Ideological Purity in the DoJ’s Civil Rights Division

This week we have my final post citing from Jay Sekulow’s Undemocratic. Yes, it involves more infuriating behavior from bureaucrats at the U.S. Department of Justice. It will make you cringe, or at least shake your head in amazement. It will probably make you wonder how in the world we (as a nation) allowed this to kind of thing to become part of government culture. Regardless, it is good to be informed, so that we can make others aware and hopefully, possibly take steps — even if just by writing in and supporting corrective legislation — to reform that culture.

DoJ's Civil Rights Division seal“When I worked for the IRS [as a trial tax attorney for the Office of the Chief Counsel back in the Carter & Reagan administrations], politics rarely came up. In fact, I don’t think I remember a single explicitly political conversation while on the job. To this day I don’t know the political leanings of many of my former colleagues…. In such an environment, partisanship would have raised a red flag, and I have little doubt that a number of us would have immediately acted to stop any bias before it could do real harm. Things have changed with the agency today.

But what if the workplace in many agencies is now fundamentally different? What if the political leanings of your colleagues are not only well-known but almost universal? Would you feel like risking your own job to stop abuse?

What if that political bias was so open and notorious that dissenters either couldn’t get a job or found working conditions so intolerable that they had to leave? There would be no whistle-blowers, and abuses could rage on, unchecked, for years until — perhaps by chance — a reporter or member of the public could bring them to light.

In a key division of today’s Department of Justice, this intolerant ideological uniformity is quickly becoming a reality.

There are few divisions in the Department of Justice more important than the Civil Rights Division. While U.S. attorneys are on the front lines, prosecuting criminals and maintaining law and order, attorneys in the Civil Rights Division ideally make sure that all American citizens enjoy their most basic constitutional and statutory rights. And given our nation’s fraught and violent racial history, its key role is enforcing civil rights laws. The DOJ describes its mission like this:

The Division enforces the Civil Rights Acts; the Voting Rights Act; the Equal Credit Opportunity Act; the Americans with Disabilities Act; the National Voter Registration Act; the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act; the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act; and additional civil rights provisions contained in other laws and regulations. These laws prohibit discrimination in education, employment, credit, housing, public accommodations and facilities, voting, and certain federally funded and conducted programs.

Given this key role, nonpartisanship — vital for every federal agency — is absolutely imperative. The politics of race and gender are among the most contentious and potentially explosive in the United States, and before the full weight of the federal government is brought to bear, citizens expect, and deserve, careful, neutral consideration of the merits of cases and the merits of any given legal position.

Unfortunately, however, key personnel in the Civil Rights Division are doing their absolute best to shred any last remnants of neutrality and fairness in division decision-making, even to the point of hounding and threatening conservative employees and hiring almost exclusively from organizations with a radical leftist bias.

In March 2013, in response to numerous congressional complaints, the Department of Justice inspector general released a lengthy report on the operations of the Civil Rights Division’s key Voting Section, the section charged with protecting the right to vote, obviously a key constitutional right and a foundation of our democracy.

The findings were startling.

Many of those individuals told the (Office of the Inspector General) OIG that they believed that the reason the voting rights laws were enacted was to protect historic victims of discrimination and therefore the Section should prioritize its resources accordingly. Additionally, some of these individuals, including one current manager, admitted to us that, while they believed that the text of the Voting Rights Act is race-neutral and applied to all races, they did not believe the Voting Section should pursue cases on behalf of White victims.

Moreover, the treatment of conservative employees was startling. The inspector general said it was ‘surprised and dismayed at the amount of blatantly partisan political commentary that we found in e-mails sent by some Voting Section employees on Department computers.’ The report went on to detail the abuses that were nothing short of astonishing:

Karen Lorrie, [not her real name] a non-attorney employee in the Voting Section, initially denied under oath to us that she had posted comments to websites concerning Voting Section personnel or matters. Later in her second OIG interview she admitted that she had posted such comments, identified several of the statements that she had posted, and acknowledged that she had lied under oath in her first OIG interview. She also told the OIG that she understood that the comments she had posted would remain on the Internet and follow the targets in the future. Lorrie told the OIG that she posted comments online as a way of ‘relieving the never-ending stress on the job.’

In other words, not only did a career bureaucrat attack colleagues online, but she lied under oath about those attacks. But that’s not all. Career employees kept using the Internet as a weapon against their own colleagues, resorting to language that was both unprofessional and “juvenile.” Again here’s the inspector general:

a-review-of-the-operations-of-the-voting-section-of-the-civil-rights-divisionDuring this period, at least three career Voting Section employees posted comments on widely read liberal websites concerning Voting Section work and personnel. The three employees who we were able to identify with certainty included three non-attorney employees. Many of the postings, which generally appeared in the Comments section following blog entries related to the Department, included a wide array of inappropriate remarks, ranging from petty and juvenile personal attacks to highly offensive and potentially threatening statements. The comments were directed at fellow career Voting Section employees because of their conservative political views, their willingness to carry out the policies of the CRT division leadership, or their views on the Voting Rights Act. The highly offensive comments included suggestions that the parents of one former career Section attorney were Nazis, [and] disparaging a career manager’s physical appearance… speculation that another career manager was watching pornography in her office, and references to ‘Yellow Fever,’ in connection with allusions to marital infidelity involving two career Voting Section employees, one of whom was described as ‘look[ing] Asian.’

It just keeps getting worse. Threats of physical violence were not out of bounds, with indications that the threats were backed up by actions, like monitoring individuals’ movements in the office — monitoring that was ‘disturbing’ in context:

We found other postings by career Voting Section employees that contained intimidating comments and statements that arguably raised the potential threat of physical violence. For instance, one of the employees wrote the following comment to an article concerning an internal Department investigation of potential misconduct by a Section manager: ‘Geez, reading this just makes me want to go out and choke somebody. At this point, I’d seriously consider going in tomorrow and hanging a noose in someone’s office to get myself fired, but they’d probably applaud the gesture and give me a promotion for doing it….’ Some postings by Section employees contained statements that could be viewed as disturbing, such as comments that monitored managers’ movements in the office and described their actions.

Keep in mind, the choking threat came from a “Section manager,” not a low-level intern or a temporary employee on a work-release program from prison.

Now back to the ‘sue and settle’ discussion…. There was evidence that DOJ attorneys cooperated with sympathetic liberal groups so completely that they would share confidential legal information:

We also found incidents in which Voting Section career staff shared confidential Section information with outside civil rights attorneys, some of whom were working on matters where they were adverse to the Department.

Abuses in the Civil Rights Division were not unique to the Obama administration. Indeed, the inspector general found problems during the Bush administration as well, but that’s hardly a surprise. The problem of government is not a problem with a particular administration but rather systemic, where a lack of accountability combines with partisan rancor and pervasive incompetence to create a crisis of justice….

This approach to justice is intolerable. And yet until there’s meaningful civil service reform, it’s virtually unstoppable…. [I]t’s time to introduce private sector rationality to public sector employment, and nowhere is it more vital than in the Department of Justice, where entrenched corruption means that you can not only lose your rights, you can even lose your most basic liberties….

There will be no reform without accountability. There will be no justice without reform.”

It both angers and grieves me to think that such outright partisanship and just plain mean-spiritedness has become evident even in places like the U.S. Department of Justice. But, when attitudes of victimhood, entitlement-thinking, and an agenda of ideological purity are encouraged — particularly on the political left –, and those people become entrenched in the government bureaucracy, it should be expected that such ugliness would develop and eventually be discovered. Reform won’t happen overnight, but we can let our representatives in Washington, D.C., know that it is an important issue that they need to address.


Must We Interpret the Bible in a Vacuum?

I just started a new book, A Biblical Case for an Old Earth (2006) by Dr. David Snoke, a respected physicist and professor at the University of Pittsburgh. I’ve been aware of Snoke and a few of his papers/essays for awhile, but I didn’t pick up his book until a few months ago, and I finally got around to reading it. (Or, at least, I will be reading it on my upcoming trip to Baltimore.) The first chapter — the only one I’ve read, as yet — is titled “Starting Assumptions”, in which he discusses the issue of “whether experience, including the expanded experience of science, may ever legitimately affect our interpretation of the Bible.” I liked the way he concluded the chapter, so I reproduce it here for you.

A Biblical Case for an Old Earth - book cover“All of these examples point to the legitimacy of allowing experience to affect our interpretation of the Bible. Why do we react against it, then? I have already mentioned two reasons. First, we rightly want to avoid any hint of concession to worldly views due to societal pressure. Second, we rightly want to avoid a ‘slippery slope’ that would allow us to ‘explain away’ any passage of Scripture.

In order to avoid the first pitfall, any argument for a new interpretation of Scripture should present a positive case; that is, it should not simply ‘explain away’ apparently obvious meanings of Scripture. It should show thematic consistency with all of Scripture, a truly biblical worldview. To avoid the second pitfall, a new interpretation should delineate boundaries, defining what is negotiable and what is not. I hope to accomplish both of these tasks in the following pages.

My goal is to help the church avoid the same errors in the debate over the age of the earth that have occurred in the above examples. In the case of the moving earth, forcing an interpretation that the world does not move makes God into a great deceiver who shows us false appearances of things that are not real. In the same way, some people’s views of the ‘apparent age’ of the earth make God into a great deceiver. In the case of modern apostles, demanding that there are people who can perform the miraculous works of apostles can lead us to succumb to gullibility as we latch on to any claim that supports our position, and to fail to apply rigid tests to those who claim to have supporting evidence. In the same way, demanding that there must be scientific evidence for a young earth can lead us to latch on to people with dubious credentials who tell us what we want to hear.

In the case of the early return of Christ, if we insist on a rigid rule of the ‘most obvious’ interpretation, we can cause people, including our children, to give up on the Bible, or reject Christianity outright as they lay what seems to be the most obvious interpretation alongside their experience. In the same way, every year the church loses children who go to college and find that the evidence does seem quite sound for an old earth, and who conclude that they must reject the Bible. In the case of the Babylonian king, rejecting new information about biblical times means that we force a modern (and uninformed) view on the Bible instead of listening to those who are most familiar with the context of the ancient world. In the same way, reading Genesis 1 and other passages only in the way that seems most natural to modern eyes may cause us to lose some of the deeper meaning in those passages. In this book I will present some very deep themes of Scripture that often are lost in modern discussion.

We would do well to remember that science was founded by Christians who insisted that God is not a great deceiver, that the natural world is ordered by a good God, and that we must reject superstition and hearsay; moreover, that we must subject all truth claims to rigorous examination, even claims of honored church leaders from generations past. They insisted that the general revelation of God in nature and the special revelation in Scripture are in agreement, not discord. It is no coincidence that the scientific revolution and the Reformation came at the same place and time in history — the Protestants supported Kepler and Copernicus in their revolutionary new interpretation of the Bible. One could almost say that the Copernican revolution was primarily a revolution of Bible interpretation: it revealed that the scholars of the church past were not always correct in their interpretation of Bible passages like Psalm 93:1 (which had been interpreted to mean that the sun goes around the earth), just as they were not always correct in interpreting passages dealing with moral and spiritual issues.”

I should point out here that, despite the above statements associating the Protestant Reformation with the Copernican Revolution, earlier in the chapter Snoke acknowledges that Luther, Calvin, and Melanchthon all rejected the idea of a moving earth. They would be among those past church scholars who were not always correct, though we still hold them in high regard.

Copernicus & the solar system

Copernicus & the solar system

“As I said above, all scientific theories are provisional works of human beings, and therefore science does not ‘trump’ Scripture, which is unchanging and inerrant. At the same time, all theological systems are provisional works of human beings, too. By ‘provisional’, I do not mean ‘quickly changed’. The scientific method provides rules by which theories may be changed, and successful theories last for centuries. In the same way, there are rules of Bible interpretation that do not allow us to easily jettison elements of theology. Yet the Reformation was based on the belief that the traditional teaching of the church about the meaning of Scripture is not to be confused with Scripture itself. Even the Roman Catholic Church, though it rejects the Reformation, now affirms that the understanding of the church can evolve and grow in the light of new information.

My view of the ‘new’ interpretations of Scripture in the church is the same as for individuals — we should be able to grow in wisdom, not rushing to every new wind of doctrine, but carefully weighing new views and always able to learn. A wise person finds new things constantly in Scripture, even while holding to it as an unshakable foundation, and the church does well to do the same. While we must not take lightly the Bible interpretation of faithful scholars of the past, we can also hope that new generations have something to add as well.”

What do you think? Does he make sensible suggestions? Is his reasoning sound? I tend to think so, and I’m looking forward to seeing how well (or if) he accomplishes his goal(s) in the remainder of the book.


A Few Thoughts on the 2nd GOP Debate

I wasn’t going to post anything on the debate, figuring lil-ol’-me’s comments would get lost in the crowd. But, then I decided, “Why not!” It’ll help me think things through and maybe help someone else, too. I didn’t even watch the debate when it aired, since I was out for the evening and missed the entire 2nd-string debate and part of the main event. When I got home, I had other blog work to do, so I was only able to stop to catch a few minutes of it. But, now that I’m all caught up with everything and had time to ponder it a bit, I’ll give you a few impressions & observations.

Briefly, re the moderator(s) and the debate in general:

GOP 2016 debate on CNN - 2nd-tier

“2nd-tier” debate line-up

o  Jake Tapper made it clear he was the main man. I would have preferred that Hugh Hewitt and Dana Bash were equal co-moderators, rather than being called in on occasion by Tapper to ask a question from the sidelines.

o  Was there an agenda here? Some of Tapper’s questions were obviously meant to goad and cause friction among the candidates on stage. Was that just for ratings, or was there more to it?

o  For another thing, Tapper seemed to favor some with more questions/time. When one requested time to comment/respond, some were allowed and others refused. More evidence of favoritism?

o  Still a bit too Trump-centered. I guess I can understand why, since he has a significant lead over most of the others. But, I’m sure most of the topics could have been addressed without prefacing statements that “Mr. Trump said…” or something along those lines.

Alright, going candidate-by-candidate, left-to-right, and leading off with the “JV”

Pataki: I liked some of what he said, but for some reason I can’t take him seriously. Also, too moderate (liberal?). Go home.

Santorum: Personally likable, and I agree with him on some stuff (e.g., religious freedom), but I’m just not feelin’ it. Time to pack it in, maybe run for governor of PA.

Jindal: Definitely my favorite from this group. From illegal immigration to defense to economics, he’s a strong conservative and articulate spokesman with a solid record and concrete ideas about what the problems are and how to restore and defend America. Can’t understand why he doesn’t poll better among conservatives. (Is it just the goofy smile?)

Graham: Much more energetic this time, and I appreciated his wit, but I still feel like I’m listening to a Southern Mr. Rogers — though, one with “teeth”. His emphasis is on foreign policy, military action, and eradicating radical Islam, and I agree with a lot of what he says in that area, as well as on a few other things. Still too moderate on most else, though.

It’s too bad there wasn’t more time in this debate, because there are several more issues that I would’ve liked to hear them comment on.

Now, for the main event

Paul: He made some good points (e.g., re staying “engaged”, or in talks, with even those nations who have acted against us; no birthright citizenship; flat tax w/o loopholes). Still too libertarian on some things for my comfort-level. At least this time he didn’t remind me so much of SNL’s Church Lady, as he did with some of his facial expressions in the first debate.

Huckabee: The Huck said some good stuff — e.g., re the threat of Iran, emphasizing the American people, inconsistent religious accommodation. As with Santorum, though, he’s a nice guy, but I’m just not feelin’ it….

Rubio: Wow! He made the most of his time and nailed it on so many things — e.g. foreign policy & military action, economic policy, etc. I may need to reconsider him, despite my disappointment with a few things he’s done/said in the past (e.g., 2013′s CIR bill). He definitely shined in this debate.

Cruz: One of my faves. When this guy is allowed to talk, he demonstrates a firm, strongly conservative approach, and he has a great record, too. He had some great moments re Iran, Planned Parenthood, etc., though I wish he’d had more opportunities.

Carson: As usual, the doc was relatively soft-spoken, gracious, said some great stuff and some so-so stuff. His kind-hearted demeanor causes him to lose opportunities to make points even in his areas of strength (e.g., re Trump’s stand on autism). I like him, but I’m afraid he’s just not cut out for the Oval Office or the world stage. (Putin would eat him alive!)

Trump: Out of the gate, he began with an insult (and a total non sequitur, at that), which didn’t bode well. But, he was more restrained than in the first debate. He completely lied about not trying to get a casino deal in Florida, though. I could continue pointing out his faults, but I won’t. Suffice to say, he had a fair performance this time around, but I think he may start losing a little support after this, as people question his past and start looking for more policy substance & consistency.

The "Main Event"

The “Main Event”

Bush: Performed pretty much as expected — not bad, but not great. He’s clearly trying to distinguish himself from his brother (and father), but I’m not sure it’s working. Also, too moderate for my taste…

Walker: As before, he had a disappointingly mediocre performance. He did have some great things to say, and he’s still one of my faves, but he really needs to do more to stand out from the pack. Not sure if the problem is just his fault, maybe he’s not sure what to do in such a big “debate”, or if it’s partly due to how he is treated (ignored?) by the media (inc. Tapper), but he needs to up his game.

Fiorina: Very impressive! This lady knows what’s going on, she knows the players, and she knows what she would do to “fix” the problems. She’s very articulate, confident, and unafraid. Her comments re Iran, Planned Parenthood, and the fate & character of our nation were excellent! I still have a few concerns about things she has done/said, but she certainly has debating skills.

Kasich: I appreciated his initial comments, which were that the first 10 minutes had been wasted on ad hominem back-n-forth, when the (serious) viewers want to hear about the real issues. As for his answers on those issues, he did OK on some, but he’s too much of a moderate for me.

Christie: He was off on his criticism of the Trump/Fiorina argument re their respective business track records, since it involves matters of leadership skills, wise decision-making, and ethics. I also still have my reservations about him re policy and temperament. But, he did pretty well in this debate and I liked or sympathized with much of what he said (e.g., re Social Security).

There were a few stumbles, missed opportunities, and plenty of interesting, sometimes tense, exchanges throughout the night. Although some of the dialogue between certain candidates got a bit fiery, no one lost their cool, though Trump got awfully red in the face at a couple points. Speaking of Trump, he had to play defense again, but he can’t blame Fox News this time. He also smiled & laughed a bit more and actually high-fived (or whatever) his stage-neighbors on 3 or 4 occasions.

A few general gripes: 1) I’m tired of hearing “I’m the only person on this stage who…,” especially when half the time the claim turns out to be inaccurate. 2) I have to admit that some of the candidates have certain mannerisms that are starting to bug me (e.g., Rubio’s cadence, Cruz’s staring at the camera like he’s giving a prepared speech, Trump’s and Carson’s hand gestures, Trump’s facial expressions), but I guess I need to “let it go”. 3) I also have to say that I am frustrated with the format for these “debates”. In fact, I like Allen West’s idea:

“[O]ver a week-long period, have a format where each presidential candidate is grilled for a 45-minute period by a two-person team. That way we cut down on the ridiculous back and forth and it’s just about the candidate and the issues. Sadly, the problem is we, the American public, have turned our political scene into a reality TV show and the media plays to that all for the holy grail of ratings.”

If we can’t have that, then I’d like to see a few debates focused solely on one or two issues (e.g., military/foreign policy, jobs & the economy, illegal immigration & domestic security, “social issues”) to help us distinguish the candidates from each other. Some actual one-on-one debates might be helpful, too. For example, Cruz vs. Kasich, Paul vs. Christie, Trump vs. Fiorina, Jindal vs. Graham, etc. For now, though, we have to deal with what they give us.

republican-debate-donald-trump-carly-fiorina-quotes-insultsThere have been plenty of “winners” lists given, but I’m never quite sure what the criteria are. Who handled themselves the “best”? Who made the best speeches? Who had the most speaking time? Who scored the most applause for jokes & zingers? Who refused to get riled up? Who spoke with the most passion? Who are my favorites because of, or regardless of, the latest debate? I would say that about half of the candidates impressed me at least a little, even a lot, in this debate, while the rest were just OK. But, just because one impresses to a certain degree in one event does not mean I would be thrilled to see him/her get the nomination (e.g., Graham). We still have a long ways to go and plenty of time for campaigns to implode, or for further research to convince me that someone I sorta like now is not as consistently conservative as I thought they were and/or just not ready for the responsibilities of the Oval Office.

This probably won’t be much of a surprise, but the five that impressed me the most and for various reasons in this pair of debates were (in no particular order) Jindal, Graham, Cruz, Rubio, and Fiorina. (Replace Graham with Walker and you have my personal — at the moment — Top 5.) They deserve any and all bumps in the polls that follow.


The Justice Department’s Pigford Giveaway

As promised the other week, the following is an excerpt from Jay Sekulow’s wonderful-yet-infuriating book, Undemocratic, explaining the infamous and partisan fraud perpetrated by our own government known as the “Pigford Giveaway”. The audaciousness of some of our “public servants” really is astounding.

“In chapter 3 of this book I outlined how the IRS took the Earned Income Tax Credit — a broadly supported program that benefits the working poor — and transformed it into a $130 billion program that goes far beyond Congress’s intent, a program that directly benefits key Democratic constituencies.

But for sheer audacity, that scandal is amateur hour compared to the Department of Justice’s Pigford fraud.

ronnie-armstrong-black-farmer-indiana-070701jpg-e632bb337a6a37a1Like the Earned Income Tax Credit scandal, the DOJ’s Pigford fraud has legitimate legal roots. In 1997, ninety-one African-American farmers filed suit against officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), alleging they’d been discriminatorily denied farm loans. There is little doubt — and no meaningful dispute — that a number of these plaintiffs did, in fact, face discrimination and those plaintiffs should be compensated.

But the case soon morphed from a rather straightforward race discrimination case into something else entirely: a billion-dollar slush fund available not only to African-American farmers who were victims of discrimination but also to Hispanics, Native Americans, and women — most of whom had never farmed in their lives.

The Department of Justice agreed to settle the Pigford case, creating a settlement fund that made $50,000 payments available to claimants with little requirement for documentation. As word of the payments spread, the Department of Justice, members of Congress, and others worked to expand the pool of available funds, as well as expand the pool of eligible claimants — all of them favored Democratic constituencies.

In a lengthy expose, the New York Times charted the scandal’s growth:

The compensation effort sprang from a desire to redress what the government and a federal judge agreed was a painful legacy of bias against African-Americans by the Agriculture Department. But an examination by the New York Times shows that it became a runaway train, driven by racial politics, pressure from influential members of Congress and law firms that stand to gain more than $130 million in fees. In the past five years, it has grown to encompass a second group of African-Americans as well as Hispanic, female and Native American farmers. In all, more than 90,000 people have filed claims. The total cost could top $4.4 billion.

The money was made so widely available that claimants didn’t even have to prove they were farmers:

From the start, the claims process prompted allegations of widespread fraud and criticism that its very design encouraged people to lie: because relatively few records remained to verify accusations, claimants were not required to present documentary evidence that they had been unfairly treated or had even tried to farm. Agriculture Department reviewers found reams of suspicious claims, from nursery-school-age children and pockets of urban dwellers, sometimes in the same handwriting with nearly identical accounts of discrimination.

To their credit, some career lawyers and career bureaucrats did object to this utterly absurd legal result, but they were overruled by a toxic combination of self-interested politicians, greedy trial lawyers, and sympathetic peers in the bureaucracy.

How prevalent was the fraud? This prevalent:

In 16 ZIP codes in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and North Carolina, the number of successful claimants exceeded the total number of farms operated by people of any race in 1997, the year the lawsuit was filed. Those applicants received nearly $100 million.

The extent of the fraud staggers the imagination, becoming so blatant and obvious that the DOJ essentially became co-conspirators in an effort to defraud the taxpayers and drain the Treasury:

In Maple Hill, a struggling town in southeastern North Carolina, the number of people paid was nearly four times the total number of farms. More than one in nine African-American adults there received checks. In Little Rock, Ark., a confidential list of payments shows, 10 members of one extended family collected a total of $500,000, and dozens of other successful claimants shared addresses, phone numbers or close family connections.

And did you know there were ‘farms’ in the city? According to the DOJ there were:

Thirty percent of all payments, totaling $290 million, went to predominantly urban counties — a phenomenon that supporters of the settlement say reflects black farmers’ migration during the 15 years covered by the lawsuit. Only 11 percent, or $107 million, went to what the Agriculture Department classifies as ‘completely rural’ counties.

According to the American Thinker, ‘every apartment in a New York city building received a settlement of at least $50,000.’

Let me emphasize, if an African-American farmer (or Hispanic, or Native American, or female) ever faced unlawful discrimination, and they have, they deserve all the compensation the law allows, but the decision to use the discrimination suffered by a few as a pretext to invite fraud and simply hand out billions in taxpayer dollars is inexcusable.

And yet that’s the Department of Justice.”

There ya have it: another example of government officials twisting a legitimate program, bending over backward to give free stuff to certain groups, knowing that those who benefit will most likely reward them or the administration — or, the party in general — in the elections. But, I’m understating it. Here is how a National Review editorial put it:

“The Pigford case represented everything [the late Andrew] Breitbart raged against in the American political order — large-scale cronyism, corrosive and cynical identity politics, unrepentant hypocrisy, and the predictable indifference of the mainstream media.”  — “Pigford Forever” (4/29/2013)

So much for a government bureaucracy that is responsible, effective, and politically neutral….


Primer on Origins Views for Christians (Part 3b of 3)

“The facts of nature yield positive help in many ways for interpreting Scripture statements correctly, and the discipline of wrestling with the problem of relating the two sets of facts, natural and biblical, leads to a greatly enriched understanding of both.”  — J.I. Packer, noted Christian theologian & pastor

Creation Days cont’d…

“Non-Literal” Approach

Figurative Day

Alternate Names: Simultaneity View (Bavinck referring to Augustine’s position), Instantaneous Creation
Big Idea: Creation was all instantaneous, and the “days” in the biblical narrative are just to help our understanding and perhaps to model the work-week/Sabbath.
Noted Advocates: Clement(?), Augustine, Origen(?), Sir Thomas Browne, John Milton
Resource(s): The Literal Meaning of Genesis (415) by Augustine
Note(s): According to Charles Hummel, Augustine believed that “the structure of the days is intended to teach the *order* in creation.”

Science & Faith - Friends or FoesNon-World

Alternate Names: n/a
Big Idea: One can best look at Genesis 1 with a childlike faith and accept it as a simple, beautiful, profound, and factual statement of creation. There is no world view presented in Genesis 1. The intent is far too sublime and spiritual for one to presume that it teaches anything at all about a cosmological world view. That said, the text does allow for both long periods of time and a certain amount of natural process; scientific evidence indicates that the cosmos, Earth, and likely life are all quite ancient.
Noted Advocates: Donald England
Resource(s): A Christian View of Origins (1972) by England
Note(s): 1) “It is presumptuous to suppose that a vast time interval existed between verses 1 and 2; yet this is a distinct possibility which cannot be excluded…. The use of ‘evening’ and ‘morning’ implies solarlike days as we know them today, yet mention of the sun is not made until day four. It is, therefore difficult to imagine how days one through three were literal twenty-four-hour solar days unless the creation of the sun was included in the ‘heavens’ of verse 1 but was not ‘revealed’ or made evident until day four…. One cannot rule out the possibility of a long time interval between day two and day three. Also, between day three and day four a vast time interval may have existed…. However, there is no Biblical basis for assuming the existence of these time intervals.” 2) While not quite being anti-scholarship, England often cautions against being overly critical or spending too much time parsing out individual word meanings. For example, “[We must] not insist upon a strict and critical interpretation of the text but rather approach Genesis 1 with a childlike and unpresumptuous faith.” 3) Since England is extremely skeptical of natural processes being able to explain on their own either abiogenesis or the diversity of life, this view is probably only appealing to OECs who are hesitant to take a concordist position.

Analogical (Work-)Day

Alternate Names: Anthropomorphic Day, Discourse Analysis View/Approach
Big Idea: The “days” are God’s workdays, their length is neither specified nor important, and not everything in the account needs to be taken as historically sequential. That said, there are textual clues that they are not “ordinary” days, and the sequence of the days does matter. The origin of everything (v. 1:1) takes place an unspecified amount of time before the workweek, so those 6 days are not necessarily the first 6 days of the Universe’s existence. God is characterized as a workman going through his workweek, taking his daily rest (i.e., the night between each evening & morning), and enjoying his Sabbath “rest”. Thus, we understand what He did by analogy with what we do, which then provides us guidance in the proper way to carry out our own work & rest. This 6&1 pattern is echoed in Exodus 20:9-11. The Sabbath rest continues into the present.
Noted Advocates: Franz Delitzsch(?), Herman Bavinck, C. John “Jack” Collins, Vern Poythress, William S. Barker II leans this way
Resource(s): In The Beginning (1999) by Bavinck; Science & Faith (2003) and Genesis 1-4 (2006) by Collins; Redeeming Science (2006) by Poythress
Note(s): Unlike most Analogical Day proponents, Poythress takes the Framework advocates’ view that Day 7 is eternal.

(Literary) Framework

Alternate Names: Historico-Artistic, Artistico-Historical
Big Idea: We must recognize the exegetical implications of the unique literary and theological character of the inspired record, which was not given to satisfy our curiosity about sequence or chronology. Thus, the “days” are primarily a literary structuring device to describe the Creation week but without any material time indicators. Part of the argument is that the apparent creation of the Sun, Moon, & stars on Day 4 (while there was light on Day 1) is evidence that Moses was not trying to describe events in the order that they happened. Another part involves apparent “disagreement” between certain aspects of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2:5-6 regarding the respective creations of plants and Man. For some proponents, that is sufficient; those who follow Kline have a more involved interpretation.
The Kline-variety recognizes both a nonliteral element — building on Augustine’s figurative approach, while maintaining the historicity of the narrative — and a nonsequential element — stressing topical arrangement and temporal recapitulation. Kline has three exegetical arguments: 1) The Genesis 1 account lays out a logical order in the form of two corresponding triads, with each day being a snapshot of creative activity. The first triad reveals God forming the “creation kingdoms” of the Earth: Day 1 -> Light; Day 2 -> Sky & Seas; Day 3 -> Seas, Dry Land, Vegetation. In parallel, the second triad reveals God filling with “creature kings” that which he had formed: Day 4 -> Luminaries (i.e., Sun, Moon, “stars”); Day 5 -> Sea creatures & Winged creatures; Day 6 -> Land animals & Humans. The seventh-day rest, which focuses on “The Creator King”, is given heavy eschatological significance, extending into the eternal state. Special note is taken of Sabbath symbolism, chiastic arrangements and parallelism. 2) Expanding on the second general argument above, Kline argues that Genesis 2:5-6 establishes the principle of continuity between the mode of providence during and after the creation period, which would be a problem for sequentialist views. (This is not meant to imply that the divine activity was only providential, to the exclusion of supernatural, creative activity. To the contrary, the Creation Week was characteristically the era of supernatural creation.) This is known familiarly as the “because it had not rained” argument. 3) A two-register cosmology — “upper” (invisible) and “lower” (visible) registers — is used to explain the nonliteral nature of the time indicators in Genesis 1 within the overall cosmological teaching of Scripture. The upper and lower registers relate to each other spatially, not as different locations, but as different dimensions of the one cosmos. (This is not as exotic as it may sound but really a basic part of biblical cosmology.)
Noted Advocates: Arie Noordtzij, N.H. Ridderbos, Henri Blocher, Meredith G. Kline, Lee Irons, Mark Futato, John Jefferson Davis, Bruce Waltke, Charles Hummel, Ronald Youngblood, Keith Miller, Howard Van Till
Resource(s): Is There a Conflict Between Genesis 1 and Natural Science? (1957) by Ridderbos; Kingdom Prologue (2000/2006) by Kline, though he began publishing his view in the landmark article “Because It Had Not Rained” in the Westminster Theological Journal (1958); How It All Began (1980) by Youngblood; In The Beginning (1984) by Blocher; The Genesis Debate (2001) contribution by Irons & Kline; The Frontiers of Science & Faith (2002) by Davis
Note(s): 1) As per Charles Hummel, Augustine noted the symmetrical structure long ago. According to Jack Collins, English bishop Robert Grossteste (1168-1253) and Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) both held to the idea that the days of Genesis 1 follow a pattern of ordering (Days 1-3) and adornment (4-6), which is key to the modern “Framework View”. However, J.G. von Herder also recognized the powerful symmetry between the two triads of days in his The Spirit of Hebrew Poetry (1833), and some consider him the modern (god)father of this position. 2) The view developed with some variations over the years, with Noordtzij (translated by Ridderbos) credited with bringing a resurgence in the 1920s, but most nowadays follow Kline’s lead. 3) This position is held by many OECs and TEs alike, though the latter tend to deny the historical content. It could be held by a YEC, too. An ancient Earth and/or Universe is not required by the view, nor obviously is an acceptance of any evolutionary theory. Scientific content in the biblical text is thought to be rather limited. Moreover, it is agreed among Framework theorists that concentration on such details distracts from the intended theological message. Even so, Kline denies that his position is anti- or even nonconcordist.

Days of Divine Fiat

Alternate Names: Fiat Day(s), Days of Proclamation, Explanatory Day
Big Idea: Emphasis is on the sovereign commands of God rather than the means by which those commands were fulfilled or how long that fulfillment took. The days were 24 hours each, but they were merely the time during which God spoke his creational commands. Rather than being fulfilled instantaneously, the details of those commands were carried out over the eons — or, over 1000-year periods in the Millenarian View (discussed/refuted by S. Miller (1846)) — with “a great deal of overlapping in the periods of active creation.” From God’s point of view, though, the work of Creation was virtually completed as soon as He uttered His unstoppable fiats.
Noted Advocates: F. Hugh Capron, Alan Hayward
Resource(s): The Conflict of Truth (1902) by Capron; Creation and Evolution (1987/1995) by Hayward
Note(s): 1) Hayward emphasizes the common use of parenthetical expressions in the Bible, including in the Genesis creation account, which essentially puts the “commentary” following each creation command into parentheses. 2) John Lennox considers this view a variant on “Intermittent Day”. Indeed, Capron’s proposal has been referred to as the “explanatory” intermittent-day view.

seven-days-that-divide-the-world-lennox-johnDays of Revelation

Alternate Names: Revelatory Day, Pictorial Day, Pictorial-Revelatory Day, Vision Day, Days of Visions, Narrational Day
Big Idea: The creation record is part topical and part chronological. The days do not necessarily correspond to either a 24-hour day nor a day-age. They refer to periods during which God revealed His creative work to Moses either verbally (Wiseman) or in one or more visions (Kurtz). The work itself was accomplished over the eons.
Noted Advocates: J. Pohle, J.H. Kurtz (who mixes it w/ Gap Theory), P.J. Wiseman, Bernard Ramm, Donald J. Wiseman, Duane Garrett
Resource(s): Creation Revealed in Six Days (1948/1958) by P.J. Wiseman; The Christian View of Science and Scripture (1954) by Ramm; Clues to Creation in Genesis (1977) by Wiseman & Wiseman; Rethinking Genesis (1991/2001) by Garrett
Note(s): 1) Similar to Ramm, noted 19th-century geologist Hugh Miller seems to have incorporated this into his view, which otherwise most closely resembled Day-Age Theory. 2) In a footnote, Ramm says, “[W]e are in exact agreement with Melvin G. Kyle when he wrote [in 1929]: ‘A combination of the revelatory view with the geologic view is thus probably the true explanation of the “days” of creation in the Genesis account.’” He later says, “We are then driven to the theories of moderate concordism and progressive creationism.” 3) Garrett’s book combines conservative theology with an investigation of the possible sources of information available to Moses.

Covenant Creation

Alternate Names: n/a
Big Idea: The “heaven and earth” of Genesis is not about the literal physical universe at all, but rather about God’s covenants with mankind.
Noted Advocates: Jeffrey Vaughn and Timothy Martin at
Resource(s): Beyond Creation Science (3rd ed., 2007) by Martin & Vaughn
Note(s): The book argues strongly against YEC; the hypothesis emphasizes the link between creation and eschatology, promoting preterism over a futurist approach.

Cosmic Temple Inauguration

Alternate Names: n/a
Big Idea: Genesis 1 “is not written to us” and, thus, should be read only from the viewpoint of the ancient Israelites in the context of their ANE worldview. No new scientific revelation or perspective is to be found. While the seven days should indeed be translated as the 24-hour variety, “[they] are not given as the period of time over which the material cosmos came into existence, but the period of time devoted to the inauguration of the functions of the cosmic temple, and perhaps also its annual re-enactment.” Or, as Gerald Rau has summarized it, “God establishes the whole Earth as His temple and takes up His residence there on day seven, similar to stories of the establishment of the temple in other ancient literature. Thus He gives creation function, rather than creating the form.”
Noted Advocates: John Walton; G.K. Beale(?)
Resource(s): The Lost World of Genesis One (2009) by Walton
Note(s): 1) This has some ideas in common with the Framework View, which is why some (e.g., John Lennox) consider this a mere variation of FV. 2) While the view does not specifically promote evolution, Walton says that the Bible does not address either the origin or history of life, therefore “very little found in evolutionary theory would be objectionable”. Several TEs have commended Walton on his approach, but Walton himself has not committed to any brand of TE. His comments, however, seem to place him in the Planned Evolution (PE) branch.


Alternate Names: Liturgical View, Polemical View, Cosmogonic/Cosmic View (not to be confused w/ Guyot’s version of Day-Age)
Big Idea: The Creation account in Genesis is meant only to be read for the religious truths to be gleaned from it and/or as a polemic against the pagan pantheons & worldviews of other tribes/kingdoms in the Ancient Near East. That is, “YHWH alone, uniquely transcendent and immanent, is responsible for bringing the cosmos, animal life, and humanity into existence — not Marduk, Re, or any other gods.” Many TEs prefer this approach.
Noted Advocates: Karl Barth, Claus Westermann, Brevard S. Childs, Conrad Hyers
Resource(s): The Meaning of Creation (1984) by Hyers; Genesis 1-11: A Commentary (1984) by Westermann
Note(s): 1) Some (e.g., Hyers, Westermann) incorporate elements of the Framework View, but because of higher-critical commitments, deny any “literal” historical content. As Hyers puts it, “If one is especially attached to the word literal, then what Genesis 1 literally is is a cosmological and cosmogonic statement, serving very basic theological purposes.” 2) While praising Kline, Blocher, & Hyers, theistic evolutionist Howard Van Till (The Fourth Day (1986)) states, “The days of the Genesis 1 story are clearly ordinary solar days. [But, they] have nothing to do with the cosmic timetable; they are simply literary devices in the story, not actual temporal intervals directly corresponding to events in cosmic history.”


Holman Quicksource Guide to Understanding CreationBefore wrapping up, I need to mention another facet of this discussion, which was mentioned a couple times above: concordism. Simply put, concordism holds the narrative of Genesis 1 as a true chronology and tries to harmonize it with the scientific evidence of cosmic & Earth history. Most will agree that there are at least two points on a concordist spectrum. For example, some scholars have accused others of “extreme” or “unbridled” concordism, while the accused usually claim to hold a more “moderate” (or some other adjective) form. Unfortunately, there is no set agreement on how exactly to distinguish, and one’s definitions, as well as placement of other positions, is influenced by one’s own position and attitude towards concordism in general.

Bernard Ramm distinguished variations of concordism this way:

“By moderate concordism we mean that geology and Genesis tell in broad outline the same story. Both agree that the Earth was once in what may be called a chaotic condition. Both agree that certain cosmical conditions had to be realized before life could begin, e.g., the need for light, dry land, separation of waters and atmosphere. Both agree that the simple is first and the complex is later. Both agree that the higher animals and man were the last to appear. The time element is not stated in the Genesis record and must be learned from the geological record. Both agree that man is the latest and highest of all forms of life.

Moderate concordism differs from strict concordism in (i) not affirming that the word <yom> means period, and (ii) in insisting that the days are not completely chronological in order but part topical or logical.”

Howard Van Till uses the following method:

“A distinction may be made between ‘literal’ or ‘strict’ concordism and ‘broad’ concordism. The former interprets Genesis in a very literalistic manner and expects that scientific data and theories will agree with such an interpretation. The latter recognizes that the data of geology and other historical sciences cannot be reconciled with a literalistic rendering of the text and therefore accepts a variety of figurative, symbolic, or otherwise loose readings of Genesis — such as the idea that the ‘days’ of Genesis 1 may be interpreted as long periods of time.”

On the other hand, Hugh Ross identifies this distinction:

“Hard concordists look to make most, but not all, discoveries, new and old, in science agree with some passage of Scripture. Soft concordists seek agreement between properly interpreted Scripture passages that describe some aspect of the natural realm and indisputably and well-established data in science. RTB holds the latter view.”

You see the different shades of distinction, right? I have to say that I don’t think there are any true hard/strict/literal/extreme concordists anymore, at least among scholarly proponents that I have come across. (Possible suspects to fit that end of the scale would include those 19th-century Day-Agers that tried to fit certain geological ages snugly into the Creation Days and mid-20th-century Gap Theorist Harry Rimmer.) Van Till might think Calendar Day advocates are ‘literal concordists’, given their predominant emphasis on literalism. But, I think I would put them at soft/moderate/broad, or maybe somewhere between that and the far end. There are many nonconcordist positions, too, as well as those which go even further to proclaim the biblical account merely symbolic. Advocates of these two “schools” are often quite critical of concordists.

Though subject to revision, I have attempted to take these various definitions and construct my own 6-point scale of relative concordism. I tried to categorize all of the above positions accordingly — or, at least, the predominant modern versions, where applicable. (I was unsure of a few but gave it my best guess or put it in two spots with a “?”.) Then, I constructed this table, adding in columns to indicate which ones are favored by which of the three main positions on origins (from Part 1). [Note: Issues with WordPress prevented me from using right-justification and centering to spruce it up a bit.]

2-Minimally Concordist
3-Soft/Moderate/Broad Concordist
4-Semi-Strict Concordist
5-Hard/Literal/Strict/Extreme Concordist

  0 1 2 3 4 5 YEC OEC TE
‘Young Earth’ Approach                  
Calendar Day         y   y    
Relativistic Day(s)       ?     y    
‘Partial Creation’ Approach                  
Gap       y       y  
Hesitation     y       ? ?  
Intermittent Day       y       y  
Alternate Day(-Age)       y       y  
Limited Geography     y         y ?
‘Long Day’ Approach                  
Millennial Day   ?         ? ?  
Day-Age       y       y  
Expanding Time       y       y  
Theodical Approach                  
Kairological Interpretation   y         ? y y
‘Non-Literal’ Approach                  
Figurative Day   ? ?         ? ?
Non-World   y           y  
Analogical Day   y           y ?
(Literary) Framework   ? y       ? y y
Days of Divine Fiat   ? ?         y ?
Days of Revelation ? ?           y ?
Covenant Creation   y           y ?
Cosmic Temple Inauguration   y           y y
Religious-only y             ? y


So,… there you have them — twenty different ways of interpreting the “days” (<yamim>) of Creation in Genesis! They each have their strengths and weaknesses on the scientific, literary/linguistic, scriptural, and theological fronts. I encourage you to do some more research on those you have some interest in, reading both the pros and cons (and, when possible, responses to those pros and cons). You might want to start with the books whose images you see above, which were a few of my resources, since they each have brief discussions on several of the views. (I have yet to find one with all of the above, though, which is why researching this post was such a chore.) On the other hand, the ones that specialize will give you a more thorough treatment of their respective views.

I’m no expert, but if you have a question about a particular view or want a book recommendation, feel free to leave a comment below. Meantime, I’ll sign off with this fine quote…

“Whatever creation theory we individually may prefer, we must affirm that the entire creation has been brought into being by the design and activity of the Triune God. Moreover, we also affirm that the New Testament treats the creation and fall of Adam and Eve as historical events in which the Creator is especially involved. We urge all sincere and conscientious believers to adhere to what the Bible plainly teaches and to avoid divisiveness over debatable theories of creation.”  — “The Doctrine of Creation” (adopted by the General Presbytery in session August 9-11, 2010)



Primer on Origins Views for Christians (Part 3a of 3)

“In matters that are obscure and far beyond our vision, even in such as we may find treated in Holy Scripture, different interpretations are sometimes possible without prejudice to the faith we have received.”  — St. Augustine (AD 354-430), Bishop of Hippo, early Christian theologian & philosopher

Whereas the first two parts to this series dealt with broad categories of how people deal (and have dealt) with the “merger” of scientific investigation and scriptural/theological interpretation, this one deals more specifically with the “Creation Days” of Genesis 1 and how they might be read and understood, presumably in light of additional special revelation (Scripture) and/or general revelation (Nature).

Confused-Figure-with-Question-MarksI do not claim to be an expert in these matters, nor do I have all of the resources I would like. But, in my reading over the years, I have come across several different ways in which scholars and educated laymen have attempted to make sense of the Creation Week, and I jotted a few brief notes to remember them. I apologize beforehand that the info is so sparse on a few of them. I certainly don’t know enough to argue pros & cons for all of them, but that would be outside the scope of this primer, anyway. Some will, of course, be very familiar to you, while others you may have never heard of. Where possible, I have tried to provide the name of major proponents and book/article titles that may be of help for those who wish to further look into these positions.

I have tried to classify the various Creation Day views (aka hypotheses, theories, & interpretations) into categories that reflect major points that some have in common. I hope it makes sense. Of course, there is a certain overlap among some views, and it’s not a perfect system. Nor is the list complete, I’m sure. Plus, as with the classifications of positions in Parts 1 & 2, there is variety even within some of these views. But, it should give you a good idea of the many options presently available — though not equally justifiable — for Christians to consider.

Creation Days

Let’s begin with the best-known…

“Young Earth” Approach

Calendar Day

Alternate Names: 24-Hour Day, Literal Day, Ordinary Day, Solar Day, Plain Day, No-Gap
Big Idea: The best way to approach the text is with a “plain-text reading”, where each <yom> of Creation takes the literal “24-hour day” definition. The 6-days (i.e., 144-hours) of predominantly de novo creation were contiguous and ended with a 24-hour day of “rest” for God. This all occurred at the very beginning of Time, roughly 6000 to 10,000 years ago. Various ideas — e.g., “mature creation” (aka “appearance of age”), much faster speed of light in the early past, accelerated radioactive decay rates in the early past, light was created in transit — are used to explain why various scientific techniques show the Universe, Earth, and many things in it to be quite ancient.
Noted Advocates: Martin Luther, Henry & John Morris, Ken Ham, Jonathan Sarfati, Kent Hovind, Duane Gish, Douglas Kelly, Walter Brown, James Jordan, John Mark Reynolds(?)
Resource(s): The Genesis Record (1976/2009) by H. Morris; Creation and Change (1999/2004) by Kelly; Creation in Six Days (1999) by Jordan; Biblical Creationism (2000) by H. Morris
Note(s): This is the most popular position among Young Earth Creationists (YEC), and it typically goes hand-in-hand with the Flood Geology popularized by George McCready Price (The New Geology (1923)) in the 1920s-30s and by Henry M. Morris & John C. Whitcomb (The Genesis Flood (1961/2011)) in the 1960s-80s.

Relativistic Day(s)

Alternate Names: Cosmic Days(?), Relativity Day(?), White-Hole Cosmology
Big Idea: Creation began with a ball of liquid water two light years in diameter, containing all the mass of the Universe. Gravity caused it to become a black hole, which “evaporated” a few thousand years later, transforming into a huge white hole. Our Universe expanded out from that white hole, when it exploded outward, releasing particles and energy. Relativistic effects are used to explain how eons-worth of activity could have been done in six 24-hour days (as perceived on Earth).
There are three central “arguments” to the proposal: 1) the physical significance of the Schwarzschild time coordinate of the Klein metric; 2) the gravitational time dilation effects of differences of gravitational potential in a bounded (white hole) universe which do not occur in an unbounded (Big Bang) Universe; 3) the profound effects of event horizons in a bounded universe. Most of the effects of 1 and 2 result from an event horizon, which would cause Earth clocks to be static while billions of years of time elapsed on clocks in the distant universe.
Noted Advocates: D. Russell Humphreys
Resource(s): Starlight and Time (1994) by Humphreys
Note(s): 1) While many YEC scholars/orgs like Humphreys’ theory, or at least are willing to grant it as a possibility, others (e.g., John Byl, the International Conference on Creationism (ICC)) are concerned with some highly questionable physics (as is the rest of the physics & cosmology community). 2) Since his book’s publication, Humphreys has abandoned much of the physics argumentation, including gravitational time dilation. Unfortunately, his subsequent new proposal (“New Vistas of Spacetime Rebut the Critics” (1998)) has been called “an even more unreasonable one.”

“Partial Creation” Approach

The Christian View of Science and ScriptureGap

Alternate Names: Ruin(-and)-Reconstruction, Restitution, Re-Creation, Reconstitution, Pre-Adamic Cataclysm, Pre-Adamic Ruin, Catastrophe, Interval, Genesis Gap; all of these fall under “Hard Gap” or “Active Gap” Theory
Big Idea: The Creation “week” consisted of consecutive 24-hour days, but it was actually a re-creation or restoration of an ancient, primeval creation that had been ruined. This ruin was reflected in Gen. 1:2 — translating its opening “The Earth became formless and void…” — and occurred sometime between the “beginning” of verse 1 and the Day 1 events of verse 3. It was the result of destruction by Satan and his fallen angels, possibly also in conflict with pre-Adamic race(s) of “humans”. (Also, see Isaiah 24:1 & 45:18; Jeremiah 4:23-26; Ezekiel 28:13ff.) Evidence of this activity can still be found in the geological and fossil record, thereby doing away with the need for a global catastrophe by Noah’s Flood, though some still hold that it was global. Modern humans (and possibly all of extant life?) were created relatively recently in the past few thousands of years.
Noted Advocates: Thomas Chalmers, Edward Hitchcock, J.H. Kurtz, George H. Pember, Cyrus I. Scofield, Harry Rimmer, Arthur C. Custance, William F. Dankenbring, Kenneth Wuest, Merrill F. Unger, Jimmy Swaggert, Gaines R. Johnson, Ed Steele
Resource(s): Christian Revelation and Astronomy (1817/1851) by Chalmers; Earth’s Earliest Ages (1885) by Pember; Modern Science and the Genesis Record (1937) by Rimmer; Without Form and Void (1970) by Custance; The First Genesis (1975) by Dankenbring; God’s Creation Story (2009) by Steele; The Bible: Genesis and Geology (2nd ed., 2013) by Johnson
Note(s): 1) The above is the basic idea, though various Gap Theorists over the years differ on some specifics. 2) Unger was convinced that the Hebrew construction of Gen. 1:1-2 precluded a “gap” between them, so he proposed that the angelic sin and pre-Adamic cataclysm occurred prior to verse 1. He admits there is no Biblical support for this and his motivation was to accommodate the geological ages. (Unger’s Bible Handbook, 1966, pp. 37-39.) 3) Dankenbring’s science and theology are a bit “out there”, as he tries to incorporate things like ancient aliens, the mysteries of Easter Island, Atlantis, and the Great Pyramids into biblical discussions of creation, angels, Flood, Babel, Joshua’s Long Day, etc. He was influenced by Herbert W. Armstrong of the heretical Worldwide Church of God; his theory extends Satanic rebellion to include UFOs & planetary collisions.

Hesitation (not to be confused with Arthur Eddington’s cosmological theory)

Alternate Names: Biosphere Model
Big Idea: The Genesis account is not talking about the origin of the Universe at all. In fact, Gen. 1:1 may very well be referring to an event that occurred millions of years before the events that are subsequently described. The age of our solar system and the Earth are also indeterminate, since time, as we know it, did not exist on planet earth until light reached the surface. But the age of planet Earth’s biosphere is recent, following many of the usual YEC / Flood Geology arguments.
Noted Advocates: Gorman Gray
Resource(s): The Age of the Universe (2001) by Gray
Note(s): The geologist William Lee Stokes, a Mormon layman, proposes a “Celestial Days” or “Cosmic Day” theory in his book, The Genesis Answer (1981/1984), which also suggests a relatively recent origin of life on an ancient Earth in an ancient Universe.

Intermittent Day

Alternate Names: Punctuated Day, Opening Day(s), Isolated Day, Multiple Gap, Literal Days with Gaps; also, see “Days of Divine Fiat”
Big Idea: The Creation “days” in Genesis 1 are of the 24-hour variety and sequential but not consecutive. The creative acts did not occur on (or not only on) the days themselves, but rather during long periods in between them. Some advocates then take the position that each day both signifies the end of the preceding period of creative activity and initiates the next period. Others (e.g., Dunzweiler, Newman, Eckelmann) have proposed that each day signifies the beginning of the next creative period but without the prior period ending. In other words, the types of creative activity described for each period continue into the subsequent periods. We are currently in the 7th creative period, during which God continues His redemptive work, but God’s “rest” won’t begin until after the appearance of the New Heavens and the New Earth.
Noted Advocates: William Ames(?), J.O. Means, J. Barton Payne(?), Robert J. Dunzweiler, Robert C. Newman, Herman J. Eckelmann, Jr., Pattle P.T. Pun (actually torn between Overlapping Day-Age and Modified Intermittent-Day)
Resource(s): “A Proposed Creationist Alternative to Evolutionism” (1971/1983) by Dunzweiler; Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth (1977) by Newman & Eckelmann; Newman’s contribution to Three Views on Creation and Evolution (1999), ed. by J.P. Moreland & John Mark Reynolds; Evolution (1982) by Pun
Note(s): 1) Sometimes considered a species of Day-Age View (see below). The model proposed by Newman/Eckelmann is considered “Modified Intermittent Day”. (I have not read any earlier versions.) 2) As to the nature and dating of Man’s origin, as well as any connection to early hominids, Newman/Eckelmann do not address any of this in Genesis One. In his brief mention of the topic in the Three Views book, Newman states without elaboration that his take on it is similar to Hugh Ross’s but most closely matches that of Newman’s colleague Dr. John A. Bloom, with a footnote citing Bloom’s 1997 article “On Human Origins: A Survey”.

Alternate Day(-Age)

Alternate Names: n/a
Big Idea: God created during six, distinct 24-hr days (or, possibly, short periods of time), but they were separated by long periods of time without creative activity. (This is essentially the reverse (inverse?) of Intermittent Day.) Otherwise, holds to much of the same arguments as normal Day-Age. The seventh day may indeed be a long period of time.
Noted Advocates: Peter & Donald Stoner
Resource(s): Science Speaks (1952, 1976) by P. Stoner; A New Look at an Old Earth (1997) by D. Stoner

Limited Geography

Alternate Names: Local Creation, Focus on Palestine, Focus on Eden, Edenic Creation
Big Idea: Genesis 1:1 refers to the period of the creation of the cosmos long ago, whereas Genesis 1:2-2:4a describes a period of six, 24-hour days during which a particular land — i.e., either Ancient Palestine (aka the Promised Land) or specifically Eden — was re-created/prepared, and human beings along with the plants and animals connected to them were created in it a few thousand years ago.
Noted Advocates: John Lightfoote, Milton Terry, John Pye Smith (sort of), John Sailhamer
Resource(s): On the Relation Between the Holy Scriptures and Some Parts of Geological Science (1840) by Pye Smith; Genesis Unbound (1996/2011) by Sailhamer
Note(s): 1) Pye Smith seems to have taken a “Focus on Eden” approach to the darkness & chaos and subsequent recreation from Gap Theory. 2) John Piper has said that he is most comfortable with Sailhamer’s position.

“Long Day” Approach

Millennial Day

Alternate Names: Thousand-Year Day
Big Idea: Taking a cue from Psalm 90:4 and II Peter 3:8, each “day” of Creation equals 1000 years.
Noted Advocates: Justin Martyr, Irenaeus
Resource(s): “Dialogue with Trypho” by Justin (d. ca. 165); “Against Heresies” (ca. 180) by Irenaeus

The Genesis DebateDay-Age

Alternate Names: Geological Age, Age-Day, Overlapping Day-Age, Day-Era, Era, Indefinite Age, Divine Day, Cosmogonic Day
Big Idea: The best translation of the Creation <yom> (“day”) in Gen. 1 is the definition “a long but finite period of time”. (Some claim this is metaphorical or figurative, but it is in fact one of four literal definitions of that word in ancient Hebrew.) This is allowed, possibly even demanded, by various textual clues and strongly indicated by general revelation. Whatever combination of natural processes and supernatural acts were necessary to accomplish each creation “event” were accomplished during the relevant day/age/epoch. However, there is nothing to demand that the periods be equal in length. In fact, the seventh day is only a few tens of thousands of years long and ongoing (see Psalm 95, John 5, and Heb. 4), as God has temporarily ceased from directly creating anything new, and will end when God creates the New Heaven and the New Earth (see Rev. 21).
Noted Advocates: James Parkinson, Benjamin Silliman, Arnold Guyot, Charles Hodge, B.B. Warfield, James D. Dana, J.W. Dawson, Hugh Miller, George Frederick Wright, early Bernard Ramm (see note under “Days of Revelation”), J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., Edwin Gedney, Daniel Wonderly, Hugh Ross, Gleason L. Archer, Walt Kaiser, Walter Bradley, Roger Olsen, David Snoke, Dick Fischer, Pattle P.T. Pun (actually torn between Overlapping Day-Age and Modified Intermittent-Day)
Resource(s): An Introduction to Geology (2nd Amer. ed., 1833) by Bakewell & Silliman; Creation, or the Biblical Cosmogony in the Light of Modern Science (1884) by Guyot; Modern Science and Christian Faith (2nd ed., 1950) by Gedney, Evolution (1982) by Pun; The Origins Solution (1996) by Fischer; A Matter of Days (2004/2015) and Navigating Genesis (2014) by Ross; A Biblical Case for an Old Earth (2006) by Snoke
Note(s): 1) This view is most closely connected with the idea of “progressive creationism”. 2) Early advocates (e.g., Miller, Magoun) typically equated the “days” with various geological periods, but later scientific evidence has made that position untenable. Similarly, while some earlier theorists (e.g., Godet, Silliman) speculated that the Creation days did not overlap, many proponents (e.g., Dana, Buswell, Ross, Archer) held/hold that they are indeed overlapping. So, for example, whereas Genesis 1 has production of land vegetation beginning on Day 3, that does not mean that God could not have created new kinds of land vegetation on Days 4 thru 6, as well. Some have suggested that the creation “events” described in these verses (up until the advent of Man) are meant only to refer to when the majority, not all, of those particular “kinds” were created. (Naturally, there is some difference of opinion over the flexibility of the Hebrew text.) 3) There is plenty of variation of opinion on other issues — e.g., proper understanding of Gen. 1:1, how to read/explain the events of Day 4, dating the advent of Man, date & extent of Noah’s Flood (though the majority hold to a local/regional deluge), etc. 4) According to Davis A. Young, Herman Bavinck, E.J. Young, Derek Kidner, & R. Laird Harris have “maintained that the days were not ordinary days without committing themselves to any theory of harmonization.” (I don’t know if this is still true.) 5) Charles C. Ryrie allows for a possible, interminably long “passive gap” in Gen. 1:1-2 and a Day-Age interpretation, along with creation w/ appearance of age and effects of global Flood. 6) Paul S.L. Johnson, co-founder of an offshoot of Jehovah’s Witnesses, posited an odd version of Day-Age in his book Creation (1938), with each day being 7000 years long, as well as holding to Vail’s multiple-canopy theory for the Flood.

Expanding Time

Alternate Names: Creation Day, Relativity Day, Cosmic Time, God’s Day, Stretched Time
Big Idea: The events recorded in Genesis 1 from “the beginning” to the appearance of mankind simultaneously took six 24-hour days and 14 billion years, starting at the same instant and finishing at the same instant. Psalm 90:4 indicates that God’s perception of time is quite different from mankind’s. “It has the feel of time seeming to pass at different rates for different participants in an event, but not necessarily being different in reality.” Thanks to the time dilation effects of relativity, we know that the perceived flow of time for an event in a continuously expanding universe will vary with the observer’s perspective of that event. Thus, what seems to us from our POV on Earth to take billions of years could take a mere 144 hours from God’s POV.
“The five and a half days of Genesis [until Man's appearance, when the time perspective changes,] are not of equal duration. Each time the universe doubles in size, the perception of time halves as we project that time back toward the beginning of the universe. The rate of doubling, that is the fractional rate of change, is very rapid at the beginning and decreases with time simply because as the universe gets larger and larger, even though the actual expansion rate is approximately constant, it takes longer and longer for the overall size to double…. From the Bible’s perspective of time for those six evocative days of Genesis, the number of our years held compressed within each of those six 24-hour days of Genesis, starting with Day One, would be, in billions of years, respectively, 7.1; 3.6; 1.8; 0.89; 0.45; 0.23.”
Noted Advocates: Gerald Schroeder
Resource(s): Genesis and the Big Bang (1990) and The Science of God (1997) by Schroeder; also, “The Age of the Universe” (????) by Schroeder
Note(s): Some OECs like Schroeder’s view, though Christians must recognize that as a Jew he does not use any New Testament scripture in his considerations.

Theodical Approach

Kairological Interpretation

Alternate Names: Teleological-Semantic
Big Idea: There are two “logics” of creation. “The causal-temporal logic is bottom-up and looks at the world from the vantage of physical causality. The teleological-semantic logic is top-down and looks at the world from the vantage of divine intention and action. The causal-temporal logic that underlies the physical world is the organizing principle for natural history (chronos). The teleological-semantic logic that underlies divine action is the organizing principle for the order of creation (kairos). The key, then, is to interpret the days of creation in Genesis as natural divisions in the teleological-semantic logic of creation. In other words, Genesis 1 is not to be interpreted as ordinary chronological time (chronos) but rather as time from the vantage of God’s purposes (kairos) [and, thus, non-linear]. Accordingly, the days of creation are neither exact 24-hour days nor epochs in natural history nor even a literary device. Rather, the days of creation in Genesis are actual (literal!) episodes in the divine creative activity. They represent key divisions in the divine order of creation, with one episode building logically on its predecessor. As a consequence, their description as chronological days needs to be viewed as an instance of the common scriptural practice of employing physical realities to illuminate deeper spiritual realities (cf. John 3:12).”
Noted Advocates: William Dembski
Resource(s): “Christian Theodicy in Light of Genesis and Modern Science” (2006/7) by Dembski
Note(s): As indicated above and by his paper’s title, Dembski’s approach is tied directly with his proposed theory for resolving the “problem of evil”.

To be continued…


Sue and Settle: Regulating Behind Closed Doors

“Experience has shown that, even under the best forms of government, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”  — Thomas Jefferson

I have more research to do for my previously intended post, so this is a “filler”, of sorts. But, it’s not empty filler. It’s important, substantial stuff, and if you are like me, it’s likely to tick you off, too.

book_sekulow_0_1431695895One of the books I’ve been reading lately is Undemocratic: How Unelected, Unaccountable Bureaucrats Are Stealing Your Liberty and Freedom by Jay Sekulow, renowned constitutional attorney and Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). In it, Sekulow highlights many examples of corruption, incompetency, and just plain irresponsibility that permeates the strongest agencies in the federal bureaucracy — which he calls the “fourth branch of government”. He has a couple chapters on the U.S. Department of Justice, and I decided to share with my readers some of the DoJ’s disturbing behavior from the chapter titled, “The Department of Justice — Permanently Rigging the Game”. At the very least, you will gain some insight into how the game is played by federal attorneys.

“In my career, I have sued the government countless times. And in virtually every case, the pattern is the same.

Immediately the federal government will file what’s called a ‘motion to dismiss,’ claiming that my lawsuit has absolutely no legal merit. Just filing that motion often results in substantial delays — months — as the trial court determines whether my case has merit.

In fact, this is exactly what happened when I filed suit against the IRS on behalf of forty-one conservative groups in twenty-two states…. The government, at taxpayer expense, hired two of the nation’s highest-priced law firms to defend IRS officials, and the DOJ represented the government. All three entities, the two law firms and the DOJ, filed a motion to dismiss, a motion that immediately brought our case to a halt while the judge considered their arguments. In that case, we waited several months for a judge to issue an order, and for each one of those months, the case was essentially frozen…. As of the date of this writing, the case is now on appeal, a process that can take years.

After a motion to dismiss is denied there comes a long period of discovery, in which the parties exchange documents relevant to the case and take depositions — sworn testimony under oath — of the key witnesses.

In my experience this is yet another contentious phase, with the government fighting to hold back documents, fighting to limit questions, and generally doing everything it can to make the process longer, more difficult, and more expensive.

Next, the government files something called a ‘motion for summary judgment’ — yet another attempt to dismiss the case. The government will argue that even after discovery there is not enough proof to support our claims.

It is usually only at this point — late in the case, after years of litigation — that the government will seriously think about settling…. Often even the settlements are hard fought, agreed to only after lengthy and contentious mediation sessions. The government will settle mainly for one reason and one reason only: the risks of litigation outweigh the costs of settlement.

Critically, a settlement creates a legally binding obligation on the government. So even a settlement is subject to constitutional limitations on federal power. In other words, the government cannot agree to violate the Constitution. It cannot agree to spend money in violation of federal appropriations. It cannot agree to create rules without proper regulatory authority.”

This all sounds very frustrating, aggravating, and makes me wonder if there is a better way. But, none of what Sekulow described so far is surprising. In fact, it sounds like what goes on in many TV shows and movies involving such cases. But, this next section is what makes me shake my head in wonder at the audacity of our own Justice Department….

“At least, that’s the way settlements are supposed to work.

To be clear, I don’t believe the government is doing anything inherently wrong when it fights back against litigation[, and] I don’t mind a hard legal fight. No lawyer should….

But what if the Department of Justice doesn’t always fight back? What if it not only fails to contest lawsuits, but actively cooperates with outside activists to create ‘settlements’ that yield new and burdensome rules that send millions of dollars to those same outside activists?

That wouldn’t be a lawsuit, that would be a racket.

government or private sectorIn May 2013, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce blew the lid off just such a scam, issuing a forty-nine-page report called “Sue and Settle: Regulating Behind Closed Doors.” The scheme it described should outrage every American who believes in democracy, the constitutional separation of powers, and fundamental fairness.

Here’s how the scheme works:

First, an outside advocacy group — Earthjustice, for example — will file a lawsuit under the nation’s extraordinarily expansive environmental regulations demanding that the Environmental Protection Agency take certain actions or issue certain regulations.

Ordinarily, as I just outlined, the Department of Justice will vigorously defend against lawsuits, but in the “sue and settle scheme,” the DOJ and the agency (typically the EPA) decide not to defend the government. Instead, they immediately enter into settlement talks. Critically, these talks take place behind closed doors, with zero public input.

The DOJ, EPA, and outside environmental group then agree (among themselves) to specific new environmental rules and then spell out those rules in documents called “consent decrees” or “agreed orders.” These consent decrees are then filed with a federal court and soon signed by a federal judge, giving them the force of law.

Taxpayers, who’ve just been cheated out of a fair and vigorous defense by their own Department of Justice, will also have to support the consent decrees that often contain provisions entitling the outside environmental group to substantial legal fees, fees that can add up to millions of dollars. [Here, Sekulow cites from a Forbes article by Larry Bell, citing millions of dollars awarded to environmental organizations, mostly paid to their attorneys. He continues…]

In addition, the Department of Justice forked over at least $43 million of our money defending EPA in court between 1998 and 2010. This didn’t include money spent by EPA for their legal costs in connection with those rip-offs, since EPA doesn’t keep track of their attorney’s time on a case-by-case basis.

On at least one occasion, the collusion between the environmental group, the DOJ, and EPA was so blindingly obvious that the lawsuit and the corresponding settlement documents were filed on the very same day. To be very clear, the lawsuit, the settlement, and the new regulations were a simultaneous injustice to the American people, who footed the bill for all of these expenses.

Even though it’s a left-leaning technique, the Obama administration did not invent this practice. It’s been embedded in our bureaucracy for years. Career ‘litigators’ (I hate to call any lawyer who colludes with his opposition and fails to zealously represent his client a true litigator) have been doing this for decades. True, the trend accelerated under President Obama, but not by much.

The Chamber of Commerce has traced the number of Clean Air Act sue-and-settle cases since the second Clinton term and found a distressing number since the Clinton administration, with a startling rise under President Obama. In Clinton’s second term there were 27 sue-and-settle cases, 38 in President George W. Bush’s first term (so the number increased under a Republican president), 28 in President Bush’s second term, and a whopping 60 in President Obama’s first term.

dollars-black-holeIn addition to paying the legal fees of the activist lawyers (not to mention the salaries of the DOJ staff that are busy waving the white flag), the rules that result from sue-and-settle cases can be extraordinarily costly to our economy. The Chamber of Commerce’s list of top ten most costly sue-and-settle regulations includes rules that cost $9.6 billion annually and one rule that would have cost a whopping $90 billion every year.

Fortunately, public outcry prevented the most costly of these from full implementation, but just one of the new rules, called the “Utility MACT Rule,” costs almost as much annually as the IRS Earned Income Tax Credit scheme covered in chapter 3.

Bureaucratic partisanship has real costs. And thsoe costs extend beyond dollars and cents. Sue-and-settle contributes to the perception that there are two systems of justice, one for the bureaucracy’s favorites — usually activists representing just the right sort of interest groups — and another, far more adversarial system for the rest of us.

And in no “case” is that bias more evident than in the massive, multibillion-dollar DOJ giveaway known as the Pigford scandal….”

I plan to share more examples — beginning  with the Pigford scandal — in two more posts over the next couple months. (Didn’t want to raise your blood pressure too high all at once.) Of course, if you are already intrigued, then click on the above link and order a copy of Undemocratic for yourself!


Primer on Origins Views for Christians (Part 2 of 3)

“All truth is given by revelation, either general or special, and it must be received by reason. Reason is the God-given means for discovering the truth that God discloses, whether in his world or his Word. While God wants to reach the heart with truth, he does not bypass the mind.”  — Jonathan Edwards, 18th c. revivalist preacher, philosopher, theologian

Continuing from Part 1

Flagellar assembly of E. coli

Flagellar assembly of E. coli

Now, where does “Intelligent Design” (ID) fit in? This is one of the most contentious concepts in the areas of science and science/faith discussions, with many theists and non-theists alike making incorrect assumptions — or even, in the latter case, intentionally misrepresenting it. (Do accusations of “creationism in a cheap tuxedo” sound familiar?) Of course, one may refer to something as “intelligently designed” in a generic sense, but in the context of the origins debate, there is a more nuanced meaning accorded the term by proponents of modern ID Theory (e.g., Stephen Meyer, William Dembski, Jonathan Wells). For example,

“Intelligent design (ID) is a scientific theory that employs the methods commonly used by other historical sciences to conclude that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection. ID theorists argue that design can be inferred by studying the informational properties of natural objects to determine if they bear the type of information that in our experience arise from an intelligent cause. The form of information which we observe is produced by intelligent action, and thus reliably indicates design, is generally called “specified complexity” or “complex and specified information” (CSI).”  — Center for Science and Culture’s FAQ page, Discovery Institute

Also, biochemist Michael Behe notes in Darwin’s Black Box that,

“The conclusion that something was designed can be made quite independently of knowledge of the designer. As a matter of procedure, the design must first be apprehended before there can be any further question about the designer. The inference to design can be held with all the firmness that is possible in this world, without knowing anything about the designer.”

So, while some people think of it as a separate position on origins, I think a better way to think of ID is as an approach to scientific inquiry/explanation that is unencumbered by naturalist/materialist assumptions and restrictions, thereby allowing for the possibility of outside agency. It is not inherently “religious”, since it neither begins with sacred text nor requires any religious doctrine. But, it is certainly consistent with a theistic worldview, which is why many Christians and other theists then use philosophical, theological, and scriptural arguments to step beyond the design itself and infer an identity for the Intelligent Designer of the cosmos and all life within it. Thus, the ID banner would fly over Young Earth Creationism (YEC), Old Earth Creationism (OEC), and some forms of Theistic Evolution(ism) (TE), even though there are differences of opinion over things like scientific evidence, limits of natural processes, hermeneutics, and the most effective approach to breaking the cultural stranglehold of philosophical naturalism.

The problem with these three categories — TE, OEC, YEC — is that they do not quite reflect the range of variation within each, and there is sometimes confusion about the differences between OEC and TE. The differences within YEC are relatively minor, while those within OEC are perhaps too numerous for purposes of this primer, though some will be addressed in Part 3. Beyond that, I find the distinctions/labels used by Dr. Gerald Rau in his book Mapping the Origins Debate: Six Models of the Beginning of Everythingquite helpful, particularly for distinguishing the types of TE. Of course, there is still a lot of variation along the spectrum, but I think Rau does a great job of describing the more significant differences and “mapping” them into six still-fairly-broad models. For those who haven’t read Rau’s book, I have put together a slightly expanded version of “Table 2.1 Distinguishing features of the six models of origins” (and I hope Dr. Rau doesn’t mind):


Naturalistic Evolution (NE)

Nonteleological Evolution (NTE)

Planned Evolution (PE)

Directed Evolution (DE)

Old-Earth Creationism (OEC)

Young-Earth Creationism (YEC)

Theology No supernatural Creator Creator Creator Creator Creator
Teleology No purpose No purpose Purpose Purpose Purpose Purpose
Intervention No intervention No intervention No intervention Intervention Intervention Intervention
Genealogy Common descent Common descent Common descent Common descent De novo creation De novo creation
Cosmology Old universe Old universe Old universe Old universe Old universe Recent creation
Process Spontaneous natural processes only Conditions necessary for life established at creation Perfect creation naturally fulfills God’s purposes Changes in universe and life subtly directed over time Major body plans created over millions of years Each “kind” created in one week, within the last 10,000 years
Noted Advocates include… Richard Dawkins, Ernst Mayr, Stephen J. Gould, Eugenie Scott Ian Barbour, John Haught, Christian de Duve Denis Lamoureux, Howard Van Till, Francis Collins, Kenneth Miller Michael Behe, Henry “Fritz” Schaefer III, Deborah & Loren Haarsma Hugh Ross, Stephen Meyer, Robert C. Newman, Dean Kenyon Ken Ham, Jonathan Sarfati, Henry & John Morris, Kent Hovind

(The book contains additional tables for comparison in Appendix 1, which look further at what the models hold/teach regarding Origin of the Universe, Origin of Life, Origin of Species, and Origin of Humans.)

Mapping the Origins DebateMoving left to right, the first position is the only one that is non-theistic and, therefore, the only one totally unavailable to Christians and anyone else who believes in a creator God/god of some sort. Positions 2-4 (NTE, PE, DE) all fall under the broader label “Theistic Evolution”, with position 3 (PE) being roughly analogous to the “Evolutionary Creationism” view typically espoused by BioLogos. Positions 3-6 (PE, DE, OEC, YEC) all allow for some measure of purpose and, therefore, might fall under the “Intelligent Design” umbrella. However, neither Rau nor I am aware of anyone in the PE group that is comfortable arguing for ID. For them, as with NE & NTE, any apparent design must be chalked up to happy, evolutionary accident and never the fingerprint of actual, revealed design.

Along these lines, when sharing this with others in the past (without the helpful visual of the table), the question I got was for more clarification between PE and DE. Rather than try to paraphrase, I prefer to quote the following two sections from Dr. Rau’s book:

“The distinctive ideas of the PE model can be summarized as follows:

Philosophical axiom: God created the universe with a plan and created it perfectly to bring that plan to fruition without further intervention.

Inferences: The natural laws and processes created by God are sufficient to account for all natural events since the moment of creation. (Note, this is separate from the question of determinism within God’s plan.)

Logical conclusion: Since God did not intervene in natural processes after creation, science can always find natural explanations for natural phenomena.” (italicized emphasis mine)


“The distinctive ideas of the DE model can be summarized as follows:

Philosophical axiom: God has a predetermined purpose for the world, and the Bible shows that he intervenes in the natural world as necessary to accomplish that plan.

Inferences: Miracles are recorded in the Bible to show that God intervenes occasionally in redemptive history, so it is reasonable to think the same might be true for natural history.

Logical conclusion: Since we see a large number of low-probability events that seem to be directed toward a goal (teleological), these would be best explained as interventions.”

Others have tried similar categorizations of some or all of the above along the spectrum of origins beliefs (e.g., Ian Barbour (1997), Eugenie Scott (1999), Giberson & Yerxa (2002), Kurt Wise (2002)), though the only other attempt I am a little familiar with is that by Marcus Ross (2005). I am obviously partial to Rau’s efforts, while recognizing that there is still variation within each of his “models” and likely exceptions to some of the generalizations. (See J.W. Wartick’s article for some discussion on this and a little more explanation on the six. Also, Melissa Cain Travis wrote a very helpful, 2-part review of Rau’s book. All three of us highly recommend it.)

That should be sufficient to give you a handle on the general positions regarding creation, evolution, and design. Hopefully in the next week or two, I’ll conclude this primer by listing several positions held regarding the Creation Days.


Primer on Origins Views for Christians (Part 1 of 3)

“Without special revelation, general revelation would be for sinful men incomplete and ineffective…. Without general revelation, special revelation would lack that basis in the fundamental knowledge of God as the mighty and wise, righteous and good, maker and ruler of all things.”  — B.B. Warfield, distinguished “Princetonian” theologian

As an admin at the “Old Earth Creationists” Facebook Group, I’ve been reminded on multiple occasions that not everyone, even within the Christian community, is aware of the various positions held by orthodox Christians — historically and currently — on the matter of origins. By “origins” I mean how God “created” the universe (or multiverse), how the Earth and our solar system were formed, how the current diversity of life on Earth occurred, how modern humans came to be, etc. And, of course, the amount of time involved is a dominant issue in all of this. How old are the universe, the Earth, humanity? Mere thousands of years? Millions? Billions?

Orion Nebula

Orion Nebula

Many people, both Christian and non-Christian, think that there is only one position on these matters that is “biblical” and consistent with orthodox Christianity. But, truth be told, that is because that particular position — alternately called “Recent Creationism”, “Fiat Creationism”, “Biblical Creationism”, “Scientific Creationism”, “Young Earth Creationism” (which I will be using), “Creation Science”, or just “Creationism” — has become the most commonly taught (and socialized) in American churches and Christian schools for several decades. Premier organizations teaching this view include Answers in Genesis (AIG), Institute for Creation Research (ICR), and Australia’s Creation Ministries International (CMI). For many, it is simply the default position. But, this has not always been the case historically, nor is it the only position that many thoughtful Christian scholars and laymen hold today.

Some Christians are aware of an alternate view called “Theistic Evolution(ism)” — or, some advocates prefer the term “Evolutionary Creationism” — which has gained popularity in certain circles in recent years. But, many Christians have strong reservations about that view, due to scientific and/or theological concerns. Of course, the same can be said about the Young Earth Creationist view. There is a third, “middle” position that is also gaining ground, thanks largely to the efforts of the Reasons to Believe (RTB) ministry and a few smaller organizations and individual researchers, known as “Old Earth Creationism” (as I will refer to it here) or “Progressive Creationism”, though some prefer to distinguish between the two terms. Unfortunately, Old Earth Creationism is often conflated with Theistic Evolution, because of a widespread misapprehension that accepting “millions and billions of years” necessarily means allegorizing much of the Bible and accepting naturalistic evolution.

My goal for this series of articles is to present the basics of these three general positions, as well as alternative categories. I’ll also define “Intelligent Design” and discuss how it fits in. Finally, I’ll briefly explain several ways that Christian scholars have developed to understand and interpret the Creation Days of Genesis. If it wasn’t clear from my opening statement, and you haven’t read any of my other posts related to this topic, I hold to an Old Earth Creationist view and am a big fan of RTB. But, I will do my best to keep my bias under control, since the purpose is not to argue in favor of any of the positions presented. One of these days (no pun intended), I’ll go into more depth on several of these views, but this should serve as a good primer for those interested in the subject.

Young Earth Creationism (YEC)

  • Bible & Science: Emphasizes a “literal”, “plain reading” of Scripture. Mainstream scientific research & conclusions are highly suspect, with “man’s understanding” being clouded by sin and possible demonic influence. Nature must be viewed through the lens of Scripture, and, in the matter of origins, theology always takes precedence over science.
  • Creation Week: For various reasons, typically holds that the “days” of Creation were 24-hour, “calendar days”.
  • Age of Earth & Universe: Generally teaches that correct biblical interpretation demands that the Earth and/or the Universe is/are 6000 to 10000 years old and that correct interpretation of scientific data also supports this. This date is determined by treating the genealogies in Genesis 5 & 11 as a chronology with few-to-no gaps. Rejects Big Bang cosmology, radiometric dating, and anything else that demonstrates or requires eons of time.
  • Evolution: Macroevolution is fully rejected, though massive post-Fall changes and subsequent diversity occurred within only a few thousand years. Observed microevolution is accepted though usually referred to with terms like “variation within a kind” or “small-scale adaptation”. Both stellar evolution (because of the time involved) and chemical evolution (aka abiogenesis) are fully rejected.
  • Adam & Eve: Views the biblical Adam & Eve as the very first members of Mankind, created on Day 6. Various hominids found in the fossil record are generally considered human descendants of Adam & Eve, though the remains may have been deformed by disease, extremely old age, sin, even demonic mischief.
  • Pre-Fall Conditions: Presents an idyllic picture, often planet-wide, of life without pain, death, or suffering of any kind for humans or (some kinds of) animals. (An extreme version extends this to plants, as well.) This includes an absence of thorns & thistles and no predation or carnivorous activity. Reflects a “Perfect Paradise Paradigm” of God’s “very good” Creation.
  • The Fall/Curse: All of creation became “broken” or warped in some sense, even to the point of changing certain physical laws. Many creatures that were once vegetarian were changed physiologically and behaviorally to be carnivorous, insectivorous, or omnivorous. All creatures, great and small, were then subject to death and decay. Once kicked out of the Garden, Adam & Eve (and their descendants) would have to work (much harder) to survive. Man’s sin nature, of course, came to dominate his thoughts and behaviors.
  • Genesis Flood: Holds to some form of “Flood Geology”, wherein a catastrophic, global Flood occurred roughly 4300 to 7000 years ago, utterly destroying Mankind and all land-dwelling creatures (including birds), except for those saved on Noah’s Ark. This is necessary to account for the geological & fossil record in the YEC model. Some believe that certain physical laws may have also been altered at this point, as at the Fall, and possibly the natures of certain animals.

Old Earth Creationism (OEC)

  • mountains and treesBible & Science: More(?) apt to reference the importance of literary genre, context, and acknowledge flexibility of word/phrase definitions in ancient languages. Typically more receptive to the “Two Books” doctrine, in which Scripture (special revelation) and Nature (general revelation) are harmonious, equally reliable and authoritative when studied & interpreted correctly.
  • Creation Week: Lots of variation within the OEC camp for how to best understand the “days” of Creation. Many hold that both contextual and scientific evidence indicate that the proper, literal definition of the ancient Hebrew <yom> in these verses is “a long, finite period of time.” Others use the 24-hour day definition but work out the timing and/or geographical focus differently. Other OECs read the Creation “days” as literary conventions. (I’ll cover these and additional interpretations in Part 3.)
  • Age of Earth & Universe: Typically accepts Big Bang cosmology, along with ages of ~4.56 billion years for the Earth and ~13.8 billion years for the Universe, based on multiple, overlapping dating methods.
  • Evolution: Macroevolution is fully rejected for both scriptural and scientific reasons. Microevolution is, of course, accepted as evident in nature. However, some (like RTB) make the point that speciation without supernatural assistance is only possible among tiny, short-lived creatures with humongous populations — i.e., some viruses and bacteria; possibly ants or termites. Stellar evolution is fully accepted; chemical evolution (aka abiogenesis) is fully rejected.
  • Adam & Eve: As with YEC, views Adam & Eve to be the specially-created, initial human couple, progenitors of all Mankind and first to be created with the imago Dei, which entails a spiritual nature. However, they are dated to anywhere from 10000 to ~100,000 years ago. There was no evolution involved, so they were not genetically related to any other hominids, before or after them. Those other hominids were separate species of advanced primates, which were also likely specially-created.
  • Pre-Fall Conditions: Views vary on the degree and nature of the initially idyllic conditions. However, it is commonly recognized that the Garden of Eden was not global, that Adam worked in the Garden, and Romans 5 is believed to refer only to spiritual death, thereby limiting it to modern Man (Homo sapiens sapiens). Thus, outside of the Garden and perhaps to a limited extent within it, there was indeed animal death.
  • The Fall/Curse: Generally acknowledges that no physical laws were altered, nor did pain/suffering/disease/death make their debut (except that Mankind was then subject to death and possibly disease for the first time), nor did thorns & thistles suddenly spring up. Beyond that, there is debate over the degree and nature of the effects of the Curse on Mankind and the rest of Creation. The RTB model, for example, infers that the Creation — or, at least, Earth and its environs — is cursed by virtue of being to some extent at the mercy of sinful Man. Others have suggested that the law of decay, which has been in place since the Beginning, and possibly animal pain/suffering/disease/death may be Curse-related punishments instituted by God, even though the reason for said punishment (i.e., human sin) did not occur until eons later.
  • Genesis Flood: While some OEC proponents hold to a global Flood, most believe that it was local/regional in geographical extent. Also, while some of the latter believe that other groups of humanity escaped or were not affected by the Flood, most believe that Mankind had not branched out very far and that Noah & his family were the only survivors. A date for the Flood lies somewhere in the middle between Adam and the present, obviously, but there is no consensus. The RTB model, which dates Adam & Eve to between 60,000 & 100,000 years ago estimates that Noah lived roughly 30,000 to 40,000 years ago. Finally, the Flood did not affect physical laws or animal natures.

Theistic Evolution(ism) (TE)

  • Bible & Science: Similar to OEC but generally allowing for — even requiring — more metaphor and allegory in reading the Bible, as is common in more liberal theological camps. Tends to attribute much more reliability to mainstream science than to the Bible in matters of nature and scientific implication.
  • Creation Week: Variation of opinion similar to OEC, though often take the entire passage as having little-to-no historical or scientific content.
  • Age of Earth & Universe: Same as OEC.
  • Evolution: Wholeheartedly accepts the conclusions of mainstream science, including macroevolutionary changes, while adding some measure of involvement by God. This involvement is usually limited to a few, very critical junctures in natural history — e.g., creation of the physical universe, creation of first life, imbuing the first man/men with a spirit.
  • Adam & Eve: Either Adam was not an actual, historical individual, or he was chosen from many already evolved “humans” to be the first of a special line of humanity. Eve, of course, was his mate, though not necessarily his first & only. Some have postulated that the “Adam” in Genesis 1 was not the same “Adam” as in Genesis 2.
  • Pre-Fall Conditions: The more conservative TEs hold views similar to OECs, while the rest generally consider the Garden of Eden and/or the story of the Fall to be fictional, so the question is irrelevant.
  • The Fall/Curse: If there actually was an historical “Fall”, then nature was no different prior to it than afterward (as with OEC view). However, the more conservative TEs might hold to a more orthodox view that at least the Adamic race was subject to some effects of sin on the mind and spirit of Man. (I need to do more study on this.)
  • Genesis Flood: Many TEs accept a historical Flood of limited geographical and/or anthropological extent, while others believe the story to be allegorical, intended for theological purposes only. Even the former do not believe Nature was affected.


Whew! Obviously, there is a lot more to each position, including the relevant scripture verses for these and other aspects, hermeneutical approaches, addressing strengths & weaknesses of each, explanations of scientific theories, etc. But, that should do for this primer.

Stay tuned for Part 2 in a few days…


Science, Politics, Public Perception, and Wasted Money

I am still slowly working my way through Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics, 4th ed. I don’t think I expected the topic of air/water pollution to come up in a tome on economics, but it does make sense, as you’ll see. Cries for increasing efforts toward environmental (i.e., ecological) purification are common — all in the name of saving the land, the wildlife, the children, etc. — and even understandable. But, they come at great cost, and those efforts are not always the best use for that money. Sowell explains…

give-a-hoot“The application of categorical laws prevents the enormous powers of government from being applied at the discretion or whim of individual functionaries, which would invite both corruption and arbitrary oppression. [However, since] there are many things which require discretionary incremental adjustments, for these things categorical laws can be difficult to apply or can produce counterproductive results. For example, while prevention of air pollution and water pollution are widely recognized as legitimate functions of government, which can achieve more economically efficient results in this regard than those of the free market, doing so through categorical laws can create major problems.

Despite the political appeal of categorical phrases like ‘clean water’ and ‘clean air’, there are in fact no such things, never have been, and perhaps never will be. Moreover, there are diminishing returns in removing impurities from water or air. A study of environmental risk regulation cited a former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on this:

A former EPA administrator put the problem succinctly when he noted that about 85 percent of the toxic material could be removed from waste sites in a few months, but years are spent trying to remove the last little bit. Removing that last little bit can involve limited technological choice, high cost, devotion of considerable agency resources, large legal fees, and endless argument.

Reducing truly dangerous amounts of impurities from water or air may be done at costs that most people would agree were quite reasonable. But, as higher and higher standards of purity are prescribed by government, in order to eliminate ever more minute traces of ever more remote or more questionable dangers, the costs escalate out of proportion to the benefits. But, even if removing 98 percent of a given impurity costs twice as much as eliminating 97 percent, and removing 99 percent costs ten times as much, the political appeal of categorical phrases like ‘clean water’ may be just as potent when the water is already 99 percent pure as when it was dangerously polluted. That was demonstrated back in the 1970s:

The Council of Economic Advisers argued that making the nation’s streams 99 percent pure, rather than 98 percent pure, would have a cost far exceeding its benefits, but Congress was unmoved.

Depending on what the particular impurity is, minute traces may or may not pose a serious danger. But political controversies over impurities in the water are unlikely to be settled at a scientific level when passions can be whipped up in the name of non-existent ‘clean water’. No matter how pure the water becomes, someone can always demand the removal of more impurities. And, unless the public understands the logical and economic implications of what is being said, that demand can become politically irresistible, since no public official wants to be known as being opposed to clean water.

It is not even certain that reducing extremely small amounts of substances that are harmful in larger amounts reduces risks at all. Even arsenic in the water — in extremely minute traces — has been found to have health benefits. An old saying declares: “It is the dose that makes the poison.” Similar research findings apply to many substances, including saccharin and alcohol. Although high doses of saccharin have been shown to increase the rate of cancer in laboratory rats, very low doses seem to reduce the rate of cancer in these rats. Although a large intake of alcohol shortens people’s lifespan in many ways, very modest amounts of alcohol — like one glass of wine or beer per day — tend to reduce life-threatening conditions like hypertension.

If there is some threshold amount of a particular substance required before it becomes harmful, that makes it questionable whether spending vast amounts of money to try to remove that last fraction of one percent from the air or water is necessarily going to make the public safer by even a minute amount. But what politician wants to be known as someone who blocked efforts to remove arsenic from water?

bear-facepalm-13594_wThe same principle applies in many other contexts, where minute traces of impurities can produce major political and legal battles — and consume millions of tax dollars with little or no net effect on the health or safety of the public. For example, one legal battle raged for a decade over the impurities in a New Hampshire toxic waste site, where these wastes were so diluted that children could have eaten some of the dirt there for 70 days a year without any significant harm — if there had been any children living or playing there, which there were not. As a result of spending more than nine million dollars, the level of impurities was reduced to the point where children could have safely eaten the dirt there 245 days a year. Moreover, without anything being done at all, both parties to the litigation agreed that more than half the volatile impurities would have evaporated by the year 2000. Yet hypothetical dangers to hypothetical children kept the issue going and money being spent.

With environmental safety, as with other kinds of safety, some forms of safety in one respect create dangers in other respects. California, for example, required a certain additive to be put into all gasoline sold in that state, in order to reduce the air pollution from automobile exhaust fumes. However, this new additive tended to leak from filling station storage tanks and automobile gas tanks, polluting the ground water in the first case and leading to more automobile fires in the second. Similarly, government-mandated air bags in automobiles, introduced to save lives in car crashes, have themselves killed small children.

These are all matters of incremental trade-offs to find an optimal amount and kind of safety, in a world where being categorically safe is as impossible as achieving 100 percent clean air or clean water. Incremental trade-offs are made all the time in individual market transactions, but it can be politically suicidal to oppose demands for more clean air, clean water or automobile safety. Therefore saying that the government can improve over the results of individual transactions in a free market is not the same as saying that it will in fact do so. Among the greatest external costs imposed in a society can be those imposed politically by legislators and officials who pay no costs whatever, while imposing billions of dollars in costs on others, in order to respond to political pressures from advocates of particular interests or ideologies.”

This is yet another example in which many millions, even billions, of taxpayer dollars that could be put to good use are instead wasted in unnecessary efforts, thanks largely to the ignorance — in this case, scientific and economic — of the general populace and the obligation(?) of politicians to bow to the wishes of their constituency — or, at least, the vocal minority and/or lobbyists. I’m not sure what the answer is, but a better-educated citizenry — including the politicians, of course, who are supposed to be representing our best interests — would be a good start. If only we could get them to care….

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