Thursday, December 14, 2006

Creation to the glory of Jesus Christ

The Universe, created by our Saviour and Lord, is one of the greatest edifices proclaiming His praise, “The Heaven’s declare the glory of God. And the firmament shows His handy work” (Psalm 19:1).

“In the beginning, was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made” (Jn. 1:1-3).

Interpreting the Biblical Account of Creation

There is a popular illustration, “Back in my Father’s day, it took six days, driving during the day, to get to Toronto”. This serves to illustrate that in any language, any given work can have two or more meanings depending on context. In the case above, the word day, means, 1) a generation, 2) a literal 24 hour day, 3) the daylight portion of the day.

The illustration is not overly difficult for an English speaker to grasp, but it introduces the question, “What is interpretation?” In the movie, “The Interpreter,” Nicole Kidman works as a UN Interpreter and acknowledges the difficulty of her job, saying a misstep, a wrong word in translation, could lead to disaster. She was a translator, taking a foreign language, explaining the original meaning of the speaker by using an English word or phrase with the same concept.

Matthew 1:23 conveys the idea succinctly, as the Evangelist quotes Isaiah’s prophecy, “You shall call his name Immanuel” which is interpreted “God with us” (KJV). Some new translations, write, ‘translated’, in place of interpreted, to show the modern English idea, helping to better interpret the passage to modern ears.

The Science of Biblical Interpretation

The science of Biblical interpretation is called “hermeneutics”, named after Hermes, the messenger god of Zeus. The concept being that the interpreter of Scripture is not doing anything to introduce novelty, not to input anything, but simply proclaiming the Divine oracle to humanity.

The divine oracles clearly guide us into an account of how, Jesus Christ created the world. Beginning with the idea that, “by faith we understand that the worlds were formed by the word of God…” (Heb 11:3):

I. In the Beginning

The process was divine fiat:

“In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth. Now Earth was without form and void and darkness covered the surface of the deep. And the Spirit of God hovered over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light (Gen. 1:1-3). “Then God said…. Then God said…. Then God said etc.,” (vv 6,9,11,14,20,24,16),” and it was so…. And it was so…. etc.,” (vv. 7, 9,11 et all).
“by the word of God the heavens were of old and the earth standing out of water and in the water” (2 Peter 3:5). “He commanded and they were created” (Ps. 148:5).

God made the earth and everything in it by divine fiat. That is by His Word. He spoke and it was so; “Thus the Heavens and Earth were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work” (Gen 2:1). The process is complete. The mechanism for the origin of each aspect, from inanimate planets and processes, to fish and fowl, according to Scripture is direct command and response. No intermediate or proximate process is mentioned in Scripture.

The timetable for this creation is given as well, “God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day and the darkness He called Night. So there was evening and morning, the first day.” (Gen. 1:4,5). The Hebrew word for “day” can mean a number of different things, as does the English word, seen in the illustration above. In both languages, its meaning is determined by context.

The Hebrew word, 'day' is actually used 2000 times in the OT, giving a marvelous sample from which to determine Biblical context. The overwhelming majority of times it means a common ordinary ‘day’. Outside of Genesis one, we get this information to help us understand the context:
1) Whenever (ie. In all cases where) the word ‘day’ is used with a numerical adjective, some 400 times; it always means a literal day.
2) Whenever (ie. In all cases where) the phrase “evening and morning’ are used apart from day; they always mean a literal day (38 Times).
3) Whenever either ‘evening’ or ‘morning’ is used with ‘day’ some 23 times each; they always mean a literal day.
4) Whenever the word ‘Night’ is used in context with Day, 52 times, it always means a literal day.

Now not one, not two, not three, but all these are present in the Genesis account. There is a deliberate, calculated intentionality here, foreseeing any possible future arguments to the contrary.

In other words there is no additional way the author of Genesis could have possibly been any clearer in presenting six, regular, 24 hour days! But there is also a Biblical commentary to help clarify this further, as if to slam the door shut on debate. In the 10 Commandments, a rather literal text, we read the rational for the Sabbath, and the only rational for a seven day week, “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth” (Ex. 20:3).

II. Natural Factors

All is not accounted for by simple intellegent design however. There are factors such as appearent disteliology, suffereing, and brute ugliness, that make an edenic creation seem mythical. But the Bible, being true history and not a story, has accounted for these things and provides an adequate explanation for these things.

1) The Fall: “Cursed is the ground for your sake:... Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth” (Gen. 3:17,18). The NT reveals, “…the creation was subjected to futility” (Rom. 8:20).
2) The Flood: “All the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened…. the waters prevailed exceedingly on the whole earth, and all the high hills were covered…. So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping things and birds of the air” (Gen. 7:11,19,23). “The world that then existed perished” (2 Pet. 3:6). This radically changes the interpretation of the observable facts, because the creation only dimly reveals it original order, and the geological and hydrological factors mentioned would have cataclysmic effects.

III. Ethical Factors

Not only is the creation so changed as to barely be recognizable for its origional intention, without the corrections of the natural factors, but there is an even more serious matter-the Human condition.

Man’s intellect rejects this interpretation of the facts in nature and himself: “For this they ‘willfully’ forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old,… by which the world that then existed perished being flooded by water.” (2 Peter 3:5-6). Romans one closes the door on hope for the natural intellect to accept the ethical implications of special creation, they, “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18).

This is purely ethical. There is no epistemelogical, or physical barrier to discovering this truth, but man needs to be shown his moral rebellion against it.

Summary and Conclusions

Therefore the Biblical doctrine of Creation, is: 1) that God created the Universe in six literal days, and all very good. 2) That sin entered and radically changed much of the good in creation physically; including an apparent dis-teleology (futility). 3) That the flood destroyed the world that then existed, radically and permanently changing the appearance and facts of the earth around us. 4) That sin also caused an ethical dilemma that ethically dissuades man from admitting the facts as God sees them. 5) that despite all this there are enough vestiges in creation, especially if interpreted in light of the above to show both the evident Intelligent Design of the Earth, and mark the Character of the Creator, and to reveal our duty to glorify Him.

The only solution for those who cannot grasp this, is salvation. They must become covenant keepers, as I noted in my last post.

The Church and Revelation

Here is the role of the church, which leads well back into the series I had begun to write. According to I Timothy 3:15, the Church is, "The pillar and grounds of the Truth". We are to proclaim, or "preach the Word, in season and out of season" (2 Ti. 4:1), because "it pleased God, by the foolish means of the message preached, to save those who believe" (I Co. 1:21).

Through this the ethical blinders can be removed and redeemed man can glorify God, as he was created to do.

Q: What is the Chief purpose of humanity? A: To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Chritianity Explains the Origin of the Universe

As I promised in the most recent of my replies in the comment dialogue of the previous post I am going to put up a short series of posts explaining the Biblical explanation of the origin of the Universe. Hopefully they will be of some help. If you missed it you can catch up here.

The Laws of Physics

Biblical creation is fundamentally in agreement with science. Science repeatedly affirms design. The fictional Star Trek character Scottie is famous for declaring in his lovable brogue, “Ye canna’ change the laws of physics!”

Astronomy, biology and archeology’s claims and recantations are in constant flux and theories leap from one extreme to another on a regular basis, but there are two scientific principles which have never been contradicted through centuries of experimentation and theorization.

1) The Conservation of Energy Principle

Sometimes expressed as the First Law of Thermodynamics, when speaking of energy:

The conservation of energy principle is one of the foundation principles of all science disciplines…. Energy can be defined as the capacity for doing work. It may exist in a variety of forms and may be transformed from one type of energy to another. However, these energy transformations are constrained by a fundamental principle, the Conservation of Energy principle. One way to state this principle is "Energy can neither be created nor destroyed". Another approach is to say that the total energy of an isolated system remains constant1.

We understand this as fundamental to Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, that energy and matter are in principle one (E=MC2).

Both the Steady State Theory, once popular (events occurring outside of space), and the ruling Big Bang Theory (events occurring outside of time), are in clear contradiction of this Law of Science. The Bible on the other hand says that God, after instituting Time, Matter and Space (Gen 1:1), “ended His work” (Gen. 2:1) and now conserves the system (Col. 1:17) in perfect harmony with the Laws its author Superintends.

2) The Law of Entropy

Sometimes expressed as the Second law of Thermodynamics, again when referring to energy:

A measure of the disorder of a system…Since entropy gives information about the evolution of an isolated system with time, it is said to give us the direction of "time's arrow" . If snapshots of a system at two different times shows one state which is more disordered, then it could be implied that this state came later in time. For an isolated system, the natural course of events takes the system to a more disordered (higher entropy) state2.

The evolution of any system is always downward. In harmony with the First Law, the second maintains all the Energy of any given system, but teaches that it always moves to disorder from order, without outside stimulus. The Universe as a whole is dying and has been since its origin. If it was eternal, it would now be dead. This proves the temporal origin of the Universe and the need for a source that is infinite in energy, infinite in information and a “sufficient” not just possible cause for the Universe.

The Bible of course affirms all of this, “In the beginning God” (Gen. 1:1). The God of the Bible is infinite, personal, creative and sufficient to be the cause of the Universe we experience. Additionally the Bible tells us “The heavens will vanish away like smoke and the earth will grow old like a garment” (Is. 51:6). Time’s arrow is indeed pointing down. Some outworkings of this principle of entropy are good and natural, (ie friction, digestion etc.) and some the result of sin: “The creation was subjected to futility… by Him who subjected it in hope” (Rom. 8:20). That is as a result of sin, this principle is fatal, so that even death is a part of its cycle, “to dust you shall return” (Ge. 3:19).

The Bible and Modern Scientific Observations in Harmony

As Creationists and interpreters of the Bible affirm the laws and observations of Science, there is much data in common with naturalistic and theistic evolutionary thinkers. 1) The apparent disteleology and yet ultimate order of the Universe, 2) the survival of the fittest preservation and mutation mechanism, 3) nature red in tooth and claw as the natural state, 4) similarities between all life, structural, DNA, etc., 5) geographical strata, 6) fossils, 7) Astronomical observations “redshift” etc.

The only difference is in interpreting the history of these observations. Does disteleology and order show that the universe, contra the Law of Entropy, is moving upward? Does the survival of the fittest through mutation, imply the entry of new development to higher and higher forms, or the sorting of existing information? Is the violence of nature, the way it has always been, or is this the result of a curse on a perfect creation? Do similarities point to a common ancestor, or a common designer/artist? Does the geological record point to billions of years or a global catastrophe? Do fossils indicate upward progression, or rapid burial of related species? And so on and so on. How can these types of questions be addressed? Not through observational science. We have a rock, or a bone, not a time stamped document.

The Ethical Lens of Perception and Interpretive Revelation

“All men” by nature “Suppress the knowledge of God”. They “exchange the truth of God for the lie”, and “profession to be wise,” or enlightened, “they become fools”. And as they reject God, so He rejects them, and “gave them over to a depraved mind” (Romans One).

All men are by nature covenant keepers, or covenant breakers. In Scripture God has given a clear testimony of Creation, “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day” (Ex. 20:11). The Evangelical church has always confessed something like this:

The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience (2 Timothy 3:15-17, Isaiah 8:20, Luke 16:29,31, Ephesians 2:20).
The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, depends not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the author thereof; therefore it is to be received because it is the Word of God (2 Peter 1:19-21; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 John 5:9). --1689 LBC
In light of the authority of the source, namely God: the Bible is thought of as authoritative on everything of which it speaks. And frankly, it speaks of everything. Not of course that it speaks of hockey games, of atoms, etc., directly, but it speaks of everything either directly or indirectly.
It tells us not only of the Christ and his work, but it also tells us who God is and from where the universe has come. It gives us a philosophy of history as well as history. Moreover, the information on these subjects is woven inextricably into the whole. It is only if you reject the Bible as the Word of God, that you can separate its so-called religious and moral instruction from what it says, for example, about the physical universe.

This is where the question lays, both in the lab and in the Church. How do I live in obedience to God in everything? To say Scripture is unclear, or ambiguous in these matters is farcical as it speaks with the utmost clearness. As a consequence, it is an ethical decision, to believe in Biblical creation, not a mere debate about facts.

The Interrelatedness of Doctrine

Furthermore it must be understood that this Biblical doctrine of creation, as Romans One illustrates, that God is the author and sustainer of the universe, as well as the source of all good things, is the very foundation of all religious belief. It is this that is assaulted most fiercely by the kingdom of Satan, “which worship and serves the creature, rather than the Creator”.
The Bible is not a collection of loose doctrines for one to pick and choose from as one likes. The Account of Genesis one to eleven is no separated matter, cut off from the rest of Scripture. Rather every Christian doctrine, either explicitly, or implicitly finds its source in these chapters. If we take any view but that of a literal, plain rendering, then we risk many things:

1) Any other view denies the perspicuity and accuracy of Scripture, the sure foundation of our faith.
2) Any other views necessitate the denial of the doctrine of original sin, without which the entire doctrine of atonement, which the NT directly links to Genesis 3 is abolished (Cf. Rom. 6 and I Co. 15).
3) They necessitate the denial of the flood, which Peter calls a sign of apostasy, and specifically the denial of the doctrine of divine judgment “for this they willfully deny” (2 Pet. 3:5).
4) They necessitate the denial of the curse, as the present configuration is seen as the result of God’s intentional plan and not the corruption of the same into bondage (Rom. 8:20).
5) This in turn results in a denial of God’s attribute of goodness, because he is the God that designed cancer for little children, and bloodshed as the path to perfection “all very good” (Gen. 1:31). .
6) It denies a literal Adam and Eve, necessitating a denial of the foundation for the roles of men and women in marriage and the church and implies the denial of the second Adam and directly denies the resurrection (I Co. 15: 44-49).
7) It denies the testimony of Christ is true, as he testifies that mankind far from being the pinnacle of evolution, “Have you not read, that He who made them at the beginning, made them male and female” (Mt. 19:4). If Jesus was wrong here, what else was he wring on?

In essence, by embracing even theistic evolution, we have lost, the basic confession of even the Apostle’s creed. We have lost the knowablility of truth, sin, final judgment and thus morality, the atonement, redemption, the resurrection, the institution of marriage, the goodness of God and the truth of the words of Christ for starters. These doctrines cannot be held, without a literal Genesis 1-11. But that is not to say that those who deny the Genesis account do not personally hold to these. It merely means they have no valid foundation for them any more. By virtue of ignorance, or by blind faith, they cling to these unsupportable assumptions despite their view of origins.