Thursday, January 29, 2015

Response to Justin Taylor on 24-hour creation days (Part 2)

[continued from here]

Next, we'll move on to Taylor's third argument, that "The Seventh 'Day' is Not 24 hours long." On this issue, what I will say here is at best cursory, but note here that the 4th commandment depends on the seventh day being an actual day of similar length as the other six days. The Sabbath commandment is not a command to work six days, then we rest for the rest of eternity (pun unintended). So from the 4th commandment itself, there is prima facie reason to reject the idea of an eternal seventh day.

More importantly, those who promote an eternal seventh day fail to adequately address the difference in the rationales given for honoring the Sabbath between the account in Exodus (given at the beginning of the Israelites' wondering) and the second writing of the law as described in Deuteronomy (done near the end of the Israelites' wondering). For those who are astute, one will recognize that the Exodus account grounds the command to keep the Sabbath in the creation account, complete with the discussion of 6 days of work and 1 day of rest, while the Deuteronomic account grounds the command to keep the Sabbath in Israel's redemption from Egypt. For Christians who believe in the plenary inspiration of Scripture, we cannot take the easy way out to postulate two different traditions concerning the 10 commandments. Rather, both rationales are equally valid for their specific occasions in redemptive history, the former at the beginning of Israel's rebellion and subsequent wondering, the latter just before the conquest of the Promised Land. We see here that there are two kinds of Sabbath principles at work: one of creation, and one of redemption. Or one can see them rather as having a redemptive-historical slant, the former of creation, and the latter of new creation. This shows us that the Sabbath is both of creation, and of redemption.

Therefore, when we read passages such as Psalms 95 and Hebrews 4, we agree they speak concerning the eternal Sabbath, but that is not the eternal Sabbath of creation, but rather the Sabbath of the new creation that will come: the eschatological age. Taylor's appropriation of the concept of the eternal creation Sabbath is therefore in error.

The 4th argument is that "The “Day” of Genesis 2:4 Cannot Be 24 Hours Long." But this is to fail at basic exegesis, since the phrase there is not the word yom ("day") by itself, but with the preposition בְּ (be), in בְּי֗וֹם (beyom). Taylor here remarks that this use of yom presents a puzzle for YEC, but this just show his ignorance, since we have long since addressed this issue. In the beginning, I wrote about how doctrinal disputes should be managed, and the imperative to address what the opponent is saying, instead of being ignorant especially of their counter-arguments. Here is where this issue of ignorance rears its head. Taylor shows his ignorance of the YEC counter-argument on this point, which is not a good reflection on his article and the spirit in which he writes this article.

Taylor's last argument is that "The Explanation of Genesis 2:5-7 Assumes More Than an Ordinary Calendar Day." Taylor here relies on Mark Futato's article Because It Had Not Rained, putting forward the Klinean argument that Genesis 2:5-6 supports that we are dealing very much with ordinary providence in the creation account, and thus the natural processes require more than a day. However, as I have written in another blog post, this Klinean argument is without teeth. There is a qualitative difference between the vegetation in Genesis 2 and that of Genesis 1, so Genesis 2:5-6 is not speaking of Day 3 of the creation account. Genesis 2:5-6 is therefore not promoting the operation of ordinary providence in the creation days, but rather the beginning of the processes of providence in day 6 for the growth of cultivated plants especially in Eden.

Having refuted Taylor's article, we will address Taylor's closing remarks. Taylor commented on God's condescension to us in analogical and anthropomorphic speech. That is true, but just as true is the direction of analogy. God uses anthropomorphisms as figures of speech to express what is true for our experience. The direction is always us-wards, not God-wards. Thus, to say that God is refreshed in Ex. 31:17 speaks to our understanding, not that somehow the issue of Sabbath and it being a day for rest is not somehow actually true!

In speaking of the creation days, the days are externally acted on by God, not predicated of him internally, and thus not an anthropomorphism. The direction in Scripture seems to be God using the creation days as analogies, which is the opposite flow of those advocating for analogical views of the creation days. In the former, the creation days are materially present, and THEN God uses them as an analogy for the 6-day work week and 1 day of Sabbath, from literal to analogy. In the latter however, the creation days are treated as analogical from the onset, and the literal sense is relegated (in the Framework view) to "God's work week," something that is unknown in Scripture except for the actual 6-day creation story in Genesis 1. Biblical analogy proceeds from the prior material to the spiritual, not the other way around, or worse, from spiritual (God in the "Upper Register") to spiritual (Man). After all, we see in Galatians 4 the allegorization of Sarah and Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael, all of whom were actual historical persons long before their stories were allegorized to make a doctrinal point!

In conclusion, we have answered and refuted Taylor's arguments against 24-hour creation days. Those who hold to the plain sense of Genesis 1-2 do not have anything to fear from those promoting alternative theories. It would be really helpful if the next time anyone wants to write against the 6-24 view, they would actually interact with the latest YEC arguments and counter-arguments, instead of demonstrating their ignorance of them.

Response to Justin Taylor on 24-hour creation days (Part 1)

וַיְכַ֤ל אֱלֹהִים֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י מְלַאכְתּ֖וֹ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשָׂ֑ה וַיִּשְׁבֹּת֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י מִכָּל־מְלַאכְתּ֖וֹ אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשָֽׂה׃ (Gen 2:2)

Over on TGC, Justin Taylor wrote an article that claims to provide biblical reasons to reject the creation days of Genesis 1 as being days of 24 hours period, in preference to an interpretation that is more in line with the Framework Hypothesis. Taylor is welcome to hold to his position, but are his reasons actually biblical?

Before we look at the reasons given, I would like to note how we are to address issues of disagreement. In doctrinal disputes, both sides normally hold to their positions because they think that the arguments for their positions are right. Hopefully, in the course of debate and dialogue, both parties will seek to understand the arguments from the other side and then formulate counter-arguments in support of their positions. In other words, even if one side were to disagree with the other and even with her arguments, he has to take note of her arguments and attempt a response. Generally, ignorance of what the other side is saying is bad, and does not help one's case at all.

Taylor gave 5 beliefs that together combine to give rise to a belief in 6-24 creation. According to Taylor, they are

(1) Genesis 1:1 is not the actual act of creation but rather a summary of or title over Genesis 1:2-2:3; (2) the creation week of Genesis 1:2-2:3 is referring to the act of creation itself; (3) each “day” (Heb. yom) of the creation week is referring to an 24-hour period of time (reinforced by the statement in Exodus 20:11); (4) an old-earth geology would necessarily entail microevolution, hominids, and animal death before the Fall—each of which contradicts what Scripture tells us; and (5) the approximate age of the earth can be reconstructed backward from the genealogical time-markers in Genesis.

Taylor then cites some of the views of theologians concerning the interpretation of the creation days, then he gives 5 "biblical" arguments that should cause his readers to doubt the 6-24 view, which I will look at later. But back to his 5 beliefs that supposedly combine to give rise to the 6-24 view of the Genesis creation days. Are these actually integral or even a part of the argument for the 6-24 view?

"Creationist belief" #1 is rather astonishing. There may or may not be creationists who claim that Genesis 1:1 is a summary or title over Genesis 1:2-2:3, but the question is not whether some creationists might use this to support their 6-24 interpretation, but rather whether one can take the 6-24 position regardless of how one interprets Genesis 1:1. I for one do not take the position that Genesis 1:1 is a summary of Genesis 1:2-2:3, so we can discount with supposed creationist belief #1.

Taylor's "creationist beliefs" #2 and #3 are indeed held by creationists, and I think we can defend them. "Creationist belief" #4 however is really curious. I suspect Taylor actually had the term "macroevolution" in mind rather than "microevolution." Be that as it may, having an old earth is less a problem for issues such as "hominids" and "animal death before the Fall" than holding to the cosmology of an old earth, which includes the supposed evolutionary and developmental timeline for life on earth (including the "Fossil Record"). As an example, a strict day-age view would not run foul of these hot button topics IF the one making the argument would simultaneously hold that there was no animal death before the Fall in "Day 6," whenever that is. The fact that those holding on to an old-earth simultaneously hold to an old-earth cosmology including animal predation and disease before the creation of Adam and Eve is the main issue, not old earth itself. As to how one can hold to an old earth without holding on to an old-earth cosmology, that is something for those professing to believe an old earth to answer for themselves; personally I don't see any way to do so.

"Creationist belief" #5 was certainly the belief by Reformed theologians such as Archbishop James Ussher. Regardless, one does not need to hold to genealogies without gaps in Genesis 5 and 11 to hold to young-earth creationism (YEC). Even if there are gaps and even if the numbers given in the genealogies are not precise, it staggers belief that millions of years can be smuggled into those gaps; it is just not possible. The positing of gaps can at the most increase the biblical time scale a couple of thousand years at the most, and even that is stretching things. After all, if one really wants to see what a biblical genealogy with gaps look like, look at Matthew's genealogy of Christ as an example! So the issue is not about reconstructing the exact age of the earth, but rather that the Bible gives a scale concerning the age of the earth, which is in the thousands rather than millions and billions of years.

Next, we look at Taylor's citation of church theologians. We notice that, besides Augustine, every single one of the theologians are modern theologians. Now, "modern" does not necessarily equals wrong, but "modern" does mean that the charge could be made that they adopted this interpretation of the creation days due to pressure from the supposed established view of "science." Therefore, while they may be stalwarts of the faith generally, their views on the creation days do not have the same imprimatur of authority. Speaking of authority, if one wishes to count theological heads, one wonders why Taylor does not count the Reformers (both Luther and Calvin) and the Reformed scholastics who all, almost without exception, held to YEC. Archishop James Ussher was not an anomaly for his time, and YEC was the general belief in all branches of Christiainity until the beginning of Modern Geology in the early 19th century.

Regarding Augustine, while he was certainly unclear on the creation days, yet he did so due to his ignorance of Greek in Sirach 18:1. The main question concerning Augustine however was whether he held to a YEC position, and in this, we can say that he answered in the affirmative.

We now approach Taylor's 5 arguments to cast doubt on the 6-24 interpretation. Taylor's first argument is that "Genesis 1:1 Describes the Actual Act of Creation Out of Nothing and Is Not a Title or a Summary." As I have previously said, I agree with that interpretation. Genesis 1:1-2 describe the initial creative act of God at time, t=0 to establish the beginning state for creation to happen. As for Taylor's appropriation of the Framework literary view, I have repeated Andrew Kulikovsky's deconstruction of that framework here, and will not repeat it again.

Taylor's second argument is that "The Earth, Darkness, and Water Are Created Before 'The First Day.'" That however is not an issue because in my view I have said that they were created at time, t=0. After they appeared ex nihilo, then time and the creation days began. Taylor's objection to the light being created in the first day while the sun was not yet created is not an issue, for we read in Revelations 22:5 that there will be light without the sun in the new Jerusalem. Light therefore can exist apart from the sun, and in fact we prove that all the time we create and use artificial lighting in our daily lives. Regarding the purpose of the sun and astral bodies in Day 4, as I have argued, we should not confuse teleology with ontology. Questions of purpose are important, but they are not questions of being. Such confusion only serves to muddy the waters instead of dealing with the text.

[to be continued]

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Justifying beliefs

Let us say that a belief is justified for a person at a time if (a) he is violating no epistemic duties and is within his epistemic rights in accepting it then and (b) his noetic structures is not defective by virtue of his then accepting it. [Alvin Plantinga, "Reason and Belief in God," in Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff, eds., Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame, 1983), 79]

"Reformed Epistemology" is a system that claims to be based upon truths in the Reformed tradition, particularly as articulated by John Calvin. In a short article dealing with the existence of God as a properly basic belief, Alvin Plantinga wrote against Classical Foundationalism and introduced his idea of properly basic beliefs, of which the existence of God is one of them. In this post, I would like to deal with Plantinga's twin criteria for justification of beliefs.

Plantinga's criteria for justification, as presented here, deal with a person's epistemic duties and a working noetic structure. I would definitely agree that one should hold to be true what is congruent with the other truths one holds to, and thus one ought to not violate his epistemic duties, but that does not help us deal with foundational beliefs, for we are just beginning to ascertain what actually are foundational beliefs. As examples of properly basic beliefs, Plantinga brings up beliefs that one acquires through sense experiences like "I see a tree," but these circumvent the issue of whether the senses are indeed reliable. Whether the senses are generally reliable or not reliable is something that has not been decided yet in the building up of one's epistemology; one cannot assume they are generally reliable from the start unless one is an empiricist (and empiricism is wrong since empiricism itself is not empirically proven to be true).

Now, of course the question might be posed as to why anyone should want to believe that the senses are unreliable. But that is besides the point here. Most people will agree, as do I, that the senses are generally reliable. But one could believe that the senses are generally reliable because of other prior beliefs that are deemed to be more basic. In other words, it is not the case that those who do not accept sense experiences as foundational would therefore distrust the senses. Thus, to posit the criterion that one's noetic structures are not defective by virtue of accepting a belief is to beg the question. How exactly does one define whether one's noetic structures is or isn't defective?

Plantinga's justification criteria for properly basic beliefs are, in this sense, properly basic, yet totally worthless. They are true to the point of tautologies, yet worthless for judging whether any belief X is properly basic, since one cannot know if one is actually violating one's epistemic duties or if one is having a defective noetic structure by holding to belief X. One can be subjectively justified to be sure, sure that one has actually fulfilled those criteria, but since the question of whether belief X truly and objectively conforms to the criteria remains, one can never be objectively justified in holding to any "properly basic belief."

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The revisionist history of the New Evangelicalism

One manner of dealing with historical criticism is to refute it. Another way, the dishonest and lazy way, is to do historical revisionism and read the opposition out of the records. In the history of the New Evangelicalism, the established historiography claimed only 3 sides to the conflict: the Liberals, who compromised on doctrine, the Fundamentalists, who were so militantly opposed to compromise that they lost their love for the brethren and the lost, and the New Evangelicals, or just "Evangelicals," who stood firm on doctrine yet seek to be winsome and loving to all. Conspicuously absent from the revisionist historiography is the notion of a 4th group: Confessional Protestantism, those who stood firm on sound doctrine as taught in the Creeds and Confessions of the Church, and sought to do ministry with an ecclesial focus. We reject Liberalism for its toleration of heresy, we reject Fundamentalism for its imbalance of doctrine, AND we also reject [New] Evangelicalism for its compromise of the truth.

Justin Taylor has decided to dip his toe into the issue by speaking about the "three type of Fundamentalists and Evangelicals after 1956." As we can see however, Taylor made the same revisionist error of omitting Confessional Protestantism, whether that is due to ignorance or intentional maliciousness is another question. In the interest of correcting this deficit, I have decided to add the fourth column to his chart:

Confessional Protestantism
Personal separation from sin
Ecclesiastical separation from liberals/ modernists
Relationship of evangelism and social action
emphasized evangelism over social action
Style of combatting Modernism
Attitude towards Billy Graham
opposed (less strongly), but do not necessarily regard as apostate
Attitude towards NAE
Attitude towards self-designation of "fundamentalist"
Geographical concentration
J.G. Machen, Reformed churches

By defining the Confessional Protestant position out of the picture, the New Evangelicals, or its latest reincarnation in the "New Calvinism," can claim to be the moderate position between the extremes of Liberalism and Fundamentalism. Furthermore, they can claim, and do claim, continuity with the Reformation, even though they do not belong there. In the one hand, they held up the portrayal of the Liberals, which every true Christian would reject as having compromised the faith. In the other hand, they held up the portrayal of the angry Fundamentalists, using the worst excesses of that movement as an example to tar the rest. They thus seem both strong on doctrine (contra Liberalism) yet charitable towards others (contra Fundamentalism). Confessional Protestantism however cannot be so easily tarred, so it is probably better to revise them out of the picture, since after all they are generally not a big and vocal group, and some can be co-opted into their camp.

Between Confessional Protestantism and Separatist Fundamentalists, the major difference is the balance we achieve through focusing on the historic creeds and confessions of the Church. Separatists Fundamentalists, due to the anti-intellectualism held by many of them, tend towards imbalances resulting in factions and schisms. The prevalence of Dispensationalism in many parts of separatist Fundamentalism has resulted in a cottage industry of elaborate eschatological charts, filling in the blanks where Scripture is silent. Is it not any wonder that factions and schisms will result from such doctrinal imbalances, where belief in a pre-tribulation rapture (nowhere taught in Scripture) becomes definitive of orthodoxy in some circles? Confessional Protestantism, by focusing on the pattern of sound words, do not suffer from such schisms found in Fundamentalist circles, schisms which may be exaggerated by the New Evangelicals to prove that the separatists are short on Christian charity.

The focus on the historic creeds and confessions of the Church of course means that it is less a movement than a church, thus tied to denominations. It is understandable that Evangelicalism hate denominations, but that doesn't make the link to denominations wrong. Perhaps that is another reason why Evangelicals like Justin Taylor wish to ignore Confessional Protestantism. In all fairness, Taylor is not the only one to do so; most of the histories regarding Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism in the 20th century do the same, and all of them are wrong in their omission. One wonders how many of them actually read what John Gresham Machen believed concerning ecclesiology and the Fundamentalism of his time, instead of just focusing on his battle with Modernism.

We return to the beginning of Taylor's article, where he mentions three "definitions" from Dr. Dockery. I will add in the fourth "definition," and thus we will see the different spirit in Confessional Protestantism.

An Evangelical is someone who likes Billy Graham;
A Liberal is someone who thinks Billy Graham is a fundamentalist;
A Fundamentalist is someone who thinks Billy Graham is apostate. AND
A Confessional Protestant is someone who deplores Billy Graham's compromise and lack of biblical ecclesiology, while acknowledging both the good and the bad he has done for the spread of the Christian faith.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Charlie Hebdo and the right to offend


The massacre at the office of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo by Islamic terrorists sparked outrage throughout much of the Western world. There is talk about freedom of speech and freedom of expression, even for blasphemy, of which the cartoonists most certainly were guilty of. The cartoonists were thus not exactly nice people, so even though gunning them down is wicked, some might think they deserve what they got. Even worse is the constant attack on freedom of speech and expression from certain sources like this, with the idea that we should not have absolute freedom of speech and expression.

There are two issues here: One of consistency, and the other concerning freedom. With regards to consistency, the issue is that the West is hypocritical when it comes to freedom of speech. Theirs is the "freedom" to ridicule those deemed acceptable to be mocked, but try mocking (actually only just need to disagree with) the LGBTQIA lobby and see what happens! Is there really freedom of speech in Western countries? The disgraceful dismissal of Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran for "thought crime" certainly establishes the bigotry of the LGBTQIA agenda. So much for actual freedom of speech and expression in the West!


The second issue of freedom has two aspects: civil and religious. In the civil realm we have countries that categorically deny freedom of speech and expression on principle. In the religious realm, we have the argument that blasphemy should be criminalized Either way, the idea is that there should not be actual freedom of speech and expression.

The civil aspect focuses on the idea that peace and harmony in society depends on forbidding speech that offends. Now, as a practical concern, this is certainly a factor to be considered when one implements freedom of speech, but practice is not identical to principle. One could very well affirm freedom of speech on principle, while citing practical concerns for imposing some limitations on its exercise in society. The principle however should be defended, for the main issue is this: Who gets to define what speech is offensive and what speech is not? Does the State get to determine matters of religion and philosophy? Is it even qualified for that task? Of course not! And that is the main issue here: One man's religion might be another man's blasphemy. Islam for example categorically denies the deity of Christ, whom they call Isa. In Christian theology, denial of Christ's deity is heresy and blasphemy, so should Christians insist that Muslims do not teach that Christ is not God? Most certainly not! Muslims should have the right to deny what Christians assert to be true! That the State has the capability to decide what kind of speech is and is not offensive is ludicrous to the extreme. What happens is that such determination becomes totally arbitrary and the State becomes, as it were, "God", to determine by fiat what is and what is not considered "acceptable speech."

On the religious front, yes, blasphemy is a moral sin. It angers God, and blasphemers will be punished by God, personally. But does that mean on the civil realm we should punish blasphemy? Those like Tim Bayly who argue for blasphemy laws clearly do not have a sense of Church history especially the 30 years' war, where people are killed simply because they hold to a difference confession of faith. As I have mentioned earlier, one man's religion is another man's blasphemy. Who gets to determine what blasphemy looks or doesn't look like? The State? How about Tridentine Roman Catholicism, which bathed the European continent in blood with the French wars of religion, the Dutch war of independence, and of course the 30 years' war? Perhaps Bayly would love 16th century Italy, whereby Protestants of all stripes were routinely burned at the stake for heresy? Yes, blasphemy is sin, but not all sin is to be punished by the civil government. Can anyone imagine what would happen if the State decides to punish all lying? I guess the politicians would all go to jail first, followed by the rest of the people!

So while blasphemy is a detestable sin against God, in the civil realm, there must be a right to blaspheme. Christians have the right to express outrage, to organize boycotts and so on in response, but blasphemy should never be a civil crime.

In conclusion, there should be actual freedom of speech and expression, not because that would result in an ideal society, but because the alternative to that is a society not under the rule of law but under the arbitrary whims of government. Better some blasphemy and hurt feelings, than the Orvellian society of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Gospel Coalition just has to prove its critics right

I think it goes to the whole structural problem in the whole young, restless and reformed thing, and that is, the guys at the top decided who was going to be allowed to make criticism, who they were going to listen to, and who they were going to ignore, and you end up, when you decide that, right at the start, you end up with a terribly, terribly potentially corrupt system. .. The truth is so rarely actually spoken into these guys' lives -Carl Trueman (10:45-11:14)

Kevin DeYoung recently wrote a hit piece attacking "internet criticism," and basically claimed that these guys aren't worth listening to. As if to prove my point, any posted criticism of DeYoung's article "miraculously" disappeared off their FB page. Now, just compare their action with what Dr. Trueman said about the entire YRR movement. Time and time again, we have been proven right, and over and over again, none of them want to listen. They rather blunder and abet more Mark Driscolls, more James MacDonalds and so on, and the train wreck continues. I had "prophesied" the train wreck, not because I possess the *gift* of prophecy, but because it was so obvious what was going to happen. Yet they ignored their critics and what we warned about came true.

This hit piece was written by Kevin DeYoung. Remember, this was the guy who hasn't apologized at all for insulting single men. When he talks about "internet critics," he means he can critique and attack anyone he wishes to, but the same is denied to those who push back against him. Evidently, to the YRR establishment, all they want is an echo chamber. Applause and accolades are welcome, but critiques are most certainly not welcome. Why they even bother with keeping up the facade of engaging in social media is anyone's guess, unless by "social media," they mean "I talk, you listen."

So here continues the New Evangelical Calvinism train wreck, coming to a town near you.