Tuesday, June 01, 2010

"What should we preach about Creation?" by John Piper

John Piper, in my opinion, is one of the greatest authors/pastors of the 20th (and hopefully 21st!) century. And though I agree with him on most things, I don't agree on everything. But my disagreements aren't anything for me to divide over, and I rarely hear him expressing them anyway. However, in a RECENT BLOG, Dr. Piper answers the question, "What should we teach about Creation?" And though I can give a hearty "amen!" to the vast majority of what Piper says on any subject, I have to express some disagreements on this one.

What i'll be responding to is the audio transcript found in the blog, as linked above. However, you can watch/download the AUDIO or VIDEO if you like.

How far should we go in teaching creationism in the church? How important or unimportant is it?

I assume the "-ism" on the end of creation has an agenda in terms of the age of the earth or the age of man or whatever.

Let me just say a few general things.

1) We should teach without any qualification that God created the universe and everything in it. It wasn't always here. It didn't spontaneously emerge from a big bang alone, however God did it. God did it. That's clear, and everybody who believes the Word should preach that.

2) Secondly, I think we should preach that he made it good. There was no sin in it, when he first made it.

3) Thirdly, I think we should preach that he created Adam and Eve directly, that he made them of the dust of the ground, and he took out of man a woman. I think we should teach that. I know there are people who don't, who think it's all imagery for evolution or whatever.

And we should teach that man had his beginning not millions of years ago but within the scope of the biblical genealogies. Those genealogies are tight at about 6,000 years and loose at maybe 10 or 15,000. So I think we should honor those genealogies and not say that you can play fast and loose with the origin of man.

That's not the age of the earth issue there. That's the origin of what is a human being, when did that human being come into existence. I think we should say he came into existence by God's direct action and that it wasn't millions of years ago. That was within the scope of these genealogies.

Now, when it comes to the more controversial issues of how to construe Genesis 1-2 about how God did it and how long it took him to do it, there I'm totally sympathetic with a pastor who is going to lay his view down, having studied it, and is going to say to his people, "Here is my understanding of those chapters. These six days can't be anything other than six literal days, and so that's how long God took to do it. And this universe is about 10 or 15,000 years old. Though it looks old, that's the way God made it. He made it to look old," or something like that.


Here is where the wheels start to fall off the truck. "The evidence says X, but i'm going to just believe Y." I am very unsympathetic to such a view. As those who claim to believe the truth, as Christians, we should never advocate or support any position that holds to "faith" in opposition to the evidence. That is not what biblical faith is:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
(Hebrews 11:1)

Is biblical faith blind? Of course not. Biblical faith can only work in compliance with "assurance." And what is our assurance based on? The past. For instance, everyone wakes up in the morning and gets out of the bed with the assurance that we will not float to the ceiling. Instead, we expect that our feet will hit the floor based on the norm of past experience. Thus, we have a sense of assurance based on our past experience.

Biblical faith has always been in compliance with the evidence. The resurrection would never have been proclaimed if there were no evidence. Their faith in the future resurrection was based on the fact of Christ's resurrection. Their faith was firmly planted in solid ground. To advocate faith in opposition to the evidence would have been to expect the Jews to believe in the resurrection when, in fact, Christ never died and was walking around in their midst. I can't see "believe Genesis in spite of the evidence" being any different. In other words, "believe the earth is young, even though all evidence proves that it is old."

Or he might take another view that these days are ages.


Its hard for me to describe a disagreement as "sympathetic." But Piper seems to be suggesting this because he hasn't come to a strong conclusion on this matter. That is understandable, as I am sympathetic to post-millenialism, even though i'm a bit more convinced that a-millenialism makes more sense. However, I say that only in being indecisive on the issue.

But what is interesting to me is that Piper is quite decisive on other Creation issues. For instance, he is certain that man's origin is only thousands, not millions of years old. And he bases this on what? Biblical exegesis. However, I find it odd that Piper would be so sure about this, but not on the origin of the universe? To me, its far easier to say, "Yeah, looks like creation only took 6 days!" as opposed to, "after spending a lot of time sifting through the genealogies in Genesis, I finally calculated that there are only 6-15 thousand years worth."

But what if you are convinced of the "scientific evidence" for human evolution? Consider the parallel:

1. "Though it looks old, that's the way God made it. He made it to look old."

2. "Though it looks like humans evolved from apelike ancestors millions of years ago, that's the way God made it. He made it look that way."

In other words, you could believe that the evidence clearly proves an old earth and human evolution, but you could discard that evidence and just believe what the Bible teaches.

Or he might take Sailhamer's view, which is where I feel at home. His view is that what's going on here is that all of creation happened to prepare the land for man.


Admittedly, I have not read Sailhamer's book on this topic, but i'm a bit familiar with it. However, I have to question whether Piper is holding this view for exegetical reasons, or "scientific" reasons? In other words, does Piper exegete the text in already being convinced that the universe is old? Or would Piper hold his position, even if (just pretend for a moment) the majority of scientists were convinced that the universe is young?

In verse 1, "In the beginning he made the heavens and the earth," he makes everything. And then you go day by day and he's preparing the land. He's not bringing new things into existence; he's preparing the land and causing things to grow and separating out water and earth. And then, when it's all set and prepared, he creates and puts man there.


I realize that Piper is just summarizing his view and not necessarily presenting the evidence. But I can't even pretend to read Genesis 1 in this way. Perhaps this is a result of not looking into Sailhamer's view, but I can't help but conclude that he is trying to make the text "fit in" with the old earth view.

So that has the advantage of saying that the earth is billions of years old if it wants to be—whatever science says it is, it is—but man is young, and he was good and he sinned. He was a real historical person, because Romans 5 says so, and so does the rest of the Bible.


By why stop there? In other words, "do whatever you want with the text to make it fit with an old earth, but when you get to the origin of man, make sure you start doing good biblical exegesis."

That's where I am, and I think every pastor should go ahead and say what he believes. But how do you define who gets on your eldership, for example? Who gets a teaching office in your church? I'm inclined to not draw that too narrowly.


One wonders how far Piper would be willing to go. Would Piper allow an elder who is a theistic evolutionist?

But I could be wrong about that, you know. I'm 63 years old, and I've never preached through Genesis yet. And I'd like to! I'm going to finish John, and then maybe the next thing I'll turn to, if the elders let me stay around that long, would be Genesis.

We need to give our people help in this.


I must commend Piper for his humility. But it just doesn't register in my mind as to how a theologically competent scholar like Dr. Piper could remain undecided on what Genesis teaches. However, if you remain convinced that evolutionists are the beholders of truth in the area of the age of the earth (and then neglect them with biological evolution for some reason), then I suppose I can understand how one might wrestle with this. For me, I just don't see the need to wrestle. The Bible is our worldview, and as such, we view the world through that lens. And so the question is, why does that worldview lens crack when we get to the issue of the age of the earth?

22 comments:

Jon said...

I assume you are a layman and have not gone to seminary. Even if you have gone through seminary, I must commend your analysis.

Mike Felker said...

Thank you Jon, I really do appreciate that! And yes, your assumption is correct.

Marcus McElhaney said...

Mike, either you have been eating your wheaties or the Holy Spirit truly inspired you. My money's on the Holy Spirit. This is an awesome post. I agree mostly agree with you on this post.

DedeJ文辰_Fe said...

Time and tide wait for no man. ............................................................

Mark Hunter said...

I think Piper has lost it. I really do. I'm not sure if his Calvinism has supplanted the Holy Spirit in him, but his elitist pride in himself and his exegesis is hugely off-putting.

I'm glad he's sat himself down for a while. He needs it.

Russ Davis said...

I too have been devoted to Piper's wonderful Biblical sound exegesis in areas like Romans and Hebrews, but like Grudem and Sailhamer he sadly sinks without a ripple when it comes to Genesis. Maybe if he preaches through the book he'll come to realize how off he really is, sadly rejecting the Bible as ultimate authority when it comes to origins, deluded into imagining modern pseudo-science is anything other than the very fascist crock the Soviets were that cost them the Space Race against the then creationist US before we turned away from the God Who gave us the victory to adopt the religion and methods of the loser that is destroying us with pseudo-science today. See the refutation of Sailhamer's/Piper's antiBiblical nonsense at https://creation.com/creation-compromises where you can see it's just a rehashed version of the old discredited "gap theory." Also see Sailhamer's ridiculous "Genesis Unbound" exploded at http://creation.com/unbinding-the-rules. Like the liar Hugh Ross Sailhamer's abuse of the sacred text he, like Piper, falsely claims to revere as ultimate authority is nauseating, especially since I think both of them really believe their delusion, like similarly deluded Warfield and Hodge long ago when the helped Reformed "scholarship" abandon God's Word for Darwin's (regardless of Hodge's antipathy for Darwin). There's clearly spiritual deception going on here that has manifestly overwhelmed Reformed intellects generally (e.g. the late Jim Boice) and deceived them into abandoning God's Word as ultimate authority. See David Hall's "Holding Fast to Creation" at http://e-sword-users.org/users/index.php (presently unavailable due to maintenance)

Mike Felker said...

Hey Russ, thanks for your comment. Being a reformed YEC myself, I agree that there is a trend going on in reformed circles to abandon the authority of the Bible on this issue. That being the case, I think more of us (including myself) need to be taking more of a stand on this issue.

Lately, i've been focusing more on counter-cult apologetics, but i'd very much like to get back into the creation/evolution stuff.

Mike R. said...

Nice post but i believe that most scholars would agree that most jews in the first century believed in the future resurrection before Christ's resurrection

Anonymous said...

Interesting reading , it seems to me that an ever growing number of scholars particularly from Evangelical circles are adopting Charles Taze Russells and the Bible Students views on creation.

The Apologetic Front said...

@anonymous, actually, these views on creation were around long before Russell, so I wouldn't credit any of this to Russell.

Anonymous said...

"these views on creation were around long before Russell"..

That may be so , by a very small silent minority. The Bible Students , pushed them to fore and published them bringing them to a wide global audience despite mainstream clerical opposition. The phenomenal Photo Drama which was undisputedly epic for its time took those very contraversial views at that time to a global audience and opened the debate , I find it fascinating that these views are now becoming mainstream and that the young earth viewpoint is now increasingly considerd the contraversial view.

Mike Felker said...

@anonymous, I would direct you to Dr. Terry Mortenson's work, "The Great Turning point" for a historical overview on this entire issue. Dr. Mortenson actually did his Ph.D thesis on this. And interestingly, if I recall correctly, he never mentions once Russell or the "Bible Students" in the historical development. And contrary to what you say, it was the clergy who was bringing out this controversial view up and against other clergy. Sure, Russell was "a" voice, but by no means the most prominent.

But either way, regardless of who gets credit, I have a very strong opinion on this very issue in that I find the "old earth" view to be a serious compromise on the authority of Scripture. And what's even more interesting is that the WT actually believes in a global flood, but also an old earth. Makes absolute zero sense, which is why there is not one geologist who would hold to such a view.

Anonymous said...

Mike , it's no surprises Russell and the BS get no mention, truth is just as in the 1st century church , they were/are considered a nuisance that will not go away, yet despite this millions around the globe even some of the remotest villages and tribes have been and are still influenced by their views . Also many scholars and lay persons who are intersted in the topic of creation from all Christain persuasions who hold to the old earth view see no conflict at all in also believing in a global flood , so this is not unique to the WTS or the BS movementand personally from my own perspective I dont see what one has to do with the other ?

Mike Felker said...

@anonymous, let me ask you then: on what basis do you believe that the earth is millions of years old?

Andrew said...

If you take genesis literally, you'll have noticed, that its animal kingdom is very much like that of today (regarding mammals or birds). Then you'll perhaps have a problem as to how dinosaurs (for ex.) fit into the picture.
Obviously, genesis reflects the grasp that people had at the time about the creation of the earth. I don't think that it would defeat the core meaning of the Bible, if you acknowledge this. What is needed is more insight into the history of the time and better, multifaceted hermeneutics (e.g. distinguishing genres in the Bible). Regardless of the number of years, salvation history still applies.

But for evidence, anyone will find plenty of archeological, geological, genetic, even lihguistic evidence, just to name a few. Only a sound mind is needed, and the ability to count (for ex. how slow continents are moving - cf. the Himalaya or better yet, the Appallachian mountains). But if you just think of Radiocarbon dating or ice-age primitive wall paints.

Canonical sciences seem to overlap and support the fact that Earth isn't a mere few thousands of years old.

The Apologetic Front said...

Thanks for your insightful comment, Andrew. Here's a few points to chew on. First, I take Genesis plainly and have no problems with dinosaurs. I think the problem comes when we try to "fit them in," as opposed to going with the plain sense of the text. When we do this, we see that they are just another land animal that was probably created on day six.

Yes, Genesis reflects what people believe at that time. But since its God's Word (2 Tim. 3:16), I should believe it too. And I agree that genres need to be distinguished here. When this is done, it should be very clear that Genesis is written as an historical narrative.

You speak of the "core meaning of the Bible," and I would argue that a faulty reading of Genesis would indeed effect this. For instance, Jesus Himself believed that Genesis is literal history, as well as Paul. Look into their quotes and allusions to Genesis and you'll see this quite clearly. Doctrinally, if Genesis isn't literal, then how are we to deal with original sin? Did sin really enter into the world through a man and woman?

As to the evidence, I don't have any problem with the evidence within my view of Genesis. Since the Bible is God's Word, I view it as the authority in interpreting all evidence. For instance, have the continents always been moving? And for how long?

If you'd like more specifics, i'd recommend checking out answersingenesis.org and creation.com where these evidences are dealt with in a biblical framework by those who are experts in their fields.

Andrew said...

Hey Mike, I haven't browsed through the sites you recommended in your reply! Sorry. But I'll make sure to do that (although I might have visited them, I've had similar discussions).

I find your view on dinosaurs pretty interesting, since regarding them as ordinary beasts created on day 6 raises some practical questions. Given the diversity of dinosaurs that existed over the ages, I don't see how humans, or larger mammals would have stood a chance on a planet ruled by (carnivorous) lizards, land-based and flying... And also, I think it is difficult to answer how this whole variety of dinosaurs just disappeared over less than 2 thousand years. It just somehow doesn't add up, other than it is a way that the people at the time put down God's message. They sure did their best.
I'm sure noah wouldn't have let any of them get aboard the ark, but it still leaves it unexplained how we may find fossilized skeletons of dinosaurs, and not of sheep.

Another thought: I'm not a geologist, but as far as I know the earth's crust have been moving since the time it is solid, exactly bc under the crust it is not solid yet - and so do continents move. First we have to accept folding as a process that creates mountain ranges, a pretty basic concept. Then if we consider that the horisontal movement, collision of continental plains creates the two to raise vertically, we'll have to consider 8850-ish in meters for Chomolangma. Now compare this with the fact that these plains move roughly 2 centimeters a year. If we multiply this with 6000 years, it adds up to 120 meters, the length of a soccer field. That just doesn't seem to be right. And it's only the Indian subcontinent. If we consider the American continent which separated from Africa, and do the math... 6000-something years is just way too few.

I'm sorry, I don't wanna push these things. But they really seem obvious to me.

The Apologetic Front said...

Hey Andrew, I understand your questions, as i've had them myself. I would highly recommend the websites I provided, as they answer these questions much better than what I am capable. This is because the physical sciences are not my expertise, though I dabble with them here and there.

I really don't see a problem with dinosaurs and man co-existing anymore than I can see lions, tigers, and hippos (an extremely dangerous, aggressive, and large animal) as a problem in co-existing with man. In most cases, animals (regardless of how large or dangerous), separate themselves from man. Actually, its probably more the case that man would have separated themselves from heavily populated dinosaur areas. Even if this seems far fetched, I don't see it as impossible or irreconcilable with the biblical record.

As to the disappearance, let me first say that I don't see any reason why Noah wouldn't have taken dinosaurs on the ark, especially given the fact that they would have fit the description. Furthermore, i'm sure God would have brought forth babies instead of fully grown. When the animals left the ark after the flood, it is probable that the conditions were much different than before; especially since most vegetation would have been wiped out in the flood. Many factors could have contributed to the dinosaur's extinction.

I would ask not how dinosaurs fossilized, but not sheep; instead, I would ask how these dinosaurs fossilized at all. Mass fossil graveyards all over the world (and not just dinosaurs), to me, cries out "global flood!" Like you, i'm not a geologist. But i've never heard of a good reason for explaining the trillions of fossils that are found worldwide; especially of marine life and soft-bodies creatures. Such preservation had to take place rapidly.

As to the plates shifting, you are carrying in some assumptions: namely, that the rates have remained a constant. Creationist geologists are quite convinced that the global flood provides the best explanation for this data. Again, i'd recommend looking into this. In fact, one of the foremost authorities on plate techtonics, John Baumgardner, has proposed a model for this and is convinced that the biblical data provides the best explanation of the evidence. I'd recommend looking into his work (on answersingenesis.org).

For me, its what the Bible teaches that really matters. Whether its dealing with supernatural events like the resurrection of Christ or plate techtonics, I am fully convinced that the Bible is God's inspired Word. Hopefully that can give you an idea of where i'm coming from.

The Apologetic Front said...

Hey Andrew, I understand your questions, as i've had them myself. I would highly recommend the websites I provided, as they answer these questions much better than what I am capable. This is because the physical sciences are not my expertise, though I dabble with them here and there.

I really don't see a problem with dinosaurs and man co-existing anymore than I can see lions, tigers, and hippos (an extremely dangerous, aggressive, and large animal) as a problem in co-existing with man. In most cases, animals (regardless of how large or dangerous), separate themselves from man. Actually, its probably more the case that man would have separated themselves from heavily populated dinosaur areas. Even if this seems far fetched, I don't see it as impossible or irreconcilable with the biblical record.

As to the disappearance, let me first say that I don't see any reason why Noah wouldn't have taken dinosaurs on the ark, especially given the fact that they would have fit the description. Furthermore, i'm sure God would have brought forth babies instead of fully grown. When the animals left the ark after the flood, it is probable that the conditions were much different than before; especially since most vegetation would have been wiped out in the flood. Many factors could have contributed to the dinosaur's extinction.

The Apologetic Front said...

I would ask not how dinosaurs fossilized, but not sheep; instead, I would ask how these dinosaurs fossilized at all. Mass fossil graveyards all over the world (and not just dinosaurs), to me, cries out "global flood!" Like you, i'm not a geologist. But i've never heard of a good reason for explaining the trillions of fossils that are found worldwide; especially of marine life and soft-bodies creatures. Such preservation had to take place rapidly.

As to the plates shifting, you are carrying in some assumptions: namely, that the rates have remained a constant. Creationist geologists are quite convinced that the global flood provides the best explanation for this data. Again, i'd recommend looking into this. In fact, one of the foremost authorities on plate techtonics, John Baumgardner, has proposed a model for this and is convinced that the biblical data provides the best explanation of the evidence. I'd recommend looking into his work (on answersingenesis.org).

For me, its what the Bible teaches that really matters. Whether its dealing with supernatural events like the resurrection of Christ or plate techtonics, I am fully convinced that the Bible is God's inspired Word. Hopefully that can give you an idea of where i'm coming from.

tenjuices said...

I see you have not read Sailhamer's work on the topic. I subscribe to it and find it textual. You ought to study it. Sailhamer is neither old nor new earth. Takes no side. I was his student. If you have questions on his view, let me know.
ed payne

Michael said...

Trust in the Lord.. and lean not on thine own understanding. What makes sense is not the standard. What sayeth the scripture is. Thank you for standing on Scripture here. Interestingly, all of our problems with starlight and time, age, dinosaurs, virgin births, rising from the dead disappear, when we believe Scripture. Did you know that when God makes things they are fully functional, mature, with an appearance of history they never had. God is not deceptive, when he made Adam a man with intellect from the word go. God was not deceptive when he turned water into wine. Interestingly Adam wasn't a a child, and that wine did not grow on vines, unless you want to place human reason above the Scriptures. You know our Lord fed a multitude of people from fish that never swam, or lived for that matter. What about light without stars and sun? Did you know that Moses shined from being in the presence of God, and even in revelation we read how the sun and moon aren't necessary because the Lord will light the place. I have noticed much more activity from the compromise positions lately. Why believe in a supernatural God, for that matter. These compromise positions are unnecessary and harmful. Many of these men have come to believe that dropping a ball 100 times and concluding that gravity exists to a high degree of accuracy is the same as looking at a rock and concluding it is billions of years old. There are so many assumptions that must be made for these dating methods. If you hold uniformitarian views, by faith alone, you can impose science, so called upon scripture, yet you cannot observe, nor repeat these ages. Let us not seek to make scripture palatable to man. Christ born of a virgin, dying on a cross, and risen again, ascended on high, seated at the right hand of the father is folly by human reason and science so called, yet we believe that He is, because we believe the testimony of Scripture! Your faith determines your facts. We need to stand on Scripture. God is over nature, not under nature. While I do not want to be divisive, we must stand for and defend the Scriptures from compromise. I recently came across some pastors on a forum discussing how to topple the creationist view. They said we won't accomplish it through exegesis, but rather they need to come up with stories that will make it acceptable to the people. While, I have profited from Piper's teachings, I am disappointed at his position. I praise God for his raising up men to defend the Scriptures. Soli Deo Gloria