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.

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>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.”

>Star Trek and Christianity

> Bonnie and I went to the Star Trek movie on Friday and it was a good movie. It is one of the best Star Trek movies I have seen. I must admit to everyone that I am a bit of a “trekkie” and did some “research” before the film came out. When I was a kid, Star Trek the Next Generation was out and I enjoyed watching that on TV each week. That TV series along with the franchise movies fed the sci-fi junkie in me. But as I have become more and more sensitive to worldview issues over the past couple of years, I noticed something different about Star Trek as I read about the franchise online on Wikipedia. I read about its development and the creator of the story line, Gene Roddenberry. In his Wikipedia article, this is what it says:

“Although Roddenberry was raised as a Southern Baptist, he did not embrace the faith; he viewed religion as the cause of many wars and suffering in human history. Roddenberry considered himself a humanist and an agnostic athiest. According to Brannon Braga, “In Gene Roddenberry’s imagining of the future […] religion is completely gone. Not a single human being on Earth believes in any of the nonsense that has plagued our civilization for thousands of years. This was an important part of Roddenberry’s mythology. He, himself, was a secular humanist and made it well-known to writers of Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation that religion and superstition and mystical thinking were not to be part of his universe. On Roddenberry’s future Earth, everyone is an atheist. And that world is the better for it.”

That is a powerful quote. In other words, one of the main reasons for creating the series in the 1960s was to project a sort of “utopian” society based on athiestic naturalism. Athiesm is, of course, the belief that there is no God. Naturalism is the belief that the Cosmos is all that there is and all that there ever will be and that every is determined by random cause and effect. All that can be known about the universe can only be done through scientific observation. Scientific naturalism has advanced (and succeeded in large degree) into convincing the world (at least the scientific and academic world) that macro-evolution as taught by Charles Darwin is correct and that everything that exists in the world and universe today is the result of billions of years of random naturalistic causation.

It appears that Gene Roddenberry and the other creators of the Star Trek franchise is attempting to produce a visual and theatric portrayal of what an athiestic, completely naturalistic, society would look like. According to their viewpoint the universe would be completely fine, in fact “better for it”, without “any of the nonsense that has plagued humanity.” That plague, in Roddenberry’s viewpoint, would be religion – specifically Christianity. If you watch the television series through the lens of faith, you will notice that all of the characters and episodes of the series deal with athiestic altruism and scientific and naturalistically based fantasy.

We live in a society and in a time of a supercharged media and entertainment system that is able to bring movies to the big screen that have eye-popping special effects and dramatic storylines that captivate us and take hold of our attention in ways that have never occurred before with such power. Because of this, we must be so very careful on how such information is disseminated into our minds and into our families. We must educate ourselves and our families of the major worldviews and thought systems in the world and be able to recognize them when they surface in the mainstream media and entertainment industry. Not knowing the thought systems that compete against the Gospel will put yourself at risk of being dulled through special effects, dramatic sequences, and headlines into believing or assuming something that is contrary to the Word of God.

I am not saying that you should not go watch Star Trek. But I am encouraging all of you to be careful. There are too many individuals in the United States and throughout the world that devote too much energy into creating fantasy lives for themselves. Movies like Star Trek and Star Wars (both movies I adored as a child and still enjoy to this day) have created complete secondary realities for many people. They operate out of a worldview and moral ethic that is based on a science-fiction film or television series and not on the realities of this world. I have a personality that is attracted to science fiction and fantastical stories like Star Wars, Star Trek, and Lord of the Rings. If you are like me, you understand the attraction of losing yourself in another world – learning about all the facts, histories, cultures, and wars of this non-existent world. You get lost in it, and forget that it DOES NOT EXIST. But you escape into it, you are released from the anxieties of your life into another time and another place, yes even another galaxy.

But, I have been taught by the word of God, and I thank God for that!:

Proverbs 28:19: He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.

Ecclesiastes 12:13: Now all has been heard; here is the conlusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments for this is the whole duty of man.

Isaiah 40:8: The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.

Matthew 6:22-23: The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. if then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

I Corinthians 13:11-12: When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fullty, even as I am fully known.

Beware of fantasy and lay hold the Word of God