In recent days, a talented, skillful, and gracious Christian apologist named Tyler Vela has been advocating in defense of a particular brand of “framework hypothesis.” Although he claims to have “no dog” in the “age of the earth debate,” that has not stopped him from releasing materials attempting to refute common young age creationist arguments. Stated in his own words, his purpose in writing the piece I am responding to was “to help us understand each other better and to give clearer, deeper, more thoughtful arguments for our positions and against those that we disagree with. I’m here not belittling my YEC brothers, but calling them to a higher standard of reasoning and argumentation.” I write this response not to ignite controversy, but rather, because I agree wholeheartedly with his sentiment and have been advocating for the same thing within the young age creationist community. He offers some good points and challenging arguments. At the same time, he offers some arguments that have been soundly refuted by young age creationists, suggesting that he (and likely his readership) have not taken the time (or, to be generous, perhaps have just not had an opportunity) to avail themselves of the answers. I pray that this response is taken to be as gracious as I took his initial article to be, and most of all, I pray it helps others on every side of this debate gain a better understanding of the young age creationist view. Therefore, I write this two-part response in the spirit of Proverbs 27:17–“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”1
The following is part one of my two-part response:
I want to begin by saying that, although I have had basically zero interaction with Tyler, I have listened to a few of his podcasts, read a few of his articles, and noticed him interacting with others in a few apologetics Facebook groups.
I should reiterate, right away, that Tyler has no stake whatsoever in the age debate. In fact, his article states,
“I would also like to remind my readers that I am not YEC, OEC, or TE (Theistic Evolution). I hold to a Literary Framework view that sees Genesis 1 as synchronic and polemical to Israel’s recent Egyptian context. Often the dialogue is framed as if there are only two options – YEC and OEC. This is simply not the case. But since my view is hardly ever addressed, I will use arguments presented by YECs in general though typically to OECs.”
There is something interesting happening here, and although this is a point that I plan on addressing in detail at a later time, it ought to be mentioned from the get-go. Tyler may not have a dog in the fight, but the earth is here–therefore, it has an age.
To say there are more than two options may be true theologically speaking, but the earth DOES have an age. And to my knowledge, the only options on the table are the evolutionary age at around 4.5 Billion years and the young age creationist view of around 6,000 years.2
With that in mind, strictly speaking, there are only two options. And the reality is that one can affirm the views that Tyler holds about the authorial intent of Genesis and hold either YEC, OEC, or TE. Nevertheless, the “age” question is still important because it deals with the nature of reality and, in my view, there are pretty insurmountable Scriptural issues in accepting old-age chronology.
The reason I brought this point to bear is the following: The arguments brother Vela has chosen to respond to here have almost zilch to do with the age of the earth. As I will point out, Tyler’s views are hardly even affected by these arguments! It seems that he has majored on the arguments that his “agnostic-with-respect-to-the-age-of-the-earth” views are able to easily escape, but has failed to mention those which serve to challenge his position.3
This article will abide by the following format: Each main point will be the argument as stated in Tyler’s article. Below, I will post (in italics with “//” marks) a direct quote (or quotes) which captures the thrust of his objection, and my response below. I will make note of any time I quote Tyler directly within my response.
1. OEC’s are intimidated by secular scientists and so they reject what they know the text says.
//This is condescending at best. Not only do most people who do not take YEC views driven by textual concerns and a desire to follow what they see in the scriptures, this is also wildly problematic in its view of what science is…I’m also surprised that no one sees that start [sic] irony that this was some of the same kind of rhetoric used against heliocentrism several centuries ago. We have by and large altered how we understand some of the cosmology found in the Bible as being less than literal precisely because it could not accord with the findings of “secular” science.//
Obviously, I cannot possibly speak for every creationist who gets involved in a shouting match with old-age-believing Christians. With that caveat understood, I have yet to hear even one informed young age creationist make a dogmatic statement such as that one. Where such a statement may have been taken to be understood, there is likely lots more nuance behind it.
Consider this thoughtful excerpt from Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson:
“I believe surveys say around 97% of professional scientists hold evolution. Understandably many people want to know why, if the evidence for biblical creation is so compelling, so many scientists still reject it. Well, the same surveys show that probably at least 70% of professional scientists are non-Christians. We know from Romans 1 that non-Christians have a spiritual bias and deliberately suppress the truth. So the Scripture tells us that, yes, the vast majority of them have a compelling spiritual reason to ignore what we’re saying. And so, practically, the way it works itself out, is they never bother to consider it.
Also, most people go through the public school system, and they hear from an early age just evolution. They never hear, and they are not taught even to consider, an alternative hypothesis. So they are taught from an early age to suppress the truth, and so this is just the fruit of an educational system that ignores the opposition.
Also, by and large, they just don’t read our literature. They’re ignorant. Now, sadly, the professing Christians who hold evolution (for example, the BioLogos community) also seem to practice the same thing. In the few interactions I’ve had with their scholars, whether it’s theologians or scientists, they are clueless about anything scholarly that we’ve written. I’ll ask them, “Name the last young earth creationist scholarly book you’ve read.” The response: “I don’t know.” Have you read Coming to Grips with Genesis? No. Have you read Earth’s Catastrophic Past? No. So why don’t more people accept this? Because they’re totally ignorant of what we’ve printed. And they don’t want to consider it.”
This quote is taken directly from the blog of Ken Ham, arguably young age creationism’s most outspoken and vocal supporter. I was not able to find, on his website (www.answersingenesis.com), a quote that even sounds like the statement in question. If brother Vela can show me one specific example of this claim being made (which he failed to do in the original article) I would be happy to evaluate it at that time. (EDIT: On this point, a fellow brother pointed me to a few specific examples where this sort of language is in use on the AiG website. For example, here, here, here, and here. Readers should be aware (as most of mine already are) that while we often use and quote AiG material, I am opposed to anyone using derogatory language toward fellow Christian brothers and sisters.)
The above quote by Jeanson does not purport to address any motive of Christians who hold a different view, rather the mere reality that they often are ignorant (whatever the reason) of young age arguments. This is not a defamation, but a reality! Unfortunately, this has been my personal experience as well.
Now, that said, please allow me to emphatically state that I would not stand behind someone making the sort of claim Tyler is addressing. At least, not without proper context. There is a way that I can see how this sentiment could be inferred from a different kind of common interaction, however.
For example, I have personally had numerous interactions with Christians who are now convinced the earth and universe are billions of years old, but who admitted that they used to hold to a young age view based on the text. What changed? The Bible hasn’t!
Again, this is not conjecture, but fact. What does one do with such a phenomenon? Perhaps “intimidated” is not the right word to use, but one sure does sound silly on most university campuses claiming to believe in a young earth. Secularists often conflate the ridiculous “flat earth” controversy with the young age view (despite the fallacy of false analogy this represents), in an attempt to discredit the claims of young age creationists. This type of ridicule is not intimidating, and could never lead a person to reconsider his views?
Is Tyler prepared to admit that not one OEC, ever, has felt embarrassed at the thought of believing in a young earth and changed his views accordingly? In a popular YouTube video, Dr. William Lane Craig has, in fact, conjectured that YEC is an embarrassment to Christians. If Tyler can get away with affirming this but admitting it would be a rare case, I think I have good grounds to say the same about the claim in question.4
Tyler not only takes objection to this statement on Scriptural grounds, but on scientific grounds as well.
For example, he claims that young age creationists essentially define “secular science” to mean “whatever science disagrees with their view.” But this accusation is much too broad and does not take into account the different kinds of science, nor the interpretive philosophy that must by necessity undergird scientific conclusions.
First, a popular quote from OEC apologist, Dr. Frank Turek: “Science doesn’t say things, scientists do.”
I have yet to meet a Christian who would not agree with the above quote. Scientists tell us virgin births don’t happen, and yet, we contend that one did. Of course, we also agree with secular scientists on this point, scientifically speaking! What’s the difference? Our worldview—our philosophy which informs our deepest convictions about the nature of reality—dictates our conclusion that at least one virgin birth happened in the course of history, science notwithstanding.
So unless brother Vela is willing to argue that science is purely objective and results are never interpreted through a philosophical bias, his objection fails. We can agree that, perhaps, young age creationists should make a more concerted effort to define terms and be careful about the way words are used. Nevertheless, most Christians agree in principle with the same distinction young age creationists hold regarding so-called “secular science.”5
Second, Vela’s objection fails to make the distinction between forensic (historical) science and observable science according to the scientific method. Lest one think this distinction is imaginary (or a sly invention of creationists), consider the following quote from Ernst Mayr, who literally “wrote the book” on evolution:
“For example, Darwin introduced historicity into science. Evolutionary biology, in contrast with physics and chemistry, is a historical science—the evolutionist attempts to explain events and processes that have already taken place. Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques for the explication of such events and processes. Instead one constructs a historical narrative, consisting of a tentative reconstruction of the particular scenario that led to the events one is trying to explain.”
I have yet to hear an informed young age creationist take issue with good, observable science.
The issue lies in the realm of history–the claims of young age creationists are much more about history than they are about science. Sure, there are scientific claims involved (such as in the study of Flood Geology, for example), but when trying to figure out what happened in the past, a different set of tools is required.
Therefore, what we have here is a classic fallacy of equivocation on Vela’s part. He conflates both forms of science by placing them under one umbrella and then argues that young earth creationists arbitrarily dismiss conclusions that disagree as if the method of science never changed. This is a false (and rather disingenuous) rendering of how young age creationists handle the data.
Unfortunately, Vela also mentions “YEC literalism.” I have dealt with this subject multiple times recently, here and here, so will refer you to those resources rather than to reinvent the wheel. I would urge you to read and listen to those links, however, as many of the objections which will follow trade on a criticism of “hyper-literalism” which ultimately amounts to nothing more than a strawman argument.
Finally, on this point, Tyler states the following:
//I’m also surprised that no one sees that start [sic] irony that this was some of the same kind of rhetoric used against heliocentrism several centuries ago. We have by and large altered how we understand some of the cosmology found in the Bible as being less than literal precisely because it could not accord with the findings of “secular” science. It’s just too far in our rear view mirror for people to remember that. We could see this in the historical move from a flat earth three-tier cosmology common to all ANE cultures (Israel included) and a spherical globe earth. Or do many of you think that the earth does indeed rest on literal pillars and is covered by a firm glass like dome called a firmament? Everyone in the ANE context of the OT would have read that in the same way we do comments about the sky being blue and the earth orbiting the sun.//
Again, in order to not reinvent the wheel, I will refer you back to this article written just two weeks ago in which I deal with this subject. As an aside, it is notable that Vela’s views about Old Testament cosmology are largely based on those of Dr. John Walton, who served for over 20 years at Moody (where Vela attended for a while) and is an outspoken critic of those who take Genesis in a straightforward fashion.
Walton’s views are gaining popularity in Christendom, but are by no means uncontested by his Old Testament colleagues. One such colleague, Dr. John Oswalt, has commented regarding the sudden and relatively recent shift in Old Testament studies, “I am convinced that it is prior theological and philosophical convictions that account for the change and not any change in the data.”
Tyler’s rhetorically-charged use of terms such as “glass like dome called a firmament” and “literal pillars” leaves his reader no chance to evaluate the difference between narrative and poetic language, and trades on the false idea that young age creationists read the text with a “wooden-hyper-literalist” hermeneutic rather than a traditionally accepted historical-grammatical hermeneutic.
Even granting that the Israelites may have held a so-called “three-tiered cosmology” such as that of their pagan neighbors, it does not follow that that is what the Holy Spirit had in mind when inspiring the Scriptures. Much work has been done by young age creationists which shows how the universe we have matches exactly what is seen in the Scriptures.6
Dr. Jason Lisle deals with a critic making similar claims in this interaction, which I’m sure is with a critic much less educated on these matters than brother Vela (although he claims to be a scientist). I only mean to provide an example to back up my assertion that one need not be worried about how some of the ancients viewed the sky.
Based on the above, I think Vela’s concerns on this point fail on two counts:
First, that the claim as stated is lacking context and is a claim that would almost never be made in isolation. However, if that claim as stated were made in isolation, I would agree with Vela in his assessment on that point. And second, because his assessment of how young age creationists handle the distinction between “creation” and “secular” science is simply false and fails to account for all the facts.
2. If you just take the plain meaning of the text, it clearly means 6 literal solar days.
//While this does touch on what I will address in later articles in a more robust manner, let me simply state that this is clearly false. In fact it was precisely the plain meaning of the text which drove myself and many others away from a literalist understanding of Genesis 1.//
On this point Vela mentions five specific questions which supposedly rise naturally out of the text, causing an alleged issue for the young age interpretation. I am going to go through each one, in as brief a fashion as possible. However, there are two things to keep in the back of your mind when going down this list:
First, Tyler claims these objections are merely textual, but a few of them seem to be importing our current scientific understanding. I’ll point these out. And second, this entire piece is based exclusively on Genesis 1, and yet, a creationist who believes in taking the “plain meaning of the text” is speaking about a hermeneutical approach to the whole Bible. To detach Genesis 1 from the other passages used to support this view is unhelpful.
Tyler raises five questions of the Genesis 1 “literalist”:
First, //”How is there morning and evening with no sun?”//
I’ve given this exact question a thorough treatment here, so I invite you to read that short article for my answer to the question.
But there’s a problem with the question. Namely, you don’t need a sun to have evening and morning.
You need two things: A light source (which is present on day 1) and the earth (which is also present on day 1). To even ask this question is to assume that God created the sun on day 1 because it is our light source today.
A plain reading suggests that God created light first, and then a few days later created the sun. That’s what the text says. My point is that the text is clear as to when the sun was created vs. the original light source. To suggest otherwise is an exercise in eisegesis. This brings us to Tyler’s next question:
//”Is this supernatural light “good” and if so why did God scrap it and replace it just a few days later with the sun?”//
This question represents a logical fallacy called a “complex question.” Tyler’s question makes myriad assumptions which affect the answer a priori: (1) the light was supernatural, (2) it wasn’t good (or it didn’t exist as a separate light from the sun), and (3) that God “scrapped it” and “replaced it” with the sun.
I am not aware of any recent creationists who claim that “first light” was supernatural, unless he is making reference to those who claim the light was God Himself, as hinted to in the book of Revelation. This is not my personal view, but there are many creationists who do, in fact, hold it.
The point is that there are plausible (and even Scripturally supported) views about first light that do not appeal directly to the supernatural. Again, see my article on this for a couple of those views.
However, a glaring question seems to arise.
Just what was creation if not supernatural? Is Tyler suggesting that we must view creation on naturalistic terms? The supernatural isn’t allowed in creation, all of a sudden? I’m not trying to make any sort of indictment here, but rather to point out the logical consequences of arguing in the manner that he has.
As asked, Tyler’s rhetorical question also assumes that the light created in the beginning wasn’t good (because it was “scrapped”), in order to raise a seeming contradiction. His unstated conclusion is that if we’re going to call the light part of God’s “good” creation, it will have to be attached to the sun.
The problem? It’s not what the text says! I cannot stress this any harder. On two separate occasions, God creates light and the sun respectively, and each time, calls it good! Again, a plain meaning is simply that–taking the text for what it says, not for what some scientists think about when/how the sun was formed.
Did God actually scrap the light as Tyler suggests? Of course not. Why? Because the text does not say that’s what happened. Of that, I can be dogmatically sure. From a scientific standpoint, there have been numerous suggestions. I won’t give my personal view, but here are a few options:
1.God was the light. If this is true, then the sun was simply put in place to help God’s creation (humans) tell time. This is the purpose stated in Scripture.
2.The light was a form of energy. This view, again, allows for the sun to be put in place as the text says to do the job God intended for it.
3.God “attached” the light to the sun. John MacArthur has argued that whatever “first light” was, it has not been deprecated, but is rather now attached to the sun which has a more specific purpose.
The above suggestions are, of course, speculative. But no more speculative than the current naturalistic story of the sun’s origins. This is why creationists are so adamant on this point. The Bible says one thing, naturalists say another. So it just doesn’t make sense to us when Christians side with naturalists on some points about origins, but not others.7
Tyler’s next question: //”How are there days [sic] when God says that the whole purpose of the sun and moon and stars was for the purpose of marking out days and seasons in Day 4?”//
As stated, Tyler’s question doesn’t make sense, so I am assuming he means to ask how days 1-3 could have been literal, 24-hour days in light of the fact that the sun wasn’t created to mark off time until day 4.
Scripturally, because the “evening and morning” had taken place to constitute the first day, regardless of day 4 events. If you look to the Hebrew, many have rightly argued that the close of vs. 5 could/should read, “and the evening and the morning were day one.” Also, since context determines meaning, God intends to communicate, and the best interpretation of Scripture is the one that the author and original readers could easily share with one another,8 Genesis 1 allows for only three possible contexts: 12 hours (morning/evening), a 24-hour day (due to the use of ordinal numbers), or a collection of six days (since Genesis 2:4 seems to be summarizing the events of Genesis 1).
Practically, because even though a day is possible with no sun (more on that in a moment), signs, seasons, etc.–i.e., a day as we experience it–is not. This light source (the sun) coupled with the rotation of the earth would now produce these things, which give us a sense of time-keeping and commemoration.
Scientifically, because the sun actually has very little to do with the length of a day. It is the rotation of the earth that gives us this measurement (about 96%). The sun may help us to mark out days, seasons, etc., but it brings almost nothing to bear on the actual length of a day.
Therefore, there is no problem with days 1-3 being ordinary days. Further, Exodus 20:11 makes no distinction between the length of the days. Everyone knew what was meant. More on that in part two.
Next question: //”The light and the darkness are separated on Day 1 but then God creates the sun and the moon for the purpose of separating the light and the darkness on Day 4. But if that had already happened on Day 1, then what light and darkness are being separated on Day 4? Did they fuse back together at some time?”//
This is an interesting question, and admittedly, one I had never heard before. My attempt at answering this may not be fully satisfactory but it should be sufficient. I think it would be helpful to answer in the same way I answered the above question: Scripturally, practically, and scientifically.
Scripturally, then, this is certainly no contradiction. It may be an interesting question for reflection, but if the record is right as stated, God separated some light from some darkness twice. Further, 2 Corinthians 4:6 may give us an interesting clue. It says, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
A comparison is being drawn with creation here. It seems to me that the creation of the sun could not be considered “commanding the light to shine out of darkness“, because the sun is an entity that gives off light from within itself based on its nature. Further, a common sense reading of this verse would seem to indicate that it is speaking about the first time that light had ever shone out of darkness, just like the light of the gospel shines in the heart of a dark, dead sinner for the first time.
Practically, if we allow for the fact that God created the universe (the heavens), and the earth, and for the logical progression of the text moving from the general to the specific, we can easily see how the separation of “first light” from original darkness pertained to the universe writ large, and the second separation was specifically with respect to the earth.
Scientifically, and to build on the previous point, just because there was light of some sort in the universe on day 1, it does not follow that there was light on the earth. The sun was created on day 4 to give light on the earth, since the sun (and the moon, by way of reflection) is the only way light is shone onto the earth. To assume that there is a contradiction because a superficially similar phenomenon is described twice is, once again, an exercise in eisegesis.
Tyler’s final question on this point: //”How is it literal days if plants are created on day 3 but we are told in Genesis 2 that no plants had grown because it had not yet rained and man was not yet created to work the earth? Could they not survive the 3 days without water until man was created?”//
Another good question! Unfortunately, this objection is based on a misunderstanding of Genesis 2 writ large, and is based on an old objection raised by Meredith Kline, a popularizer of the Framework Hypothesis which Tyler holds.
Much could be said about this. However, what I (and many others) argue is that Genesis 2 is not a creation account at all, and is simply a “zooming in” on the events of the Garden of Eden.
Kruger offers six pieces of evidence in support of this view in his paper, An Understanding of Genesis 2:5. Within the paper, Kruger also highlights the fact that Genesis 2:5 is speaking of the type of vegetation that required the cultivation of man–one completely distinct from that which was created by God on day 3, which is clearly seen in an examination of the Hebrew.9
Therefore, if Vela wants to stretch credulity by saying that a plain English reading of the text creates difficulty, he is welcome to do so, but that is a disingenuous position to take since the original readers, reading in their own language, would have clearly seen the difference between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2:5ff.
He wraps up this second point of objection by saying, “a straight forward reading will not yield 6 literal days. It simply is not the clear and plain meaning of the text like they imagine it to be.”
Well, as hopefully you’ve surmised from the above points, what he actually means is that it’s not the plain and clear meaning of the text if you assume the order of “creation” as agreed upon by the majority of scientists.
Six literal days certainly is the plain and clear meaning of the text if it’s proper exegesis–and not eisegesis–we intend to accomplish.
3. Genesis is literal history and not allegory.
//I will quickly state that this is just a false dichotomy. In fact most Bible students should readily identify this fact.//
Tyler then goes on to mention some specific examples of biblical incidents where poetic language is used to speak about historical events. I have no objection to his examples (Exodus 15, Judges 5, and the Gospels).
However, notice that he doesn’t actually address the question. He says this is a false dichotomy, compares those who use this to those who use “the kind of vague “literalism” that dispensationalists will often use in an attempt to accuse other theological positions of not taking the text seriously”, and then moves on.
But just because allegory can be infused with literal history and vice-versa, it does not follow in the slightest that that’s what Genesis 1 is! In fact, we recent creationists would want to enthusiastically affirm that figurative language can be used in the context of literal history! Perhaps this would finally help to rid the incredulous indictment that we YEC’s use a “wooden-hyper-literal” interpretation of the text that Tyler himself trades on in this piece.
In fact, I’ll make the problem “worse.” We recent creationists would even affirm that there are poetic renderings of the creation account in the Hebrew Bible! Just take a look at Psalm 104, for example.
Now–surely, any reasonable comparison of Psalm 104 with Genesis 1 should tell the discerning reader that we are not dealing with the same kind of thing. Whatever Genesis 1 is, it is not the same as Psalm 104. Of that much, my two-year-old could almost be certain.
In fact, Hebrew scholar Dr. Steve Boyd10 took on this project–determining the literary genre of Genesis 1–and reached an interesting conclusion.
His paper from the project takes special care to mention the difficulties and factors involved in such a task, and if you don’t have time to read a 104-page paper, perhaps you’ll make the time for an eye-opening 45-minute video.
This rigorous study yielded the following conclusion:
“When extended to the population level, it was found that our logistic regression model based on relative frequency of preterites yields a superb protocol (between 85.5 and 95.5% reduction in the number of classification errors) for categorizing texts as narrative or poetry at a 95% confidence level. The logistic regression model calculates the probability that a text is a narrative. For Genesis 1:1–2:3, this probability is between 0.999942 and 0.999987 at a 99.5% confidence level. Thus, we conclude with statistical certainty that this text is narrative, not poetry. It is therefore statistically indefensible to argue that this text is poetry. The hermeneutical implication of this finding is that this text should be read as other historical narratives, whose authors evinced supererogatory concern with the past and staunchly upheld the historicity of their accounts even to the point of challenging their contemporaries to prove or disprove their documented historical references.”
Therefore, we recent creationists argue with good reason that Genesis 1 should be taken as a straightforward, natural account of real history.
4. Jesus took Genesis literally and so should we.
//There are two major problems with this argument. Firstly, it treat [sic] Genesis as a singular genre – historical narrative…the second major problem is that the passages used to support this kind of argument often prove far too much.//
Sadly, Tyler has become a pro at creating strawmen and raising objections without the proper nuance/context. No creationist ever has argued that Jesus took every word of Genesis literally.
Once again, we want to say that Jesus took Genesis naturally. He references events that appear to be historical (i.e., they have genealogical and theological relationships with other characters, events, etc. of undisputed historicity) in order to make a point about the circumstance He is addressing. John 1 teaches that He was there at creation, therefore, we rightly assume that He knew a little bit about the events that took place.
Tyler then goes on to mention a lengthy list of “problems” with Mark 10:6, one of the passages which he rightly mentions that creationists often use to support the fact that Jesus took Genesis literally/naturally.
His argument is long, but can be summed up by the following paraphrase: “Jesus was not referencing the beginning of creation, but the beginning of the creation of humanity. Further, the context is referencing divorce which is not a consideration until humans are present anyway. Therefore, whether it was six days or 14 Billion years into the future, is irrelevant.”
First of all, let me say that I am in agreement with Vela’s sentiment on this point. Scripture ought to be read and taken in context in order to understand the meaning. However, with that nuance comes the fact that some statements simply have meaning in themselves and have no particular bearing on the context at hand.
So in this case, does the fact that this passage is clearly about divorce nullify what is meant by “from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female”? Notice, in context, that Jesus is supplying this statement as the premise of an argument.
Jesus is saying “from the beginning…male and female…therefore.” So it is axiomatic to Jesus’ point that they were made male and female from the beginning of the creation. Now, here’s where natural language comes in.
Tyler wants to split hairs and say that the text cannot mean what recent creationists would like for it to, because even on our view, male and female were not made at the beginning of creation, but on the sixth day. Therefore, Tyler seems to be saying that the meaning must be “from the beginning of the creation of male and female they were made male and female.” I suppose he is welcome to draw this interpretation, but it’s certainly not obvious that Jesus would have such a redundant idea in mind.
He also asserts that the parallel passage (Matthew 19) clears up confusion and necessitates that it is only the origin of humanity that is in view, but does not state how it accomplishes this, nor was I able to find how this is accomplished on a careful reading of my own. This article takes special care to address the claim.
I would suggest, rather, that Jesus–being a human like us–used language in a similar way that we do. What if I said to you, “Boy, I sure would love to go to Disney World again. My family went four years ago and loved every minute of it!”
Are you going to pull out the calendar and hold me to that? What if we had actually gone three years, 42 weeks, and four days ago? Would that make me a liar? Or unclear by any reasonable standard? Of course not!
Therefore, I contend that Jesus is simply saying that they were made at the beginning of the creation. If they were made six days after the initial moment of creation (by the way, His audience would have understood exactly what He meant), this is reasonable communication. The point made by recent creationists is that this natural way of speaking becomes completely unreasonable if man was made 14 BILLION years after creation.
To get around that, you have to read these Scriptures quite unnaturally as shown above by Tyler’s presumed reading. Therefore, in an effort to combat so-called “YEC literalism,” Vela has demonstrated that YEC’s, in fact, are the ones who read the text naturally, and it is he who, in impressing a hyper-literal interpretation on the text, must read it unnaturally.
To strengthen his argument, Tyler again appeals to an ultra-literal interpretation of John 8:44, which says that Satan was a “murderer from the beginning.” He asks rhetorically, “Well was Satan a murderer before humans existed – from the moment of creation? That would be a huge stretch to imagine that before the fall in the garden.”
Tyler makes a fair and interesting point. However, Thayer’s Greek Lexicon provides another perspective. According to it, “murderer” is the word “ἀνθρωποκτόνος, ἀνθρωποκτονον (κτείνω to kill), a manslayer, murderer: John 8:44. contextually, to be deemed equal to a murderer, 1 John 3:15. (Euripides, Iph. T. (382) 389.) (Cf. Trench, § 83, and φονεύς.)” (emphasis mine).
It offers the comparison text 1 John 3:15, which reads, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” On Tyler’s own standard, then, if you’ve ever held hatred towards a brother in Christ, you could also literally be a murderer! Taken naturally and in context, however, the text actually means you can be a “murderer” without having killed anyone–it has to do with the condition of your heart, not your actions. The same seems to be true of Satan and certainly was true of him before the creation of man.11
The above is one possible way of understanding this text. However, yet another possible interpretation remains. In part two, we’ll see that Tyler is going to argue that whatever Moses meant by “day” in Exodus 20:11 is the same thing he meant in Genesis 1. We’ll address that. But let’s apply Vela’s own logic to the current objection.
Since Jesus made both “from the beginning” statements (the one about Adam and Eve in Mark/Matthew and the one about Satan in John), it’s reasonable to conclude that whatever is meant by one is meant by the other. Since the Mark and Matthew passages much more clearly demonstrate that Jesus can be talking about the beginning, even if He simply means to convey a short time from the beginning, or around the time of the beginning, I see no reason this logic shouldn’t apply to the John statement as well.
So then as with the Mark/Matthew statements, if the fall was in close proximity to the initial creation (some scholars argue that the fall took place in as little as four weeks from the close of creation week), the John passage is quite reasonable. It follows the same sort of pattern as my Disney World illustration above. If, however, an old-age interpretation is true, this statement once again becomes quite unnatural, as “from the beginning” would either have to be stated in a redundant, unnatural fashion or “from the beginning” would have to actually mean “14 Billion years from the beginning.” The young age interpretation seems the most perspicuous, by a long shot.
Therefore, I conclude that Tyler’s fourth objection fails. Jesus did mean to be taken naturally when saying they were made male and female from the beginning of the creation, and the details of the text do no harm whatsoever to understanding it this way.
That’s all we have time for this week. Stay tuned for part two coming next Tuesday! We’ll have four more objections to work through before offering some final remarks.
Questions? Feel free to comment below and start the discussion, or click the blue button on the right (desktop only) to ask a question with a voicemail. We will do our best to answer in an upcoming post. Thanks!
- This week and next will be long articles, but I consider Tyler’s article to be one of the best, concise refutations of the young age view (especially from a textual perspective), so I think this response will be a worthwhile read for anyone interested.
- Hopefully, you’ll allow me some grace if I am not aware of a fringe group that advocates for another time period. Within the Christian context, we generally have those who are fine with an “old” earth (4.5 Bil. Years) and a “young” earth (6,000-10,000) years. The “YEC” group is generally convinced that the Bible teaches this age via textual parameters, some of which will be mentioned in this two-part blog series. The “OEC”, “TE”, and (as far as I know) those who hold to other views will generally default to the mainstream scientific understanding on matters of age, not because they feel the Bible teaches this age necessarily, but because they are convinced the Bible does not speak to the age issue at all.
- It may be (and should be) said that Tyler’s main intent with this article is merely to refute common YEC arguments and not to offer a defense of his own view. But I thought the discerning reader may find it interesting that there are other very common arguments which are harder for Tyler’s views to cope with, that have been omitted for one reason or another.
- Just as an aside, there are many studies that theistic evolutionists point to which allegedly show that believing in young age creationism has caused many to leave the faith. Of course, I dispute that interpretation. But given that’s the case, is it not reasonable to assume that many have simply altered their views based on science and still retained faith in Christ, but simply changed their view on origins for the same reason others left completely? It’s worth considering.
- As an aside, the same can be said for evolution theory. OEC’s stand adamantly against evolution, in most cases. Are we to believe that the same philosophical bias that taints unbelievers to accept evolution cannot also affect matters of age? To Tyler’s criticism (insofar as he is defending as an OEC for his purposes stated above), why should this be considered any different?
- This is not necessarily my view, but considering that God inspired the Scriptures for all generations, is it not possible they were inspired in such a way that they are directly relevant to both ancient and modern cosmologies? Just a thought.
- For example, many Christians who argue using the big bang also argue against evolution! Of course, the big bang is fraught with many scientific issues just like evolution theory is. So why accept one, but not the other? It doesn’t make sense.
- I owe my thanks to Old Testament professor, Dr. James Allman, for this practical understanding of Scriptural interpretation.
- Kruger’s paper also addresses other objections of Kline’s with respect to this issue. It’s a worthwhile read.
- I don’t mean to create an “appeal to authority” here, but given his credentials–a BS and MS in Physics from Drexel University, a ThM in Old Testament and Semitics from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Hebraic and Cognate Studies from Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion–I’m inclined to think he is reasonably well-equipped to reach an accurate conclusion.
- Of course, this is not to say that Satan is not literally a murderer as well. He is, and that is certainly consistent with the context of John 8:44. But his murderous spirit pre-existed the creation of man (which is clearly surmised from his temptation of Eve in the garden and expulsion from heaven), allowing for the notion that he could be considered a murderer even before there was someone on earth to murder.