Homeschool conference: great encouragement and some concerns
Greenville Homeschooling Conference
Each year, CMI–US is privileged to provide the main creation teaching element at the Great Homeschool Conferences in the US in Greenville, SC. Our CEO, Gary Bates, gave five talks on creation on topics ranging from dinosaurs, to myth-busting evolution, to racism, as well as what we should think about UFOs and who created God.
The talks were well-attended and there were extremely good interactions with the audience, with applause and even a standing ovation from some during Gary’s final talk. One woman told us that she found Gary’s talks to be the most interesting of all the topics offered at the GHC. Another woman came up to us at the end of the talk on racism, almost with tears in her eyes, obviously much affected by the powerful message, which sheds light onto why we as a nation are so divided even in the church.
What was the most encouraging, however, was the number of teenagers who specifically came out of their way to express thanks for showing evidence that God created the Earth, and that we can really trust the Bible. We are so glad to know that we are making a difference in helping, with God’s providence, in reversing the trend in losing our young ones to a hopeless evolutionary ideology.
Reason for concern
Before one of the talks, we had a discussion with Tim Barnett from Stand to Reason, who was giving multiple presentations at the conference. He was also teaching as part of the youth track component of the conference. While he claims to reject evolution, we had discussions with his views on the age of the Earth and the nature of death. He said that his ministry officially does not take a stand on the age of the earth, and leaves the question open as to whether the Earth is young or old.
However, after discussion with him, it turned out that he does believe in an old Earth, implying that death, disease, suffering and pain all came before Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Gary tried to explain the hermeneutics of the word ‘day’ in Genesis 1 and that the whole concept of an ancient earth was due to a secular interpretation of the geologic layers. And that, problematically, those layers contain fossils which is a record of death, and that by putting death before Adam and Eve in the Garden it created a problem for the Gospel and the notion that all creation was “Very Good” as prescribed by God on day 6. Tim cited Psalm 104:21 which says: “The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God” claiming it is God that provided the kill, and thus, that animal death must be good in God’s economy. Gary tried to remind him that we are living in a post-Fall world and thus sin and death is upon all of creation and that God also told Noah he may now eat meat after the Flood (Genesis (9:3). (See our reasoning here).
An old earth is ‘very good’?
Gary then asked him why he thought the earth was old, but Barnett instead cited the distant starlight issue as his reason for accepting the long ages of the universe. We tried to explain that this subject has been answered extensively on our site, to which he claimed he has read some of the answers. However, he then also claimed that because fellow creation cosmologists have critiqued each other’s models that this somehow invalidated them, and that CMI should not promote them as truth. Gary expressed concern at this straw man argument because CMI’s policy has always been to ‘hold to models loosely, but to hold to the Bible tightly’. That is, regardless of whatever model is mentioned, they have never been presented as ‘the answer’ and are always subservient to Scripture. The reality is that all cosmologists have to study and observe are wavelengths of light. It is not the same type of science as testing gravity, for example. Moreover, competing models and critiquing are a good thing and are part of the normal scientific rigor. Mr Barnett conceded this point, but nonetheless it did raise an alarm for us as he was teaching ‘science’ at this homeschool conference and such arguments were disconcerting.
We wanted to know more, so that’s why I attended his presentation titled “If God, Why Evil?” The main focus of this talk was to discuss the issue of why a loving and omnipotent God would allow suffering in the world. The talk featured a short video showing the atheist Stephen Fry accusing God being a horrible monster for allowing people to suffer. He cited the example of a species of worm which bores itself into the eyes of its victims, causing terrible suffering.
Barnett claims that human suffering is different from animal death and suffering and presumably animals tearing each other apart is not ‘suffering’. In other words, even though Adam sinned, only humans were affected by his sin, trotting out the tired Hugh Ross argument that Romans 5:12 only applies to human death. But if this were the case then why will God have to create a new Heavens and a new Earth in their entirety? Why not redeem humans as a species only and avoid destroying the Earth? As we’ve pointed out elsewhere, as long as there is a fossil in the ground it is a reminder of the death that sin brought to this Earth, and all traces must be removed or Satan wins. Romans 8:20–23 says: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (emphasis ours). This verse highlights the total effect of sin. We are dead in sin. Sin affects everything that we even associate with.
The Bible describes animal suffering in a different light than does Barnett. In Genesis 3:14 God curses the snake “above all livestock and above all beasts of the field”. Verse 15 describes how the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head, implying a violent death to the snake. In verses 17–18, God curses the ground and will make thorns and thistles to grow out of the ground. These plant appendages serve as defence mechanisms, inflicting pain not only on humans who may grasp them, but also herbivorous animals which may want to consume these types of plants.
Animals were originally vegetarian—the Bible says so!
Furthermore, during Creation week, God gave plants as food not only to humans but to animals as well: “And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on 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 heavens 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. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:29–31)
What this means is that God did not originally allow animals to eat each other or humans to eat the animals. Barnett claimed that just because the idea that animals ate other animals isn’t explicitly written down in Scripture, it does not mean it is not true. However, this is an argument from silence. It was simply the order of creation and a command of God that animals were given plants to eat. Barnett is imposing his modern-day conception that animals could only have been carnivores before the Fall presumably because he believes the fossil record is evidence of death and carnivory over millions of years. However, the past is the key to interpreting the present. Carnivory, thorns and thistles, and parasitic bacteria are all products of the Fall.
But let us take Barnett’s logic to its ultimate conclusion. If we shouldn’t exclude pre-Fall carnivory because it is not mentioned, then so should we also not exclude marriage between two men in the Bible, just because that too is not mentioned. Thus, the problem lies in Barnett’s initial presupposition, that pre-Fall carnivory could have existed despite its mentioning being absent from the pages of Scripture.
Barnett replied by stating specifically that the Hebrew names of animals named in the Old Testament, such as the owl or the lion imply the aggressiveness and viciousness of these animals. However, this argument does not say much. We can’t be certain that Hebrew was the original language of Adam; it could have arisen after the Fall into sin and would therefore naturally have reflected the transformed nature of animals from docile beings to bloodthirsty killers.
Whereas Barnett could be given credit for disavowing evolution, he still gets it wrong on the age of the Earth and the nature of suffering and death. In effect, since he allows for long ages, this would allow for the remains of animals to appear as fossils in the rock layers before the creation of Adam and Eve. And Barnett even argues for the possibility of animal death before humans, despite God saying that what He had created was very good (Genesis 1:31). What would make his position any different from full-blown evolution? Not only are animal remains found in the geological layers but human fossils as well. Why does Barnett make a difference between animals and humans?
In sum, it is troubling to see that there are some Christian teachers out there who compromise the faith of our young kids, by presenting a distorted view of the Gospel. And as we clearly showed in our documentary Fallout, belief in millions of years opens the door to all sorts of evolutionary ideas, and as can be seen here, compromise and poor exegeses of the biblical text. We earnestly pray and hope that Mr Barnett comes to trust completely in the authority of the Scriptures and not manmade, secular interpretations of the natural world. We are ready and willing to assist.