by Jack Hoehn
By Jack Hoehn, January 9, 2014
The Discovery Institute in Seattle, Washington assiduously seeks to remain agnostic about the Intelligent Designer. They wish to fight the battles over Intelligent Design (ID) free from the accusation of religious sectarianism, as an evidence-based scientific enterprise. All they are asking is to acknowledge that this earth and the complex life on it is better explained as being the result of intelligent action than by random undirected purposeless chance. They claim this conclusion can be made based on scientific evidence alone, free from any theological or holy revelations of any kind.
This attempt at religious neutrality may be quixotic since their Darwinian opponents usually call them “a thinly veiled front for Biblical Creationism,” and try to tar them as religious fanatics who are just pretending to be scientists.
There is no denying that most ID proponents are Christians or Jews, although recently some notable agnostics support ID. But these positions lead to the paradoxical situation of Christians arguing the science without reference to theology. And atheists and agnostics arguing against ID with their own version of theology! (They use the “what kind of a God would create this….” type of arguments.) Other combative Darwinians use the tactic of simply ignoring or dismissing the ID scientific evidence with a wave of the hand, because “they are all Christians.” (So?)
I was excited then when the Discovery Institute sponsored a seminar on Science and Faith at the Greenlake Presbyterian Church north of downtown Seattle on Friday night and Saturday (May 31-June 1) because it may not be enough to have good solid scientific arguments about Intelligent Design without a better theological understanding of the Intelligent Designer and the Bible that has introduced most of us to him. One good thing about this venue is that it was only a few blocks from Seattle’s famous vegetarian restaurant, Carmelita’s, so my brother Ted and I had a great supper of plant based foods before going on down to the church. (Sadly Carmelita’s has since closed, but try Café Flora your next trip to Seattle.)
C. JOHN COLLINS—SCIENCE AND FAITH
Jack Collins is a Professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. He has written a book with the same name as the conference, and was the keynote speaker Friday night and Saturday morning. I owned that book already, as well as a second more recent one called Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? (Who They Were and Why You Should Care). (See a list of his books available here.)
As a Hebrew scholar he does not care much for trying to make the Hebrew for “day” in Genesis 1 (yom) mean “age” or “aeon.” He says it is just the word for “day.” While it may be used for other things than 24-hour days, just as in English we can say “back in the day” or “day of the Lord,” meaning an indefinite period of time in the past or future, that is not how he handles the chronology of creation questions.
He points out that Genesis 1, while not poetry, is also not science. And while historic, it is not strictly history. He calls it “exalted prose” and suggests its purpose is to introduce Israel to their Creator God and the position he wanted humanity, and now Israel on the way to their promised land, to fill in the world. Instead of the word for sky, it speaks of “the expanse” or firmament. Instead of using Hebrew common words for sun and moon, it calls them “the greater light” and “the lesser light.” Instead of just saying he made all the animals, it categorizes them in broad groups such as “domestic animals,” “wild animals,” and “creepy crawlers.” Not scientific categories, not species, semi-poetic groupings. Not birds, bats, and dragonflies, just “flying things.”
He then points out that the six Creation-days are not the first six days of the Universe, which was created before the six in the indefinite past, “In the beginning.” And it was not even the first six days of earth, since at the start of the six Creation-days, earth already existed, formless and unorganized.
He next says that these six Creation-days are God’s days, not human days. And the “evening and morning” are to tell us that God set a pattern of work with resting followed by working. The pattern was “not doing” followed by “doing,” and was repeated 6 times by God, His days being a pattern for our work week and our days.
Jack Collins expands God’s Creation-days as longer than 24-hours with two examples. The first is the Sabbath, which does not have an “evening and morning” phrase, and which by New Testament references may never have ended. God has Sabbathed from creating since Eden. He is Sabbathing now. We are to enter into his rest, his Sabbath. We do not see active creation of new kinds of life going on today. We simply see alterations of previously created kinds of life. So for God, his 7th Creation-day Sabbath is still continuing.
The second example of a Creation-day not being 24-hours is Genesis 2. Here Moses in more detail explains the events of Creation-day six. Jack Collins feels the story of mankind’s creation starting with a Palestinian dry season (“for the Lord God had not sent rain”), then timed to the time when the clouds and mist start to form at the beginning of the rainy season (“a mist came up from the earth”) suggests at least a year or more for the creation of mankind alone. (I’ve previously discovered that Creation-day six, if read very literally, has too many activities to permit a 12-hour or even a 24-hour period).
Collins was not offering a specific chronology of creation. What he was saying is that God’s Creation-days were the pattern for our work week, but not identical to it. He reminds us that when the Bible speaks of “the eye of the Lord” it does not have to be a human eye. It refers to God’s visualizing us, like a human eye visualizes, but tells us nothing about how God does that. “If the hand of the Lord is upon you, it doesn’t mean God has fingernails.”
So if God did his creation work in his “six Creation-days,” and tells you to work in “6 human-days” followed by the Sabbath, that doesn’t tell you how long God’s Creation-days were, just that we are to have 6 of them like God did, followed by a Sabbath. God’s Eye, God’s Hand, God’s Workdays are analogies to our eye, hand, and days, not identical to them.
My conclusion from this conservative Christian scholar?
“Genesis tells us what God did, not necessarily when or how. Its purpose is to give us
a.) the reason for our worship of him,
b.) a pattern for our work and rest cycles,
c.) an explanation of our sexual natures and relationships,
d.) the purpose of our existence,
e.) and why we fail of accomplishing those purposes.”
CASEY LUSKIN—THE SCIENTIFIC CASE FOR ID
Casey is an attorney, author, and the fast talking spokesman for Intelligent Design. He also is a co-author of Science and Human Origins about humanoids and humans. He is also co-editor of a new textbook for home schoolers called Discovering Intelligent Design that comes as a text and an accompanying workbook just published. It is written for middle school to adults, so both you and your children could study this together. I think many progressive adult Sabbath Schools could take this as a weekly study; it has 20 lessons.
Casey confirmed that his wife of 5+ years has an Adventist background, but I haven’t had a chance to meet her yet. I know Casey has spoken to Adventist groups before. He gave a rapid fire summary of the many converging lines of scientific evidence pointing to intelligent design as the more reasonable explanation for both the origin and the complexity of life, given the time constraints of the geologic history of life on earth. He was excited about the new pivotal book against naturalistic Darwinism he assisted with—Darwin's Doubt by Stephen C. Meyers.
JOHN G. WEST—COURAGE FOR THE STRUGGLE
The speaker I knew the least about was John West, Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute. A Ph.D. in politics, former professor at Seattle Pacific University, he has edited a recent book called The Magician's Twin, which is about C.S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society. He gave a spirited challenge to all Christians to be willing to challenge Darwinism or Materialistic Naturalism. He explained that he was not speaking for the Discovery Institute, but more as his own personal testimony as a concerned Christian. He gave examples of scientists being punished for supporting ID, and also the even more serious threats from Darwinism to not only morals and society, but also to Christian teaching and belief.
It is important for Adventists to understand that believing that the universe is as old as scientists suggest, and that Creation took as long as scientists suggest, does not mean they are therefore Darwinians. Chronology and Darwinism are separate issues. Bible believers can accept an Old Earth Creationism and still be vigorous opponents of Darwinian or Neo-Darwinian thought. Dr. West also suggested that the so called Theistic Evolutionist was a difficult to support position, and that Intelligent Design was far more compatible with Biblical Orthodox Christianity. After listening to Dr. West, I eagerly ordered a copy of his book.
The meetings finished Sabbath afternoon, and I felt I had had a wonderful spiritual experience and a Sabbath blessing in a friendly Presbyterian church full of Creationists, very few or none of whom knew they were actually sharing a wonderful Sabbath with my brother and me! Not many if any of these ID Christians believe creation happened 6,000 years ago in 144 hours. Not many or any of these ID Christians believe that creation happened by unguided evolutionary mechanisms. They would agree with Adventist conservatives that Darwinism is dangerous and to be opposed. They would agree with Adventist scientists that creation didn’t have to happen recently or quickly. And each speaker seemed comfortable with the idea that Moses presented in Genesis the charter for humanity, given to Israel and then through Christ to the Christian church and gentiles, to restore Eden and expand it on earth.
CELTIC WOMEN AND CREATIONISM
I had tickets for a Saturday night concert that night with my wife, called Celtic Women. As later I watched these talented and very feminine vocalists and musicians and their accompanying band sing Irish folks songs including several secular hymns like Amazing Grace, Ava Maria, A Bridge Over Troubled Waters, You Lift Me Up, with grace, wit, talent and charm—in my frame of mind I felt, here they too are Creationists.
They are promoting with theatric assistance an Edenic ideal of female beauty, wit, grace, talent and charm, equal or superior to, yet not threatening male talent and ability. Beautiful long hair, lovely fabrics and colors, clear bell-like voices and energetic music and dance—it was four Eves offering a world of music, joy, and harmony. They smile and touch and harmonize with practiced ease.
It was truly a wonderful out-of-Adventist-boundaries Sabbath. I enjoyed the vegetarian feast from secular Carmelita’s restaurant. I did not want the Sabbath with non-Adventist ID Creationists to end. And how pleasurable to watch a group of talented women share an outside-of-church but inside-of-creation vision of Eden restored. How great the potential for Adventism to add depth and theological support for a deeper and broader Creationism. Would that Adventism could become an open and welcoming home for all Creationists in a revitalized Sabbath week after week after week after week.