Why these difficulties in the first place, Lord?

I am in the midst of an email discussion with a small group of Christians in another state who are beginning to consider how to integrate old earth and biological evolution into their Christian faith as they study the first chapters of Genesis together. They are asking me questions like “what have I come to believe about Adam?”, which I can deal with.

But they asked one interesting question that I have not been able to deal with: “Why these difficulties in the first place, Lord? Why did God choose to give his Word in such a way that would result in many, many of his sincere, godly, and well-intentioned followers foolish and embarrassingly mistaken? Could God not have chosen to communicate the creation event (and possibly other early Genesis material) in a different (though grand) way that did not ‘fool’ droves of his earnest children? . . . Not only does it seem like God hid (an aspect of) biblically-related truth from his own, but also ensured that his witnesses looked pretty dumb in the process. I’m just grieved by all this and don’t know how to deal with it.”

Any suggestions on how to respond or pointers to authors who have responded would be greatly appreciated.

Paul Bruggink

24 comments to Why these difficulties in the first place, Lord?

  • Mervin Bitikofer

    I look forward to discussing Dembski’s book in more detail (whether in this thread, as it may naturally follow the topic or in its own venue later — I can be patient, and Randy reminded me that the Voices forum is set up to discuss one book at a time).
    Despite disagreement over important points that most of us here may have with Dembski, I also saw much to commend in this book.  Even though it didn’t focus on Christology with nearly the focus you have in your work, George, when he does mention it, I saw echoes of the same concern for the centrality of the cross event and its effects both ways in history; he just doesn’t develop it to the extent you have.  His book is primarily theological and not so much scientific; and yet I had the same impression that you expressed:  his speculation went far beyond what we can scripturally assert with any confidence.  But his intent was to be theologically plausible within a faithful scriptural reading.  (albeit — ‘faithful’ reading and a reading with strong sensitivities to YEC concerns such as Dembski shows, may set up a bit of a tension, as many of us here will be happy to point out.)    Whether & where he succeeds in that, perhaps can be discussed when more people have read it for themselves.

  • James Hooper

    I’m glad you brought this problem to our group blog. Nothing has been more damaging to Christianity at least in America than the YEC position. It has been quite instrumental in removing God from our public education and universities. Today’s YEC is based on visions of a “prophetess” in the 1800’s who during that time also stated Jesus was not God and His dying on the cross was not adequate for sin. She in vision said God showed her that the creation occured in six days and the Flood was universal. This was heavily promoted by her disciple Price  who also wrote a book on geology. Literature was given out to other denominations. The Scopes trial reawakened this view. Morris was a member of a society founded by Price and wrote glowing of him. In the early 60’s  Morris wrote the book widely accepted by mainly fundamentalist churches which borrowed heavily from Price’s book. Ronald Numbers and others have documented the trail. Because of limited room and getting to the point I will leave it at that.

    YEC cannot stand on the vast geological, paleontological, astronomical, and genetic evidence. In my view there are two pieces of evidence that are deadly to it: 1) light echos from exploding stars, and 2) about 6 miles of the geologic column under the area described in the Bible bordered by the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. There are others.

    Because YEC’s believe in the literal words found in Genesis, their faith feels very threatened by “contrary evidence”. I think we as Christians who do not subscibe to YEC have not emphasized clearly enough what Scripture is really saying and that they have been misled by YEC which started in Sunday School. In my investigation into Genesis   I found it to be quite sophisticated. The number 7 is prominent, arrangement of words and phrases are in sevens. Even the lettering has remarkable arrangements. There are even different levels of arrangements and uses of letters, numbers and words. It appears God does not literally want His words to be tampered with as there is a built-in check system. The use of 7 , 6 and 60 along with descriptions of the physical world are decidedly ancient Mesopotamian. Egypt had a 10 day week. The Mesoptamian area had a 7 day week.

    It is forgotten by our today’s culture that the world then was a pantheon of gods which controlled water, light, etc. It is apparent that Moses, by organizing creation into groupings for each day, that it was God who created and controlled these things. Because the week of Genesis 1 repeats itself every 7 days and for instance each 7th day was to be set aside for worship of God, Moses was pointing out that on Sunday for example it was God who created the light they see. Each day of the week the Israelites were to remember it was God who created and controlled what they saw for that day as pointed out by Moses.  Any other explanation gets into trouble.   By looking at it this way the fact that Scripture is literally true can be preserved.  Jesus continually was trying to explain a spiritual concept, but the people including His disciples took the “literal”  route.  John 1 says Jesus was the Word present from the beginning, and He is also the one who inspired Moses to write Genesis1.  It is no accident He is described as the Word.     

  • Wayne Dawson

    When I really want to express something important to me, I write poetry or music.  I think some of the greatest parts of the Old Testament scripture are sometimes the verse. 
    Consider, for example, that the image of the Lord of Hosts riding the clouds on his chariot is a wonderful thought even though we have never seen the Lord of Hosts, his chariot or God doing any of these together (let alone God even having a need do so).  Indeed, from a scientific viewpoint of measurements and facts, it is utter nonsense.  Yet that image can be carried as far as our understanding can reach.  It’s not that God needs to hop on a cloud for his transportation.  It is for our benefit, to realize that we can be assured that he is coming. Yet, in our temporal framework, we must wait. It says that justice matters in this world and is not just words on a page written by someone who just happens to be in power and endlessly tweaked by lawyers and politicians (poetically describing all of us in reality) to be whatever so inspires their (i.e., our) whim.  The word and image can still inspire without having to discuss how God rides the clouds or what the chariot is made of, or whether it should have been a jet fighter or a surf board, or whatever silliness we could delve into from a science and engineering standpoint.
    So first, what would be better to write to all generations, a headline news report, or a poetic description of the whole creation event?  News gets old and doesn’t carry a lot of information after a while.  Yet the achievements and follies of this generation could be far reaching to many generations to come in the form of verse and song.  The truth would be the same without compromising anything.  It is just our insistence that this must be “just the facts” to be taken literally that makes reading that part of scripture a problem.
    Second, look at it from another stand point. What if God did deliver the headline news report to the prophets rather than a kind of poetic version of the events?  Isn’t it more of a human thing to impress everyone with our great knowledge and power?  I suppose the word for “atom” should have been given in Greek/Latin or “cell” in Latin and (of course) included its English pronunciation to persuade this generation of unbeliever (in English speaking countries of course) that only God could have written this document because it predicts everything we expect.  (It tells us what we will find in plain English.) Oh, this would be enough and we all would be satisfied.  Oh yes, that’s all we ask, nothing more. 
    Think about it, this is a document to express eternal truths, not just a temporal description of the astronomy, geology and biology of the last 12 billion years this universe’s existence.  It is to stand for generations to come too, when even more may be known and our knowledge will have increased far more than now.  Moreover, it’s ludicrous to think that a document to speak to all time would only contain sufficient references that would satisfy 21st century scientists.  Once they are written there, there’s nothing to be found by science. 
    Hence, I think the problem is we are expecting something of this document that in some ways is rather arrogant. We expect that God is supposed to talk science of the late 20th and early 21st century, just to satisfy our insistence that the bible be true according to the knowledge of our time. Where is the faith in any of this? Can we just use our brain for just one moment and realize that there is probably more between heaven and earth than our philosophies?  I doubt that the creation story on its own was supposed to be used to persuade those who doubt God or live as practical atheists that they should repent and believe.  Rather, it is mainly directed at those who already believe, telling them something of what happened in a way that could be understood by many generations of the past and of those to come.  At least for those who have ears to hear.
    By Grace we proceed,

  • Jason Hine

    My thoughts resonate most with the first and last comments (by Ward and Wayne, respectively).  Why do parents read (patently factless) stories to their children, rather than news articles or textbook excerpts?  My kids are yet a twinkle in their parent’s eyes, but someday I will read to them such “fluff” as C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, because those stories, with all their non-facts, nevertheless have the ability to communicate some of the most important Truths that we humans can ever hope to comprehend.  I will make sure my children hear these Truths while their mind is still malleable and forming, so the Truths have the best chance of becoming the foundation of their adult worldview.  I will read them these stories, and answer their questions with more stories and parables, because I am more concerned with educating their hearts than their heads — you may think this strange, but I’d rather my kids understand the Golden Rule in their hearts than be able to win spelling bees, or even Nobel Prizes.  Most of all, I want my kids to have the best possible chance of coming to know and be known by their God; for them to perhaps one day see how He has been at work in their lives; for them to have a deep relationship with Him.  Only that relationship can give them the hope, peace, joy and love they’ll need to live full, deep, meaningful lives, regardless of the details of their journey.  And so, I will tell my children made-up stories full of Truth, because it is the most loving thing I can do for them.

March 2010
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