Truth Is The Word

Creation

The great creation debate

Over the last several years there has been quite a lot of Christian media coverage given to the evolution versus divine creation debate. The subject is not a new one, but of late the Young Earth Creationist camp has been making its views known fairly clearly and dogmatically and this has sparked responses from Christians who hold other views on creation.

I am not a trained scientist and so I am not competent to comment significantly on the scientific aspects of the debate. I also do not claim to be a theological ‘expert’ on the subject. Despite both of these limitations I do feel able to make some cautionary comments on the subject. Job 38:4 records God’s challenge when He asks Job, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” I believe this applies equally to both scientists and theologians. Human beings were not present when God created the heavens and the earth. Scientists were not present at the creation to observe and analyse. They develop their hypotheses from the geological record and logical assumptions. Theologians were not there either and we develop our doctrines from a logical understanding of the scriptures. So an essential requirement in the evolution/creation debate, on both sides, is humility.

A second preliminary consideration concerns who the parties are in the debate. On the one hand Christians are engaged with atheist or agnostic sceptics like Richard Dawkins, but it seems to me that the more heated debate is occurring between Christians. Evangelicals are taking issue with Liberals, but bible-believing Christians are also fighting with other bible-believing evangelicals. I say ‘fighting’ because some of the debate is beyond robust.

The main ‘camps’ in the Christian debate over evolution and creation are the Young Earth Creationism camp, The Progressive Creationism camp, the Intelligent Design camp, and the Theistic Evolution camp. Bruce Waltke has written a paper on ‘Barriers to accepting the possibility of creation by means of an evolutionary process’ (http://biologos.org/uploads/projects/Waltke_scholarly_essay.pdf) and as an appendix he attaches the findings of four surveys administered to Pentecostal seminary faculties between 2004 and 2009. The last of these surveys revealed that only 23% of the respondents were Young Earth Creationists and 19% were evolutionary creationists. So we need to note that neither of these positions enjoys majority support even among Pentecostals.

I recently read comments by a scientist who described himself as a Christian Theistic Evolutionist claiming that a prominent Young Earth Creationist was implying that those Christians who do not agree with his views do not therefore believe in a real Adam or an actual fall. He then points out that as a Theistic Evolutionist he does believe in a real Adam and Eve, a Garden of Eden, a real Fall, and in the authority of the Bible. So we all need to be careful how we classify and characterise other sincere Christians.

I believe that, instead of fighting each other over the ‘how’ of creation, Christian scholars with a particular interest in this area of study should engage each other in a non-confrontational way on some of the underlying issues in the debate. For instance, we need to discuss what the various views say or imply concerning the character of God, the trustworthiness of the scriptures, and key doctrines such as sin and salvation. As an example, the idea that God created the earth some 6,000 years ago with the appearance of great age says something about God’s integrity and transparency. Disbelief in an actual Adam and original sin seriously affects the evangelical understanding of salvation in and through the last Adam (1 COR 15:45), the Lord Jesus Christ, and so on. These, and other serious doctrinal and faith issues, should be resolved through considerate and careful debate. I for one would certainly appreciate more of this kind of exchange and less polemic dogmatism in Christian magazines and journals.

My appeal to both scholars and editors is to air the underlying faith issues in the debate rather than the endless ideas on how God might have created, or when He created. As a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ I am far more interested in, and impacted by, what the creation issue has to say about God’s character, the trustworthiness of the Bible, and the key doctrines of the evangelical faith.

So my appeal is that we make the subject of creation a great debate rather than a great ‘barney’.

Creation post

Old Earth, Young Earth – Who cares?

How old is the earth

I find it hard to believe that Evangelical Christians are divided, and passionately so, over whether planet Earth is 6,000 years or 4 billion years old.

Indeed, Jon Greene writes that it is ‘one of the most polarizing and divisive issues within the Christian community’. In the past, local churches and even entire denominations, have divided over issues such as baby baptism, speaking in tongues, and even end-time scenarios. But to divide over the age of the Earth seems even more pathetic!

In 2012 Joy! Magazine was buzzing with articles and letters to the editor about this issue, and so they asked me to write a ‘calming’ article which I titled ‘The great creation debate’. Now it seems that things are hotting up once more, and so I feel the need to make some observations… again.

To get up to date I watched a number of YouTube debates  between people like Kent Hovind and Ken Ham on the Young Earth side and Hugh Ross, and Hank Hanegraaff on the Old Earth side. All the Christians I have heard, or read, who are involved in the controversy believe in the inspiration of the Bible and, strangely enough, they all seem to agree that Darwinian Evolution (change through unguided naturalistic processes), as it is commonly understood, is neither biblical nor logical. Yet Kent Hovind called Hugh Ross a heretic, to his face, claimed that the God he worshiped was not Hugh’s god and that the graciously tolerant Dr. Ross was a cult leader. What on earth (pun intended) is the cause of such insecurity and animosity?

Trying to make sense of the debates on this issue can be confusing and frustrating.
DarwinOn the one side, the arguments often devolve into “God’s Word says so, so that’s the way it is” statements, and on the other side the many references to quasars, the speed of light, quantum mechanics, and so on can be a little overwhelming. Debaters tend to argue at length (Pun intended once more) whether the meaning of the word translated as ‘day’ in Genesis Chapter One can indicate a long period instead of a 24-hours. Ken Ham accuses Old Earth Creationists of arguing from the basis of science and then trying to make the biblical account conform to the so-called evidence. Dr. Ross, however, claims that he is equally committed to the inspiration and authority of the Bible, but that he sees no conflict between a reasoned interpretation of the scriptures and the scientific evidence. But is the real driving issue the matter of WHEN God created? Is it really? I don’t think so.

Ken Ham states that his concern is not so much the age of the earth as it is the authority of scripture, and I think that here he puts his finger on the underlying issue. The 20th century scientific age ushered in aggressive atheistic criticism of biblical authority, and even within the church liberal scholars undercut the belief that the Bible is divinely inspired. Charles Darwin’s theories of natural evolution added to the controversy and so several ‘fundamentalist’ Christians dedicated themselves to the task of defending the inspiration and authority of scripture against science in the face of humanistic scorn and derision.

Darwinian evolution, although taught in most schools as ‘fact’, has now been largely abandoned by most informed scientists, and so the battle front has shifted to the matter of the age of the cosmos in general and the earth in particular. Young Earthers contend that a ‘plain reading’ of the English translation of Genesis One necessitates belief that God created the world in six consecutive 24-hour days some 6,000 years ago. Old Earthers, on the other hand, claim that a literal reading of the Genesis creation account, in its original Hebrew, leads to the understanding that the world was created by God over very long periods of time. So, both sides believe that God created all things, and both sides believe that the Bible is inspired and authoritative, yet they differ vehemently on how to interpret the inspired scriptures. Dear, Oh dear, it’s the same problem underlying the old baby christening versus believers baptism controversy, or the lady elders dispute, or the homosexuality issue.

To my way of thinking the crucial matter of belief concerns whether God created everything, and not when or how He created.
magicianThe how and when of it only becomes important to me if it impacts on core Christian doctrines such as sin, spiritual death, salvation, and so on. Young Earthers do debate these issues as well, but not well, and nothing I have read or heard has even come close to convincing me that the biblical record is not entirely trustworthy when it sets out these truths… and everything else for that matter. And I don’t need to hold a Young Earth position to believe these doctrines.

Where I get more than irritated is when Young Earthers try to explain away the geological evidence of extreme age by claiming that God created the earth with an appearance of age. God is not a trickster and the fatuous contention that if He created Adam with the appearance of age then why not the whole earth just saddens me. The biblical account does not state HOW God created Adam other than the simple declaration that He ‘formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life’ (Genesis 2:7). I also tend to despair when ostensibly highly educated men and women claim that the Great Flood accounts for all the problems concerning dating  geological strata, the fossil evidence, and so on. And all for the sake of proving that the Bible is authoritative? No, actually, it is to demonstrate that THEIR INTERPRETATION of the Bible is authoritative!

OK, so by now you have realised that if I had to take sides I would position myself in the Old Earth Creationist corner of the ring. It is getting a bit crowded there what with men like Norman Geisler, Lee Strobel, J.I Packer, Wayne Grudem, Gleason Archer, and Francis Schaeffer taking up so much space.

Just for clarity here are the core beliefs of us Old Agers (taken from J.W.Green’s article):

  • God miraculously created the universe from nothing, created life from non-life, and progressively intervened in history to supernaturally create new species of life.
  • The age of the earth has no bearing on the creation of life. An ancient earth does not equate with Darwinian evolution.
  • Darwinian evolution is unbiblical, biologically untenable, and not supported by the fossil record. Old-earth creationists adamantly reject the Darwinian concept of common descent—the hypothesis that all plant, animal, and human life ultimately evolved from primitive single-celled organisms through unguided mutations and naturalistic processes.
  • God miraculously created Adam and Eve, humanity’s historical parents, who were new distinct creatures from whom humanity’s sin originated.
  • Earth’s geologic features formed over long ages through both gradual and catastrophic processes.
  • Genesis 1 is a literal account of God’s creation. After God created the heavens and the earth, He then created life over six successive “days,” which in the original Hebrew may be literally interpreted as long epochs of time.

Well, if any Young Earth proponents read this article I am sure to get some interesting comments; probably more than when I write on something really important like the centrality of Jesus! Sigh! I titled this article ‘Old Earth, Young Earth – Who cares?’, but it is pretty obvious that there are a whole lot of people who do care… a lot. So, for the sake of fairness, here is a Young Earth Creationist site that has been recommended to me.

We should care about ‘truth’, but I believe that the focus of our passionate concern should be things such as the centrality of Jesus, the trustworthiness of the Bible, and dependence on the Holy Spirit for life and ministry. However, I don’t think that we should be focusing on defending one way of interpreting scripture against equally God-honouring understandings.

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The Great Creation Debate

Over the last several years there has been quite a lot of Christian media coverage given to the evolution versus divine creation debate. The subject is not a new one, but of late the Young Earth Creationist camp has been making its views known fairly clearly and dogmatically and this has sparked responses from Christians who hold other views on creation.

I am not a trained scientist and so I am not competent to comment significantly on the scientific aspects of the debate. I also do not claim to be a theological ‘expert’ on the subject. Despite both of these limitations I do feel able to make some cautionary comments on the subject. Job 38:4 records God’s challenge when He asks Job, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” I believe this applies equally to both scientists and theologians. Human beings were not present when God created the heavens and the earth. Scientists were not present at the creation to observe and analyse. They develop their hypotheses from the geological record and logical assumptions. Theologians were not there either and we develop our doctrines from a logical understanding of the scriptures. So an essential requirement in the evolution/creation debate, on both sides, is humility.

A second preliminary consideration concerns who the parties are in the debate. On the one hand Christians are engaged with atheist or agnostic sceptics like Richard Dawkins, but it seems to me that the more heated debate is occurring between Christians. Evangelicals are taking issue with Liberals, but bible-believing Christians are also fighting with other bible-believing evangelicals. I say ‘fighting’ because some of the debate is beyond robust.

creation picThe main ‘camps’ in the Christian debate over evolution and creation are the Young Earth Creationism camp, The Progressive Creationism camp, the Intelligent Design camp, and the Theistic Evolution camp. Bruce Waltke has written a paper on ‘Barriers to accepting the possibility of creation by means of an evolutionary process’ which you can read here and as an appendix he attaches the findings of four surveys administered to Pentecostal seminary faculties between 2004 and 2009. The last of these surveys revealed that only 23% of the respondents were Young Earth Creationists and 19% were evolutionary creationists. So we need to note that neither of these positions enjoys majority support even among Pentecostals.

I recently read comments by a scientist who described himself as a Christian Theistic Evolutionist claiming that a prominent Young Earth Creationist was implying that those Christians who do not agree with his views do not therefore believe in a real Adam or an actual fall. He then points out that as a Theistic Evolutionist he does believe in a real Adam and Eve, a Garden of Eden, a real Fall, and in the authority of the Bible. So we all need to be careful how we classify and characterise other sincere Christians.

I believe that, instead of fighting each other over the ‘how’ of creation, Christian scholars with a particular interest in this area of study should engage each other in a non-confrontational way on some of the underlying issues in the debate. For instance, we need to discuss what the various views say or imply concerning the character of God, the trustworthiness of the scriptures, and key doctrines such as sin and salvation. As an example, the idea that God created the earth some 6,000 years ago with the appearance of great age says something about God’s integrity and transparency. Disbelief in an actual Adam and original sin seriously affects the evangelical understanding of salvation in and through the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), the Lord Jesus Christ, and so on. These, and other serious doctrinal and faith issues, should be resolved through considerate and careful debate. I for one would certainly appreciate more of this kind of exchange and less polemic dogmatism in Christian magazines and journals.

My appeal to both scholars and editors is to air the underlying faith issues in the debate rather than the endless ideas on how God might have created, or when He created.

As a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ I am far more interested in, and impacted by, what the creation issue has to say about God’s character, the trustworthiness of the Bible, and the key doctrines of the evangelical faith.
So my appeal is that we make the subject of creation a great debate rather than a great ‘barney’.
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About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar. I have started a site called Classical Guitar SA to serve classical guitar enthusiasts in South Africa.