Adventist Tomorrow #7c: Creative Discussions
by Jack Hoehn
There is a confluence of ideas coming from within and without the Seventh-day Adventist church, that suggest places this church can grow with its theology and mission. Jack wants to talk with you about growing an Expanded Creationism for Adventists. This is the third of three articles on this important topic. The first article, #7a A Robust Creationism is here. The second article, #7b Grown-up Creationism is here. This is the third and concluding article in the series, and asks if Adventism is up to the task?
I moved slowly over decades from being a Young Earth Creationist to now understanding creation as happening over a long time. I have begun to see that the Creator designed life to adapt (evolve) by mechanisms found in the DNA he created.
I am not a Darwinist or even a Theistic Evolutionist mostly because the scientific evidence does not support Darwin’s 19th century mechanisms, or even the more modern neo-Darwinian suggestions.
The much-maligned Intelligent Design scientists show from the scientific data, that the creation of living organisms cannot be explained by Darwinian principles. Current evolutionists actually agree that Darwin offers no mechanism for the origins of life or its complexity. Here is a recent quote from an evolutionist admitting that a Darwinian origin of life on earth remains impossible:
“The transformation of an ensemble of appropriately chosen biological monomers (e.g. amino acids, nucleotides) into a primitive living cell capable of further evolution appears to require overcoming an information hurdle of superastronomical proportions… an event that could not have happened within the time frame of the Earth except, we believe, as a miracle (Hoyle and Wickramasinghe, 1981, 1982, 2000). All laboratory experiments attempting to simulate such an event have so far led to dismal failure (Deamer, 2011; Walker and Wickramasinghe, 2015).”
Their solution? Panspermia! In other words, the seeding of life on Earth from unknown sources someplace unspecified in “outer space.”
“…the paper proposes that “cryopreserved Squid and/or Octopus eggs, arrived in icy bolides several hundred million years ago” and that this helps explain “the Octopus’ sudden emergence on Earth ca. 270 million years ago.” That’s right: they argue, among other remarkable proposals, for alien octopi and squid from the stars.”
If this 100% speculative suggestion of frozen meteorites (? bolides) blessed with miraculously preserved octopi and squid eggs (the origin of which is conveniently not discussed) traveling for eons across light years of space tempts you to give up Biblical hypotheses (that an intelligently designing, miracle-working, information-imparting deity created life) then I have a certain famous bridge in Brooklyn I think I can sell you!
Shall We Vote?
So, faced with science that demands a superhuman, extraterrestrial source for life but makes impossible a recent chronology, what should Adventists do? Should we convene another General Conference and debate this for one or two hours on the floor of some huge convention center, with a limit of two minutes to speeches, and vote to change our fundamental belief #6 to state that now all Adventists must believe in the Progressive Creationism Jack Hoehn supports? This would certainly give the GC Uniformity Oversight Committee something else to enforce.
Absolutely not! The whole heresy of the Fundamental Belief changes voted at the 2015 General Conference was to make one weakly supported scientific opinion from an idea or suggestion into a doctrine! We don’t need to do that again. The doctrine is, God is the Creator. When and how God created, and how big Noah’s world and flood was, are matters yet to be decided by studying the evidence, not by the caucusing of votes by omniscient church administrators. We need to refocus on what Adventism truly teaches about God our Creator.
- He made the 7th-day Sabbath and its week as the memorial of creation (this does not require the week to be a clone of creation).
- Genesis can be true without being detailed or comprehensive. It can be a song or poem. It can also be a condensation or an outline of who created and why without revealing when or how.
- The Hebrew permits yom like the English “day” to be “daylight” of sunrise to sunset, the day of 24-hours, or an indefinite but real period of time as “back in the day” or “with the Lord a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day.” I have been told that there is no Hebrew word for “age” or “era” except to use yom with its indefinite meaning.
- There is a universe-wide conflict of Satan with God that preceded earth’s creation and has messed up God’s plans from the beginning of creation. There was no human death before the Fall, but plants were consumed and the fossil evidence shows that animals outside of Eden clearly died before Adam and Eve were created. (The geologic evidence suggests six major extinction events, followed by six major explosions of life; could this be the creation eras or “Days” rehearsed by Genesis?)
- Eden was a separate and different part from the rest of earth. The whole world was not Eden.
- Prophetesses are inspirational, not infallible. They are lesser lights, not greater secret-insight-providers. Our prophetess understood she and we could be wrong with some of our teachings.
Altering the Bible
Even if Moses thought creation happened in 144 hours does this mean we have to accept his 2,300-year-old cosmology as the way to understand creation today? We have dropped Moses’ idea of a firm firmament. We do not believe, though the Bible says so, that rain comes from literal windows in heaven. We understand that there really are no physical foundations with real pillars supporting the earth. Although the popes and Martin Luther opposed the idea, the Biblically “immovable earth” is in fact speeding about our sun. We have accepted that the sun does not really rise, race across the sky, orreturn by dawn through a subterranean tunnel or river to start its run again, as the ancients thought and the Bible infers.
Ways to Grow
It is possible for an Adventist Creationism to grow large and robust enough to face the facts of science. I suggest three possible approaches possible as we try to build a better Creation doctrine. Perhaps one will be better or perhaps our members may choose different approaches, but all are Christian options except DE below:
- Separatist – do your science as materialism. Go to church and be a good person, but don’t try to mix the two together. Darwin greatest scientist ever. Bible good but mythical.
a. Theistic Evolution(TE) – do your science as a materialist but suspect that God is behind what you are studying, not sure when or where or how, but let’s all get along as Christian evolutionists. Scripture is not scientific, so don’t expect any Biblical insights into science. Just general morality.
- Integration/Concordism—both science and scripture tell of the same Creator. Reason and Revelation should agree. What the Bible says about nature and what nature says about the Bible should both be listened to, and a concord or agreement found with both.
a. Intelligent Design (ID) as presented by the Discovery Institute– Science demands a Designer, you figure out who this is. We don’t try to make the Bible fit the Science; you can if you want. Theistic evolution is wrong because Darwinian evolution doesn’t work, without intelligence and design. (Evolution 2.0 may be a form of ID.)
b. Progressive Creationism/Old Earth Creationism (PC/OEC) as presented by Hugh Ross’s Reasons to Believe—The Bible tells the truth about God and about Nature. We find Science to be true and the Bible to be true, and try to explain how to understand the Bible as supporting or not contradicting Science.
- Conflict – you have to be a scientific materialist or a theist, but you can’t be both: Darwinian Evolution or Young Earth Creation; take your choice and fight it out.
a. Young Earth Creationism(YEC) tends to suggest literal Biblicism or nothing! God did it all quickly and recently. There is very rapid devolution after the Edenic Fall, but no Evolution. Noah’s flood answers all our problems with geology. If only it could!
b. Darwinian Evolution(DE) Atheism, no God necessary, Science has it all figured out without need of a Designer or Creator. This position is scientifically falsifiable as honest evolutionists admit, although they search for some extraterrestrial substitute for the Biblical Creator.
Are “Adventist Scientists” Going Extinct?
Someone has correctly stated, “Everyone has the right to their own opinion, but no one has the right to their own facts.” The claim of atheists that the facts of science support their atheism is an opinion, not a fact. But the age of the universe, the age of the earth, the progressive appearance of life on earth step by more complex step in fossil records, the existence of Neanderthals, the code of DNA and the history it reveals, the facts of multiple local floods, ice ages, multiple volcanic flows, etc. are not opinions; they are all facts based on solid data.
How we interpret the facts both in science and in the Bible is of course liable to change. But denying scientific facts as YEC must do, or intentionally excluding the possibility of a divine intelligence by Darwinists; both are both anti-reason positions. If we are to bring honest scientists to Christ or keep honest Adventist scientists from leaving Adventism, we need to let the facts discovered by scientists help us interpret the Bible, just as the Bible can inform us of the character and intentions of the Intelligence Designer.
Unique Truth People Can’t Hear
Adventism has something unique to offer to the origins debate, that at present is obscured by our marriage to an unsupportable Young Earth chronology for creation. What I have not yet found in other Christian Creationism ideas (PC-OEC/ID/TE), is a well-developed concept of Satan, the Intelligent Destroyer. If Adventist theologians and scientists were allowed to get their heads out of the YEC sand, we could offer the illuminating Great Controversy insights into the creation debate.
We Can Do This, People!
We are teaching half-truths, and whole lies about the age of the earth and the evidence of geology.
There are 117 Seventh-day Adventist institutions named as a “University.” Each of these institutions has intelligent educated men and women expert in theology, Bible interpretation, and/or in scientific fields. All are presently gagged against exploring expanded creationist theology and science by a YEC dogmatism. Status quo-preserving administrators and their fundamentalist advisors are acting in misogynic, homophobic, and anti-scientific ways that cannot be God’s will for his church.
Religious Freedom, Liberty of Conscience, and basic Honesty are being held hostage to tired dogmas and inadequate interpretation of scripture. We are teaching half-truths and whole lies about the age of the earth and the evidence of geology. God has made it clear that he values freedom. As some have pointed out, God would rather permit his creatures to be free and lost, than to be automatons. Surely his church must put the same value on freedom to think, explore, research, grow and learn the truth beyond 19th-century scientific ignorance and theological timidity.
Adventism is robust enough to survive openness and frank discussions.
What we cannot survive is an enforced dogmatic uniformity to one small group of men’s theologies of narrowness, exclusion, dishonesty and fear. Set our Adventist resources free to meet this challenge. Let Adventism grow into an Expanded Creationism, big enough for the great God we serve and the universe he has gifted us with.
This article #7c.) Creative Discussions is the last of three on the topic of an Expanded Creationism,
which is part of the Adventist Tomorrow series suggesting new frontiers for Adventism:
 Cause of Cambrian Explosion —Terrestrial or Cosmic?, that argues for panspermia. In other words, the seeding of life on Earth from outer space. Published in the journal Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology, it comes bearing an impressive array of over thirty authors from credible institutions around the world. The journal’s editors are themselves highly credible, including Denis Noble of Oxford University.
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_C._Parker “George C. Parker…was an American con man best known for his surprisingly successful attempts to “sell” the Brooklyn Bridge. He made his living conducting illegal sales of property he did not own, often New York’s public landmarks, to unwary immigrants… giving rise to phrases such as “and if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you,” a popular way of expressing a belief that someone is gullible.”
 https://atoday.org/site/1/issuepdf/2015-03.pdf discussed the issues involved in the Fundamental Belief changes engineered by the 2015 General Conference administration. See pages 42-47 of this Adventist Today special issue magazine.
 Ellen White suggested this provocative idea of what might have happened to the rest of the world outside of Eden. Eden was “a sample of the perfect work of God’s creation, untouched by the curse of sin—a sample of what the whole earth would have become, had man but fulfilled the Creator’s glorious plan.” Patriarch and Prophets, page 62.
 Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, December 20, 1892.
 SDA Bible Dictionary, FIRMAMENT. “Heb. Raqia’, “beaten-out (iron) plate,” “Solid vault (of heaven).”
 Windows of Heaven: Genesis 7:11; 8:2; 2 Kings 7:2,19; Isaiah 24:18; Malachi 3:10.
 Foundations of Earth: Micah 6:2; 2 Samuel 22:8,16; Psalm 18:7,15; 82:5; Proverbs 8:29; Jeremiah 31:37.
 Immovable earth: 1 Chronicles 16:30, Psalm 93:1, 96:10,
 Circuit of Sun: Psalm 19:5,6; Ecclesiastes 1:5,6. “Here again we have to think of the belief that, between the sunset and the sunrise, the sun had a long journey to perform, as the Greeks thought, by the great Ocean river, till it returned to the point where it had risen the day before.” Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, Ecclesiastes 1:5,6.
Best criticism of TE would be: Theistic Evolution—a Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique, Crossway, Wheaton, Illinois, 2017.
 Discovery Institute. https://www.discovery.org/id/about/ Although not a religious organization, I can tell you by personal experience that many if not most of the scientists and philosophers at the Discovery Institute are believing Christians, although the spectrum of ID supporters, Darwin doubters, runs from YEC to Orthodox Jews to Muslims and to Agnostics. They tend to not be theistic evolutionists, although most agree that life has evolved over time.
 Hugh Ross’s organization is Reasons to Believe. http://www.reasons.org/about Hugh Ross has a Reformed or Calvinistic viewpoint on Scripture that is the only caution I offer to Adventists who do not support a literal hell or scriptural inerrancy, for example. But Hugh Ross and his team have much to offer us in understanding science and the Bible as both true.
Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis follows the same line, and their Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, offers well-made Walt Disney-like dioramas supporting the mythology of dinosaurs and humans existing together.
The history of Adventist origins of “Scientific Creationism,” by one-time Adventist author Ron Numbers, The Creationists, was recently reissued with subtitle from Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design Expanded Edition.
 All the sources above are refutations of Darwinism. But perhaps my favorite refutations of atheism would be,