Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Days of Genesis

One question that is sure to come up when talking to a skeptic is, “How old do you feel that the earth is?”  How old is the earth? Good question. Many Christians say only thousands of years. I do not think that this position is tenable with what we see in science–and such a position is suprisingly NOT required by what the Bible says.

I want to proffer something here that may be slightly controversial.  I would submit that when reading the Bible we should at times think less about trying to understand what the Bible means, but rather actually read what the Bible says.  I think we should endeavor to actually read the text of Genesis.  It is true that many theologians “go down deeper, stay down longer, and come up murkier than the rest of us.”

So, what about the word, “Day?”

What is the first occurence of the word ‘day’ in the text?  The Hebrew word yom (“day”) is first mentioned in Gen 1:5: “God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.” What is the natural reading here? Here day is contrasted with night; so a twenty-four-hour day is NOT in view, but rather “day” in the sense of “daytime,” right? Roughly 12 hours. The words for “day” in New Testament Greek and in English, as well as Hebrew, have several primary meanings, and “daytime” is one of them.  Notice this is purely from reading the text.  No hocus pocus so far.

The second time the word for “day” occurs, again is Genesis 1:5, it is in the context of saying that day 1 involves “evening and morning,” and “day” would naturally then be understood to refer to a twenty-four-hour day. So now we have 2 primary/literal/contextual meanings for the word “day” in the same verse.

SIDE NOTE: By literal translation: do we take this statement: “The car was flying down the road” to mean the car was really flying? Or do we take a natural reading of the text, and a literal understanding of its meaning? The car was driving very fast, though it was not literally flying. Interesting how something can be even more literal than it seems at first glance. “Jesus is a door.” Jesus is not wooden, with hinges in a doorway–yet He is the door to a new life. It is a literal use of the word door–yet he is NOT a literal wooden door.

The next occurrence of the word “day” is in the account of the 7th day–the sabbath, on which God rests from the work of creating. There is no mention here of “evening and morning” as there has been for the previous 6 days. This needs an explanation. The first 6 are days of creative activity, but on the 7th, the creative sequence ends. One has to wonder—based on a reading of the text—and the use of thinking and critical analysis— is God still resting (from creation) to this present day. I posit we are still on the 7th day. God is not, however, resting from all activity. I am not positing Deism. He does not rest from the work of upholding the universe and the work of salvation and redemption, as implied in Christ’s statement when he was accused of breaking the Sabbath: “my Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17).

So I would say the 7th day has been a LONG period of time. The text also gives us other reasons why this may be the case.

IN some translations of Genesis 2:4 we meet the expression “When God created….” In fact, the word “when” is used to translate the Hebrew for “in the day.” Clearly the author has no more got a 24 hour period in mind here than an elderly man would if he said, “in my day there were very few aircraft in the sky!” He would be using the word “day” quite correctly to describe a period of time, not a particular day of the week.

Now here is the big point I want to make–that is rarely seen.

In many English versions of the Bible, the days of Genesis are seen as “THE first day, The second day,” and so on, each having the definite article. However, even though the Hebrew language DOES have a definite article, it is not used in the original to qualify days one to five!!David Gooding points out, that although it is not used with the first 5 days, it IS USED FOR DAYS 6 AND 7. A better translation would be “day one, day two,…, day five, the sixth day, the seventh day”; or, ” A first day, A second day,…., THE sixth day, The seventh day.”

Now, one last note–if you look at the text–notice that the narrative of DAYS doesn’t start until verse 3. This implies that THE BEGINNING of Genesis 1:1 did not necessarily take place on day 1 as frequently assumed. The initial creation happened before. The problem for us is Genesis doesn’t say how long before. In other words, apart from scientific considerations, the text of Genesis 1:1, in separating the beginning from day 1, leaves the age of the universe intermediate!

It would be logically possible in my view to believe that the days of Genesis are 24 hour days (of one earth week) AND to believe that the universe is VERY ancient. This has nothing to do with science. This is all from the text.

Faith or ‘Reason’?

What do I believe as a Christian, versus, what we (science and scholarship) know to be true? I think this question asserts a fallacious premise. Let me discuss:

I find it funny that the skeptic will often ask the Christian, “Hey, why do you believe in something that you don’t know for sure to exist?” Well, look at it this way: I don’t KNOW that Papua New Guinea exists; however, because of the evidence I believe that it does. I have seen pictures, talked to those who have experienced being there, and even eaten the food there, but I have never been there–so I can’t say that I know it exists. Now, with the idea of belief: Take my Dad for example–I don’t beleive in him–because, I know the guy.

Belief recognizes the possibility of falsification. Many skeptics will say, “Christianity can’t be taken seriously because there is no way to prove it wrong.” Actually–if you can come up with the body of Jesus, or prove the resurrection didn’t happen–I will listen to the evidence.  Paul asserts the same in regard to the resurrection.  We do not see this in the approach from the new atheists. They carry on with an unequivocal arrogance that presupposes their all-knowing superior intelligence.

Further, I find it odd that people who say unequivocally that “God does not exist,” spend so much time thinking about God. I don’t believe in unicorns, but do you see me writing books called, “The End of Unicorns,” “The Unicorn Delusion,” “Unicorns Are Not Great?” No. I live my life as is they don’t exist. Another problem with the term atheist is this–it is really, A-theist. It is a declaration that there is no God. Now, if someone really has the kind of knowledge to make an absolute pronouncement like that, I really should have met them last week and played the lottery. This is intellectual fraud for someone to assert this. Even Bertrand Russell understood this, and promptly shifted his untenable “A-theistic” position to one of agnosticism.

Now, the atheist will say, “faith is but a leap into the dark.” Really?  The word faith in the Bible comes from the Greek word Pistis, which certainly doesn’t mean ‘believing in that which is unknowable.’  On the contrary.  It actually means trust.

If I were to say, I have faith in my wife.  I am asserting two things.  First, that she exists.  Whether you like it or not, I am asserting that she does.  Secondly, I am proffering the position that I have a trust in her integrity when it comes to our relationship.  This is the usage of the word ‘faith’ in the Bible.  It does not refer to belief in what one thinks about in their imagination.  This would be idolatry.

 

We also see use of the word ‘faith’ in literature.  Consider Shakespeare’s use of the word, ‘faith:’

In loving thee thou know’st I am forsworn, But thou art twice forsworn, to me love swearing; In act thy bed-vow broke, and new faith torn, In vowing new hate after new love bearing: But why of two oaths’ breach do I accuse thee, When I break twenty? I am perjured most; For all my vows are oaths but to misuse thee, And all my honest faith in thee is lost: For I have sworn deep oaths of thy deep kindness, Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy; And, to enlighten thee, gave eyes to blindness, Or made them swear against the thing they see; For I have sworn thee fair; more perjured eye, To swear against the truth so foul a lie!

Does he seem to be talking about something that he doesn’t know to be true? Or does he seem to be questioning the integrity of a known person? I would argue the second! In fact, the Biblical view of faith does not mean a blind leap into the darkness. As I have already noted, faith is more like a trust in that which we may or may not see. We do not see the wind, but we see its effects. If I fall backward as a child, I may not see my father, but I know he is there to catch me.

I am here reminded of something that has plagued academia, science, and popular philosophy for the past 50 years.  This is the verification principle  It was originated one could argue by David Hume, but brought into significant stature by A.J. Ayer.  The principle basically states that a statement is only true if it can be verified in one of two ways:  First, that it is self evidently true.  For example, “All unmarried men are bachelors.”  This statement is true by its own terms.  Secondly, a statement can be made true if it can be empirically verified by science.

Now, here is the problem for the theist.  No statement about God, morality, or ‘faith’ can be verified.  So, throw it out right?

Not so fast.  Take the verification principle and apply it to itself.  Is the assertion that ‘A statement can only be true if it is self evidently true, or can be empirically verified’ a statement that passes the verification principle?  No.  So, throw it out right?  I am astonished at Ayer’s response in his later years when the folly of this argument was raised, he simply said the principle is quite wrong.

The problem is that many of our leading scientists were educated with this firmly at the center of their disciplines.  Philosophy has rejected it today, but scientists still hold to it.  No wonder a guy like Dawkins will not engage in a serious debate with Dr. William Lane Craig.  No wonder he will not read Michael Behe’s book.  Why?  Because they are men of ‘faith.’  Their statements don’t have the ability to pass the verification principle.

Back to faith:

Have you ever heard someone say, I could see everything clearly, but then this evangelist came along and shared Christ with me and against my will I accepted Jesus. All of a sudden the lights were turned off and I took a leap into the darkness? No. This is absurd.

Now about the origin of the universe:

One question a skeptic will ask is, “Yeah I know that time and space started to exist at the Big Bang; however, positing God as the source of this “creation” is only a religious dogmatism.”

This is an interesting statement. One thing I often wonder about the Darwinist, is what do you do with the time before evolution began to take place? Darwinism doesn’t explain origin. For Darwinism to work, we must have the presence of the mutating replicator.  Where does this come from?  Further, most “popular Darwinists” don’t know if they hold to smooth evolutionary process or punctuated equilibrium theory.

Lets address origins–in terms of Reason alone–no divine revelation:

What if we went to Mars and found on its surface Hieroglyphics, and moving vehicles and such? What if further, we found a chart nailed to a rock that said, “to thine own self be true?” What would we conclude? Simply that it was put there by an intelligent being.

Now, the skeptics original argument about God is (yeah, but who made God?)… apply this here…. So we have found the stuff on Mars, we know there is intelligent life. We cannot ask at that point who made the aliens. Why? Because aliens are outside of our experience. We know that tools, words, and such come from intelligence–we can go there. However, we know nothing about aliens. We cannot posit anything about their ontological existence.

How can we then take the origin of the universe which is WIDELY believed to have started with the Big Bang–and then ask, “if God created it…who created him?” We have no experience of God like that–His ways are not our ways. How can we even begin to ask such questions?

What do we know versus what we believe? Well if you take this approach–that the skeptics take–they claim to know a lot that has not been substantiated in any way. Further, they are speaking in absolute terms about things that cannot be known.  This is metaphysics.

If the natural universe is all there is, and the Big Bang is true, as most scientists will attest–then by de facto, the naturalist will have to assume that nature created itself. Now, if the Big Bang brought our universe into existence, meaning both space, time, and matter–how could matter have made itself? Out of nothing, something comes? Or out of nothing, nothing comes? Further, can we even ask the question, “before there was time, did matter create itself?” No, we have to put the word “before” in quotes. Once upon a “time,” there was no time.

One thing I find interesting is that the ancient Hebrews were not scientists. They didn’t perform experiments. They said that the world was created by God, and before the existence of the universe, all that existed was…well, God. Now, how did they know this to be true? God told them. I like the quote of Arno Penzias, who won the Nobel Prize for Physics for discovering an echo of the moment of singularity in the cosmic microwave background: “The best data we have…are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, and the Bible as a whole.”

I am also reminded of the great NASA physicist/astronomer Robert Jastrow who said, “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

Now, what does this mean? Does this mean that religious dogmatism disproves science? No, nor should it want to.  Science and Christianity have a long history of compatibility.  In fact, where do most of our greatest scientists come from?  The West.  Why? Because in the West man was trying to understand the created universe.  We are made in God’s image, and are by nature, people of reason.  We should investigate our domain.

 It just goes to show that the Biblical account of creation is not disproven by science but given very firm ground to rest upon. Science is great; however, we put so much stock in science, we fail to remember it is not an absolute thing. Science (which has limitations) can only measure the properties of THIS universe—of this space/time continuum. It cannot extend before the Big Bang. It is sort of like grammar. Grammar can only be applied to writing—it has no worth outside of what it is intended for. Do the rules of grammar apply to swinging a 9-iron? No.

Think about the invention of the telescope. Was this needed for humans to discover that the earth was round? Absolutely not. Picture the ancient man looking upward—The earth in the middle with the sun and moon at each axis. The sun casts the shadow of the earth onto the surface of the moon, leaving the shadow of the earth—“Hey fellas, its round.” Was this found by divine revelation? No. Was it found by testing in a lab? No. It was found by simply looking. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

The accusation by those who adhere to Reason (capital R) and science as the absolute, is that faith is ignorant (we are all flat-earthers). Well let us look at this. I submit that science itself rests upon 3 faith-based assumptions. One, that the universe is rational. Second, that the universe obeys laws. Third, that the human mind corresponds with the world outside it. What is the scientific reason for these things? Simply put, there is none. It is unexplainable. It just is. Here is where the atheists begin to sound like they follow a dogmatism their own. Rather than being more enlightened than the bible thumping pastor they are railing against, instead, they appeal to something called Reason. Notice this isn’t reason in its normal sense. This is reason as a worldview. To begin, one of the failures of the skeptic is that they deny the possibility of the divine. They are atheistic even before looking at the science. They have a presupposition to exclude God. Richard Lewontin said, “we are forced by our a priori commitment to material causes to create .. a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” Hardly objective.

What about the greatest discovery in cosmology in the last 100 years? The anthropic principle.  This is basically the finding that universe has been fine tuned for, well….us. The universe functions by a set of numerical constants that must be calibrated exactly the way they are, function in a universe as old as it is, and occupy a universe as large as it does just to produce humans. it is kind of a conspiracy to create life.

Lee Smolin, in one of his physics books, talks about the implications of the anthropic principle. He says it is like a guy (God–though he is an agnostic) is sitting at a large desk with a bunch of dials on it. Each of those dials are tuned to a certain number. He wonders in his book what would happen if you altered the dials a bit. Stephen Hawking in his book A Brief History of Time actually addresses this very question. He says if you take one of the dials, the dial that represents the expansion rate of the universe and move it–not 70%–not 10%–not .005%–but one part in a hundred thousand million million–we would have no universe and no life.

Lets come at it one more way. Could the universe have happened naturally? Time plus matter plus chance? Well, interestingly Antony Flew, one of the most formidable atheists of the 20th Century felt that it would. In fact he used to say, “If you give enough monkeys typewriters, they will give you Shakespeare.” Now this is a bold claim. He used this by the way in his debate with CS Lewis which he claimed to have won. Now later in his life, he actually wrote another book titled, There Is A God. In the book, he talks about one of the things that won his mind over. This is amazing—Flew was the poster boy for atheism. He taught at Oxford and later at NYU. If you went into philosophy or religion, you would no doubt read his texts on epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy of religion.  What is funny is after his last book, all the references to him were taken down by the Humanist Society.

In his book, he talks about how he used to use the “monkey” argument alot, until in one debate his debating opponent said, “Antony, did you know we just concluded a study on that very thing?” He was shocked and inquired to know the results.

The study put a computer in a cage of monkeys for 3 months.  The result?  They didn’t produce a single word.  Now, I know our schools don’t teach grammar anymore, so indulge me:  In English, all you need to create a word is ‘A’or ‘I’ preceded or followed by a space. The chance of getting a one letter word with a space on either side is 1/30,000 on a computer keyboard.

Now, the study took Flew’s claim to task.  We know for a fact that a Shakespearean sonnet is 14 lines long.  They measured their research against the sonnet, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day.”  Considering the number of characters and the organization of the sonnet, the chances of the monkeys producing this sonnet would be 1 divided by 10 to the 690 power.

Let me put this into perspective.  If I took all the elementary particles in the entire universe (protons, neutrons, and electrons) and added them all up, we would only have 10 to the power of 80 particles.  This would be grossly insufficient.  We would not have ENOUGH particles to even account for the number of trials needed to take place.

The idea that language makes sense and that we can get beauty from it without intelligence behind it is nonsense.  Without God in the universe there is no hope for any meaning, and none of it makes any sense.

Finally, I am tired of hearing the pseudo thinkers that say that all religions believe the same thing when it comes to creation. This is absurd.   Now–what you will see is that in other major religions, Islam, Hinduism, etc….the great being, fashions the universe out of pre-existing material. This is NOT what is taught in the Book of Genesis and John. God created the universe from NOTHING. It did not come FROM him, or out of his body (Hinduism), but rather, he spoke and it existed. Many people fallaciously assume that all religions are superficially different, but fundamentally the same.  The truth is they are superficially similar yet fundamentally different.