Old earth apologetics gone real bad
Published: 19 July 2016 (GMT+10)
Recently on Twitter, I had a back and forth with a Reasons to Believe apologist. Our exchange began after I tweeted the following comment in response to another apologetic tweet, “Let’s talk about Hugh Ross & his pre-Adamic man theory. You apologetic folks ignore its problems.”
The next day, the Reasons to Believe apologist tweeted to me the following response, “Brother at RTB we do not believe in PreAdamic humans. Adam was the 1st human & specially created.”
Now in fairness, he is absolutely correct. I had mis-tweeted, as it were. Technically, Ross, and RTB apologists, argue that there were soulless hominids that pre-dated the creation of Adam. Those hominids were a lot like modern man, but they lacked the image of God that Adam and all his descendants have. They were animals, much like a higher functioning version of the great apes.
None the less, I responded by asking him the following question, “Are Neanderthals human beings, then?”
A little bit of background is in order to explain my question.
Neandertals and the Bible
More and more every year, researchers are inadvertently proving what biblical, young earth creationists have always maintained: that Neandertals are an extinct group of people that lived shortly after Noah’s flood and the Tower of Babel incident and eventually died out. In fact, the very day my RTB Twitter protagonist and I were sparring back and forth about Neandertals, researchers reported uncovering some underground structures in France probably built by Neandertals. That discovery demonstrates that they were much more than highfunctioning great apes. An evolutionary report states:
Archaeological evidence now suggests they were capable of symbolic thought, had a basic knowledge of chemistry, medicine and cooking, and perhaps some capacity for speech.1
However, while RTB rightly rejects the evolutionary interpretation of the so-called ‘science,’ they still persist in their commitment to the conclusions of the data, insisting that Neandertals were non-human animals. That commitment to the non-human aspect of Neandertals has led them to advance a rather strange, a-theological, and unbiblical apologetic that touches the doctrine of Adam’s sin.
Along with discovering Neandertal artifacts, researchers have also identified that Neandertals interbred with modern humans.2 Neandertal DNA is identifiable in all modern people groups living today outside of Africa.3 Evolutionary propagandists claim it shows that Neandertals interbred with another group of humans who had more recently left Africa. Creationists have always said it merely proves Neandertals were humans all along, descended from Adam and Eve.
Neandertals vs old-earth compromisers
The fact that Neandertals interbred with modern humans (according to the secular evolutionary view) is a major problem for the RTB ‘biblical model’ that has been developed by Hugh Ross and Fuz Rana to explain hominid fossils and other early man-like creatures. As far back as 2004, when DNA research was just beginning with Neandertals and there was no specific proof yet of the so-called Neandertal-modern human interbreeding, Fuz Rana wrote this for the RTB blog:
Despite compelling evidence, a minority of paleoanthropologists still believe (as do some Christians) that Neandertals made a genetic contribution to modern humans through interbreeding. If Neandertals interbred with modern humans, then by definition, they must be human.(Emphasis added).4
A person would think that once it was discovered that Neandertals and modern humans interbred, RTB would modify, or even better, entirely retool, their model and apologetic talking points. I mean, RTB apologists insist that they want to acknowledge the clear evidence of ‘the 67th book of the Bible’, right? Nope. They dug in.
I recall vividly back in 2010 a Stand to Reason podcast5 on which Fuz Rana discussed with Greg Koukl the biblical worldview (well, the RTB ‘biblical’ worldview) of how Christians can explain the genetic interbreeding evidence. He appealed to bestiality, and explained that the abomination of Leviticus 18 regarding bestiality may possibly have had in mind the previous interbreeding of humankind with Neandertals.
I was stunned. Seriously? I couldn’t believe what was coming out of my earbuds. As of last year, their stance has remained pretty much the same. If you go to RTB’s website and search for “Neandertals,” the top link to pop up is a 30 minute podcast Rana did explaining the RTB position on them.6 Again, he pushed the interbreeding/bestiality angle.
My twitter opponent responded to my question with the same line of argumentation, “The RTB model says no. A creature yes but not human, not made in God’s image.” He tweeted again stating, “We believe they were animals and not ancestral to humans.” He further explained in a later tweet that Neandertals are similar enough to humans that they could reproduce together, but that the mating itself would be considered sinful.
Major problems with old-earth compromise
Here is where I have a serious problem with the RTB apologetic for Neandertals. That view has major theological ramifications against the imputation of Adam’s sin, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and what it means to be a person created in God’s image. Allow me to outline four thoughts regarding the problems with their Neandertal apologetic:
First, the Genesis account clearly states that when God created the sea creatures, birds, and land animals, He did so “after their kinds,” Genesis 1:11, 12, 21, 24, and 25. In other words, God created abundant and diverse creatures to fill the earth, and it is implied that when they reproduce, they do so “after their kind.” Meaning, animals can only reproduce with other similar animals “after their kind.”
The general point that Genesis records is that like animals reproduce with like animals, say for instance, a female horse plus male donkey equals mule. The fact that they interbreed at all (despite the offspring normally being sterile) shows that they are part of the same kind. When two separate species (like wolf and coyote, or cattle and buffalo) are able to produce continually fertile offspring, the evidence that they are the same original kind is even more definitive.7 God has set a genetic boundary, as it were, upon the creatures He made. So sharks for example, will not reproduce with dolphins, or wolves with badgers, or human beings with chimps, or any high functioning great ape. It doesn’t matter if there is similar DNA, we are not the same biological ‘kind’ as a chimp or orangutan.
Contrary to my twitter opponent, if Neandertals are similar enough so that they and humans can mate and produce children, who can go on to produce more children, and so on, they are of the same kind, meaning, human beings, descended from Adam and bearing the image of God. Note, as cited above, that Rana himself back in 2004 when he originally wrote on the idea of Neandertal interbreeding with human beings, acknowledged as much when he stated that if proof of interbreeding were to come forth, then Neandertals “must be human”. His words.
Second, given RTB’s adoption of secular time tables for Neandertals living on the earth for roughly 5,000 years with modern man some 40,000 years ago, why would it be sinful for human beings at that time to mate with them? Seriously. The prohibition against bestiality is given to Israel as they entered the land of Canaan. That is only 3,000 years ago, long past when Neandertals coexisted with modern humans according to old earth timescales. God specifically condemned Canaanite false worship practices, the participation of bestiality being one of those practices. Would bestiality with Neandertals even enter their minds when Moses gave that prohibition?
Third, if the RTB model is true, and at some point in the past modern human beings bred with Neandertals, a profound theological difficulty emerges. Human beings, according to Scripture, inherit Adam’s sin and guilt from his disobedience in the garden. Romans 5:12 states, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Romans 5:18 goes on to state, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.”
All of Adam’s progeny has his sin imputed to them, and by “all” I mean the entire human race, consisting of every human being who has ever lived. Where exactly does that leave the first generation Neandertal/human hybrid offspring? Is that human-Neandertal baby identified with Adam’s sin? As that old Puritan grammar book, the New England Primer, states:
In ADAM’S Fall
We sinned all.
Is that offspring part of the fallen human race in need of redemption? Or is it excused because it is half man, half animal?
That would also raise the question as to when the offspring actually began to be identified with Adam’s sin. Meaning, when the half-man, half-Neandertal mates with another human, will that Neandertal-man offspring with the quarter-Neandertal blood now be considered guilty of Adam’s sin? Or does the “Neandertal” have to be bred out sufficiently before the person is an actual person and has Adam’s sin imputed to him?
And fourth, the most serious theological consequence with RTB’s view of Neandertal-human hybrids is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, again see Romans 5:17–19, as well as 2 Corinthians 5:21. Christ could impute to His people His righteousness because He is our kinsman-redeemer, a concept initially pictured for us in the book of Ruth, then prophesied in Isaiah 59:20, and expanded upon in the New Testament in Galatians 4:4, Philippians 2:7–10, and Hebrews 4:14–18. He is a kinsman in that when he took on humanity, He is now considered our ‘next of kin.’ He has the judicial authority both as a human man and a perfect law keeper to be our substitute in our place before God.
The problem is that no Neandertal-human hybrid could ever have Christ’s righteousness, because it would be an animal and not human. In short, given RTB’s view of Neandertals, if they reproduced with human beings descended from Adam, the offspring could not be saved. Of course, that is assuming they are considered “in Adam” to begin with.
The reason I am even addressing the subject is that Reasons to Believe and their old earth apologetic is oftentimes the default, go-to resource for creation/evolution issues among the neo-apologetic ministries and blogger groups I encounter on the internet and social media. Many of them link and promote the OEC position of RTB because they have been told they are the reasonable ones when defending Genesis and the creation narrative. They don’t put unnecessary stumbling blocks before unbelievers like telling them they have to believe God created the world miraculously in 6 earth-rotation days as Genesis teaches.
Yet in their efforts to appear reasonable before the world, as noble as they may be, a central, core doctrine of the Christian faith is profoundly and adversely affected. Now RTB claims that is not the case at all, and in point of fact, would probably say I am blowing their views of Neandertal-human hybrids way out of proportion. But given what the Bible clearly states about the imputation of Adam, the work of Christ, and that God has so ordered His creation so that animal kinds cannot reproduce with other animal kinds, the RTB Neandertal hybrid apologetic is not just a strange view, but comes perilously close to being, if not already, describable as heretical.
References and notes
- Barras, C., Neanderthals built mystery underground circles 175,000 years ago, 25 May 2016, newscientist.com. Return to text.
- Gibbons, A., Close encounters of the prehistoric kind, Science 328:680–684, 2010. Return to text.
- Carter, R.W., Neandertal genome like ours: (There may be Neandertals at your next family reunion!), creation.com/neandergenes, 1 June 2010. Return to text.
- Rana, F., Did Neanderthals and humans interbreed?, reasons.org, 1 April 2004. Return to text.
- Fuz Rana—Implications of Neanderthal DNA in human DNA, Stand to Reason, str.org, 16 May 2010. Return to text.
- Did Neanderthals Interbreed with Humans in Europe? reasons.org, accessed 13 June 2016. Return to text.
- Batten, D., Ligers and wholphins? What next? Crazy mixed-up animals … what do they tell us? They seem to defy man-made classification systems—but what about the created ‘kinds’ in Genesis? Creation 22(3):28–33, 2000; creation.com/ligers. Return to text.