God's Foolishness Vs. Man's Wisdom
Many view the Bible as a devotional prop of middle-class values. Modern Churchanity, with its various filters and interpretations, has succeeded, it thinks, in "taming" or "civilizing" the Bible. As a result, the Bible is thought to teach its adherents to be "nice" at all cost. "Niceness," then, has become the sine qua non of true religion for modern-day Christendom. But just as pacifists have misused Jesus' "turn the other cheek" statement to teach that one cannot engage in justice and righteousness (particularly in those cases where to do so would require the use of deadly force), the prohibition against "offending a brother" is misunderstood and misapplied so as to uphold the middle-class idea that we must, above all, be "nice"—even when this is at the expense of truth. Consequently, and reflecting the wisdom that comes from man, charging one's opponent with being mean-spirited has become an effective device for skirting arguments (or charges) being made by one's critics. Although such craftiness will continue to be despised by men and women of integrity, it is a sad commentary on our times that so many have fallen prey to this carnal device.
In truth, the Bible is not middle-class, and it is certainly not "nice," as many today count niceness. It is, instead (and has been so identified by various individuals and groups), a dangerous, uncivilized, abrasive, raw, complicated, aggressive, scandalous, and offensive book. In fact, to its severest critics, the Bible is anything but "nice." If it were a movie being subjected to contemporary standards, its content would have to be "R-rated" in some places and "X-rated" in others. That this can be said about the Bible will, no doubt, be offensive to some of you. After all, talking about the Bible this way isn't very "nice," is it? Even so, every honest and knowledgeable student of the Bible must admit that it covers the entire gamut of living. In addition to being the number one source for information about God, the Bible is also about men, women, sex, lies, truth, sin, goodness, fornication, adultery, murder, homosexuality, childbearing, virgins, whores, blasphemy, prayer, drunkenness, food, history, nature, ecology, poetry, politics, madness, rape, love, betrayal, salvation, damnation, temptation, angels, demons, and the like.
In addition, the Bible speaks of a spiritual world that few in our day and age can even understand, much less fully appreciate. But, and this is the point I'm trying to emphasize at this point, in conveying its spiritual truths, the Bible does not hesitate to accurately depict the real world in which we live. In telling its stories, it does not sanitize the lives of its characters, even its heroes. In other words, the Bible does not pull its punches, it does not beat around the bush, nor does it test the winds of change to learn what is politically correct, although all these reflect the wisdom of man. The Bible tells us how the world really is. Better yet, it tells us how we really are. Almost from the very beginning, the Bible begins to tell us of sin and all its terrible consequences. More importantly, it speaks of sin's most serious effect—the reality of being damned for eternity. But, praise God, it also speaks of the one and only remedy for this effect—the grace and mercy that comes in connection with the blood of Jesus Christ. However, for many, this is the Bible's most distasteful and offensive feature.
In a devastating assault on human pride and arrogance, the Bible's ego-shattering message is emphatically and unapologetically proclaimed in the name of a seemingly lowly and, perhaps, deranged Jew who died a despicable death almost 2,000 years ago outside the walls of a city that rejected Him and His message. So how is it, these critics ask, that a tragically pathetic figure who could not even save Himself speak anything concerning the subject of salvation? In response to this, the apostle Paul, in his critique of man's wisdom, wrote:
For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (I Corinthians 1:22-25).
Many today (and this could be abundantly documented) believe the apostle Paul was mean-spirited, uncivilized, narrow, and extremely bigoted for saying what He did about Jesus here and elsewhere in the Bible. Many of these think that what the apostle could have used was more polish concerning the social graces. Too bad poor ol' Paul didn't have access to the book How to Win Friends And Influence People. And while we're on the subject, just how "nice" do you think it was of Jesus to offend the religiously pious of his day and throughout the intervening years by proclaiming:
I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6)?
What an audaciously haughty and offensive claim from one who, from the beginning, was thought by many to be His mother's illegitimate son (cf. John 8:41) and, in the end, could not even prevent His own crucifixion, even though He claimed to be God in the flesh. So, the Bible, with its exaltation of Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords, and its claim of containing true truth, isn't always "nice" by middle-class standards. Nevertheless, it remains the "power of God to salvation for everyone who believes" its message (Romans 1:16), and we today, like all faithful students of the Word, must be careful that we are not ashamed of that message—a message, incidentally, that begins with Genesis 1:1.
Along these lines, and in view of the days of Creation row currently taking place among New Testament Christians, I want to say that it makes me nervous when I hear some attempting to support their interpretation of the six days of Creation—an interpretation that encompasses billions of years—with the argument that such an interpretation will ultimately make the Bible less offensive to a more-educated, scientifically-oriented audience. I understand that this is not the only argument made for this position, nor is it even the main argument, but it is an argument nonetheless. As such, it appears to me to be a course that attempts a synthesis of God's so-called foolishness and man's alleged wisdom.
Brother Hill Roberts, a physicist who works and worships in Alabama, is on record as believing that the six days of Creation, when understood as consecutive days encompassing 144 hours, are more of an obstacle to genuine faith (particularly in a scientifically sophisticated audience) than is the claim of Jesus' resurrection. Frankly, and I've told him so, I find such an idea absolutely preposterous! Although bro. Roberts chafes (that's my interpretation) at my use of this word and adamantly defends his contention, his approach strikes me as being either terribly naive, which I seriously doubt is an accurate assessment of bro. Roberts' predicament, or a reflection of his unflagging allegiance to the idea that natural revelation is equal to special revelation, a view that I think elevates natural revelation to the status of being the 67th book of the Bible. I'm not saying anything here that I have not already discussed with bro. Roberts, so please don't accuse me of writing him up without talking to him. Furthermore, bro. Roberts openly teaches and makes available his religious beliefs and scientific think-sos and, therefore, should not complain that his views are being critiqued in this fashion (i.e., publicly). In fact, my approach, although it will appear to some not to be very "nice," is the opposite of sniping at him behind his back where he doesn't have a chance to defend himself. So, if I have misrepresented him, he can point out where as he defends himself. (Use link at the end of this article to see Hill Roberts' response.) This, brethren, is not only honorable and right, it is scriptural as well. Those of us who speak and write publicly are not—and should not be—protected from having what we say examined publicly (cf. James 3:1, NJKV).
Now, do I, like some, think bro. Roberts is a heretic? No, I do not! Do I think bro. Roberts is a theistic evolutionist? No, I don't! In fact, because some have unfairly (perhaps ignorantly) accused him of these things, I feel like I've had to spend too much of my time defending him against these charges. Brethren, if you hope to be effective in your criticism, you must have done your homework on this issue. In truth, bro. Roberts is adamantly opposed to theistic evolution and has done some fine work in refuting it. The confusion occurs because of the association of an ancient earth with the general theory of evolution. However, in bro. Roberts' way of thinking, there is no correlation between these two things. He thinks, and I think he's right, that most Christians are guilty of swallowing the evolutionists' argument that their model demands a very old universe and earth, and have done so "hook, line and sinker!" Roberts believes such claims to be nothing but evolutionist hubris. In other words, Roberts is convinced that you could grant evolutionists all the time they feel like they need for organic life to have evolved as it is today and it could still never happen—not even in a trillion trillion years. I happen to agree with him. Therefore, the age of the earth issue is actually meaningless to the question of whether organic life somehow evolved from inorganic matter (and this in spite of the fact that the general theory of evolution cannot hope to remain viable without the billions of years it now claims for the age of the earth). In fact, the Intelligent Design argument championed by Behe, Dembski and Johnson et al., all of whom, incidentally, are old-earthers, has been quite effective in rattling the cage of mainline evolutionists, demonstrating the impossibility of the orthodox gradualism of the general theory of evolution. So, when we argue with evolutionists about the error of their theory, we don't need to be afraid of granting them, for the sake of argument, all the time they feel they need, because even when we do so, they still don't have a shred of evidence that what they claim had to have happened actually happened. In fact, and bro. Roberts wholeheartedly affirms this, the evidence clearly favors Divine Creation.
Having said all this (and I believe fairness demands I do so), the question still remains: Do I think bro. Roberts is wrong about the age of the earth? Yes, I do. However, and this has disappointed some of you, I decided many years ago not to make the age of the earth, per se, a test of fellowship. In my own mind, I do not believe that Christians who think the earth is billions of years old are necessarily lost. As a young Christian, I believed theistic evolution to be the most viable answer. I was wrong. But even as I look back on my immature thinking, I do not believe that position, per se, placed my soul in jeopardy. I continued to believe that the Bible was God's divine revelation to man. I still believed in God and was thankful for the remission of sins He offered me in connection with His Son's blood. Again, you may disagree with me, and I will be happy to consider your arguments to the contrary. Because I take this position, some of you may believe that I think this whole age of the earth is irrelevant, or as some might say, a "tempest in a teapot." You'd be wrong if you thought so. In fact, I reserve some of my strongest dander for those who seem to all too flippantly dismiss this debate as "much to do about nothing." The subject is not irrelevant and goes to the very heart of who we are as a people. I have expressed these concerns in some detail, and in various venues, to bro. Roberts. Furthermore, anyone who comes to this discussion thinking that bro. Roberts and other OECs are intellectual slouches when it comes to either science or the Bible is in for a rude awakening. If you're going to spar with these fellows you had better make sure you've got on full protective gear. Hill Roberts is powerful in his creationist apologetic and it is clear that he is serious about his study of the Bible. No, Hill Roberts is no dawdler, and anyone who faces him thinking he is will more than likely walk away a bit bruised and bloodied.
However, OECs, in their efforts to defend their position, make interpretations that are highly unlikely when viewed solely from a scriptural standpoint. In addition, they are not able to confine their hermeneutic to Genesis 1. Instead, they use it as the interpreter of a wide variety of Bible subjects. It is just here that I am most troubled. Why? Because it is what OECs are willing to do with, and say about, God's Word that is most disturbing to me. Their approach reminds me of the theological wrangling about words that is so common among liberal theologians today—a system that was resoundingly condemned in God's Word a long time ago (cf. 2 Timothy 2:14). Although I do not believe anyone is obligated to exercise faith in "flood geology" as articulated by John Whitcomb and Henry Morris et al., OECs frequently entertain the idea that the Genesis Flood was a localized affair; and if not a localized affair, then at least an event that, although universal, was extremely tranquil and caused little, if any, changes on the earth. And why is this? Because large scale catastrophism, which seems to be a reasonable extrapolation of the effects of a truly global flood, throws a monkey wrench into the assumptions of OECs, who are, if I might be permitted to use the term, capital "U" uniformitarianists. And what do I mean by capital "U" uniformitarianists? Specifically this: Capital "U" uniformitarianists believe that current natural laws and processes are sufficient to explain the origin and development of all things. Capital "U" uniformitarianists, without hesitation, apply their assumptions all the way back to the Big Bang that is alleged to have occurred at the beginning of the universe. Consequently, the great cataclysmic events that reasonable men and women have inferred from the Genesis Flood—events that would have dramatically affected the earth's surface—are systematically rejected. Accepting, as they do, the supposed geologic column, OECs extol what they think is the overwhelming evidence for a very old universe (some 14+ billion years) and earth (approximately 4.5 billion years). Thinking that their interpretation of the scientific data is the testimony of "natural revelation," they freely apply this interpretation to the Bible. Therefore, to their way of thinking, the six days of creation must be expanded to represent billions of years.
Furthermore, because their alleged geologic clock separates the extinction of dinosaurs and the appearance of man by some 60 to 70 million years, OECs believe that dinosaurs and man did not coexist. In coming to this conclusion, OECs have raised their interpretation of the scientific data to the status of the 67th book of the Bible. They don't like it when YECs say this, but this is exactly what they have done. In fact, Hill Roberts has made it clear in his writings that he believes natural revelation (which must be interpreted) and special revelation (which also must be interpreted) are equally God's revelation, and are, therefore, equivalent, with each being used to interpret the other. However, and here's the dig, when special revelation appears to contradict natural revelation, OECs clearly give natural revelation precedence. After all, as they repeatedly point out, they are dealing with "real physical evidence," that is, things you can "really see." Of course, the Bible tells us that the Christian is to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), and this is what bothers me and many others about the OEC position. Yes, God has made Himself known through natural revelation, but for many Christians God's special revelation always takes precedence over man's understanding of natural revelation. However, when the OEC hermeneutic is coupled with the fact that there is no unquestioned evidence of dinosaur and human fossils occupying the same strata, OECs become convinced that YECs err when arguing that dinosaurs and man were contemporary. "Where is the evidence for such thinking?," they challenge. When one retorts, "What do you mean by 'Where is the evidence?,'" they reply, "Where are the written records of mankind that refer to dinosaurs and humans coexisting?" When one replies, "In the Bible!," one should get ready to be subjected to a rather perturbed expression of incredulity. In fact, OECs have become so convinced that dinosaurs went extinct many millions of years before man was created, that they have started to claim that behemoth, mentioned in Job 40:15-24, and which the Creator called "chief of the ways of God," suggesting that it may have been the largest land animal God made, "can't be a dinosaur." To add to this, and once again appealing to the geologic column, it is claimed that because no dinosaur fossils have ever been found in the bronze age, which they believe coincides with the age of the patriarchs, dinosaurs and man simply did not coexist. But, according to the most natural reading of Genesis 1, the creation of dinosaurs (whether they were sea or land creatures) was separated from the creation of man by, at the most, a 48-hour period that would have encompassed the whole of day 5 and 6.
Apart from the assumptions made in connection with the geologic column, there is no reason to believe that dinosaurs became extinct some 60-70 millions years before man came into being. And it seems very unlikely that modern man, inundated with depictions of what dinosaurs would have looked like, could read the description of behemoth in Job 40:15-24 and not think a very large dinosaur (like a Brachiosaurus) was being described. Now, can I say conclusively that behemoth was a dinosaur? No, I can't, but I can say that's the first thing that pops into my mind when I read these verses and, for the life of me, I can't think of anything else it could be. Consequently, I am a bit put off by a Christian who arrogantly claims that behemoth "can't be" a dinosaur. The only reason for anyone to do so is for the reasons mentioned above, and this means that one is guilty of reading into the Scriptures his own preconceived ideas. Now, am I being mean-spirited for saying this? I don't think so. Unfortunately, those who have imbibed the sentiments of the age will probably think so. In fact, and as I previously pointed out, the charge of being mean-spirited is all one needs to start hollering in order to protect himself from having to answer for what he is doing to the Bible with his natural-revelation-is-the-67th-book-of-the-Bible hermeneutic.
As I know many of these OEC brethren to be very good Bible students, and as I know firsthand of the spiritually conservative backgrounds of which they have been a part, it seems strange to me that they would not have anticipated, and therefore understood, the strong opposition they have received from a great many of their fellow Christians. But, to oppose OECism, even when one does so frankly, openly and forcefully, is not necessarily mean-spirited, although this could and, in my opinion, does describe the actions of a few YECs. But there are OECs who are just as guilty. However, I am not really interested in the wranglings of brethren on both sides of this issue who are yet carnal in their thinking and actions. What I'm interested in, and it seems to me like it is getting harder and harder to do this today, is dealing with the issues/differences that stand between the old earth and young earth positions. These differences are not irrelevant, and even those OECs who appear to give the impression they are, make it clear they think we YECs ought to "repent" because our position "sets up young people for a loss of faith." Such certainly doesn't sound like OECs think this issue to be irrelevant, does it? But, it gets worse.
Because OECs believe dinosaurs died out 60-70 million years before man, they believe death pre-existed Adam's sin. Consequently, they believe the death of animals was an integral part of God's "very good" creation. But, is this what the Bible teaches? No, it isn't. The Bible makes it clear that "death came by man" (1 Corinthians 15:21). So, do animals suffer death because it is a natural part of God's "very good" creation, or do they suffer death as a result of Adam's sin? Genesis 3:14 makes it clear that "the serpent" was "cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field [emphasis mine—AT]." This means that animals, along with man, were cursed as a result of Adam's sin. When one factors into this the biblical idea that nephesh creatures (viz., animals or "living creatures" [cf. Genesis 1:24,24] and human beings or "living souls" [cf. Genesis 2:7] are distinct from plants, which do not have being and are not, therefore, nephesh, then one understands how the eating of plants, which animals and humans were permitted by God to do—and this before sin entered into the world (Genesis 1:29-30)—did not involve "death," or the loss of nephesh existence. Physical death, then, as the Bible says, "came by man." Furthermore, the fossil record, along with telling the story of the death of nephesh creatures, also tells the story of thorns and thistles, which were a part of the cursing of the ground for Adam's sake. In contrast, OECs envision a garden of Eden sitting on top of a fossil record (including thorns and thistles) millions of years old. If this were true, then the "bondage of corruption," to which the whole creation was subjected, took place before Adam's sin. However, that physical death was a consequence of the "curse" that came upon the "whole creation" as the result of Adam's sin is hard to miss when one carefully studies the Bible and does not try to explain away the teaching of verses like Romans 8:20-22, which says:
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now (NKJV).
When one factors in the next verse, where Paul makes a distinction between himself, as a human being, and the rest of creation, then it is clear that he is speaking of that new heaven and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness (2 Peter 3:13), that is, paradise restored (Revelation 22:14), as compared to paradise lost (Genesis 3:23).
So, if the whole creation has been subjected to "futility" and the "bondage of corruption" or "decay" as the result of one man's sin, then death and dying were not a part of God's original "very good" creation. But, in order to justify imposing a particular interpretation of "natural revelation," onto the Bible, some are willing to wreak theological havoc on more than just Genesis 1 and the Days of Creation. Consequently, it remains my firm belief that the think-sos of men, whether theological, philosophical, or scientific, must ultimately bow to the objective standard of God's Word. In other words, if a man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11). The Bible is God's special revelation to man. As such, it is far superior to the natural revelation He has made of Himself in His creation, a creation that has been sadly marred by sin. This is not said to denigrate natural revelation, for God has said that because of it man is without excuse for not believing that He is. This is, instead, a reminder that natural revelation, even when it has been properly interpreted, was never intended to supersede the Bible, and I think that anyone who thinks it does is headed down a path I don't intend to travel. I close, then, with the words of the apostle Paul who said:
Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.... For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence (1 Corinthians 1:20-29).
See Hill Roberts' Response