Why compromise doesn’t work
(Atheists see the problem!)
Robert V, USA, who is a long age creationist, wrote in after reading What all atheists have to believe saying that he believes that Christians should avoid taking a stance on the plain reading of Genesis, believing it is detrimental to sharing the Gospel. His message is printed in full, followed by a response from CMI-CA’s speaker (and co-host of CMI’s TV show Creation Magazine LIVE!) Calvin Smith.
As an Old Earth Creationist, I disagree with the literal six-day interpretation given in Genesis. Could God have created the universe/world in six days? Of course. Science does seem to be painting a different picture however, and according to Romans 1:20, natural revelation is a valid means of learning certain things about God. That said, I am human, and could very easily be wrong.
If the only valid reading of Genesis 1 were a literal six-days, I can see insisting on this translation. There are other valid ways of reading the text however, and by insisting on the literal reading we run the risk of losing a number of Christians who cannot bring these concepts together. Speaking as an ex-atheist, I can say that when a Christian would start making this argument I would instantly tune out.
I think that you and I agree that the Gospel of Jesus is the most important message in the Bible. Why risk having people lose their faith in that truth over a passage that can be read in a few ways? Why guarantee that atheists will refuse to give the Gospel a hearing over such passages?
Hi Robert, thanks for taking the time to write in. Just to preface my comments below, as a Christian apologist I try not to argue with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and understand that there are saved people everywhere that have different stances on Genesis (and other passages/doctrines etc). What I try to focus on when speaking to a fellow believer who disagrees with my stance on scripture is what you allude to further on in your email, that is, the effect on sharing the gospel that these interpretations have.
As a former atheist myself I believe I have some perspective as well both from my pre-salvation days and from the hundreds of encounters with people during the last 10 years speaking on this subject. I believe that an informed skeptic has some legitimate logical arguments VS Old Earth Creationists (OEC) and Theistic Evolutionists (TE) that they do not have with Young Earth Creationists (YEC).
What I would like to do (following) is answer your questions from an informed atheist’s perspective. How would you answer them? (Remember, you and I are saved and so have no real opposition to each other so I’m only doing this to get you thinking of how you would defend against an atheist’s attack on your views.) Hopefully this will help you present a consistent Gospel message to those you share the faith with. So from here on in, pretend I’m ‘atheist Calvin’ …
As an Old Earth Creationist, I disagree with the literal six-day interpretation given in Genesis.
Why? Most Hebrew scholars agree that the days in Genesis were intended as literal days. Is it because science has disproven the Bible? Didn’t the church fathers and the majority of Christians believe in a young earth and a 6 day creation up until recently until science proved it wrong?
Could God have created the universe/world in six days? Of course.
I thought the Bible recorded what God did do, not what he ‘could’ have done. God ‘could’ have created the world using a Flying Spaghetti Monster, but that’s not what it says he said in the Bible!
Science does seem to be painting a different picture however,
Science seems to be painting a different picture regarding talking snakes, talking donkeys, floating axe heads, people living in whales for 3 days, virgin births and dead people coming back to life after 3 days as well.
How come you want to accept science in one area and change the plain meaning of what the Bible says because of it but not in the other areas? Isn’t that inconsistent and illogical? By the way, science says that animals evolved (made themselves), weren’t created. Why don’t you believe science regarding that?
and according to Romans 1:20, natural revelation is a valid means of learning certain things about God.
Romans 1:20 states that you can supposedly know there is a God because of what He created and that His eternal power and divine nature are revealed in His creation so no one has an excuse not to believe in God, that’s all. It doesn’t say that natural revelation trumps the Bible.
Furthermore, science1 says that there is no evidence that God created; it is all explained by natural processes operating over billions of years. In this view, ‘God’ is an unnecessary addition. Indeed, university departments of religion will tell you that we invented God, God did not invent us. This is the evolutionary view.
(Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.)
That said, I am human, and could very easily be wrong.
But the Bible says that God can’t be wrong and that He doesn’t lie, so why do you believe the Bible as plainly written in one area (virgin birth, etc.) and not others? By the way, if you believe in the millions of years of geologic earth history doesn’t that mean that most all of the fossils got laid down prior to Adam sinning?
The Bible says that at the end of God’s creating everything was ‘very good’, but we find evidence of diseases like cancer in the fossil record! We find billions of dead things that have died, been killed, scavenged, etc., which means that the ‘days’ in Genesis must have been filled with pain, agony and suffering, but God called it ‘very good’.
Let me ask you then, if you have such a loving God, Why would a loving God allow death and suffering?? Did God just make it that way? Then isn’t death his fault? But Romans 5:12 says death came into the world because of sin (not before). And why were all of the animals and man commanded to eat plants prior to the Fall of man (Genesis 1:29-30)?
As you said, you could easily be wrong about what you believe, even about the Bible being true, especially if it doesn’t give any clear answers …
If the only valid reading of Genesis 1 were a literal six-days, I can see insisting on this translation.
According to the original language (without outside scientific influences) 6-day creation IS the only valid reading of Genesis. If by valid you mean it doesn’t have to conform to the recognized rules of grammar, context/word usage, etc., because science disproves the plain meaning, then why believe that Jesus was born of a virgin or that Christ died and rose again? Shouldn’t you re-interpret those events in light of science? In this scientific world doesn’t it just make more sense that Jesus was a good teacher and his followers embellished some of the stories surrounding him?
And any other (interpretation) ‘translation’ (gap theory, progressive creation, day age theory, theistic evolution, framework hypothesis) means that death wasn’t the result of sin. Isn’t death and sin what Jesus came to atone for because Adam sinned? Don’t Christians believe in a perfect restoration where God will restore the world to a state of no death or pain like it was in the beginning? But if God used pain and death to create (from the beginning) what is it REALLY going to be like? Is the Bible really that confusing from beginning to end but just clear about that one part about Jesus coming back to life?
There are other valid ways of reading the text however, and by insisting on the literal reading we run the risk of losing a number of Christians who cannot bring these concepts together. Speaking as an ex-atheist, I can say that when a Christian would start making this argument I would instantly tune out.
Did you not realize these logical and rational arguments I have just laid out at the time? If you know them now, why have you not questioned the Bible more intensely, as you already know it can’t be taken as plainly written in some areas. Why not others? How do you know which ones are the right ones to take as plainly written? How can you know?
By the way, I know atheists that tune out as soon as a Christian says they DON’T believe the plain reading of the Bible because they see them as inconsistent, illogical hypocrites that shape the Bible to say whatever they want, while proclaiming that they believe it is “God’s Word” and to be obeyed. Which method of presenting the Bible do you believe is the best then? As plainly written or not?
I think that you and I agree that the Gospel of Jesus is the most important message in the Bible.
OK, now I am speaking as your fellow Christian again (by the way, please don’t take any of the comments above the wrong way, they are just a sampling of the types of questions informed atheists have posed over the years that you might come up against). And yes, I agree that the Gospel is the most important message in the Bible.
In the responses above you will notice the way in which I used the word ‘science’ equated with scientific interpretations that support millions of years and/or evolution. I have seen this done often as a way to intimidate Christians about their beliefs (the ‘science VS faith’ fallacy). This is such an important thing to understand, that when you are talking about events that supposedly happened in the past, you cannot use the scientific method to verify your conclusions. All ‘facts’ must be interpreted according to a set of beliefs or a scientific model you hold to.
Why risk having people lose their faith in that truth over a passage that can be read in a few ways?
I hope you can see that the converse is true: “Why risk having people lose their faith by telling them they don’t have to take the Bible as plainly written?”
Growing up as an atheist I frequently used questions regarding Genesis to deny belief in God. When a Christian wanted to witness to me (i.e. tell me about Jesus) I would simply ask them questions about Genesis. When they couldn’t give reasonable answers it justified not listening further.
Q-‘So you believe the Bible?’
A – ‘Yes!’
Q-‘You believe some guy put two of every animal on a big boat, and there are millions of animals in the world?’
A – ‘Uhhh … ’
Q-‘You believe the Bible?’
A – ‘Yes!’
Q-‘You believe some lady talked to a snake?’
A – ‘Uhhh … ’
It seemed like I almost always got one of two responses. Either the person had no reasonable answer, or they tried convincing me what I was referring to didn’t necessarily mean what the Bible plainly said. Either way, their answers were illogical and unconvincing.
How so? Logically if there was no reasonable defense of Scripture or it could be ‘reinterpreted’ to mean whatever you wanted it to mean, why should any portion of it be considered authoritative? This helped justify my sin and disbelief.
Why guarantee that atheists will refuse to give the Gospel a hearing over such passages?
I believe if you think about it the use of the word ‘guarantee’ is not valid, as I myself (and many others have testified) needed to hear that the Bible could be trusted from the very first verse in order to ‘hear’ the Gospel. Telling someone the biblical account of origins doesn’t ‘guarantee’ they will refuse to give the Gospel a hearing (nor does it guarantee they will either).
I believe the real issue is ‘What does the Bible clearly say?’ If we base our defense on ‘science’ (which is commonly equated to mean ‘secular interpretations of scientific evidence’) the skeptic can easily trip you up. If you base your defense on what scripture says, and then show them how the ‘facts’ can be interpreted scientifically and are consistent according to what scripture says then we have a better presentation of the Gospel; logical, defensible and reasoned (see links above to see how a YEC can answer the atheists’ questions easily).
Genesis 1–11 is a building block for the Christian faith because all Christian doctrines (directly or indirectly) are founded in the book of Genesis. The origin of sin, death, the need of a savior, marriage, clothing, work etc., are all found there. That is why I believe it is important to take such a stand, because if someone gets ‘saved’ but only professes belief in certain parts of scripture, they can get taken apart easily by an informed skeptic in regards to so many areas later on.
This was a main point in my article, accepting millions of years = Bible not plainly written = evolution results in relatively easy apostasy. (Understand I am not espousing a particular theological stand on the mechanisms of salvation but rather its outer workings.)
I have found personally that there is great hunger for the truth of God’s word and that many Christians take the old earth paradigm as true simply because they believe science has ‘proven’ millions of years of earth history and they have never heard or considered the arguments and evidence for the biblical account. Perhaps a look through our related articles regarding the original language and creationist arguments for a young earth may help you at least understand the scientific backup of YEC beliefs. Here are some links that may help.
Creation Ministries International, Canada
- Note that this is ‘atheist Cal’ speaking and that this is the prevailing view of ‘science’ today, not that of the founders of modern science. Return to text.