Eugene Genovese once wrote that, during his atheist days, whenever he was in the company of a liberal Christian, he always felt that comfortable sense that he was in the presence of a fellow unbeliever. Unbelief is a thing.
And that matter of faith is always the basic issue. One of the New Testament names for Christians is the simple term believers (Acts 5: 14; 1 Tim. 4:12). When Jesus would admonish His disciples, one of the ways He would do it was through His stinging phrase “ye of little faith” (Matt. 6:30; 8:26; 14:31).
The Westminster Confession is full of pastoral wisdom, and does know that saving faith can be “different in degrees, weak or strong” and “may often and many ways [be] assailed, and weakened” (14.3). But at the same time they do not allow the frailties and foibles of various Christians to be the determining factor in defining the essence of what saving faith is always called to do. “By this faith, a Christian believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word” (14. 2).
This would have to include Genesis. Saving faith believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word. Mull that over.
And Genesis was not composed of some gumby-like material, and is not a text that can be shaped into whatever form is currently needed to maintain respectability out there in the world. Someone who can read Genesis and find millions of years in there, not to mention those years occupied with turning crickets into condors, is someone who could be appointed to the Supreme Court, open his copy of the Constitution, and discover in it that we are supposed to have three senators from every state.
Believers are supposed to, you know, believe things. And they are supposed to believe what was written. So when it comes to the first eleven chapters of Genesis, when someone in the church tells us they “don’t believe that it means . . .” our response should be, “Exactly so. And that’s the problem. Not a small one either.”
Cancer doesn’t arrive all at once, pervading the body in ten minutes. The cancer of unbelief will take root in one place, and then spread to the others. Too often our debates about theological liberalism (just a fancy name for this unbelief) are over whether the patient has died yet, when they ought to be over whether the patient has cancer yet. There is a type of naïve observer who will accept that a denomination is going liberal after it has died of that liberalism. They will only accept a diagnosis of liberalism from the coroner, never from the doctors. So prior to that point where the farm is actually purchased, when something could still be done about it, denial is the name of the game. And so it is—anyone who admits any kind of funny business into Genesis 1-11, while they may not be dead in their liberalism, they do have a case of it.
The evangelical church today is shot through with this spirit of unbelief; we are riddled with cancer. We flat don’t believe “whatsoever is revealed.” It perhaps began with a few in the pews who have trouble with this or that. Then it spreads to men who are great when it comes to the New Testament, or with systematic theology generally considered, but who function with a quiet unbelief running in the background when it comes to things like theistic evolution. There have been more than a few evangelical worthies who have made their quiet peace with this kind of evolution,adopting some theistic form of it—men like John Stott, or J.I. Packer. But because the devil is a zealous evangelist, it then proceeds to an active and energetic advocacy of that unbelief, such as what we see from N.T. Wright, or James K.A. Smith. This is the BioLogos approach. If you follow the link, the first thing you will see is a picture of Tim Keller there. Keller is one of the stars in the PCA firmament, and this is yet one more reason the PCA is in big trouble. If you are shopping for a house, you don’t buy one with a crumbling foundation. The doctrine of creation is foundational,and theistic evolution provides nothing but the crumble. Bad combination.
Now Keller thinks he is calling non-Christians to an acceptable faith, but he is actually calling Christians to an acceptable unbelief.If you are interested, an earlier take of mine on BioLogos can be found here, and on Keller’s view of evolution here.
You Science Denier, You:
We have been told, multiple times we have been told, that we cannot possibly hold to something like young-earth creationism, and also win the respect of mainstream scientists.
You know, there was a time in my callow youth when I might have at least felt the force of this argument. Wouldn’t have agreed with it, wouldn’t have gone along with it, but I at least had the modesty to feel like a goober for thinking God made the earth 6,000 years ago. I mean, look at all those scientists, guys with fifty pound heads, lined up in their white lab coats, and with framed copies of all their Nobel Prizes hanging on the wall in the background. But that was back in the days before respectable science went barking mad, and started barging into furniture, rolling on the floor, and chewing on the edges of the carpet. We now live in times in which I confess that I am not interested at all in winning the respect of mainstream science. Winning that respect would be a real danger sign.
Take this as my version of my back pages. I was so much older then; I’m younger than that now. Just by remaining right where I was, simply by not budging, my science-denying has just simply taken wings. What does my science-denying now include? I am not freaked out by minor changes in the weather, and do not believe “climate change” can be invoked to justify every passing Democratic policy proposal that involves spending buckets of money, which would be all of them. My science-denying thinks that sunspots might have more to do with fluctuations in the weather than does letting my truck idle long in the winter to warm up.
My science-denial now includes thinking that boys are chromosomally boys, and shall remain such, and that the same thing goes for girls. I know, right? Next stop: flat earthery! I also have the hubris to take issue with the nation’s certified pediatricians (as though I knew anything about medicine!), differing with their view that pre-pubescent boys and girls should be allowed to go under the knife to remove perfectly healthy sexual organs. And for my crowning shame, I am one of the nation’s scientific troglodytes, one who believes that all women have vaginas.
Look. If people want the science-denial argument to work anymore—which it incidentally doesn’t—they need to factor in the effect that the red clown nose of political correctness, and the Groucho glasses of trendy leftism, are having on the general public. They kind of wipe out the moral authority of the white lab coat. They need to start factoring in how obvious it is to everyone that intellectual fads and moral panics determine what sort of scientific results are publishable.
God of the Gaps:
Evolutionists are fond of accusing creationists of appealing to the “God of the gaps,” hauling God in—the ultimate Deus ex machina—in order to make our risible views about origins “work” somehow. Let’s take a moment to deal with this because it reveals a category mistake on their part—and it is not a small one.
Creationists are thorough-going supernaturalists. The simple fact of creatio ex nihilo is a grand miracle. The active presence of God in a fundamentally miraculous enterprise, like creation from nothing, is no problem at all. It is what we are arguing for. But if someone has a naturalistic system that gets into trouble periodically, and the supernatural is brought into resolve the insoluble problem, see accompanying cartoon, then that actually is a problem. And take a good look at that cartoon, because theistic evolution requires a chain of events just like that, with over a hundred billion links in it. And then another miracle occurs!
We have already demonstrated how silly naturalistic evolution is. Now what do we call it when God is brought in to save such a teetery system?
So a “god of the gaps” problem does occur when you bring in some supernatural power to make something work that you don’t really understand. But creationists are appealing to God to accomplish something remarkable because we do understand it. What we understand is that iPhones don’t assemble themselves, and so if one shows up in my pocket, then we conclude that somebody else made it and sold it to me. So if all we are doing is simply maintaining that Apple makes iPhones, we would certainly be left unimpressed if somebody accused us of holding to a “corporation of the gaps” approach. Quite. Our thesis is that made things are made by somebody. That’s the whole point we are making.
So for strict creationists, the nothing out of which God created everything is the ultimate gap, and so we simply believe in God, not God joining forces with nothing, as though nothing were some pre-existing material. Or, if you must, we affirm the God of the gap, singular. To affirm the God of the gap, singular, is simply to affirm the Creator/creature distinction. He spoke, and it was.
But naturalistic evolution presents us with the ultimate and unworkable contraption, Rube Goldberging its way down through the millennia, staggering along, with an unbridgeable gap happening, naturalistically speaking, every ten minutes or so. When all those gaps are crossed because God intervened in the process—that really is a “god of the gaps.” That really is special pleading.
So theistic evolutionists really are appealing to the God of the gaps—not in order to make creation a reasonable thing, but to make evolution even possible. And that, incidentally, is the only way to make it possible. If God can make sons of Abraham out of rocks, then He certainly could make a sperm whale out of cow. Sure. Whether He did or not is a separate question, but the person who postulates a long chain of such events is the one guilty of all the special pleading.
Theistic evolutionists are the ones worship the God of the gaps. Creationists do not.
Real Evangelism Doesn’t Need to Compromise:
Compromised evangelism tries to figure out a way to make Christianity attractive to non-Christians. Real evangelism seeks a way—already knowing that the only way to do this is through preaching the cross—to make rebellious non-Christians acceptable to God, and to the faith once delivered. Sinners need to be modified in order be fitted into the church. The church does not need to be modified in order to make sure sinners feel comfy when they come.
Unbelievers within the church feel like the church has something to prove to the infidel—proving against all hope that the church is somehow worthy of their patronage. But believers within the church, true sons and daughters of the church, believe that the repentant infidel is the one who has to bear fruits worthy of repentance.
And as the anti-Darwinist C.S. Lewis points out somewhere, the accommodationist edges of a compromised faith are not usually where radical non-believers come when they are converted. When a queer theorist lesbian academic like Rosaria Butterfield is converted, it is not into the soft feminism of quasi-complementarianism. When the fire-eating atheist is converted, it is not to a liberal Unitarianism. No, when outsiders come in,they come all the way in. If they repent of their unbelief, they are not attracted to the Christianized veneer forms of that same spirit of unbelief.
BioLogos Is Allergic to the Text of Scripture:
As the rot of unbelief works its way through the content of what some folks are willing to affirm, one particular staging area for their future forays into deeper unbelief is the affirmation that they are “red letter” Christians. They build the hopes of their future apostasies on the firm foundation of the very words of Jesus. They are Jesus-followers—that pestilent fellow Paul irritates them, and Moses makes them feel icky all over.
Now it would be more to the point to say that they are in love with the idea of being red-letter Christians, but this can only be pulled off if they refuse to examine too closely what the Lord Jesus actually said. I say this because a bunch of the red letters talk about the black letters.
As the joke goes—I have a special edition of the Bible, where all the words of the Holy Spirit are in black.
What did Jesus think about the black letters?
“If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).
What did Jesus think about the historicity of the first eleven chapters of Genesis? Well, for starters, He based His teaching on divorce on the fact of it.
“And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,” (Matt. 19:4).
What did Jesus assume about the historicity of the fourth human being to walk on this earth?
“That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar” (Matt. 23:35).
And what did Jesus think about that really embarrassing part of Gen. 1-11? You know, the (ho, ho, ho) worldwide Flood?
“For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark” (Matt. 24:38).
One response to all this is to say that Jesus was simply stepping into the customs and assumptions of His day, or perhaps He was simply making literary allusions—you know, the way an English teacher might say “as Tom Sawyer said.” The defect in this approach is that they are trying to make out that Jesus was as much of an unbeliever as they are. And He wasn’t.
“Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).
So if your forehead gets hot when you look at what Jesus actually said about Adam and Eve, and Abel, and Noah, then you need to run a serious spiritual inventory, and admit to yourself that you are ashamed of His words.The next step is to recognize that He will be ashamed of you at His coming, and that presents a higher level of difficulty, at least for you.
If you don’t want to believe, then I would invite you to go find another religion to degrade. There were purported miracles surrounding the Buddha. Why don’t you go and doubt them?
BioLogos Is in Love With Natural Evil:
The great irony is that in their desire to answer the “what about science and evolution?” question, and to answer it by capitulating, the theistic evolutionists create a situation where the “what about natural evil and the goodness of God?” question becomes—given their framework—unanswerable.
It is no great apologetics strategy to surrender your rook, two knights, a bishop, and a queen, in order to take their pawn.
Why is there suffering? Why is there natural evil? Why is nature red in tooth and claw? Why is there bone cancer? Why are there earthquakes and volcanoes and tornadoes? Why have so many millions of creatures with exquisitely tuned central nervous systems suffered such agonistic deaths over the millennia?
The answer can have nothing to do with the rebellion of man, for that rebellion happened—if it happened, note, because the unbelief is now eroding their belief in the Fall—at the very tail end of the many long ages of this suffering. So the reason for all the suffering must be that God looked down, smiled on it, and said, “behold, it is very good.” God loves all that suffering, and if He does, then so must the theistic evolutionists love it.
The only alternative to this, the only way out, is to jettison even more of the faith. They must get rid of the entire doctrine of creation from nothing, and to opt for some form of panentheism—where God didn’t actually create the mess, and is struggling with the simple fact of it, all outside his immediate control, just like the rest of us struggle with it. Our inadequate god would fix it if he could. More than a few of these johnnies are on the threshold of doing exactly this, and when they take that final step, the faithful will stand on the walls of the City of God, and look sadly upon their apostate departure. All we can see of them anymore are asses and elbows. They did leave behind a few scholarly articles.
Genesis: Love It or Leave It:
The doctrine of creation is not something that a creature should simply be “okay” with. Let us kneel before the Lord our God our Maker. The doctrine of creation is our foundational glory.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).
How did the entire cosmos get here? Someone just said it.
“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; And all the host of them by the breath of his mouth . . . For he spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:9).
The stars showed up, just like that, and started singing.
“Let them praise the name of the Lord: For he commanded, and they were created” (Psalm 148:5).
He didn’t just slap it all together either. He crafted every atom in every star in all wisdom, and placed each one of them perfectly.
“The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth; By understanding hath he established the heavens” (Prov. 3:19).
He calls every star by name, and does so in a way that does not appear to cater to our spirit of unbelief. In fact, the biblical narrative tromples all over our spirit of unbelief. That’s right, tromples.
“Lift up your eyes on high, And behold who hath created these things, That bringeth out their host by number: He calleth them all by names By the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; Not one faileth” (Is. 40:26).
All His works are perfect.
“And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day” (Gen. 1:31).
And prior to the sin of man, Eden was, well, Edenic. Not an agonistic Botch Job, spanning millennia. It really was very good. And all the believers said, amen and amen.
I Was Told There Would Be Free Books:
Today’s selection, the freebie of the moment, is A Serrated Edge. While this book is not about evolution per se, it is about the biblical propriety of answering a fool according to his folly. It is a defense of not suffering fools gladly. While there are other lawful postures out there, this is the posture that, for most Christians, requires an explanation and defense. And so here it is, free.What that means is that if you don’t get it and read it, and at some point in the future you are unnecessarily provoked or offended, an additional provocation will be that you have no excuse. How’s that for a book pitch?