R Evans, Genesis in Context - 11

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Index of Genesis in Context by Bro Roger Evans, 2021

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11. The Two Books of God

NB: not integrated into wiki

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” The premise of God as universal Creator, expressed in the opening words of Scripture, is fundamental to the testimony of His existence and purpose.

The Bible tells us that God made all things. In the book of Job, God spends four chapters (38-41) assuring us of His causative power. In Psalm 19 we are told that “the heavens declare the Glory of God”, the firmament being witness to His creative work. Paul declares that the Creation is the affirmation of the everlasting power and divinity of the one Creator, the proof to all mankind of His existence, and the foundation of the requirement for all men to know Him and to worship Him (Romans 1:18-21).

Also fundamental to our faith is the premise that God is True (2 Cor 1:18; 1 John 5:10) and that His word is Truth (John 17:17). Truth is the whole basis of our faith in Him. Indeed, Scripture confirms that our hope rests in God’s Word, and His affirmative oath- two things, Paul says, “in which it is impossible for God to lie”(Heb 6:18). The means by which Scripture communicates truth can vary: sometimes in parable, sometimes in prophecy, sometimes by allusion, sometimes by plain statement. Though we may misunderstand or misconstrue it (1 Cor 13:2, 2 Peter 3:16) the error is always ours; we are assured that the essence of all Scripture is truth.

From these two fundamental principles, a third follows. If God is True, and if He has created the Universe and all things in it, then the universe and all things in it must bear truthful and accurate witness to His creative work. As Science is the logical and testable process by which such physical witness is translated and deciphered, we cannot afford to dismiss its claims lightly.

Two ways to approach knowledge

There are two methods of evaluating new information: subjective, and objective. The subjective method assesses new information in the light of what is already known or believed. The objective method subjects all of the evidence, both old and new, to equal scrutiny before reaching an informed and (if necessary) revised conclusion of belief.

The inherent danger of the first method is, that if our initial premise is wrong, then any conclusion we reach will be wrong. The seeming disadvantage of the second is that absolute conclusions may never be reached; but in fact this is an advantage as, with improving knowledge, we are enabled to learn, and to draw progressively closer to absolute truth.

The subjective method locks us into a fixed worldview and stifles our ability to understand new proofs. To the contrary, the objective method releases us from our bondage to preconception. Objectivity is the means by which Science advances knowledge, and is also the foundation of sound Scripture study. Indeed, there is clear Scriptural precedent for the objective approach (Acts 17:11).

“The Bereans were of more noble (open-minded) character than the Thessalonians, because they received the message very eagerly, and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true”.

Why were the Thessalonian Jews less noble? Because their minds were closed to the premise that Jesus was Messiah. Paul’s message, of a Gospel that included Greeks, also contravened their traditional belief that salvation was exclusively for the Jews. While some believed, the jealous majority turned hostile (Acts 17:5). Not only did the Thessalonian Jews reject Paul’s message because it contradicted their traditional beliefs, but in defence of their prejudice they stirred up trouble. This vigorous defence of “truth” in the face of unwelcome “error” appears to have been their spiritual condemnation (1 Thess. 2:15-16).

If these principles hold true for our handling of God’s written testimony, do they not also hold true for our handling of His created testimony? If all of Creation is physical proof of God’s handiwork, as the Bible claims, then it is incumbent upon us to rightly handle the proofs of truth recorded in the laws and structure of the physical creation, and to diligently search with open minds and hearing ears to see whether these things are so, that we might be found faithful servants.

Strong delusions

See also →
Wisdom and Science

Evangelical fundamentalists often argue for sola scriptura — the principle that Scripture is not to be interpreted by external information. However, Scripture and the physical world are parts of an integrated whole. The nation of Israel and the Jesus of the Gospels are historical realities. We are happy to call upon archaeology to corroborate Scripture, particularly when we perceive a point of factual correspondence. We have no problem using secular history to interpret prophecy; indeed a ‘continuous historic’ reading of Revelation is reliant upon extra-biblical testimony of this kind. Should it be any less acceptable for ancient cultural contexts, and pre-historical evidence, to assist us in an understanding of the Word? God, having made the whole world and overseen all of history, does not limit His veracity to a subset of the facts.

Sola scriptura would be a valid premise if we comprehended perfectly all of God’s written communication, but we do not. As soon as we bring our own preconceptions and worldviews to the text, we impart external influence, and the thesis of ‘scripture alone’ is invalidated. For example, Genesis 1 reads very differently if we approach it from a Western material viewpoint, rather than the functional worldview of its original audience. When we deliberately read modern heliocentric cosmology into the text in defiance of its integral, ancient cosmological context, we are corrupting the message. Reading ancient texts in a modern scientific context, like pouring new wine into old skins, has a detrimental impact on their integrity.

The subjective approach is strongly evident in the Creation Research Society’s Statement of Belief:

  1. The Bible is the written Word of God, and because it is inspired throughout, all its assertions are historically and scientifically true in the original autographs. To the student of nature this means that the account of origins in Genesis is a factual presentation of simple historical truths.
  2. All basic types of living things, including man, were made by direct creative acts of God during the Creation Week described in Genesis. Whatever biological changes have occurred since Creation Week have accomplished only changes within the original created kinds.
  3. The great flood described in Genesis, commonly referred to as the Noachian Flood, was an historic event worldwide in its extent and effect.
  4. We are an organization of Christian men and women of science who accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. The account of the special creation of Adam and Eve as one man and one woman and their subsequent fall into sin is the basis for our belief in the necessity of a Savior for all mankind. Therefore, salvation can come only through accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior.

By precluding any other possible interpretation of Scripture, such an approach prohibits an open reappraisal of God’s Word, and limits all examination of the physical proofs of Creation to the constraints of a preconceived model. If that model proves to be incorrect, then we have bound salvation to the acceptance of interpretative error.

On the contrary, the objective approach permits us to learn; testing new information against the old. Christianity is itself the product of the objective reassessment of Scripture in the light of the words of Christ considered alongside the claims of the Jewish Faith. For this reason, creeds and statements of belief should never be deemed inviolable against and above a careful examination of the evidence of Scripture.

Scientific research is also objective. It is driven by a desire to gain knowledge of the natural world, and is motivated by the thrill and kudos of discovery. Scientific claims must be underpinned by proofs that can be independently cross checked or reproduced. Deceit, or collusion to deceive, brings a shame that is fatal to both status and career. Upon discovering new facts, science constantly corrects itself, and revises or even overturns its theories. Clinging to old theories in the face of new proofs brings personal discredit, and contingent loss of prestige. Risk of error is minimised by the process of peer review prior to publication.

Science is neither a conspiracy to deceive or a plot to discredit God, but a means of understanding the natural world using our Divinely given faculties of methodical observation and deduction (Proverbs 25:2). When we scorn or dismiss science without valid grounds, we scorn the proofs of God’s creative work, bringing contempt upon our faith and discredit upon our Creator.

For the Christian believer, the evidences of Science, and the words of God’s testimony, must be resolved into one harmonious whole, if the truth of His handiwork is to be correctly understood. If there is one God, there can only be one Truth, revealed in his words and in his acts; and these two witnesses must be consistent with each other. In the search for that truth, all interpretation, both scriptural and scientific, must be carefully assessed against the whole balance of evidence. If we discard or ignore facts in this process, or judge with subjective bias, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

If God is the Creator, then an objective study of nature is the Divinely provided wise way to understand His material creation, in the spirit of Proverbs 8:22-31. If we accept some of the scientific proofs of His creation, such as the fact that the earth revolves around the sun and not vice versa, then we must be willing to accept other similarly validated proofs, lest by being partial in matters of fact we make God a liar. In reconciling the physical proofs of Science with a reading of Genesis, we need to constantly remind ourselves that we are seeking truth, not justifying a premise.

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