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Science and the Bible: Concordism, Part 2

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July 3, 2012 Tags: Biblical Interpretation
Science and the Bible: Concordism, Part 2
Nuremberg Chronicle (1493)

Today's entry was written by Ted Davis. You can read more about what we believe here.

Note: In the first half of this column on June 19, I presented four core tenets or assumptions of Concordism. We resume our discussion of that view today with certain conclusions that follow from those assumptions. A short history of Concordism will follow on July 17.

Some important conclusions of Concordism

(1) Scientific evidence for an old earth is generally reliable and needn’t be refuted.

Unlike the YECs, OECs do not contest the enormous body of evidence showing that the earth and the universe are billions of years old, and that complex, macroscopic life forms have been on this planet for hundreds of millions of years. Quite the opposite. OEC authors often review selected pieces of the evidence, supplemented by arguments about how to read Genesis in light of that evidence, hoping to persuade YEC readers that mainstream scientific conclusions are indeed very well founded and do not contradict the Bible.

Indeed, concordists usually seem to be writing with one eye on YEC readers. Hugh Ross, an outspoken advocate of the day-age view whose views have already been discussed, is probably the most obvious example of such an author today, although many other examples could be given. Thirty-five years ago, when Scientific Creationism was still relatively new, an influential group of evangelical authors very actively pushed progressive creationist interpretations with both eyes on YEC readers. Although obviously dated, their works still have value for those interested in the age of the earth & universe in relation to Genesis.

The late Dan Wonderley taught biology for several years at Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana, where YEC pioneer John Whitcomb taught at the seminary. A Baptist with master’s degrees in both theology and biology, Wonderley had to resign after his OEC views became publically known. A few years later he published a book, God's Time-Records in Ancient Sediments: Evidences of Long Time Spans in Earth's History (1977), in which he presented his day-age position. Perhaps its most useful feature is the detailed account of scientific evidence unrelated to the radioactive processes that are so often criticized by YEC authors, undermining their credibility for many conservative Christian readers. It’s not that Wonderley denied the validity of radiometric data, but he wanted readers to understand that even if they did not accept such data there was still abundant evidence for the great antiquity of the earth. A revised edition is available here. For a shorter version, see his article, “Non-Radiometric Data Relevant to the Question of Age”. I recommend that interested parties examine these sources and place comments below.

Wonderley’s essay was soon reprinted as an appendix to another important OEC book, Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth (1977), written by astronomer and biblical scholar Robert C. Newman and a scientifically-trained pastor, Herman J. Eckelmann, Jr. The revised edition of this book is also available on the internet. The authors advance an esoteric OEC interpretation of the Genesis “days,” in which each of the six creative “days” was an ordinary day, but vast periods of time are interspersed between them; this is known as the “intermittent day” view. A Reformed scholar who taught New Testament at Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, PA, for thirty-five years, Newman has in recent years been interested in ID. That should not be surprising. Many, perhaps most, ID supporters probably hold to some type of concordism, but this is hard to sort out since ID’s official stance is to keep the Bible out of the conversation, as far as possible. Indeed, to some extent the OEC view has been subsumed within ID, though covertly rather than overtly. I will say more about this in my upcoming columns about ID.

Simultaneously with the books by Wonderley and Newman, geologist Davis A. Young published Creation and the Flood: An Alternative to Flood Geology and Theistic Evolution (1977). Young’s father was a very conservative Presbyterian biblical scholar, the late E. J. Young. In the early 1960s, as an undergraduate at Princeton and a master’s student at Penn State, Davis Young enthusiastically supported Whitcomb and Morris’ flood geology, but he changed his mind as a doctoral student at Brown, subsequently becoming an energetic opponent of the YEC position (Ronald Numbers, The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design, 2006, pp. 304-306). As a professor at Calvin College (now retired), he has written many excellent books and articles combining scientific, historical, and biblical information on the flood, the age of the Earth (and an expanded version), human antiquity, and even John Calvin's understanding of nature. Young might still be a concordist of some type, but several years ago he gave up the day-age view and many of his later works don’t fit naturally into any of the boxes I’m using in this series. However, his scholarship is impeccable and everything he writes is well worth reading, whether or not it advances a concordist model. The consistently high quality of his work led The Geological Society of America to name him recipient of the Mary C. Rabbitt History of Geology Award in 2009. Creationist Jonathan Sarfati, on the other hand, accuses Young of “poor scholarship and self deception”, while YEC geologist John K. Reed responds to Young and several other conservative Reformed geologists who accept an old earth here.

Incidentally, I met all three of these men (Wonderley, Newman, and Young) not too long after their books came out. We were all involved with the American Scientific Affiliation. Readers who are very serious about Christianity and science should join that excellent organization: there simply is no substitute for the kind of live human interaction they foster. No blog or list-serve can come close to matching it.

(2) Animals died long before the Fall of Adam and Eve.

OECs not only accept the geological evidence for antiquity, they also accept its implications for interpreting Genesis—including its implications for theodicy. Newman didn’t go into this, but Young weighed in extensively in his first book, Creation and the Flood. I’ll leave it as an “assignment” for readers to investigate more fully and make a report to the “class.” Wonderley’s book includes a short appendix on “The Problem of Death Before the Fall of Man” that should be read at this point. OECs today still talk about death before the fall, partly because the absence of animal suffering prior to the fall is absolutely crucial to the YEC view of God and the Bible.

OECs hold similar views about God and the Bible, alongside different views about natural history, so (pardon the pun) they take great pains to explain pain in a manner consistent with their OEC stance. A nice contemporary example is physicist David Snoke, who is also a licensed preacher in a very conservative denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America. (I don’t want to digress very far, but let me note in passing that the sin-death issue is especially important to Reformed Christians.) Snoke devotes substantial attention to theodicy in his OEC book, A Biblical Case for an Old Earth and in an interesting article, “Why Were Dangerous Animals Created?”. Creationist Lita Cosner calls Snoke’s book “pathetic”, adding that “it takes an amazing amount of arrogance to think that someone can refute young-earth creationism in any kind of detail in a book less than 200 pages long,” despite the fact that dozens of YECs have claimed to “refute” evolution in books that are even shorter!

A recent concordist book about theodicy by William Dembski has drawn substantial attention—partly because the author is a leading advocate of ID, and partly because when he wrote it he was teaching at a seminary owned by the Southern Baptist Convention, a denomination in which the YEC view has many influential advocates (especially R. Albert Mohler, Jr.). Entitled The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World , Dembski states that this particular book, unlike his others, is not about ID, even though the problem of evil is highly relevant to the nature of an intelligent designer. Rather, it is essentially an OEC book, written with both eyes on the YECs—with whom he expresses much sympathy: “The young-earth solution to reconciling the order of creation with natural history makes good exegetical and theological sense,” and it was the consensus view through the Reformation. However, he quickly adds, “I myself would adopt it in a heartbeat except that nature seems to present such strong evidence against it.” (p. 55) Indeed, as he says in an interview about the book, the issue of death before the fall “is at the heart of the debate between young and old earth creationists”. Dembski also advocates a local flood, and he treats the garden of Eden as a “segregated area in which the effects of natural evil are not evident” (p. 151; for more, see Dembski’s separate article here). I’ll be more specific about Dembski’s theodicy in the final part of this column, where I’ll highlight an historical connection he makes himself. For the time being, I only note that his views on all of these points have been controversial among Southern Baptists and other fundamentalists, such that he had to retract his position on the flood in order to remain on the faculty at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (see the “Preamble” by Paige Patterson, president of the seminary, here).

(3) Quite a bit of evolution may have happened, but humans and (at least some) other major forms of life were separately created.

Hugh Ross apparently thinks that millions of creatures were created separately. In their contribution to The G3n3sis Debate : Three Views on the Days of Creation, Ross and his co-author, the late Gleason Archer, say, “we acknowledge hundreds of millions of miracles over millions, even billions of years,” but they may lie on one end of this issue (p. 196). Regardless, this is one reason why concordists are often called “old-earth creationists.” It is misleading in the extreme to call them “evolutionists,” as the YECs often do, simply because they accept an “old” earth and universe.

Of course, the crucial issue is human origins: whatever a given OEC thinks about how many other creatures were separately created, God created Adam and Eve ex nihilo!

Looking Ahead

Our study of Concordism concludes on Monday, July 16 (not on Tuesday, July 17 as you’ve come to expect) with a sketch of its history. In the meantime, let’s keep talking about Concordism.

Ted Davis is Fellow of the History of Science for the BioLogos Foundation and Professor of the History of Science at Messiah College. At Messiah, Davis teaches courses on historical and contemporary aspects of Christianity and science and directs the Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science.

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wesseldawn - #70818

July 3rd 2012

Great post and interesting reading. I don’t believe however, that YEC advocates will be convinced by the extensive fossil record (even though it’s redundant to argue against the physical evidence). They will however, be convinced with scripture.

Gen. 2:7 - man = created of the ‘dust of the ground’ (dust/ground are synonyms = mortal, clay, mud) - man was of the dust, meaning it was of the dust itself -it was the dust (primordial soup). 

Genesis is a very quick overview of creation as Gen. 2:4 clearly states that the heavens and the earth were created in ‘generations’ - ‘in the day’ (day = ‘to be hot’).

Therefore, man had its beginnings in the mud at a time when the earth was hot.

Further, man in the first state (before the garden, (Gen. 2;7) was not a human being but a brute animal/ruddy (soul = animal principle only).

When this mammal entered the garden (Gen. 2:8) it got God’s image, which allowed it to change (Adam).

Adam left the garden temporarily (death of the spiritual nature/deep sleep, Gen. 2:21, God’s idea because the man was alone) and re-entered the mortal realm where natural processes once more took over.

Natural processes would have resumed once Adam left the immortal realm and returned to earth. Evolution (of the dust) by its very nature would have created an asexual creature. Therefore, Adam ‘gave birth’ to Eve (she came out of its side/and afterwards the place where she came out was closed up, meaning that Adam no longer had the ability to give birth). This truly made her “flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone” (Gen. 2:23).

In the garden, changes had occured to man/ruddy and at that point it was not the same as it had been when it had first entered the garden. It was not stricly animal but neither was it human…but Neanderthal.

When Adam’s offspring (Eve/also Neanderthal) reached maturity, they mated. Adam and Eve returned to the garden but left Neanderthal children on the earth (as the fossil record clearly shows Neanderthal and human existing together at the same time).

Therefore, man was the original creature/mammal that evolved in the garden (Adam), the missing link and the first human (after they left the garden for second time)!

That’s how I read Genesis and it agrees with science, albeit with a twist.

Eddie - #70820

July 4th 2012

Dear Dr. Davis:

Thanks again for an informative historical summary.

I would like to ask what is probably a naive question.

You wrote, “the absence of animal suffering prior to the fall is absolutely crucial to the YEC view of God and the Bible.”

I have always thought of YEC people as literalists.  That is, I have always assumed that their opposition to evolution springs from a belief that the Bible generally, and Genesis in particular, is to be taken as a verbatim report of past events.  So if Genesis speaks of days, then the world was created in six 24-hour days; if Genesis speaks of talking serpents, then there was a talking serpent; etc.

Yet Genesis makes no mention of any general “fall of nature” which would cause animal suffering to start after the transgression of Adam and Eve.  The only changes in nature recorded in the Fall story are:  the soil will be harder to work, women will suffer pain in childbirth, and serpents will crawl on their bellies and be assaulted by the seed of Eve.  The idea that animal suffering generally began with the Fall has no justification in the Garden story.  

Further, a natural reading of Genesis 1 is that the animals said to be created there are the animals we know today, including lions, sharks, parasites, etc., which means that animal suffering was in the plan of God from the beginning.

So aren’t the YEC people violating their own principle of literalism by inventing a causal connection (animal suffering was caused by the Fall) about which the text is entirely silent?

Dunemeister - #70821

July 4th 2012

The YEC answer is that ALL suffering is caused by the fall, including animal suffering. Lions may have sharp teeth, but that doesn’t mean that pre-fall lions ate meat. All it means is that whatever they ate, they ripped. In support, YECs can point to Romans 8, which describes the present creation as “groaning” and Paul’s argument that sin (and therefore suffering) entered the world through the sin of a single man. So although Genesis itself doesn’t account for the YEC claim about a “fall of nature”, other parts of scripture do.

Ted Davis - #70865

July 6th 2012

Please note my replies below, Eddie.

Merv - #70822

July 4th 2012

Thanks for the online links to the works referenced.  I have now  perused Wonderly’s “God’s Time Records in Ancient Sediments…”  and skipped ahead to read some of his appendices; especially the one about death before the fall.

He differentiates strongly between human death and suffering and animal death and suffering.  He notes that nowhere in Scriptures does it say that there was no animal death at all before the sin in the garden.  It seems that Wonderly accepts that God designed some creatures to feed on other living things ... even plants.  It’s curious that Wonderly would trouble himself over plant death since even YECs today distinguish between plant and animal death.  But nonetheless he spells out the case for the ancient death of many plant and simpler animal organisms.

As Ted states, Wonderly draws a line between acceptance of ancient geology (which he demonstrates was commonly accepted by even conservative Christians in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries) and evolution which Wonderly says little of other than to separate it from time scale issues.  There seemed to me the strong implication that Wonderly was not accepting of human evolution, pointing out that evidence for that was much more tenable than the deeply established (and pre-radiometric) evidence for geological timescales.  This distinction of relative evidentiary strengths would be contested more widely today, and I wonder if Wonderly were still alive how or if he would be pushing this distinction today.

Despite wesseldawn’s suspicion (first comment above) that YECs won’t be swayed by fossil evidence but only by Scripture, I nevertheless think that Wonderly’s book makes a wonderful reference (and all the easier for its free access) because of the charitable Christian spirit with which he writes and his obvious concern that he be faithful first and foremost to Scripture.  I think this work is one that challenges Young-earthers in a very healthy and firm way and with spiritual sensitivity.  The fact that some continue to use the phrase “Creation Science” could be taken as a positive indicator that they have not abandoned all positive valuation of science.   If they can be eased into accepting any geological science at all, then it will be works like Wonderly’s that shed Christian light on the path that seems to YECs so fraught with spiritual danger.


Ted Davis - #70860

July 6th 2012

I can always count on you, Merv, to do the “assignments” with care and evident enthusiasm. Thank you for just one more example of this!

Francis - #70823

July 4th 2012

“(1) Scientific evidence for an old earth is generally reliable and needn’t be refuted.”

“Generally” reliable. Or reliable until the next discovery or latest interpretation shows it was unreliable.

With surprising regularity I read about significant revisions regarding the age or timing of something in evolution or paleontology.

Recently, I stumbled on this 200% to 300% adjustment regarding the first use of fire.  http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/323803/20120404/oldest-evidence-fire-use-human-found-south.htm 

Or just add a billion years here http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3321819.stm

How long has homo sapiens existed? Some say 100,000 years. Some say 400,000. Some say something(s) in-between. http://www.askipedia.com/how-long-have-humans-been-on-the-earth/

I have an observation and a question:

Mankind has made some extraordinary advances, particularly in technology, in the “short” 5 or 6 thousand years of recorded history. How is it that man accomplished next-to-nothing in the 95,000 to 355,000 years prior?

Francis - #70824

July 4th 2012

“OECs today still talk about death before the fall, partly because the absence of animal suffering prior to the fall is absolutely crucial to the YEC view of God and the Bible.”

I think our God is a God of life, not of death. The creation account makes no mention of death, only of life - and that it was “VERY GOOD” [Gen 1:31].

I don’t believe God thinks any death is “very good.”  Coincidentally, while silent about animal death, the Bible indicates animals were not dying “unnaturally” (i.e. Not being killed for food by humans or by other animals.) Everyone was a vegetarian! We read:

“And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.
And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth,  everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.” [Genesis 1:29-30]


Paul says “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now;
and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” [Rom 8:22-23]

I don’t think God’s “very good” creation was a “groaning” creation.


“Of course, the crucial issue is human origins: whatever a given OEC thinks about how many other creatures were separately created, God created Adam and Eve ex nihilo!”

Correction needed. Genesis indicates God did not create Adam and Eve ex nihilo. He created them separately, yes, but not from nothing. He created them using matter from Adam or from the earth, the earth which he did create ex nihilo.

wesseldawn - #70834

July 5th 2012


I agree that God is a God of life, not death - so then (and as I’ve said before) this world cannot be God’s original creation because what takes place on the earth is very often ‘not good’!!

Something went wrong and this reality is the result of it!

Eve was a product of Adam (rib=as curved=DNA?), meaning directly from his body - but not in the sense as always thought - rather if Adam was back on the earth because his spirit was in a deep sleep (death) then Ruddy was once more mortal when she was produced and natrual laws would have resumed.

God saw that Adam was alone, so God made other creatures (of the garden) but none was suitable, it had to be a creature like Adam (meaning after Adam’s kind) and the only way that could be accomplished was if Adam was back in a mortal state. There was no divine intervention, Adam (it) gave birth to her! After that Adam was strictly male, all the female genes had been pooled into her.

The idea of one creature being two sexes is not new - early evolution by its nature would initially have produced such a state, otherwise the species would have quickly died out.

Again, it’s simply in the way one looks at the story.


Merv - #70826

July 4th 2012

Francis wrote:  I don’t believe God thinks any death is “very good.”

Or here is a contrasting view on that.

Job 38:41 Who provides for the raven his prey, When his young ones cry to God, And wander for lack of food?

Psalms 104:21 The young lions roar after their prey, And seek their food from God.

So is God boasting to Job about something that is actually an inferior retrofit?  Former herbivores now reduced to being carnivores?    I’ll admit I don’t have answers to this either—because it is equally hard for us to imagine the prophecies of a wolf and a lamb or a lion and an ox all feeding together (Isa. 65)  (Incidentally the serpent’s food will be ‘dust’).  It does seem a bit stetched to think this must all be literal, and a more likely conclusion taking the Hebrew audience into consideration is that creation has a large share of dangerous and untamed chaos (which God imposed order on in the garden), but that this dangerous chaos is still the nature of things ... that is… until the final consumation in history when all is created new and evil finally vanquished. What this will look like seems beyond our speculation now, but all we can do is note it is not the nature of things as we see them now.

Regarding some of your other points; you wonder why technology didn’t advance in the first hundreds of thousands of years since it advances so fast now.  Many things (think of population) don’t grow on anything close to a linear scale, but can explode exponentially.  We add more people to the earth in a year now than they probably did in an entire century for most centuries of all history.  And besides, who is to speak of what they did or did not accomplish.  The pyramids seem pretty impressive to me, and how much more from untold eons may have been buried or destroyed beyond our abilities to ever find?

Regarding changing dates—it is true that many widely disparate ages for the earth have been held over history.  E.g.  Lord Kelvin (a devout Christian, by the way) stubbornly put the age somewhere between 20 million and 400 million years based on his heat loss calculations (much to the distress of evolutionists and geologists of the time).  But radioactive decay was only freshly being discovered, and Kelvin had not figured such a thing—a source of heat that would keep the earth from losing its interior heat so fast—into his calculations.  With this new information the scales jumped a magnitude.  And sure they have been adjusted since, but so many lines of evidence converge on the 4 1/2 billion now that radical adjustments to this can be safely considered unlikely. 

Regarding disputes about when the first humans appeared—that is and remains a thorny issue since it is hard to agree on a definition of “what is human” in the first place in any scientific sense.  So one could expect widely disparate hypotheses to be floating around on that for a long while.  Science tends to have a category-blurring effect the more any given subject is studied.

It is easy to try to hide behind problem areas, disagreements, or current ignorances in order to cling to special understandings, because there will always be disputes in science.  But on some issues, like deep time, those hiding places have all but vanished.


Francis - #70833

July 5th 2012


You responded: “So is God boasting to Job about something that is actually an inferior retrofit? Former herbivores now reduced to being carnivores? ”

Yes, I do believe God is. You stumbled over the answer yourself with Isaiah 65. [See also Isaiah 11]. God will restore the world to the way it used to be, to the way He created it.


“creation has a large share of dangerous and untamed chaos (which God imposed order on in the garden)”

Are you saying God created chaos, and later brought it to order in the Garden of Eden?  Where do you get that idea?  [Maybe you’re referring to Gen 1:2 which says the earth was formless, void and in darkness. To say that’s chaos, that would be a stretch. What if I was a sculptor, and I had a studio next door (“darkened”/ lights off) with nothing in it but a big blob of clay which I had yet to tackle. Would I say I have chaos in the studio?)


“ this dangerous chaos is still the nature of things”

No, I think chaos is not the nature of things, not the original nature. God does not create chaos. He does not create evil. Chaos and evil are allowed by God; they are symptomatic of sin. Chaos is not the nature of things but a characteristic of our nature fallen.


“The pyramids seem pretty impressive to me, and how much more from untold eons may have been buried or destroyed beyond our abilities to ever find?”

The great pyramids are pretty impressive to me, too. But they are included in what I said is the “short” 5-6 thousand years of recorded history. As to far earlier but equally impressive alleged feats (and man must have produced many in the preceding 95K to 355K years), why haven’t archeologists uncovered any? And why would they be buried?


“Science tends to have a category-blurring effect the more any given subject is studied.”

I don’t understand. I thought identifying, categorizing and defining things was a major part of the fruit of scientific study. Are you saying the more they get “into it” the more confused scientists get?


“It is easy to try to hide behind problem areas, disagreements, or current ignorances in order to cling to special understandings, because there will always be disputes in science.”

Are you saying I’m “hiding”?

Are you saying I’m “clinging”, similar to the way someone famously said “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations” ?

Do you think my understandings are “special”, as in Special Olympics?

Or was your sentence meant to be complimentary?


wesseldawn - #70835

July 5th 2012

“Mankind has made some extraordinary advances, particularly in technology, in the “short” 5 or 6 thousand years of recorded history. How is it that man accomplished next-to-nothing in the 95,000 to 355,000 years prior?”


This is a good point but the evolutionary answer is also a good one; that it took that long (95,000 - 355,000 years) for us to evolve to the state where we developed speech, which paved the way for advancement in other areas.



Eddie - #70839

July 5th 2012


You wrote:

“He [God] does not create evil.”

This view—which is shared by most if not all YECs and by many vocal TEs—appears to be in direct conflict with the sense of much of the Bible, and with direct statements such as this:

“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”  (Isaiah 45:7)

It seems that for many modern Christians, a previously given theology—to be precise, a previously given theodicy—is governing how Biblical statements are to be read.  I find that a dubious interpretive principle.  If God says he sometimes creates evil, why can’t Christians accept that, and build their theology around it, rather than deny it, and do violence to the text in order to hold on to what they want to believe about God?

As for Merv’s point about Job, I agree with him.  The rebuke of Job only makes sense if God is talking about the original creation, not the creation tainted by the alleged effects of the Fall.  In Job, meat-eating is regarded as part of the original order of creation.   This fits in very well with the Isaiah verse quoted. 

Merv - #70841

July 5th 2012

This was all written in interrupted time segments, so now that I get back to it, I notice that meanwhile Eddie has also replied and made some of the same challenge that I do below—so this was written before I saw your post, Eddie; I echo your challenge that Christians should strive for a more robust theodicy.


Hebrew scholars have used our modern word “Chaos” as a close approximation to “formless and void”.  “Waters” were also often associated with chaos by the Hebrews.  I’m not a scholar of this myself but have read of it in numerous places, including right here on Biologos:  http://biologos.org/blog/yahweh-creation-and-the-cosmic-battle

Or this non-Biologos site:  http://www.studylight.org/dic/hbd/view.cgi?number=T1214

You wrote:  “Are you saying God created chaos, and later brought it to order in the Garden of Eden?  Where do you get that idea?”

God created everything, including Satan and all the angels.  As to where I got this idea? —from verses like Proverbs 16:4 or John 1:3   Even calamity or evil (O.T. prophets weren’t squeemish about attributing everything to God) ultimately don’t exist without God.  All that said, I agree with you that we don’t directly attribute evil to God.  Still, Job 2:10 or elsewhere in Job:  “the Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord…”   There is plenty there to give us pause in our wishful formulations of an “always kind, ice-cream Grandpa” God.   Not that you are saying God is like that.

On “category-blurring”; we do indeed love our categories.  They give us chapter divisions in our textbooks.  But whether studying species or stars, planets, and planetoids, it seems our categories get muddied as more is known.  The clean delineation of “If they are the same species, they can reproduce fertile offspring”  doesn’t end up being serviceable as we delve into all the intermediate forms.  (I take biologists’ word for that one.) But closer to my own interests;  surely planets and stars couldn’t be confused could they?   But by the time one considers red dwarves and brown dwarves and then gas giants (just didn’t quite reach that ignition phase?)  we see that there is a continuum from stars to star-wannabees to gas giants.  So while we love our classification schemes because we want everything on the right shelf, it seems that reality is much more gloriously messy when we get into the details.   Even though we want “dedekindian cuts” (clean divisions) for everything, we often can’t discern this objectively without imposing our own convention as the answer.

Regarding hiding and special understandings—the sense I was using it was not complimentary, but I will add that as a Christian I am included on the receiving end of this barb from atheists who will freely mock my belief in a resurrected Christ.  So even in the pejorative sense (to non-Christian eyes) I am clinging to what they consider an outmoded belief.  And I hope I don’t hide behind anything out of fear of abuse.  I don’t know you or your own faith journey well enough to comment on it, so perhaps I should have chosen my words more carefully—I certainly have no reason to doubt your intelligence.  I do stand by my critique, however, of those who doubt ancient geological time (as one who has been there myself).  I don’t question their general intelligence, but I do think they have to be selective to an intellectually unhealthy extent about what they read or wrestle with.  And I hate to see Christians invite unnecessary abuse or unwittingly erect stumbling stones that turn out to be not founded on Christ, whose cross is enough of a stumbling stone without any additional help.  That’s my perspective.  Feel free to push back.



Francis - #70842

July 5th 2012


“This view [that God did not create evil] ... appears to be in direct conflict with the sense of much of the Bible ...”

Not only much of the Bible, but all of the Bible, post-Gen 3:6, contains or was subject to contain examples of God directly applying harsh measures (e.g. retributive punishment) or “indirectly” allowing harsh circumstances (e.g. leprosy, disease). [Some choose to call this harsh, post-fall stuff “evil”.]

Where are such harsh examples in Gen 1:1 – 3:6?


“It seems that for many modern Christians, a previously given theology—to be precise, a previously given theodicy—is governing how Biblical statements are to be read. I find that a dubious interpretive principle.”

What is the interpretive principle that you find dubious? Is it that the interpretation is based on a theology that is older than yours?


“The rebuke of Job only makes sense if God is talking about the original creation, not the creation tainted by the alleged effects of the Fall. In Job, meat-eating is regarded as part of the original order of creation.”

As I recall, the focus of the book of Job is on questions about suffering, particularly the suffering of the righteous.

Where in Gen 1:1-3:6 is the evidence of suffering, human or otherwise?

And where is the barbecue?

Eddie - #70845

July 5th 2012


The interpretive principle  that I find dubious is that a given theology or religion-science position (Catholic, Protestant, Calvinist, Arminian, YEC, OEC, TE, etc.) should be brought to the Bible, and the Bible hammered into shape until it fits the theology or the position.

In this case, the position is that God would never create a world in which there was any suffering, pain, or discomfort.  What gives anyone the right to assume that?  Who knows the mind of God?  How do we know that suffering does not serve some higher purpose that God has in mind for us?

There is nothing in Genesis 1 or 2 that says or implies that there was no suffering of any kind, human or animal.  There is no evidence, for example, that there weren’t mosquitoes in the Garden of Eden, or that if Adam stubbed his toe on a tree root he wouldn’t have got a nasty bruise.  And the plain sense of Genesis 1 is that the animals created were the animals we know—the same general terms are used throughout the Hebrew Bible as are used in Genesis 1.  To imagine toothless lions, or toothed lions trying to eat rhubarb or break open watermelons, is to desperately try to turn Genesis 1 into a Paradise account, which it isn’t.

I suspect that you don’t accept the premise that I do accept, i.e., that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3 were originally different stories, and were not intended to be read as a single narrative.  So even if I were to grant you that in the Garden there was painless bliss for both humans and animals (which it doesn’t say), I wouldn’t grant that this could be read back into Genesis 1, which is a different story (probably written much later) with a different point.

Anyhow, if you read Genesis 1 as I do, you have real lions, not friendly cartoon lions, and therefore you have animal suffering—willed by God in Creation.  That’s how I read the story.  God willed a creation that was not free from pain and evil.  And I maintain that is the natural reading of the story, and is how it would be read if other parts of the Bible (and of post-Biblical tradition) were not read back into it, in order to make it conform to a theological position, i.e., that man is to blame for all the evils in the world.  But that theological position is poorly attested in the Old Testament, and even the most obvious story to establish it—Genesis 2-3—doesn’t actually make the Fall of man responsible for anything but a very limited selection of evils.  It’s later theologizing about Genesis 2-3 that speaks of a “fall of nature” and so on.  So even based on Genesis 2-3 some evil has to come from the conditions of creation itself, i.e., from the will of God.  I have no problem with this.  The desire to blame man for more evils than the Bible actually blames man for is an example of a theological motivation that doesn’t respect the Biblical text.  

Francis - #70847

July 5th 2012


You responded “The interpretive principle that I find dubious is that a given theology or religion-science position (Catholic, Protestant, Calvinist, Arminian, YEC, OEC, TE, etc.) should be brought to the Bible, and the Bible hammered into shape until it fits the theology or the position.”

News Flash #1: Eddie doesn’t believe the Bible.

That’s OK. Neither do I. In fact, neither does Billy Graham, Pope Benedict XVI, or anyone else.

Bible folks believe what they think the Bible verses mean. And that Bible meaning depends on one’s “religion”, “religion” defined here as one’s world view, including spiritual beliefs, if any. “Religion” preceded the Bible, interprets the Bible, and continues with or without the Bible.


News Flash #2: Everybody’s got “religion”.  Even Eddie.


Got “religion”?  Sure.

Which one?

wesseldawn - #70962

July 9th 2012


You hit the nail right on the head that “Bible folks believe what they think the Bible verses mean”.

God (being the benevolent deity that He is), knowing that without His assistance we would most certainly mess things up, would have made a way to prevent that from happening!

Trouble is that people are not seeing the method because God hid it!

Eddie - #70854

July 6th 2012


I find the flippant tone in the above reply non-constructive.  I won’t be responding further on this thread.

Ted Davis - #70861

July 6th 2012


I’m sorry you dropped out of this before I could respond to your very good question @ #70820. You asked about support for interpreting the Bible along the lines of no death before the fall. Others have chimed in already, not all of them helpfully, but some of the things I would have said have indeed been said.

Let me take this in a slightly different, but related, direction. For a very important example of the traditional interpretation—akin to that held today by the YECs—let me give some extended passages from sermons by John Wesley. First, from Sermon 60, on Romans 8:19-22.

“We may inquire, in the First place, What was the original state of the brute creation? And may we not learn this, even from the place which was assigned them; namely, the garden of God? All the beasts of the field, and all the fowls of the air, were with Adam in paradise. And there is no question but their state was suited to their place: It was paradisiacal; perfectly happy. Undoubtedly it bore a near resemblance to the state of man himself. By taking, therefore, a short view of the one, we may conceive the other…”

” How true then is that word, “God saw everything that he had made: and behold it was very good!” But how far is this from being the present case! In what a condition is the whole lower world!—to say nothing of inanimate nature, wherein all the elements seem to be out of course, and by turns to fight against man. Since man rebelled against his Maker, in what a state is all animated nature! Well might the Apostle say of this: “The whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain until now.” This directly refers to the brute creation in what state this is at present we are now to consider.”

Both of these taken from http://www.umcmission.org/Find-Resources/Global-Worship-and-Spiritual-Growth/John-Wesley-Sermons/Sermon-60-The-General-Deliverence

Another coming…

Ted Davis - #70862

July 6th 2012

Another interesting passage, this time from Wesley’s Sermon 56:

“And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. Genesis 1:31

I. God first created the four elements, out of which the whole universe was composed; earth, water, air, and fire.

II. The world, at the beginning, was in a totally different state from that wherein we find it now…”

” The Lord God afterward peopled the earth with animals of every kind. He first commanded the waters to bring forth abundantly;—to bring forth creatures, which, as they inhabited a grosser element, so they were, in general, of a more stupid nature; endowed with fewer senses and less understanding than other animals. The bivalved shell-fish, in particular, seem to have no sense but that of feeling, unless perhaps a low measure of taste; so that they are but one degree above vegetables. And even the king of the waters, (a title which some give the whale, because of his enormous magnitude,) though he has sight added to taste and feeling, does not appear to have an understanding proportioned to his bulk. Rather, he is inferior therein not only to most birds and beasts, but to the generality of even reptiles and insects. However, none of these then attempted to devour, or in anyway hurt, one another. All were peaceful and quiet, as were the watery fields wherein they ranged at pleasure.

It seems the insect kinds were at least one degree above the inhabitants of the waters. Almost all these too devour one another, and every other creature which they can conquer. Indeed, such is the miserably disordered state of the world at present, that innumerable creatures can no otherwise preserve their own lives than by destroying others. But in the beginning it was not so. The paradisiacal earth afforded a sufficiency of food for all its inhabitants; so that none of them had any need or temptation to prey upon the other. The spider was then as harmless as the fly, and did not then lie in wait for blood. The weakest of them crept securely over the earth, or spread their gilded wings in the air, that wavered in the breeze, and glittered in the sun, without any to make them afraid. Meantime, the reptiles of every kind were equally harmless, and more intelligent than they; yea, one species of them “was more subtil,” or knowing, “than any of the” brute creation “which God had made.”“

I could keep going, but this is sufficient to make the point. Now, Wesley isn’t here engaging in the type of close interpretation of the Bible you are requesting, Eddie, in order to justify the interpretation he actually offers. My point is simply that the traditional view—at least as far as we can take it from Wesley, who was not exactly a minor figure in Christian and evangelical history—is that no animal death preceded the fall.

Ted Davis - #70864

July 6th 2012

Finally, Eddie, let me add a comment that isn’t really directed at you, since you didn’t say anything here related to it. I’m directing it at all readers, but especially at Jon Garvey (who comments here often) and certain commentators at Uncommon Descent, who like to argue against the interpretation of TE offered by Darrel Falk and others here, that it cannot be reconciled with Wesley’s view of divine sovereignty—or that of other classical theologians. Well, perhaps that is true, and perhaps it isn’t. What’s clearly true from these passages from Wesley, however, is that the view of theodicy held by (I believe) nearly all advocates of ID, namely, that animal death and suffering did *not* originate with the Fall, cannot be reconciled with Wesley’s view of theodicy. I gather that your own view of theodicy, Eddie, can’t be reconciled with Wesley’s either. When those (pro-ID) critics of BioLogos object to a non-classical view of divine governance, they clearly do not object to a non-classical view of theodicy. For the YECs, both are apparently equally important; thus, the YECs reject both TE (in all cases) and ID (in most cases).

If this analysis is correct (as I believe it is), then the question I have identified as the fundamental question about science and the Bible (see http://biologos.org/blog/galileo-and-the-garden-of-eden-part-2) is seen once again on this issue: When are we justified to reinterpret a biblical text on the basis of science? Dembski thinks we are, in this case; he accepts the evidence for great antiquity, from which it follows that animal death *had to* precede the Fall, and by many millions of years.

Eddie - #70866

July 6th 2012

Dr. Davis:

When I said I was dropping off the thread, I didn’t know you’d be replying.  But since you have returned, and taken the trouble of composing a researched answer (70861-62), it would be ungracious of me not to respond.

Yes, I see your point.  It would explain where the YECs are coming from, to say that they picked up their notions from traditional authors such as Wesley.  I don’t doubt that this is the case.  And I don’t deny that the notion of a “fall of nature” which brought about animal suffering existed in the Christian tradition long before Wesley.  So my complaint against the YECs here is not that they are not traditional.  My complaint is that their traditional reading makes a poor fit with their literalism.

YECs are very sticky about literalism, when they want to be.  They want everything based on the Bible, and if you add or subtract anything from a straight literal-historical Biblical reading, they will loudly protest that you are not being Scriptural.  Indeed, it is that very literalism which drives them to go to great lengths to try to retain waters above the heavens and light before the sun and a 6,000-year-old earth and waters covering Mt. Everest and so on.  But then they believe in a fall of nature which is nowhere described in the Bible, not even in Genesis 3—where one would expect it to be described with great gusto, to show what a mess man made of creation!  Genesis 3 in fact mentions changes in the productivity of the soil, and in the locomotion of serpents, and in the relationship of serpents to the children of Eve, and pain for women in childbirth—that is the sum total of alterations in nature that a literal reading can sustain.  So they are supplementing Genesis 3 in light of extra-Biblical tradition—something they would never allow any appeal to in the case of infant baptism, for example.

In other words, YECS switch back and forth between “Scripture alone” and “Scripture plus tradition” as it suits them—just like everybody else.  Their literalism is inconsistent.

Gregory - #70867

July 6th 2012

Hi Ted,

A couple of clarifications and requests, if you don’t mind.

You wrote of “the interpretation of TE offered by Darrel Falk.” Perhaps this is not entirely accurate. Your claim to speak about TE, your preferred term, was demonstrated in the first post in this series (quoted below). But Falk has deliberately and purposefully decided to promote ‘evolutionary creation’ instead of ‘theistic evolution.’ Thus, I think it would be appropriate to acknowledge that he is interepreting ‘evolutionary creation’ and ‘BioLogos’ rather than TE.

Elsewhere I noted: “In ‘Theistic Evolution and Evangelical Christianity two decades from now: Can they co-exist?’ Falk presented a model for viewing evolutionary-creation, a term to replace theistic-evolution.” http://biologos.org/uploads/static-content/summer_2010.pdf 

It is therefore important that we take seriously this ‘replacement’ effort by the President of BioLogos Foundation and not defer to the ‘more widely recognised’ term for communicative convenience (even if you are justified and free in doing so in this series).

On the question of whether “animal death and suffering did *not* originate with the Fall, cannot be reconciled with Wesley’s view of theodicy,” I’m a bit concerned about denominationalism here. If I understand you, Ted, you agree with W. Dembski on this topic; you likewise believe in ‘animal death and suffering before the Fall.’ Is that correct? Nevertheless, it seems important to clarify that ID leadership (in this case Dembski, when speaking theologically) claims ‘classical’ at one moment and then ‘non-classical’ (wrt J. Wesley) at another; that is the main point of your remark.

Please Jon or Ted correct me if I’m wrong, but being a Calvinist or a Lutheran or a Swedenborgian, or Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostalist or Presbyterian, etc. doesn’t require agreeing entirely with every position esposed by the leader(s)/founder(s). One doesn’t have to be a young earther to consider themself a Calvinist or to attend a Calvinist church. Do I correctly understand this feature of Protestantism?

Yes, Ted, I would agree this is a significant question: “When are we justified to reinterpret a biblical text on the basis of science?” Likewise, a balancer/mediator would ask: “When are we justified to reinterpret a scientific text on the basis of religion or scripture?” Both questions seems to be the challenge BioLogos has taken upon itself to address in the science and faith conversation.

From 1st post in the series: “‘Theistic evolution’ (TE), which the folks here at BioLogos like to call ‘evolutionary creation’ (EC), because the noun should be more important than the adjective. I will use the older term (TE), partly because I’m an historian and partly because it’s more widely recognized.”

Jon Garvey - #70905

July 7th 2012

Gregory: “Do I correctly understand this feature of Protestantism?”

I suspect your tongue is in your cheek, Sir! Wesloey may have appeared like the Pope sometimes, but he wasn’t, or all Wesleyans would still hold to his doctrine of Christian perfection.

As a non-denominationalist I’m deeply suspicious of all these “-isms” except as an occasional shorthand necessity on specific issues (eg non-senominationalism!). These guys (not so happy to include Swedenborg, maybe) were theologians whose views on certain issues may appeal. In some cases, their whole approach may be attractive enough to identify with, certainly in contradistinction to other general approaches.

But to accept a person’s teaching because Wesley taught it, or because “We are Calvinists in this church” is plain idolatry - as they’d have acknowledged themselves, even when maintaining the truth of their positions.

A rider to that is that all of them (Swedenborg again excepted?) argued on the basis, “See, this is clearly what Scripture teaches.” That leaves the reader free to say, “Not as far as I can see, it doesn’t”. Where they are unanimous (eg salvation by faith in Christ - and the special providence of God in nature too) there’s good reason to be very cautious in overturning them. If one does so, the chances are it’s because they were blinded by the assumptions of their culture.

The “classical theology” I’d understand in this discussion is far, far broader than “Wesley said it.” I’d regard something as part of classical theology when it’s acknowledged by sizeable portions of all the major traditions, including Roman and Eastern.

Francis - #70870

July 6th 2012

“… I find dubious … that … the Bible hammered into shape until it fits the theology or the position… I find the flippant tone in the above reply non-constructive. I won’t be responding further on this thread.”

I think I just got hammered.

Francis - #70873

July 6th 2012


You wrote: “theodicy held by (I believe) nearly all advocates of ID, namely, that animal death and suffering did *not* originate with the Fall”.

Intelligent Design (ID), as I understand it, has nothing to do with death and suffering and the origination thereof. ID is simply the recognition of design and of our universal experience that all designs have an intelligent source. Whether some ID proponents also belief in an old earth with ages of disease and death before Adam is an entirely separate matter from ID.

Ted Davis - #70917

July 7th 2012

In theory, Francis, you are entirely correct. ID is not about the Bible. Period. I’ve said that many times elsewhere and I’ll say it again here when we get to that view, probably in September. We agree here.

In practice, however, ID is mainly a covert form of OEC. I’ve said that many times elsewhere and I’ll say it again here when we get to ID. Nearly all ID authors do keep the Bible out of the conversation, when ID is the official topic—when they are speaking ex cathedra, as it were. In unofficial conversation, however, most ID authors are OECs. “Most” here means significantly more than 50%. I base this mainly on conversations I’ve had with them “outside of class,” if you will, but sometimes on their writings and in a few cases on what I’d call an “educated guess,” in which I draw an inference based on some specific things they’ve said that are not quite explicit on this issue. When you’ve been in conversation with OECs for 35 years, and when you’ve been one yourself (as I was 35 years ago), you pick up on things that others might miss. But, it’s mainly based on explicit things people have said in my presence.

Francis - #70875

July 6th 2012


You wrote “So they are supplementing Genesis 3 in light of extra-Biblical tradition—something they would never allow any appeal to in the case of infant baptism, for example.”

I don’t want to get too far off-topic, but since you brought it up, I have to ask:

Do you think infant baptism is not in accord with the Bible because the Bible doesn’t explicitly note infant baptism?

I hope not.

The list of Christian “things” not explicitly mentioned in Scripture is essentially endless. [John 21:25] If explicit mention is Scripture is the standard for acceptable activity then perhaps the Catholic, Protestant, Calvinist, etc churches better disband or change their name because I don’t see Scripture directing the formation of Catholic, Protestant, Calvinist, etc churches.

However, Scripture does implicitly approve of infant baptism.

Colossians 2:11-12 indicates baptism now replaces circumcision as the mark of a believer. Wasn’t circumcision normally performed on infants? Why wouldn’t the same hold for the “new circumcision” of baptism?

Jesus and the apostles appear to be drawing all – old, young, even the entire family - to The Way:

“Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” [Luke 18:15-16; see also Mat 19:13-14]

“And when she was baptized, with her household, she besought us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.” [Acts 16:15]

“And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their wounds, and he was baptized at once, with ALL his family.” [Acts 16:33; see also 1 Cor 1:16]



Although Christ commanded that we baptize, He did not say baptism guarantees salvation. He said we should consider baptism a necessary, but not necessarily sufficient condition, for salvation. [John 3:5]

Jon Garvey - #70903

July 7th 2012


I dropped in here last night and saw I had been directly addressed bhy you on a position I don’t hold on a thread to which I haven’t contributed. With that degree of obliquity, a lengthy reply is inevitable. The script won’t let me post directly under your comment, unfortunately.

Thomas Cudworth wrote a series on Uncommon Descent pointing out the equivocation, or obfuscation, on BioLogos about the degree of God’s governance (not sovereignty) in evolution. He went on to describe “The Wesleyan Maneuver”, in which questioners here (he mentioned only “Crude” I believe, though it has happened to me more than once, including once by yourself) are diverted by suggestions that their critique is an issue of theological tradition. Questions of special providence, in other words, are defused into irrelevancies about predestination and free choice - maybe even to marginalise those posters: “Well, that’s Calvinists for you! All predestination and no free will and now they’re anti-evolution too!” I made (a few) comments on those UD threads because Cudworth was singing my song.

He developed his argument by saying that “The Wesleyan Maneuver” misses the mark because Wesley, like the whole of mainstream historic Christianity, held exactly the same view of divine providence in creation as any Calvinist. Your quotes here demonstrate that is true - Wesley holds to an original creation that was perfect, attributing its current ills to sin (though not, from my reading of Wesley, spelling out the mechanism of change - if, as is usual in that scheme, it is God’s punishment, then God’s governance is still maintained).

I would, however, never have written that series, firstly because as a TE I have no influence with UD, and secondly because I read Wesley’s teaching on creation a few months ago and concluded that I could not make a strong case from him. This is because he attributes an uncommonly high degree of choice and autonomy to higher animals, which at the time seemed to me a possible precursor to the BioLogos “freedom of nature to make itself” idea, whose true nature remains unclear to me. I now think (but who can tell?) it probably has nothing to do with Wesley’s idea of animal voluntarism, but feared any association would undermine the idea that Wesley’s ideas of creation are at odds with the BioLogos position.


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