The 10 most pressing issues for evangelical theology today

With a dash of hubris (why not, it’s a Monday morning) - here are the issues on which I think evangelicals have some work to do. Not that individual evangelicals don’t hold strongly to some of these - it is just that either the ‘traditional’ view is under challenge, or that there is a lack of consensus among evangelicals. This list is, like all lists, meant to provoke and challenge of course - it is meant (and I hope will be received!) in that spirit.


1 - scripture
How is inerrancy best to be understood and expressed - if indeed it is the most appropriate and useful word to express and uphold the highest possible commitment of the authority of scripture? Can we move beyond the use of the word as line in the sand and actually articulate what we mean by it in the midst of a post-biblical culture? Can evangelicals actually have a mature discussion about this - the word itself has become a shibboleth of US evangelicalism?

2 - God
Now that the ‘openness of God’ distraction has been (in my opinion!) overcome, there still seems to be a tension between the position known as ‘classical theism’ and the more ‘biblical personalist’ position. How are the attributes of God to be addressed, then, by the biblical Christian? Does classical theism help or hinder?

3 - election
Election is always a tough one. Double or single? Have new readings of Paul made a difference to what needs to be said about Israel? What is the purpose of the doctrine of election, dogmatically speaking?

4 - the atonement
Classic evangelicalism has always stood firm on the centrality of the atoning blood of Jesus Christ for the propitiation of our sins. But even between those who would agree that penal substitution is an indispensable part of the Bible’s teaching on the atonement - what place does it have within the whole scope of the Bible’s teaching? How does it relate to other descriptions of the atonement in Scripture?

5 - justification
The debate between NT Wright and John Piper over imputation reveals some fault lines. Imputation seems a necessary corollary of an evangelical testimony to justification by faith. But what are its exegetical foundations? And will ‘union with Christ’ prove to be a more fruitful model to explain this teaching? (with much good work to come from Moore’s own Con Campell)

6 - anthropology
I think theological anthropology is right at the missional cutting edge, and the more thinking evangelicals can do about it the better. That is not to fall prey to the temptation to collapse theology into anthropology, or to get distracted by all kinds of anthropologically interesting byways, but to give a full and rich account of the meaning and purpose of human life lived under the hand of the God who is mindful of man (to steal from Psalm 8).

7 - sin
Sin is a corollary of the doctrine of man… Once again it is a missionally urgent task to give an articulation of sin that is as full-orbed as we can make it. This is one instance where ‘biblically faithful’ and ‘culturally aware’ are not necessarily mutually exclusive. The mute incomprehension of our contemporaries as they hear contemporary preachers talk about sin highlights the problem… The answer is not in their hearts of course. The word of God is better than we think it is.

8 - philosophy & theology
Evangelicals seem genuinely undecided about this as a group. Is philosophy good, bad, or indifferent? A friend, or a foe? Is a philosophy-less theology simply naive? or is a philosophy in addition to theology a blasphemy? What have we to say about thinking?

9 - apologetics
A connected issue, then, is that of apologetics. Ought we to do apologetics at all? Many evangelicals have invested very heavily in apologetics. But to what end? Are the models of apologetics - evidentialist, presuppositionalist (does anyone actually understand what presuppositionalist apologists are saying?) - enough for the needs of the day?

10 - church
Evangelicals have always prided themselves on being ecclesiology-lite. They have achieved far more in terms of ecumenical co-operation than other forms of Christianity as a result. Ecclesiology is secondary. However, there are numerous settings where this needs to be revisited, given the rapid realignment of denominations and the retreat of Christendom. So you see some pretty heavy church-speak from evangelicals these days: the Nine Marks ministry says some pretty particular things ecclesiology-wise. The Federal Vision movement is likewise (though very different) heavy on sacraments and covenant/church talk. This is not an isolated trend.

11 - hermeneutics
I don’t mean hermeneutics in the sense of perspectival readings etc, but in the sense of asking the question: what makes the bible a unity? In what does a richly theological reading of Scripture consist? There are some very exciting developments on this front, building on the work of a previous generation - biblical scholars now collaborating with theologians on the matter of scriptural interpretation.

Michael Jensen is rector of St Mark's Darling Point and is the author of the book My God, My God: Is it Possible to Believe Anymore? He's on twitter: @mpjensen

Comments (112)

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  • Rob Elder
    June 28, 10 - 11:31pm
    Can I suggest that our view of creation (6 days, evolution etc etc) is an issue that divides evangelicals the world over. It's also at the heart of much atheist apologetics.
  • Sandy Grant
    June 28, 10 - 11:34pm
    Michael, I tried, but can't help myself.

    I am wondering if an article which promises the ten most pressing issues for evangelicals and then lists eleven on them was designed...
    (i) as a errant foil for inerrant scriptures - point #1? or
    (ii) as a poke at a basics of philosophy - point #8 - by violating the law of non-contradiction (that ten equals ten, not eleven!); or
    (iii) as an illustration of post-modern hermeneutics - point#11, where ten might mean ten for me, but not necessarily for you!

    I know, I know, it was a mistake in the sub-editing, or whomever does the headlines!

    I might try and say something serious later, and apologies to others for being flippant, but I needed a bit of amusement right now!
  • Michael Jensen
    June 28, 10 - 11:40pm
    @Sandy - think of it like a baker's dozen! It's a bonus!

    :-)
  • Matthew Payne
    June 29, 10 - 2:22am
    good minefield... I mean... 'list'. Most of them are on the top of my list of special interest too (though not so much #2 and #11).

    Michael, many of these things are near the heart of the Christian faith. How do you think that ordinary Christians, without training in academic theology (and those with that training too!), should respond to disagreement on such crucial topics? Obviously it can cause people to stumble to see such lack of consensus on central points. The natural question is 'How do I know I am saved if we aren't sure of the basis of that salvation'?
  • Martin Kemp
    June 29, 10 - 2:26am
    12- Missiology
    The issue of social justice and its relation to mission is still an issue woth going over. It seems to me that many are simply making the assumption that goods works equates to mission. Maybe not in Sydney Anglican circles, but once you leave our stable it's fairly widespread. It will be interesting to see what happens at the 3rd Lausanne congress later in the year, and how they speak about the place of preaching the gospel. This leads to...

    13- Preaching.
    I've noted a movement away from expository preaching. Particularly in the mega churches. And i'm not sure this is just a thing which will pass. Some might be tempted to say "that's more a pastoral thing than theological", but the way I see it the practice has come through a loss of faith in the efficacy of Biblical revelation. And so it's back to...

    1a- Scripture
    Particularly the defence of the Bible as the primary mode of verbal revelation given to the church. This is harder to do from the NT that I would have guessed, given that Paul speaks about both letter and sermon as being authoritative (2 Thess 2.15). Maybe what's needed here is not so much some new ideas but a clear re-articulation of the Bible's place ahead of other verbal forms of revelation (ie preaching/ prophecy).

    Under all this is the growing influence of pentecostalism within evangelical circles.
  • Raj Gupta
    June 29, 10 - 3:22am
    Yes - I was going to throw in the person and work of the Spirit.
  • Ian Welch
    June 29, 10 - 4:27am
    Keep it up, Mr. Gupta, this is the kind of rethinking that is needed.
  • Raj Gupta
    June 29, 10 - 4:56am
    To be clear, I am not advocating any particular position on the person and work of the Spirit. I am just suggesting that it is a pressing issue for evangelical theology at the present time.

    My recent series on 'The Spirit' at my own church sparked more interest than any other series I have done. Many were thrilled that it was being spoken about and the series helped them develop their own thinking and practice further.
  • Michael Jensen
    June 29, 10 - 4:57am
    Yes - but what do you think needs to be said? It would be interesting to know.
  • Chris Little
    June 29, 10 - 7:38am
    I agree with Rob about creation - as a theological investigation rather than the scary dead-end arguments that seem to crop up in our circles.

    For example, I don't think the Bible 'uses' Genesis to discuss earth age, but to honour God & understand Christ. This does not - in my view - rule in or out any particular earth age. But perhaps an absence of the bigger theological sweep has left a vacuum to be filled with what I reckon is an interesting side issue.

    Also, a theology of creation is needed to carefully consider how to respond to concerns for the environment, to help understand work (paid or not), and even to assess other faiths.
  • Chris Little
    June 29, 10 - 7:44am
    @Sandy: it's 10 issues, plus GST.
  • Roger Gallagher
    June 29, 10 - 7:53am
    I've noticed that most of the commentators to date have been clergy. While this isn't unusual, I suspect that some non-clergy might be getting turned off by the theological jargon being used. I know this is a personal hobby-horse of mine, but please remember that some of us don't use words and phrases like hermenuetics, classic theism, biblical personalist, or even corollary as part of our daily conversations.
  • Sandy Grant
    June 29, 10 - 9:37am
    @ Chris, I thought Michael as an Anglican was part of the Anglican religious group and was exempt from charging GST! I think I want a tax invoice to clarify the situation before I read on.
  • Michael Jensen
    June 29, 10 - 9:40pm
    @Chris - I agree. In my opinion, the debate about the age of the earth and so forth is not a debate anymore. It is just a shouting match. The young-earth position is so indefensible that mant of its proponents have resorted to screaming.

    It is high time we just moved on and started to address the more important questions such as you raise.
  • David Ashton
    June 30, 10 - 2:23am
    Michael, whilst I agree that all these are issues, what about love?

    I think we in the western church don't do this well. We can get all these issues right but we still won't be communicating Christ because we don't love.

    I don't just mean charity - which we could do better - but the distant relationships we have in our own congregations.

    Perhaps I'm just being naive.

    David
  • Michael Jensen
    June 30, 10 - 2:26am
    Nothing I have said excludes this concern, David.

    But what makes it more than a motherhood statement? Can you give us something more concrete? Is there a time and place in the Church's history where this COULDN'T be said?
  • David Ashton
    July 1, 10 - 8:40am
    A motherhood statement?? Michael, the current standard of relationships I have seen in churches falls far short of the command Jesus gave us. There are so many ways we can express this love, and one of them is our money.

    So many people hold onto a class mentality that cuts right across the practical expression of love.

    We could all these ten issues right, but have no love. Why did Paul stress this? The references and the teachings are so many that there is not room enough here to discuss them.

    Part of the problem is the elitism that the so-called church schools jave at their core.

    I'm sorry if that's too bolshie for you.
  • Michael Jensen
    July 1, 10 - 8:49am
    It's not too bolshie. But it waves an idealistic and accusatory finger at God's church. Anyone at anytime and anyplace could turn up and wave a finger at the church and say 'you aren't loving enough'. It's too easy to say.

    The 'current standard'? I have experienced and witnessed incredibly loving - though imperfect - communities of God's people in this city. They have been characterised by remarkable generosity. Perhaps your experience is different -but that doesn't mean it is universally true.

    Love and truth are not an either/or. Paul has a lot of doctrinal issues to discuss, and they are germane to love.

    You haven't answered my question which is: is your accusation ever NOT true of some church in history somewhere? I would venture to suggest that even the NT church was not what it was supposed to be. Hence 1 Corinthians!
  • David Palmer
    July 2, 10 - 12:58am
    I think Michael's list is certainly comprehensive.

    I have a couple of points.

    In doing expository preaching, our preachers need to keep Michael’s 11 doctrinal issues in view and deal with them as the text permits/dictates.

    I have raised this point before, and I believe Michael has too, but I think we need to make more use of our confessional heritage (I'm not against fresh thinking but I want to test everything against my/our confessional heritage). I'm going through the Heidelberg Catechism at the moment and the readings yesterday and today Lord's Day 23&24;on justification and the relationship to works were so invigorating, set all my brain cells tingling, warming my heart.

    Regarding sin, Cornelius Plantinga's treatment The Way it’s not supposed to be: A Breviary of Sin is terrific not least in the way he fleshes the matter out in ways that the preacher can make use of - I certainly have.

    Michael gets aggravated over young earth creationism, as I too do (oops, the young earth bit only in my case), but it's out there big time in the Christian School movement. You just can’t turn a blind eye to it.

    I suppose the only other point I have is that when anyone raises the topic of the Holy Spirit, I say yes, but let’s remember the focus: Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The Holy Spirit magnifies Christ, makes Him real, causes us to love Him and see in Him all our hope.
  • Michael Bull
    July 2, 10 - 11:48pm
    "The young-earth position is so indefensible that many of its proponents have resorted to screaming."

    Dear Michael, you are reading the wrong websites. Try creation.com

    Your statement is an insult to those creationists who are actually scientists (such as geologist Tas Walker, or Mark Harwood who designs communications satellites), and have braved ridicule from both non-Christians and Christians like you, to stand for both the Bible and empirical science. Yes, there are screamers---on both sides. But the YEC position is not indefensible. What's your position on recently debunked 'junk DNA' and the fact that we now know Neandertals were 100% human? Of course, this isn't the place to debate the facts, but I mention these because you are intimating that YECs aren't dealing with them. It's an out-and-out misrepresentation of these smart, godly, honest and brave men.
  • Michael Jensen
    July 3, 10 - 9:07pm
    @Michael - as Augustine said, 'it is the not the punishment but the cause that makes the martyr.' They may stand against ridicule, but if they stand for the wrong thing then that doesn't ennoble them somehow. It's no excuse. What's more, smart, godly, honest and brave doesn't make you right. Smart, godly, honest and brave people believe all kinds of rubbish. And if they are misleading Christian people and dividing the church, then they are deserving of strong language, not pity.

    I find it ironic that YECs proponents care about being 'actually scientists'. Once you have decided that 99% of the world's scientists (including many smart, godly, honest and brave ones) are involved in a conspiracy to distort the truth of the age of the earth, then why do you care if you have a scientific qualification from the secular guild? Surely it proves nothing. I would have thought NOT being an actual scientist would be an advantage.

    As I said, it is time we evangelicals thanked YECers for their efforts, and politely moved on.
  • Michael Bull
    July 4, 10 - 2:47am
    Dear Michael

    Of course they care about being "actual scientists." This demonstrates that the issue is not about scientific qualifications whatsoever, but the underlying assumption one is using to interpret the data. That is the whole point. And that is where, on this issue, you have put your faith. There are plenty of evidences for a young earth, but they get tossed out because they contradict the accepted paradigm. The only problem I've ever had with it personally was distant starlight, but there's a simple solution:

    http://www.bullartistry.com.au/wp/2009/04/08/a-simple-answer-to-the-problem-of-distant-starlight/

    And as for misleading and dividing, I would level precisely the same charge at theistic evolutionists. It just depends on where one stands on the issue.

    Evolution is a theory in crisis. To hold onto it, especially when you are a Bible-believer, is not logical. Yes, smart godly, honest and brave people do believe all kinds of rubbish.

    Cheers,
    Mike
  • Michael Jensen
    July 4, 10 - 3:42am
    Michael -

    This illustrates the defect of the presuppositional approach. It posits a clean 'either-or' between 'the Bible' (goodies) and 'atheistic science' (baddies). Of course, the truth is more complex than this. The reality is that putting my faith in the Bible precisely demands that I not ignore the overwhelming - and we are talking OVERWHELMING - testimony of human science, which itself includes many Bible-believin' orthodox Christians, while still allowing that this science is 'human', and prone to all the relevant limitations

    There isn't plenty of evidence for a young earth. Surely if that's what you think that the Bible says, then evidence isn't necessary anyway.

    Evolution (as if we could speak of it as a single thing like that in any case) is not a theory in crisis. There are imprecisions and uncertainties, reinterpretations and hypotheses - and the best scientists will admit to these. YE sees these uncertainties and claims that it has driven a wedge through the whole lot. Not so.
  • Damien Carson
    July 4, 10 - 9:13am
    To perhaps defend David's comment about relationships, I think I can see what he is talking about, and I wonder if it falls under the categories of anthropology and sin? That is, as the image bearers of God we are created to enjoy a healthy relationship with one another and with God. As redeemed imitators of Jesus, Christians are to see one another and relate to one another in a way that faithfully bears witness to our Saviour's actions towards us. Sin messes that up.

    Perhaps what David is suggesting (and if not, what I will suggest!!) is that our minds are more frequently conformed to the self obsessed worldview of Western society than to the God and Saviour described in Phil 2?
  • Michael Bull
    July 4, 10 - 12:50pm
    Michael

    I appreciate your graciousness.

    I have followed this debate for 25 years, and I have a sibling who is an ardent atheist and evolutionist to keep me on my toes. I have yet to see this overwhelming evidence, hence I maintain that the so-called "baddies" (I don't call them that) have their own presuppositions, invented by men with a desire to "free science from Moses."

    The reality is that most scientists believe the earth is old because they believe most other scientists believe the earth is old.
    http://creation.com/why-most-scientists-believe-the-world-is-old

    These "uncertainties" you speak of are not hairline cracks in the theory. Take out species variation (which is not evolution) and what remains of the construct is 100% Spakfilla.

    There actually is plenty of evidence for a young earth. I won't bore you with links.

    I'll wind up with a personal story. I do a fair bit of graphic design for tourism up here in the mountains. I went on an industry "famil," during which a tour guide pointed to one of the sandstone cliffs, in which hundreds of clearly undisturbed layers were visible in the sandstone. He told us they were laid down over millions of years. But the very top few layers are broken, disturbed, rooted and burrowed, which would have been the case with every layer if exposed for any length of time. His presupposition gave him a faulty interpretation of the data.

    That's where I'm coming from. It's a herd mentality.

    Cheers,
    Mike
  • Dannii Willis
    July 4, 10 - 4:54pm
    Michael (J), while you shout out about the OVERWHELMING evidence, so does everyone else, about everything else too. Appeals to authority are great for arguments, but not great for getting closer to the truth.

    What is really needed is for more people to look seriously at the hard theological issues: passages like Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, of the significance of division in God's creation, reconciling the natures of the Son as creator and re-creator. There can hardly be too much more wonderful to study than that last one especially!

    I personally think the most important of your 11 is hermeneutics... it's time for the old CT to be revised!
  • Michael Jensen
    July 4, 10 - 9:52pm
    @Dannii - I only do so here because this really is the case in this instance. And it isn't merely a matter of interpretation of the data based on presuppositions, which is a curiously postmodern psychologising of an entire academic field containing a plethora of disciplines and practitioners of a huge variety of cultural backgrounds. The Young Earthers, like all good conspiracy theorists, drive wedges into uncertainties. But uncertainties are of the nature of the beast - we don't live in a world with epistemological certainty, and good science doesn't claim more than that it is the best interpretation of the data until a better one comes along.

    @Michael - we can play the presuppositional game right back at Young Earthers. Which is to say: you can very easily make the case that historical and cultural conditions have brought about this new interpretation and emphasis, creating its own 'herd mentality'. It is a smaller herd, but a herd that feels modernity is attacking it - so (to mix the metaphor) it has circled the wagons. My biggest concern is that this is biblically unwarranted.
  • Michael Bull
    July 4, 10 - 11:13pm
    Michael

    Thanks for that. My point was exactly that - both sides begin with presuppositions. And I'd say the YECs on most issues are the ones coming up with the "better interpretations." Evolutionists constantly make stupid predictions which get debunked. Check out whale evolution, the idea that the coelocanth was our ancestor, and how molecular biology hit their homological theory out of the ring. Evolutionary theory is not good for science.

    Regarding "biblical warrant," the ANE myth theory doesn't hold up under scrutiny. Genesis wasn't addressed to Moses' people. It shows signs of being handed down from those who lived it. And if we believe the Bible we should believe its chronology. My final big beef with this compromise is that death gets spiritualised, which means physical death isn't actually a curse. Such a twist could only have been invented by cosy, safe, western theologians who don't have sickness and death in their face every day. I do believe Bible texts must be taken in context and in-genre, but this revision of Biblical history to fit the belief of misled moderns to me is what is unwarranted.

    There's a great article here:
    http://www.bullartistry.com.au/wp/2009/04/10/how-not-to-read-genesis/

    Cheers,
    Mike
  • David Palmer
    July 5, 10 - 12:20am
    Michael Bull,

    I suggest we keep the evolution issue separate from the age of the earth issue separate.

    Whilst I admit I cringed when I read Michael Jensen’s argument from authority (it is a frequently used but particularly weak argument in relation to climate change) I believe this statement of MJ is sound:

    "The reality is that putting my faith in the Bible precisely demands that I not ignore the overwhelming - and we are talking OVERWHELMING - testimony of human science, which itself includes many Bible-believin' orthodox Christians, while still allowing that this science is 'human', and prone to all the relevant limitations."

    John Lennox, noted opponent of Richard Dawkins and atheists generally is a good illustration of Michael’s point.

    tbc
  • David Palmer
    July 5, 10 - 12:22am
    The argument for a young earth is based on a particular reading of Genesis 1 that requires six 24 hr days, and a truncation to 6,000 – 10,000 years since earth’s formation (despite, I might add, Genesis 2:4 encapsulating the entire six days of creation into a single day!). However young earth creationists don’t trust (correctly in my view) their reading to stand alone but must prove from the geological record a young earth. Fair enough, they may succeed, but at this point in time they are a long way from succeeding. Intellectual honesty that acknowledges that God speaks to us through 2 books, special revelation (the Bible) and natural revelation (or as Calvin put it, creation, history and the constitution of man) compels me to accept 15 billion years for the universe, 4.6 billion or thereabouts for earth - but I have an open mind to the extent that eventually the young earth hypothesis may win the day on the basis of the study of the created order (read through the spectacles of Scripture). I am extremely doubtful of such a possibility.

    Evolution is a different matter: there are significant reasons, both scientific and philosophical for doubting evolution as the mechanism for the development of life, certainly for the more developed forms of life. (When I mention philosophical reasons, I’m thinking of David Stove’s arguments – Stove was Professor of Philosophy at Sydney University during the 1970’s and 1980’s)
  • Michael Bull
    July 5, 10 - 1:02am
    David

    I totally agree that our faith should not (generally) contradict what we observe. But as I stated, after 25 years the "evidence" presented is decidedly underwhelming. This is not blind faith. This is me pounding the table because I want to see the Wizard and all I get is a little man behind a curtain with a microphone.

    What we have been sold is a "process" that is not observable (despite their claims), has no workable mechanism (besides the fictitious "punctuated equilibrium"), and leaves no evidence of truly transitional forms. Yet smart, leading Christians like Michael, John Dickson and John Lennox are willing to play dangerous games with the Biblical text to accommodate it (games which also show a fundamental misunderstanding of what is actually going on in the first half of Genesis. See: http://www.bullartistry.com.au/wp/2010/06/26/biologos-jenga-bible/ )

    A divorce between old-earth and evolution is not possible. Creation was Covenantal. See a fascinating statement here: http://www.bullartistry.com.au/wp/2009/06/14/hugh-ross-and-a-shotgun/

    A theory of science that is prone to limitations is one thing. A philosophy (which is what is actually is) that is defiantly maintained despite the lack of evidence is quite another. Neither old-earth creationism or evolution are compatible with the Bible's worldview, let alone with Genesis.

    Michael can believe what he wants, but his generalisation of YECs as ideologues and shouters needed to be countered.
  • Dannii Willis
    July 5, 10 - 1:18am
    Michael J, do you consider science that can't use the scientific method to be good science? Evolution is a theory about genetics, but almost all historical evolution must be studied only from the physiology of organisms which we can have no way of knowing if they are genetically related at all.

    As for evolution supposedly occurring now, I believe the evidence is weak that mutation can produce information-rich changes, that generate new phenotypes. I don't consider a change that purely allows an organism to have increased resistance to some pathogen to be new functionality, there's no way that it can lead to new tissues and organs. (They also frequently have negative side-effects, weakening the organism in other situations.) But I'll leave it there, unless you can help me come to a more precise definition of phenotype.

    David, I wouldn't think that most YECs want to prove stuff because they don't trust their interpretations enough. I think it is much more an attempt to reconcile the special and natural relevations, so that we don't need to commit intellectual suicide, as is often claimed. It's a often a misguided attempt, but I think the motives are pure.

    I agree too that the age of the earth and evolution can and should be separated, for the simple fact that it would be impossible for God to create the world without it looking older than it was. Apparent age is unavoidable - even though God can violate the law of conservation of mass/energy it will always appear to us as if he hadn't, that the mass/energy had been there before. It's not surprising that astrophysics says there was a big bang as a singularity is the most stable form of the universe, and however God did create the universe, if you trace it back it will look like it came from a singularity. So if the universe looks old that's not a problem (though I personally don't think it needs to look all that old either.)
  • David Palmer
    July 5, 10 - 2:07am
    Hi guys,

    I knew it would happen, I am charged with bad faith that because I don't accept YECS I have parted company with the Bible's worldview!!

    MJ, as I said in an early post, you made 11 excellent points, I raised a couple of others as you suggested we do. I will let the matter rest.
  • Michael Jensen
    July 5, 10 - 2:32am
    Gotta go on hols everyone.

    Suffice it to say: the earth is old.
  • Michael Jensen
    July 5, 10 - 3:42am
    Frankly, it just isn't the case that YEC- ers are coming up with the better interpretations. That the earth is 6,000 years old just isn't a more plausible interpretation of the data right in front of us. And it isn't the case that in every or even many instance/s a presupposition that the earth is old is driving the interpretation that the earth is old.

    In order to posit this, you have to also posit a massive conspiracy amongst the scientific fraternity. This is of course possible. But it is these unlikely possibilities that YECs uses as a wedge into which they drive uncertainty.
  • Joshua Bovis
    July 5, 10 - 6:34am
    @MJ,
    may I suggest humbly and gently that if Jesus can turn water in wine and make it of the sort that appears to be minutes old,even though the interpretation of the scientific data would have suggested that the wine was old, is it that big a leap to suggest that our Trinune God can make the world ex nihiloand make it appear to be old even though Scientific data says it is not old? I am not suggesting that the data is wrong, but that the context in which scientific data is interpreted cannot allow for this possibility. I am not a Scientist, just an average Anglican minister, but perhaps the supernatural/miraculous is outside the scope of Scientific investigation and that Jesus turning water into wine & the world being made by him, through him and for him, which was made from nothing falls into this category.
  • David Ashton
    July 5, 10 - 8:28am
    Ok Michael I'll put my head on the block again.

    Churches (i.e. denominations) live on the fringe of our society. Most people don't know what we think or what we do. If you asked most people in any town or suburb what they thought about a particular church in their area they probably would come up with nothing.

    We are no longer seen. They hear when christians speak about issues, but no longer see anything else. Thus if, as you say, there are churches that display love eloquently, they won't see it. I suspect that most churches don't, abd if a nonchristian wandered into one they would not rmark on the quality of love displayed.

    In what does each congregation love their community? Charity is handled on an institutional level rather than a congregational. What can we do or do we do to express Christ's love for the communities we live in?

    My experience of churches is generally one of polite but distant people.

    I know it's not a simple issue, and I don't intend to judge or bash anyone over it. I have a difficult streak of independence in my own nature, which can cut across realtionships.

    All the things we know and believe must have practical outcomes. It's not enough to get it correct, biblical, or whatever. if it has limited expression then we are failing, and from what I can see of how our country perceives the church I think we are.

    Sorry if I'm being simplistic.
  • Dannii Willis
    July 5, 10 - 8:34am
    Joshua, you're spot on. Science is about the natural, the repeatable, the ordinary - the opposite of the miraculous. But my God is God of the miraculous! His first miracle? Creating this place.
  • Dan Baynes
    July 5, 10 - 1:42pm
    Re. David Palmer -

    The argument for a young earth is based on a particular reading of Genesis 1 that requires six 24 hr days, and a truncation to 6,000 – 10,000 years since earth’s formation


    As a matter of fact, Genesis 1 comprises only a small part of the total Biblical witness to this question. If the book of Genesis had never been written, it would still be quite certain Biblically that the earth isn't millions of years old:

    (1) There is a whole class of NT texts which imply that the time from the creation of the earth to the creation of man was short compared to the time since.

    (2) There is another class of NT texts which imply that Adam's fall affected more than the human race.

    (3) There is yet another class of NT texts which imply that Noah's Flood was indeed universal.

    I think it goes without saying that both (2) and (3) exclude old-earth interpretations of geology. But for present purposes I'd like to stress the first set of texts which I have reason to think are the least understood and appreciated by YECs and old-earthers alike.
  • Charlie J. Ray
    July 5, 10 - 1:54pm
    This article has many points that beg the question. One hardly knows where to begin. But then, I'm one of those American fundamentalists who claims to be Anglican.

    First of all, John Piper is really N.T. Wright-lite. Piper studied theology at Fuller Theological Seminary and was the pupil of one Daniel Fuller. Daniel Fuller was an advocate of an earlier version of the New Perspectives on Paul and taught "future justification" and is inherently a denial of justification by faith alone.

    Regarding election as being double or single, your terminology is misleading. First of all, no five point Calvinist I know of would say that God's election is double. There is a single decree to election. The real issue here is reprobation. Is reprobation a divine decree. The biblical answer is unequivocally yes. Romans 9 and other texts make this absolutely clear. So there is a double decree. The decree to election is to choose out of the mass of lost humanity certain undeserving individuals as God's elect or chosen. The opposite decree, also a deliberate choice on God's part, is to pass over the reprobate and leave them in bondage to original sin and depravity and to act in accordance with their own evil nature.

    Your questioning of the doctrine of inerrancy is also problematic in my view. It is one thing to further particularize and define inerrancy. It is another thing to open up the possibility of denying the doctrine of inerrancy. This is indeed a shibboleth!
  • Charlie J. Ray
    July 5, 10 - 2:00pm
    My answer to your 11 points is simple: Become a "Confessing Evangelical" Anglican who adheres to several Reformed Confessions of Faith as supplements to the Anglican 1662 BCP, 39 Articles, and Ordinal. Namely: The Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Standards. Those are the basis for Anglican Unity since the English Reformation is not some ambiguous open-ended theology where secondary divisionists take advantage of loopholes to make even more divisions.

    It is clear enough that biblical authority is undermined by a fallible and errant Bible and that Scripture is the final authority. That means that if Scripture clearly teaches and particularizes a doctrine it ought to be accepted.
  • Charlie J. Ray
    July 5, 10 - 2:05pm
    Regarding philosophy? Any philosopher who does not believe in God can reason with a darkened mind (Romans 1:18ff). Christians who happen to also be philosophers ought to be theologians as well. After all, why reason apart from faith in God? Faith seeks understanding. Either way, Holy Scripture is the final authority in all matters of faith and practice. Scripture trumps reason/philosophy and even theology since theology is man's reasoned attempt to understand Scripture. Reason is always fallible as are all interpretations of Scripture. (See Ecclesiastes 12:12-13).

    http://reasonablechristian.blogspot.com
  • Charlie J. Ray
    July 5, 10 - 2:18pm
    I forgot to mention that Federal Vision is considered a "heresy" in Presbyterian circles. Why? Because it is essentially semi-pelagian in its soteriology and papist in its sacramental theology. Federal Vision in Presbyterian circles is the equivalent of Anglo-Catholicism in Anglicanism. The difference is that the Presbyterian confession of faith and their polity allows for the dismissal of ministers who bring such divisions into the denomination.

    In Anglicanism, such divisions are embraced as "orthodox" Anglicanism. But which Anglicanism are we speaking of? Pre-Reformation or post-Reformation?

    Charlie
  • Luke Stevens
    July 5, 10 - 4:19pm
    @Joshua Bovis, by that argument, God could have made the world 1 second ago and created all your memories such that you think they happened, but they didn't really. From there it's reductio ad absurdum.

    @YECSers, thanks for proving the YECS law that any debate vaguely touching on creation issues (which the post didn't mention) ends up swamped with you lot coming out of the woodwork. It's like there's a bat signal for YECSers.

    Nevertheless, what to do once we've accepted evolution (which many influential teachers don't accept, it must be said, right down to the trendy ones like Driscoll) is a big issue that unfortunately gets drowned out by YECS. What do we do with no more literal Adam, ark etc? Where did the Israelites draw the material for their creation myth? Why do we still use the language of creation with marriage (say) when really we mean evolved? There are huge issues there that we've barely begun to look at.

    Other pressing issues aka my hobby horses:
    - Empiricism and a theology of prayer
    - The export of the strange, right-wing US mix of politics, culture and theology. (Eg Answers in Genesis i.e. YECS central, started an "I am not ashamed" campaign of... the gospel? Nope, American culture war issues, eg: proposed billboards)
    - Progressive morality from the bible (eg slavery isn't condemned in the bibble)
    - The OT. It's the most fertile ground for new atheists.
  • Luke Stevens
    July 5, 10 - 4:34pm
    Bonus one: What these issues say about God's ability to communicate :P
  • David Palmer
    July 5, 10 - 9:44pm
    My, so many axes to grind!

    Michael Jensen, it is your fault daring to ask what are the 10 most pressing issues for evangelical theology today.

    Worse still you asked us for our opinions!
  • Joshua Bovis
    July 5, 10 - 10:17pm
    @Luke
    @Joshua Bovis, by that argument, God could have made the world 1 second ago and created all your memories such that you think they happened, but they didn't really. From there it's reductio ad absurdum.


    I wonder if the term reductio ad absurdumwould have been coined by any Latin speaking Jews who were at the Wedding of Cana when told the wine was minutes old?

    By the way I am not one of the YECser 'lot' as you call them, I was only trying to bring up the point that perhaps it is not that absurd to think that God can make the world in a short time, even though the evidence suggests that it is old. It is not something I think a lot about, but things I ask myself are:
    1. If the Earth is actually young, why would it appear to be old? Could the earth appear to be old due to the fall? A Passage that comes to mind is Romans 8:18-22. The Apostle Paul writes of creation groaning. Obviously it is not literally groaning, but I wonder if Paul's personification of creation groaning has allusions to old age? And if so, does this have any connections with the Earth appearing to be old due to the sin and the fall. I am not saying that this is the main point, and I am very mindful of not falling into eisegesis. But it is something I wonder about.
    2. I believe that Adam was a literal person, when he was formed was he an adult? Was he minutes old though scientifically was a developed man?

    continued...
  • Joshua Bovis
    July 5, 10 - 10:27pm
    I can empathise with your comments Luke about posts
    ends up swamped with you lot coming out of the woodwork. It's like there's a bat signal for YECSers

    As I said earlier, I am not a die-hard YECer, nor do I see Genesis 1 as being the gospel.
    The reason I engaged with this topic at all, was not to fly the YEC flag but was only aiming to point out that perhaps there are some people who think the earth is young, but accept that the Scientific evidence does point to the Earth being old, who don't think there is a conspiracy theory, who don't read Genesis 1 through a wooden literalistic hermeneutic,who do not think that God's people who think the Earth is old are unfaithful; but still allow the possiblity that God could have done both (made the Earth recently, but the evidence he has given us suggests that it is old).
    I find it quite frustrating when this topic comes up, not due to the topic itself, I find it fascination, challening and humbling, but my frustration is the derision that God's people display against each other on this issue (on both sides). I find it to be quite tribal and quite ugly.
    Perhaps theological tribalism is an issue that faces Evangelicals in the 21st century MJ?
  • David Palmer
    July 6, 10 - 12:15am
    Hi Joshua,

    I think you have put this well.

    God can make the world in a short time, even though the evidence suggests that it is old.

    I agree about Adam as a literal person, but not the product of evolution.

    I had not thought about the Fall giving the appearance of age. It's possible but speculative.

    I agree with you about the ugliness of the debate. In the PC we don't discuss the subject, presumably because we instinctively know it can get ugly. As a non dogmatic old earth creationist who is willing to countenance evolution - at least on a minor scale, I bear some lacerations from the creation science crew who inevitably end up either saying or inferring that you are defective in Christian belief, and just maybe, a disobedient Christian at best.
  • Luke Stevens
    July 6, 10 - 2:13am
    @Joshua, I understand your position, but it creates more problems than it solves. For example, you're suggesting the universe/earth appeared ready-made several thousand years ago, complete with fake geological record, and people with fake memories about their ancestors and indeed their own past. If this is the case, how do you know the earth wasn't created 1 second ago? All we have is our own memories, but if they can be generated falsely (which your position assumes) then we can never be sure if the past was real or not. Furthermore, it raises difficult questions about God's character and trustworthiness given he would have created a world, past and memories that are untrustworthy and entirely fake.

    @David P, you seem to be alluding to "micro" evolution, but that's a trap a lot of people seem to fall into it. There is no such thing as "micro" and "macro" evolution -- "macro" evolution is simply the accumulation of micro changes, so if you accept it on a small scale, you may as well accept it in its entirety.

    For both of you, it makes no sense to accept a literal Adam. The YECSers at least have that much right -- if you want to take it to its logical conclusion, you need wholesale YECS (which is, obviously, a nonsense); it makes no sense to mix and match.
  • Luke Stevens
    July 6, 10 - 2:16am
    @Michael (when he returns), I hope you do spend some time investigating how evolution works and thinking through its (quite profound) implications. I applaud your rejection of YECS as nonsense, but the prevailing view that evolution is a side issue and Genesis tells us all we need to know theologically is dead wrong. It's just hand waving that says we shouldn't think about it, even though we're getting hammered by new atheists who have thought very hard about it!
  • Damien Carson
    July 6, 10 - 2:25am
    @Michael Bull,

    "Michael can believe what he wants, but his generalisation of YECs as ideologues and shouters needed to be countered"

    Not idealogues or shouters. How about... mockers and brawlers?

    I went to a creation ministries presentation at Mt. Barker High School, SA, about 18 months ago and was delighted to hear a young earth creationist put forward the case without showing silly cartoons and ridiculing people who thought that the earth was older than 6000 years. I went and thanked him for his gracious manner and he replied, "well, it's not good to mock people personally, but sometimes a person's views need to be mocked." What the...?

    If I had to put myself in a "camp" (cf. 1 Cor 1:10-13), I'd be young earth creationist. If I had to spiritually discern the truth from a comparison of CMI/AiG speakers and old earth/evolution Christians, based on Gal 5:19-24, wouldn't touch young earth creationism with a ten foot pole.
  • David Palmer
    July 6, 10 - 3:56am
    This debate is always stymied by people taking non negotiable, highly dogmatic positions. Maybe, just maybe we need to wait until heaven to know exactly how God worked.

    A little bit of live and let live might not go amiss.

    (My problem is that I see churches and schools inviting in the CMI/AiG speakers who are unwilling to acknowledge any doubts about their theories but rather assert that their views are the only Biblically faithful view. Arrogant, to say the least, but also ignorant)
  • Joshua Bovis
    July 6, 10 - 4:02am
    David,

    Thankyou for your gracious reply.

    I had not thought about the Fall giving the appearance of age. It's possible but speculative.


    Of course, but it is fascinating to speculate sometimes don't you think?

    Thanks again.


    Luke,

    Thankyou too for your response, I hope you don't mind, but I am going to respectfully pull out of this one. I think discretion on my part is the better course of action.

    Blessings
    Joshua
  • Dan Baynes
    July 6, 10 - 6:59am
    David, I too appreciate the need for caution to a certain extent, but how far are we willing to take this? Does it mean for example that all our conservative Anglican lobbying and agitation re. Gene Robinson has been and is a waste of time 'cos we shouldn't have been so dogmatic?

    That's not my tricky little idea - a few years ago a secularist challenged Dr Jensen with precisely this sort of comparison. So we may as well be forearmed by thinking it through first.

    As an aside, do you appreciate what I was saying in my earlier post which has somehow got a bit swamped (often happens when SydAng's very own "Godwin's Law" kicks in!)?
  • David Palmer
    July 6, 10 - 7:21am
    Hi Dan,

    I think comparing origins and Bible teaching on homosexuality more akin to apples and pears. I don't accept they are the same kinds of knowledge.
  • David Palmer
    July 6, 10 - 7:23am
    Dan, further to the ? in post 55.

    Earlier you posit 3 additional sources of Bible texts for a young earth hypothesis detrimental to old earth hypothesis.

    As a general point, I don’t believe the Bible is the sole source of information on the age of the earth. I know I’m repeating, but God has given us a second book, the book of nature, the creation itself, which cannot be ignored.

    Back to your three groups of texts.

    Re 1st class, I would need to consider the texts in question. However, leaving that aside, I think people in Jesus’ time would be surprised to hear that the universe was 15 billion years old and earth 4.6 billion years. I’m not sure they knew about dinosaurs though clearly dinosaur remains were present had they known where to look and had suitable tools to discover them.

    I agree your 2nd class of texts exist.

    Re the 3rd class of texts, I think you are right, and frankly I’m not sure how to tie up these texts with the geological record.

    I’m prepared to live with mystery regarding origins.

    tbc
  • David Palmer
    July 6, 10 - 7:25am
    I’m not embarrassed in the slightest by Genesis 1. I believe it is a most important chapter - have preached it a number of times. I am persuaded to understand Days 1-3 as it were are the rooms of a house and Days 4-6 are the putting of furniture into the rooms. I’ve read many different understandings. God knows and I hope one day to be corrected when He reveals things that today we see only dimly.

    Of course the days of creation are but a small part of the totality of truth God conveys in Genesis 1, but then that would be a sermon. Enough for this post!
  • Dan Baynes
    July 6, 10 - 10:03am
    Hello again David, and thank you for your cautious humble posts!

    Re. the comparison with homosexuality, I think it's a question of where we source our beliefs. You know better than I do that a key argument of today's revisionists is that "modern science has shown" that homo. is quite different from the way Moses or Paul thought of it, so we need to reinterpret them accordingly. A strange feeling of deja vu comes over me every time I hear this line.

    Chris Sugden the other day reiterated that our opposition to that movement is based on NT ethical teaching. Even though various natural-law type prudential grounds can also be adduced in support, I'm sure he's right to make it clear that the Bible is the absolute bottom line on that issue. All YECs do is follow the exact same approach to the question of origins.

    tbc..
  • Dan Baynes
    July 6, 10 - 10:12am
    As a general point, I don’t believe the Bible is the sole source of information on the age of the earth.


    However, when determining the events of e.g. the English Civil War, everyone knows that historical documents, even private unofficial writings, are far superior and accurate as a source than all forensic methods. The latter are useful for filling in what the former omit, but always within the basic framework the former lay down. Same with origins.

    I know I’m repeating, but God has given us a second book, the book of nature, the creation itself, which cannot be ignored.


    But what is the Biblical basis for this second book of general revelation? Do Ps 19 and Rom 1 say it can tell us anything more than the basic fact of God's existence and power? Let alone that it can properly be used to frustrate the natural sense of the sole verbal book of special revelation.

    tbc..
  • Dan Baynes
    July 6, 10 - 10:16am
    Re 1st class, I would need to consider the texts in question.


    And I'd be happy to be specific, only it could well take several threads on their own, and I know the clock is ticking on this one. So here is just one example:

    In John 8:44 Jesus says that the devil "was a murderer from the beginning". Now, there's no need to insist that this "beginning" is the origin of the universe; it could well be the origin of Satan/Lucifer, so that the sense is, "he's always been a murderer".

    But the key point here is that Satan couldn't be an anthropoktonos before there were any anthropoi to kteinein. Therefore, for Satan to have been a man-slayer from the start of his existence, he can only have existed for a short while before 'killing' our first parents by tempting them to eat the death-bringing forbidden fruit - short, that is, in comparison with the time from the Fall to Jesus' speech in John 8.

    BUT - we also know that Lucifer was one of the angels who rejoiced when God made the earth (Job 38:7).

    So to conclude the syllogism:

    (1) Satan is not much older than man.
    (2) But Satan is older than the earth.
    (3) Therefore the earth is not much older than man.

    tbc..
  • Dan Baynes
    July 6, 10 - 10:29am
    I think people in Jesus’ time would be surprised to hear that the universe was 15 billion years old and earth 4.6 billion years.


    The same could be said for the whole church for almost 1800 years.

    However what I think you might be hinting at (forgive me if I misunderstand you) is that it simply wasn't possible for people back then to comprehend the concept of vast periods of time, supposing that God had attempted to communicate the plain truth (as OEs see it). And if you didn't mean this, certainly others have used this argument.

    To which I'd say briefly -

    (1) Ancient Hindus had no difficulty!
    (2) Hebrew and Greek can and do express huge numbers, and unspecified quantities; viz. sand on the seashore, stars in the sky, ten thousands of ten thousands, 200 million - just the sort of numbers we hear about re. dinosaurs!
    (3) God is the Lord of all languages and their development. If Hebrew couldn't express the concept, God's to blame for speaking in it. Reductio at absurdum.

    tbc..
  • Dan Baynes
    July 6, 10 - 10:39am
    I agree your 2nd class of texts exist.


    I'm delighted we're agreed on this David. Unfortunately quite a few who call themselves conservative evangelicals fail to step up to the plate.

    Re the 3rd class of texts, I think you are right, and frankly I’m not sure how to tie up these texts with the geological record.


    I don't need to tell you my answer to this! Speaking of which,

    I’m prepared to live with mystery regarding origins.


    And so am I, just from the other side of the asymptote. That is, if geologists come up with puzzles for flood geology, I'll bide my time, thank you - just as Biblical scholars have done with Quirinius and so on. Remember Numbers 11, and how even that godly SydAng evangelical scholar Moses got caught out when he trusted the biology of his day to say that God "couldn't" feed 3 million plus with flesh for a month....

    But looking back, I find it very heartening that my 2nd and 3rd groups chime with you. I'll stick up for you if Luke has a go at you for that!

    "A threefold cord is not easily broken."
  • Charlie J. Ray
    July 6, 10 - 11:34am
    If Adam and Eve were not historical persons and the fall of man never happened. Theistic evolution cannot account for the doctrine of the fall other than in mythological terms. Accepting theistic evolution entails accepting neo-orthodoxy of one form or another. Once that move is made the entire house of cards collapses of its own weight into liberalism.

    Here in the USA Dr. Bruce Waltke was forced to resign from Reformed Theological Seminary over just that issue. He had accepted theistic evolution rather than the inerrancy of Scripture.

    Looks like my prediction is correct. Once the move is made away from God's absolute sovereignty the next step is denying the inerrancy of Scripture and theological liberalism is just around the corner.

    The seminary from which I graduated, Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky, USA was alleged "Evangelical." Yet for all practical purposes they were neo-orthodox. The "loophole"? Their doctrine of inerrancy only says that the theological "concepts" in Scripture are inerrant, not every word of God written there.
  • Charlie J. Ray
    July 6, 10 - 11:37am
    If Adam and Eve were not historical persons and the fall of man never happened. Theistic evolution cannot account for the doctrine of the fall other than in mythological terms. Accepting theistic evolution entails accepting neo-orthodoxy of one form or another. Once that move is made the entire house of cards collapses of its own weight into liberalism.

    Here in the USA Dr. Bruce Waltke was forced to resign from Reformed Theological Seminary over just that issue. He had accepted theistic evolution rather than the inerrancy of Scripture.

    Looks like my prediction is correct. Once the move is made away from God's absolute sovereignty the next step is denying the inerrancy of Scripture and theological liberalism is just around the corner.

    The seminary from which I graduated, Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky, USA was allegedly "Evangelical" and Wesleyan holiness. Yet for all practical purposes they were neo-orthodox. The "loophole"? Their doctrine of inerrancy only says that the theological "concepts" in Scripture are inerrant, not every word of God written there. [I became a 5 point Calvinist while studying at Asbury.]
  • Luke Stevens
    July 6, 10 - 11:44am
    Yes, obviously Adam & Eve and the Fall are allegorical. I think a lot of Sydneysiders would be surprised to find they are liberals -- those most dastardly of creatures -- by your definition.

    I'm curious if that's how MJ understands it (as allegory). Hopefully he can enlighten us when he returns, if he ever makes it this far wading through the comments...
  • Luke Stevens
    July 6, 10 - 11:47am
    Also, can I just add I've never understood arguments which say "This scientific/physical fact cant be true because it contradicts my belief in some aspect of the bible."

    To me that's like arguing that Hitler can't have existed because human beings surely can't be that bad. I think we need to adjust our beliefs to the facts, not vice versa.
  • Michael Canaris
    July 6, 10 - 12:43pm
    Charlie,
    Accepting theistic evolution entails accepting neo-orthodoxy of one form or another. Once that move is made the entire house of cards collapses of its own weight into liberalism.
    Since neo-orthodoxy proper was conceived as a reaction to then-extant forms of liberalism, how does that follow?
  • Michael Jensen
    July 6, 10 - 1:41pm
    Yes, it is a lovely non-sequitur, isn't it? And not the only one I am afraid. That comment about Bruce Waltke is very poor form.

    Like I said everybody: isn't it time just to accept that the earth is as it appears, and as the vast majority of people who actually know anything about it see it - ie OLD - and move on? We keep getting sucked in to these debates. That doesn't mean we avoid the difficult business of figuring out how science and scripture describe the same world. On the contrary.

    @Luke - I am committed to a historical/theological fall. That is: the world we see now is not the world it was created to be. Evil is not necessary, but contingent.
  • Luke Stevens
    July 6, 10 - 1:47pm
    Sure, so how do you reconcile a historical fall and acceptance of evolutionary history (which you rightly suggest is how the vast majority of people who know anything about the subject see it)?
  • Michael Jensen
    July 6, 10 - 2:03pm
    One issue is to have a discussion about physical/animal death vs human DEATH (ie the death that is delivered to the first people as a judgement from God) of course. My erstwhile colleague Mark Baddeley did some outstanding work on this here - and on the whole issue. This matter is a stumbling block for many creationists, but I don't see why it should be so.

    But I don't pretend to have simple answers. I am even unhappy to accept the 'theistic evolutionist' tag, because I recognise there are problems with this that I haven't addressed.
  • Michael Jensen
    July 6, 10 - 2:11pm
    @David Ashton: thanks for being more concrete. I think, respectfully, that my cajoling you to put more flesh on the bones has actually been edifying.

    You say:
    My experience of churches is generally one of polite but distant people.


    I don't deny this. But this hasn't been my experience. I have seen (and committed I might add) acts of grave relational failure/neglect; but I have witnessed and experienced remarkable acts of love, generosity, patience, peace-making, reconciliation, forgiveness, kindness and more. All in boring old suburban Anglican parishes.
  • Luke Stevens
    July 6, 10 - 2:19pm
    @Michael, having two bob each way then eh? :) I think that's a bit of a cop out -- the issue is so vexing precisely because there is no reasonable fence sitting position. I guess this illustrates that died in the wool orthodoxy is untenable, and we're left trying to either maintain mutually exclusive positions, accept YECS (ick) or redefine orthodoxy. Which will it be? :)

    I had a look at Mark Baddeley's post -- is there a Google Translate function that can turn those 6000 words into plain English for the lay person? Jiminy.
  • Michael Jensen
    July 6, 10 - 2:22pm
    Not a cop out at all. Rather a refusal to cop out by accepting a neat solution.

    And don't cop out - go read Baddeley.
  • Luke Stevens
    July 6, 10 - 2:30pm
    I'm trying :s

    You're using the same arguments as the YECS crowd, just at a different point. They refuse to give up 6 day creation, you refuse to give up literal Adam and Eve and the Fall. What's the difference?
  • David Ashton
    July 6, 10 - 4:41pm
    Either you or I have missed the point.

    It's right we should get our theology right, and right we should seek to evangelise.

    But evangelism can exist in a vacuum if we aren't loving those outside the church.

    God so loved the world......
  • Michael Jensen
    July 6, 10 - 9:27pm
    @Well I am not missing the point you are making. Seems true to me.

    @Luke. No. Huge difference. You are oversimplifying my position and making assumptions about it.
  • Luke Stevens
    July 7, 10 - 12:30am
    @Michael, I'd be keen to hear what that difference is, so if you'd like to articulate your position further, I'd be keen to hear it.
  • Michael Jensen
    July 7, 10 - 3:56am
    I think it is pretty obvious actually.
  • Allan Patterson
    July 7, 10 - 4:00am
    On a different tack, what we need is a clear doctrine of the church, which is the pillar and support of the truth. (1 Tim 3:15)
  • Dan Baynes
    July 7, 10 - 6:38am
    Allan, seems to me we already have it in our Articles - the Church as the "witness and keeper of Holy Writ", the correct interpretation of that verse. It carries out these functions by the regular administration of Word and Sacraments, and Bob's yer uncle.
  • David Palmer
    July 7, 10 - 8:20am
    Re Allan's point on ecclesiology, I would add in the doctrine of worship, a subject which has commanded a good deal of attention on numerous occasions on this website, with quite contrary viepoints being forcibly expressed!
  • Luke Stevens
    July 7, 10 - 9:25am
    Oh dear oh dear oh dear

    Michael, I went back to Mark's blog to try and work out what your position was (btw the link you posted earlier just showed "Analogical Language about God" which is what I thought you meant last night, hence my difficulty understanding!) and dug up the 2007 posts from the archives, which I read, and they're fine; a good take down of YECS from a theological perspective. Except...

    Mark (apparently) doesn't believe in evolution! E.g. "[E]volution makes little sense based on our current understanding of science..." and "I don't think evolution fits in well with what we see."

    What?! *That* is his attitude, and he was in a big bunfight with people who think non-YECSers are heretics? Irony of ironies... by rejecting evolution you're essentially offering creationism-lite -- they're more or less on the same side! They may differ over the details, but the enemy is the same...

    If Mark or yourself haven't had the light bulb moment with evolution, natural selection, and it's profound implications, then you're always going to be behind the eight ball. I'd encourage you to read more about it...

    Comments from MB like "I don't think evolution fits in well with what we see" is exactly Dawkins point -- it's that it *is* so counter-intuitive that makes it such a powerful idea many have not considered.

    This is really the best we can do? How depressing...
  • Michael Jensen
    July 7, 10 - 10:30am
    @Luke - whatever. I was pointing to Mark's discussion of death.
  • Luke Stevens
    July 7, 10 - 11:01am
    Glad you take the issue seriously Michael. Thanks for engaging.
  • Michael Jensen
    July 7, 10 - 11:03am
    There's no need to be sarcastic, now.
  • Luke Stevens
    July 7, 10 - 11:17am
    Whatever.
  • Michael Jensen
    July 7, 10 - 7:27pm
    Well, this is all a bit Gen X, isn't it?
  • David Palmer
    July 7, 10 - 8:06pm
    Now, now children, manners.
  • Dan Baynes
    July 7, 10 - 9:29pm
    Yes, manners. Any views on my "Class 1" example David?
  • Michael Jensen
    July 7, 10 - 9:59pm
    Dan - I think your Class 1 example is invalid because you are making a sweeping cosmological inference from insubtantial data. It clearly isn't the intention of Jesus to teach us anything about the age of the earth at this point.

    In fact, I don't see how any of your three 'classes' of texts demand we accept a young earth.

    Being a Bible-believing CHristian means that you have to become a 1st century person and think with a 1st century mindset, right?
  • Dan Baynes
    July 8, 10 - 12:14am
    Thank you Michael for your reply -

    Dan - I think your Class 1 example is invalid because you are making a sweeping cosmological inference from insubtantial data.


    Well, strictly speaking that particular argument applies only to the earth, and doesn't per se rule out an old universe. With this proviso, I think the data in question are perfectly adequate to complete the syllogism.

    It clearly isn't the intention of Jesus to teach us anything about the age of the earth at this point.


    However, all his words are true, regardless of the emphatic priority they have in terms of his overall discussion. And the point I'm making (and I invite you to try and disprove it) is that the words I cited simply don't make sense on the assumption that earth is hugely older than mankind.

    More generally, if you think it important to distinguish all of Scripture's statements into two categories of "intentional" and "incidental", feeling free to jettison all of the second group, you'll quickly find you can prove almost nothing theological from the Bible for lack of confidence that your proof texts are properly of the first kind.

    tbc..
  • Dan Baynes
    July 8, 10 - 12:21am
    In fact, I don't see how any of your three 'classes' of texts demand we accept a young earth.


    First of all, do you accept the existence of both the second and third classes, as David at least does?

    Secondly, do you appreciate his difficulty in reconciling the third group with old-earth geology?

    Thirdly, do you acknowledge the vital significance of the second set of texts for theodicy and our doctrine of natural evil?

    If Adam's fall affected the animal and plant kingdoms as well, in the manner described in Genesis 3, why then, all fossil traces of that curse must be post-lapsarian, therefore not millions of years earlier than Adam.

    NB while David accepted the reality of the second packet of texts, he didn't explicitly say that he realised their implications as above. On the other hand he didn't precede you in declaring them irrelevant to our discussion. I look forward to his return to the thread when maybe he can clear up this point?

    tbc..
  • Dan Baynes
    July 8, 10 - 12:25am
    Being a Bible-believing CHristian means that you have to become a 1st century person and think with a 1st century mindset, right?


    News to me that Genesis was written in the 1st century. If the intervening 15 centuries-plus made no difference, why should it now.

    Surely you're not going to say that the NT in general is subjugated to a 1st century mindset? What does divine inspiration of Scripture mean if not that God overruled the foibles of the human factor, preserving his special revelation from possible corruption by it?

    Imagine the Pandora's box that is opened when once this principle is denied in even a single instance.

    Closer to our subject, you yourself (over against Luke & co.) would confidently cite Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 to establish the historicity of Adam, and wouldn't let an ambient 21st century mindset deter you from pursuing sound logic!
  • David Palmer
    July 8, 10 - 6:33am
    Hi Dan,

    I'm a simple soul and you put my head in a spin over the reference to Lucifer.

    Applying some gravitational pull, ie settling down I might sign up with Michael on this one. I've actually been taking water on board (OK another metaphor) on a couple of other matters, hence my silence.

    It clearly isn't the intention of Jesus to teach us anything about the age of the earth at this point.


    I think that is generally true not only of the NT, but the OT as well. Apart from the early chapters of Genesis, the rest of the Bible on origins is pretty much aslong the lines of Psalm 104. Just a thought.
  • Dan Baynes
    July 8, 10 - 8:17am
    Welcome back David - I quite understand about other duties and that. And I'm getting an education in Oz expressions ;) But, a simple soul? A pastor? (Sorry if I've got this wrong)

    I thought Ps 104 is overwhelmingly about providence not the original creation?

    Actually I'd agree with your agreement with Michael's point about Jesus' intention in John 8:44. After all he's talking about Satan not the earth. But my earlier point remains: what Jesus says about Satan's early transformation into a murderer is true, and the statement in Job is also true; therefore any proposition logically deduced from these is likewise true.

    May I also just add (and really I should have pointed this out to Michael earlier) that it really is very much Jesus' intention to say that Satan was only briefly without sin/murder - he "abode not in the truth", meaning he's had practically the entire period of his existence to refine and reinforce his malice and mendacity - hence no wonder Jesus' lying accusers are properly called the devil's children!

    Believe me, there are several more NT texts which imply a 'young' earth rather more directly than the above. I only started with this one out of vanity as I'm not aware that anyone else has thought of it ;)

    If you like we can move onto others. But you will have to think again about appealing to the "intentionality criterion".
  • Michael Jensen
    July 8, 10 - 8:52am
    I am sorry Dan - I accept almost none of your inferences here. I think, actually, the problem lies in a view of inspiration that doesn't allow for the human side of the text. And here's the nub:

    all his words are true


    That's right, but it needs to be qualified by context, genre and intention - this is accepted by the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy. You need to ask 'true in what sense?' This is the only way to handle language appropriately. For example, when Jesus teaches us in parables, quite clearly his stories are intentional fictions - ie, in one sense quite clearly NOT true. I would say in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, he deploys a cosmology that we are not meant to take as literal. But it is still true.

    So making a neat syllogism out of Jesus saying 'in the beginning' seems to me, with respect, far-fetched and illegimate.

    (Btw, I left out a 'not' in my last post: what I meant was: 'surely you DON'T have to become an ancient person with an ancient view of the world in every respect in order to believe the Bible').

    I do suspect that this 1st class will disappear as a 'class' once we go through them one by one. But here is not the place to do it.

    The 2nd class of texts? Well here's the thing. While I accept that the fall had its effect on the whole creation, I don't accept that animal death entered the world with the fall. Tigers had sharp teeth before then. Sharks ate... well, not seaweed, evidently.
  • Dan Baynes
    July 8, 10 - 11:01am
    Thanks again Michael. I have to go out shortly so this will be my last post before you hit the sack if you haven't already....

    it needs to be qualified by context, genre and intention - this is accepted by the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy.


    I believe you're thinking of Article XIII:

    WE DENY that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose. We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.


    All of which I happily accept. But as I pointed out previously, it is indeed Jesus' intention here to say that the devil has been at it for just about as long as he could have been. So if anyone says that the devil has been around for billions of years but only became a murderer 6,000 years ago, they've got some explaining to do.

    BTW what do you mean by a "cosmology" in Luke 16?

    tbc..
  • Dan Baynes
    July 8, 10 - 2:02pm
    [NB while writing this second reply-post my internet connection failed for some reason, and then I had to go out for a couple of hours.]

    So making a neat syllogism out of Jesus saying 'in the beginning' seems to me, with respect, far-fetched and illegimate.


    He must have meant something by the expression. I suggested either the beginning of the universe or (preferred) the beginning of Satan. Either interpretation would ground the syllogism. Is there a third option out there somewhere which wouldn't?

    I do suspect that this 1st class will disappear as a 'class' once we go through them one by one.


    "Only one way to find out!"

    Meanwhile I can't stress enough that in this matter, the ball is very much in the old-earth court. Consider the following astonishing result from Mortenson's paper on the subject:

    ...of the sixty one old-earth proponents authors examined (many of them among the top scholars in evangelicalism) only three (Grudem, Collins and Stoner) dealt with the Jesus AGE verses and attempted to rebut the young-earth creationist interpretation of them.


    Now this is amazing. Take any of the historic doctrinal debates - Calvinism/Arminianism, baptism, the millennium, whatever - and in every case the advocates of one side have a ready response and much to say about the proof texts cited by the other. The utter asymmetry in this regard re. the creation debate among Christians makes it unique!

    tbc..
  • Dan Baynes
    July 8, 10 - 2:13pm
    So if you're among the presumable 95% of old-earthers who haven't yet considered this branch of Biblical YEC arguments, may I invite you to do the 'homework' of considering the extensive discussion of the other Dominical statements in this category, in Mortenson's paper "Jesus, Evangelical Scholars, and the Age of the Earth"?

    But here is not the place to do it.


    So what is the basis of your "suspicion" that the texts don't confirm YEC? And how can we ever prove or disprove your suspicion?

    It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data.


    (Sherlock Holmes)

    NB for David in particular, the above sounds just a wee bit like your remark about the PC effectively banning discussion of creationism. It doesn't sound healthy, and could easily become a cloak for heresy, like creeping up behind a car's blind spot or something.

    The 2nd class of texts? Well here's the thing. While I accept that the fall had its effect on the whole creation, I don't accept that animal death entered the world with the fall.


    What then was its effect on the animal kingdom?

    Tigers had sharp teeth before then.


    Like bamboophagous pandas and fruit bats today. And haven't you heard about "Lea the spaghetti lioness"?

    Sharks ate... well, not seaweed, evidently.


    Do we know either way?

    The present isn't the key to the past; more like the other way round.
  • Dan Baynes
    July 8, 10 - 2:18pm
    One further thought re. "intention" in Scripture. The resort to this concept to limit the teaching scope of Scripture is very much a two-edged sword.

    Suppose that Luke should say to you: "It's not Paul's intention in Romans 5 to assert that Adam is historical, but to teach justification by faith. He simply makes use of the concept of Adam to illustrate the efficacy of Christ's death in bringing us imputed righteousness."

    Wouldn't you object that the text shows that Paul does indeed regard Adam as historical, and that his very argument makes no sense without this?

    Even if it could somehow be divorced from the overall argument, there's no reason to doubt that Paul's language demands that we understand that he believed in historical Adam; and that the inerrancy of Scripture combined with the expression of this idea by an inspired Scripture writer means that the idea must indeed be true.
  • Michael Jensen
    July 8, 10 - 8:32pm
    Dan-

    this will have to be my last reply. The issues you raise are interesting, but not the subject matter of this thread, and I am presently unable to give the time to a full-on discussion of the matter. Not to say that the issue doesn't deserve the attention.

    A few points:

    1- I am just not getting how you are working from John 8 to some data about the age of the earth. It seems to be an inference built on nothing. It is a bad way to read the text, because you stack a huge freight of meaning on a throw away comment. The devil, says Jesus, well, his nature always was to be a murderer. To infer that that means people must have been created soon after him is simply stretching the text too far. In any case, even if we accept the idea than you could start making syllogisms here, the devil could have a murderous nature from the beginning well in advance of human creation, foreseeing their creation.

    The way you work from this text makes me think that the others can't be very convincing either.

    2- Are you seriously suggesting that tigers were vegetarians in the pre-fall world?

    3 - Scripture talks about the creation being in 'bondage to decay' - the ground unyielding, the pain of human childbirth and the withdrawal of immortality from human beings. Human dominion over creation is compromised.

    tbc
  • Michael Jensen
    July 8, 10 - 8:44pm
    4 - the 'intention' notion isn't a resort to limit the teaching scope of scripture. It is a necessary and very ordinary hermeneutical principle that we need to invoke in order to read texts sensibly. When Jesus told the story about Lazurus and the rich man, he didn't intend for us to use that story to ground our eschatology. It would sit very oddly indeed with biblical eschatology to imagine a conversation between the rich man in the firey lake with Abraham. We have to do this on a text by text basis, and carefully. I would take the fictional Luke's question very seriously - it's a good one. We should ask - is the historicity of an individual Adam demanded by Paul's use of the figure in Rom 5? Only reading the text carefully will tell us.

    5 - the way you speak about God overriding the human authors of Scripture makes me think you have a different view of inspiration to me. I like Warfield on this subject: humanity is not bypassed in the process.
  • Michael Jensen
    July 8, 10 - 8:55pm
    Oh, and for the record:

    looking at Mortensen's reading of Luke 11:50-51, Mark 10:6, and Mark 13:19, the same applies. It just isn't a very compelling case. Partly because 'in the/from the beginning' is a literary allusion as much as anything. Perhaps old earth proponents haven't dealt with it because they haven't felt that it was much of a challenge?
  • Rob Callander
    July 8, 10 - 10:07pm
    Michael,

    I must have missed the part in the OP where you talked about the age of the Earth and Evolution - perhaps it was subliminal?

    Such discussions are unedifying.

    Might I add one more pressing issue?

    *Not unnecessarily alienating the wider population*

    Whil'st not having lived in Sydney for sometime, I still maintain a wide circle of friends there and have been surprised at how many have, unbidden, expressed outrage at the public and highly organized opposition of SA to the Ethics trial. People who would not normally have given SRE a second thought are now ardently opposed to its retention.

    Finally, now that we have a woman as Prime Minister...

    When can we look forward to a female Anglican Archbishop of Sydney?

    Rob
  • Michael Canaris
    July 9, 10 - 2:09am
    When can we look forward to a female Anglican Archbishop of Sydney?
    Perhaps when the majority of ACL Council members regularly don chasubles.
  • David Ashton
    July 9, 10 - 6:13am
    Never I hope, Michael C.

    When are we going to get of the robes and the remnants of medieval traditions?
  • Luke Stevens
    July 9, 10 - 6:22am
    For what it's worth, Michael cited Mark Baddeley's work on creationism as an argument *against* creationism, but I've picked up the discussion with Mark, and for him the literal stuff it seems kicks off with Adam & Eve in Gen 3 (not Gen 1), which I would still class well and truly as creationism. Will be interesting to see where that goes...

    Anyway, there really is a yawning chasm between the theological and physical/scientific on this issue it seems.

    I s'pose I should read my copy of "Theology after Darwin" I have in front on me :|
  • Michael Canaris
    July 9, 10 - 6:42am
    Never I hope, Michael C.
    To be frank, I included that prospect as a signifier of "when pigs fly."
    When are we going to get of the robes and the remnants of medieval traditions?
    Hopefully not in my lifetime, albeit to clarify my last post I view chasubles as a ritualistic step too far.
  • Andrew Russell
    July 9, 10 - 6:48am
    Thanks for mentioning "Theology after Darwin" Luke, I just looked at a couple of reviews and I might go and get a copy tomorrow. A.
  • Luke Stevens
    July 9, 10 - 7:02am
    Cool :)
  • Michael Jensen
    July 9, 10 - 8:39am
    For what it's worth, I cited Mark's work for its contribution to the discussion on death. I made no comment about Mark's views on evolution.