Review of Christianity Today article: Search for Historical Adam

Christianity Today’s most recent cover article discusses new theories concerning the Historical Adam.  It focuses on the group “Biologos” established by Francis Collins, whose goal is “to contribute to the public voice that represents the harmony of science and faith and address the escalating culture ware between science and faith in the United States” (wikipedia).  Francis Collins was nominated by Barack Obama to be the director of the National Institutes of Health in 2009.  Collins considers himself to be an Evangelical Christian, and because of this, his confirmation was fraught with questions from secular lawmakers and leaders in the secular intellectual community of his “fitness” to hold the position due to his religious beliefs.  Although his confirmation is a positive step in the sense that he considers himself an Evangelical Christian, the problem is that Dr. Collins and his group Biologos largely affirm what is called “theistic evolution,” and they are working to make this the key to harmonizing the supposed gulf between science and faith concerning human origins and the creation of the world.  This blog entry is a review of Christianity Today’s handling of this hot debate and their approach to the Biologos position as well as a critique of the new “population genomics”.

Christianity Today’s Treatment of the Debate

First, a word about Christianity Today’s treatment of the article in the most recent issue of their magazine.  I commend Christianity Today in that they illustrate just what is at stake when you begin to toy with the age of the earth and assert theistic evolution.  The Genesis account from chapters 1-11 is intricately tied to other teachings of the Bible, especially in the New Testament.  If we mess with the Creation account and call it allegorical or literary only, then we endanger the doctrines of the Fall, the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the authority of Scripture, and the effect of Sin and Christ as the second Adam who annuls Adam’s curse and brings salvation to the world.  You have to deal with the issue that Jesus and Paul assume the historicity of Adam and Eve.  Was Paul mistaken?  If so, how can you also assert the infallibility and authority of the Bible?  Christianity Today allows Richard Ostling to write the main article on the Historical Adam debate.  Ostling is a religion writer with Time Magazine, and therefore, comes at this from a perspective that would attempt to be objective, yet definitely not from the presuppositions of a conservative Evangelical.  I will commend Ostling in understanding the implications of the theistic evolution argument.  Christianity Today then has an article on page 61 that outlines their position on the historical Adam with the title, “No Adam, No Eve, No Gospel.”  This statement is absolutely true, but the one page article’s main thesis is that the Historical Adam debate is not resolved and we need to be patient.  Also, the editor’s page “Inside CT” by Ted Olson on page 9 indicates that this debate is a “family meeting” rather than a polemic of enemies.  I take issue with this.  For the Biologos Foundation (whom Christianity Today would consider “part of the family”) is seeking to consider itself an Evangelical Christian group while at the same time denouncing the idea that Adam and Eve ever existed.  Christianity Today comes against this view by saying it is wrong, but I think the magazine is handling this with kid gloves because they don’t want to offend “old earth” proponents or intelligent design advocates who agree that the age of the earth is 4.6 billion years old.  It seems that the magazine in a quiet fashion points to the popularity of Old Earth Creationism, as well as communicating that the Young Earth view is simply intellectually untenable.  It also appears to me that the vast majority of Christians today assent to the belief in an Old Earth without understanding the implications of that view.  These implications, although present in the articles and comments from the magazine, were not prominent enough in my opinion.

Population Genomics

The latest weapon that the Biologos Foundation is using against the view of creationism and historical Adam is the theory of “population genomics”.  The main tenet of this argument is that when studying the genetic heritage of humanity, it seems almost certain that the complexity in our genetic makeup just could not come from one couple.  According to Dennis R. Venema, a senior fellow at Biologos: “the history of human ancestry involved a population bottleneck around 150,000 years ago and from this tiny group of hominids came everyone living today.  But the size of the group was far larger than a lonely couple: it consisted of several thousand individuals at minimum.  Had humanity begun with only two individuals, without millions of years for development…it would have required God’s miraculous intervention to increase the genetic diversity to what is observable today (25)”.  You think?  Seems to me that this is exactly what the Bible proposes – God’s miraculous intervention in creating the universe and mankind and dealing redemptively with humanity from Genesis to Revelation.  The problem with this argument is that it does not necessarily follow that genetic studies should dictate our conclusions concerning human origins.  C. John Collins and Fazale Rana are brought to the table as opposing voices to the “population genomics” argument.  Their counterpoints are quite convincing.  The bottom line appears to be that the science of genetic research is just not universally conclusive, and there are differing opinions on this issue from the scientific community.  Also, IF you take the theistic evolution line, it seems to follow that at some point down the line of evolution you come to a mutation in one anomaly within a species that turns the trajectory of that species down another branch in the process that eventually leads to humanity.  This “missing link” has been the obsession of evolutionary biologists for decades.  The search for “mitochondrial Eve” continues.  This search assumes the belief in an “Adam and Eve” even within evolutionary circles.  For there had to be a starting point of a single mutation to set the chain of natural selection in motion in a particular direction.  The problem is, this single person that sets the chain of mutation will never be unearthed.  The best that paleo-anthropology can do is to find “populations” with similar genetics and consider them to be the precursors of humanity.  This population is not the starting point, but the pool that inherits the traits of the original mutation.  Of course, I don’t buy this line of argument either, but I am just showing how one can interpret this issue without jumping to the conclusion of population genomics.

The Main Issue

The main problem concerning the issue of the origin of the universe and humanity is that so many Evangelical Christians are buying into the notion that the earth is 4.6 Billion years old without considering the theological implications.  If the earth is that old and humanity came into existence on account of a billion year process of creation, extinction, creation, extinction, and evolution (even if God is the cause and determiner of it), how do we deal with the consequences of the Fall?  Genesis, Romans, Revelation, the Gospels, etc. all point to cosmic consequences of the Fall of Adam and Eve.  Because of their sin, the earth is changed.  Because of their sin, death comes to the world.  Because of their sin, the entire creation groans for redemption in the consummation of Christ’s return and the new heavens and new earth (Romans 8; Revelation).  There is a yearning of creation to be redeemed because of what happened when Adam fell in the garden.  Theistic evolution and the Old Earth view of creation obliterate this main narrative from the Bible.  This is DANGEROUS ground.  Because of this, the argument and debate over Historical Adam is not just a “family meeting.”  It is a theological battle that must be won by those who believe that Adam and Eve DID exist, were created by God historically, and actually did historically Fall in the Garden of Eden.  The fact remains that both Theistic Evolution and Old Earth views of creation have yet to adequately answer the theological problem of the cosmic consequences of sin and death.

My Position

When I was growing up, I loved learning about dinosaurs and T-Rex, Velociraptor, Triceratops, Brontosaurus and the like.  As a kid, I loved the movie, Land Before Time.  As a teenager, I was fascinated by Discovery Channel and PBS documentaries about the origins of life and creation.  It made common sense to me that the earth was billions of years old and that species change over time.  I bought hook-line-and-sinker the argument that evolution is a scientific fact.  I therefore attempted to reinterpret the Genesis account to jive with modern scientific theory.  I prided myself thinking that I had a handle on how it all went down.  While in college and seminary, however, I began to realize the implications of Biblical Interpretation.  If we say that Adam and Eve really did not exist as the Bible says they did, or if we say that the story of Noah really is just a good story but really did not occur as the Bible states, then we have to say that the Bible is not accurate on some points.  Then, we cannot say that the Bible is totally true, since it says something happened when it really did not.  This obliterates the authority and trustworthiness of Scripture.  And this is why we have millions of people walking around us today that see the Bible as a nice book of ancient fairy tales that really does not have a say on their life today.  Until the Old Earth view can legitimately and theologically argue how the earth can be both 4.6 billion years old with evolution, extinction, death, and carnivorism and yet also have a historical Adam and Eve, whose fall has cosmic consequences on the entire created order, I cannot accept their position.  I maintain my faith that the Bible is the Word of God and is inerrant and totally trustworthy and authoritative.  I must trust in the full historicity of Genesis 1-11.

The Historical Adam debate with the likes of BioLogos is not a family meeting; it is a struggle of the truth of the Gospel.  The views of BioLogos must be seen as heretical in the sense that their views (even though possibly unintentional) do indeed undermine the Gospel of the Bible.   We need to quit tiptoeing around the issue and begin to communicate the true implications of the beliefs concerning the age of the earth.

New Website

Well, I have made the change to a new website: joshuatmoore.com.  This website is powered by WordPress and will serve as my personal website, blog, and communication tool and repository of all the stuff that I do.  I pray that this will be used to give glory and honor to God in Christ Jesus and that people may be edified by it.  My goal is to write two to three entries per week.

>The Christian’s Reward

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I have a pondering that I will continue to ruminate for weeks to come. One of the dangers that Christians always face in our lives is the temptation of legalism. One of the lasting statements that impacted me in my seminary courses was this: “there are two manifestations of the flesh. First, and more obvious, is the natural inclination to sin and follow after worldly desires and impulses. The second one, however, is less obvious, yet all the more prevalent. The second manifestation of the flesh is the natural tendency towards self-righteousness and the belief that we can gain righteousness and God’s blessing on our own merits.” This, of course, is legalism, pure and simple.

One of the aspects of the Christian life that has been bugging me lately is the question concerning how our works and personal righteousness will be rewarded in heaven. How are we rewarded in heaven? Is there a correlation between binding and loosing in heaven? In other words, is there an eternal significance tied to our works on earth? Will our eternal authority, pleasures, privileges, and STAKE (so to speak) be contingent upon our holiness in this life? If this is the case, does this jive with the gospel? What is the Scriptures teaching concerning our reward in heaven?
One of the old-time Southern Gospel hymns that I sang growing up was entitled, “Mansions Over the Hilltop”. Here is an example of the power of translation. For, the King James Version states in John 14:2 that Jesus says, “In my father’s house, there are many mansions.” Hence this consideration, “How big is my mansion going to be?” Is that contingent upon my walk with Christ? Is that contingent upon my personal holiness and devotion? The HCSB translates the verse this way, “In my father’s house, there are many dwelling places.” The NIV translates it, “In my father’s house, there are many rooms”. It seems in the context of this passage, that Jesus is referring to the house of God. Using this imagery, we can see that God’s house is BIG. It does not follow then, that Jesus would be saying that there are mansions within a house, for usually a mansion is not a part of the house, it is the house. In our sense of the term, the mansion would be the whole (whereas a room would be the part), just as a house would be considered the whole. Therefore, it makes sense to see that the mansion in view here is the MANSION of God; and it has a BUNCH of rooms! This passage indicates that Jesus is going to prepare a place for YOU, believer, in the house of God. It seems in evangelical Christianity, there is a lot of emphasis on Christian reward – streets of gold, mansions in glory, jewels in the crown, bliss, and happiness.

However, I would contend that this fascination on PERSONAL reward and glory in heaven misses the point of the gospel. For, what is the true reward of the Christian? Should it not be considered that the GREATEST reward that can be given to us by God is ETERNAL LIFE? The gospel of Jesus Christ is this: we were created to have a relationship with God that was pure and holy, where we completely do his will for his glory in perfect harmony and relationship and live forever. However, we rebelled against God and suffered the consequences of sin and death. Christ Jesus, the God man, came to this earth to be our substitutionary death and punishment for sin so that we can have a restored relationship with God and to have eternal life. We have received our adoption as sons of God through our faith in Christ Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet, we await the consummation of Christ’s return to be fully glorified in our relationship with God and in our inheritance of eternal life. The gospel points to us that the KEY reward that we have in heaven is perfect relationship with our Creator and ETERNAL LIFE! Think about this: does it not make sense that the GREATEST fulfillment in life is to have life eternal and a relationship that fully and perfectly glorifies and honors God in all that we do, in which we are fully and perfectly satisfied in our selves, our work, and our relationships?
The Christian’s reward of Eternal Life and Perfect Relationship with Yahweh God is what will make heaven, heaven. Everything else will pale in comparison. Jesus was telling his disciples that he was about to leave, and Thomas wanted to know where he was going. Jesus responded that he was going to prepare a place for us. This place is a place where we will never see death again and we will live forever in perfect peace and harmony with the God who created us and loves us.

>I’m back!

>I have taken a long hiatus from writing blog posts due to the need to finish up my Masters of Divinity degree from Southern Seminary. Now that this degree has been completed, I can resume writing in this blog and will be more active in the social networking scene. It is amazing how long it has been since I have posted anything on Twitter or Facebook before finishing up at Southern. I am looking forward to this new chapter in my life.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

>The Divine – Human Relationship – putting things in the right perspective

>I am reading Bruce Ware’s God’s Greater Glory: The Exulted God of Scripture and the Christian Faith for my Systematic Theology I class. In my reading today, I came across a paragraph that puts our relationship with God truly in perspective. This should do nothing but humble us:

Understanding rightly our relationship with God must begin with the supremacy, the superiority, the sovereignty, and the self-sufficiency of God. Our urge to have a relationship with God just like we do with a good friend falters right here! Like it or not (and, by the way, by God’s grace we should and shall like it if we do not now), this is not a relationship among equals, nor is it even a relationship with one older and wiser than myself. Rather, this relationship is radically unlike any human relationship, and one for which no explanation exists on the human level. Why would the divine partner in this relationship care to be in relationship with another? For in this relationship, one Member of the relationship knows absolutely everything (and this is not a hyperbolic expression in this case), and the other knows far less than he thinks. One Member has perfect foresight and knows every detail of what the future holds, and the other has difficulty knowing where to lay hands on his keys before he heads to the car. One Member has such perfect wisdom, insight, and discernment that there never has been a time in his entire history (a long one at that!) that his plans have proved misguided or his judgment has been askew, while the other member of the relationship through himself wise once when he figure out a clever shortcut to take, until he ended up on a long dead-end road! One Member possesses every quality or perfection in his being both infinitely and intrinsically, while the other possesses only a miniscule amount and only then because any and all of it has been graciously given to hin by the One who has it all! One Member cannot make a rock bigger than he can lift, because his power to do anything he chooses simply cannot be limited, while the other has difficulty most mornings making it out of bed, much less getting in his coffee and devotions and morning run. One Member is absolutely honest, completely trustworthy, never breaks a promise, always keeps his word, is always on (his) time, and always does his work exactly right, every time, while the other…well, let’s just say that they other doesn’t fare well here. (Bruce Ware, God’s Greater Glory, 164.)

>Thank you to the DFBC Children’s Committee

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I want to give a HUGE thank you to the children’s committee at Dresden First Baptist Church. They put on what I think is the best Fall Festival yet at Dresden First. It was highly attended and everyone seemed to have a blast.

I know how much effort and planning and logistics goes into making this event happen every year and I simply want to say THANK YOU!

>And the most popular baby boys’ name in England is…

>You may already know this but were you aware that the most popular baby boy’s name in England is now Mohammed.

Check out this article:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/27/mohammed-britains-most-po_n_775145.html

This is very interesting and shows the state of Christianity in England. We need to pray for a revival of Evangelical Christianity in England, the country that gave us Baxter, Wesley, Newton, Wilberforce, Whitfield, and so many others.

>The Origins of Halloween and the Christian Response

>Have you ever wondered where the holiday “Halloween” came from? Did you know that this holiday has origins both in Pre-Christian paganism and the Roman Catholic Church calendar? Did you know that the Protestant Reformation began on October 31st almost 500 years ago? As a Christian, it is important to understand the origins of this holiday and to place it in proper perspective. Therefore, this post will help to provide a Christian perspective to this interesting holiday.

Pre-Christian Pagan Origins

Halloween is originally based on the pagan
Gaelic festival entitled, Samhain (pronounced: sa:win). This was a harvest festival based on ancient Celtic polytheism. Samhain marked the end of the harvest, ending the “lighter half” of the year and beginning the “darker half”. Some scholars believe that this festival was the beginning of the Celtic new year. Samhain in many ways resembles a festival of the dead; because during this celebration, the Gaelic people believed that participants could commune with those in the spirit world. In fact, the border between this world and the Spirit world became so thin during this celebration that they believed some would be caught up in the spirit world. The Gaelics had the custom of marking this festival by setting off many bonfires and wearing costumes and masks in an attempt to copy the spirits and placate them.


Association

with the Catholic Christian Calendar

The Catholic Church during its spread throughout the Roman Empire after Christianity became legal in the 4th Century had the practice of “Christianizing” pagan holidays so that Christianity would be more palatable to pagans. Thus, the Roman Catholic Church took the Roman festival of Lemuria and changed it into what is called “All Saints Day”. Lemuria was a feast in the religion of ancient Rome during which Romans performed rites to exorcise the malevolent and fearful ghosts of the dead from their homes. This festival of the dead was celebrated around May 13th and became the Catholic All Saints’ Day (which is still celebrated by Catholics today). This new “Christianized” holiday All Saints’ Day commemorates all those who have attained the “beatific vision of Heaven.” In other words it commemorates all of those who have made it out of purgatory into paradise. You can tell why this is a Catholic holiday. In the 8th Century, All Saint’s Day was moved from May 13th on the Catholic Calendar to November 1 to coincide with the Gaelic festival of Sawhain (thus attempting to Christianize this festival as well – a Catholic version of killing two birds with one stone). Another holiday was then added on November 2nd entitled All Souls’ Day, which is a day set aside by Catholics to pray for the faithful departed who are still consigned to Purgatory to pay for their venial sins. Thus, Catholics pray for their departed loved ones in a hope that they may assist in bringing them out of purgatory into heaven. Another name for All Saints’ Day (on November 1) is All Hallows’ Day (Hallow = Saint). Then, October 31st became known as All Hallow’s Eve, which was then shortened to Hallow-even, thus Hallowe’en. Many of the pre-Christian pagan festivities were retained and celebrated during this Hallow’s Eve day in, but then the Christian (Catholic) celebration was observed on the following two days.


October 31 and the Protestant Reformation

For Protestants, however, this day takes on a more unique significance. On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, sparking the Protestant Reformation. Ironically, Luther’s main concern in his 95 Theses was the use of indulgences (coin / money offerings given to the church) to bring loved ones out of purgatory. This, of course, is similar thinking to the concept of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. John Tetzel, the great Indulgence Salesman who prompted Luther’s 95 Theses, was famous for saying, “Once a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from Purgatory springs.” Due to the newly invented printing press, the nailed “95 Theses” was quickly printed and distributed throughout Germany and brought Luther into the radar of the Catholic Church. When Luther did not back down, he was asked to defend himself at the Diet of Worms in April of 1521, where he would not recant and only escaped death due to the protection provided by Prince Frederick and his exile to Wartburg Castle. Because Martin Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation on October 31st, 1517, many Protestants celebrate this day each year as “Reformation Day”. It is a day of remembrance (officially celebrated mainly by Lutherans) held usually on the Sunday before October 31st. However, many other Protestant (including Evangelical) denominations have recently started seeing Reformation Day as a good alternative to Halloween.

Halloween Today

Halloween today has become largely a “secular” holiday that includes some seemingly innocent traditions as dressing up in costumes, trick-or-treating, jack-o-lanterns, fall festivals, bobbing for apples, haunted houses, and the like. However, the commercialization and increase in the TV media of the holiday has made Halloween a big business (sales each year average around $6 Billion). Cable-TV channels usually have special programming during the month of October leading up to the holiday that focuses on horror movies. Primetime drama and comedy programming on network television usually have Halloween themed shows. I realized the pervasiveness of this when just this evening I saw that the show Outsourced (an NBC comedy that follows an American who works as a manager in India for a call-center) had a Halloween based show tonight where there was a Halloween party in India. I need to research the practice of celebrating the holiday of Halloween in India.

An undercurrent of all these secular trends in Halloween is a fascination on death and ghoulish behavior. This fascination tends to do one of two things. It either tends to trivialize and mock death, thus taking the consequences and finality of death lightly, or it over-emphasizes and dwells too much on death making it overly gruesome and horrifying, feeding the secular (and non-Christian) fear of death. Another issue is that there is an abundance of occult and pagan practices that are either overtly practiced on this holiday or at least alluded to and toyed with. Neopaganism, although a small phenomenon, is making a comeback. Many are opting to go all the way back to the pagan roots and celebrate the pagan ritual of Samhain just as the Gaelics did over 1500 – 2000 years ago.

How should Christians deal with Halloween?

To say the least, a Christian response to the complex holiday of Halloween is tricky. The secular buy-in to this holiday is quite pervasive. Trick-or-treating and costume wearing is almost a community rite that is expected to include Christian participation. Christians (especially Evangelicals) have chosen to respond in various ways:

1. Total Refusal to Participate due to the tie-in to ancient paganism and the occult.
2. Further “Christianizing” through various ways:
a. Judgment Houses – where the church sponsors a haunted house that provides a glimpse into Heaven and Hell and is used as an evangelistic tool.
b. Fall Festivals: sponsored by churches to be a family friendly alternative (or addition to) trick-or-treating and is used as evangelistic opportunities.
c. Trunk or Treat – another evangelistic idea that ties into the tradition of trick-or-treating.
3. Deciding to celebrate Reformation Day instead of Halloween.
4. Playing along with the community in the holiday. Trick-or-treating with kids and handing out candy, but not going “all out”.
5. Full acceptance and enjoyment of the holiday.

What is the best response? First, every Christian parent should be aware of the origins of the holiday and the dangers of the occult and ghoulish overtones in Halloween. Secondly, Christians should support any evangelical work that their church decides to do on this holiday to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and provide a family friendly atmosphere to enjoy the holiday. Thirdly, as a Baptist and a Protestant, I believe we should set aside this day to also remember the heritage of Martin Luther and the significance of Reformation Day, commemorating October 31, 1517. Finally, we need to take the opportunity that Halloween gives to us to teach our children and fellow Christians the proper, Christian perspective on death. Death is an enemy, but it has been defeated and vanquished, not by divination, the occult, or pagan rituals, but by Jesus Christ. It is His death on the cross and His resurrection three days later that conquered the sting and fear of death. As it says in I Corinthians 15:54-58, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting? Now the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that our labor in the Lord is not in vain.”