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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

YEC Arguments - TurretinFan Strikes Back

TurretinFan (TF) has taken up the mantle for YEC’s of trying to respond to some of my work on Genesis 1. While he does not respond to my actual thesis paper or episodes dealing with my positive view, he does try to respond to my article where I give rejoinders to some common arguments put forth by YEC’s. I have a great deal of respect for TF (so no comments here should be read with any level of hostility or animosity), but in this instance, his comments were often assumptive, superficial, or just seemed to be a restatement of the exact objection I was responding to and did not really deal with my comments. Like I did with my responses to Steve Schramm who also gave responses to these articles, I will give the list of objections and then comment on TF’s remarks.

1.       OEC’s are intimidated by secular scientists and so they reject what they know the text says.
TF’s first comment is simply that peer pressure is real – the desire to fit in is a real thing, and, so he claims, it is one of the reason that people are tempted by OEC models. Not only is this simply an assertion, but the psychology of belief is so far outside of the realm of expertise of TF or myself, (and of most who comment on these debates) that I don’t really see any utility to it. Could we not also just arbitrarily say that the desire to fit into the church culture that people are raised in also drives people to believe in YEC? The genetic fallacy is a fallacy for a reason. But we can say more beyond pointing out that infantile nature of such objections as logically fallacious.
The main issue besides it’s blatant logically fallacious nature, is that it ignores the reason that people give for accepting OEC: that they become convinced of it, or at least convinced that it is the consensus of science broadly across ideological lines. This is the same reason many will believe in countless scientific views of astronomy and cosmology and physics – I wonder if TF has done in depth study for himself of the chemical composition of red dwarf stars, the Kuyper belt, heliocentrism, anatomy, etc. or if he takes a kind of reasonable belief in the consensus view. As long as we do not hold the scientific community to a kind of infallibility, I see no problem with holding reasonable beliefs in the tentative conclusions of scientists just like we do in numerous other fields that we are not specialists ourselves in. For many, the simply find YEC a poor handling of the text, and then they have major doubts about the “science” done by Creation science, (often you do not need to be a good well trained scientist to see some major problems with it), and they see a general consensus by geologists, cosmologists, physicists, etc. that spans ideological lines (naturalists, theists, Christians, etc.). This is not some intimidation by “secular” science (again, I have no idea what that term even means in its broad use), but rather is how we form and hold reasonable beliefs on a whole host of areas.
TF then criticized my statement that we should ask where the evidence is pointing because, he claims, that “natural science can only provide a natural explanation.” This is partly true. In some kinds of experimental science, only natural explanations can be provided. This is simply not the case in historical or theorhetical science, and in fact, ironically, Creationists and apologists will often make this very argument – arguments like the cosmological argument, fine tuning, specified complexity and a whole host of others will argue that the evidences given to us by science, are best explained by some non-natural or intentional/intelligent causal agent. TF will likely respond that those are philosophy, and that is all well and good since I never claimed that we will discover God in a vat or a test tube. But rather, what the evidence is best explained by. TF says, “Scientists can be baffled and unable to provide an explanation, but science cannot say, ‘that was supernatural.’” I would simply say that that is not true and many scientists have made just such that statement. From the earliest days of science, the founders believed that their findings pointed to the Creator God and many scientists today believe the same. Here TF, would need to do much more spade work on the kind of explanations that are available to scientists and philosophers of science today.
Finally, TF seems to argue that we should be skeptical of science because of what he calls the “failures of science,” such as a stationary sun. Hopefully I can make the following statement without being accused of sympathy for atheism (not everything they say is false) but we know that certain scientific theories held by previous generations were false, precisely because of advances in science. So while scientific theories are always provisional and open to reinterpretation, overhaul, or complete abandonment, it seems wildly ironic to attempt to jettison the very discipline used to gather the information which overthrew the false notions. Such a view of science proposed by TF simply seems inadequate to me. Science was also wrong for a long time about what caused disease, so does TF think we should reject or be highly skeptical of germ theory and medicine because we were wrong in the past? Even though advances in the science of medicine is precisely what overthrew previous false notions and came up with better ones?

2.      If you just take the plain meaning of the text, it clearly means 6 literal solar days. 

In this section, I gave a list of problems with a literal diachronic reading of Genesis 1 that have led many of use to reject such a view (and this does not include my other work giving positive reasons and evidences for holding to a literary polemical temple text view). TF goes through these but honestly gives some of the same flawed responses common to YEC polemics elsewhere. Let’s look through these in order:
-          Light before the sun. TF gives Biblical examples where God’s glory illuminates the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:23) and Moses’ face radiates after illumination by the glory of God. The main problem here is that Gen 1 says that God creates the light – he speaks it into existence. So not only does TF give an option (God’s own glory) that does not fit the account of Gen 1, he also ignores the major problem that the criticism is getting at. Day 4 tells us that the sun and the mon are made specifically for the purpose of marking out days and nights. Their function just was to make the 24 hour day. So if that was the purpose and function of the sun and the moon, to mark out 24 hour days by their light, then what light was created in Day 1 to do that same task? So TF may say, “this is a trivial and absurd objection,” but it seems only because he completely misses the mark on it.
-          This leads to the second problem. Why create this unknown light on Day 1 with the same function of the luminaries on Day 4, call it good like he does the rest of creation, only to scrap it 3 days later and replace it with the sun? TF says that this is an “impertinent question” because it ask a “why” question of God. I doubt TF would give such a response to other why questions – why does God love the elect in Christ, why does he call a people to himself, why does he judge people to hell, etc. Asking a “why” question is not de facto impertinent. He then tries to answer it but his answer is weird. He says, “the sun was created to rule the day, while the moon was created to rule the night. In essence, these could be viewed as delegations of God’s own power.” I would debate the final clause depending on what he meant by it (if he means as evidence of his power then sure, but as delegates seems to jump headlong back into the very pagan notions of a deified cosmos that I think Genesis 1 is precisely rebutting), but ultimately his answer isn’t an answer to the question. Saying what the sun and the moon are to rule over does not answer the question about creating some abstract light on day 1 with the same function of the sun, call it good like he does the rest of creation, only to scrap it and replace it 3 days later. So TF’s answer isn’t an answer.
-          TF then says that we can have days without having a tool to measure them – like how we can have distance without having a ruler. Well yes and no. We do not have an “inch” without having a standard inch. Such a distance exists in virtue of the standard measurement of an inch existing as an inch – TF here is forgetting (or isn’t aware of, or for some unstated reason rejects (the functional ontology of the ANE people. We have a 24 hour day because we have a solar day. We in the modern era know that the earth rotates on its access at a specific speed and makes a full rotation approximately every 24 hours. The ancients did not know this. This text would be completely undiscernible to them if not for the sun and the moon to mark out days and nights. We must always remember, the text of the Bible, in God’s providence, while written for the benefit of the modern church, is not written to the modern church. We are reading ancient mail. There was no concept of rotation of the earth – it stool still and fixed, unmovable, with the celestial bodies orbiting us in the firmament. To imagine that the author of Genesis (who TF and I both likely agree was Moses, or in the Moses circle) meant the axial rotation of the earth strains at credulity. And, if TF wants to ever make the perspicuity objection, it would seem utterly bizarre to argue that the text is perspicuous to us today but that it would have been opaque and foreign to the original author who was writing it.
-          Finally there is the issue of the order of the plants between Gen 1 and Gen 2. Here TF seems to adopt the common YEC view that Gen 2 is referring specifically to cultivated plants, or at least, the plants in the garden. He seems to think that the plants of earth grew before man in Gen 1, and then that we should read Gen 2 that there were no cultivated plants, so God watered the earth with a mist, before creating man. TF does not really develop this but just quotes the surrounding verses as if simply stating them resolves the problem (like none of us who make the objection has ever read them?) There are two problems with this. Frist, the term for “field” here simply does not exclusively refer to cultivated or agricultural plants. The same term is used of the home of animals (שָׂדֶה , sadeh) can mean a cultivated field (Hosea 12:12) but typically this does not mean something like farm, like we would think of, but rather something like a domestic or owned field which bears food (Deut 32:13). However, the term is often used for the home of wild beasts (Ps. 8:8; 50:11; 80:14; 104:11; Isa. 56:9; Joel 2:22) or even as the opposite land to that of a mountain (Jer. 18:14) or as opposed to a sea (Ps. 96:12). The idea most common to this is that it is an wide open field, sometimes even with the notion that it is not frequented by people (Gen. 24:63, 65). A simple word study of the term would suffice to show that one cannot simply assume that just because it says field that it must mean domesticated and cultivated ground. It can mean that, but there is nothing in the context that makes it mean that.
This leads us to the second response. Notice that God does not create the garden (i.e. the only place we could confidently call a specifically cultivated land) until 2:8 after he creates man in 2:7. So the plants of the field being watered in 2:5 likely could not be the cultivated plants in 2:8.
So TF’ response here is not only undeveloped, but also inadequate to the task.

3.      Genesis is literal history and not allegory.
Here I argue that this typical statement is simply a false dichotomy. I’m somewhat confused by TF’s response since he seems to agree with me that this is a false dichotomy. He gives several examples where historical accounts can be told in various genres and for different purposes. I would agree with this. But here TF likely grants more than he means to. The issue here is that the typical YEC presupposes that the genre of literature is a historical narrative. If TF is conceding that it is not historical narrative then he would then need to argue exactly why we should read it as literal diachronic history. If he is not conceding that, then he would need to argue why we should read it as a literal historical narrative. So as of right now, I’ll leave TF to update his own response to this point because I am simply not clear what point he is trying to take here.

4.      Jesus took Genesis literally and so should we.
Here TF attempts to say that there is good reason to think that Gen 1 through the law code that begins midway through Exodus is historical narrative. His reason for this is that Jesus takes the historical people and places as historical. This hardly proves that it should be the genre of historical narrative. We know that Deborah’s song and Moses’ song were about historical events, but should we think that their songs (poetry) were actual historical narrative because the people and places were historical? Obviously not.
This response also has a kind of all or nothing feel to it. It ignores the literary features in Gen 1:1-2:4 specifically that make many of say that that portion of Genesis likely isn’t historical narrative. To make the argument that TF makes is to say that because the rest of the bulk of Genesis and Exodus is historical narrative (it isn’t in fact – there are several other genres throughout) that the first section of Genesis must be also. Well even if I agreed that the rest of Genesis is historical narrative (prophetic, parable, and poems aside), it does not follow that Gen 1 is. I agree that Adam and Eve and Abraham were real people and Sodom and Gomorrah were real places. I am in absolute agreement with Jesus here – I could echo his exact statements. It’s them a non sequitur to say that this shows Gen 1 is historical narrative also.
Here I would simply say that I think TF is not quite grasping the problems with saying that Mark 10 proves that Jesus held to a young earth. Simply saying, “from the beginning” here does not tell us how long ago that was – merely that from the beginning of humanity, God made them male and female. There are no time markers here. And if one tries to push it too far, then they would contradict themselves because it would not be literally “from the beginning” but rather from a week after the beginning, that it happened. The salient point seems to be that from Adam and Eve, God made humanity as male and female.
Here TF takes an exception to my statement that the creation week would be the most important thing never taught in scripture, by simply begging the question that it is taught in Gen 1. He then makes passing reference to the statement in Ex 20:11. Which is the next objection.

5.      Moses bases the Sabbath as the 7th day on the 7 literal day structure of Genesis 1. 
I made a statement that Moses wrote Ex. 20 and TF, correctly, points out that it is retelling what God wrote on tablets. Fair enough. But so what? Moses also wasn’t there to see Gen 1 and was writing God’s word under inspiration. It seems we could make a large number of poor exegetical inferences if we try to press who the author of a text was between the human the divine. This would break our doctrine of inspiration in two.
TF then simply begs the question that the days of Ex. 20 were conventional days. Unless he is merely speaking of the labor days of the Israelites, this is precisely what is being asked. Now, I may make TF’s head spin in reminding him that I absolutely think that the days mentioned in Gen 1, are meant to be understood as solar days. I think the author was clearly building the narrative around solar days. I just don’t think that is enough to make us read the text as a modern astronomy text book. The days, I think, are being used analogically as a framework by which the narrative is hung to polemicize Egyptian polytheism and present God as the creator and singular sovereign of his celestial temple. This is why I disagree with Day-Age proponents who try to read millions of years into Genesis 1. I think both kinds of interpretations of the text are simply anachronistic mishandlings.
So with that, I don’t particularly care if the days of Gen 1 and Ex. 20 are meant to convey solar days. I think what is more likely of importance is the 7 fold paradigm of 6+1 (a ubiquitous structure of cultic significance throughout the ANE). This is why we see Moses base the Sabbath years and Jubilee years on the same paradigm just as easily.
TF also takes the highly unusual position that the 7th day was a regular solar day. Most YEC’s that I know do not adopt such a view (though some do) because not only is the 7th day missing all of the features that they argue show a solar day (morning and evening formulae primarily) but the author of Hebrews seems to think that God is still enjoying his Sabbath rest (Heb. 4), as does Jesus who seems to make just such an argument to demonstrate why he too can heal on the Sabbath (Jn 5:17). This is an incidental point, but to hold such a view opens TF to problems on other texts while he tries to maintain a consistency of Gen 1.

6.      Yom plus “morning and evening” in the Hebrew always refers to a literal solar day.
TF doesn’t comment here much except that he doesn’t like such arguments, though he simply asserts that the “underlying point of the argument is correct, namely that the fact that verse specifies what kind of day we are talking about.” As I have said, I don’t have much of a problem with the use of solar days as an analogue, but here I’m simply pointing out that poor attempt by YEC’s to make an exegetical case for a Historical Narrative. TF did not really address that issue. And remember, this is about arguments used by YEC’s to argue that Gen 1 must be read as literal history. Why can TF not simply admit these are bad arguments to that effect, not supported by the text or Hebrew grammar itself?

7.       Yom plus an ordinal or cardinal number in the Hebrew always refers to a literal solar day.
One again, TF says he doesn’t really like these kinds of arguments but says that he would say that yom+ordinal/cardinal usually means a normal day. Again, fair enough and I don’t mind the analogical day in Gen 1 either. But he then says that the burden of proof is on the non-literal folk to prove that it’s not. I would say that is simply false. The burden would fall on all exegetes to properly handle the text and so anyone who wants to advance of view of what is in reference carries a burden. We know countless terms in the Bible have a normal meaning and a rare meaning. This is the task of any exegete and we cannot simply pawn it off to views that we disagree with to prove our unproven assumptions wrong. And once again, why can TF not simply admit these are bad arguments to that effect, not supported by the text or Hebrew grammar itself?

8. We see the use of the waw-consecutive construction in the Hebrew which is how Hebrew marks out historical narrative and thus we should take Genesis 1 as literal history. 
         Here, TF simply says that he doesn’t like those kinds of these arguments that uses supposed grammatical rules and makes no other comments. But once again, why can TF not simply admit these are bad arguments to that effect, not supported by the text or Hebrew grammar itself?

All in all, I don’t think that TF really was able to show any problems with any of my comments in the article and did nothing to advance the cause of YEC against what myself and many others (even YECs) find to be formidable objections to the YEC position on Genesis 1.

Aside: I have been impressed by many YEC’s who have come around to seeing Genesis 1 as a literary polemic presenting a temple text, and who agree with me that this says nothing about the age of earth. Many have expressed their gratitude for helping them to better understand the text and resolve so many of the tensions and unanswered questions that they had. They still believe that the earth is young based on what they believe about what science shows us, but they have been able to move beyond the rigid literalism that caused them so many exegetical and hermeneutical fits. As I have always said, I’m not actually objecting to any certain view of the age of the earth, nor am I advancing one. My position has always been a marked agnosticism on that issue. Rather, I’ve been trying to handle what I think the text does teach and respond to some of the views of Genesis 1 and other relevant passages that I think are problematic.

For more of my work on Genesis 1, please see my collected works here:

Monday, October 1, 2018

Metaphysics and the Failure of Molinism

In this episode I discuss many of the objections that I have to Molinism as a theological system and it's proposed benefits to the Christian apologist.

Enjoy the show!

For more of my content on Molinism, please see here:

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Why Accurately Handling History Matters - Calvin and the Servetus Affair

In this episode I present my research on the Servetus affair in the life of John Calvin. This event is used by anti-Calvinists typically as an ad hominem attack against Calvinism more generally. Not only is such an argument logically fallacious, but in this instance it is built on clearly demonstrable revisionist history.

So did John Calvin have Servetus murdered? Let's find out and see why accurately handling history matters.

Enjoy the show!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Genesis 1 as Temple Text

We are told in the New Testament, “Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was might in words and in deeds,” (Acts 7:22).

And yet for some reason when some of us present that idea that Moses wrote Genesis 1 in the same literary and cultural context that he was educated in, we are accused of denying inspiration or inerrancy. Here I continue my series that basically argues, “Yes… Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians… and he demonstrated his genius for it in his writings where he polemicized the very Egyptian worldview that he was raised in.”

In this episode I lay out some of the evidence that Genesis 1 was in fact a Temple Text.

Enjoy the show.

(For the rest of my work on Genesis 1, please see HERE.)