Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Labor of a Pastor in Contending for the Faith -- Watching Out for Shepherds and Sheep Slipping into False Teaching

Missionaries on the field often come back to their churches in American and find that new problems have arisen. God calls the elders to keep a careful watch over themselves and the flock. It is an ongoing responsibility.

I've recently had to deal with an issue related to the age of the earth and evolution that is creeping back into my denomination. The debate over how to understand and interpret the first eleven chapters of Genesis, particularly regarding Creation and the Flood, shows that it is so easy for the reigning cultural thinking outside the church to influence the way people in the church think about the truth that God revealed in His Word. If they are not careful, they will place supposedly proven human knowledge above (and driving the interpretation of) the revealed Word of God which was written down by men as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit and attested to by miracles to prove that it was from God.

Following is part of my labors as a teaching elder in Christ's church to contend for the faith. There are many within the church who have begun to lose their confidence in the most simple and clear interpretation of Genesis 1 and have begun to modify it solely because of the weight they give and the belief they have in the veracity of the outside claims of scientists.

I wrote this letter to other teaching and ruling elders:


Dear Brothers and Fathers,

As I understand it, Gregg Davidson and Ken Wolgemuth (contributors to are presenting a seminar at the P.C.A. 2012 General Assembly about their beliefs in the scientific evidence for an old Earth and being forced not to take a simple literal understanding of Genesis 1. I understand that for some reason no one was invited by the PCAAC/Stated Clerk's Office to present in a separate seminar a balancing critique of their presentation which would support of a young earth, a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and a global flood.

I have read some of their arguments online at Since my biology graduate school days, I have been busy with church planting and not been immersed in scientific academia in the past twelve years, but I've tried to begin to get up to speed on the claims made and the scientific journal papers cited and I think I can make some points in response.

It will take me a while to track down the details of some of the papers cited including the lake layers and assumptions because even in many of the papers, the values are "corrected" and radiocarbon dates that do not fall within the expectation are thrown out as errors. I really have to track down the original data to adequately analyze it. What is presented in many of the papers are assertions of theories or hypotheses as proven fact. It is hard to get fully up to speed in a short time and that is why I think many Christian pastors are cowed by the rapid fire citation of supposedly proven indisputable fact.

Following are some of the points in response to the post by Davidson and Wolgemuth at Sorry I could not be any more concise.


An Initial Critique of Presentations made by Davidson and Wolgemuth

- Rev. Joel H. Linton
B.A. Environmental Science - Columbia University in New York City, B.S. Applied Mathematics - Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, M.S. Biology, New York University.

FIRST: With respect to their Galileo reference, Davidson and Wolgemuth cite Eccl. 1:5, Ps. 19:6 that "clearly present a static earth as a physical center of God's creation" and that now we have allowed science to alter our thinking on these verses.

It is ironic that, in contrast to the other verses cited, Genesis 1 uses the most scientifically precise definition of days rather than the more poetic anthropocentric language of the sun rising and setting. Yet they fail to give weight to that exegetical cue. The writers rather cite a few theologians who discount the most common and natural exegesis of the passage: that the day is an alternating period of darkness and light comparable to our present 24 hours. It could have been 25 hours or 23 hours at first; since the fall into sin caused an introduction of entropy into the world by Adam?s disobedience. (Genesis 2, 3; Romans 8:20).

Much more is written by scholars elsewhere regarding the sound exegesis of taking Genesis 1 as describing 7 literal days.

SECOND: The writers are operating under the assumption of basic uniformitarianism -- that is -- the observed phenomena today and physical laws of the universe have always been the same.

However, the Bible presents a different picture. In the Bible, we see three fundamental changes of the system of the universe so that our current observations cannot be assumed to apply to former states. First, the nature of the universe in Day 1-3; Second, the nature of the universe from Day 4 until the Fall into sin by Adam; and Third, the nature of the universe post Fall which would correspond to our present world.

To assume currently observable phenomena should be able to be fully extrapolated to the past does not correspond to what God has revealed in the Bible.

Further, a simple investigation of the early chapters of Genesis would lead to a conclusion that even in the Post-Fall earth there was a fundamental change in geology and climate pre-flood and post-flood. That fundamental change of nature is indicative also by the exponential decrease in age of post flood folks as well as the change of diet allowing the eating of meat. References to the expanse of water above the sky and the fountain of the deep would seem to indicate a major shift in climate and geology of earth, if not a more direct change in the earth's nature by God (rather than a natural process.) (Genesis 7:11, 8:22)

The uniformitarian presupposition fails to account for the epochal changes of universe, geology and climate when it (1) insists on current rates and processes have always likewise been in effect in the past, and (2) fails to consider other possible causes for what is observed in the geological data of the present.

THIRD: I notice Davidson and Wolgemuth's exegetical confusion regarding light before the sun -- they cite "internal textual problems" with Genesis 1 if we were to take it literally. They claim it would be to say, "light and dark are separated twice."

A simple look at the way God made the universe will show that there is creation by separation and hierarchy and populating the regions created. If Genesis 1 is to provide us with any evidence, then God certainly did not make the universe with a big bang.

Genesis 1 is most naturally interpreted as a simple and historical chronological description of the beautifully poetic way that God created the world. It is also a chronological description to the brilliantly polemical way that God headed off future temptations of the future sinners to worship and serve created things like the sun, moon and stars rather than the Creator who is forever praised.

The writers cannot seem to get past the idea of a day existing before the sun was created.

· Two things in answer: First, any physicist knows that light exists independently from any particular source that emits light. That is why you can have solar panels that absorb individual photons to created electricity. Think of a rubber ball floating in a swimming pool and spinning as it floats. If you were a dot on that ball, you would go through an alternating period of air and water as the ball spins. On the first day, in separating light from darkness, what makes sense from Genesis 1 is that God made the simplest form of day and night ? a planet rotating on an axis on a plane of space that separated a field of light (photons) from a separated field absent those photons, darkness. As long as the earth was rotating at a normal speed, you have evening and morning the first day. Later on God made things more complex by creating official sources of that light. This is consistent with the poetically beautiful way he created everything ? forming distinctions, separation and hierarchy and then populating these regions with more complexity. In short, God created the universe more like a painter rather than using some complicated slow process of naturalistic materialism.

· Second, when Genesis 1 says that God created stars, implicit is that they can be seen by man who would soon be created since the Creation was to display God?s glory to man, male and female, created in God?s image . Ergo, implicit in the word star is that it includes the place in space as well as the light path between it and the eye of man on earth.

Despite the arguments of Davidson and Wolgemuth and Biologos, there is as of yet no reason to embrace a more complicated and convoluted explanation of Genesis 1.

FOURTH: Regarding the Flood:

The writers claim to present conclusive evidence that there was not a global flood. Yet they fail to in fairness show how some of the scientific as well as the exegetical data would call to question their own conclusions.

First of all, exegetically, one must make extreme contortions not to understand the implied comparison of the creation of dry land and animals and man that live on dry land in Genesis 1:9 and 1:24 AND correspondingly God's choice to destroy everything that lives on dry land, everything with which God populated the dry land He had made. To claim a regional flood is to stretch to the breaking point the way it was presented in Genesis.

Further, the writers fail to mention any scientific evidence that would counteract their claim of conclusive proof that there could not be a global flood. However, a simple examination of the vast coal field deposits all around the world whether the United States or Australia, great depth of the deposits, and how many of the fossilized tree trunks stretch of vertically through layers that are supposed to represent the passage of time of millions of years according to scientists and their data schemes, indicate as the most reasonable explanation a global flood. (There are many sources, one example would be the monograph, "Genesis and the Origin of Coal and Oil" by Trevor J. Major.)

Additionally, the global prevalence of flood stories in vastly disparate cultures would also seem to indicate a common descent of all mankind from Noah and his wife and his three sons and their wives. Scientifically and genetically, there was evidence indeed of a bottleneck, where the entire population of humanity was drastically decreased. (Of course the scientists will say it happened much earlier in geological time, but nonetheless the data as currently understood match the Bible's teaching about Noah and the world of his time.) The scientific evidence of a "mitochondrial Eve" could also be brought up here.

If the biologos folks claim that genetic defects and variation must necessarily mean groups of hominids alongside Adam and Eve in hundreds of thousands of years, they fail to see the implications of genetic changes of the Fall, or the rapid increase of genetic mutation post-flood.

The writers cite salt beds as evidence that the flood could not have been global. The citation of only one known method of formation of salt deposits does not prove there are not other ways of formation. It also fails to consider the possible geological and climatic differences pre-flood and post-flood that I refer to above. What were the fountains of the deep like? How did the climate work pre-flood if there was a layer of water above the expanse of the sky more massive than our present experience of clouds? The authors again make huge unproven assumptions about the pre-flood world in insisting only one method of salt-bed formation. We know of another one from a simple elementary school kitchen science experiment: heat turns water into steam and leaves behind a salt residue. There are other sources of heat besides the sun. What happens if there were vast reservoirs of water under the earth's crust at whatever levels that at some point were heated quickly leaving behind salt deposits? This hypothesis is as good as the ones the writers came up with. What if the process of unleashing the flood caused these things? We cannot adequately investigate these pre-flood phenomena if they did indeed exist. Science must end by humbly saying, "We do not know for sure and cannot speak conclusively about these vast salt deposits."

What is asserted as fact by the writers regarding the salt deposit origins in the Gulf of Mexico is simply theory or hypothesis.

Furthermore, how can they account for salt 1000's of feet thickness in their own theory of salt formation?

Let me add one more Scriptural evidence of a possible supernatural intervention during the Flood that may not be an existing climatological, geological phenomenon today: Genesis 8:1-3. God caused a wind to pass over the earth to dry up the flood waters. This may have been outside the normal climatic parameters and could have had unexpected effects not evident in our experience today.

Some might claim that the mountains are too high today for the waters to have covered the earth. The mountains may not have been as high back then. Any geologist knows how mountains can grow higher.

The fact that the Ark rested on the mountains of Ararat means that the flood possibly was very high indeed and again, unlikely to be simply a local phenomenon as the writers claim.

FIFTH -- Regarding the Human Genome:

We have no way of knowing precisely and scientists have no way of investigating what level of genetic change happened before and after Adam sinned.

We know that death and decay were introduced into Adam and all the Creation over which Adam was the representative head. We can only surmise that there were instantaneous, multiple and multifaceted genetic changes in Adam, in the fundamental nature of Adam. If I scientist could somehow transport back in time, take a blood sample of Adam just after he was kicked out of the Garden of Eden, and the map his genome, the scientist with their evolutionary presuppositions would conclude that the presence and number of genetic mutations and defects proves that he had descended from a line of hominids with a minimum of time -- let's throw out a number -- one hundred thousand years. Even if Adam insisted to this scientist that he had been created directly by God and that he had just been cast out of the Garden of Eden because of his sin, the scientist would argue, "No, your genome make up conclusively proves that you must have descended from hominids over many generations."

That Adam lived 930 years lets us know that probably that his genetic makeup was much healthier than ours even after the Fall. We can also reasonably conclude that the geological and ecological environment was also much better than it was now.

(As an aside, it would be good to ask folks like Davidson and Wolgemuth if they believe that Adam lived as long as God said he did in Genesis 5.)

That Adam's direct line of descendants from Adam to Noah all seem to live in the 800-900 year range, it seems that the environment and the genetic defect and mutation influence on life expectancy was pretty stable. But then we come to Genesis 6:3, "he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years." This could simply refer to the time remaining before the Flood. Or it could refer to God's direct further supernatural intervention in man's genome to cause another fundamental change to result in a shortened life-span that would settle around 120 years. Indeed, we do see in future generations after Noah an exponential decrease in life expectancy that approaches this age. Even in our world today, with all the further accumulation of genetic defects, age 120 seems to be an upper limit to human life expectancy give or take a few years. The fact that we are still this way does seem to indicate that there was a second fundamental shift in human genome beginning with Noah.

I think this is probably a greater factor than simply an issue of genetic bottleneck and climate change with the Flood.

SIXTH -- Regarding the Geological Column: The author's claim there is no other possible way to interpret the geological column with its fossils rather than the way they do so.

I'll give one example of an alternate way to explain what is currently seen in geological strata: God created an extreme diversity of ecosystems all around the world. Therefore, you would not necessarily see certain fossils grouped with certain fossils because they were not in the same region with the Flood deposited and fossilized them. Further, in any given region, fluid dynamics and size of animal, population of the animal species, etc. would all contribute to how they were deposited and what groups of animals were deposited together.

To answer a further question some might have, what about the animals on the Ark? First, God definitely miraculously caused them to come to Noah. Second after the Flood we can only assume that God caused them to head back to the ecosystem and region from whence they came. It is very evident from looking at the continental shelves and other data that at some point in the past (in my mind right after the flood), sea levels were much lower so that animals could migrate on land back to their places of origin. As the sea-levels began to rise again, they were cut off. Their populations also were initially very small so that it is unlikely that the extinction process would happen immediately, but eventually they would begin to spread out and compete for the same ecological niches and you get a mixing of competitive species and extinctions.

Further, what is reported as geological strata data is actually tainted by the presuppositions of the geologists and paleontologists. If they find a fossil in the wrong place at the wrong time (geologically and stratigraphically speaking) they just assume it could not have originally been their. The evidence is not so simple as the diagram that Davidson and Wolgemuth present. Further, when the radio-isotope dates come out wrong from the assumed strata, the scientist assumes an error in the radio-isotope measurement, or contamination rather than considering that possibly his whole construct and scheme of geological time is in error. There is all kinds of circular logic going into the dating schema that would take a lot of time and investigation to sort out.

Even further, the writers fail to mention seemingly definitive evidence contrary to their schema like the fact that soft tissue was found in dinosaur bones supposedly fossilized millions of years ago (Dr. Mary Schweitzer, March 25, 2005, Science). Because of their presuppositions, scientists would never consider it to be evidence that these dinosaurs did not die so long ago (perhaps in a Flood 5000 years ago?). One group of scientists scrambled to get a paper out to provide an alternate theory that somehow it was a bacterial slime that had crept into the bones, but as of the last paper I read by Dr. Schweitzer in 2010, and the details of what was discovered, it seems to definitely be soft bone marrow and blood tissue of the dinosaur.

Scientists discount reports in history of dinosaurs, pictures, written reports, etc. because of the presupposition and the geological time schema they have in a sense pledge their lives and sacred honors to.

SEVENTH: On the surface, the sedimentation layers of lakes and ice deposition layers of glaciers might seem the most compelling evidence of the lack of a global flood and an old earth, yet one must remember the evidence mentioned above as well as many other things not mentioned here that are indicative of a young earth. If the scientists even considered that evidence, they might actually reinterpret what they are seeing the the core samples. With regard to sedimentation layers in lakes and ice deposition layers on glaciers, the scientists are operating under many assumptions. And though they claim that they can back thing up by comparing certain specific foreign contaminant depositions caused by e.g. volcanic eruptions, this is not necessarily as they say it happened.

If as it is claimed there are really 60,000 layers of sediment in Lake Suigetsu which stopped being produced in the 1600s when a canal was dug to the ocean, if the assumption that the current process has always gone on, in geologically active part of the globe on the ring of fire, how could the lake remain undisturbed for 60,000 years?

Alternating pollen, clay layers does not necessarily imply seasons but could have been deposited in the spring, various floods interrupting the normal deposition of pollen by covering the one layer and then being covered by the pollen still continuing to be released by the plants and drifting onto the lake surface. Further, fluid dynamics might account for some of the layering. I'm not giving definitive answers because I still need to research the data and the way the experiments were done and the underlying assumptions in how the data was presented and interpreted. But I am simply giving a possible other explanation for what has been presented by these writers.

The same could be said about the radiocarbon graphs. What is peculiar to me is that the graph is almost too much of a straight line, that is the correspondence between depth and C14 is almost too regular to be real and not an artifact of the measurement or confounding variables like (pressure?) or possible CO2 C14 migration?

Again, I have to delve more in depth when I have time to give a more definite critique. (Please follow the link "Time Required For Sedimentation Contradicts the Evolutionary Hypothesis)

Just realize that scientists dealing with origins and the past have presuppositions, assumptions and agendas where if one part were wrong, the entire house of cards would fall down. With these writers, I see a pattern of naturalistic uniformitarian bias and a tendency to trust scientific pronouncements and a tendency to discount or reinterpret the weight of exegesis.

We can say one thing for sure: Naturalistic Evolution and Big Bang Cosmology are the grand mythologies of the 19th, 20th and 21st Centuries. And they are operating as such. And while scientists might be willing to dismiss Genesis as a framework, polemical poetry, or mythology devised to teach spiritual truths, they fail to see that naturalistic evolution and big bang cosmology serves that function for them and operates in the way they are assuming the Bible does.

Hope this will contribute to the discussion.

In Christ,

Joel H. Linton


Regarding another point: Adam was created an adult. Therefore he had an appearance of age. I imagine he also had a belly button so he would not look different from his children. But a scientist examining Adam would insist that he was born. In the same way, fully mature trees would have had growth rings. So an instant after they were created, if a scientist were looking at it, he (or she) would say, ah, this tree has been in existence for e.g. 50 years. Look, I can see the growth rings! These apparent age phenomena are inherent necessities for mature adult living things.

However, I do not see the necessity for non-living things in earth created quite the same way. Do lakes by necessity need to have sediment layers? Further, I think there is definitive weight against the notion that some people argue that God simply put fossils in the ground on the day He created dry land. I think lake sediment and fossils would have been things that happened after the creation of lakes and, for fossils, after the Fall.

Now it is possible that God put great reservoirs of salt into the ground on the day He created dry land because that was a mineral mankind would need.

Simply put, the authors refused to even allow for this possibility in their thinking. By their actions, they show their bias and presupposition towards current scientific thinking.

Exegesis of the revelation of Scripture should be the primary source of information that affects how we interpret currently observed data and NOT the other way around.

Related news:

  • Tim Keller hosts a biologos conference
  • What the 27th General Assembly of the P.C.A. has already said about creation and evolution
  • ARP Synod Rejects Evolutionary Views of Adam's Origin