Friday, December 08, 2006

Old Earth Arguments: a response to David pt. 3

I will continue my response to David's blog where we go more in depth with some of the "scriptural" evidences for an old earth. If you are reading this for the first time, I would recommend reading parts 1 and 2 to catch up.

Please be advised that I was raised Jewish and I am proficient in Biblical Hebrew. First, consider the Hebrew word yom. Although this word often refers to a 24-hour period, the Bible also uses the term to describe a much longer period, i.e. the "time" of Genesis 4:3, "continually" in Genesis 6:5, and "remain" in Genesis 8:22. Also, remember that the infamous "Yom (Day) of the Lord" (Isaiah 13, Joel 1-3, Amos 5, Zephaniah 1) refers to the seven year Tribulation. Granted, the mere fact that yom sometimes refers to a longer period than 24 hours does not mean it always does so, but the precedent set in those passages does open the possibility.

Notice that David fails to mention how we are to interpret "day." He assumes that because "day" can mean a long period of time, then that must mean that the days of Genesis are long periods of time! But what David fails to mention again is that words have meaning according to their context. And the burden of proof is on him to tell us why, despite clear hermeneutical rules of exegesis and the "morning, evening, number" modifiers in Genesis, the days are long periods of time. I would also invite David to show us where, in any part of the Bible, where "day" modified by a number, means anything but an ordinary day.

Second, the Bible teaches us that a thousand years to us are but a day before God (Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8). Given that Genesis 1 describes a purely divine activity with no human involvement, it is reasonable to infer that Genesis 1 is written from God's perspective, not ours.

Let's first read 2 Peter 3:8 and see if it supports David's conclusion:

"But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."

What we first need to understand is that the context of 2 Peter 3:8 has nothing to do with the days of Genesis 1. In addition, these verses are not defining a day because it doesn't say "a day is a thousand years." Therefore, the correct meaning must be derived from its context. And the context is that Peter is encouraging his readers not to lose heart because of the fact that God seems slow at fulfilling His promise about the second coming. Rather, they are to remember that God is patient and is not a time-bound creature as we are.

The text says "one day is like [or as] a thousand years." The word "like" is a figure of speech that is called a simile. Here, the simile is used to teach that God is outside of time because God is the creator of time. In fact, the figure of speech is so effective that its intended aim is to contrast between a literal day and a thousand years. Or in other words, for an eternal being such as God, a short period of time and a long period of time is the same. But in no way does this text even begin to suggest that God is bound by time, as if eternity somehow means a "long time." And this is where Old Earthers really get into trouble when they use this text. If the days in Genesis are to be defined by how God "experiences" time, then are the Old Earthers admitting that God is a time bound creature as the Mormons believe? If not, then what good does it do to imply that because God is an eternal being, then we must interpret the days of creation as God "experienced" them? If we interpret "day" as an eternity (which is how God would, in essense, "experience" a day), then would it not follow that each day must be interpreted as an eternity?

Next, let's take a look at Psalm 90:4:

"For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night."

This is called synonymous parallelism, where the long period of a thousand years is contrasted with two short periods: a day, and a night watch. Unfortunately for David, he forgot the "watch in the night" part because if he were consistent, he would have to interpret both "day" and "watch in the night" to mean a thousand years. This is difficult to imagine in light of other texts. If "watch in the night" means a thousand years then,

"When I remember you on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches" (Psalm 63:6)


"My eyes anticipate the night watches, That I may meditate on Your word."

We must conclude that David (the King, not the blogger) was thinking on His bed and meditating on God's Word for thousands of years. Surely this is not what David is suggesting to us! If we let the text speak for itself, we will see that the immediate context tells us of the frailty of mere mortan men in comparison to God. And these verses (2 Peter 3:8-9, Psalm 90:4) amplify this teaching, saying that no matter how long a time period is from man's perspective, it is like a twinkling of an eye from God's perspective. But again, notice that I am not suggesting that a long time period is a twinkling of an eye to God, but is like a twinkling of an eye. And even then, such illustrations do not capture what "eternity" really means. They are simply meant to communicate something in such a way that time-bound creatures can understand and relate to.

Third, Genesis itself juxtaposes the term "generations" (Hebrew: tohledah) to equal a "day" (Gen. 2:4, Gen.5:1). And those verses refer explicitly back to Genesis 1, too. It is worth observing that the NIV Bible conceals the obvious implications of these verses by changing the wording, but every other version -- the KJV, NKJV, the NSAB, and the Amplified Bible -- correctly translates tohledah as "generations."

It is hard to understand how this argument is even relevant to the issue. Is "day" in Genesis 2:4 or 5:1 modified by "evening, morning" or a number? No. In fact, the argument is so irrelevant that the NIV translators correctly translated yom as "when" in Genesis 2:4,

"This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created. When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens."

Obviously, the author is using the word "day" to describe the entire creation process. In no way would this even begin to suggest that we should interpret the "days" of Genesis 1 to mean long periods of time. This would be, as mentioned earlier, the exegetical fallacy of an unwarrented expansion of an expanded semantic field. In other words, David is trying to take the meaning of a word in one context to define the meaning of a word in an unrelated context.

Fourth, the third day of Genesis 1 surely took longer than 24 hours because verses 1-19 say that God created trees which bore fruit according to their various kinds. It doesn't take a degree in horticulture to know that trees need several years to bear fruit.

Genesis 2:9 says,

And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground--trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food."

Notice that the text doesn't say that the trees needed time to grow. God is capable of making trees grow at the same rate as He turned water into wine and multiplied the loaves and fishes. Also, because David claims to be proficient in Hebrew, he knows that there is nothing in the Hebrew language that would suggest that the trees couldn't have been created as growing. So I ask you, the reader, to decide: who is deriving their theology from the text (exegesis) and who is deriving it from outside the text (eisegesis)?

Fifth, OEC's are often accused of interpreting Genesis 1 metaphorically or allegorically. That is not true. We believe God created the Earth in six literal days, but the time it takes for a literal day to pass depends on whether your perspective is from Earth or elsewhere in the universe. That's no joke. Einstein's Theory of Relativity shows that time passes much faster on a planet with higher gravity than it does on ours. Dr. Schroeder explains the practical consequences: "imagine a planet so massive that its gravity slowed time by a factor of 350,000 relative to Earth's rate of time. That meant that while we here on Earth live out two years, a mere three minutes would tick by on that imaginary planet." (The Science of God, 48) So if I write you a letter from this imaginary planet and say "I've been here one day!" I mean it literally -- but in the time that one literal day passed for me, roughly 350,000 literal days will have passed for you (almost one thousand literal years!). Thus, the OEC interpretation of yom is actually quite literal -- but it's based on literal time as experienced by God, not by Earth.

One of the most basic principles of hermeneutics is that the Scriptures are to be interpreted as the original audience intended. Is David suggesting that Moses and the Israelites knew about relativity? If not, then why would David even begin to suggest that Genesis was not written to communicate to its original audience? Scripture would have no ability to communicate if words didn't mean the same to God and man. It is illogical to believe that God was up there thinking, "Its too bad that it is going to take the Israelites 3,000 years of deception to figure out what in the world I mean when I say the word 'day.'"

And again, it is difficult to imagine what kind of God David is referring to. If time is determined by gravity (which I don't doubt), then is David suggesting that God is living on another planet like the Mormon god? Such an illustration is completely bogus because, again, if the days of creation are written through God's perception of time, then David is admitting that God experiences time! And if David is not going to admit that God experiences time, then the other logical outcome would be that the "days" are an eternity. But because both possibilities are absurd, and because God does not experience time, the only reasonable conclusion is that the days of creation were written from man's perspective (assuming that Scripture was intended to communicate truth, of course).

Sixth, it is arguably not even possible that each day of Genesis 1 is based on Earth-time. Dr. Schroeder explains why: "there is no possible way for those first six days to have had an Earth-based perspective simply because for the first two of those six days there was no Earth! As Genesis 1:2 states, 'And the Earth was unformed...'" (The Science of God, 51) Earth is formed on Day 3! Whatever measure of time is being used in the first two days, it is surely not from the perspective of a planet that doesn't exist.

Obviously, when the Bible used the term "earth" in Genesis 1:2, it wasn't referring to a fully functional planet. But you still had an "earth." So what exactly was the Spirit moving over in verse 2? Was it nothing? Was nothing formless and void, having a surface of the deep? Whatever is being described in Genesis 1:2, it is undoubtedly clear that it had an evening and a morning with light. If there was no earth, then what meaning would evening and morning have? There is absolutely no textual reason to suggest that the "earth," in whatever state it was in at that point, didn't experience time. And there is no textual reason to suggest that days 1-2 are any different from days 3-6. If there is a textual reason, then the burden of proof is on David to show us exegetically why days 1-2 were different.

Arguments five and six become much more complex and impressive in MIT biophysicist Dr. Gerald Schroeder's book, in which he demonstrates that not only are the six days of Genesis not based on Earth-time, but that they are based on Cosmic Background Radiation (CBR), a universal clock of sorts that has been left over from the Big Bang. "The Science of God" helped make a believer out of me.

Again, this assumes that Genesis had nothing to communcate to its original audience. It is simply absurd to read these ideas into the text when Moses had absolutely no clue what the Big Bang was! I truly hope that David doesn't treat the rest of the Biblical texts with such sloppliness as he does with Genesis. But one truly wonders how David might defend his faith against liberals who read their ideas into the text? Today's post-modern scholarship does the same thing David does with Genesis. They argue that because miracles do not happen today, such as turning water into wine and raising people from the dead, and because such miracles go against the natural laws of science, then the Biblical authors could not have possibly been referring to literal miracles in their writings! I'm sure David would deny my reasoning here, but did David not say that we are to interpret the text of Scripture based on what we "know" about modern science?

And we will find later in this critique of David's writings that we should squeeze modern science into Genesis so that non-believers will be more likely to accept Christ. Unfortunately, we all know that it isn't just Genesis that the liberals attack; they attack every single miracle mentioned in the Bible. The problem begins at the moment David convinces his atheist friend that Genesis is compatible with modern science. What then? What happens when the skeptic starts flipping through Genesis and gets to Exodus where he can't possibly imagine how all those miracles happened? Does David try to convince his friend that these miracles aren't literal so that his friend is more likely to accept Christ? What then? What happens when David's friend finally makes his was into the Gospels that describe Jesus as rising from the dead and appearing to his disciples? Does David go on to convince his friend that it doesn't matter if Jesus really rose from the dead? Do you see the slippery slope that David's thinking, along with the Old Earth thinkers, can lead to?

Please understand: i'm not suggesting that one must believe in a young earth to be saved. I have no reason to doubt David's salvation as well as many other Old Earthers who compromise the clear teachings of Scripture in Genesis. But I can see the dangers that come with this kind of thinking. And those dangers come when Old Earth advocates start to become consistent in their approach to the bible. And if you get anything out of this critique of David's theology, I hope that you will realize how important it is to stand on the authority of God's word rather than on the authority of man's fallible ideas.

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