Stumped by biblical creation
BioLogos takes a cheap shot at biblical creation … and misses
Published: 24 November 2015 (GMT+10)
BioLogos, an organization CMI has refuted in the past, recently came out with an attack on biblical creation through the blog of Jim Stump, their senior editor.1 In his article, Stump lists what he claims are 10 ‘common misconceptions’ about evolution. Far from clearing much of anything up, however, Stump’s comments manage to muddy the waters significantly on a range of topics, and display the fact that he is not very well informed on what biblical creationists believe. The most important and foundational of these topics is the authority of Scripture, which Stump claims to uphold while simultaneously championing completely unbiblical views. Unfortunately, it’s always easier and faster to sling mud than it is to clean it up!
Bad hermeneutics, bad theology
On the topic of biblical interpretation (‘misconception’ #9), Stump makes an honest admission: a plain reading of Exodus 20:11 shows that God created in six literal days. In attempting to justify ignoring that plain and obvious reading, Stump displays a shocking lack of understanding of the discipline of hermeneutics (interpretation), as well as basic Christian doctrine concerning the Law of Moses. He lists 1 Samuel 2:8, Deuteronomy 21:21, John 15:5, and Romans 16:16 as examples to supposedly show that we cannot rely on a plain reading of scripture, since doing so in these places would, by implication, be absurd. This argumentation is, to be frank, infantile, and totally unbefitting of someone who has a Ph.D. in philosophy. It is also a typically dishonest straw man: that creationists are blind literalists, despite our clear statements to the contrary. Stump would also do well to see what classical exegetes like Augustine and Tyndale meant by ‘literal interpretation’.
For Scripture to be of any use to us at all, we must base our reading of it on one foundational principle: words have meaning in a given context. All words represent communication between individuals, and for communication to be possible, both sides must have a common understanding of the meanings of the words being used. Thus, the goal of interpreting any text, including the Bible, must be this: to determine the intended meaning of the original author. To do that, we cannot take a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach; to discover the meaning of any particular passage, we must look at the definitions of the words being used, as well as their context and the literary style being employed. Not every passage in the bible is literal, but by the same token, not every passage is metaphorical. Merely pointing to some other verses that are not literal does nothing to prove Stump’s point about Genesis 1/Exodus 20:11. What do any of these verses have to do with the issue at hand? Stump also doesn’t address the evidence that Genesis is a historical narrative, and that the other Bible authors and Jesus interpreted it that way.
1 Samuel 2:8, a verse often cited by skeptics to attack the Bible, does not teach that the earth is suspended on pillars. An examination of the context shows that this passage is talking about people, not inanimate objects, and thus metaphorical language is clearly being used.
When it comes to Deuteronomy 21:21, Stump misses the point by confusing the meaning of a command with its applicability today. Various Christian denominations have different views of the latter. But most agree that since we are not signatories to the Sinaitic Covenant, the civil penalties don’t apply today. Similarly, most would agree that Christians are not bound by the Mosaic food (kosher) laws today. See Is eating shellfish still an abomination? and Are we allowed to eat all animals today?
John 15:5 begins, “I am the vine … ” Not much needs to be said here. Jesus often spoke in figures of speech. Taking that verse literally is not even possible, so we have no record of anyone thinking that He had stems and leaves. Therefore by process of elimination (and common sense) we can see it was a metaphor. Jesus also spoke in parables, but they were intentionally designed to hide the truth from the unbelieving masses, while He spoke plainly to His disciples. See discussion in Biblical creation impedes evangelism?
Romans 16:16 asks believers to greet one another with a ‘holy kiss’. It’s true that most churches don’t abide by this, at least in my country. But why? Is it because Paul was being non-literal here? I see nothing in the context to suggest this was supposed to be poetic language. Paul wrote a lot of letters to people in the churches. Among those letters, there is much heavy doctrinal teaching, but there are also some side comments of a personal, non-doctrinal nature, like “bring me my cloak” (2 Timothy 4:13). I’d say most if not all interpreters would consider this statement about kissing to be in that latter category. In Paul’s time and place, kissing people as a greeting was a normal and acceptable thing to do, just as it remains to this day in parts of Europe—Paul wasn’t asking people to rebel against their cultural norms about personal space. For many modern-day Christians, a suitable equivalent would be a pat on the back or a handshake. That is, Paul was expressing the trans-cultural principle of greeting each other warmly with the cultural application of his day.
After providing this list, Stump continues:
The ‘plain reading’ of Scripture leads to picking and choosing which verses we like and which we ignore. That is not a responsible way to read the Bible.
Actually, what’s irresponsible is to list a bunch of unrelated scriptures without regard to context to try to confuse the reader about the nature of biblical interpretation. The only responsible way to read the Bible is to attempt to determine what the authors actually meant, and nowhere in his article does Stump even attempt to show any contextual reason why Exodus 20:11 doesn’t mean what it plainly says. That’s obviously because there is no textual reason to disallow a plain reading there—Stump is going with an unnatural reading so as to make it fit with his outside commitment to prevailing human opinion (evolution and long ages).
Another of Stump’s ‘misconceptions’ is #10: Christian scholars accept the Evolutionary Creation position out of the desire for professional advancement. He says, “I’d be interested in seeing any actual data that supports this claim. I can produce a lot of data that refutes it.” Disappointingly, he doesn’t provide any of the data he claims to have. In reality, the fact that Christian scholars buckle to peer pressure in the academic realm seems hardly controversial or worth debating. The academic realm is overwhelmingly hostile to biblical (young earth) creationism, as documented in the documentary Expelled and the book Slaughter of the Dissidents. Therefore, for a Christian, retreating to so-called Evolutionary Creation is the only way to avoid completely renouncing the faith, and it provides the consolation of the illusion of compatibility with God’s Word while allowing a person to pay lip service to Darwinism; Darwin himself would have looked on such ‘Evolutionary Creationism’ with disdain. He wrote, “I would give absolutely nothing for the theory of Natural Selection, if it requires miraculous additions at any one stage of descent.”2
Stump also laments about being forced to resign from Bethel College, affiliated with the Missionary Church denomination.3 In reality, Bethel decided on the radical idea that since it is funded by the Missionary Church, its teachers should not undermine the Missionary Church’s Articles of Faith and Practice. This includes overt biblical teaching, “We believe that the first man, Adam, was created by an immediate act of God and not by a process of evolution.” However, BioLogos resents that Missionary Church might object to paying professors who undermine its doctrines.4 There’s nothing like the sound of checkbooks snapping shut to bring colleges into line! The same thing belatedly happened with another BioLogos luminary, Karl Giberson, who taught at the ostensibly evangelical Eastern Nazarene College (ENC) for many years.
Neither of these is remotely comparable to the hounding of evolution dissenters from public universities. The denominational colleges are largely funded by their churches, so the churches have the right to set standards. Similarly, we would not object if a Christian were fired from an officially Islamic or Atheistic college for undermining the faith teachings of Islam or Atheism. However, public universities are funded ultimately by taxpayers of all faiths—e.g. Christian, Islamic, Judaic, Buddhist, Atheistic—so have no moral right to exclude dissenters from atheistic evolution.
I don’t know anyone who has accepted Evolutionary Creation for reasons other than being persuaded by the evidence.
This may well be true in Stump’s personal experience, but I’d ask what ‘evidence’ Stump is referring to here. In reality, Christians are being battered by a constant onslaught of propaganda from every direction claiming the ‘evidence’ is powerfully in support of Darwinism, starting from the youngest ages and going through adulthood. But the truth is quite different, and what Stump fails to acknowledge is that evidence never speaks for itself; it must be interpreted from within a worldview. The question is, which worldview makes the most sense, both internally and with respect to the world around us? A Christian worldview, starting with the foundation of a strong commitment to the authority of Scripture, is internally consistent and it also fits the data we see around us. The same cannot be said for evolution, which is constantly being rewritten and revised to accommodate new data which don’t fit the original predictions. If the scientific community would allow the evidence to falsify their theory, evolution would have been thrown out long ago.
Equivocating on ‘science’
#7 Evolution is merely ‘Historical Science’ and therefore can’t be tested or confirmed.
… lots of ink has been spilled attempting to give a precise definition of what it is to be science … And there is no one sanctioning body who has the authority to determine what counts as real science and what doesn’t.
This is utter misdirection at its worst. As usual for evolution-pushers, Stump tries to deny the clear distinction between operational science and historical science—which was affirmed by leading evolutionists Ernst Mayr and E.O. Wilson. It has nothing to do with ‘sanctioning bodies’, and everything to do with the scientific method. The Oxford dictionary defines science as,
The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.5 [emphasis added]
Observation and experimentation are key components of the scientific method, and this is the demarcation between operational science and historical science. Operational science is objective; you can directly test the boiling point of water, for example. But how would you test how long ago a particular pot of water was boiled? That would be historical science, because it deals with events in the past. You could record the temperature and the rate at which the water is currently cooling, but you would still need to rely on untestable assumptions, such as that after the pot was boiled it wasn’t further tampered with in any way, and that the surrounding air temperature hasn’t drastically changed. What untestable assumptions we’re willing to make will be hugely influenced by our overall worldview, and this means the creation scientists and evolutionists are working on drastically different sets of assumptions about the past. No wonder they come to different conclusions!
Genetics: no friend of Darwin
The new science of genetics shows even more clearly how the theory of evolution is tested and confirmed.
Stump makes the above sweeping statement while providing no factual support for it. It’s hard to imagine how he could have picked a worse topic to bring up, because genetics is actually one of the best places to look for factual disproof of evolution. The pioneering work of Dr John Sanford and Dr Robert Carter on genetic entropy has put the last nails in the coffin of a dying theory.6
In ‘misconception’ #4, Stump links to a YouTube video by a popular internet apologist for Darwinism in an attempt to show that unguided natural processes can produce new information. The video gives the standard evolutionary just-so story that gene duplication is capable of adding new functional information. In addition to having been addressed on our site (in multiple places), Dr Sanford specifically devotes time to refuting this idea in Appendix 4 of his book.7
Sawing off the branch they sit on
Something else is deeply troubling about Stump’s (false) claim that information can be added by unguided natural processes: I thought Biologos was supporting so-called ‘evolutionary creation’ or theistic evolution (God guided and directed evolution’s course); but by saying life can evolve on its own with no input from God at all, doesn’t that leave God completely out of a job when it comes to the creation of life? Why call it ‘evolutionary creation’ at all, when Stump doesn’t see any need for God’s creative input to add new information? (See also #3 below, where he apparently feels the heat energy from the sun alone is enough to account for the existence and complexity of life!)
To support our point, that internet evolutionist he cited once claimed to be a Christian, but now declares himself an atheist (cf. “I don’t believe!!!”: A young man’s tragic slide into darkness started with trying to make the Bible fit with evolution.) Nothing has changed in his videos, showing that there is not the slightest practical difference between atheistic and theistic evolution. Compare The horse and the tractor.
I cannot see how Stump’s comments are even consistent with BioLogos’ own list of beliefs, because they specifically reject the idea that God is not needed to guide and direct the process of creation.8 Shouldn’t he be saying that God is the source of the new information evolution needs to proceed, and God intervenes to counteract entropy?
Does matter spontaneously get more ordered and complex?
‘Misconception’ #3: The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics disproves evolution
We’ve shown in the past that the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (entropy) is a major problem for evolution, at least when it comes to the origin of the universe and life.9 We have also urged some caution about 2nd Law arguments. Here, Stump repeats the old canard that the 2nd Law only applies to “closed systems in which there is no external source of energy”, and since Earth is an open system, it doesn’t prevent random biological evolution.
However, it’s typical of many evolutionists that they begin lecturing on thermodynamics without even a rudimentary understanding of physical chemistry. A closed system is actually one that exchanges energy but not matter; an isolated system exchanges neither energy nor matter. An open system exchanges both matter and energy. So Stump’s argument, such as it is, should be expressed as: ‘the earth is not an isolated system but a closed system’ (actually it is indeed open because there is some matter coming in from the solar wind and meteoroids, but Stump considered only energy).
The heat energy from the sun is simply not a sufficient cause for the ordered complexity we see in life! Raw, undirected energy such as what we get from the sun only acts to hasten the disorder in a system. It by no means is capable of causing life to generate spontaneously from inanimate matter.10 Not only this, but it misses the bigger picture. While Earth is an open system, the universe as a whole, by definition, is an isolated system. Yet, according to the evolutionary scenario, the universe itself must have become vastly more ordered and complex. Absent any outside supernatural intervention, that certainly represents a contradiction of the 2nd Law.11 However, I must again stress how strange it is for BioLogos to be making this statement in the first place, since they claim to believe in divine intervention in history, including in the creation and sustenance of life. If you allow divine intervention, then the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics becomes irrelevant here, since God can intervene to act against the natural tendency to disorder. It looks like Stump is so eager to agree with secularists that he doesn’t understand he’s actually shooting down his own organization’s stance by appealing to atheistic, materialistic arguments!
‘Misconception’ #2, If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys around? is a genuine one that we also work to dispel in our section on bad arguments. #1, Evolution claims that we evolved from monkeys, is also addressed in the same place. It’s just mincing words unnecessarily. Any average person would probably call the alleged common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees a ‘monkey’ in popular speech.
‘Misconception’ #8, Evolution is man’s word, Creationism is God’s word
Stump starts this section with an appeasement of politically correct feminism:
First, it should be noted that there are lots of women working on evolution too.
There are a number of women working in creation as well, but did he seriously think that term meant anything other than the generic ‘man’, created both male and female in God’s image (Genesis 1:26–27)? Maybe he should look at his own evolutionary antecedents for their widespread belief in female inferiority, contrary to the high view of women expressed in the Bible from Genesis on.
Of course, the point of that ‘misconception’ is that creation is a logical deduction from the propositions in God’s written word, the Bible. We can’t derive evolution or even billions of years from the propositions of Scripture, so they must come from man’s opinions.
Overall, Jim Stump has created an article that is full of misdirection and misinformation. It’s a pity he didn’t spend time doing more in-depth research before writing this—perhaps he could have even checked to see what real creation sites like ours actually teach! It’s very disappointing to see that people are being confused and drawn into deception by this kind of pseudo-scientific writing. For those who might be tempted to accuse me of being too hard on Stump and BioLogos, I will conclude with a quote from a very early modern creationist, Dudley Joseph Whitney:
As to my being uncharitable for condemning Christians for promoting unscriptural doctrine, I need only quote from Isaiah 58:1 “Cry Aloud, spare not, and shew my people their sins.” I obey that charge. It is absurd to try to combine piety and theological orthodoxy with disbelief in Genesis.12
References and notes
- Stump, J., 10 Misconceptions about Evolution, biologos.org, 28 September 2015. Return to text
- Darwin, F., ed. The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin Vol. II, John Murray, London, p. 211, 1887. Return to text
- Gledhill, R., Professor at Christian college resigns after it insists on anti-evolution statement, christiantoday.com, 13 July 2015. Return to text
- Actually, according to Gledhill, Ref. 3, Stump doesn’t disagree with this point: “Dr Stump says he respects the right of Bethel trustees to determine policies for the college and recognises the new policy ‘reflects the will of the broader community of which Bethel is part.’” Return to text
- Definition of science from oxforddictionaries.com, accessed 11 November 2015. Return to text
- See Sanford, J., Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome, FMS Publications, Waterloo, 2008; and Carter, R., Ed., Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels, Creation Book Publishers, Powder Springs, Ch. 2, 2014. Return to text
- Sanford, J., Ref. 6, Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome, FMS Publications, Waterloo, pp. 193–198, 2008. Return to text
- About BioLogos, biologos.org, accessed 12 November 2015. Return to text
- Wieland, C., World Winding Down, Creation Book Publishers, Powder Springs, 2012. Return to text
- Ibid. Ref. 9, pp.75–88. Return to text
- Ibid. Ref. 9, p. 89. Return to text
- Quoted in Morris, H., History of Modern Creationism, Master Book Publishers, San Diego, pp. 104-105, 1984. Return to text