Monday, June 23, 2014

Answering Answers in Genesis

I came across this article on reddit and responded there so I decided to share my thoughts here as well. I don't spend much time here responding to blogs, as I like to reserve this space for deep reflection. Once in a while, I rant about closed-minded thinking, but I think critiquing actual arguments helps make that more interesting.

Tim Chaffey, Answers in Genesis (AiG), responds to a reader who believes that the Bible should not be "interpreted literally" and that we should just focus on the message of salvation.

Here is my response to Tim Chaffey:
Tim Chaffey: Title: Tim Chaffey, AiG–U.S., responds to a reader, who believes that the Bible should not be interpreted literally and that we should just focus on the message of salvation.
I do wonder if the reader would affirm this title. I somehow doubt s/he would, since "focusing on the message of salvation" means a decidedly deeper treatment of the Bible, rather than just a nonliteral approach to the whole thing. S/he clearly believes the story of Jesus is literal.
Tim Chaffey: however, being “open to other religious thought” is directly opposed to clear teachings in God’s Word.
This is mind-numbingly stupid. One can affirm all the cited verses and still be open to other religious thought.
Tim Chaffey: Why do you say no one can claim to know the true nature of God and how the earth was created?
Because nobody is capable of knowing the mind of God or how the earth was created. God told Moses he couldn't see God and live. What does that tell us about His true nature?
Tim Chaffey: In Genesis 1 and Exodus 20:11, the Lord told us that He made everything in six days. Why would you reject God’s revelation of Himself and the truth in His Word?
Exodus tells us the proper exegesis of the Genesis 1 story: to tell humans they ought to observe a Sabbath day. To reject this is to not keep the Sabbath. The same way rejecting Jesus' parables means to reject an underlying principle.
Tim Chaffey: You are certainly entitled to your beliefs, but if this is merely your opinion, then your claims are simply arbitrary. Do you have any rational reason for claiming these things?
If I were to hazard a guess, the reader is comparing AiG to the taliban because they are brainwashing children to oppose science education using a dogmatic hermeneutic to interpret scripture. AiG can pretend their interpretation is the only valid one, but ignoring the comparison is just a dodge.
Tim Chaffey: Not only is your argument a non-sequitir (i.e., supporting the Amish way of life does not follow from our acceptance of the biblical account of creation), it shows that you do not recognize the stark difference between historical (origins) science and operational (observational) science.
Historical vs operational science is an imaginary distinction dreamt up by AiG. There is no line so neatly drawn between the two. Maybe a proper understanding of scientific terminology would help AiG make their case that YEC falls into the realm of historical science, but this remains to be seen.
Tim Chaffey: The big difference is that evolutionists have no eyewitness testimony to help them interpret the circumstantial evidence, whereas creationists do: we have an accurate record (the Bible) from God—the infallible eyewitness of creation and all history.
It's nice to finally read AiG's real explanation of this harebrained idea. The Bible is not an eyewitness to creation, nor does it ever claim to be. God did not write the Bible, He inspired man to write it. And it wasn't written until hundreds of years after AiG says it happened. At least evolutionists look at fossil formations and recognize development patterns and find corroborative evidence.
Tim Chaffey: A few minutes of searching our website would reveal that Answers in Genesis employs several PhD scientists, and many of our employees hold advanced degrees in various disciplines of science, theology, history, etc.
Am I right in thinking Tim just vaguely referenced the AiG website to support the claim that their employees are well educated? This is a poor response to a question that deserves an answer.
Tim Chaffey: But our desire at AiG is to stay within the “box” of Scripture. Why would we ever want to think anything contrary to what the all-knowing, all-powerful God has revealed?
It would be nice if this was actually true. But AiG has airbrushed out the prevalent ancient cosmology model described throughout scripture. Unless they concede that the Bible's view of the universe looks more like a snowglobe sitting on pillars, they aren't reading it "literally". If AiG wants to admit they pick and choose what to take literally after that, then we can talk about who takes reasonable assumptions further. The problem for me isn't that YEC can't be a valid interpretation of scripture, it's that YEC must be decidedly inconsistent in order to make sense of the natural world. I don't understand what problem this solves for anyone in the 21st century.
Tim Chaffey: Have you ever thought outside the box of evolution and millions of years that you (like we) have been taught to believe all your life in school, museums, science programs on TV, and so on?
Yes. The problem is when we choose stubborn rhetoric over scientific inquiry.
Tim Chaffey: Furthermore, the biblical teaching that simply by His spoken word (Genesis 1, Psalm 33:6–9) God created “the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” in six days (Exodus 20:11) shows a vastly more powerful, intelligent, loving, and just God than one who needs to use billions of years’ worth of death, suffering, disease, bloodshed, and extinction to create.
And this is why I believe the YEC argument is purely theodical and not scientific. And this isn't even good theology.
Tim Chaffey: Why would God, for example, create the sun, moon, and stars so that man could measure days, seasons, and years (Genesis 1:14), and then wait billions of years before creating man, the first physical being who could tell time?
Because God is infinitely patient.
Tim Chaffey: And why would He create plants millions of years before man, birds, and most land animals, when plants were made to be a source of food for man, birds, and the other animals (Genesis 1:29–30)?
Oil comes to mind... But seriously, this is no more questioning God than what we see in Job.
Tim Chaffey: And why would He create billions of creatures to live and die and even become extinct millions of years before He created man to rule over them?
Why would He create billions of stars billions of lightyears away in order to fill our sky at night? Anthropocentrism much? We could ask these same questions of the stories we see in Genesis anyway. Why flood the earth so soon after creating mankind, for example?
Tim Chaffey: A god who would use evolution and millions of years to create would be weak and wicked, not the God of the Bible. And such a god would not be worthy of worship, especially if that same god lied about how long it took him to create everything (i.e., saying that everything was made in six days when it really was billions of years).
This simply requires an explanation. Why would that God be more wicked, weak, unworthy of worship, or a liar? Why should we believe Genesis is written in step logic rather than block logic? Why should we believe Adam was a person who could comprehend anything beyond what was instructional for him on a weekly basis? Like Sabbath rest?
Tim Chaffey: Actually, the Bible can be interpreted literally. The real question is, should the Bible be interpreted literally? And the correct answer is that each passage should be interpreted according to the standard principles of interpretation for that particular type of literature.
Yes... but the genre of Genesis 1-7 is not exactly "historical narrative" but origin myth. Nobody in the ancient world thought about historicity in their writing. It's pretty evident early Hebrews didn't either.
Tim Chaffey: Again, you are exhibiting cultural and chronological snobbery. So the people to whom the Bible was originally written existed before there were any discoveries and technological advances? Hardly...
...Are we still talking about "historical" science, AiG?
Tim Chaffey: Your comment was not only a put-down to intelligent people who lived long ago, but it was actually an attack on the perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture and the intelligence or integrity of God, who created man and gave him the mandate to study, manage, and rule over the rest of creation (Genesis 1:26–28).
Except the Bible isn't clear on these matters, and does not intend to be. That says nothing about God's intelligence or integrity, only that He cares enough to tell the first humans in simple language that they have a place in the world and how to operate within it.
Tim Chaffey: What we reject are the atheistic assumptions used to imagine the method and timetable of creation. The millions of years of evolution are not a discovery but an invention in the minds of Darwin and many others who attempt to use science to justify their denial of the God who made them.
Here we go. Conflating atheism with methodological naturalism once again. Well done.
Tim Chaffey: As someone who proclaims belief in God, you have no excuse for rejecting the truths He has clearly revealed in His Word about the “method and timetable of creation.”
Concern trolling. All the reader is doing is rejecting AiG's assumptions used to imagine the method and timetable of creation. The 6 days of creation are not a discovery but a poorly illiterate invention in the minds of AiG and many others who attempt to use science to prove God (to use your words inversely).
Tim Chaffey: Since God has always existed, knows everything, and has told us what He did, we will trust His Word any day over the ever-changing opinions of man.
Well someone should have told Job that what God did was so clear since the dawn of man. Oh, wait, God told Job that he could not comprehend it.
Tim Chaffey: Perhaps you could tell us why 2 Peter 3:8—a passage originally written in Greek in the context of discussing the attitude of scoffers leading up to the Second Coming of Christ—should be used to reinterpret the historical narrative of Genesis 1—a passage originally written in Hebrew explaining what God did during the Creation Week. This is not a responsible way to interpret the Bible.
Does 2 Peter 3 not tell us something about the true nature of God? Or were you using selective data to support your premise?
Tim Chaffey: Even if it was legitimate, what would it prove?
That hyperbolic language is one way the Bible talks about God and creation.
Tim Chaffey: It’s not complicated at all. But it is foolish and arrogant to reject God’s Word and twist its meaning to fit what sinful man thinks about origins.
Yet God trusted sinful man to write the Bible and interpret it, and develop other modes of inquiry such as the scientific method.
Tim Chaffey: The Bible also teaches that He was born of a virgin. Yet modern scientific consensus is against virgin births, resurrections from the dead, and miracles altogether. Why do you still believe these things despite what the majority of scientists believe?
Because the virgin birth is presented as an extraordinary event and fully acknowledged as such. There is reason to consider miracles. But we have insurmountable evidence that the earth is very old, and that the universe has existed long beforehand. If we had insurmountable evidence that Jesus was not born of a virgin, then we would have to reexamine that. No big deal.
Tim Chaffey: Why do you arbitrarily choose which portions of Scripture you want to believe and which sections to reject?
Who is rejecting any portion of scripture? Why do you reject the ancient cosmological model? Why do you believe this is the primary message of Genesis? Couldn't it be perfectly acceptable to believe that Genesis 1-7 was counter-polemic to surrounding polytheistic origin myths? Why does this more popular approach diminish God's word?
Tim Chaffey: Then why did God include these details in His Word? If God merely wanted us to know that He is the Creator and that He made us in His image, then He could have simply given us Genesis 1:1 and 1:26–27.
A better question might be, why did man write these details? Couldn't it be more about the theology of rejecting Sun worship and introducing monotheistic concepts within a palatable and relatable worldview?
Tim Chaffey: If Adam was not a literal, historical person who literally rebelled against God by eating a literal fruit, thus bringing in the Curse upon this world, then why did Jesus (a descendant of the literal Adam) come to die on the Cross?
Because the name Adam means "Man" and as such he is a proto-archetype of mankind. We all sin like Adam, we all eat forbidden fruit, and we all bring the curse upon this world. If you can't see Christ as a messiah representing and redeeming all mankind, then I have to question your understanding of Christianity.
Tim Chaffey: If we say the account in Genesis 1–11 is not true, then that opens the door for others to deny the rest of Scripture.
Of course, the word "true" does not necessarily mean "literal". We believe Jesus' parables were all true, but not literal. This also dismisses ancient writing styles by suggesting they meant to say something literal or historical.
Tim Chaffey: If this is what God has called us to do, then how could it possibly be a waste of time and effort?
I wonder what you think about the people working at Biologos. Are they doing what God has called them to do? Are their time and efforts being wasted?
Tim Chaffey: Furthermore, based on many of the positive comments we receive, we know this ministry has long been a blessing to Christians, and God has even used us on many occasions to lead people to salvation that can only be found in Jesus Christ.
And a curse for so many others, and countless led astray. Too many to be sure.
Tim Chaffey: Our primary desire is not to see people become young-earth creationists.
Then you shouldn't question the salvation of those who disagree with you on this issue. Yet you do so in the next sentence.
Tim Chaffey: God does not resort to multiple logical fallacies when correcting and rebuking people. Nor did He ever insist that people reject the plain meaning of His Word.
I've counted many fallacies in this very response, and a plain reading of scripture is often confused for ignoring presuppositional biases and ignoring context or respect for ancient audiences.
Tim Chaffey: I hope you will consider what I have written and make the commitment to trust God’s infallible and inerrant Word over the ever-changing fallible ideas of men.
Thanks but I'll stick to acknowledging all of what it tells me and just following Jesus. Not airbrushing out what I know is erroneous and pretending Christ's truth is at stake.