, from the early 2nd millennium before Christ; the Sumerian King List, the Atrahasis Epic, and the Eridu Genesis. Now I know a lot of people are familiar with the Epic of Gilgamesh, so before we go on I’ll point out that it is not included in that list because it appears to have taken its flood account directly from the Atrahasis Epic.

Marc Roby: I assume that all three of these extra-biblical sources have a story of a massive flood?

Dr. Spencer: Yes they do. And all three accounts share certain key features with the biblical account. In all three accounts the flood is sent as divine punishment, one man is told to build an ark and then he and some group of people, in the biblical accounts his family, and a number of animals survive. But, the differences in these accounts are, as Kitchens explains, “so numerous as to preclude either the Mesopotamian or Genesis accounts having been copied directly from the other.”

I’ll let our listeners consult his book for details, but I think there are three points of particular interest to take note of: First, that the Sumerians and Babylonians treated their accounts as historical; for example, they had historical lists of kings before and after the flood.  Second, floods in that part of the world were quite common, so this was obviously not just another flood, it was something quite extraordinary, one could say of biblical proportions I guess. And, third, even though these other accounts include their gods and other mythological features, that does not in any way mean that they aren’t based on a true historical event, nor does it imply that the Bible’s supernatural explanations for the event are wrong.

Marc Roby: Is there anything else of importance that we should know about the Mesopotamian  flood accounts?

Dr. Spencer: Absolutely. I think they are illustrative of the fact that the Bible is clearly distinct from all types of mythology. In the Mesopotamian versions the gods are angry with man for being too noisy, which is rather silly. Whereas, in the Bible, God’s anger is because of the wickedness of man.

Secondly, in the Mesopotamian versions most of the gods hide what they are going to do from man, but one man was secretly told by a friendly god, about what was happening. And the other gods were then angry that some people survived the flood as a result of this warning. This is the kind of petty fighting between gods that is common in mythology; the intent of all but one of them was, evidently, to wipe mankind out, but they didn’t succeed.

Whereas, the true and living God who has revealed himself in the Bible had a clear purpose in bringing the flood. He then communicated clearly to Noah what that purpose was and what Noah was to do. And no one can thwart God’s plans; he accomplishes what he desires.

Thirdly, the Mesopotamian versions describe a ship that is completely unrealistic and unseaworthy; it is shaped like a giant cube! Hardly a believable account. Whereas, in the biblical account, the ship has perfectly believable and functional proportions.

Marc Roby: Those are pretty significant differences. Of course, you and I both grew up being taught that religion started out as primitive man coming up with explanations for the lightning and thunder and so on – things that scared him, and then – or so that story goes – religion evolved with man and became more and more sophisticated. Eventually culminating in the development of monotheism.

Dr. Spencer: That is the picture we were given, and not just us. I think that is still the picture many people have in their heads. There may be some truth to the fact that myths were made up by men to deal with things that scared them, and I’ve always personally thought that the Greek and Nordic mythologies, along with Native American mythologies and so on must have developed as a combination of these kinds of explanations and just plain old-fashioned story telling. But, Christianity is in no way the end result of some kind of evolutionary development of religion beginning with myths.

First of all, the Bible and mythology stand side-by-side historically. Greek mythology is thought to have developed from stories beginning sometime around 2000 BC, which is right about the time of Abraham and probably well before the time of development of Nordic or Native American myths. Secondly, God is never presented in the Bible as merely an explanation for natural phenomena like lightning. Rather, he is presented as the Sovereign Creator of everything and the Genesis account is, in many ways, a polemic against the mythologies that were around at that time.

I think that the theologian and mathematician Vern Poythress put it well in his book Redeeming Science.[5] He discusses some of the ancient Near Eastern creation stories and compares them with Genesis and writes that “In contrast to the crass, immoral, quarreling gods of polytheism stands the majestic, ordered, unopposed work of the one true God. Instead of creating man to serve the needs of complaining gods, God creates man out of his sheer bounty, blessing him and caring for him. Disorder and suffering come from the human fall and apostasy, not from the disorder of gods in conflict.”

Marc Roby: That does summarize the difference quite well. But, returning to extra-biblical evidence to corroborate the early chapters of Genesis, what else do we have?

Dr. Spencer: Well, the next one of our major headings occurs in Genesis 10:1, right after the account of the flood. It reads, “This is the account of Shem, Ham and Japheth, Noah’s sons”. This section of Scripture is sometimes called the Table of Nations.

Marc Roby: Do we have external evidence for these descendants?

Dr. Spencer: We do have external evidence that the names are legitimate names from that period and location, which in itself is very strong evidence that the document was written at that time. As we’ve noted before, someone writing a few hundred, or more than a thousand years later, as the biblical minimalists would claim, would simply not have been able to get these names right. I’ll let the interested listeners look in Kitchen’s book for the details.[6]

Marc Roby: This is all fascinating evidence for something so ancient. I look forward to getting into more of it next time, but we are out of time for today.

[1] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[2] John C. Lennox, Seven Days that Divide the World: The Beginning according to Genesis and Science, Zondervan, 2011, pg. 172

[3] E.J. Young, Thy Word is Truth, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1957, reprinted by Banner of Truth Trust, 2012, pg. 121

[4] K.A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003, see Chapter 9

[5] Vern S. Poythress, Redeeming Science: A God-Centered Approach, Crossway Books, 2006, pg 72

[6] Kitchen op. cit. pp 430-438

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Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of biblical theology today by continuing to look at external evidence that corroborates the Bible. Last time, Dr. Spencer, you argued that the Genesis account of creation is not intended to be a scientific description of how the universe was created and also that it was not intended to tell us when the universe was created. You then briefly outlined what is important for a Christian to believe about the Genesis account of creation. So, I think we are now ready to discuss how the Genesis account of creation can possibly be consistent with our modern scientific understanding. How would you like to proceed?

Dr. Spencer: I’d like to proceed by giving a sampling of different ideas that have been proposed for how to reconcile the apparent differences between what we know from Genesis and our current scientific understanding. It would take far too long to go into any of the proposals in great detail, and I don’t think it would be profitable for most of our listeners, but I will give some references for those who want to look into this topic in more detail.

What I hope to accomplish is simply to demonstrate that there are a number of possible ways in which our modern scientific understanding might be in complete harmony with the truth presented in Genesis chapters 1 and 2. So, if you are a believer, you should not in any way fear science, nor should you think that science is entirely wrong. And if you are an unbeliever, I hope to make you realize that you don’t have to abandon science or reason to believe the Bible, nor do you have to believe that Genesis is just a myth. The rest of the Bible treats Genesis as factual, and so should we.

Marc Roby: Fair enough. The controversy really centers on how we interpret the six days of creation; so, what about the days in Genesis 1? What do you think about them?

Dr. Spencer: There are a number of different views about those days and I’m not certain which one is correct. I do, however, favor the idea that they are normal days, not long epochs or mere literary devices, but, I must emphasize that I would not be dogmatic on that point.

Also, even if they are indeed real days, that still does not by any means settle the question about how long the process of creation described in Genesis 1 took. I would like to briefly examine three possible ways to understand these days.

First, it has been suggested that these days could be normal 24-hour days that are markers at the end of long periods of time, so they are six normal days, but they are not consecutive. This suggestion can be found, for example, in the book Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth, by Robert Newman and Herman Eckelmann, Jr.[1], although there are others who hold the same view. The book is a bit old, but it still provides a reasonable summary of the scientific evidence pointing to the age of the Earth and then also a reasonable possible exegesis of Genesis 1.

If you read the Genesis account carefully, even in the English, you will note that it does not say that all of the creative activity took place on the day mentioned; rather, it lists the activities for a given period of time and then concludes by saying, “and there was evening, and there was morning, the first [2nd, or whatever] day”. [2] So, it is certainly possible that there were extended periods of creative activity separated by special days called out by God as markers.

Marc Roby: OK, you mentioned three views that you wanted to examine; what is the second?

Dr. Spencer: The second view I want to mention has to do with the point of view of the one writing the Genesis account. If you are going to try and read Genesis 1 in what I would describe as a woodenly literal way, then you have a problem to deal with. The sun and moon are not mentioned until the fourth day, and many take this to mean that that is when they were created. But, of course, we define a day by the rotation of the earth and the concomitant appearance of the sunrise and sunset, so how do you know the length of the so-called days that occurred prior to the fourth day?

Newman, and others, have proposed that the description of creation in Genesis 1 is from the perspective of an observer on the surface of earth, and have pointed out that the sun and moon would not have been visible to this observer at first because the atmosphere was originally opaque. The appearance of plants on earth however, which consume carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, helped to change the earth’s atmosphere so that it was no longer opaque. Therefore, after plants had been around a while, the sun, moon and stars would become visible to this earth-bound observer. And remember that plants are created on the third day, so the sequence is correct in saying that the sun, moon and stars would then become visible on the fourth day. If you don’t adopt something like Newman’s view, you have a problem determining the length of the first three days.

Marc Roby: Alright, what is the third view you want to mention?

Dr. Spencer: The third view I want to mention again has to do with the location of the observer through whose eyes, if you will, the creation account is described, and I must warn you and our listeners that this view is a bit difficult, but I will keep the description as brief as I can and then will also summarize the main point at the end to try and make it clear.

Marc Roby: Thanks for the warning – we all know to listen a bit more carefully for a while. So, what is this difficult view?

Dr. Spencer: Well, we tend to think of time as immutable, but this is not at all the case. One of the most shocking developments of 20th-century science was Einstein’s theory of relativity, which clearly shows that under some conditions the passage of time is different for different observers. And I don’t mean that their subjective experience of time is different, their perception of time is actually the same. I literally mean that time is different for different observers under some conditions. This sounds very much like science fiction to most people, but it absolutely is not fiction. The theory of relativity has been experimentally verified time and time again and has been proven to be correct.

Now, there are really two theories of relativity, one dealing with observers moving at a constant velocity relative to each other, this is the special theory of relativity, and the other dealing with observers who are accelerating, or, equivalently, are in a gravitational field, this is called the general theory of relativity. In any event, the special theory shows us that if you are sitting stationary on the earth and I am moving past you at some constant velocity, you will observe my clock to be running slow compared to your clock. And this has been confirmed experimentally many times. The difference is extremely small at normal speeds, but at speeds approaching the speed of light, the difference can become quite large. The general theory of relativity says that clocks also run slower when they are accelerating, or equivalently, when they are in a gravitational field.

Marc Roby: Alright, that is very troubling. Does this mean that the movie Back to the Future might describe something that is actually possible?

Dr. Spencer: Not at all. Time travel, in the sense that science fiction presents it, is not possible. What is possible, is for two different people to age at different rates.

Marc Roby: I’m glad I don’t need to worry about anyone going back and changing the past. But, can you give us any common examples where these theories make a difference?

Dr. Spencer: Absolutely, let me give you one concrete example with which everyone is familiar and where relativity matters a great deal. That example is the GPS system most of use for navigation. The operation of that system depends critically on being able to accurately measure time. But, the GPS satellites are in orbit around the earth and so are moving very rapidly relative to us on the ground, which causes their clocks to run slower than ours in accordance with special relativity. In addition, the satellites are in a smaller gravitational field than we are here on the surface of the earth, which means that we observe their clocks running faster than ours in accordance with general relativity. It turns out that the gravitational effect is the larger of the two, so overall, we observe the clocks in the satellites running faster than ours do, but both effects must be taken into account, or the GPS system will not work properly. And the error that would occur if we didn’t take these effects into account is not small, one estimate I found[3] said that the errors would accumulate at the rate of 10 km per day if relativity were ignored!

Marc Roby: Wow, that is a huge error. But, I think it’s time to slow down a bit now because a lot of people might be confused at this point. How is this relevant to our understanding of Genesis 1?

Dr. Spencer: Alright, this is the most important point certainly. It’s relevant because of the fact that time progresses at different rates for different observers. And, when you are talking about extremely large gravitational fields and high velocities, as would have been present everywhere in the early universe, the difference can be massive. So, where you place the observer in Genesis One can make a huge difference in the length of what is called a day. My basic point here is simply that time is not the absolute, immutable thing we think it is. So, when it comes to saying how long it took to create the universe, you have to know where the observer is. This particular view is explored in an interesting book by Gerald Schroeder called Genesis and the Big Bang Theory.[4]

Marc Roby: That reminds me of what you said last time about God not experiencing time the same way we do.

Dr. Spencer: That’s true, although there are actually two different points, both of which may come into play. One is that God is a completely different kind of being than we are; as we noted last time he experiences all moments in time – what we call the past, present and future – with equal immediacy. The second point, is that even creatures like us will have time pass at different rates if they in different gravitational fields or moving very rapidly relative to each other. And, while I think this view is extremely speculative, it does give us an example of how we need to be humble. A hundred and twenty years ago, no one on earth would have had any basis for proposing such an idea, but now this idea has a solid scientific basis.

Marc Roby: Well, that view certainly stretches the mind a bit. Do you want to say anything at all about other possibilities?

Dr. Spencer: I do want to mention one more, but first, I would like to summarize the main point I’m trying to make with the examples I’ve just given; namely, I think it is safe to say that there are multiple ways in which the modern scientific view that the universe began around 14 billion years ago can be true, and yet be completely consistent with the Genesis account of creation, which I am absolutely convinced is true, even though I’m not completely certain about how best to interpret it.

I do want to remind everyone of what we said last time though, and that is that how we, as Christians, interpret the Genesis account of creation is extremely important theologically. But, exactly how long it took God to create the universe, and when, exactly, he began that creation, have no theological importance whatsoever.

Marc Roby: OK. Now, what is the last view that you want to mention?

Dr. Spencer: I want to mention that it is possible, although I personally find it unlikely, that the universe is actually relatively young and God simply created it with the appearance of age.

Marc Roby: But, wouldn’t that be a deceptive thing for God to do?

Dr. Spencer: That is certainly the main objection that’s usually raised against this view. Why, for example, would God create light on its way to earth, apparently showing us things that never really happened? We see many super novae for example, each one of which appears to be the death of a star that occurred billions of years ago, but if the universe is truly only thousands of years old, then these events never actually happened.

But, I think it is worth mentioning a response to that objection given by Vern Poythress in his book Redeeming Science.[5] In that book he discusses what he calls a coherent mature creation, and by that he means that God created a universe in which things that were directly created by God are coherent with things that then later arise through natural processes. For example, the ground in the Garden of Eden probably had nutrients in the soil that we would conclude came from decaying plant material even though no plants had existed before.

The point is that God could have created a world in which it was possible for man to learn about the physical laws God put in place by examining that world, and, therefore, the things that God created directly had to look as if they came about by those natural processes; there would then be continuity between the present and what Poythress calls “ideal time”, which is the time before creation, which never really existed, but is coherent with real time. I’ve summarized his argument very briefly, but I hope not unfairly, so if anyone is interested, I recommend that they read his book. The references for all of the books I’ve mentioned today are given in the transcript of this session, which you can find online at whatdoesthewordsay.org.

Marc Roby: I must say that’s an interesting view. There are, of course, other views you have not mentioned, aren’t there?

Dr. Spencer: There are a number of other views. For a discussion of some of them I would recommend the book Seven Days that Divide the World, by John Lennox.[6] I think this it’s a marvelous book, and it is quite short and easy to read.

And, I really want to say that if some of our listeners are Christians who believe in a young-earth and are bristling about some of what I’ve said, I would encourage them to read James Boice’s commentary on Genesis,[7] particularly Volume 1, or, if they want something much shorter, Wayne Grudem does an excellent job in Chapter 15 of his Systematic Theology text.[8]

I would also point out to them that it simply is not true that people only disagree about how to interpret the days because they are capitulating to modern science. For example, in his essay The Literal Meaning of Genesis, St. Augustine – who lived well before modern science existed – proposed that the universe was created in an instant!

Marc Roby: Very well. I think that wraps up our time for today, I look forward to continuing our discussion of the evidence corroborating the veracity of the Bible next time.

[1] Robert C. Newman and Herman J. Eckelmann, Jr., Gensesis One and the Origin of the Earth, Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, 1977

[2] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[3] See http://www.astronomy.ohio-state.edu/~pogge/Ast162/Unit5/gps.html

[4] Gerald L. Schroeder, Genesis and the Big Bang Theory: The Discovery Of Harmony Between Modern Science And The Bible, Bantom, 1990

[5] Vern S. Poythress, Redeeming Science: A God-Centered Approach, Crossway Books, 2006

[6] John C. Lennox, Seven Days that Divide the World: The Beginning according to Genesis and Science, Zondervan, 2011

[7] James Montgomery Boice, Genesis: An Expositional Commentary, Zondervan, 1982

[8] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Inter-Varsity Press, 1994

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Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of biblical theology today by continuing our survey of extra-biblical evidence, all of which, when properly understood, corroborates the Bible.

Dr. Spencer, last time you claimed that the Bible itself is our best source of information for the times and places about which it speaks; in fact you called it our “greatest archeological document by far.” You then argued against the popular minimalist view that claims that the Old Testament was written just a few hundred years before Christ, rather than at the time it claims to have been written.  You showed how this view is false by giving us some examples of details that someone writing at that late date would not have been able to get right. How would you like to begin today?

Dr. Spencer: I’d like to begin by making a very important point. People may take exception to individual pieces of evidence that are presented to corroborate the Bible’s presentation of ancient history, but, most often, they argue from silence, saying that one event or another must not be true because we have no extra-biblical evidence for it. So, I want to emphasize and expand a bit on the point I made at the beginning of Session 7; the Bible itself is the most reliable archaeological document we have. It is completely accurate about all sorts of details that cannot be explained away. And wherever we have clear extra-biblical evidence, it corroborates the biblical narrative. We have absolutely no evidence at all that the Bible is wrong in anything it asserts. And that is particularly amazing when you consider that many people have tried, for many years, to prove the Bible wrong.

Therefore, we should have great confidence that it is also correct when it tells us things for which we have no other evidence. If the Bible did not speak about God, I have no doubt that it would be the most revered archeological document in the world. But, because it does tell us about God, people who do not want to deal with the reality of God are compelled to try and discredit his Word.

Marc Roby: In other words, their atheistic presupposition—that is, their ultimate heart commitment to the notion that there is no God, gets in the way of their properly evaluating the evidence!

Dr. Spencer: Quite right.

Marc Roby: Last time you mentioned the Old Testament prophecies about Christ as evidence to corroborate the biblical narrative. What other evidence would you like to present?

Dr. Spencer: Well, I’d like to give a very brief and selective summary of evidence for the Old Testament as a whole, and I’d like to do it in the order the information is presented in the Old Testament.

Marc Roby: Alright, I presume that means that we’ll start with Genesis.

Dr. Spencer: Correct.

Marc Roby: And, of course, most modern people believe that the Genesis account of creation is completely at odds with what we know from modern science. So, how would you respond to such people?

Dr. Spencer: I would respond by first saying that we need to think a bit about why the Bible says anything at all about the creation of the universe, and then also think a bit about the audience for whom the Genesis account was written. If we think about these questions, we won’t come to the account with an unreasonable expectation about what to find.

Marc Roby: OK, so why does the Bible include a creation account?

Dr. Spencer: There are multiple reasons, and we won’t touch on many of them I’m sure. But what is most important is that these reasons do not include two things modern man seems to be particularly interested in. The first of these is that I think it safe to say that when the universe was created is of no importance at all theologically, and therefore, is never an issue discussed in the Bible.

Marc Roby: Now that is a controversial statement that we need to come back to, but first go ahead and tell us the second thing that modern man is interested in, but which is not one of the reasons for the writing of Genesis.

Dr. Spencer: Alright, the second thing is that at least some modern people are very interested in is a scientific description of how the universe was created. But, that is absolutely not one of the purposes of the Genesis account, nor could it be. So, we must get rid of that notion right up front. Nevertheless, the account given is completely accurate as far as it goes. We just have to be careful to be sure we are interpreting it correctly and we have to approach the subject with a great deal of humility because both the Bible and the science can be difficult to interpret.

Marc Roby: Why do you say that providing a scientific description of how the universe was created couldn’t possibly be one of the purposes of the Genesis account?

Dr. Spencer: For a reason that becomes obvious the instant you answer the second question I originally said we need to consider; namely, “For whom was the Genesis account written?” The answer is that it was written so that the people at the time of Moses could understand it, and also so that it would be useful to all people at all times. Therefore, the modern vocabulary and scientific understanding necessary for a detailed scientific description simply did not exist. And, you have to think about it, if it had been written to be intelligible to people at the present time, not only would it have been useless to those who have gone before us, but it would most likely still be incomplete or wrong because there are things that we don’t know yet.

Marc Roby: OK, you make a compelling case for why the book of Genesis could not have been intended to be a scientific description of how the universe was created. So, now let’s return to the statement you made, that it is not at all theologically important when the universe was created. Given the occasionally very rancorous debate even among Christians concerning how old the earth is, I think that is a statement that will surprise many. How can you defend it?

Dr. Spencer: I can defend it very simply. First, you never once see any mention in the entire Bible about the time of creation. The Genesis account is referred to many times, but the time of creation is never mentioned once, not explicitly or even implicitly. Second, exactly when the universe was created has absolutely no theological importance whatsoever.

It does not have any effect on the doctrine of creation for example; which in its most basic form simply says that God created the visible universe out of nothing. It also has no bearing on the doctrine of man; which could perhaps be best summarized succinctly by quoting the answer to the 10th question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which says that “God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.” The time of creation also has no bearing on the doctrine of God himself, which I will again summarize by quoting from the Shorter Catechism, this time the answer to Question 4, which says that “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” So, we see that when he created the universe is completely irrelevant to his being and his works.

It also has no bearing on the doctrine of redemption, which could be briefly summarized by quoting the answer to Question 20 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which says that “God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.”

We know from the Bible that God the Father planned this redemption, the Son, Jesus Christ, accomplished it, and the Holy Spirit applies it to individuals. The whole purpose of creation and history is the establishing of God’s church, his people, to spend eternity with him in a new heaven and a new earth. I could go on, and on, but I think you get the message, exactly when God began this creative work is irrelevant theologically. The question is also incoherent from God’s perspective, because he does not experience time like we do.

Marc Roby: Hold on a minute there – what do you mean by that last little comment, that God does not experience time like we do?

Dr. Spencer: That is a difficult point for us to grasp because we have a very hard time conceiving of any being that does not experience time like we do, as a continual progression of events, one after the other. We only know fully how we feel, or what we think, right at a given moment in time. If I want to know how I felt or what I was thinking even a few minutes ago, I have to conjure it up from my memory, and my memory will never be perfect. And, of course, the further back I go in time, the worse my memory gets. I also don’t know the future at all.

God, however, is completely different. He is not limited to living in the present, remembering the past and wondering and hoping about the future as we are. The Bible hints at this in a number of places. For example, the psalmist declares to God, in Psalm 90, verse 4, that “a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” [1] And this verse is loosely quoted by Peter in 2 Peter 3:8 also.

Also, in Psalm 139, verse 4, we read that “Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.” And in verse 16 of that psalm we read that “All the days ordained for me were written in [God’s] book before one of them came to be.” We are also told many times in Scripture that God has seen what we have done, that he knows our thoughts, and our motives, that he has heard our silent prayers and so on. So, it is absolutely clear that God has an immediate experience of everything that what we, from our perspective, consider to be the past, present and future. He knows everything about everyone and about every moment of time. And, he knows it immediately; he does not need to scratch his head and try and remember.

Marc Roby: Now that is something to ponder. But, getting back to our topic at hand, and assuming that you are right in saying that the time of creation is of no real importance, why do you think it remains such a major issue in many people’s views?

Dr. Spencer: I think that most people who hold to a young-earth view, whether they hold to Bishop Usher’s mark of the universe being created in October of 4004 BC, or some other date, do so because they believe that is what is taught in Genesis itself and that to hold any other view is to surrender the inerrancy of the Bible. They often have a second reason too, even if they don’t state it, and that is that they think agreeing that the earth is billions of years old somehow lends credence to the theory of evolution as the explanation for life; but, as I pointed out in Session 1, you can have a trillion years and a trillion earths and it doesn’t help the argument for evolution one whit.

So, returning to the first point, we must say up front that we agree whole heartedly with these people that the Bible is the completely inerrant Word of God. We also believe that Genesis is a historical account and not just some kind of creation myth. Where we disagree is in their insistence that there is no other possible way to interpret the Genesis account than the view they hold, which usually includes saying that the six days of creation are literal 24-hour days and that they are consecutive.

Marc Roby: Well, how do you think the creation days should be interpreted?

Dr. Spencer: I’m sure that I’m going to disappoint you and our listeners with my answer, but the only honest answer I can give is that I don’t know. But, before people start turning us off or jumping all over me for being non-committal, let me explain myself a bit and then also make my position as clear as I can – although there won’t be time enough to do that today.

I have read many different views on how to reconcile the Genesis creation account with modern science and none of them are fully satisfying to me, which is why I say that I don’t know the answer. But, I do firmly believe that the biblical account is accurate and that it can be reconciled with modern science, at least to the extent that modern science is correct. We must however, be humble enough to say that modern science could be wrong about many things.

We also need to be humble enough as Christians to say that the Genesis account is not quite as obvious as we may at first blush think, and so we should avoid being dogmatic in our interpretation when that is not necessary. We don’t want to say that the Scripture says something it does not say, which is a trap that Christians have fallen into before.

Marc Roby: What then do you think is essential for a Christian to believe about the Genesis account?

Dr. Spencer: Well, at an absolute minimum, a true Christian must believe that it is a historical account and that God truly created the universe. We pointed out in Session 2 that this is one of the most important things we must understand; we are just creatures and we must never lose sight of the creator/creature distinction. But, beyond that, a Christian must also believe that Adam and Eve were real people, created directly by God, as opposed to being the result of some evolutionary process, that they were made sinless, but with the capacity to sin, and that they did, in fact, sin against God. We must also believe that they sinned after Eve was tempted by Satan, who appeared to her in the form of a serpent. And all of their natural children, which includes everyone except for Jesus Christ, are born sinners as a result of that fall.

There are also other things we learn from the Genesis account of creation. For example, there was an order and a plan to creation as there is to all of God’s activities. He didn’t just create energy and the laws of physics and then step back to see what happens, as a deist might say, rather, he imposed his will upon his creation to bring about order and to produce a particular result.

The final thing I will point out today is that man is the focus of creation. This is the point that unbelievers often find the most offensive. They think it is unbelievably arrogant of man to assume a starring role, and so they dismiss the Genesis account of creation as simply man writing a story in which he is the star.

The interesting thing, is that I agree completely that man would write a story in which he has the starring role. But, I would contend that Genesis is not at all the story man would come up with. Man would, of course, have to recognize that he wasn’t there from the beginning, so he couldn’t make himself the creator. But, the story man would come up with is very different than Genesis. He would come up with a story in which human beings, once they did appear, as a marvelous “accidental collocations of atoms”  [2], to borrow a phrase from Bertrand Russell, are able to examine the world around us and understand this whole process. And, of course, we then feign humility by declaring ourselves to be no better or more worthy than any of the other lesser animals, which is patently absurd given the simple fact that none of these other animals are able to understand the science or make such lofty moral pronouncements.

Marc Roby: Alright, I agree that the Genesis account puts man at the center, but in a subservient role that he would not likely chose for himself. And I look forward to hearing more about how the Genesis account of creation can be reconciled with modern science next time. But, it looks like we are out of time for today.

Outake: (need something of similar length, but appropriate for the next session)

In our next session Dr. Spencer will continue to examine the Genesis account of creation, we hope you’ll join us.

 

 

[1] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[2] The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell, Ed. By R.E. Egner & L.E. Denonn, Simon and Schuster, 1961, page 67

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