Should churches remove Confederate flags? Should Americans be more afraid of terrorists, ladders or husbands? Should Wonder Woman shave her armpits? It’s a potluck podcast as Phil, Christian and Skye bring the stories of their choice – and yes, things get a little nutty.
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I wonder how Scott McKnight would interpret ??verses like Genesis? ?5:3-5 and Luke? ?3:23-38 that seem to indicate that Adam was a literal person. I’m an Old Earther, but it seems that the implication of these verses and the ones mentioned here (http://bibletime.com/bible-time-history/adam-to-abraham) seem to indicate that Adam lived about 6000 years ago. What are your thoughts?
Hi I can’t buy this guy’s theories, what about the genealogy of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew? Jesus’ lineage is traced back to Adam-chapter 1.
It disappointed me how no-one really refuted him.
There was a pretty good push back by the gang on a number of topics. I suppose the best way to understand it would be to get the book and read it.
Perhaps it’s a respect thing. There was a lot of whispering going on throughout the interview.
No, it’s traced back to Abraham in Matthew 1. You’re probably thinking of Luke 3, but this genealogy states that Seth was the son of Adam the same way Adam was the son of God. But isn’t Jesus the son of God in a way Adam isn’t? Anyone who accepts that Jesus is God’s son in a deeper way than Adam allows that the links in Luke’s genealogy aren’t all the same.
If the last link is different, maybe the link before it is different too. After all, in Hebrew the name Adam means human. To say “Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God” might be similar to saying “Seth, the son of humanity, the creation of God.” And that doesn’t contradict what God’s creation has revealed to those who study it.
I didn’t get to listen to all of this podcast, but in the section I heard there was a lot of debate about what the ancient Jews and Christians literally believed.
The problem with the question, is that they didn’t believe anything literally. Believing things literally is a modern phenomena which developed in the 19th Century. Disclaimer: I am not a Bible scholar, I am a parish pastor. But my undergrad degree is in history, and the difference between “how people thought then” versus “how people think now” was a crucial one to take into account when reading anything very old, because the differences could be major and trip you up in entertaining ways.
Let’s talk about the difference between facts and the truth. These are similar words, but with different connotations. Facts are things you can prove in a science lab or court of law. (“Just the facts, ma’am,” to use a phrase most millennials haven’t heard.) Truth is something deeper; it’s about what things mean. Facts are best learned by bare repetitions; truths are often learned through stories. For most of human history in every culture, truth has been the main category people thought in. They learned through stories. Some things would be learned by rote, but most by telling a story … and since the facts of the story weren’t the point, it didn’t bother people to have three, four, five, or more different versions of the story, each with their own variation on the message. This is, among other reasons, why many stories are told in the Bible in multiple forms. If we were putting together the Bible today, we’d be worried about getting all the facts right–names, dates, etc., and would use the most factual version. They worried about getting the greatest amount of truth in, and if that meant multiple versions of the same story, so much the better. This is why there are two distinct creation stories in Genesis (1:1–2:4a, 2:4b–3), and another in the Prologue to John’s Gospel. They all told truths about God’s creating actions in the world. And if the style of the two Genesis stories are very different and the facts don’t line up so you can’t harmonize them into one story because things happened in a different order, they didn’t much care.
In the context of history, an ancient historian’s job was to take the truth he knew about an event, what it MEANT, and then use the facts that best suited that truth to tell a compelling story that made the historian’s point. A modern historian’s job is to take the verifiable facts, lay them out in a logical order, and make an argument about what the truth might be. Do you see the difference?
The change came about in the 19th Century. Things were becoming increasingly mechanized, economic and social and political systems were becoming increasingly complex, and ordinary people were becoming increasingly mobile, and were having an increasing amount of power and influence on their society. All this meant that everybody needed to be educated past the ability to read and write and do basic arithmetic–they needed serious education. The old method, where a significant portion of teaching where you’d have a tutor and a small group of students discussing philosophy and meaning-of-life stuff alongside Latin and history and such was not practical for the education needed. You needed bigger class sizes, and you couldn’t afford educated enough teachers. So what developed was large classes memorizing facts out of textbooks–almost everything is taught as a series of facts to memorize, and you are judged on how well you regurgitate those facts on the test. The highest authority is the textbook, because it gives you the facts. This is where literalism comes from. We spend twelve years of our lives learning that 2+2 is always 4, “because” is always spelled B-E-C-A-U-S-E, history is a series of names and dates and places to memorize, etc., etc. We get drilled into our heads that having the correct facts is the most important thing, and so that is how we see the world.
But it’s not how non-Western people see the world, and it’s not how ancient people saw the world. If you went back in time and asked an ancient Jew or Christian whether they literally believed that Adam was the first human being, you would first have to explain what you meant by “literally.” They would probably ask you what difference it made. If you managed to explain it so they could understand it, they would probably say that yeah, they believed that Adam was the first human being, but it would still be a case of us imposing modern categories on them.
An example: St. Augustine did not believe that the world had been created in six days. St. Augustine believed that the world had been created instantaneously, fully formed, all at once, the entire cosmos out of nothing to planets and stars with plants, animals, and human beings. He took the first chapter of Genesis as metaphorical, and had no problems doing so, and nobody batted an eyelash. Because it didn’t matter to them whether he believed the facts of the account, as long as he believed the truths it told.
I think you should be invited onto the podcast! That was great!!!
There is also a chasm between the way we understand what is important in the Bible from Eastern and Western mindsets. The Jews to whom Genesis was given understood, as you said, that God was in the beginning and that He created all things. I don’t know that all the time and effort put in to fretting about how many days or how old the earth is are really fundamental to the truth and ultimate message of the Bible and the reason we choose to worship Jesus. I don’t worship Jesus because I only believe in a literal 6 day creation, I worship Him because I believe He paid the price for my sin and offers me redemption through his death and resurrection.
I would add that McNight stating evolution is true probably needs to be unpacked. There are still a lot of scientific issues with traditional evolutionary theories that just don’t hold up in my average personal opinion.
Sorry… I love you guys but this was not your best show.
I appreciate what science is and what it brings to our society. I am thankful that there are both Christian scientists and theologians committed to finding harmony between advances in scientific knowledge and a faith that goes back thousands of years. One thing I have noticed, however, when it comes to the efforts made to reconcile science and Genesis accounts, is a lack of consideration for the miraculous. It seems to me that evangelical Christian scientists are usually not out to debunk miracles in other parts of the Old and New Testaments. They are fine with water being turned into wine, oil and flour lasting for days, storms being stopped, numerous healings and the virgin birth. These occurrences defy scientific explanation and can be a major stumbling block to belief for some. But, still we don’t say, “Well, science has clearly shown us that water cannot magically turn into wine so there must be a different interpretation to this story.” On the contrary, we believe that these miracles are intentional acts of Divine intervention that serve important purposes of God. Yet, when it comes to Genesis, all of a sudden the tables get turned and science is now appearing to trump the miraculous in possibly one of the most miraculous acts of God – the creation of the universe and everything in it. Why is it okay to let science dictate terms for this part of our faith and not others? Is it possible that God did the miraculous with the first humans created – perhaps instead of people passing on common genes, their children were born with completely new genes? Or is it possible that in Genesis 11 when God scattered people, he also scattered their DNA so that no one was related any more? I know that this is complete speculation, but it certainly is not outside the scope of God’s ability.
Faith and science will always cross swords over the miraculous. Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection embody the miraculous. As a Christian, I can accept this faith/science conundrum because I acknowledge a creative God of order and rules, but who is still not bound by order and rules.
Good point about accepting the miraculous, Paul. It might help to look at three specific scientifically-impossible events in Scripture and compare how we treat them. 1st, a donkey spoke to Balaam (Num. 22:22-30). 2nd, a bunch of trees had a conversation (Judg. 9:7-15). 3rd, a serpent spoke to Eve (Gen. 3:1-5). Which of these stories describe miracles and which are using creative types of writing not bound by what happens naturally?
For me, a big indication is whether something is described as miraculous. When the donkey speaks because God “opened the mouth of the donkey,” that suggests a miracle. When the trees simply speak without any explanation for how this occurs, maybe we’re reading something closer to a fable than a history lesson. In the Eden story, no explanation for the serpent’s speech is given (certainly no mention of Satan!). The serpent is just introduced as the most subtle of all the creatures, just like those trees are introduced as going out to anoint a king over themselves. Both stories treat these events as if they’re common — because within the imaginative world of the story, they are!
Sure, some reject miracles in the Eden story because they don’t believe in miracles. For me, it’s because a story with a talking serpent and trees that give knowledge and immortality doesn’t sound like a dry history lesson. I’d have to ignore the way the story is written to take it literally, just like the story of talking trees. Taking those talking trees as evidence of a miracle misses the point of that story, and it’s the same with Eden. The point of the tree of life isn’t that there’s some source of immortality other than God, it’s that humanity broke fellowship with God and so distanced themselves from the only source of life. The human is formed from dirt and split in two, then brought back together into one flesh before returning to dirt in death. That’s poetry, not history! It shows how men and women are made of the same stuff, how we need community as well as God, how marriage creates a bond stronger than blood. These messages get lost if we reduce the story to facts about a long-dead man and woman. If this is our story, the human story, then it matters today as much as it ever did.
I do not feel my faith hinges on a young earth or an old earth. I was troubled by some of Scot’s thoughts though. He repeated that there needed to be no fewer than 10,000 humans to get to our gene pool. How does evolutionary science get to a beginning of 10,000 humans?
If we suppose that God created through a big bang and millions of years why are the number of miracles involved in this less objectionable to God creating in 7 days and starting with one man? Unless I am really out of the loop I do not believe science has shown evidence of one species becoming another. I am pretty sure that science has not observed a beneficial genetic mutation in any current organisms. I farm some and herbicide resistance is a growing issue. These weeds have not changed to resist the herbicides. The resistance was present in the genetic information before humans invented herbicides. The repeated use of the herbicides just reduced the gene pool to those plants that survive the herbicide. So if God created through evolution how many miracles did it take to get from single cell life to 10,000 humans showing up a once?
Another thing I did not care for is talking about science as an infallible institution. Science is a method that hypothesizes and tests ideas. Scot mentioned that it was once thought that the earth was the center of the universe and everything rotated around it. That was not a biblical idea. Might have been church idea. Isaiah described the earth as a circle before science. Scripture said the life is in the blood before science got through a lot of wrong ideas about medicine. Archeological science has stated Biblical characters like David did not exist and others that has later been proven incorrect. So why the fear of genetics? Would not surprise me at all if time passes and science might say we have a common ancestor.
And one more thought. Someone on the podcast should have asked about Noah. He would be the closest common ancestor.
ncbi.nlm.nih.govI don’t know if you’re out of the loop or not but we definitely do observe speciation and transition all the time in biology. Here are a few examples:
We also observe plenty of beneficial mutations. They are rare, it’s true, but since a mutation is considered “beneficial” or “deleterious” based on the conferred likelihood of reproduction of the carrying individual (i.e. a beneficial mutation is one that helps you have more children than someone without it), they tend to spread quickly while the harmful ones are quickly weeded out: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1931526/
These beneficial mutations can also include entirely new genes (though more often they involve modification of existing ones, or duplicates thereof). In your example of herbicide resistance, you are correct that the herbicide acts to winnow down the population that does not carry a gene which happens to allow for resistance, but new mutations continue to occur in the population, eventually giving rise to new variation on which further selective forces may act.
Also, while you didn’t mention it, a mutation must, by definition, add information to a genome. This is because of the definition of information. For each mutation, additional data is required about the carrying individual to distinguish it from the rest of the population. The requirement of additional data for greater specificity is the definition of information.
An ancestral population of 10,000 does not mean that 10,000 Homo sapiens popped into existence “at once” and the rest of us are descended from them. It means that in our evolutionary history, the line which eventually led to us never had fewer than 10,000 individuals since it split from our last common ancestor with modern chimpanzees around 6-12 million years ago, according to available genetic, fossil and geographic distribution data.
Genetic studies peg our last common female ancestor (sometimes known as “Mitochondrial Eve” ) as having lived up to 156,000 years ago, while our last male common ancestor (sometimes known as “Y-Chromosome Adam”) lived as much as 581,000 years ago, which means that he lived before the proper emergence of Homo sapiens as a species.
If you’re unfamiliar with how scientists understand evolution and conclude that evolutionary theory is the most accurate way to understand observed trends in biology and related fields, I would highly recommend this blog series by Dennis Venema, the co-author of the book they discussed in this podcast: http://biologos.org/blogs/dennis-venema-letters-to-the-duchess/series/evolution-basics
I’d also be happy to answer any questions you have about why scientists accept evolution. You can see my brief explanation of evolutionary theory in another comment on this same page.
Well said Paul! I love what you said!
Also, do we fully understand the impact the isolation of gene pools at the Tower of Babel has on our modern day understanding of DNA? Do we have a computer model or something that can take such an event into consideration? How do we know it’s right?
Where does this leave the story of Noah? Just a localized event? another metaphor? Genesis 6 seems pretty clear that the entire human race was wiped out except for Noah. So even if we were to accept that Adam was one of at least 10,000 people in the beginning, the bible is clear that we still all descended from Noah and his wife.
I’m okay with letting science fill in the gaps in the creation account. But science has gotten a lot of things very wrong throughout the years, and still makes a lot of assumptions, while standing on them as fact.
What concerns me is when we allow these scientific “facts” to supersede our faith in God’s word. When you think about it, if someone tells us that modern humans had to have descended from a group at least 10,000 large, we can only accept that on faith. So if we accept that and reject the biblical account, we are essentially putting our faith in man, not God.
Well said Eric!
Sadly I think some of the religious representatives that are on media are taking up the allegorical argument such as Bill O’Reilly. As I heard Bill Creasy say once if you keep watering down or explaining away the miracles, where do you stop and what exactly do you believe in? There are plenty of Christian apologists using science that can provide an excellent argument against macro-evolution. It would be up to the person hearing both sides to chose what he believes is more plausible.
The assertion that there were at least 10,000 humans as genetic origin would also unravel the usual reading of the Noah story to some extent (8 people, worldwide flood), would it not?
Also, how is the step before these 10,000 explained – 10,000 created? 10,000 evolutions from pre-human state? or what?
It’s explained similarly to the claim that there were never fewer than several thousand speakers of modern English. Of course these speakers descended from people who spoke earlier forms of English, and ultimately other languages, but there was never a single individual that decided to start speaking a new language. The shift happened gradually within a sizeable population.
Dennis has a good chapter on that in the book.
So you’ve read the book then? Is he saying that evolution is true and we should accept that?
What about the other issues brought up about Creation and the miraculous?
(curious… not antagonistic since you can’t hear my tone.)
Yes, Dennis Venema accepts evolution. He talks a bit about his story in the book. He accepted ID for a while, including during his early years teaching biology at Trinity Western University in Canada. He explains what changed his mind, and what did and didn’t change about his faith in God as creator. You can also get a lot of this on his blog (http://biologos.org/blogs/dennis-venema-letters-to-the-duchess).
As for creation and the miraculous, I’m not sure what your specific question is. I believe God created everything that is, endowed matter with properties that allow it to react and change in various ways, and continually empowers creation to be what God created it to be. Miracles are an important part of my faith, but so is God’s ongoing providential care through what we may describe as natural processes.
Oh, and yes, I read the book! 🙂
As someone who is studying to be a paleontologist and who is trying hard to hang on to my Christian faith, I’m glad you’re willing to bring Scot on your show, even though I suspect you all have various levels of agreement and disagreement with him. He’s absolutely right that those who know anything about science will be immediately turned off from the faith if they are told that they must deny reality in order to follow Christ. For the last 50-60 years, the American Church has tried hard to “defend the Bible” by insisting that it says things which are false. This is, as Scot points out, a recipe for disaster, and it’s heartening to see Christian leaders like Phil willing to consider the possibility that they’ve been wrong.
Science deals primarily in theory not law, it is good to hear one argument but there is always a good counter argument. Scot brings up information that supports a macro-evolution model but I believe if he ever wanted to debate a david wood or william lane craig he might find he still has a lot of homework to do. Thought I would bring up Acts 17:26 seems to not support his argument that Paul didn’t believe in a literal Adam.
I liked Scot’s arguments, particularly in the book. In the podcast, he seemed to be expecting a different audience where the science argument didn’t need to be made.
Acts 17:26 only helps in certain English translations. The “one man” translation inserts the word “man” not found in the Greek — it could just as easily be translated “one blood” or “one nation”.
If you look at that larger passage, it shows that whatever Paul personally believed, he didn’t waste time telling Greeks about a literal Adam. Apparently he didn’t consider it a necessary part of the gospel. He quotes their own myths (about us being offspring of the gods) rather than the Jewish story of Adam! Rather than an account where the first humans disobey and bring sin and death into the world, he talks of earlier days when God overlooked human ignorance, but now calls people everywhere to repent.
Paul took a similar tack even when speaking to Jews familiar with the story of Adam. In Romans, well before Paul uses Adam as a foil to Christ in chapter 5, he retells the story of humanity’s start and alienation from God as a story about many people rather than two individuals (Rom. 1:18-25). So for Paul, whether addressing Greeks or Jews, taking Adam as a literal individual wasn’t a big deal. Sin isn’t a problem that can be traced back to one man named Adam. Paul is adamant that the problem is us.
In scientific research, “laws” are observations which are found to be true in every case examined. Often, these laws are formulated prior to the theory that helps explain them. For example, Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, describing the motion of the planets as ellipses around the sun instead of circles around the earth, were formulated well before Newton formulated his theory of gravitation which helped explain why these laws were observed to be true.
The reason Darwinian evolutionary theory (as opposed to Lamarckian or Haeckelian) has been so successful for over 150 years is that it makes sense of the “law” that all organisms appear to fit into a nested hierarchy, as first noted by Linnaeus over 100 years earlier, by making use of another set of “laws,” namely:
1. All living things, by definition, reproduce.
2. All populations which reproduce produce more offspring than will survive to reproduce themselves.
3. All offspring are very similar to, but not 100% identical to their parent(s). These differences are generally due to genetic mutation (though this mechanism was not known to Darwin).
4. Some mutations confer an increase or decrease in likelihood of the carrying individual to survive long enough to reproduce, changing the overall average of heritable traits in the population in subsequent generations.
5. We observe that these principles in action result in speciation and change in population traits in the present day.
6. Fossils show that most organisms that existed in the past do not exist in the same form today, that those forms tend to appear less and less complex and less like modern ones the further back in the fossil record we look and that many past forms bear certain similarities to both older and younger ones, but tend to be intermediate between them.
Based on these principles, biologists have been fantastically successful in accurately describing and predicting everything from the location and traits of fossils like Tiktaalik, Australopithecus and Homo habilis prior to their discovery, to creating vaccines like polio by causing it to evolve to be less effective in humans.
In the time since On the Origin of the Species was first published, no evidence has been found which falsifies any of the necessary predictions or tenets of evolutionary theory, hence its near-universal acceptance among scientists of all faiths.
So… none of that brings up any issues for me. Where I stop is one species turning into another because we don’t really see evidence of that.
I’ve always thought that one of the reasons evolution was adopted and so vigorously promoted was to separate us from God. If we aren’t created, but the result of a big bang, then we owe nothing to God. (I mean this as a purely spiritual comment and not a comment on the efficacy of evolution as a science.)
So this episode bothered me. I feel like maybe they needed more time to unpack and we kind of needed Skye to do some clarification for us. Maybe he can address this on his blog or something?
I’m so grateful so many people commented and had such intelligent things to say! It helped me process what McNight was trying to say and added some additional context. Thanks for being a great group of people!!