God’s Wisdom versus Man’s Foolishness
by Hill Roberts
Background of These Comments
I wish to thank Allan for allowing me the opportunity to comment on his article “God’s Foolishness Vs. Man’s Wisdom.”
His published article is an adaptation of a speech he gave to a small group of brothers who gathered last year for a week of intimate studies concerning a range of Bible topics, including creation. Each evening we were led in some devotional thoughts after taking our evening meal together. Allan had been asked to provide the thoughts for our first devotional. His article entitled “God’s Foolishness Vs. Man’s Wisdom” was the essence of that devotional. Such was not what I anticipated by way of a devotional. As is reflected in the article, it was a direct rebuke before the audience of some twenty five brethren, most of whom were unfamiliar faces to me, as was Allan’s until that evening. Now I hasten to add that Allan is correct in that though he strongly rebukes my views on the age of creation, he is a defender of my integrity as an apologist for God and Creation, and does not label me an evolutionist, as some others have mistakenly presumed of me. For this I thank him. Nonetheless, such a speech hardly provided the devotional base upon which I had hoped to begin our studies. However, it did clearly focus the tension for the rest of the week. In fairness, this was Allan’s only planned opportunity during the week to formally address the gathering and he obviously wanted his concerns to be heard.
My response was to say nothing about the speech whatsoever; even though I thought it contained several misrepresentations. I was scheduled to give four presentations. I thought those presentations would provide whatever self-defense was needed for why I accept the possibility of an ancient creation, although they were not designed as a direct counter-response to Allan’s speech. The materials for my presentations are available for download from my website at www.LordiBelieve.org/PU01 where they have been available since well before the time of those studies. My presentations focused on a review of the physical evidence of antiquity and some logical deficiencies with prevalent appearance-of-age counter-arguments.
Since Allan has also placed his devotional in the public domain, I believe a few specific corrections are appropriate.
1) Natural and Special Revelation
Allan states that I have an “unflagging allegiance to the idea that natural revelation is equal to special revelation.” This is not correct. As I had previously explained to Allan, quoting from an online discussion with him:“If you want to convert a scientist to some philosophical viewpoint one must start with the data. … Starting with data is essentially Paul's point in Romans 1:19-20. To bring the Gentiles to a proper philosophical viewpoint concerning sin and salvation, he argued that God first presented them with the evidence of natural history. Obviously natural history is not going to provide information about God's will for dealing with sin and salvation. That can only come from the special revelation. This argument is not about elevating one revelation over the other. Both have God-designed roles. Nature argues for God's existence, His power and His Divine-ness on the basis of physical evidence. The Word cannot do that. On the other hand the Word condemns man's sin and presents God's plan for man. Nature cannot do that. Each revelation has a realm in which it dominates and illuminates the other. They must harmonize.”And…“Resolving those two least contrived interpretations of Genesis 1 and Natural History is problematic for any serious student of both realms. I know of over a dozen approaches that make some attempt to do that. I know of none of those approaches that are without problem, including mine. Beyond such attempts to harmonize, are views that make no such attempt. The most offensive to me of these is the one that avers that "science is right, Genesis is myth, and has nothing to contribute to understanding questions of origins." What some Christians do not seem to understand is that the opposite non-harmonizing view that "Genesis 1 is right, science is wrong and has nothing to contribute to understanding questions of origins" is equally offensive and destructive. Both realms have meaningful information to contribute as one makes informed conclusions concerning origins. It is all about misinterpretation and mistrust in both realms.”
As seen in these statements above, my views are not consistent with Allan’s representation that I have an “unflagging allegiance to the idea that natural revelation is equal to special revelation”. Such a statement is a misrepresentation, and speaks to my inner motivations. It may be an honest conclusion drawn by Allan due to our differences, or to ambiguities in my own words, but it is a misrepresentation nonetheless.
In my human foolishness I don’t have an “unflagging” allegiance to anything. Would that I did! My intended allegiance is solely to Jesus Christ, but even that has been known to “flag” substantially. My motivation is to seek the mercy of God, for in my foolishness, I fail miserably at grasping the wisdom of God. That is why I find a continuing study of evidences for faith so compelling. Lord I believe, help my unbelief.
Allan paints me as one of his “capital U uniformitarianist”. His definition of this critter is one that “believes that current natural laws and processes are sufficient to explain the origin and development of all things.” Thus, this Uniformitarianist designation is simply a euphemism for Evolutionist. I do not believe that “current natural laws and processes are sufficient to explain the origin and development of all things.” By Allan’s own definition I am not one of his capital U Uniformitarianists. I do not apply “such thinking all the way back to the beginning of the Big Bang.” The initial creation and the events of the six days of creation are all Divine creation events that preclude any such naturalistic view of Uniformitarianism. Allan’s characterization of me is a misrepresentation, which his own descriptions of me belie. For example, Allan acknowledges “Roberts wholeheartedly affirms this, the evidence favors Divine Creation.” No capital U Uniformitarianist would be caught dead “wholeheartedly affirming” what I do.
I do believe God’s created realm will faithfully follow His laws from the initial moment of their creation. And yes, I do think that faith might help sort out some of the conflicts we imagine between the special and natural revelations regarding origins. I also believe the Lord upholds those laws moment by moment by the power of His word. And yes, I do believe that the natural ebb and flow can and has been interrupted by miracles, including the flood. Is that capital U uniformitarianism? No.
So, while Allan defends me against the specific charges of being a theistic evolutionist (again, my thanks for that), he is actively promoting the very type of misrepresentation which feeds those charges.
3) Concerning physical death
As I have previously discussed with Allan on his online discussion board:And are you really willing to apply the always arguable Romans 8:20-21 passage positively to animal death (when death of any kind including human is not mentioned in the passage) instead of to the rebirth (which IS what's mentioned)? Death of man is a consequence of man's sin. Surely we all agree on that. But nowhere does scripture directly tie the death of all organisms to man's sin. Physical remains of animals in strata consistently below strata bearing human remains indicates other things had been dying long before any man did. Animal death may well also be the result of man's sin, even before the fact of man's sin was realized in Adam. (Consider that Jesus' blood apparently cleansed the sin of the faithful in Israel before His blood was ever shed: a conclusion drawn from Lev. 4:26, 31, 35, 5:10, 13, 16, 18, 6:7 with Heb 10:4) I don't know if animals died because of man's sin; maybe, maybe not. I don't see how anyone could know positively without explicit revelation from God, which we don't have. Maybe if physical data could help us in this, we should be appreciative of that, rather than suspicious when it redirects us concerning an obscure - and largely irrelevant -issue. Does anyone of us doubt that man's sin causes man's death? No.
“No animal death before sin” is a fallacy derived from Augustine and Calvin’s imputed sin doctrines. The same logic that imputes Adam’s sin to all men unto death in their total depravity, imputes it equally to all animals. Neither is correct. “The soul that sins shall die.” To correctly reject imputation of depravity to all mankind, while promoting the imputation of sin’s death to all animals – which never sin, but do die – is inconsistent. Please consider these observations.
- There is no textural reason to suspect that the tree of life in the garden was sustaining life for any creature other than the people in the garden. The tree of life is associated with Adam and Eve’s immortality. To wit, when their access was cut off, their physical deaths followed.
- There is no scripture that indicates the tree prevented the death of animals, whether they were in or out of the garden.
- There is no scripture, nor physical evidence, which indicates the second law of thermodynamics suddenly “kicked in” upon man’s sin. Rather, the force of the narrative would indicate that such a process was in broad operation and that eating from the tree actively prevented its normal effects with respect to Adam and Eve. If that law wasn’t operating, there was no need for the life sustaining tree in the first place. The processes indicated in the narrative are consistent with the second law’s operation: the sun and stars are shining, plants are growing, animals are eating, time is passing.
- Furthermore, Gen 2:17 at least opens the path to a suspicion that Adam understood the concept of death well before his sin. The scriptures do not illuminate a spiritual concept of sin’s death until much later. The genealogy of chapter 5 focuses on the physical death of the descendants of Adam, not spiritual death. There is no indication that the death promised Adam was explained to them as a spiritual death. It is unlikely he had any concept other than the simple cessation of physical life, such as might have been routinely observed in the subordinate and non-spiritually imbued creatures living, and dying, according to God’s designs of biophysics, not sin.
- The Serpent – The Accuser – was cursed, not all the animals. His curse is cast as a comparison: Satan is brought even lower by comparison than the already low state of non-soulish animals. Hence, he walks to and fro on the earth, seeking whom he may devour. In light of Ezekiel 18:4 there is little support for making the curse for the Serpent generic to animals, which had nothing to do with the sin, only the beings which did sin – Satan, Adam and Eve.
- Likewise, the thorns and thistles were not cursed either. They are part of Adam’s curse as he was to make his way outside the garden.
- There is no scripture that teaches the first animal death was the one killed to clothe Adam and Eve.
- Romans 5:12 views the death that entered the world through man’s sin as the death of men, not animals. For if the death were to include animal death, then similarly the inspired parallel in Romans 5 would require that the “many” provided for by the grace of God through Jesus’ blood likewise would include those same animals as part of the redeemed. I cannot go there.
- Finally, as demonstrated in (8), since “the whole world” Paul has in view in chapter 5 is the world of mankind, it is not unreasonable to suspect that the scope of the more difficult chapter 8 passage concerning the suffering of creation is a metonymy putting creation for the scope of all humanity. It is humanity that groans under the burden of sin (7:24), not fruit flies.
I groan upon hearing a theology one step away from having Christ shed His blood to redeem bugs and slugs.
4) On Christians not having to be nice.
Christians certainly aren’t always nice. I need very little encouragement to that end. My own failures stand testimony to that. However, it seems to me there is a significant difference in the Word of God being “offensive” due to God demonstrating His holy righteousness; and a Christian being personally offensive in how we defend God’s message, and especially when exercising a bruising demeanor as we tie heavy loads upon others. Where is the salt’s savor in such? Where is the gentleness and reverence commanded for apologia? Where is the treatment such as we desire for self? Where is the grace?
[Let me preface these next paragraphs by noting that Allan has previously shared his concerns with me in various venues, as have I with he.]
Now, concerning Jesus’ and Paul’s occasional personal abrasiveness toward others, it might be well to note that such was nearly always reserved for hypocritical religious leaders. In particular they sharply rebuked the Priests and the Pharisees who proclaimed their own righteousness while trampling underfoot common sinners grasping for mercy. Given the wide ranging destruction these hypocrites sought, their denunciation was equally wide ranging, ultimately being recorded in holy writ. Once even Peter was misled by some Jews and fell into that Pharisaic pattern. It is appropriate to note that this situation came to Paul where he was. It was a local situation where Paul was ministering. He did not go seeking out this trouble. I believe as an Apostle he could have, but this isn’t an example of such. Ultimately Peter was rebuked by Paul before them all. Note however, that first Paul indicates a face-to-face rebuke against Peter, with no indication that it was initially a public rebuke. Unfortunately the rebuke produced no change. Even Barnabas was led away by the hypocrisy. So there came a time to speak more openly with the hypocrites. It appears that after rebuking Peter face-to-face, without success, Paul then rebuked Peter before the whole group involved in the hypocrisy, thus rebuking them as well. If it was more “public” at the time than that, we are not so told. Before we conclude that all public teaching initially be corrected before a global public in some universal media, let us also remember the example of Priscilla and Aquila in dealing considerately with an errant but sincere teacher, Acts 18:26.
I would urge, especially in today’s depersonalized world of fast-paced cyber-communications, that we continue this devotion to “face-to-face” discussion. Before you post it to a faceless world, go to the man, not electronically but face-to-face. That makes all the difference in the world. For example, I have a far more charitable regard for Allan after having come together face-to-face and shared meals together, than from any previous correspondence we’ve exchanged. Some will complain that such is not practical in a modern world. Probably not. Go see the man anyway. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the New Testament pattern. (I confess to relying on the impersonality of email myself when I should have gone to see someone in person.)
If you can’t go see the man, trust God’s plan enough to let someone local deal with the matter, someone who can go see the man face-to-face. Then if that fails, they can bring it before those local to the problem to deal with the matter “before them”. We must trust God’s plan to let local congregations led by their shepherds deal with their members. It may be that the perception of error formed from a distance is itself what is in error. Those local to the situation are far more likely to understand the whole picture correctly. God’s plan is not only effective in dealing with error, but effective in protecting the innocent. Some brethren perceive that they have a higher calling which bypasses this plan. It rings hollow with the rest of us. If you won’t go see the man, then your written words have very little chance of protecting the people most at risk from the perceived infection, and a very high risk of alienating the people you wish to protect. I wonder in today’s non-apostolic world, how many supposed “false teachers” have been brought to repentance by being written up before the world? How many local congregations and elderships have been protected from error by an uninvited outsider “setting them straight on what to believe”? Conversely, how many of us sinners have been reclaimed by the patient work of those nearest and dearest to us? And if they can’t, rest assured no one else will be able to.
So, if I am rebuked for foolishly sharing some of my very personal struggles in the faith with those seeking faith, I stand guilty. If I am rebuked for not having perfect understanding – for being wrong, I stand guilty and pray for wisdom. If I am rebuked for a failure in performance compared to belief, I stand guilty and seek God’s mercy. Where I have “bruised and bloodied” any of you, I repent and ask your forgiveness. But if I am rebuked for not being sufficiently abrasive toward fellow sinner, I pray that I may stand before the judgment seat of God guilty as charged.
May I never seek to justify my bad manner by charging it to God’s righteousness.
Allan opened the aforementioned studies with his devotional. I closed them with the following prayer. It is taken from an apologist of old who experienced similar rebuke in his defense of the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ.“If I have been allured into brashness by the wonderful beauty of thy works, or if I have loved my own glory among men, while advancing in work destined for thy glory, gently and mercifully pardon me: and finally, deign graciously to cause that these demonstrations may lead to thy glory and to the salvation of souls, and nowhere be an obstacle to that. Amen.”
—Johannes Kepler (astronomer and mathematician, 1571-1630)
Grace and Peace,
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