Response to a YEC about Creation and the Bible, part 2: Plain Readings and Explanatory Power

Unless you somehow missed it (and how could you?!), the previous post was the first part of my response to a Young-Earth Creationist, who expressed several concerns about my Old-Earth Creationist comments at the STR blog. I don’t recall the exchange being contentious, but “Doc” sure did think I was in danger of compromising the Gospel, God’s integrity, etc. (You know — the usual.) I tried my best to explain where I was coming from. Whether or not he accepted my reasoning and/or position as legitimate, I also hoped to make a good case for my view for the benefit of others that may have been “listening”.

Here is Part 2, for your consideration…

“Thanks, Doc.

And you’re right. It is an ‘in house’ debate, and we probably agree more than we disagree. In fact, I meant to say something to that effect before, but forgot.

sample of Biblical HebrewRegarding your comments about a “plain face reading”, there is much that could be said about literary genre and linguistic structure and what not. But, I will TRY to be brief. While the general, redemptive message is indeed “plain” to anyone willing to read the Bible fairly and literally, we are still called to “study” Scripture, and that includes getting at least a feel for the original languages and cultures in which it was written. (That’s what commentaries and lexicons and the like are for, after all.) Beyond the redemptive message and moral instruction (though it helps even there), we sometimes need to look more carefully to get an accurate and full understanding. For example, it helps to understand that biblical Hebrew had a very small vocabulary (<3100 words + proper nouns), so many words (especially the nouns) had multiple LITERAL meanings. We must ask what are the possible translations & interpretations, given the peculiarities of the language, the history & culture of the original audience, and the fact that it must harmonize with other biblical passages that speak to the subject, as well as a generally orthodox theology. (Did you know that there are 21 major creation accounts — i.e., sections of Scripture that reveal some aspect of God’s creation –, as well as scads of smaller passages and individual verses?) That way, we are less likely to make assumptions because certain English words look familiar and we think we know what they mean. (Not the most concise way of saying all that, but hopefully you see what I was trying to get at.)

About your statement that if we can’t re-create an event, we can’t test it… You do realize that Intelligent Design Theory is criticized for much the same reason, right? But, what ID Theory does, like many other disciplines (e.g., archaeology, cryptography, forensics), is look at the EFFECTS of past events to determine what happened (and if it was caused by an intelligent agent). The “winning theory” is the one with the most explanatory power — i.e., it best explains the most lines of evidence, and thus is most probable. The same is also true, by the way, for many arguments in Christian apologetics, including that for the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. The “inference to the best explanation” approach, which incorporates many lines of evidence and the explanatory power idea, proves to me (and I’m sure you agree) that Jesus did indeed rise bodily from the grave. Yet, we can’t re-create that event, can we?

You wrote about the metaphysical bias prevalent among those doing the research & proposing theories in astrophysics & cosmology. There may be something to that, but be careful not to commit the “genetic fallacy”. Such beliefs may color their interpretations and any metaphysical claims they make, just as our own biases/beliefs color our interpretations & claims. (The question, of course, is whether or not such biases are justified, perhaps supported by other means.) But, the facts — e.g., instrumental readings and mathematical formulations — are just that. Remember, even atheists like Hawking conceded the theistic implications for BBT.”

Apparently, this next comment is referring to Doc’s wish that prominent astrophysicists would make some sort of “official” declaration of their philosophical and (a)theological beliefs in general, or their positions on science/faith concerns, or… something along those lines. I wish I could remember. Sorry. But, you get the gist….

“How big a ‘phalanx’ of astrophysicists are you looking for? After all, there are more theists & Christians in physics, math, & astronomy than anywhere else in the scientific community. And I would be willing to bet that many of them are conservative Protestant inerrantists, too. Now, if only I had all their contact info, maybe I could get them to sign an official statement…. All kidding aside, it would be nice to see something like that, but convincing enough of them of the need for such a statement might not be that easy. Why don’t you send an email to Hugh Ross suggesting it? He’s got contacts (e.g., Allan Sandage and Guillermo Gonzalez).

Cover to "A Matter of Days" by Hugh RossIf you wish to continue our discussion on this stuff, I would be happy to do so within an email exchange. I also highly recommend those books and other resources I mentioned before. (The website was www.reasons.org. Btw, Greg Koukl is friends with these guys, and it was a link from their site that introduced me to STR.) The A Matter of Days book is about the YEC vs. OEC debate on the respective ages of the universe, Earth, and life on Earth. It is very irenic in tone and will give you a better understanding of why Old-Earthers hold the view(s) that we do. I recommend you read it first. The Creator and the Cosmos concentrates on the areas of cosmology, astronomy, and physics, showing the miraculous fine-tuning of everything from the laws of physics & chemistry to the formation of the Moon. I’m finally reading this one, now, myself. The Genesis Question shows the harmony of Genesis 1-11 with the various sciences from an Old-Earth perspective. This book was the first I read on the topic and was pivotal in my initially considering and then switching over to an Old-Earth position. Finally, another book you may find interesting is The Genesis Debate from Crux Press, in which three pairs of scholars present and debate the three primary interpretations of the days of creation (i.e., 24-hour View, Day-Age View, Framework View).

Take care…”

I don’t have a record of any further response given by “Doc”. (Pretty sure I would have saved it if there was anything of substance, so we probably just agreed to disagree and go our separate ways.) Regardless, I think I made some pretty good points and in a fairly clear manner. We agreed on the essentials of the Christian faith, which is most important, and also remained respectful in our interaction. So, I count this as a positive exchange of ideas. As for how fruitful it may have been, only God knows.

“Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.”  — Prov. 27:17 (NASB)

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