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Sunday, July 29, 2018

SERMON: Scripture Alone - More Sure Than the Mountain Top

Here I present a sermon preached at my home church during a series on the Five Solas of the Protestant Reformation. In this sermon on 2 Peter 1:16-21, I present Sola Scriptura and it's importance to the Biblical witness and the history of the church following the Reformation.

Enjoy!



Saturday, July 28, 2018

Summary of My View on Genesis 1



Due to my recent interest and work on Genesis 1 and the creation account, I have been approached by many people about my views. While I have detailed much of my views in my various articles and podcast episodes which you can find here, I have found the need for me to produce one brief article laying out my position in broad strokes. This article is not intended to argue for the truth of my position or present it exegetically from the Scriptures, that is what my other work on this is for. This is merely for summary. I have opted for a simple Q&A format. Should you have more questions for clarification or recommendations for how to improve the clarity of this article, please email me.  

Q. Do I hold to Inspiration and Inerrancy?
A. Yes. I affirm and orthodox view of the verbal, plenary inspiration of the scriptures, that they are without error in intent and content, and are authoritative for the Christian in life and practice. I reject liberal theological notions of errors in non-salvafic statements.

Q. Do I affirm what has been called Concordism? (I do not agree with everything in the linked article.)
A. No, I reject Concordism as a hermeneutical principle. While I affirm Inspiration and Inerrancy, I still do take exception to the fundamentalistic/literalistic approach which sees even the Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) conceptual and worldview backgrounds which inform the text and positive affirmations of the text. When God says that he judges our kidneys to determine the reward/punishment for our conduct in Jer. 17:10, reflecting the ANE notion that the kidneys and bowels were the seat of the person (not the mind and the heart as our modern translation update it) I believe that God is revealing himself to the Hebrew audience in terms they would understand without affirming such a view of human physiology as true. I think we should not take the ANE Hebrew cosmology, geology, or astronomy reflected in the Bible as doctrinal affirmations of truth any more than we should the physiology reflected in it.

Q. Do you affirm Young Earth Creationism (YEC), Old Earth Creationism (OEC), or Theological Evolution (TE)?
A. No, I reject all three precisely because they all share a Concordist view in common. All three come to the text of Genesis 1 seeking to understand it in terms of diachronic (chronologically ordered in time) and scientific material origins. I find any such approach to the text to categorically misunderstand Genesis 1. I also think that the view of the age of the earth should be distinguished from one’s view of the text of Genesis 1. Thus, someone is a YEC and holds to a 24 Hour or Solar Day view of Genesis 1; or one may be an OEC and hold to a Day-Age or Gap Theory view of Genesis 1. I’m not always as consistent on making this distinction myself in dialogues but I think it is helpful.

Q. Do you have a view on the age of the Earth?
A. Not really. I’m largely agnostic on this question because I think that this is purely a scientific question and I simply have not studied the scientific evidence for or against each side. I think it has no actual bearing on Christian theology and that current arguments about the age of the earth are misguided and not productive in advancing the gospel.

Q. What is my general view of Genesis 1?
A. I believe that Genesis 1 is in the form of an ANE temple text, specially a liturgical hymn of ordering and inauguration, structured around a specific literary framework. I think that the author was likely Moses and that he composed it sometime following the exodus from Egypt while Israel was in the plains of Moab. Because of the recent conflict with the gods of Egypt, and the presence of numerous Egyptians and other Semites who came out as the mixed multitude spoken of in Ex. 12:28, I think that Moses wrote this hymn to not only reflect the earth as the temple of YHWH, but to polemicize the gods of both Egypt and Canaan so as to instruct the Israelites away from worshipping false gods.

Q. Do you think the “days” of Genesis 1 reflect 24 Hour solar days or long ages?
A. I have stated above that I am not a Concordist and thus I reject the views of Genesis 1 by YECs, OECs, and TEs such as the 24 Hour and the Day-Age view. Ironically, while I think the rhetoric of fundamentalistic Evangelical YECs is wildly problematic, and that the arguments for their view are typically uninformed, I think that their reading of Genesis 1 is far closer to accurate than that of the OEC and TEs with their Day-Age, Gap Theory and other such views. Those familiar with just how strong my opposition to YEC views are may find this surprising but it is true. I think that Moses used the framework of an ordinary work week (following the pattern of 6+1) as the structure to format his temple inauguration hymn. This reflects that God fashioned the creation temple during the day and rested evening through morning each day, culminating in the final day of rest in which he takes his throne as sovereign over all creation. This paradigm of work and rest following a 6+1 pattern is used later to model the Hebrew work week in Ex 20:11 and to set the blueprint for Sabbath years and the years of Jubilee.

My objection then to the 24 Hour or Solar Day view is the Diachronic Concordism by which they seek to understand it as a scientific statement about material origins. I think reading it in such a way not only produces contradictions within such a position, but also misses the beauty and themes developed by Moses throughout his hymn. I think we should recapture the ANE Mosaic backgrounds of the text and enjoy it for the presentation of our majestic Creator God who rules and reigns from his throne over all his creation.

Q. Do I believe in a historical Adam and Eve.
A. Yes. I believe that their was a historical and singular Adam and Eve and that the fall was a real event in history. I take note of the genre change that occurs at Gen 2:4 and think that Moses hymn likely ends in 2:3 moving into a more theological narrative from there.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Who Durst Defy the Omnipotent to Arms - Jezebel in the Eye of the Beholder

In this episode I present my paper exploring the way that modern critical feminist scholars have attempted to recast Jezebel as the heroine of the narrative.

Enjoy the show!


Monday, July 2, 2018

Reformed Theology Collection

Molinism Collection

Rejoinders to a YEC Response - Part 2


This is a continuation of my previous article responding to Steve Schramm and his responses to my article here. He completed his review in part two of his response.

Without any intro, I will pick up where we left off.

5. Moses bases the Sabbath as the 7th day on the 7 literal day structure of Genesis 1.

In this section I argued that because Moses was the author of both Genesis 1 and Exodus 20, and that since the latter is directly dependent on the former,  that whatever was meant in Genesis 1 would also be meant in Exodus 20. To this Steve gives a couple objections.

First, he argues that because Ex. 20 is expressly stated to be the immediate words of God. The problem is that Steve does not hash out why this is an objection. Surely, any conservative notion of inspiration (which I assume Steve and I have in common) would have room that God is the supreme author of all the words of Scripture, regardless of whether or not they are through human intermediaries or not. So the Moses argument could be expanded that whatever God meant to inspire in Gen 1, surely he built on in Ex 20 (as the statement of Ex 20 directly states). So without much more spade work, I’m not sure how this point is really a salient objection. 

Second he makes a similar argument as the one of above but that in Deut. 10 we find God may have not only spoken the words but might have inscribed the second set of tablets himself after Moses broke the first set (a view that could be debated considering the command for Moses to write down the second giving of the law in Ex. 34:27). Yet, Steve then makes this statement,

“If we again operate on the standard assumption that God intends to communicate, and the best interpretation is the one the authors and original readers could have easily understood and shared, it makes absolutely zero sense that these days can represent anything other than ordinary, literal days.”

The problem is that such an inference is a complete non sequitur. Imagine that God personally and directly inscribed the 2nd set of tablets. So what? What would that change about the meaning of the terms given that Ex. 20 states that it is building directly on the meaning of Gen 1.

In fact, something that is telling about this, is that when God gives the 10 commandments again in Deut 5, what is conspicuously missing is the mention of the 7 days of creation, but rather it is the time of bondage in Egypt that is brought to the forefront. This makes great sense on my polemical view of Gen 1 being against the Egyptian cultic beliefs.

Steve then attempts to go after my comment that we have strong biblical warrant to believe that the 7th day itself is not a solar day. He gives some arguments against this.

His first is that because the usual maneuver by OECs is to argue that since there is no morning/evening or rest formulae which are used in the other 6 days that the 7th day is thus not literal AND that since it is not literally, the other 6 days must not be as well. The problems with this as an objection to my comments are manifold.

First, I’m not an OEC and I don’t make the kind of reverse engineering argument he mentions that if the 7th day isnt a literal day, then the first 6 arent either. Insofar as he objects to that, he is just chopping at straw since it isnt my argument nor my view.

Second, the morning/evening and rest formulae are features that YEC’s use to DIRECTLY argue that the days of Genesis are literal. So what is good for the goose… if those are indicators of a literal day, then their absence is evidence AGAINST the literalness of the 7th day. If Steve wants to say that their absence DOESN’T point to the non-literal nature of day 7, then he cannot then help himself that they are evidence for the literal nature of days 1-6.

Steve then says that the past tense action of God on day 7 (ended his work, rested), shows that God’s completed his rest on day 7. Again, problems abound. Perfect tense actions are completed actions with ongoing results. It’s simply not the case that just because God rested on day 7 that he is not still resting from his acts of creation. We see this when we talk about how David “took the throne” in the past tense. Does that mean he only ruled on the throne for that one day? Of course not. He started his rule which was continued on long after that. This is just an abuse of grammar for Steve to try and make this point.

He also says that “to reinterpret this passage based on a New Testament verse would seem to imply fallacious exegesis.” Notice the inconsistency. This is coming from someone who says that we should use the statements of Jesus on creation to tell us how we should understand Gen 1. Notice he only wants to use the NT when it is convenient for his view. Now, I agree that we should not use the NT in such a way that it will arrive at a meaning of an OT text that is contradictory to the original meaning, but surely the NT supplements and expands our understanding. And Hebrews does just this for God’s rest. As does Jesus’ argument in John 5:17 which Steve conveniently does not address.

He then states, “Further, as you’ll see if you read my article on the subject, accepting that day 7 is continual ignores lots of Scripture to the contrary and is certainly not what we “know” is “the biblical view.”” Well that is all fine and well to assert, but without any argument or evidence given, Steve will have to forgive his readers for not just taking his word on it.

He then argues that just because the leave may be indefinite, that that does not entail the day a leave starts is not. This is a valid point. Like the David example, David’s rule may have been continuous after the first day, but it was a one a first day that it started. Fair enough. The problem with this for Day 7 is that the Lord’s Sabbath rest and the 7th day are considered one and the same thing. In fact, this analogy is made precisely in the prior context of Ex. 20. This is clear in Hebrews 4 and John 5 as well. So the text does not just say that God started his leave on Day 7, but that Day 7 IS God’s Sabbath rest. And since Jesus can talk about God still resting to this day, this would entail that Day 7 is continuing to this day. So in his zeal to make this point, Steve simply ignores the conceptual unification of the concepts of the 7th Day and God’s Sabbath rest.

Steve grants my argument about the Jubilee year but misses the import that it is an example of the 7-fold (or 6+1) paradigm that we find in the calendric thinking of the ANE Israelite such that the paradigm is the basis for the WHOLE calendar – work week, Sabbath year, Jubilee years, etc. So it is far more probable that the paradigm is the controlling feature, and not the 24 hour nature of the days. Here I should also remind Steve and my readers, that I think it is highly probable that a 7 day week IS the analog that Moses wanted to use in Genesis 1. I think that IS the device that he chose to build the narrative around. The question is if those days and the whole narrative are meant to be taken as a literal, historical, concordistic, diachronic telling of material origins. I think clearly not. So the longer Steve barks up the OEC tree trying to treat my view as the same as theirs, the longer I’m gonna to sip my coffee from my porch and wonder how long it will take him to actually come talk to me directly.

Steve then moves on to Psalm 90 and my argument that in this parallel creation Psalm of Moses, we have a clear example of Moses’ own fluid concept of time with respect to God and creation in how he uses 1000 years, a day, and a watch of the night as interchangeable concepts. Steve incorrectly assumes that I think this means we can treat the term ‘yom’ like a wax nose to mean whatever we want. This is simply not my argument. Once again, Steve needs to stop and read my comments more unbiasedly and refrain from imposing OEC assumptions onto my comments. No where do I argue that this means ‘yom’ can mean whatever we want. Instead, I’m merely showing that Moses can clearly use the exact terms found in Gen 1 and Ps 90, both in the context of the creation event, in an analogical way. That’s it. It simply means that the YEC cannot come to Gen 1 and say that they MUST or NECESSARILY mean a 24 hour solar day. That is not “fallacious reasoning and hermeneutics” as Steve accuses me of – it is just clear and demonstrable fact. In fact, it is telling that rather than deal with this head on, Steve is willing to scrap Mosaic authorship of Psalm 90 and give ground to the critical scholars who place Ps 90 post-exile. Hope that window will fit the baby and the bathwater…


6. Yom plus “morning and evening” in the Hebrew always refers to a literal solar day.

Here Steve says that this is a strawman and that this is not the YEC argument. Well I would simply beg to differ. I have been given this argument thousands of times (possibly literally). Since the publication of his first article where he protested to the representation of many YECs being dogmatic and hostile and anathematizing anyone who disagrees with them, I have tagged him in several threads that demonstrate this is very common – even among YEC popularizers. This too is an example where Steve just seems woefully ignorant of his own tradition. This argument that the grammatical construction of yom+morning and evening always refers to a 24 hour day is ubiquitous in debates with YECs. Also, please remember what I stated above, I'm fine with saying that the conceptual tool used by Moses just WAS a work week. So I'm not some OEC trying to read "yom" as a symbolic stand in for a long indefinite period of time. I'm simply against bad arguments being used to get to literal solar days in the concordist sense.

In fact, he tries to prove this by appealing to Mortenson at AiG, who wrote, “Everywhere else in the Old Testament, when the Hebrew word for “day” (יוםֹ, yom) appears with “evening” or “morning” or is modified by a number (e.g., “sixth day” or “five days”), it always means a 24-hour day.”

Now, I’m not sure what Steve is reading. Notice that the argument that Mortenson gives is EXACTLY that everywhere that yom + “morning and evening” is used, (or is modified by a number which we will address in the next section) that it always means an ordinary day. Steve, in trying to say that I’m giving a strawman, cites someone who gives the EXACT argument that I said that they do. Now Steve makes a big deal that Mortenson says “or” instead of “and” which is fair. Though I have heard him use the other conjunction, in that quote he doesn’t. But it is irrelevant. The construction of Gen 1 is not found elsewhere in the OT. It is still a grammatical hapax legomena – one of a kind – and cannot be used to adjudicate the argument.

In fact, what Steve (and Mortenson) miss is that the meaning of the time frame in the context of yom + “morning” or “evening” is actually NOT determined by the conjunction of those two terms. It is determined by the genre and narrative in which the terms are found, or by temporal prepositions within the text (such as someone rising in the morning or the priest offering the morning sacrifice). What most people don’t understand about Hebrew (or Greek for that matter) is that time is more often than not determined by context and prepositions/particles and not by verb tense or the use of lexically fluid terms like “yom.” In fact we have clear counter examples to Mortenson’s claim such as Isaiah 17:11, Daniel 8:14, 8:28, etc. Once again, the YECs are being led by the nose by non-experts making hard and fast (and false) rules of Hebrew lexicography.

Steve then cites someone from ICR, ironically saying EXACTLY what he called a strawman:

“The meaning of the term “day” must be seen in conjunction with the use of “evening” and “morning.”… So then, it would appear that when the words “morning” and “evening” are used in the same verse, they must refer to a normal day.”

So not only is it not a strawman, but my response to it in my previous article and here show that it is demonstrably false.


7. Yom plus an ordinal or cardinal number in the Hebrew always refers to a literal solar day.

Here Steve wants to try and divide between cardinal and ordinal numbers. He wants to grant my point about cardinal numbers but not ordinal numbers. There are numerous problems with this, not least of which is that the first day of Genesis 1 IS a cardinal number. It is days 2-6 that are ordinal numbers. This is why both must be addressed. Steve cannot merely pick and choose what grammar and terms of which days fit for his argument and which don’t. Such obvious partial-selection makes any argument he makes hopelessly ad hoc. And once again, keep in mind that I'm not an OEC trying to read "yom" symbolically as millions or billions of years. I'm find with an analogical work week. We just shouldnt make bad arguments.

He then wants to protest my counter example of yom + an ordinal number outside of Genesis 1. He claims that this is the only counter example (which is irrelevant because it is a rare construction so finding one exception is statistically important and cannot be ignored to drive the invention of a hard and fast YEC rule). But he also wants to say that my treatment of the exception is incorrect simply because the term is in the plural. This hardly gets what he is looking for since the YEC is attempting to make a hard and fast grammatical use of the terms. Notice how to handle objections, they must continue to alter and amalgamate their rules. Ad hocness begets ad hocness.

However, even of he is correct here, (which I don’t think he is) he grants me the yom + ordinal in Hosea 6:2 and that it is not literal. Once again, this would simply invalidate the rule that YECs attempt to prop up.

At this point the rest of Steve’s comments just become irrelevant. He should agree that the rule fails and move on, but he goes off on somewhat of a tangent about William Lane Craig. So I’ll leave that to his readers to divine his purpose.



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.

Once again Steve tries to say I’m misrepresenting the argument but once again he is wrong. This is a favorite argument of many in the YEC camp like Jonathan Sarfati who has used it over and over and in my run ins with him. In one article he writes, “Genesis is peppered with ‘And … and … and … ’ which characterises historical writing (this is technically called the ‘vav—ו, often rendered as waw—consecutive’).”

I’m hardly strawmanning anything and this kind of response is becoming a trend for Steve. It’s starting to seem like a “I don’t think I argue like that… so no one must argue like that.” Yet again, I would simply ask Steve to open his eyes to his own camp’s arguments (and in nearly every case I’ve shown that what Steve calls a strawman, he somehow ends up endorsing that EXACT argument which makes his protestation doubly problematic for him.)

Now here Steve appeals to Dr. Boyd’s highly problematic study of preterites in the Heberew text. This hardly demonstrates much for this point, especially since I’m NOT arguing that waw-consecutive construction is NOT part historical narrative, but only that the YEC cannot say that Gen 1 MUST be historical narrative because they think that the waw-consecutiv just is a marker for historical narrative.

Steve seems to overall concede this point so no need to waste much ink here.


Conclusion

I appreciate the cordial tone of Steve’s response even if we are both firm in some of our statements. He does attempt to back handedly lump me in with people who do not understand YEC arguments (I’m assuming because of all his appeals to strawmen) but in most cases I’ve shown that he is the one who doesn’t seem aware of his own movement, even among the most famous popularizers like Ham, Lisle, Sarfati and others.

While I echo his tone of fellowship in the ministry of the gospel, I would like to challenge him to continue to consider the arguments for and against views that are contrary to his. I think often he imputed OEC or concordist assumptions onto my statements that I simply do not hold to or affirm. It is a hard thing for a YEC to understand non-concordist views since they are so fundamentally different, but I would challenge him to use those kidneys and bowels, and think hard on the issues.