Friday, July 25, 2014

Progressive and Degenerative research programs

By bringing to light the paradigmatic nature of all scientific research, [Thomas S] Kuhn raised the specter of epistemological relativism in the sciences. His insights led to a seemingly insoluble dilemma: Given the theory-laden nature of all science and the persistence of anomalies in most if not all scientific paradigms, how can we make value judgments between incommensurable but internally consistent research programs? And how can we clearly distinguish between science and pseudoscience, or between science and religion? Does it all in the end come down to a matter of faith—what one chooses to believe in—as many creationists claim?

It was in response to the Kuhnian dilemma of judging between incommensurable paradigms and establishing lines of demarcation to tell genuine science from pseudoscience that [Imre] Lakatos proposed the distinction between what he called progressive and degenerating research programs. His approach, which in certain ways synthesizes even as it critiques both Kuhn's and Popper's positions, was first published as a long chapter in Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge in 1970. [Ronald E. Osborn, Death Before the Fall: Biblical Literalism and the Problem of Animal Suffering (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2014), 62-3]

In chapter 4 of his book, Osborn attempts to deal somewhat with the nature and philosophy of science. I note with approval his interaction with Thomas Kuhn's groundbreaking theory of scientific paradigms, and not only does he cite Kuhn, but he actually deals fairly with Kuhn's theory both of scientific paradigms and incommensurability. He rightly sees Kuhn's philosophy of science as antirealist and postmodern, and notes the problems Kuhn's theory might have in relativizing all "science," or rather both science and pseudoscience (an error Paul Feyerabend fell into). He notes that that is not Kuhn's original intent, and indeed it isn't. Kuhn after all believed in evolution and did not particularly liked the way his work have been used by creationists. All in all, I must say I'm rather pleased with Osborn's portrayal of both Kuhn's theory and the problems it might cause to his position against creationism. Definitely much much better than how he has portrayed creationists.

To deal with this problem, Osborn bring up Imre Lakatos's theory regarding progressive and degenerating research programs. Progressive research programs led to steady increase in new knowledge and new predictions that can be corroborated, while degenerating research programs led to ad hoc solutions to save the main theory. Now, although Osborn states that it was introduced in the book Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, his references are to essays written later published in later works. I am sure those would make interesting reading when I have the time. Now, Lakatos' distinction sounds like a good demarcation, but I am less sure about how it would actually work in practice. In the meantime, I would accept the distinction for the sake of argument.

The gist of Osborn's argument is that creationism is a degenerating research program, coming up with many ad hoc solutions to preserve their main theory, which doesn't really change much. In my interactions with the author so far, that has been one of his main points he has been pressing as well.

As we have seen, there is a difference between "operational science" and "historical science." And in the sense that creationism has a main theory that is largely held to regardless of the evidences (not in spite of them), it seems to fit Osborn's accusations of it being a degenerating research program. Now that is not really true, for scientific hypotheses that support creationism do make predictions, like the theory of Cosmological General Relativity by John Harnett. Regardless, I will concede for the sake of argument that by and large creationism fits Osborn's accusations. But what does that actually prove? That the past is not repeatable for experimentation? The fact of the matter is that creationism, as with evolution, deals with history, and history being non-repeatable does not really result in new predictions, since after all we do not (or should not) believe in cyclical time.

What I would like to focus on here is that Osborn neglects to place evolution under the same spotlight. As I have used as an example many times, the debate between gradualism and punctuated equilibrium shows that evolution is ultimately unfalsifiable. Darwin predicted many transitional fossils. When that didn't materialize, the theory of punctuated equilibrium was conceived. When two organisms have similar phenotypes despite their perceived phylogenetic distance, we call that "convergent evolution." When two organisms have very different phenotypes despite their perceived evolutionary closeness, we call that "divergent evolution." In what way are the use of these terms (and the concepts behind those terms) not ad hoc? What exactly can falsify evolution? Fossils in wrong places? Nope. Human fossils in pre-Cambrian rocks? Even Creationism does not predict that. What evidence can be brought to support evolution while at the same time rejecting Creationism? We have, in a sense, a null hypothesis and an alternate hypothesis, so what evidences can the evolutionist come up with that will do both (i.e. prove evolution, and reject Creationism)? I honestly do not see any.

So even if for the sake of argument I accept Lakatos' distinction, evolution comes off badly. Judging from the ad hoc theories and concepts in evolutionary theory, it should be labeled under "degenerating research program." Even if I were to concede Osborn's accusations against creationism, Osborn needs to apply his critique to evolution and reject it as well.

As I have said, history is not merely about science. In fact, going by the weight Scripture puts on eye-witness testimonies, testimonies trump "science" in the retelling of history. "Historical science" therefore must in some sense be "degenerative," since history in the final analysis cannot be proven just by science.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Miscellaneous errors and strawmen of YEC

Osborn in his continued attack on creationism have decided to light a bonfire of various errors and strawmen. It is really regrettable that, for someone who is writing against "literalism" and YEC, he does not even get the facts he's critiquing right. I would like to address in brief some of the errors and strawmen Osborn is bringing up and burning:

#1 Error: The land animals were created after Adam according to the plain reading of the Genesis 2 account, in Genesis 2:18-19 (p. 53)
Response: The verb for "made" there is in the Qal waw-consecutive imperfect, which CAN have a pluperfective meaning, so Osborn's reading is by no means the "plain interpretation" of the text. The same goes with the aorist tense in the LXX.

#2 Strawman: The entire world outside the Garden is already a verdent, nonthreatening oasis, according to YEC. (p. 53)
Response: False. The world outside the garden was indeed non-threatening, but still wild and disordered.

#3 Strawman: YEC, if they are to hold to 6-24 in light of the theory of relativity, must hold to a position that essentially says that creation occurs in 6-24 days as measured by "a clock located at a fixed spot on the surface of the earth, GMT- Garden Mean Time." (p. 55)
Response: Perhaps some versions of YEC might say that, but no. YEC does not care about the exact length of the day except that it is a normal earth day. It can be 25 hours or 36 hours, or 18 hours.

#4 Strawman: There is not enough time for Adam to do everything stated in 24 hours in Day 6
Response: This has been asked and answered to death already. I will just link to the answer here.

#5 Strawman: Creationists must be "forced" to harmonize the Genesis accounts, for "the task of producing absolute scientific and chronological harmony—no matter what the text say." (p. 56)
Response: Isn't that the question? What does the text actually say? Mocking an interpretation is not an argument against that exegesis of the text. How does Osborn know a priori that the YEC interpretation MUST be wrong?

#6 Strawman: "All the preflood geographical markers mentioned in Genesis 1-10 (the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the land of Cush, the land of Nod)" were left in place even after the Flood. (p. 57)
Response: False. There is no geographical area that fits the description of the Garden of Eden today on the earth. Where in this world is there a main river which splits into four rivers, of which two are the Tigris and the Euphrates? Where furthermore is there a place whereby a river called the Gihon that splits off from the Tigris and Euphrates and flow around the land of Cush (in the African continent) (Gen. 2:13), without being intercepted by the Mediterranean or the Red Sea? There is none. So the geographical features of the Garden of Eden do not exist anymore on earth, and thus were not "left in place."

#7 Error: All the YEC harmonizations are special pleading. (p. 57)
Response: That is not an argument. Upon what basis is it called "special pleading"? We are supposed to discuss what the text teaches, not what Osborn thinks is acceptable to his reason or not.

#8 Error: Evolutionary ideas can, in principle, be falsified. (p. 69)
Response: Specific theories can be falsified, but the grand theory itself is unfalsifiable. As the debate between Gradualism and Punctuated Equilibrium has shown, both the presence and absence of transition fossils prove evolution.

#9 Error: One "does not need any particular qualifications as a scientist to establish a name for oneself in fundamentalist circles as an expert in "creation science." (p. 69)
Response: To be someone that is actually acknowledged as a creation scientist (and not one of those unknowns writing for the "YEC position" in those "four views" or "counterpoints" books, one DOES need to have qualifications in science. In the professional YEC circles, quack scientists are not acknowledged as experts in anything. See here for a list of actual YEC scientists, many with PhDs in their fields.

"Literalism" and fideism

...we should base our beliefs about natural history no less than human history on the weight of the evidence, remaining very open to where the evidence might lead. Many literalists, though, live with a visceral terror, thinly veiled behind their statements of dogmatic certainty and superior faith, that the entire religious edifice they have dedicated their lives to constructing could at any moment come crashing down upon their heads. Theirs is a theology conceived as a high-stakes game of Jenga. Whatever you do, don't touch the bricks at the base of the tower.

The foundational importance of creationism for all Christian belief and practice is allegedly self-evident from the objective words of Scripture, so that strict literalism on Genesis cannot be subjectively denied by anyone who truly has faith in the Bible's authority and has read Scripture with intense inner devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. All external sources of knowledge, including even one's direct observations of empirical reality, must be regarded with an attitude of skepticism and doubt until situated in the reconstructed tower of knowledge built upon those putatively incontrovertible biblical foundations. Literalism and young earth or young life creationism are therefore varieties (although some creationists may protest otherwise) of the theological and epistemological stance known as fideism. They rest upon the conviction that human reason left to its own ways is not merely inadequate to arrive at full theological knowledge but in some sense antithetical or hostile to faith. [Ronald E. Osborn, Death Before the Fall: Biblical Literalism and the Problem of Animal Suffering (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2014), 44-5]

In this book, Osborn continues his attack on creationists as being narrow-minded fideists for quite some pages, attributing this narrow, terror-filled mindset to all YECs. I must say it always amuses me when people think they know the mindset of ALL YECs. After all, I don't remember when was the last time YECs, at least the respectable ones, have ever psychoanalyze their opponents.

So are there professed YECs who are fearful of the unknown, who refuse to read scientific literature and any others that oppose their mental "Jenga" tower edifice? Perhaps. But what does this have to do with the issue at all? Even if, let's say, all YECs fit that anti-intellectual Fundamentalist mold, that does not disprove young earth creationism one bit.

The problem comes when people accept uncritically the accusations of Liberals who mock those who hold to the faith during the Modernist-Fundamentalist controversy. Since the Liberals thought of themselves as progressivists, those who oppose them must, by definition, be backwards, otherwise their cause is called into question. The Liberals controlled most of the Academy, and so their baseless accusations are repeated as fact. To tar conservatives (both Reformed and Fundamentalists) as anti-intellectual simpletons, they found or manufactured the most egregious examples of anti-intellectualism and trumpeted that as the beliefs and behaviors of a typical conservative. A lie repeated many times sometimes can even be believed by its opponents as true and thus it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, in a phenomenon very much like that of Stockholm syndrome.

We have already seen this in the revisionist history concerning creationism. The first thing to do in attacking YEC is to deny its legitimacy, its standing as a viable theory. The revisionist history makes it out to be a creation of a quack scientist, a Seventh-Day Adventist by the name of George McGready Price. After all, for those who believe in the Bible, who would actually want to be associated with quack science and a group that is outside the pale of orthodoxy? Who wants to be associated with quacks who predict the second coming of Christ (and failed)? All of this revisionist history is meant to delegitimize creationism as something even worthy of being considered. After all, if a theory is not worth considering, one does not even have to deal with the actual arguments, or lack of them.

Osborn of course continues with his psychoanalysis of the "mindset" of YECs. It is all very easy to make general accusations, but proof is hard to come by. It is insufficient to claim creationism as being foundationalist, because Foundationalism in some forms is the majority view held throughout the centuries even before Descartes. Descartes' contribution was to bring the issues of first principles more clearly to the fore, and to transfer the axiom from revelation to reason. The attack against Foundationalism is ridiculous, for the simple reason that all beliefs are to some extent either foundationalist, or incoherent. Start questioning anything, and in the end there will be a body of truths, or one truth, that cannot be really questioned. Call them "basic beliefs" or whatever you like, but every system of thought have certain beliefs that its adherents take to be true because they just are. Ask an empiricist why they should trust their senses, and it is unlikely they can give you a real answer, at least not an answer from empiricism (which would make them a non-empiricist). Osborn makes a lot of grand claims, but where is the actual proof for all of them?

To pile on the manure, Osborn further claims that it is the belief of fundamentalists and creationists that "human reason left to its own ways is not merely inadequate to arrive at full theological knowledge but in some sense antithetical or hostile to faith." I must say this is really astonishing, because that IS the historic Christian position. That is why Anselm says Credo ut Intelligam, and not the other way around. The Christian tradition down through the ages have always rejected appeals to pure reason apart from revelation. That is why Rationalism from Descartes onwards have been opposed by confessional Reformed theologians.

The main problem with Osborn's accusations is that it is a mirror image of Liberalism in all its forms. It assumes that all educated and knowledgeable scholars must agree with them, since their liberal conclusions is so plain those who reject them must be idiots. Nevermind that the best Reformed and Evangelical scholars have read the liberals, and yet we reject their conclusions. Those of us who are not part of the Fundamentalist anti-intellectual fringe actually DO read books we disagree about (after all, why would I otherwise want to read this book which disagrees with me), even heretical books. We are not afraid of being friends with those we disagree with, or inviting them to dinner and having conversations. And that is the problem Liberals have, since in their system, people like us are not supposed to exist. That is why they must demonize us and relegate us to the fringes, because otherwise it can be seen that theirs is not the only "scholarly" way.

Creationism is not fideism. Rather, we see the relation between facts and theories differently. We do not believe there are such things as "brute facts," but all facts are interpreted in some fashion. Also, with knowledge about the nature and limitations of science, we are unafraid of what the sciences can show.

Osborn continues to go at this drivel for another ten or more pages, which is really sad. All these serve no real purpose except to provide more ammo for misrepresentation and character assassination, and is not much different from the heckling of members of Westboro Baptist, i.e. they both serve only to reinforce stereotypes and create antagonism.

Concordism and the Nature of Science

Biblical literalism and modern creationism—what would more accurately be called concordism—are approaches to Genesis that insist, among other other things, on the scientific and historical harmony (or "concord") of the primeval stories (Genesis 1-11) as defined by contemporary notions of scientific and historical objectivity, regardless of the actual weight of scientific and historical evidence. Old Testament scholar Gerhard F. Hasel succinctly describes and defends this approach to the Bible as follows: "whenever biblical information impinges on matters of history, [the] age of the earth, origins, etc., the data observed must be interpreted and reconstructed in view of this superior divine revelation which is supremely embodied in the Bible." [Ronald E. Osborn, Death Before the Fall: Biblical Literalism and the Problem of Animal Suffering (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2014), 40]

The problems caused by the Enlightenment continue in the discussion about "concordism." To the extant that historically scientia was considered holistically, I can sympathize with the problems Christians have when they faced the new scientific insights, among those from new disciplines, that come with the dawning of the Modern Age. This idea of a strict holism of knowledge lies behind the idea of reconciling different branches of knowledge, instead of trying to forge a different way of approaching data and hypotheses.

As I have mentioned, the idea of "concordism" should be rejected as being based upon modernist assumptions. The debate over concordism assumes basically two options: Either one tries to correlate the "revelational" aspect with the "historical/scientific" aspect (concordism), or one rejects any such correlation (non-concordism). YEC is taken to be an *extreme* version of concordism, while views like the Framework Hypothesis are most decidedly non-concordist. Behind this dichotomty lies the idea that what is scientific is historical. Therefore, a commitment to a historical account of the Genesis events means that one must correlate the "science" with the "revelation." Conversely, in a non-concordist view like the Framework Hypothesis, the Genesis events are seen as "Upper register" reality, therefore no correlation is necessary, since the details of the events are non-historical even though the creation event(s) itself is historical. But why must I or anyone accept the view that what is historical must be scientific?

Almost since the beginnings of Science, the difference between historical and operational science has been obscured. Charles Lyell was probably the first to apply uniformitarian principles to come up the concept of deep time. And from a certain point of view, the application of such principles seem sound. In a laboratory experiment for example, one assume that the processes going on in the experiment do not behave erratically. The problem lies not so much in the usage of the principle in normal experimentation, but in its unwarranted extension into the unknown, what is called "historical science."

Science broadly speaking is the discovery of the working of things according to equations and universally applicable principles. In operational science, the working of things are described in such a way that knowledge of its activity can be accurately described and maybe even manipulated. In historical science however, science is used as a tool to reconstruct the past. The problem comes about because the past is not repeatable. Furthermore, all assumptions about the past are just that, assumptions. One-time events like a global flood can be hypothesized and tested, but apart from revelation there is nothing that says that one-time events did or did not happen.

The reason why this is the case is because "historical science" deals with history. In history, science is one tool among many, not the only tool. For example, science by itself cannot prove that a man called Napoleon existed, only eye-witness records can. Just a simple thought experiment would suffice. Let's say erosion of 10cm of rock takes a river flowing at a rate of 10km/hr for 100 years, or it could take a swollen flood river at a rate of 100km/hr in a day. How does one know which one actually happened, since the event of the swollen flood river is a catastrophe? According to science, we can't. Uniformitarianism therefore is untenable in all historical science research. Not only can we not discount events that are out of the ordinary, we have no idea what the initial conditions could be. The open system nature of any environment in the past is also a problem for anyone doing historical science research. Lastly, all historical science proceeds on the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent, and therefore it can only yield probable results. Therefore, by its very nature it cannot rule out any other hypotheses that predicts the same results as the data. For all these reasons, historical science research is untenable on its own. Unlike operational science where one can plan an experiment to test alternate theories and thus arrive closer to the truth, there is little one can do to test the past, which is not accessible to us.

The problem therefore with the concordism debate is that both options are wrong. The biblical account is not "scientific," but history; it is eye-witness account of what happened. It does not tell us scientifically what happened, as if science can do that. Science is a tool. It can tell us what possibly might have brought the events stated in the Bible to pass, but it is totally incapable of telling us what exactly happened in history. In other words, science can only tell us the "how," not the "what" of history. Christians therefore do not have to try to reconcile "science" with the Bible, because the evolutionary metanarrative is not science, but a non-scientific metanarrative propped up with plausible scientific theories and facts that supposedly validate it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Creation, death and curse

The only creature that is altered or "cursed" by Adam's fall is the serpent that was directly responsible for it, though its curse is not becoming a predator but rather being forced to crawl on its belly and "eat" the dust of the ground (Gen. 3:14)— clearly metaphorical and symbolic language not to be taken literally. ... The serpent is singled out from among the animals. [Robert] Alter thus renders the passage, "And the Lord God said to the serpent, 'Because you have done this, cursed be you of all cattle and all beats of the field.'" To construe this simple statement to mean that God abruptly and supernaturally transformed docile creatures at every level of animal existence—not only in their instincts but also in their physical structures— into ferocious predators (or permitted a satanic being to do the same) is to take no small liberty with the text. Nor is there any mention in Genesis or any other book of the Hebrew Bible of mortality being imposed for the first time upon the non-human animals world as a result of human rebellion [Ronald E. Osborn, Death Before the Fall: Biblical Literalism and the Problem of Animal Suffering (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2014), 35]

And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

(Gen. 3:17-19)

Osborn questioned the whole idea of death being extrinsic to creation. As I have mentioned earlier, there is a difference between biological death and biblical death. The death that is extrinsic to creation is the death of nepphesh chayyah, not just any death in particular. It is also noted that the verse used by Osborn is not the verse that speaks of the curse on creation, which should be seen not on the curse upon the serpent in verses 14 to 15 but rather the curse on the ground on verse 17 to 19.

According to the Scriptures, the ground is cursed because of Adam, thus it produces thorns and thistles instead of crops. Farming would be a hard work. Yet it is reductionistic to see this as speaking merely of the ground. Rather the "ground" should be seen as a synecdoche for creation in general, such that the curse speaks of creation itself impeding Man's labor and well-being.

The passage that speaks to this can be seen in Romans 8: 20-22 where creation is pictured as groaning until the coming of the Eschaton. We note here that the larger context parallels the creation's groaning with our groaning to be set free from the bondage to sin. We desire to be set free from the body of sin, thus our spirits groan. Likewise therefore, creation is groaning to be free from the curse from sin. Creation itself does not sin, so it cannot be said to groan for deliverance from sin. Yet the parallel indicates that the groaning of creation has something to do with sin, and thus it must speak about the curse upon it due to sin. Genesis 3:17-19 speaks only about the ground being cursed, and therefore the "ground" must function as a synecdoche for all of creation and life in this present age.

Thus far, we have proven that creation itself is cursed as a result of Man's sin. But how is this curse manifested? Is animal death part of the curse? We notice at least that human death must be a consequence of the curse for the simple reason of the sanctions of God's command in Genesis 2:17. Romans 5:12-21 furthermore reinforces the link between human sin and human death. So human death should be seen as a consequence of the Fall. But what about animal death? While there is nothing to indicate that animals are immortal, the fact that they are called nepphesh chayyah seems to indicate a common sharing of life with Man. Death normally comes through predation, disease or old age, or sometimes freak accidents. Disease and freak accidents would be part of the curse on creation, and there wouldn't be predation. As for old age, while this is not definitive, since death is antithetical to life, for a "living creature" to die it must cease to be "living," so it is highly doubtful that old age applies. This is especially so since old age is not a necessity of nature.

And lastly, canivory is not a curse. The idea that God or someone transformed "docile creatures" into "ferocious predators" is a caricature of the YEC position. There is nothing inherently wrong or sinful with ferocity, or even carnivory. Creation is cursed; creation is not guilty and not sinful. Sin adheres to moral agents, and ferocious predators are most definitely not moral agents. The transformation is not immoral and might even be a biological necessity in light of the environment with its scarcity of food. The problem with animal carnivory was never about the supposed immorality about meat-eating, but about the death of the animal eaten. So, if there is an hypothetical "meat" producing tree, or even an animal that once in a while "eject" a bunch of fresh meat from its body, there wouldn't be any problems pre-Fall with eating that meat.

In conclusion, Osborn's rejection of animal death through his interpretation of Genesis 3:14-15 fails. Animal death is wrongly linked to the curse on the serpent, the development of carnivory is misconstrued as sinful, and the wrong question was asked. The question was never about meat-eating, but about the cessation of the life of the living creature.

Adam and subduing creation

One common objection to the YEC interpretation of the creation accounts of Genesis 1-2 is the idea that Adam in his dominion mandate is to have dominion or subdue the creation, noticing the somewhat forceful nature of the verb רדה (radah). From that verb, it is maintained that Adam had to violently subdue the creation, a picture far from the paradisaical YEC interpretation of Gensis 1-2.

The key to understanding the usage of this verb is to understand what Scripture actually says about the creation. In Genesis 1, we have a summary account of the creation of the universe, while in Genesis 2 starting with verse 4 we are treated to the creation of the Garden of Eden. As I have contrasted the different vegetation of Genesis 1 and 2, between the vegetation in Genesis 1 and the vegetation "of the field" in Genesis 2, so we can see that the Garden Eden is a cultivated garden. If the garden is cultivated, then anything outside the garden is uncultivated. The difference between something cultivated and something uncultivated is merely in that the former is ordered while the latter is unordered. A herbivore in the wild is no less or no more a herbivore than a domesticated herbivore! In other words, besides the difference of orderliness, there is nothing inherently different between cultivation and the wild. There is nothing inherently sinful about the wilderness, and nothing inherently holy about cultivation and domestication.

Adam's charge of subduing therefore should be interpreted as the charge of bringing order to disorder, not one of bringing sinlessness to something sinful. There is after all nothing sinful in a messy room. Bringing order to disorder is tough, as it is a fight against entropy, which does exist before the Fall.

There is therefore nothing wrong with the reading of רדה. It is however wrong to think that the usage of the verb necessarily implies only a certain type of forcefulness. Disorder is not necessarily sin, but disorder is certainly not perfect.

Creation, redemption and perfection

When we read Deuteronomy 32:4 in its full literary context, for example we find that God's tanim work of creation—his "fashioning" of the children of Israel—is revealed precisely in the long, perilous and conflictive process by which human civilizations evolved and the Israelites were brought out of "an empty howling waste" into a land of their own: ...

If the reading I have offered so far is at all correct and God recruits the creation at each stage to play an active, participatory role in what follows, with Adam being charged with an especially vital task of "subduing" other parts of the earth, then there is a very good theological reason why God declares the creation to be "very good" rather than "perfect." The creation cannot be perfect because, in an important sense, it is not entirely God's work. There are principles of freedom at work in the creation, and animals, humans and the earth itself have a God-given roe to play as his coworkers. [Ronald E. Osborn, Death Before the Fall: Biblical Literalism and the Problem of Animal Suffering (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2014), 29-31)

With regards to the problem of the creation being described as "very good" but not "perfect," Osborn has put forward an alternative explanation. Creation itself is not perfect because "animals, humans and the earth itself" has to play their parts as God's "coworkers." I confess I do not know what that means, since humans don't actually create anything ex nihilo (assuming Osborn believes in ex nihilo creation), but let's continue on.

The major flaw in Osborn's understanding is that it confuses between creation, and redemption. Creation and redemption are two separate works of God. The first work culminates in Genesis 2: 1-3, where the first Sabbath is celebrated, a prefigurement of the last eternal Sabbath spoken of in Hebrew 4: 1-9, which is the culmination of the second work of redemption. The first work end with a Sabbath which is literarily without an end, and the second work ends with a Sabbath that is literally without an end. The first Sabbath is typological, the second actual. Both are the capstones of God's works.

In the Westminster Standards, the distinction between the two works of God is upheld. From the Westminster Shorter Catechism (WSC):

Q8. How does God executes his decrees?
A. God executes his decrees in the works of creation and providence

Q20. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
A. God, having out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.

God executes his decrees in the works of creation and providence (1st work), and then after the Fall, he initiates the work of redemption (2nd work), a work which is not mentioned in WSC Q8. There is a real difference between the two, a distinction and difference which Osborn fails to maintain. If we however maintain that distinction, then it should be clear why God is working now after creation. When God says that His work is complete on Day 7, it means that His work of creation is now complete. After the Fall, God's work of redemption starts, but not His work of creation, which is complete. With regards to the creation of matter ex nihilo, God will not do any such work again, until the Eschaton in the creation of the new heavens and the new earth.

Osborn's proposed solution therefore fails, because he fails to differentiate the two works of God. Does Adam have to "subdue" other parts of creation? Yes, he does, for not all the earth is the paradise of Eden, but that is not creation ex nihilo neither is it to make carnivores herbivores.

Creation as "very good", and creation as "perfect"?

In fact, Mark Whorton writes, nowhere else in Hebrew Scripture is tob or tob me'od interpreted by biblical scholars "as absolute perfection other than Genesis 1:31, and in that case it is for sentimental rather than exegetical reasons." There are other words in biblical Hebrew that are closer to the English sense of "perfect" than tob me'od and that might have been used instead. [Ronald E. Osborn, Death Before the Fall: Biblical Literalism and the Problem of Animal Suffering (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2014), 29]

Another objection to YEC that has been made is the somewhat peculiar pointing out that the Garden of Eden is not perfect. Now I must confess that I am not so sure why that is supposed to be an objection to YEC, since after all YEC does not maintain that the Garden of Eden is heaven, or some Platonic ideal. If I were to guess, I would say the argument runs as follows:

P1: A place without death or suffering, where animals are vegetarians, is a perfect place.
P2: Heaven is a place without death or suffering, where animals are vegetarians.
C1: Therefore a place without death or suffering, where animals are vegetarians, is heaven.

P3: Eden is not heaven.
C2: Therefore Eden is not a place without death or suffering, where animals are vegetarians.

It is here that we must object immediately to premise 1. Is heaven just a place without death or suffering? Is any place without death or suffering "perfect"? Heaven is indeed a place without death or suffering, where pictorially animals are pictured as vegetarians. But that is not just what heaven is about. An absence of death or suffering is insufficient for perfection. Rather, life positively has to be there, life in its fullness and abundance.

Reformed theology speak about the Covenant of Works being made with Adam in the Garden. In the Covenant of Work, Adam was placed, as it were, on probation. Even though he was created without sin or defect, he was to perform positive obedience in order to merit eternal life. In other words, a blank slate, tabula rasa, is insufficient for heaven. Of course, we know that Adam would fall into sin. The key point I would like to make here however lies in the fact that creation, although it is very good, was not perfect. The absence of death and suffering itself is not perfect. Perfection is not just the absence of death and suffering, but also of the abundance of life. That is why the tree was sacramentally called the Tree of Life. If all that was necessary was not to sin, why then should there be two trees instead of just one? In fact, why should God even put the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden in the first place, tempting, as it were, Adam and Eve to sin?

Creation according to YEC is very good, but not perfect. It is a paradise without death and suffering, yet that is not sufficient for perfection. This particular objection to the YEC scheme might apply to some versions of Fundamentalist YEC, but it does not apply at all to Reformed YEC.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Historical revisionism concerning Creationism

As a result of their concern not only for the authority of Scripture but also for the theodicy problem posed by evolutionary biology, [Seventh-Day] Adventists have played an important role in the dubious project of "creation science," beginning with the tireless efforts of self-taught creationist George McGready Price (whose now thoroughly discredited ideas about geology were relied on by William Jennings Bryan in the infamous 1925 Scope "Monkey Trial," and who helped inspire modern American creationism via the work of John Whitcomb and Henry Morris in the 1960s). [Ronald E. Osborn, Death Before the Fall: Biblical Literalism and the Problem of Animal Suffering (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2014), 18]

It has been said that error repeated thousands of times become truth. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the supposed history of Young-Earth Creationism. To substantiate this point on the dubious beginning of "creation scince," Osborn cites the the work of Mark Noll in the Scandal of the Evangelical Mind and Ron Numbers' work The Creationists. The problem comes however when those two references are not exactly reliable.

The first major problem comes with the distortion of the acceptance of evolution and the development of science in the 19th century since the time of Darwin. It is a myth that evolution was embraced by scientists and rejected by the clergy, painting a portrayal of "progressive science" and backward "religion." It is also a myth that creation science was absent before Henry Morris came onto the scene. On this point, Numbers especially is to blame, and before him all the other historians that paint a picture of a "conflict" between "science" and "religion." Rather, as historian James R. Moore states, "The truth is nearer to the exact opposite: it was a few theologians and many scientists who dismissed Darwinism and evolution" [James R. Moore, The Post-Darwinian Controversies: A Study of the Protestant struggle to come to terms with Darwin in Great Britain and America 1870-1900 (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 88-9]. As Terry Mortenson has showed, there were Scriptural Geologists in the 19th century, who had rejected even Charles Lyell's new geology. The conflict was never a conflict between "science" and "religion," but between the initially minority evolutionary scientists and their progressive clergy allies, against the 19th century creation scientists and [Old] Evangelicals.

The second major problem lies with the argumentation itself. Proving that Morris came chronologically after Price, or that Price was the last influential "creationist" before Morris, proves little. Even if one proves that Morris had read Price, to tar the modern creationist movement is to commit the Genetic fallacy. This is not to mention that creationists such as Ken Ham and Jonathan Sarfati did not know of Price before becoming creationists. In fact, on a personal note, I did not even know of Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis and these organizations before I decided that creationism was the position taught by the Scriptures. The mention of Price is there just as a Guilt-by-association tactic, to tar all creationists as anti-intellectual idiots complete with dunce hats. The fact that Price is a Seventh-Day Adventist further serve their purpose, as it tars creationism with a suspicion of heterodoxy. Of course, the fact that the "other side" have Teilhard de Chardin as well as the process theologians on their side hardly counts as a point for their position, but I digress.

Lastly, the Scopes trial is distorted and blown way out of proportion. William Jenning Bryan hardly counts as a YEC. Rather, he is an Old-earth Creationist. So what does the Scopes Trial have to do with YEC at all? Secondly, the history of the Scopes Trial has also been distorted. The defendant John Scopes was planted to test the new law forbidding teaching human evolution, and the whole trial was basically a monkey court to make fun of Christianity. Scopes intentionally pleaded guilty before his own cross-examination, leaving people with the impression only of the cross-examination of Bryan, who was portrayed as being a fool since he as an OEC was incapable of answering them.

It is a wonder to behold why Noll and Numbers have been allowed to get away with murder so to speak in academic circles. Such historical revisionism is unworthy of true scholarship, and should be rejected as myths altogether.

Carnivory and wildlife: Normality, Creation and the Fall

The idea that the lions in Eden were docile vegetarians with dagger-sharp claws originally designed by God for tearing the bark off tress appeared downright silly [Ronald E. Osborn, Death Before the Fall: Biblical Literalism and the Problem of Animal Suffering (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2014), 16]

One objection to the idea that animal death came before the Fall is the idea that the current world with the presence of carnivores and the eating of meat is good. Another like it is the idea that carnivores are ideally adapted to eat meat. As Osborn says, it appears downright silly to imagine lions tearing the bark off trees for food.

The major problem with such objections is that it often misrepresents what young earth creationists actually believe. For example, I absolutely agree with Osborn that lions tearing off bark for food is silly. But which scientifically informed creationist actually hold to such a ludicrous position? As I have often said, and will say again, there is a terrible ignorance of what creationists actually do hold to. So for those like Osborn who are trying to argue against the YEC position, who exactly are they trying to convince? How is it intellectually honest for someone, anyone, to claim to disprove the YEC position on this issue when they can't even represent the YEC position correctly? Disagree if you wish, but misrepresentation shows disrespect for one's opponents and converts no one.

With regards to the first objection, there is nothing wrong with saying that meat-eating now, i.e. after the Fall, is good. No creationist that I know of objects to this. Firstly, even before the Fall, death was not withheld to those which are not nephesh chayyah (נֶ֣פֶשׁ הַֽחַיָּ֣ה). In other words, strictly according to Scripture, biological death is not precluded of those which are described biblically as being "living." So whales for example can still eat krill, and zooplankton, phytoplankton. Secondly, since as we know God in Genesis 9:3 gave animals as food to Man, meat-eating at least since the Flood must be considered good before God. Furthermore, it is not necessary to read God's allowance of meat-eating in Genesis 9:3 as being the first instance where meat-eating is allowed. In the Fall, God killed animals to provide Adam and Eve with fur clothes to cover them. Abel tended flocks and sacrificed some of them to God. It is therefore not inconceivable for meat-eating to exist since the Fall, and Genesis 9:3 merely states what is already practiced while regulating it (i.e. with the prohibition of drinking the blood). So one wonders how the proof of the goodness of meat-eating after the Fall can have any relevance at all on the question of whether meat-eating is good before the Fall.

In response to the second objection, the first thing that must be said is there were no "lions" in Eden. There were only the first animal type of the various created kinds, or baramins. Since lions belong to the cat kind, there were probably some primordial cat that is the ancestor of all the cats we have today. This should immediately invalidate Osborn's example, since young earth creationists do not believe there were lions in Eden in the first place! In fact, I would venture to say that many of the animals we see today probably did not exist in the primordial world. Secondly, the whole idea that sharp claws must correlate with carnivory is false. Koalas have sharp claws, but they are not carnivores! Thirdly, who ever said that "lions," or rather the original cat kind, ate tree bark? We don't even know how the primordial cat looks like, much less what it ate. Maybe it ate fruits and nuts, and climbed trees to get to them (which would also explain the sharp claws)!

In conclusion, this apologetic for the idea of animal death before the Fall falls flat. It shows a shocking ignorance of the creationist position. As for me, after reading so many of these "academic" works, I find it depressing that this represent the best scholars can come up with.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Interview RE: Joseph Prince

Chris Rosebrough has recently done a radio interview concerning the errors of Singapore home-grown heretic Joseph Prince, which can be accessed here. Prince's antinomian denial of the third use of the Law can also be read in Lisa Cooper's critique of Prince's book Destined to Reign, here.

Rosebrough's critique is good. However, I think there is an even worse aspect to Prince that Rosebrough overlooked- Prince's anthropology and harmatology. The problem with Man according to Prince is not such much that Man is sinful (although Prince does not deny that), but that Man stands under condemnation. Condemnation itself is what's bad, and therefore Christ came to erase this condemnation. In the Bible however, condemnation is not bad in itself. Condemnation is in fact the good and just verdict of God on wicked sinners. It is bad for us, because that forensic verdict results in damnation in hell. But if God decided not to save anyone, so that all would be condemned, there would be nothing unjust and God would still remain good. The problem with Man is sin, the solution is forgiveness of sin. In Christ's imputation of his righteousness to believers, the verdict has been changed from condemnation to justification. Both however are just, the former of God's justice, the latter of Christ's merits.

Prince's errant doctrine of man and of sin lies at the root of his heresy. It is because he misdiagnosed the problem that his solution is not the Gospel, however similar it is to the real one. He identifies the problem as one of psychological negativity, and thus the solution is positive thinking. Sin, righteousness- these do exist but merely as the backdrop to the overarching narrative of salvation from the [negative] feelings of condemnation.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The World Cup and Superstition

For the king of Babylon stands at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination. He shakes the arrows; he consults the teraphim; he looks at the liver. (Ezek. 21:21)

In the last [Soccer/ Football] World Cup in 2010, Paul the Octopus gained fame for accurately "predicting" the winners of all 8 matches. Two containers containing the same identical food were placed before Paul, each box painted with the flag of one of the countries in the match. The country which has its flag painted on the box Paul chose to eat from was then declared to be the winner of the world cup match.

Fast forward to 2014, where after the death of Paul the Octopus, a whole bunch of animals and computer programs have vied to take over Paul's throne for accurate predictions of World Cup match winners. We have Nelly the Elephant, and now we have Bob the Sloth. Of course, scientism isn't dead yet, and thus we have Microsoft's Cortana. I'm sure the bookies aren't too happy with all these foretelling taking place.

What's fascinating is that what they are doing is basically divination, 21st century style. We have come full circle to the practice of the ancients. In ancient times, divination was extremely popular. The practice of hepatoscopy, examining the liver of an animal (Babylonians look at sheep's livers) to order to divine the future. Ezekiel 21:21 is Ezekiel's prophecy of King Nebuchadnezzar utilizing such a method for divining whether to attack Jerusalem or Rabbah. Nowadays of course, we are not that bloody, and certainly not too concerned about the will of the gods. Instead, modern divination is divining "chance," and setting up random arbitrary (hopefully unbiased) tests to divine it.

The return of superstition should put to death the modernist myth of "progress" that has been promoted since the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. Is there some kind of progress since the pre-modern times? Yes, but Man remains the same. Mankind remains the same regardless of what era he is in. We are still just as depraved and just as liable towards superstition. Even the "rationalist" side is just as superstitious, but instead of diving "chance" it is divining probabilistic calculations.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Martin Lloyd-Jones on creation and evolution

Martin Lloyd-Jones is the last great Old Evangelical, who was ostracized and demonized when he rejected the New Evangelicalism of John Stott and Billy Graham. In his book What is an Evangelical? (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1992). Lloyd-Jones attempts to reclaim the word "evangelical" for the Old Evangelicalism, an exercise, I would say, of futility.

It is however always interesting to look at Lloyd-Jones' views to see what Evangelicals have historically believed to be true. This is what Lloyd-Jones wrote regarding the creation/evolution debate:

We accept the biblical teaching with regard to creation and do not base our position upon theories of evolution, whichever particular theory people may choose to advocate. We must assert that we believe in the being of one first man called Adam, and in one first woman called Eve. We reject any notion of a pre-Adamic man because it is contrary to the teaching of the Scripture.

Now someone may ask, Why do you care about this? Is this essential to your doctrine of salvation? Are you not falling into the very error of over-particularization against which you warned us at the beginning? I suggest that I am not, and for these reasons. If we say that we believe the Bible to be the Word of God, we must say that about the whole of the Bible, and when the Bible presents itself to us as history, we must accept it as history. I would contend that the early chapters of Genesis, the first three chapters of Genesis, are given to us as history. We know that there are pictures and symbols in the Bible, and when the Bible uses symbols and parable it indicates that it is doing so, but when it presents something to us in the form of history, it requires us to accept it as history.

We must therefore hold to the vital principle, to which I have referred earlier, of the wholeness and the close interrelationship of every part of the biblical message. The Bible does not merely make statements about salvation. It is a complete whole: it tells you about the origin of the world and of man; it tells you what has happened to him, how he fell and the need of salvation arose, and then it tells you how God provided this salvation and how He began to reveal it in parts and portions. Nothing is so amazing about the Bible as its wholeness, the perfect interrelationship of all the parts.

Therefore these early chapters of Genesis with their history play a vital part in the whole doctrine of salvation. ... Indeed, it seems to me that one of the things we have got to assert, these days in particular — and it should always have been asserted — is that our gospel, our faith, is not a teaching; it is not a philosophy; it is primarily a history. (pp. 74-5)

We go on to assert that we must underline the fact of the historical fall of the first man, and that it happened in the way described in the third chapter of Genesis. Whether we can understand it or not is not the question. That is what we are told, and the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:3 reminds the Corinthians that 'the serpent beguiled Eve.' You cannot play fast and loose with these facts without involving the inspiration of the apostles and, ultimately, the person of our Lord. You will soon be saying that He was a child of His own age, that He was ignorant in certain respects, and that He has simply the scientific knowledge of His own times, and so on. You begin to query and to question His statements, and ultimately you will have no authority at all. ...

In the same way, we must assert the fact of the flood. ... (pp. 79-80)

It is interesting to note that what Llyod-Jones have said about the consequences of the acceptance of evolution upon one's doctrine of the person and knowledge of Christ in His incarnation is actually being promoted today.

Back into history: An Evangelicalism that at least looks biblical

At the heart, then, of the eighteenth-century awakening was the question of what a Christian is. The evangelicals ('Methodists') believed that the clergy at large fell under the same condemnation as the false prophets of whom God said, 'You have strengthened the hands of the wicked, so that he does not turn from his wicked way to save his life' (Ezek. 13:22). Their opponents replied: 'Their doctrine is too strict; they make the way to heaven too narrow.' On which words, [John] Wesley made the all-important observation: 'And this is in truth the original objection (as it was almost the only one for some time), and is secretly at the bottom of a thousand more, which appear in various forms.'

It was certainly 'at the bottom' of the charge that the evangelicals were no true 'churchmen' They were said to be 'undermining, if not openly destroying the Church.' They were 'dividing the Church.' Their duty, they were told, was 'to have a greater regard to the rules and orders of the Church.' Such complaints were commonplace and to them all the evangelicals replied by asserting that an understanding of the church was not possible without first understanding what a Christian is. The real problem of their accusers was that they were wrong on that fundamental question. The Bishop of London, [George] Whitefield warned, was treating nominal Christians as being in 'a very imperfect state,' whereas the truth was that they were 'in no state of Christianity at all.' 'Church or no Church,' said Wesley, 'we must attend to the work of saving souls.' And when challenged about his allowance of lay-preachers, he replied: 'Soul-damning clergymen lay me under more difficulties than soul-saving laymen.' [Iain H Murray, Evangelicalism Divided: A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950 to 2000 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2000), 164]

In a denomination [Church of England] which, by [J.I.] Packer's admission was in 'doctrinal disarray,' the question which non-evangelical and ecumenical churchmen wanted evangelicals to answer [in the 1960s] was whether or not they stood by their old exclusiveness. To that question [the National Evangelical Anglican Congress at] Keele had given an emphatic answer in 1967, and if it had not done so it would have never have satisfied the non-evangelicals as it did. But what Keele left unexplained was how evangelicals could hold to the uniqueness of their gospel message and yet profess brotherhood with those whose teachings subvert that Gospel. As I have said, the new policy had to mean that evangelicals would be forced to deny in practice what they taught in theory. ... (Ibid., 117-8)

[David] Edwards, in due course Provost of Southwark and himself a liberal, was to demonstrate the existence of evangelical change in a book he co-authored with John Stott in 1988 entitled, Essentials: A Liberal-Evangelical Dialogue. Edwards rejected most of the essentials of the Christian faith, including the fall of man, the need for atonement by a divine redeemer and Christ's physical resurrection. Yet in this dialogue Dr. Stott held to the new inclusivenes. Those who deny the virgin birth and the bodily resurrection of Christ, he affirmed, do not 'forfeit the right to be called Christians.' This he underlined by a gratuitous reference to David Jenkins, Bishop of Durham, who had made headlines with his denial of the physical resurrection of Christ. ... Yet there was room, John Stott supposed, for evangelicals to agree even with Jenkins:

A year or two ago Bishop David Jenkins kindly spent a couple of hours with five of us Evangelicals who wanted to engage in questioning and discussion with him.... He was willing to concede that the bodily resurrection of Christ, although in his view 'historically unverifiable' (because the story of the empty tomb was probably not written until twenty years or more after the event), could nevertheless be termed 'theologically appropriate.' There I think, was a man speaking out of his catholic tradition, but we Evangelicals endorsed it.

(Ibid., 119-20)

Evangelicalism as a movement began with the Wesleys, George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards in the First Great Awakening. This old Evangelicalism however was actually decent despite its pietistic and revivalistic background. The whole premise behind preaching for conversions in a supposedly "Christian" country in the 18th century is that being a church member or even a church leader does not save you. It means that, even if someone claims to be a Christian, one does not necessarily treat him or her as one, but inquire whether the person has put their trust in Christ alone.

Fast forward to the 1960s, as the situation had developed in both America and England. In America, Fuller Seminary was busy leading the way towards compromise, the turning of the guard towards "inclusivity" coming with the appointment of Daniel Fuller as Chief Academic Officer and David Hubbard as president in 1962-3. In England, that happened when the evangelical party of the Church of England voted themselves out of existence in the 1967 National Evangelical Anglican Congress (NEAC) at Keele, by "repenting" of sins against Christian unity. Soon, "Evangelicals" became just one more sect among many in the multitudes of groups that calls itself Christianity. The tragedy of the "evangelicals" left over is illustrated by John Stott's comment on counting liberals who are evidently non-Christians fellow brethren. I for one do not wish to be in Stott's shoes when he faces the accusatory gazes of liberals like David Edwards and David Jenkins on the Last Day, along with many others.

The saddest thing is not that evangelicals have capitulated. The saddest thing is that evangelicals think that to be evangelical means that one must affirm anyone who claims to be a believer, and the line of division is now ethics and not doctrine. To question the profession of someone who denies the doctrine of justification by faith alone is being uncharitable, but to question the profession of someone who endorses homosexuality is perfectly alright. That is the default setting among evangelicals in many places around the world. Case in point: The current bleeding of the PCUSA churches into EPC and ECO denominations. When Liberalism infected the PCUSA, many conservatives refused to join Machen in forming a true church. But when the PCUSA started to endorse homosexuality, howls of betrayal from the conservatives break loose. So denying orthodoxy is ok, but affirming homosexuality is not?

Closer to the Singapore context, there was the recent co-belligerency campaign among Muslims and Christians to wear white as a protest against the homosexual activist event "Pink Dot." Now, there is nothing wrong with participating in social clauses in one's personal capacity, but when it is supported by a Christian group, a psuedo-denoination called "Love Singapore," then we have a major problem. The president of Love Singapore is "Apostle" Lawrence Khong, who promotes the G12 shepherding error and is at least supportive of the heretical New Apostolic Reformation. What then does this say about "evangelicalism"? Those who promote false teaching are lauded as good Christian leaders, while any hint of homosexuality is condemned. Now, I am not for homosexuality, but can we have some balance here? Is homosexuality a worse sin than heresy? If anything, it is the other way round! There is more hope for a homosexual who repents than a straight heretic who doesn't! That's why I don't have a high regard for the "Love Singapore" movement, a movement that is leavened throughout with all manner of false teachings that are heterodox at best.

Before the advent of the New Evangelicalism, the Old Evangelicalism, while certainly flawed, at least does not have the problem of confusing the essentials of the faith. Now, anything goes, and one wonders why Christianity is not making an impact on the world. The Wesleys and Whitefield transformed much of Britain because they actually denied the profession of others who claim to be Christians. In a deconfessional era, the second best to a functional confessional Reformed church is better than nothing.

[PS: In Reformed circles, we do not question the profession of those who make a credible confession of faith, but we do of those who don't. The problem with Whitefield, and of pietism in general, is that a credible confession of faith to them must include a conversion experience. In the Reformed churches, it is verbal confession of faith, a desire to be baptized and attending to the other means of grace, and trusting Christ for salvation which is expressed as fruits of godliness. A conversion experience is not necessary in the Reformed churches.]

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Separation overdue: The PCUSA and homosexuality

This year's (2014) General Assembly of the mainline PCUSA has produced a "church" body that has decided to endorse homosexual "marriages." The news is very sad, but what else can we expect from a denomination that has long turned its back on the Word of God?

The issue I have is with the conservatives (relatively) who had remained in the PCUSA all these years. How much longer can they take this sort of behavior that grieves the Holy Spirit? You speak about reform, yes, it would be great if the denomination repents of all their sins for the last 100 years or so, in sackcloth and ashes. But how long should you wait before you become guilty of dragging God's name through the mud through abetting their crimes?

Ever since the unbiblical defrocking of J. Gresham Machen, there have been people like Clarence Macartney (a conservative PCUSA minister at the time of Machen) who have decided to stay in the PCUSA to reform her. Now that by itself is fie; there is nothing inherently wrong with staying in a denomination to reform it. But the task of reformation implies action, and the sad fact is that these conservatives in the PCUSA weren't actually doing much to reform the denomination at all. Unlike Machen, they did not continually press charges against heretics or speak boldly and loudly against the compromises around them. Instead, they kept rather silent. But let's ignore what they have done to attempt to reform the church. The more important question is: How long have the conservatives been waiting, while the situation in the denomination has only gone from bad to worse? 100 years of growing apostasy, and there has not been even one reversal towards orthodoxy. What does this tell us?

Those who are relatively conservative in theology are normally a majority. They are just moderates in terms of a optimistic view of reforming the church. But if all of them leave the church, it's unlikely the liberals will be able to survive financially for long. In other words, it's the (relative) conservatives who prop up the church. Does this not make them liable to the charge of abetting the liberals?

I'm all for church reform, but give me one reason why heresy should be tolerated in the name of "reform," because I don't see that in Scripture.