Hold on, Mr HolzmannLeading homeschool supplier misleads about biblical creationist exegesis
We have had a number of enquiries about a leading homeschool supplier, Sonlight Curriculum, and the owner, John Holzmann, promoting resources that encourage Christians to accept the idea of millions of years.
We first had contact from Mr Holzmann in early 1999. He wrote to CMI staff scientist Dr Tas Walker:
‘Until about 6 months ago, I was about as strong a Young-Earth Creationist (YECist) as there is in the world. Not harshly dogmatic, but well educated in the arguments.’
What is one’s authority?
But as we studied his writings, we discovered that he was poorly informed in the arguments, being completely unfamiliar with most of the arguments in even our Introductory Pack. And while he may have been a young-earth believer, that’s not the main point. Our main focus is not the age of the earth, but biblical authority. The young earth is merely a corollary of this. However, Holzmann’s authority was autonomous human reasoning—the ability of man to come to truth (in his case, about earth history) without divine revelation—even when a young-earth believer. He was then confronted by people who pushed an old-earth view, and had the same ultimate authority as he had. So it was hardly surprising that Holzmann changed his mind; since he lacked a firm foundation in God’s Word, he was ‘tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men’ (Ephesians 4:14). [See also Presuppositionalism vs evidentialism, and is the human genome simple?]
Holzmann asked Dr Walker about the ‘evidence’ that was thrown at him from books by people such as the Christadelphian physicist Alan Hayward. Christadelphians deny the deity of Christ, so it is disturbing that people like Holzmann (and Hugh Ross) trust his reasoning and recommend his writings on creation. Another influence on Holzmann was Glenn Morton, who has a B.S. in physics and is an outspoken theistic evolutionist, and was strongly influenced by Hayward’s understanding of Genesis. He has notoriety as a ‘former YEC’, but like Holzmann, his authority was always autonomous human reasoning and his thinking was always uniformitarian—see Glenn R. Morton’s misuse of Woodmorappe’s list of discrepant isotopic dates. Holzmann explicitly declared himself to be an old-earth creationist.
The common thread in Holzmann’s arguments as given to Dr Walker was the idea that ‘evidence’ speaks for itself. However, in reality it must be interpreted according to a framework that is constructed from one’s presuppositions (see Creation: ‘Where’s the proof?’).
Since ‘we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him ’ (Romans 8:28), a good thing to come out of this was Dr Walker’s article Geology and the young Earth: Answering those ‘Bible-believing’ bibliosceptics. Dr Walker, a qualified geologist (unlike Hayward and Morton) showed that the ‘evidence’ for an old earth actually made far more sense when interpreted within the biblical framework. Another important point is that we don’t have all the scientific data, and many of the alleged old-earth and evolution ‘proofs’ over the years have crumbled when new data were found. But God knows all data, and has revealed the world’s history in Genesis, so it makes sense to trust what He has revealed.
After CMI’s initial contact with him, Holzmann stocked, with glowing reviews, Roman Catholic attacks on the sufficiency of Scripture and justification by faith alone. (He stocked excellent Protestant defenses of these biblical teachings—with grudging cautions.) Fortunately he now seems to have dropped those. He even stocks some CMI books with fair blurbs, although he still stocks anti-YEC books as well.
Refuting fallacious rationalizations for compromise
Holzmann’s current position is in his article Young- and Old-Earth Creationists: Can we even talk together?, last updated 9 December 2003 I have replied to many of his points below. He writes:
Over the last few years, it appears that the vast majority of evangelical Christian homeschoolers—and certainly the majority of leaders in the evangelical Christian homeschool movement—have aligned themselves with a particular interpretation of Genesis 1–11. Specifically, they have aligned themselves with what is known as a Young-Earth creationist (YEC) perspective, a viewpoint preached by many, but, in homeschool circles at least, most notably and powerfully advanced by [CMI].
This ‘particular interpretation’ was the historic view of the church, held by nearly all the church fathers and reformers—see Did Jesus, the early church leaders and reformers believe the literal creation account given in Genesis? This interpretation was largely abandoned only after conservative commentators were intimidated by the rise of uniformitarian ideas in geology. They were (rightly) concerned to preserve biblical inerrancy, but in their well-intentioned attempts to make the text fit the supposed facts of ‘science’, ended up mutilating it in effect. This is documented in British scriptural geologists in the first half of the nineteenth century—part 1: Historical Setting and Creation and Change.
Perhaps Holzmann should ask himself why so many homeschoolers are YECs. For many of them, it’s precisely because of the emphasis on the authority of Scripture, and the fact that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge (Proverbs 1:7; 9:1). Thus, they are more likely to see that the state schools fundamentally deny this truth in presenting ‘knowledge’ without reference to revelation. Many schools are becoming overtly hostile to Christianity, but a biblical creationist is more likely to see that even without overt hostility, they are still teaching the authority of autonomous human reasoning. Holzmann’s own promotion of this false authority, which is also behind OEC (Old Earth Creationism), undermines a major reason for homeschooling.
I wrote the following paper because, it seems, the move to a YEC perspective has been so strong that any Bible-believing Christian who dares publicly to raise serious questions about the YEC model risks social ostracism and possible official exclusion from homeschool groups or events on that ground alone.
The fearmongering is unfortunate. But if autonomous human reasoning, as Holzmann advocates at least implicitly, should be our final authority, then why not use the public schools? It undermines a major basis for choosing homeschooling.
Beware of ostensibly irenic articles appearing to present both sides, but which instead paint one side (theirs) as the persecuted martyrs.
I am dismayed by this apparent division in the Body of Christ. I am saddened by the chilling effect these attitudes and actions seem to portend for honest scholarly, intellectual, and, ultimately, Biblical study. I am grieved to think that some would seek publicly to deny the opportunity for fellow lovers of Christ to openly ask whether there may not be a better way accurately to interpret the Scriptures.
Of course, both truth and error divide. Whatever position you choose, you are ‘divisive’ from a human perspective. But Holzmann is not well informed if he thinks old-earthers are not accusatory against YEC—see Shame on Charisma! Leading Pentecostal magazine promotes Hugh Ross compromise and denigrates biblical creationists.
Romans 16:17 says, ‘Now I beseech you, brethren, mark those who cause divisions and offenses … and avoid them’, and some have used this against young-earth creationists. But they fail to cite the clause in this passage which defines what Paul meant by causing divisions (dichostasia) and offences (skandalon)―it is bringing teachings ‘contrary to the doctrine which you have learned.’ It is those who compromise on a straightforward reading of Genesis that are bringing doctrines contrary to those the Apostles taught, and that the church has understood through most of its 2,000-year history. The reformers, like Martin Luther, who reasserted the authority of Scripture and salvation by grace through faith alone, were also accused of being ‘divisive.’
And so I want to see whether I might help to heal the breach and reopen the opportunity for communication.
Why then does he really attack only one side? His old-earth leanings are similar to those of Hugh Ross, who has a similar method—claiming to try to unify Christians, but only on his terms, and continuing to attack and misrepresent young-earth creationists (as in his article on Campus Crusade’s Leaders U website, which we have critiqued at Special Feature: Hugh Ross Exposé.
Clearly, our beliefs in this area of the age of the Earth can affect our exegesis of Scripture [exegesis has to do with explaining or interpreting something—especially a piece of literature (the Scriptures!—see 2 Peter 3:16)—that is complex or difficult].
But the verse cited actually doesn’t say that all Scripture (or even all of Paul’s teaching) is complex or difficult; it is just some of Paul’s teaching that has this trait. Paul and Peter clearly thought the Genesis accounts of creation and the Fall were very straightforward and easy to understand and interpret.
They may affect our apologetics [apologetics has to do with answering critics of fundamental Christian beliefs]. They may affect our ability—for better or worse—to evangelize effectively.
Indeed they do, as shown with Charles Templeton, as discussed in the Charisma article—Geisler’s answer in that article works only in a YEC framework, and is totally inconsistent with his OEC views.
But, I believe, we evangelical Christians need to be careful that we do not permit the debate, like the “endless genealogies” in the time of Apostle Paul,
This refers to the gnostic-type genealogies of spirits and aeons—obviously Paul, as a Bible-believing Jewish Christian, did not mean the genealogies of Scripture (see 1 Timothy 1:4).
… to “promote controversies rather than God’s work” (I Timothy 1:3-4).
As said, the ones responsible for controversies were those who promoted error and opposed biblical doctrines!
On the one hand, we must not teach false doctrines (I Timothy 1:3), but we must not promote controversies, either (I Timothy 1:4). I am afraid that the Old-Earth/Young-Earth debate may be at the point where some of the spokespeople are, indeed, promoting controversies rather than the work of God.
Since the majority of the evangelical Christian homeschool movement seems to be committed to the Young-Earth perspective; since, therefore, it is the advocates of an Old-Earth perspective who are most likely to be shoved out the door; since I am concerned, as St. John Chrysostom was, that the Body of Christ would show “[i]n essentials, unity; in non-essentials, charity; [and] in all things, Jesus Christ”; since, in our curriculum, I try to speak to a large and diverse group of people who, I know, believe differently one from the other in this area; since, moreover, Sonlight Curriculum, Ltd., is committed to teach from an international, Christian, missions-minded perspective: my purpose here is to try to help kindly-disposed Young-Earth creationists to understand how and why someone who is truly concerned to uphold the Scriptures might come to believe a bit differently—or even very differently—from what Young-Earth creationists teach.
We already know—it’s from giving equal, or in practice higher, authority to ‘science’ as opposed to Scripture. Of course, Holzmann has subtly suggested to his readers that the age of the earth is non-essential and that therefore we should agree to disagree. But the authority of Scripture is the issue, which is of course utterly essential to every Christian doctrine.
My purpose is not to advocate for an Old-Earth view. I am not interested in “converting” anyone to such a view. I am, myself, not convinced that any Old-Earther “has it right.”
Previously, Holzmann has explicitly declared himself an old-earther, and has most definitely advocated it. Perhaps he here means simply that no particular old-earther has all the details right in their attempt to ‘harmonize’ their old-earth presuppositions with the biblical text.
But I think the subject ought to be discussed. I think the evidence ought to be addressed. There ought to be a few people in the homeschooling marketplace who are willing to stand up and say that Old-Earth creationism (OECism) is not the same as atheism, heresy, or, as the people at [CMI] suggest, a reliance upon the wisdom of man in opposition to the perfect Word of God.
Why should there be people standing up to deny something which is self-evidently true, i.e. that old-earthism has resulted from man’s opinion being placed over God’s Word? (Even atheists overwhelmingly acknowledge this simple fact—Genesis is clearly teaching young-earth creationism.) By the same reasoning, should one therefore sell Holocaust-denial books ‘so there is at least someone standing up’ (in this case against the overwhelming evidence for the mass Nazi murder of Jews)?
Adoption of an Old-Earth perspective is not, in itself, a sure sign that a person has abandoned his or her faith in or desire to ingest the “pure milk of the Word.”
This is a caricature of CMI’s claims, and we have never said things like this. In practice, however, old-earth views are never the result of study of the text alone, but always the result of incorporating fallible ‘science’ into the text, as admitted by old-earthers Gleason Archer, Pattle Pun, and many others.
Why is the Age of the Earth Such a Big Deal to Many Christians?
Many Christians suggest that the Young-Earth/Old-Earth debate is of vital importance not only or merely because there is a vast difference between 6,000 to 10,000 years on the one hand, and 5-billion-plus years on the other. But, they say, this debate is important because of a syllogism, a logical and appropriate progression of thought:
Either God did things as the Bible says He did them, or He did things differently.
If God did things differently than what the Bible tells us, then the Bible lies and/or isn't God's word.
If the Bible lies and/or isn't God's word, then it isn't worthy of our trust.
If the Bible isn't worthy of our trust, then Christianity isn't worthy of our trust, either.
By these logical steps, beginning from a “scientific” inability to believe that the Scriptures are trustworthy, many people who once committed themselves to love, honor, and obey the Lord Jesus Christ have been led in their adult years to abandon their Lord and Savior.
The point: if we can’t trust the Biblical account of creation, then we have no reason to trust the Bible as God's authoritative word at any other point, either.
Let me say: Sonlight Curriculum is in full agreement with this point of view. We agree with those who say that if we shrink from defending the truth of Genesis 1–11, we cut very close to—if not completely through—the heart of the Gospel message itself.
That’s a start. But it’s not enough to give lip service to defending Genesis 1–11 while changing its meaning completely. That sends the message that where ‘science’ appears to contradict Scripture, we reinterpret Scripture but don’t question the ‘science’. But ‘science’ also contradicts the biblical teachings that a virgin conceived and a man rose physically from the dead. So do we reinterpret these as well?
The Apostle Paul says that “as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all … how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:12, 17; see also 1 Corinthians 15:45ff).
Genesis 1–11 forces a question upon us: was there, or was there not, a first Adam, so that Jesus Christ can be a contrasting second?
Actually, it should be ‘a contrasting last’ Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45). And if Adam was mythical, then how can a mythical Adam be the ancestor of a historical Last Adam (Luke 3)?
Or consider Noah: was he a real person whose faith we are to emulate (see, for example, Hebrews 11:7)? Or was he a mythic figure whose exploits we can (and ought) to safely ignore?
Again, hard when he was an ancestor of Christ. So no disagreement so far …
… We believe, however, that a correct interpretation of Genesis 1-11 is extremely difficult—perhaps more difficult than the interpretation of almost any other section of Scripture.
No, it’s actually childishly simple, as shown by the history of Judaic and Christian interpretation through the ages. The only difficulty is not with the text itself, but with imposing outside ideas on the text.
And herein lies a problem.
Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ believe that a scientifically well-informed person can—and ought—to believe the Scriptures for what they seem to say on their surface.
I have no idea who these Christian brethren are. Certainly CMI does not advocate reading the Bible on a superficial level like a 21st century newspaper—we leave that to the many pseudo-scholarly anti-Christian groups. Rather, we point out that we should understand the Bible according to its historical context. But in the case of Genesis 1, the grammar of the passage makes it clear that it should be understood the way any child would.
Indeed, they find it offensive if someone even suggests that a surface reading may be problematic. They say—or at least strongly imply—that to question the “obvious” interpretation of Scripture (their “obvious” interpretation!) is to question the very Word of God.
No, to bring in outside ideas to the Bible and overturn the time-tested grammatical-historical interpretation is questioning God’s Word.
The Plain Teaching of Scripture?
Many Young-Earth creationists claim that the Bible is “clear” about the “fact” that the Earth is 6,000 to 10,000 years old. They follow the lead of Irish Archbishop James Ussher (1581–1656) who, in the 1650s, attempted to work out a chronology for ancient world history based solely on the date clues found in the Bible.
Ussher was hardly the only one. His date is in the general ball-park for historic age calculations—see Which is the recent aberration? Old-Earth or Young-Earth Belief? The late Dr Gerhard Hasel, who was Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Theology at Andrews University, calculated from the Masoretic Text that Abraham was born in about 2170 BC. Thus, the Flood occurred at 2522 BC and Creation at 4178 BC—see Biblical chronogenealogies.
When he was done, he concluded that Adam and Eve were created in 4004 BC (on Sunday, 24 October 4004 BC, to be exact).
Actually, his date was the 23rd.
While most Young-Earthers are willing to concede that Ussher almost assuredly did not hit the date of creation “on the nose,” they wish to limit the age of the Earth and the creation of Adam to no earlier than 10,000 years ago at the very most.
Creationists are indeed not committed to Ussher’s precise date. But he wasn’t far off, if at all, and we affirm his high standard of scholarship (see The forgotten archbishop), which even the late Marxist evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould appreciated—see Archbishop’s Achievement: James Ussher’s great work Annals of the World is now available in English.
Having said this, however, we immediately come upon a problem. While the Bible itself, as we believe, is without error in its original manuscripts, 1) we no longer possess those manuscripts, and,
What is the point being made? Both CMI and leading OEC Hugh Ross accept the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which states:
WE AFFIRM that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.
WE DENY that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.
2) far more importantly (because we believe that God has preserved His Word against substantive corruption), we are not God; therefore, we do not have an automatic understanding of what those manuscripts really meant—what they were intended to communicate.
And we find this out by the grammar and historical context!
Problems of Interpretation
Anyone who has engaged in any type of serious translation work—especially a translation between widely divergent cultures—can understand the difficulties of the task. In case you are not aware of the kinds of difficulties cultural differences may create, let me illustrate.
A Bible translator was working with a tribal group in southeast Asia. The translator, as all good translators do, would regularly read his work to a group of informants to see if they understood his translation and to ensure that what he had written was conveying accurately to them what he thought the original text meant.
The translator had come to Luke 13:32 where Jesus is said to have referred to Herod as a “fox”. As he read his translation of Luke 13:32, the men who were listening burst forth with laughter. And not just a little laughter. Some of the men were holding their bellies as they rolled around on the ground.
Yes, trying to understand what the author intended is vital. That’s the whole point! Using ‘day’ with the phrase ‘evening and morning’ and a numerical modifier, especially with the particular pattern used, was intended to communicate that the days were normal-length days—see The numbering pattern of Genesis: does it mean the days are non-literal? In fact, they must have been the same length of the days as the working week, if the Sabbath command is to make sense (Exodus 20:8–11).
... My purpose, here, is to illustrate the truth—well recognized by cross-cultural missionary Bible translators; not so well-known by others—that translation and interpretation is not a “simple” or “mechanically accurate” function. It takes real skill, and knowledge, and insight, and research.
Although Holzmann is trying to paint a straw-man that YECs are blind hyperliteralists, CMI has often pointed out the need to understand the author’s intention—see Should Genesis Be Taken Literally?
And sometimes we just don’t know.
But with Genesis 1, we know perfectly well from the rest of Scripture. It is rather poor form for Holzmann to raise some uncertainties in meaning as an excuse for agnosticism on very clear passages. And why is it only the days of creation that he has problems with? He seems to have no problem knowing the meaning of other words in the same passage, such as ‘God’, ‘man’, ‘woman’, ‘create’, ‘tree’ etc.
It would seem evident that while the numbers assigned to the ages of the patriarchs in Genesis had real meaning for those who were responsible for their preservation in the first instance, they cannot be employed in a purely literal sense as a means of computing the length of the various generations mentioned in the text.
Why on earth not? That’s how Josephus, the church fathers and the reformers understood them. In fact, the biblical author went to a lot of trouble precisely to construct a chronology by providing the ages of the father at the birth of his son—again, see Biblical chronogenealogies (PDF). And besides, excellent evangelical Bible scholars are not infallible. We want biblical arguments, not bald assertions, regardless of how much we respect the asserter.
And those of us who are attracted or committed to a Young-Earth or “traditional” (Western!) interpretation of the Bible, may want to say: “The man is simply trying to cover his own disbelief. He is saying what he is because he has some preconceived notion (evolutionism!) and he wants us to think he still believes in the Bible, even though, obviously, he does not.”
I ask you to be careful before you make such a charge against your brother in the Lord. Can you be sure you are correct?
More emotionalism—Holzmann is not exactly careful about making veiled charges of his own! In fact, I have already demonstrated that this ‘preconceived notion’ approach is precisely the one taken. Hugh Ross is yet another example of this: he explicitly states that he was convinced that the big bang was true, and thus immediately decided that the days of Genesis 1 were not 24 hours.
I first read Harrison’s comment years ago when I was a student in seminary. Just recently (in 2002), I came across a book by Jacob A. Loewen, a missionary and Bible translator. Loewen tells a story that touches on the same issue we’re discussing here. He isn’t talking about the age of the Earth. He’s talking about translations and culture.
When we look at the Bible “through the eyes of our own culture” only, he says, we miss a goodly portion of the Bible’s message.
[Here Holzmann begins a lengthy quote from Loewen’s report, interspersed with some comments from Holzmann, which will be clearly identified by ‘COMMENT ON LOEWEN BY HOLZMANN:’ and square brackets.]
Africans, for example, have great interest in the genealogies of the Bible, and find them significant. I first noticed this when I observed committees of African translators working on the Gospel According to Matthew, with its genealogy of Jesus’ ancestry. Matthew lists fourteen generations from Abraham to David, another fourteen from David to the exile in Babylon, and a final fourteen to the birth of Jesus (Mt 1:1-17).
When one group of African translators read the three sets of fourteen generations listed there, they held a long discussion, speculating about why the people in the Bible remembered only fourteen generations, when African people like themselves remembered sixteen. Did that imply inferior memories, or what?
This may be a nice question to speculate about, but even if we don’t know why Matthew did this (perhaps he did it because the number seven is important in the Bible and 2 x 7 is 14, or perhaps because the numerical values of the Hebrew letters in David’s name add up to 14), comparing Matthew’s list with the Old Testament lists and narratives in 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles would show us that (1) his list is historical and (2) he did leave out some names for a purpose. He didn’t intend to provide a chronology, because unlike Genesis, Matthew gives no ages with each name. See The Virginal Conception of Christ.
[COMMENT ON LOEWEN BY HOLZMANN: Notice how the Africans’ cultural assumptions affected their interpretation! Notice how they placed great emphasis on a feature of the text that we will barely notice. Moreover, they interpreted this feature in a “scientific” (or medical/biological) manner.
This is a gross misuse of the terms ‘scientific’ and ‘medical/biological’ in relation to the Africans’ hermeneutic.
They assumed the number implied something about the mental capacities of Jews! … But back to the story.]
Again, this is irrelevant, for the Africans surely took the Matthew genealogy as historical, not mythological, though if they had compared Scripture with Scripture they would have quickly discerned that Matthew deliberately left out some names to get his nice symmetry, without destroying the historicity of the genealogical links. They would also have quickly learned that their 16 generations have nothing to do with the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 and 1 Chronicles 1-8, which they no doubt took as literal history, too, unless the missionary teaching them was ‘evolutionized’ and taught them not to believe them as reliable, inspired, inerrant, historical chronologies.
I was intrigued because for me biblical genealogies were totally uninteresting and of no significance.
This comment reveals the missionary’s weak grasp of the historicity of the Old Testament narratives (probably because of his evolutionized thinking), which the genealogies point to (besides teaching us other valuable things).
“What do you do when you reach the seventeenth generation?” I asked.
“Oh,” they said, “we consider sixteen to be the maximum that a non-literate person can remember, so when the seventeenth king dies, the elders of the tribe review the sixteen. If one of them is not considered important, but the king who has just died accomplished a great deal, they eliminate the unimportant one from the genealogy and add the deceased king. If the recent king is not very important, they don’t count him.”
[COMMENT ON LOEWEN BY HOLZMANN: Notice how the Africans’ culture is at work! They are asking completely different questions about the genealogies than we do! Moreover, the fact that each set of names includes “only” fourteen generations causes them no difficulties at all. They don’t ask “why” each set includes that many names—a question that we in the West are prone to ask. They assume the answer. They “know” it: “Fourteen is all the names that people in that culture can memorize.” And rather than asking whether these lists are “accurate” or not, or “complete” or not, they innately recognize that certain names have been left off: “No big deal!” … But to us in the West it is a big deal! Everyone is important. Completeness and accuracy is important. We may be bored to tears when we have to read the genealogies of the Bible; we may avoid them as much as possible; but we are pleased to know that they exist and that Biblical scholars can puzzle their way through and use such lists to calculate (what we hope is) an accurate age of the Earth. … —Again, back to the story. …]
This is a strange attitude for someone who thinks that these genealogies, like every other part of the Bible, are the inspired inerrant Word of Almighty God.
A short time later, in a closely related language, I watched how carefully the translators went through the births and deaths in Genesis. When they got to chapters four and five, they suddenly stopped and had a lengthy discussion about the genealogies there (see Table).
Genealogies in Genesis 4 and 5
Seth [This is not the son of Cain but of Adam and he is not mentioned in this passage until after Lamech below!]
Enoch [This is the son of Cain, not Seth!]
Enosh [This is not Enoch; note the spelling! He is the son of Seth, not of Cain.]
Enoch [This is the son of Jared, not Cain]
Methuselah [No, Methushael, son of Mehujael]
Methushael [No, Methuselah!]
Cain/Kain occurs in both lists (in the form of Kenan/Cainan in the second). Enoch/Enosh appear as grandchildren of Adam in each of the lists. Enoch, however, also appears in the seventh place in the second list. Mahalalel corresponds with Mehujael, Methuselah with Methushael, and Jared with Irad. When I pointed out to the Africans how important position seven was in Israel, they decided that Enoch must have been a very important person indeed to occur in the genealogy two times and especially to occupy position seven.
This handling of Scripture is simply appalling! The missionary didn’t look carefully at his Bible, nor did the Africans. None of these people “correspond” to each other. Cain is the son of Adam, not the son of Enosh. Cain is not Kenan (Cainan): they are different names in Hebrew as well as English. Enoch and Enosh are not the same person any more than Robert and Robin are. The same goes for Methuselah and Methushael. Nor are Enoch in the left column and Enoch in the right column the same person, nor are they both the 7th generation from Adam. And what does Holzmann’s use of this missionary’s careless reasoning say about how carefully Holzmann has studied Genesis?
When the Africans asked me the significance of these two lists, I had no idea what to say. It was the first time I realized that the same genealogy came in two partially different orders, and sometimes with slightly divergent spellings.
The Africans then enlightened me. “This is a very common occurrence in our societies,” they said. “When a tribe gets big, it develops sub-tribes and these sub-tribes often do not have the same loyalties. Very often one part of the tribe will remember someone as worthwhile, while the other sub-tribe considers that same person unimportant. As a result, differences in the genealogies develop.”
It is called ‘eisegesis’ (the opposite of ‘exegesis’) to ‘read into’ the ancient Hebrew texts using outside perspectives, such as modern African genealogical practices (see Eisegesis: A Genesis virus). And it’s absurd to deny that more than one person can have the same name.
They also said that sometimes an exceedingly important person is moved into a position of greater importance, just as had happened in chapter 5, with Enoch in position seven. Again, when a person had done some nasty things, but was still worth keeping in the list, he was sometimes made grandson rather than remaining as the grandfather, as in the case of Cain/Cainan in chapter 5.
[End of Holzmann’s quotation of Loewen’s report]
Does the Africans’ interpretive scheme make no sense? Are you willing to charge them with some kind of ungodly prejudice that leads them to interpret the Biblical genealogies in such a way that they can “force” an Old-Earth interpretation on an obviously Young-Earth Bible? I hope not!
No, but I am willing to charge them with imposing outside ideas onto the Scripture and thus making mistakes. Any Christian (including any CMI staff member), even with the sincerest of godly intentions, can unknowingly force a meaning on the text for any number of subconscious reasons.
I have no idea what the Africans’ ideas may be about the age of the Earth. Mr. Loewen never tells us. As I said above, his concern, and the concern of the African translators, had nothing to do with how old the Earth is.
Neither do ours! Our concern is to find out what the Bible writers intended to communicate. If they communicated billions of years, we would believe that. As I said, the young earth is not something we read into Scripture (eisegesis, as the old-earthers do), but what we read out of Scripture (exegesis).
My point is simply this: that what many Young-Earth advocates believe is an “obvious” interpretation of Scripture may be wrong. While it is clearly “obvious” to them, it is not so obvious to others!
We hope readers see clearly that Holzmann’s ‘point’ simply does not follow from his and the missionary’s reasoning above. Young-earth creationism is indeed obvious from the grammatical-historical context of the text itself. As noted already, even some prominent old-earthers have admitted this, while at the same time making it clear that they cannot accept what the text plainly says, because of ‘science’.
Indeed, some very different interpretations are “obvious” to others (note the Africans’ interpretation), and the difference in perspective has absolutely nothing to do with an aversion to a Young-Earth view. While some of those for whom a Young-Earth perspective is non-obvious may be Old-Earth creationists, there are others for whom it is non-obvious who hold no “scientific” prejudices against the Young-Earthers’ perspective in the least.
The above report by a missionary strongly suggests that he had old-earth views which he consciously or unconsciously may well have disseminated to his African co-workers. But even if that is not the case, his report shows that the Africans had tribal cultural prejudices affecting their interpretation of Genesis. Imposing outside ideas onto the text is wrong no matter what the ideas or the motives behind the ideas may be.
In sum: while the YECs’ over-all schema concerning the age of the Earth may be correct, it is possible that they are wrong. And we ought not to assume that those who question their interpretations are anti-Bible. Moreover, we cannot simply decide to trust one man’s interpretation of Scripture (say, Archbishop Ussher’s calculations) and say, “He is right, and whoever comes to a different conclusion is a scoffer and an infidel!”
We don’t say these things. YECs do not say that OEC proponents, as persons, are anti-Bible infidels and scoffers. What we say is that OEC interpretations of Genesis 1–11 are not exegetically defensible and that OEC hermeneutics in Genesis 1–11 cannot be consistently applied to the rest of Scripture without seriously damaging or destroying the Bible’s teaching. And who is trusting any one man’s interpretation? The YEC interpretation is the overwhelmingly dominant view in the history of Christendom.
Martin Luther, we are told, once wrote, “This fool Copernicus wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy [by claiming that the Earth spins on its axis and that the Earth revolves around the Sun]; but sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and not the earth.”
Holzmann obtains this statement from the Unitarian heretic Alan Hayward (whose arguments in favor of millions of years clearly had a strong influence on Holzmann). Hayward in turn had resorted to a secondary citation from History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896), written by the strident anti-Christian polemicist Andrew Dickson White. However, White misleadingly failed to mention that, far from a sustained strong opposition, Luther’s only recorded comment on the issues is a single off-hand remark (hardly a concerted campaign), during a ‘table talk’ in 1539 (four years before the publication of Copernicus’ book). The Table Talk was based on notes taken by Luther’s students, which were later compiled and published in 1566—twenty years after Luther’s death. Luther actually said:
‘Whoever wants to be clever must agree with nothing that others esteem. He must do something of his own. This is what that fellow does who wishes to turn the whole of astronomy upside down. Even in these things that are thrown into disorder I believe the Holy Scriptures, for Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and not the earth [Jos. 10:12].’
Holzmann, like his mentor Hayward, failed to cite the parts I have italicized. These show that a major reason for Luther’s objection was Copernicus’ challenging the establishment and common sense for its own sake (as Luther saw it). At the time, there was no hard evidence for geokineticism (the idea that the earth moves).
In a footnote, Holzmann cites the book, Reason, Science & Faith (a highly unreliable anti-creationist book—see this review (PDF)—which, sadly, Holzmann stocks):
‘Forster and Marston say that this alleged “quotation” from Luther “is actually based on hearsay” though “it is entirely in keeping with [Luther’s] approach, language, and the way he speaks of the sun and stars in his commentary”.
Not so at all. Johannes Kepler, a devout Lutheran who discovered that planets move in elliptical orbits, saw no conflict between the Bible and Lutheran theology. He showed how Joshua 10:12 could be explained as phenomenological language, using Luther’s own principles of biblical interpretation!
[Luther is referencing Joshua 10:12-13 where “Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: ‘O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.’ So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies.”]
Most Christians—even most leaders in the Young-Earth creationist movement—no longer read verses like Joshua 10:12–13 the way Martin Luther did. Indeed, our brothers and sisters at [CMI] say that those who think they see geocentrism taught in the Scriptures are reading it into the text rather than finding it there to begin with.
Indeed we do, and we demonstrate this in articles under
[Note: Geocentrism is the idea that the Earth is fixed—stationary—at the center of the universe. The Sun, Moon, stars, and all the planets revolve around it. As we read in the King James Version, Psalm 93:1: “the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.”
Holzmann apparently has not read the basic CMI literature. In my 1999 book Refuting Evolution, I point out:
‘But we should also understand the terms as used by the biblical authors. Let’s read the next verse, ‘[God’s] throne is established of old’, where the same word kôn is translated ‘established’.
‘Also, the same Hebrew word for ‘moved’ (môt) is used in Psalm 16:8, ‘I shall not be moved.’ Surely, even skeptics wouldn’t accuse the Bible of teaching that the Psalmist was rooted to one spot! He meant that he would not stray from the path that God had set for him. So the earth ‘cannot be moved’ can also mean that it will not stray from the precise orbital and rotational pattern God has set for it. Life on earth requires that the earth’s orbit is at just the right distance from the sun for liquid water to exist. Also, that the earth’s rotational axis is at just the right angle from the ecliptic (orbital plane) so that temperature differences are not too extreme.’
The alternative theories are Copernicus’ heliocentrism (in which the Earth and all the planets revolve around the Sun) or geokineticism (which simply means that the Earth moves).]
Actually, heliocentrism is a subset of geokineticism. Heliocentrism teaches that the sun is at the center of the universe, which is almost universally discounted today. In fact, the evidence of quantized red shifts shows that our galaxy is very close to the center (see Our galaxy is the centre of the universe, ‘quantized’ red shifts show). This conflicts with the big bang theory, which Holzmann implicitly endorses and which teaches there is no centre and no edge to the universe.
Russell Grigg, for example, notes in his essay, Joshua’s Long Day… that Joshua 10:12–13 “uses the language of appearance and observation”—i.e., describes the apparent movement of the Sun from the perspective of an Earth-bound observer rather than from the beyond-this-world perspective of God.
So what is the problem? This is perfectly valid, because in physics you can choose any reference frame you like. So it’s not wrong for a modern astronomer to say ‘look at that beautiful sunset’ rather than ‘look at the way the earth has rotated to place its curvature directly in the light path of the sun’. Certainly Holzmann wouldn’t think speed limit signs are an exercise in futility, since all cars are traveling at about 1670 km/h just by virtue of the earth’s rotation on its axis (depending on the latitude of course—multiply by the cosine), and as much as 108,000 km/hr around the sun. But try this reasoning next time you get a speeding ticket and see what the judge thinks of your idea that it’s invalid for speed limits to be set relative to the ground.
The late Sir Fred Hoyle made it clear that using the earth’s reference frame was not a scientific error (Nicolaus Copernicus, Heinemann Educational Books Ltd., London, p. 78, 1973):
‘The relation of the two pictures [geocentricity and heliocentricity] is reduced to a mere coordinate transformation and it is the main tenet of the Einstein theory that any two ways of looking at the world which are related to each other by a coordinate transformation are entirely equivalent from a physical point of view ... . Today we cannot say that the Copernican theory is “right” and the Ptolemaic theory “wrong” in any meaningful physical sense.’
Or as Danny Faulkner writes in the introduction to his essay Geocentrism and Creation … “[T]he Bible is neither geocentric nor heliocentric.”
That’s what these Young-Earth creationists say. But how do they know these things? On the basis of Scripture? Or on the basis of science (i.e., “man’s fallen wisdom”) being brought to bear upon Scripture?
Once again, a straw–man argument. Creationists have nothing against science being used ministerially, i.e. to build on the framework provided by the propositional teachings of Scripture, e.g. to build models to help elucidate Scripture (that is, flesh out details where Scripture is silent) or to decide where the text is equivocal. What we object to is using science magisterially to override what the text plainly teaches. For example, we object to using ‘science’ to deny a global Flood at the time of Noah, because the Bible clearly teaches this. However, we use true science to attempt to figure out the pre-Flood/Flood boundary or the Flood/post-Flood boundary in the geological record; and in the process we gain greater insight into the nature of this divine judgment. Similarly, we do not let ‘science’ explain away the literal days of creation or the order of creation (e.g. plants appeared before sea creatures and birds appeared before land animals). But we use solid biological science to better understand what God meant when He said that He created the plants and animals to reproduce ‘after their kind.’
As you read his article, Mr. Faulkner’s arguments sound reasonable and convincing. Indeed, I think he is “right on”.
But Holzmann clearly hasn’t caught the thrust of it.
But try using these arguments with members and supporters of The Biblical Astronomer (TBA; formerly the Association for Biblical Astronomy)! Listen to what those brothers and sisters have to say. Their arguments against Copernicanism and against “compromisers” and “Biblioskeptics” like Mr Faulkner …
That’s actually Dr Faulkner ….
… sound remarkably like the arguments I have heard many [non-geocentric] Young-Earth creationists use against their Old-Earth brethren.
Anyone who suggests the Earth is not at rest in the center of the universe, say TBA supporters, has abandoned the clear teaching of God’s Word. Indeed, they say,
the Bible’s authority is weakened by [any other view]; … the Bible teaches geocentricity. Geocentric verses range from those with only a positional import, such as references to “up” and “down”; through the question of just what the earth was “orbiting” the first three days while it awaited the creation of the sun; to overt references such as Ecclesiastes 1, verse 5:
The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.
And modern geokineticist astronomers say the same thing (using modern language).
Perhaps the strongest geocentric verse in the Bible is Joshua 10:13:
And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.
Yes, just as a modern geokineticist astronomer would put it.
Here the Moderator of Scripture, the Holy Ghost Himself, endorses the daily movement of the sun and moon. After all, God could just as well have written: “And the earth stopped turning, so that the sun appeared to stand still, and the moon seemed to stay …”
And what would be the point of using such a non-standard reference frame, thus losing most of the readers in the ~3000 years since it was written? If a modern geokineticist astronomer used that sort of language, he would be dismissed as a pedant by most of his fellow geokineticists, as I said above.
[Unless otherwise noted, the above and future quotations from TBA sources are from Why Geocentricity … ]
To suggest that the Bible does not teach geocentrism is tantamount to saying that human science is superior to God’s Word, say the TBAers. While “everyone since Adam can understand that Isaiah 55:12 is a literary device [Isaiah 55:12 speaks of the trees “clapping their hands”] … there is not a clue to tell those before Copernicus that Joshua 10:13 is not to be taken literally.”
It should be taken literally. The earth is a valid reference frame, and it is completely correct language. The geocentrists err by claiming that the earth is the only valid reference frame, which is not at all taught in Scripture.
Indeed, the Church’s entire modern slide away from faith is directly traceable to the seed sown by faithless (or, at least, misdirected!) men like Copernicus:
Copernicus at least claimed to be devoted to the church and the Bible, unlike enemies of the Bible like the old-earth deists Hutton and Lyell and the evolutionists Darwin and Huxley.
[E]ither God writes what he means and means what he writes, or else he passes off mere appearances as truths and ends up the liar. The ultimate issue is one of final authority: is the final say God’s or man’s?
And once more, the geocentrists need to learn the difference between ministerial and magisterial uses of science (and reason).
This is brought home again and again by humanists, such as the twentieth-century philosopher Bertrand Russell and astronomer Ivan King, who point to the church’s abandonment of geocentricity as having “freed” man from the ancient God-centered outlook on life to the modern man-centered outlook. … [his ellipsis]
These are hardly reliable sources, and contradict real history, as will be shown below.
The Copernican Revolution, as this change of view is called, was not just a revolution in astronomy, but it also spread into politics and theology. In particular, it set the stage for the development of Bible criticism. After all, if God cannot be taken literally when He writes of the “rising of the sun,” then how can He be taken literally in writing of the “rising of the Son”?
To summarize the geocentrists’ position in the most succinct manner possible:
[T]he reason why we deem a return to a geocentric astronomy a first apologetic necessity is that its rejection at the beginning of our Modern Age constitutes one very important, if not the most important, cause of the historical development of Bible criticism, now resulting in an increasingly anti-Christian world in which atheistic existentialism is preaching a life that is really meaningless.
This is nonsense. Science historian John Heilbron, in his book The Sun in the Church, shows that the advances in geokineticism were hardly a threat to Christendom—Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler and Newton were all YECs! Far from opposing astronomical research, the church supported astronomers and even allowed the cathedrals themselves to be used as solar observatories—hence the subtitle of Heilbron’s book, Cathedrals as Solar Observatories. These observatories, called meridiane, were ‘reverse sundials’, or gigantic pinhole cameras where the sun’s image was projected from a hole in a window in the cathedral’s lantern onto a meridian line. Analyzing the sun’s motion further weakened the Ptolemaic model, yet this research was well supported. And Arthur Koestler documented in his book The Sleepwalkers that only 50 years after Galileo, astronomers of the Jesuit Order, ‘the intellectual spearhead of the Catholic Church’, taught geokinetic astronomy in China.
Contrast this with long ages—Hutton explicitly rejected the Flood as an explanation a priori, and Darwin’s biological evolutionary ideas were inspired by Lyell’s geological evolutionary ideas—see Darwin, Lyell and billions of years. Modern evolutionists have an a priori commitment to materialism, as admitted by Lewontin and Todd.
... If you are familiar with the kinds of arguments that the good people at [CMI] use, you will recognize some powerful parallels here.
Only if you distort them, as Holzmann has here.
I ask these questions because it is this kind of behavior I find too many homeschoolers engaging in as they listen to the Young-Earth creationists. When YEC speakers brand Old-Earth creationists as unbiblical, and when they associate OECs’ positions with those held by people of unsavory character, far too many homeschoolers are ready to accept the YEC speakers’ statements as “gospel,” without evaluating carefully whether they are even valid.
Holzmann would apparently prefer that they accept his unfair characterizations as valid. CMI’s stand on the Bible’s authority has nothing to do with opposing positions being held by ‘people of unsavory character’.
[To take the matter of “setting science above Scripture”: let me note that I believe God gave us our minds and enabled human beings to develop the scientific method in order to acquire wisdom and to gain knowledge—true wisdom and true knowledge. I believe it is legitimate to seek to know more today than people knew yesterday or two thousand years ago. And I believe God intends for us to use that wisdom and knowledge in the service of His Word. He desires us to bend all our energies—not only of our spirits, but of our minds and bodies as well—to obeying His commands (see Mark 12:30).
And who disputes the value of equipping the mind? That’s a major aim of CMI. But the beginning of wisdom and knowledge is fear of the LORD (Proverbs 1:7; 10:9), while the fear of man is a trap (Proverbs 29:25).
Therefore, I believe, not only is it a grave injustice to those dedicated brothers and sisters who are engaged in scientific research, …
Note the use of language to paint a picture that ‘real scientists’ are the ones who are the victims of this overwhelming YEC-generated injustice. In fact, not only are there YEC scientists, whom Holzmann dismisses, involved in research, they are the ones who are overwhelmingly the subject of prejudice and unfair practices.
… but it’s a grave mistake for any of us to suggest that we cannot, or ought not, to use science to help us interpret the Scriptures or to do the work of God.
It’s a grave mistake to misrepresent YECs as opposing ministerial rather than magisterial uses of science, and to use ‘science’ to override the unequivocal teachings of Scripture, as OECs do.
Yes, of course our science must be submitted to the Scriptures.
At last Holzmann gets it, but then goes on to undermine the above …
But our interpretations of Scripture, too, ought to be moderated by our scientific understanding.
Where this means being ‘interpreted’ to mean the opposite of what they actually say, one must say that someone who abandons Christianity altogether because of their ‘scientific understanding’ is being more honest.
Our understanding of science and our understanding of Scripture, I believe, ought to work together in a virtuous cycle of interactive and mutual correction. … [his ellipsis]
Scripture, in that sense, is made to submit to science. But science, too, is forced to submit to Scripture. Scripture, ultimately, must have the last word. But when do we know we have made it to the end? When do we, as limited, fallible human beings, know that we have fully and accurately comprehended what the Word of God is saying?—I think we will never arrive at that destination until we stand before God face to face. Until that day, we will continue to “see in a mirror, dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). And for as long as that remains true, we ought to conduct ourselves with appropriate humility and grace … before both God and man.]
In other words, in practice, Scripture as understood by the grammatical-historical approach will never have the last word! Rather, it will always be tossed around by the ever-changing theories of men.
Young-Earth creationists say that their Old-Earth brethren are “compromisers” when they want to (re-) interpret Genesis 1-11 with the aid of their understanding of modern science.
As indeed they do.
I believe the Old-Earth creationists would have every bit as much right, if they wanted, to say that they are no more “compromising” than their Young-Earth creationist brethren who are not also geocentrists. “On what grounds are you willing to reject the ‘obvious’ meaning of the Scripture passages that ‘teach’ geocentrism?” the Old-Earthers might ask. “If it is modern science that has led you to reject a literal interpretation of those numerous portions of Scripture that ‘obviously’ teach geocentrism, why are you unwilling to permit the same science to lead you to at least consider alternative (i.e., in this case, Old-Earth) interpretations of Genesis 1-11 without branding them as unScriptural?”
As shown earlier, the analogy with geocentrism is completely off the mark—it is like comparing apples with oranges.
And so the arguments go.
But my point is not to mock Young-Earthers, geocentrists, or Old-Earthers.
No, just to put down YECs but not OECs.
My point is to appeal to members of each one of these communities to beware of their tone, to avoid mockery, and to carefully evaluate the legitimacy of the “arguments” they use to bolster their cases. In this particular paper, I want to ask Young-Earthers, especially—because I am a member of the homeschool community and because, in the homeschool community, they are in the majority and are positioned to squelch all presentations coming from other directions: I want to appeal to you, especially, to be careful to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”; use only those kinds of arguments against others’ positions that you believe, in your heart, you would want them to use against yours. If you believe that such an “argument” would be invalid if used against you: see if that same argument is truly valid when used against those you perceive as your opponents. If not, then do the right thing: discard it for the sake of honesty, integrity, and the honor of Jesus’ Name.
What Biblical Evidence is There for an Old Earth (or an Old Universe)?
Once more: please remember my purpose here. I am not trying to convince anyone that the Earth is older than 6,000 to 10,000 years old.
Really? It comes across to me as calling for peace while firing shots at his enemy.
I am merely trying to present some compelling arguments that would move my brothers and sisters who are committed to Young-Earth creationism to grant mercy to my brothers and sisters who believe differently on this matter of the age of the Earth.
It seems to me that the crux of Mr Grigg’s argument is to be found at the point where he says:
‘The phrase ‘heaven(s) and earth’ … [t]hroughout the Bible … means the totality of creation, not just the Earth and its atmosphere, [n]or our solar system alone. …
‘One of the words in this Hebrew figure of speech is the plural noun shamayim, which signifies the ‘upper regions’ and may be rendered ‘heaven’ or ‘heavens’, depending on the context. The essential meaning is everything in creation apart from the Earth. The word translated ‘the earth’ is erets, and here refers to the planet on which we now live. [Emboldened emphasis added.]’
He says, “The phrase ‘heaven(s) and earth’ in Genesis 1:1 is an example of a Hebrew figure of speech called a merism, in which two opposites are combined into an all-encompassing single concept”—in this case, then, “the totality of creation—the universe.”
If I’m reading him correctly, it sounds as if Mr. Grigg is quite sure and wants us to believe, along with him, that wherever in Scripture we find the phrase “ hashamayim [the heaven(s)] v’ [and] haerets [the earth],” it always “means the totality of creation, not just the Earth and its atmosphere, [n]or our solar system alone.”
Would you agree?
Why not? A word study will support this, which is why leading Hebrew scholar Dr Bruce Waltke says the same, as does Reformed Old Testament scholar and archaeologist Dr John Currid and systematic theologian Dr Doug Kelly.
Whether you do or you don’t, I would like you to consider how we ought to interpret 2 Samuel 18:9 in light of this statement by Mr. Grigg.
In 2 Samuel 18:9 we find Absalom riding a mule. He rides under an oak tree and gets his hair tangled in the branches. The mule keeps going while Absalom finds himself, according to the Hebrew, “lifted up between the heavens [hashamayim] and the earth [haerets].”
I hope you can appreciate my attempt at humor when I suggest, “That must have been one tall tree to lift Absalom somewhere into outer space where he found himself in the middle of [between] ‘the totality of creation, not just the Earth and its atmosphere, [n]or our solar system alone’”!
I fail to be impressed by this attempt at mocking wit—especially when it is a case of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing. The Hebrew grammar is significantly different: both hashamayim and haerets have the preposition beyn (between) in front of them. So this has no bearing on what we said above, where it is simply the conjunction of heaven and earth without any preposition that is the merism for ‘universe.’ The extra prepositions mean there is no merism in 2 Samuel 18:9. This error is not really surprising, since he’s also previously accepted arguments that show that yôm (day) can sometimes mean an age—but again this is only when yôm is used with prepositions, which is not the case in Genesis 1.
I mention this passage partially to caution that Mr. Grigg’s case, while strong, may not be quite as airtight as he seems to imply. …
But on to some Scriptures.
Please consider the significance of Genesis 1:6-8.
When we read (in Genesis 1:6 and 7) that God created an “expanse” (or “firmament”) “in the midst of the waters”; that He then separated the waters so that some of the waters were below and others above the “expanse”; and when we read that God Himself called this “expanse” shamayim: I have to ask: Does this sound like the shamayim that we know of as “the solar system”, “outer space”, or (even) “the universe” (apart from the Earth)?
Why not? And it doesn’t undermine the interpretation of the combined phrase ‘heavens and earth’. But see a few sentences on, where it is clear that it may also be the atmosphere.
I guess it is possible that God may have been referring to outer space and the universe when He spoke of this “expanse”/ shamayim, but it’s not the kind of thought that hits me when I read the passage. Indeed, from my youth, I have always thought that the “waters above” the “expanse”/ shamayim were the clouds that we see in the sky—the kinds of clouds that can rain dihydrogen oxide (ordinary rain water) upon us. … [his ellipsis]
I read Genesis 1:20 and find my youthful interpretation strengthened when I find that the birds fly “above haerets across the ‘expanse’ of hashamayim.” I don’t know of any birds that fly in outer space.
It is not wise to go merely with childhood impressions of the meaning of the text. We need to study a little more carefully. In this case our English translations do not pick up the Hebrew very literally. The Hebrew of Genesis 1:14–17 says clearly several times that the heavenly bodies are ‘in the expanse.’ But the Hebrew of Genesis 1:20 says literally that God created the birds to fly above the earth ‘upon the face of the expanse of the heavens.’ The earth’s atmosphere is certainly the face or surface of outer space. So, contrary to our English translations, Genesis does not say or imply that the birds were flying in the expanse where the heavenly bodies are.
Mr. Grigg says, “The Bible [in Exodus 20:11, where it refers to ‘the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all that is in them’] unequivocally states that everything in the universe was created within a time period of six days …, and thus nothing was created before these six days” [emboldened emphasis in the original!]. [Holzmann’s comment]
Again, he is so absolute in his claims, so uncompromising, so sure of himself and of his interpretive capabilities: “The Bible … unequivocally states”; “ nothing was created before these six days.”
Yes, really, just as nearly all exegetes thought before the perceived need to compromise with uniformitarian geology. Exodus 20:8-11 is about as clear a statement of everything being created in those six days (hence not before) as could be imagined. How much plainer could God have made it?
Before I refer you to a couple of passages that seem clearly to tell us that some things were created before “the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all that is in them,” let me note that, in context, and when thinking of what things God placed in “the heavens” (birds—Genesis 1:20-21), “the earth” (vegetation, animals, and human beings— Genesis 1:11-12 and 24-27), and “the sea” (fish and other swimming creatures—Genesis 1:20-21), it makes a lot more sense to me to think that what is primarily in view in Genesis 1 and 2 is not “the universe,” but is the earthly biosphere.
Holzmann has forgotten about the sun, moon and stars created on Day 4.
I said I believe there are a few Scriptures that seem clearly to show Mr. Grigg is wrong when he says that “nothing was created before these six days.” Let us turn to them now.
1. What do you make of Proverbs 8:22-31? —Doesn’t it suggest that something existed—indeed, was “brought forth as the first of [God’s] works”—before the Earth and the heavens were made?
Wisdom is not a created entity, but something God possessed from eternity. Indeed, many theologians point out that Wisdom in Proverbs 8 is a hypostasis, a quasi-personification of attributes proper to a deity, and provides an important backdrop for the explicit Trinitarianism of the New Testament. See Dr Douglas Kelly’s lecture at the CMI conference in 2003, What the New Testament Really Says about Creation, as well as the Tekton article Jesus: God’s Wisdom.
2. What of Job 38:7? According to Mr. Grigg’s interpretation of Genesis 1, when do the morning stars and angels get created so they can be singing together and shouting for joy when God laid the earth’s foundation, set its footings, and laid its cornerstone?
The parallelism of verse 7 would strongly suggest that the ‘morning stars’ are the ‘sons of God’ which are the angels (cf. Job 1:6, which uses ‘sons of God’ to refer to angels, including Satan, and Revelation 1:20 connects stars and angels, as does the phrase ‘the host of heaven’ (cf. Jeremiah 33:22 and Daniel 7:10)). The angels were clearly created during Creation Week according to Exodus 20:8–11. So this passage places them just before the creation of Planet Earth on the first day, or perhaps the ‘earth’ meant the dry land that appeared on Day 3. Mr Grigg already answered Where do the angels fit in? from his gap theory critique.
3. What of John 1:3 where it talks about the creation of “all things”? Mr. Grigg suggests that “Hebrew has no word for ‘the universe’ and can at best say ‘the all.’” —Okay. So why doesn’t Genesis 1 say “the all”? John 1:3 refers to “the all.” Why doesn’t Genesis?
Genesis 2:1 seems abundantly clear, as does Exodus 20:11. So, why should Genesis 1 be required by Holzmann to use the exactly equivalent Hebrew words for what John 1:3 says in Greek? Genesis is talking about the creation of the universe, while John 1:1–3 is reaching back even further into eternity, contrasting Jesus with created things by declaring His deity. (Dr Kelly in his lecture cited the great Trinitarian defender Athanasius as pointing out that God was not always Creator, but He was always Father.)
Here’s one that may not be quite as directly fruitful:
4. Why are there all kinds of references elsewhere in Scripture (i.e., outside of Genesis 1) to God laying the foundation of the Earth and stretching out the heavens, but there is absolutely no discussion of these activities in Genesis 1? Is Genesis 1 really the story of the entire creation of all the universe? Or is it, as Mr. Gray suggests, a description primarily—indeed, almost entirely—of the creation and organization of the Earthly biosphere? (Check out Isaiah 40:21, 48:13, 51:13 and 51:16 for just a few references to the “founding” and “stretching” activity of God.)
Yes, Genesis 1 really is the story of the creation of the whole universe. It is the referent for ‘all things’ of Exodus 20:8–11, including the sun, moon and stars, not just the earth’s biosphere. Gorman Gray, a retired aircraft tooling engineer and graduate of a Bible college, is just one of a long line of eisegetes who twist Scripture to fit their millions-of-years faith.
5. Psalm 102:25 says the foundations of the earth were laid “of old”. Elsewhere we read that the heavens are “of old.” What does “of old” mean? Six thousand years? Maybe.
Yes, why not? This is a specious argument also advanced by many other OECs, including Dr James Dobson of Focus on the Family. In this verse, the Hebrew phrase translated is lephanim, and is found in 19 other verses. In each of these verses, lephanim clearly refers to events within human history—thousands, not billions, of years. So once again, an OEC argument actually turns out to support the YEC timescale. And 6,000 years is a huge age to anyone not indoctrinated by billions of years—see The Earth: how old does it look?
On 9 July 1991, Dr Russell Humphreys wrote a letter to Dr Dobson politely pointing out the biblical context of the phrase ‘of old’, and the implications for the age of the world. No reply was ever received.
[still part of point 5] Micah 5:2, however, seems to suggest that it could be a bit longer than six thousand years. There we read that the origins of One Who was to come out of Bethlehem, One Who would be ruler over Israel, “are from of old, from days of eternity.”
Here, the ‘long-age’ words qedem and mîmê ‘ôlām are applied to Jesus in the prophecy about His birthplace (cf. the fulfilment, Matthew 2:6 and John 7:42). They have nothing to do with billions of years for the earth, and everything to do with the Messiah’s eternal pre-existence (John 1:1–3; 8:58), a doctrine I would hope Holzmann accepts as well. Keil & Delitzsch sum it up well in their erudite Old Testament commentary series:
‘… both qedem and mîmê ‘ôlām are used to denote hoary antiquity; for example in ch. 7:14 and 20, where it is used of the patriarchal age.’
(Please understand: I am using a rhetorical device. There are other places in Scripture that refer to “days of old” that can be no more than a few hundred years in the past. Again, my purpose is not to suggest that the universe must be older than 6,000 years. I am merely trying to argue that the case for a 6,000-year-old universe is not, to my mind, quite as cut-and-dried as Russell Grigg suggests.)
Holzmann errs by using words of ‘old age’ which are actually relative terms. All of them are consistent with an age which is merely old in relation to human history, such as a few thousand years. Correct exegesis means that they therefore cannot be used to prove what megachronophiles mean by ‘old’, but must be interpreted by the unambiguous teachings of Scripture, such as the numbered days, with evenings and mornings, of Genesis 1, and the genealogies with numbers of years. Holzmann does the opposite—he is determined to make old-earth ‘science’ his authority, and use that to interpret old-age words by this concept, which was totally foreign to the authors and intended readers of Scripture.
In fact, the availability of old-age words does mean that there were ways that God could have communicated notions of vast ages before man—if that’s what He had intended. But God used none of these in regard to the creation. Rather, He went out of His way to indicate that Adam was created on the sixth day of an ordinary-length week of creation about 6,000 years ago. The complete lack of old-age words in Genesis 1 is further strong evidence against the day-age theory.
Jim Burr says, “The term ‘of old’ is never used in Genesis 1 or 2. It is never used in connection with the creation of the earth, but in connection with laying the foundations of the earth.” He goes on: “I am suggesting that [God] laid the foundations of the earth ‘of old’ and then about 6000 years ago he formed it. Further support would be found in Psalms 90:2, and Isaiah 45:18 as well, where it says that God ‘formed’ the earth.”
After spending 15 closely-spaced and closely-argued pages presenting biblical evidence for the possibility that the universe is older than the Earthly biosphere, Burr concludes, “A side benefit of reading Genesis [in this way] is that much of scientific evidence [having to do with astrophysics] fits nicely with the Bible. This requires no hoops to jump through, no black holes, white holes, event horizons or attempts to change constants like the speed of light.”
Notice: Burr calls this a “side benefit.” And I believe him.
I don’t. It was abundantly clear that the ‘side benefit’ was actually the main motivation for the eisegesis of Burr. The evolutionary theories of the cosmos do not fit nicely with the Bible, which clearly teaches that the sun, moon and stars were created at the same time and after the earth, on Day 4. The Bible says the earth was completely covered with water before God even made light, whereas evolutionists say light existed long before the earth, and the latter was never completely covered with water. Lots of hoop-jumping is going on, when men try to find a way in Genesis 1 to place the creation of the sun and stars before the creation of the earth, and the creation of the moon at about the same time as a hot molten earth with no water, as evolutionists claim. If Burr’s other arguments for millions of years on those 15 ‘closely-argued’ pages are anything like the ones Holzmann has given here, then we know he does not have a strong argument.
… Russell Grigg charges that anyone who disagrees with his interpretation of Genesis 1 is “using humanistic evolutionary scientific opinions to determine the meaning of the Bible, rather than vice versa.”
I believe he is unfair. I found nothing in Mr. Gray’s book that made allowances for any kind of evolutionary opinions. Nor have I found Mr. Burr making such allowances. I’m not interested in making such allowances, either.
Maybe Gray and Burr make no allowances for biological evolution, but they swallow the time scale and order of events of cosmological and geological evolution. The latter, especially, paved the way for biological evolution.
In sum: Mr. Grigg’s charge is false, and he has no ethical ground for making it. I’m sure he could ethically charge some Christians with engaging in such activity. But, as elsewhere in his paper, he offers no fudge factor and makes no allowance for the possibility that he could be in error.
And his analysis as well as exegesis of the text and knowledge of the history of interpretation amply supports him. The issue is exegetical; why introduce emotive charges such as implying that Mr Grigg is not ‘ethical’?
No. He “knows” these things to be true!
But I don’t believe him . . . for reasons adduced.
I do believe him, for reasons adduced.
Death and Suffering before the Fall
One of the YECs’ strongest “arguments” for a young Earth arises from a certain interpretation of such passages as Genesis 1:31, Romans 6:23, and Revelation 21:4. For example [from Why is there death and suffering?]
‘The Bible plainly says that God is the Creator, and He called everything that He had made—before, leading up to, and including Adam and Eve, but before their Fall—‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31)... .
‘As soon as Christians allow for death, suffering and disease before Adam’s sin (which they automatically must if they believe in [a world that is] millions of years [old]), then they’ve raised a serious question about their Gospel message. What, then, has sin done to the world? According to Christian teaching, death is the penalty for sin (Romans 6:23)—and this fact is the foundation of the Gospel! Moreover, how can all things be ‘restored’ to a state with no death, pain or tears in the future (Revelation 21:4) if there never was a time free of death and suffering? The whole message of the Gospel falls apart if you have this view of history. It also would mean that God is to blame for death.
‘Fortunately, God has given us a different account of the history of death, recorded in His Word—the Bible. … God originally created a perfect world, described by God as ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31). People and animals ate plants, not other animals (Genesis 1:29–30). There was no violence or pain in this ‘very good’ world.
‘But this sinless world was marred by the rebellion of the first man, Adam. His sin brought an intruder into the world—death. God had to judge sin with death, as He warned Adam He would ( Genesis 2:17, cf. 3:19).
‘Indeed, God apparently caused the first death in the world—an animal was slain to make clothing for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). As a result of God’s judgment on the world, God has given us a taste of life without Him—a world that is running down—a world full of death and suffering. As Romans 8:22 says, ‘the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs’—because God Himself subjected the creation to processes of decay (v. 20).’
Please note. I introduced the preceding quotation with a comment about a “certain interpretation” of Scripture. If you are like me, however, and if you have read a presentation such as the one I have just quoted, I expect you might think I—and anyone who would speak of such things—must be crazy even to suggest that there could be “interpretive” differences that would make you consider an alternative! “How can any self-respecting evangelical Christian interpret these Scriptures in any other way than how Mr. Ham and Dr. Sarfati have interpreted them?”
Not to mention great exegetes like Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Keil & Delitzsch, and Leupold, and also most commentaries on Romans 8 …
Once more, I want to be clear about my purpose.
I am not trying to convince you to disbelieve Mr. Ham or Dr. Sarfati.
The more he keeps saying this, the more the reader should be alerted to the obvious conclusion that this is exactly his aim.
Does tob meod, “very good” in Genesis 1:31, mean “perfect” in the sense of “no violence or pain” (let alone no death and destruction)?
Please look at Genesis 26:7. The same root adjective, tob (but here with the feminine suffix –ah, so, tobah), appears. It lacks the intensifying adverb meod. But do you think the lack of the Hebrew word for very would completely change the meaning of tobah?
Here in Genesis 26:7 we get to “listen in” on Isaac’s thinking about his wife Rebekah: “When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, ‘She is my sister,’ because he was afraid to say, ‘She is my wife.’ He thought, ‘The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is tobah.’ ”
Question: What does tob mean? Does it necessarily mean perfect in the sense that Ham and Sarfati suggest? Or may it merely mean good or beautiful, happy or cheerful, wealthy or prosperous? (See Psalm 16:2; 65:12; 106:5; Ecclesiastes 5:10; etc., for other places in Scripture where this same word (or cognate), tob/tobah is used.)
Like so many old-earth compromisers, Holzmann commits a classic case of a fallacy that New Testament scholar Donald Carson calls:
‘Unwarranted adoption of an expanded semantic field. The fallacy in this instance lies in the supposition that the meaning of the word in a specific context is much broader than the context itself allows and may bring with it the word’s entire semantic range.’ [ Exegetical Fallacies, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 2nd Ed., p. 60, 1996]
Certainly, the phrase can be used of people and things in a fallen world. But the specific context of Genesis 1 shows what God meant by me’od tov. The ‘very good’ was the culmination of Creation Week, where God had already pronounced things ‘good’ six times. This is a clear indication of no principle of actual evil in what God had made.
While we’re thinking about that point, let me address a rhetorical question that YEC leaders often ask. It is worded something like this: “If there was death, decay, and disease before there was the Garden of Eden and/or the creation of man, can you honestly say that God would have pronounced His creation to be good, or even very good—as He did at the end of the third day (when He created the various kinds of plants) and the sixth day (when He created all the animals and human beings)?”
Answer that Bible-believing OECs would give? “Yes.”
Of course that begs the question of whether they are Bible-believers. It is possible to believe the Bible on most points but doubt it on some points. Most OECs do demonstrate that they are Bible-believing from Genesis 12 to Revelation 22. But something happens to them when they enter Genesis 1–11. However, the OEC Norman Geisler dissented on this question of the goodness of the original creation. He clearly realized that animals were created vegetarian and this was the answer to the apostate Charles Templeton. But in this he was inconsistent with his OEC view—see the discussion in Shame on Charisma!
And here’s why.
I’m afraid many of us may have adopted Alfred Lord Tennyson’s unbiblical view of death—at least the death of animals. We have adopted his Romantic (and evolutionary) notion of a revulsive “Nature, red in tooth and claw”: “Oh, how ugly!”
It was hardly just Tennyson. John Wesley said much the same (The General Deliverance, Sermon 60 (Romans 8:19–22), 1872):
‘We may inquire, in the First place, What was the original state of the brute creation? And may we not learn this, even from the place which was assigned them; namely, the garden of God? All the beasts of the field, and all the fowls of the air, were with Adam in paradise. And there is no question but their state was suited to their place: It was paradisiacal; perfectly happy. Undoubtedly it bore a near resemblance to the state of man himself. By taking, therefore, a short view of the one, we may conceive the other. …
‘How true then is that word, “God saw everything that he had made: and behold it was very good!” But how far is this from being the present case! In what a condition is the whole lower world!—to say nothing of inanimate nature, wherein all the elements seem to be out of course, and by turns to fight against man. Since man rebelled against his Maker, in what a state is all animated nature! Well might the Apostle say of this: “The whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain until now.” This directly refers to the brute creation in what state this is at present we are now to consider.’
Wesley also said (God’s approbation of his Work, Sermon 56 (Genesis 1:31), 1872):
‘However, none of these [animals] then attempted to devour, or in anyway hurt, one another. All were peaceful and quiet, as were the watery fields wherein they ranged at pleasure. …
‘It seems the insect kinds were at least one degree above the inhabitants of the waters. Almost all these too devour one another, and every other creature which they can conquer. Indeed, such is the miserably disordered state of the world at present, that innumerable creatures can not otherwise preserve their own lives than by destroying others. But in the beginning it was not so. The paradisiacal earth afforded a sufficiency of food for all its inhabitants; so that none of them had any need or temptation to prey upon the other. The spider was then as harmless as the fly, and did not then lie in wait for blood. The weakest of them crept securely over the earth, or spread their gilded wings in the air, that wavered in the breeze, and glittered in the sun, without any to make them afraid. Meantime, the reptiles of every kind were equally harmless …
‘But … there were no birds or beasts of prey; none that destroyed or molested another; but all the creatures breathed, in their several kinds, the benevolence of their great Creator.’
It sure does!
First: the original vegetarian diets in Genesis 1:29–30:
‘And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. ’
This teaches that vegetarianism was a worldwide phenomenon, not just restricted to Eden. Even after the Fall, after Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden, their diet was vegetarian, as Genesis 3:17–19 says:
‘To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” ’
Hugh Ross himself provides inadvertent support by his ‘analysis’ of Genesis 1:29. He agrees that this teaches that humans originally had a vegetarian diet, not ‘merely an indication that all food resources derive from plants’ (The Genesis Question, p. 71). Otherwise, God’s statement to Noah after the Flood in Genesis 9:3 makes no sense:
‘Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.’
If Noah was already eating animals that ate plants, this would make no sense. However, this verse is stating only that human carnivory was permitted after the Flood. The Fall is the big discontinuity of earth history, and that’s where animal carnivory began. It’s possible that rebellious humans also ate meat before the Flood.
Second: the Restoration of creation (Acts 3:21–22) will have many features of the pre-Fall paradise. But if all the creation that ‘was subjected to frustration’ is eventually to be restored (Romans 8:20–22; cf. Acts 3:21–22), one must ponder: Restored to what? Billions of years of death and suffering?
Isaiah 11:6–9 and 65:25 state that there will be a time in the future with no bloodshed in the animal kingdom. These are famous passages about a lion and calf, wolf and lamb, and a vegetarian lion and a non-harmful viper. Significantly, both passages close with indications that this reflects a more ideal world and the current world does not: ‘ They shall not hurt or destroy …’ and ‘They shall do no evil or harm …’. These indicate that hurting, harming and destroying animal life would not have been part of a ‘very good’ creation.
Ross himself takes this passage straightforwardly (The Genesis Question, pp. 98–99):
‘Some time in the future, when Jesus reigns for a time on Earth and His followers serve alongside Him in managing the planet, carnivores will no longer eat herbivores, according to Isaiah 65:25. This change most likely results from Christ’s bringing peace and harmony among all humans and between humans and animals so that under God’s authority we can provide the carnivores with all the processed, nutritionally adequate food they need. During this time, referred to as the Millennium by many Bible scholars, God will remove all human excuses for sin—including our carnivorous activity—to demonstrate, once and for all, that our weakness lies within us, not in our external environment (see Jeremiah 17:9–10).’
The above is all very reasonable, and I will neither support nor dispute his eschatology, since that topic is outside the scope of this item and CMI’s sphere of ministry. The main point is that Ross correctly sees that carnivory is opposed to ‘peace and harmony’. But he is inconsistent and fails to see that ‘peace and harmony’ must have likewise prevailed in the pre-Fall Eden, entailing a lack of carnivory—as Genesis 1:29–30 clearly indicates. Likewise, if it will be possible in the Millennium for man to provide the nutritional requirements for all animals without killing other animals, then how much more would it have been possible for God to do the same in Eden?
What should we make of Job 38:39 where God glorifies Himself when He asks Job the rhetorical question: “Do you hunt the prey for the lioness and satisfy the hunger of the lions …?” Clearly, in context, God is saying, “I satisfy their hunger!” And He offers no apologies, and feigns no embarrassment.
And what of Psalm 104:21 where the author extols God’s glory by noting that “[t]he lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God”? Who provides the red meat (i.e., the dead animals for these carnivores? (God.)
These passages deal with the present cursed creation, not with the original creation. Therefore, these passages (and others like them) cannot be used to override the clear teaching that animals were originally vegetarian, and will once again be vegetarian in the future.
Furthermore, there are a number of provisions for a fallen world, which Holzmann too would not claim were necessary in the pre-Fall creation. One is the death penalty for murder ( Genesis 9:6). Surely Holzmann would not believe there was murder before the Fall.
Is Romans 6:23 focused on all death—human, animal, plant, etc.?
Notice what the verse says: the wages of sin is death. Who sinned? Who earned death? Was it the animals? Was it the plants? And to whom is God’s gift of eternal life promised? Is it to animals or plants that you see God making promises of eternal life?
Of course not. The context of Romans 6 demonstrates clearly that it is referring to human death. That is not a passage to prove anything about animal death. Rather, no pre-Fall animal death is implied by the teaching of vegetarian diets in the original creation and Restoration, along with Romans 8:19-23. But Holzmann and all old-earthers still have a problem concerning Romans 6:23 and human death: there are many fossils of anatomically modern humans ‘dated’ by methods they accept as far older than any plausible biblical date for Adam. See Ethiopian ‘earliest humans’ find: A severe blow to the beliefs of Hugh Ross and similar ‘progressive creationist’ compromise views.
Young-Earth creationists seek to strengthen their case for “no death of any type” before the Fall (and “all death of all types” after the Fall) by suggesting that, for however long the period of time on Earth was subsequent to the creation of the animals and prior to the Fall, the so-called “deaths” of plants and lower animals had nothing to do with true biblical death.
Thus, for example [from How did bad things come about?], ‘“People and animals are described in Genesis as having, or being, nephesh (Hebrew)—see Genesis 1:20-21, 24 where nephesh chayyah is translated ‘living creatures,’ and Genesis 2:7 where Adam became a ‘living soul’ (nephesh chayyah). Nephesh conveys the basic idea of a ‘breathing creature.’ It is also used widely in the Old Testament, in combination with other words, to convey ideas of emotions, feelings, etc. … Plants do not have such nephesh, and so Adam eating a carrot did not involve death in the biblical sense.’
As with some of the statements that Mr. Grigg made, above, I’m afraid that the authors of this statement, too, may have overstated their case. They may be correct that in Genesis 1 we ought to distinguish between the deaths of plants and the lower animals as compared to “breathing creatures” like reptiles, mammals and humans. But the Bible as a whole, and Moses himself, does not appear to hold such absolute distinctions.
Not so. Despite Holzmann’s opinion, biblical death of nephesh chayyāh (נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה) was qualitatively different from modern conceptions of biological death in invertebrates and plants. We should read the Bible in its own context, not try to impose modern categories onto it. Also, plants (which are not nephesh chayyāh) were food for animals right from creation.
And in Exodus 10:17 we find Pharaoh using that same word, m-t, only this time in its noun sense (i.e., “death”: hamet), to refer to the destruction by locusts of “everything growing in the fields and the fruit on the trees” in Egypt: “Now forgive my sin once more,” says Pharaoh, “and pray to the L ORD your God to take this death (hamet (death) hazeh (this); or, as the New International Version has it, “this deadly plague”) away from me.”
So is it true that “death” in Genesis 1 is to be accorded to nephesh only?
The point is, was there death of nephesh chayyāh before the Fall? Holzmann can’t show this because it’s entirely absent. And if one pays very careful attention to the text, it is Pharaoh, not God, who uses the word ‘death’ in reference to plants. We should not accept Pharaoh’s fallible understanding, but rather God’s statements in Genesis.
Is someone who would suggest that there were some forms of death—of plants, at least, and possibly, too, of animals: is such a person “twisting Scripture” and worthy of being cut off from the right hand of fellowship for his or her views?
Not having OECs present their views on creation at homeschool conventions is not ‘cutting off the right hand of fellowship’ with other believers. It is just saying ‘we don’t agree and don’t want parents and children exposed to OEC compromise at our conventions.’ Sadly, there is emotional manipulation going on here with the repeated use of false charges.
Some Young-Earth creationists suggest that “corruption,” and “decay” (with reference to passages like Romans 8:18ff) didn’t occur on Earth prior to the Fall. Corruption and decay, they suggest, are direct results of God’s curse upon Adam.
Rather, we would say, along with Calvin’s comment on Genesis 3:19 in his Genesis commentary:
‘Therefore, we may know, that whatever unwholesome things may be produced, are not natural fruits of the earth, but are corruptions which originate from sin.’
Indeed, with this very idea in mind, many YECs suggest that the second law of thermodynamics (the law that says the universe is tending toward randomness and disorder) didn’t come into play until after the Fall.
As Holzmann notes below, CMI, like many other YECs, does not use this argument—though that does not stop him raising it. But in any case, the fact that YEC is the overwhelmingly correct exegesis of the biblical text is unaffected by whether some have used faulty science arguments to defend it.
But if plants were eaten before the Fall; and if the digestive bacteria in the guts of animals helped them to digest plant material before the Fall; and if the transfer of energy from one place to another occurred prior to the Fall, then the plant matter that humans and animals ingested did “decay”; the digested material was “corrupted”; and the second law of thermodynamics most definitely was in play … before the Fall.
[Note: Due to reasons such as those I have just mentioned, Dr Sarfati of [CMI] has recently written a brief note to urge YECs to abandon the “No Second Law of Thermodynamics Before the Fall” concept of physics. See his article Moving forward: Arguments we think creationists shouldn’t use which was first published in the March-May 2002 issue of Creation magazine. …]
See also my 1996 article Did the 2nd Law begin at the Fall? And even before I had joined, Drs Wieland and Batten had been already counselling against using this argument. Later I found out that Drs Humphreys and Faulkner had independently come to the same conclusion.
Frankly, I don’t know. I don’t believe the evidence is beyond question. It is “just one more” area where I believe we—all of us, on both sides of the debate—should think and pray and speak with humility and grace as we seek, first, to understand what God is saying, and seek, second, to acquire a consensus of understanding in the Body of Christ.
Humility and grace is an admirable goal, but not when it is a feigned humility used as an excuse for disbelieving what the Bible clearly teaches.
When Romans 8:18-25 speaks of groanings and longings and “liberation from bondage to decay,” etc.: do these words necessarily refer to God’s curse upon the ground (Genesis 3:17), or is it possible that they refer to a new creation along the lines of what we may be reading about in Revelation 21 as distinct from the entire physical system of this present world in which we live (in which, indeed, things are running down!)?
The alternative answer to this question, more, even, than its counterpart in the previous one, leaves me rather unmoved. I have always “understood” these groanings and longings to have to do with the Fall and ultimate salvation. But is it possible that God is not merely restoring, but is actually completely transforming or creating brand-new a “world” or “universe” the likes of which no human being—even Adam and Eve—has ever seen?
The Bible talks about both restoration (Acts 3:21) and ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ (Revelation 21:1). We also affirm that the new creation will be even grander than the original Paradise because there will no longer be even the possibility of sin. A vitally important point is that many references to a future state parallel the pre-Fall world, e.g. vegetarian lions and wolves (Isaiah 11:6–9, 65:25), light without the sun like the first three days of creation (Revelation 22:5), and a Tree of Life (Genesis 2:9; 3:22, 24 cf. Revelation 2:7; 22:2, 14, 19).
There is also a promise of no more tears, crying, pain, death or mourning (Revelation 21:4). How can this be? Because these evils all started with God’s Curse because of sin (Genesis 3:19), while in the final state, ‘ there will be no more curse’ (Revelation 22:3). Here, the very last few chapters of the Bible connect intimately to the events of the very first three chapters. Without this connection, the Bible would be a fairly disordered collection of books; with this connection of first and last things, the Bible displays its unity, reflecting its ultimate Author.
Once more, I am left with the strong sense that I should probably speak in hushed tones, with reverence, awe, and humility. I don’t know.
Then why bother to write this anti-YEC blast? The impression one gets is that one thing Holzmann seems almost to know is that YECs are in fact wrong.
And I doubt anyone else on Earth knows, either. Someone may have happened upon the “right answer,” but I seriously doubt they can “know” that their answer is correct … [his ellipsis]
It is not humble to claim that just because one doesn’t know, everyone else has to share one’s self-confessed lack of knowledge. We are not making the claim to know every last detail, just that the ‘big picture’ of the history in the Bible is very clear and straightforward.
any more than that someone can “know” the day or the hour when Jesus returns.
Here, Jesus specifically said that only the Father knows. But God wrote other parts of Scripture so that we can know (Deuteronomy 29:29)—otherwise how could Scripture be for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)?
Back in the early 1980s, my family moved to California. We went to work with the U.S. Center for World Mission. I was astonished at the great diversity of people who work there. At the time, there were—and I knew there were—devout, evangelically-minded Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, Pentecostals, dispensationalist independent Bible church members, and more. And there, too, was Phil F, a retired missionary from the extremely conservative Presbyterian denomination of which our family had been a member. I knew that people from that denomination did not associate with all these others!
I asked Phil why and how he could work with all these people.
He answered: “John, when we were in Japan, in the precinct (suburb) of Tokyo where we lived, there were over 50,000 families. And just three of us were Christians. Do you think we focused on our differences? No! We needed each other! We needed the fellowship that our fellow believers offered. We were involved in a much bigger task. We needed to make Christ known to the 49,997 other families who did not know Christ! … And so it is here at the Center. …”
I would say, in my opinion: So it is here with respect to the question of the age of the Earth and the ministries of both Old- and Young-Earth creationists. Each one seems to appeal to a different population. Since their teachings about the age of the Earth are so opposite to one another, both of them cannot possibly be true. At least one of them must be wrong. But it is also possible that neither one really “knows the truth” about the age of the Earth; both may be wrong.
And so where does that leave me? Must I feel compelled to shun either one? Or is it legitimate—as I do—to pray for both of them and for the true, eternal fruitfulness of their ministries? For those areas in which either camp’s teaching is in error, I pray it will be thwarted. But may I never falsely accuse of evil intention those who have followed God’s call—to the best of their ability—for the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:11-14)!
Holzmann again gives a subtly misleading impression about YECs. We YECs can agree to disagree about many things with each other and with our fellow Christian OECs. In fact, CMI staff themselves do not see eye-to-eye on every jot and tittle of Scripture. No YEC says every verse of the Bible is absolutely clear. Nor do we break off fellowship with all OECs.
But that does not mean that the age of the earth isn’t important. Truth is important and God has spoken about creation and the age of the earth. If God deemed it important to reveal Genesis 1–11, then we should make a diligent effort to understand the truths He is teaching us, not simply to raise objections for why we can’t be sure of much of anything in those chapters. The fact that some verses of Scripture (even some verses in Genesis 1–11) are hard to understand, doesn’t mean that all the major teachings of Genesis 1–11 are tremendously vague.
I expect that Mr Holzmann is adamant (i.e. knows for sure) that Adam and Eve were literally the first two humans and literally rebelled in a literal Garden of Eden as a result of the temptations of Satan manifesting his presence through a literal serpent. So, why can’t he take the rest of Genesis 1–11 just as plainly? (How would he react if someone were to say that one ‘can’t be sure’ about such things?) We suspect his reasons have everything to do with the perceived pressure of ‘scientific’ views of the age of things.
Our reasons are clear why YECs cannot just ‘agree to disagree’ about the creation days, the age of the earth and the extent and nature of Noah’s Flood. What is at stake is the foundation of the rest of the doctrines of Scripture, including the Gospel itself, and the authority and clarity of the Word of God.
And Mr Holzmann is falsely and emotively accusing YECs of accusing OECs of having ‘evil intentions’. The issue has never been OEC motives, but sound consistent exegesis and the authority of Scripture versus the authority of antibiblical, anti-God philosophical assumptions driving the evolutionary interpretations of God’s well-designed but cursed creation. And these lead us to the ultimate issue: will we believe God rather than men? And will we believe Jesus’ words? He was clearly a young-earth creationist. In Mark 10:6 and Luke 11:50-51 He clearly believed that Adam and Abel were right there at the beginning of creation (as a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11 indicates) not billions of years after the beginning (as all old-earth views believe). So whose word are we going to believe? We side with Paul, ‘ May God be true and every man a liar’ (Romans 3:4).