A Complete Overhaul …(part two)

As I mentioned in the first article on this topic, just a few of my friends joined into the conversation on Facebook. Perhaps I cannot understand the true reasons of those who decided to be silent on the subject of Creation. From the comments of those who shared their opinion, I draw a few ideas and present them here (without naming the authors) as an introduction to what I would later present as “A Coherent Creation Model for the 21st Century”.

One of my friends opined that it would be wise to consider the Pascal’s Wager before we discard the belief in God. I answered that I agree with Pascal and I don’t discard the belief in God, but my approach was not about God’s existence; it was about the Creation. At this he replied that we should take them as a “package”, meaning that if we believe in God, we should also believe in Genesis’ literal rendering of Creation. To this I cannot subscribe. The belief in God is subjective since God is outside our possibility of inquiry, therefore He is outside the scope of science. There is no wonder then why finding two persons who have the same understanding or concept of God is such a daunting task. With the Genesis, however, things are different. Genesis is a text that we can examine scientifically. Even though we do not know for sure who the author is, we can understand the times, the style, the reasons, the rhetoric, the polemic, the audience intended, and the author’s position on all the fundamental questions he tries to address in the Book of Genesis. Only when we employ a sound hermeneutic and understand this text in the context of all the conditions surrounding the producing of this text, we can attempt a “coherent creationist approach”, as pastor Mike put it.

Another friend acknowledged that the Genesis description of Creation is problematic, but he considered that the reason for it has to do with the “incompleteness” of the description. He said “I think that, if we are honest, we will have to admit that the Creation story has many points that we simply haven’t been told yet”. Then, using the example of Einstein’s Cosmological Constant where he used a division by zero (caught by the Russian scientist Friedmann) my friend made a second point that had to do with how scientific theories are dealt with, meaning that when a mathematical theory is proven to have faults, that is enough to discredit the theory and there is no need for presenting a better one. In other words, Einstein removed the Cosmological Constant without asking Friedmann to present a better version of the theory. Suffice to say that the removal of the Cosmological Constant by Einstein is actually considered to be his real blunder (see here). Even though pointing to flaws in a mathematical theory can lead to the discard of such theory, our discussion regarding the Creation is not a scientific attempt because the Creation is not, and it cannot be, a mathematical theory. The Creation paradigm is a philosophical-theological worldview that rests, in most cases, on the text of Genesis, or rather on the interpretation of it. I believe that it is self-defeating to point towards the flaws of various scientific theories in order to discard them, while at the same time we entertain a theological position that is filled with contradictions and paradoxes. In order to be successful in deciphering and exposing the pseudoscience, we first have to examine our theological position and update it so that believers would not have to live constantly in a state of cognitive dissonance with the rest of the world and the scientific facts.

Yet another old friend of mine (meaning that we know each other for a long time, not that he is an old man) took an apologetic position towards the literal interpretation of Genesis, while inserting a little of his known sarcastic style in his comments. He asked whether my intention was to “come up with another Creation model than what the Bible says”. In his opinion, “the report of Creation in Genesis concerns is not a scientific description but still an accurate one”. When you add to this his following sentences, “His (God’s) Creation has deep symbolical connotations. But it surpasses our understanding”, it appears that my friend is either ignorant of the contradictions resulting from such statements, or that he is not bothered by such contradictions. I tried to reason with him and pointed out that the Creation models in Christianity are based on the Genesis text, therefore I was not pleading for a model that disregards Genesis. On the contrary, I believe we ought to devise a Creation model that is based on a better understanding of Genesis. The laws of nature are constant throughout the passing of time, but in the case of theology this is not true, theology being constantly changing. You cannot use the term “accuracy” without noting that this term describes a result of a scientific inquiry. How do you determine that something is “accurate” except that you observe, measure, quantify, check and re-check your calculus and make sure you are not calling “accurate” something that is in fact inaccurate? And how do you engage in this undertaking and declare something to be “accurate” if you are dealing with “symbolical connotations that surpass our understanding”? I agree that the Genesis story has many symbolic connotations. Moreover, I suggest that the value of Genesis consists exactly in these symbolical connotations, but I believe that we are able to understand what is written because that was the intention of the author. Otherwise, why would an author write something that is not understood neither by his generation, nor by the future generations? Wouldn’t that be a silly and fruitless activity?

The opinions expressed by my friends are somewhat representative of the general understanding of Creation among the evangelical Christians, in general, and the Seventh-day Adventists in particular, where the Biblical interpretation is dominated by the doctrine of a literal Divine inspiration of the Bible, hence “you take it as you read it”. Where does this understanding come from? Who is educating and formatting the mind of the believers? And, more strikingly, what is the purpose for such education? Could it be that our spiritual leaders are actively involved in a “blatant thought control” of the people, as my preferred theologian put it? For those who are interested in understanding the relationship between the Book of Genesis and the prevailing mythological texts and perceptions of that time, I recommend the article “THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE COSMOLOGY IN GENESIS I IN RELATION TO ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN PARALLELS” by Gerhard F. Hasel (deceased), a scholar of Andrews University. Also, see “CREATION AND COSMOGONY IN THE BIBLE” from the Jewish Virtual Library. These are easily accessible sources and there is no need that I repeat or summarize the ideas contained in them as I move toward a new, balanced and coherent approach to the Creation, such as proposed below.

A Creation Model for the 21st Century

  1. God is the only Supreme Being, unborn and unmade. He is both Transcendent (He is beyond space and time) and Immanent (He reveals Himself in Creation and sustains it).
  2. God is the Creator of everything there is. This means that we do not believe in the absoluteness of time, space, matter, energy, etc., but all of the above have been created ex-nihilo by God.
  3. Since we are created beings, we cannot fully understand the Creation. We are not attempting a definition or description of Creation, its timing, process, scope, extensiveness, or future.
  4. We believe life is God’s gift. However, we do not claim to know fully its processes, capabilities, and development. We welcome the use of life sciences to better understand it. Science cannot deny God.
  5. We understand the Bible as a human enterprise and search for God, an interface that allows us to draw closer to God and understand His love. The Bible is not dictated by God and is not inerrant and absolute.
  6. The narration of Genesis does not represent a historical and factual report of Creation, but a polemic device against the mythologies of Ancient Near East, namely Sumerian, Babylonian, and Egyptian.
  7. The Genesis creation story is dependent on the socio-cultural conditions surrounding the time, place, knowledge and understanding of its author(s) and has been influenced by similar writings of the time.
  8. Because Genesis sets important lessons for humanity, the later use and citation of Genesis by other Bible writers or by Jesus should be understood also as a cultural application, not as a literal confirmation of it.
  9. We agree with Galileo: the Bible and Nature are two “books” that reveal some of God’s Majesty. Nature reveals how heaven work and the Bible reveals how to get to heaven.
  10. Science and Faith should not conflict with each other. When Science contradicts the Bible, we need to reassess our theology and that is ok with God. He is greater than our weak understanding of Him.


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    • Andrei on 03/01/2017 at 1:55 pm

    I just want to point out a few things, in my often not-so-humble opinion. Apologies in advance. First, there is a big difference between being accurate and being correct. I could run an experiment 100 times and get nearly the same result (accuracy) but it may be completely incorrect because of a variable or condition I may have overlooked. First we must determine what is correct and use it as the standard, then we may proceed to test our models to see how representative they are of the real world. This is often where most claims of science fail, the other is being reproducible in the first place.

    Secondly, science as a whole often contradicts itself and is an ever-changing discipline; it knows absolutely nothing for certain. Therefore, comparing the Bible (which has not changed in more than two millenia) to the constantly shifting winds of science should not be our focus.

    Thirdly, while I applaud your efforts and relate to the internal struggle to understand mysteries such as Creation, the universe, and God who became Man (and agree with points 1-4 in your post), I would caution that we would be entering dangerous territory by making the assertion that, “The Bible is not dictated by God and is not inerrant and absolute.” If we are Christians, we must be Bible-based and that must be our standard, however unpopular or out of sync it may seem with the current understanding of so-called scientific experts. I further understand that organizations (including the church) are prone to corruption, division, politics and even heresy, but we must recognize that the Bible truths are non-negotiable and not open to private interpretation. The Holy Spirit will guide and instruct anyone who is seeking the truth. There are far too many verses in Scripture that point out all of it is inspired, it is Truth, it is the Word, it is Life. To deny this is unwise and will lead to more confusion, not enlightenment.

    Lastly, trusting in our own rationality and the powers of logic as human beings needs to be tempered with humility and a healthy fear of God (reverence, respect), and understanding that we will never, not even in eternity, fully understand God or even the mysteries of His creations or dealings with mankind. Yes, we might get a glimpse of something stunning in nature as revealed by scientific endeavors, but science can never fully reveal nature nor how it works under any and all conditions (even present, much less the distant past), and it should not be our set of eyeglasses for reading and understanding the Bible.

  1. If you overlook a variable or condition you, by your inaccuracy, render the result inaccurate. An accurate result is one that cannot be falsified by another (more careful?) scientist.

    Science never claimed to have absolute truths but that it is perfectible. If the Bible din not change in two millennia, this is not a proof for being without error. If you or someone else can prove that God dictated the Bible, than the following two would be true. But if God did not dictate the Bible, it follows that it is not inerrant nor absolute. Only Jesus claimed to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life. See Mrs. White statements on the inerrancy of the Bible.

    Since when “a healthy fear of God” is in conflict with us using our rationality? On the contrary, I believe this is what God expects from us, who have been made in His image. Yes, we do not fully understand the intricacies of the processes of Creation, but real science helps us understand some of it.

    • Andrei on 03/01/2017 at 5:17 pm

    Variables exist that are unforeseen; there are unknown unknowns, precisely the problem.

    As for the Bible not changing; this is proof that it is consistent, with very little difference between language translations or versions of a language. The message is the same. You are assuming that your “if God did not dictate the Bible, it follows that it is not inerrant nor absolute” statement is true. I believe that He did dictate it, by the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It claims that very fact in many places.

    Our rationality and logic, while useful and God-given, should not lead us to an interpretation that overrides or denies the Biblical accounts for the sake of being current with the times. We are not called to be a popular people, but a peculiar people.

    “Real science” does not concoct stories of which it can offer no proof: unicellular organisms to multicellular, or different species, or “junk” DNA, or man-caused climate change, or the Big Bang, or stellar “nurseries”, or dark matter, or dark energy, or…. and so on. None of these is real science, none can be empirically proven in a lab or observed in the real world.

    • Andrei on 08/01/2017 at 6:30 am

    You are recomending an article from Gerhard F. Hasel….let me also recommend the book “Biblical Interpretation Today” of the same author. I am also reading this book and besides, another one, “Scientific Creationism” of Henry M. Morris. I cannot tell that I will agree with everything written, but I think it is a useful lecture on the hot Topics of your concern.

    • Adrian Ghitta on 08/01/2017 at 10:16 am

    Hi Andrei (from Austria), welcome to my blog! I named you “from Austria” so that I differentiate you from the previous Andrei who is my son. Thank you for your recommendations. I ordered Hassel’s book and I will read it. However, Morris’ book is outdated (1974) and many things in science have been discovered since. Also, his title is repugnant to me because I believe that it is not appropriate to talk about a “scientific creationism”. This term is misleading the believers who are not familiar with what science is. There is nothing scientific in the creation paradigm, meaning that God and His works cannot be known by the scientific method. Morris is among those who are defending God by using lies. Creationism is a philosophical-theological approach that can only be taken and accepted by faith. My point in defending creationism is that we ought to be careful how we defend the creationism so that we do not give reasons for the other party to easily discard our concept. Evolution and evolutionism are two different things. Our GRI scientists accept a certain degree of evolution, called micro-evolution, because it is obvious that there are things about nature that we cannot defend using the Genesis literal description.

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