Book Review: Searching For Adam

Searching for Adam: Genesis & the Truth About Man's OriginSearching for Adam: Genesis & the Truth About Man’s Origin by Terry Mortenson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A long and difficult, but excellent book on the case for a historical Adam. It begins with Scripture, moves through some various theological and philosophical arguments, and then moves on to science. The exegetical part was interesting, though I find any exegetical argument against a historical Adam similar to the Cleveland Browns. They keep trying but always come up short. The Bible does not allow you to get rid of historical Adam. And by that I mean a man specially created as the first human to be the federal head of the entire human race.

But the sections most fascinating to me were the scientific sections where DNA, Neanderthals, human over design, comparison of humans to apes, and several other things were discussed.

As I continue to read young earth creationists as well as the old-earth guys and theistic evolutionists here is what I am noticing. For a long time YEC men have had a leg up in theology, Scripture/exegesis, philosophy, and church history. In other words, in each of these areas the YEC interpretation was more probable than the OEC interpretation or theistic evolution. The one area where OEC and theistic evolutionists had a leg up was science. This has led to some embarrassing YEC scientific conclusions, especially early on. (Though in fairness it is not as if evolution has been one long string of uninterrupted successes. They are constantly modifying as well.) But YEC is catching up. Men are getting advanced degrees in key areas from schools with secular pedigree and are using their knowledge to prove YEC instead of OEC/TE. The other thing I notice is that many YEC scientists interact regularly not just with Christian OEC men, but with secular evolutionists. They read their papers and books. This makes them sharper, clearer, and more precise in what they are arguing.

I do not see this same effort from secular evolutionists and even many Christian OEC men dismiss YEC scientists. This is a mistake. In the long run, taking your opponents seriously is a sign of respect and will help you grow. YECers do this better than OECers, though of course they are not perfect.

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Where are the Brakes for Old Earth Christians?

I am a young earth, six day, 24 hour day man. I believe this is consistent with the Biblical text and think science backs this up. I have friends who are old earth guys. One of the key questions I think OEC men need to answer is where are the brakes? What is not allowed in their system? What I have found with many OEC is there are no brakes. Anything is allowed as long as God shows up somewhere. Full scale human evolution with a view of God that verges on Deism. Death of all kinds before Adam’s sin. A fall that drifts towards the mythical. An Adam and Eve that doesn’t really exist. I know not all OEC men hold these positions. That is not my point. My question is if you are a Christian who is old earth what are the lines that cannot be crossed? What interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis would they condemn?

I do not believe every OECer is a heretic or is going down the slippery slope to apostasy, though of course some are. But if a system allows for any and all approaches to Genesis 1-3 then it seems to me it is a system with problems. So what is and what is not allowed by old earth Christians? When will an OEC man say to another OEC man you are out of line? Is the only criteria that God got the ball rolling? As long as God hit the first domino everything else is allowed? Is there any teaching on Genesis 1-3 that they would label a “false teaching and dangerous?” In my experience, while there is disagreement among OEC men on the specifics of Genesis 1-3, there are few brakes if any in the OEC system. This allows for false teaching to take up residence among OECers that has little do with the age of the earth.

Book Review: Faith, Form, and Time by Kurt Wise

Faith, Form, and Time: What the Bible Teaches and Science Confirms about Creation and the Age of the UniverseFaith, Form, and Time: What the Bible Teaches and Science Confirms about Creation and the Age of the Universe by Kurt P. Wise

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had never heard of Kurt Wise before a friend recommended this book. It was an excellent read. Several things of note from the book.

First, he is a YEC, global flood guy who believes in everything the Bible says. The book operates on this assumption. In other words, he operates from the view the God of the Bible exists. He is not an ID guy or something like that. He assumes a literal fall with sin and death entering the world at that point.

Second, he does not treat evolutionists or OEC as if they are idiots. In other words, he is gracious throughout the book and a good model of how to interact with those we disagree with. He states in various places that evolutionists have good reasons for believing certain things.

Third, he does not assume YEC answers all the questions out there. At numerous places in the book he indicates the need for more research from the YEC guys to answer specific questions put to them by OEC folks. This approach spurs on the need for more research by Christian scientists. If I was a young Christian looking to study biology, geology, or similar disciplines I would find a good ally in Wise.

Fourth, he does indicate that YEC answers more questions better. In other words, YEC is not just more plausible via Scripture, but even via science it is more plausible. He often uses phrases like “it would seem” or “at this point in study” or “if YEC is true then this scientific finding makes sense” and so on. He does not say everything evolution says is rubbish and stupid. But he does indicate that YEC does a better job answering more questions, though it does not answer all of them.

Fifth, he does a lot work with the post-Flood world and Babel. I am not convinced of all that he says in these sections. But again the goal is not absolute assurance, but plausibility. Can a worldwide flood account for the earth as it is today? He gives numerous examples of how the flood can do this. This was one of more fascinating sections of the book as he described shifting plates, an Ice Advance, as he called it, the creation of canyons via large amounts of rain, etc. Many YEC folks focus on the global flood, but Wise spends more time on how a post-flood world would create the geological formations, etc. that we have. Also his section on Babel was unique, at least as far as my reading goes, but only served to increase the plausibility of the Biblical account when laid alongside the world as it currently is.

Sixth, some of this was way over my head. Two sections, that on DNA and the part on tectonic plates, were hard for me to follow. There is quite a bit of technical language in the book.

Finally, what Wise does best is convince you that YEC/global flood/Babel are just as plausible, if not more plausible, than evolution or OEC. But he does this without treating either group as fools and without giving the impression that we just point at Genesis 1 and tell people to shut up. He also does it in such as way as to encourage Christian scientists to explore the world.

He does have some strange dispensational/pre-mil views that show through here and there, but overall do not impact the value of the book.

Highly recommended to all Christians who are interested in the topic.

My Rating System
1 Star-Terrible book and dangerous. Burn it in the streets.

2 Stars-Really bad book, would not recommend, probably has some dangerous ideas in it or could just be so poorly written/researched that it is not worth reading. Few books I read are 1 or 2 stars because I am careful about what I read.

3 Stars-Either I disagree with it at too many points to recommend it or it is just not a good book on the subject or for the genre. Would not read it again, reference it, or recommend it. But it is not necessarily dangerous except as a time waster.

4 Stars-Solid book on the subject or for the genre. This does not mean I agree with everything in it. I would recommend this book to others and would probably read it again or reference it. Most books fall in this category because I try not to read books I don’t think will be good. There is a quite a variety here. 3.6 is pretty far from 4.5.

5 Stars-Excellent book. Classic in the genre or top of the line for the subject. I might also put a book in here that impacted me personally at the time I read it. I would highly recommend this book, even if I do not agree with all that it says. Few books fall in this category. Over time I have put less in this category.

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Evolution and Beauty

Biological beauty is challenging to explain in evolutionary theory. Organisms usually generate their beauty at some cost to the organism. Either complex chemical pigments are required or cleaver mechanisms are employed for the diffraction of light. Either way, energy is invariably expended by the organism to create and maintain its beauty. In evolutionary theory, anything that requires an investment of energy on the part of the organism should have come about only because it was necessary for the organism’s survival. But the beauty of organisms-even that which is utilized by the organism for mate choice, defense, and so on-does not seem to be necessary for organismal survival. It seems to fulfill a function beyond survival: to show the abundance and glory of God. (Kurt Wise, Faith, Form, and Time, p. 128-129)

Every Blade Declares His Glory: Turretin Takes on Evolution

Mountains 1

I am slowly working my way through Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology. Turretin was a professor in Geneva in the mid-1600s. He died in 1687.  His Institutes are divided up into twenty topics, which he then works through by asking and answering various questions. I am currently on his third topic, which is “The One and Triune God.”

The first question in this third topic is:

Can the existence of God be irrefutably demonstrated against the atheists? We affirm

Turretin then gives four demonstrations that God exists.
1. The voice of universal nature
2. The contemplation of man himself
3. The testimony of conscience
4. The consent of all mankind.

In the midst of arguing his first point about the “voice of universal nature” he has a wonderful section about how the order of universe proves God. All the bold and brackets are mine.

The wonderful beauty and order of the universe is another proof. For if order requires wisdom and intelligence, the most perfect supposes the most perfectly necessary and infinite wisdom which we call God. Now he is blind who does not see the most beautiful order everywhere and most wicked who does not acknowledge it. There is so suitable disposition of parts, so constant a concord of things so discordant, so harmonious an agreement and consent of creatures the most diverse, so swift and at the same time equable motion of the heavenly bodies and so immutable a stability and constancy of the order once established. So not only do the heavens declare the glory of God, but every blade of grass and every flower of the field, every pebble on the shore and every shell in the ocean proclaim not only his power and goodness, but also his manifold wisdom, so near each one that even by feeling, God can be found. Augustine says, “The prophetic voices excepted, the world itself by its own most regular mutability and mobility and the exquisitely beautiful appearance of all visible things, silently as it were proclaims both that it was made and could be made only by a God unspeakably and invisibly great, and unspeakably and invisibly beautiful.”

But what about chance? Could chance plus time plus matter bring this all into existence? This may sound like a 21st century question, but Turretin answers it almost four hundred years ago.

You may say perhaps that these things were so arranged by chance and by a fortuitous concourse of atoms. But I know not whether such an impious and absurd opinion is worthy of refutation, since these things denote not chance, but the highest art.  For things which come by chance are uncertain and ill-arranged and have nothing constant and similar; but nothing can be conceived more regular and composed  than this universal frame. To say, then, that this beautiful and highly decorated universe was produced by a fortuitous concourse of atoms is the same as to say that, “if innumerable forms of the one and twenty letters were thrown together, the annals of Ennius [An epic Roman poem] could be produced from them when shaken upon the earth and could afterwards be read” [Cicero].

In the same place he [Cicero] quotes from Aristotle: “If there were persons who had always lived under the earth in good and splendid habitation and yet had never come out upon its surface, but had heard that there was a deity and a power of the gods; then upon some occasion the jaws of the earth being opened they could come out and walk abroad in these places where we now live; when suddenly they would see the earth, and the sea and the heavens, and behold the sun, and know both its admirable magnitude and virtue, and contemplate the whole sky bespangled with stars, their rising and setting, their regulated and immutable eternal motion; when they saw these things they would assuredly think both that there were gods, and that these so magnificent works were theirs.

Finally, Turretin turns to the human body as proof of God’s existence.

Man himself has in his own breast a familiar teacher of this very truth. If he would withdraw his attention from all things and reflect upon himself, he would recognize no less wisdom in the little world [the human body] than in the great, and admire in his body a visible (and in his mind scintillating) divinity. For whence is the body constructed with such wonderful and stupendous skill? Whence so many different members created together by a mutual interweaving and so fitly disposed to their peculiar offices, unless from an immense spirit? When the mind, a particle of the divine breath, possessed of so many faculties, furnished with so many gifts, unless from a supreme intelligence? This image clearly bespeaks its prototype, and everyone who pays attention will not only hear and see God present in himself, but also in a manner touch and feel him. 

The questions we often hear about chance, matter, the existence of God, etc. are not new ones. The context might be different, but the questions are the same. And the answers have not changed either. Heaven declares God’s glory (Psalm 19:1). Man is fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). All men have God’s image stamped on them (James 3:9) All men have a conscience that reflects God’s law (Romans 1:18-21, 2:14-15).  Man knows that God is and that this world was created by his power and wisdom. He always has.

This is a re-post from the fall of 2015. 

Can We Love Things Too Much?

Joe Rigney’s book The Things of Earth has been a great joy to read. He takes John Piper’s idea of Christian Hedonism and expands upon it and fills it out. The book produces a deep love for God and his gifts. He shows how we can love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and love all the gifts that he gives to us. He does this by encouraging us to put Christ first. But then we are able to cheerfully love all the gifts God has given to us. Our love for God does not diminish, but rather strengthens, our love for things.

He uses the illustration of a cake his wife makes. The more I love my wife the more I will enjoy the cake she has given to me. If my love for my wife is weak, I might eat the cake, but I will not enjoy it as I ought to. It certainly isn’t loving my wife to not eat the cake.

Throughout the book he answers questions such as: What about idolatry? If I embrace God’s gifts will that lead me to be selfish? How can I enjoy God’s gifts when they come from a sinful culture? What about self-denial? Should I give up good gifts and if so why? What about when God takes away gifts, when I suffer involuntarily? His answers to these questions are biblical, practical, and balanced.

He focuses on gratitude and joy. He reminds us that God loves pleasure. He made us good and he made us creatures with eyes to see, noses to smell, hands to touch, ears to hear, and hearts to feel. He wants us to enjoy cake, ice cream, hikes, sunsets, our spouses, fireworks, and basketball. And he wants to enjoy these things guilt free.

So how would he answer the question, Can we love things too much? Here is a portion of a letter he wrote to a friend whose infant son was dying. All italics are his.

You cannot love your son too much. This is because, as you’ve said to me over and over again, he is a gift to you. God has given him to you, as a gift, and you are receiving him as a gift. Your son is a work of God, as expression of God’s glory and grace and love, and one that is customized for you and your family. You can only love him wrongly if you love him in place of God. But if you receive him as a gift from God, in all his wonder and beauty and sweetness and fragility, then you cannot love him too much or prize him too highly, and you should feel no shred of guilt because you love him as you do and long for his health and desperately want to cling to him and know him and spend time with him for as long as you can. 

So I just want to encourage you and your wife to plunge headlong into the gift. Savor every moment with that baby. Touch him, hold him, caress him, let the love that you feel for him surge through you. Let it provoke you to tears and sadness and gut wrenching feeling that you would do absolutely anything to make your son whole. Let your love for your little boy take you beyond pain and sorrow to the indestructible joy of the God who gives good gifts and is not threatened by them. 

Rigney’s answer is no you cannot love things too much. You can only love them wrongly. A drunkard does not love beer too much. He hates beer.  A man addicted to porn does not love sex too much. He he hates it. As our love for God increases our love for the gifts he has given increases as well. We should “plunge headlong into the gifts” God has given to us. In this example, Rigney uses a child. But throughout the book he makes clear that all things are gifts from God, including our cars, houses, food, toys, books, movies, grass, trees, etc. We cannot properly honor God or follow him until we see things as gifts from his hand.

I am sure you have more questions. I would encourage you to get the book. The second half is particularly valuable in helping free up Christians to love God and His gifts, to live free of guilt and full of gratitude for those gifts, and to use those gifts in service of God and neighbor.

The Weapon of Technology

One of the more fascinating aspects of the Planned Parenthood sting has been the use of technology. Christians for years have been uneasy about technology, especially as it progressed at breakneck speed in the late 20th century. Movies, the Internet, and then social media were of great concern for Christians. Would these things become portals of sin? But now an amazing thing has happened. Christians have begun to harvest the fruit of technology for good.  Abortion is one of the great evils. One of the heads on this snake is Planned Parenthood. God has put at our disposal various technological means to help us cut off the head.

We should assume that technology over time will bear out the truth of God’s Word.  God’s Word says babies from the moment of conception are humans. We do not need technology to tell us this. But we can use technology to back up what the Scriptures say. Ultrasounds have been one of those advances in technology that has slowly eroded the abortion narrative. One group takes a mobile ultrasound unit around and parks it in front of abortion clinics. This article from 2013 says that 56% of women who have decided to have an abortion don’t when they see the ultrasound. 87% of those who were considering abortion don’t have one when they see the ultrasound.  How many babies have been saved by ultrasounds? Planned Parenthood does not want mothers see their babies on the screen. “Nothing to see here,” they say.  I wonder why?

Movies & Youtube
Christians have for years been using a visual medium to fight against abortion. In 1984 a 28 minute video called The Silent Scream was produced, which depicted an abortion and caused many to take up the pro-life cause. Francis Schaeffer, around that same time, produced a book and film with Dr. C. Everett Koop about abortion called Whatever Happened to the Human Race? Over time documentaries and films, such as October Baby, have been made that depict either the horrors of abortion or the glories of life. Youtube has been a boon. Of course, there is a ton of trash on there. But you can also watch videos from Abby Johnson former Planned Parenthood worker expose the lies of the “pro-choice” crowd.  You can also find speeches from pro-life and pro-choice politicians and leaders, testimonials from abortion survivors and unplanned children that were not aborted, etc. We should not be afraid of this. The truth is powerful. These things are not a substitute for God’s Word, but they can buttress the truth in God’s Word.

Spy Equipment
When I was young my dad had one of those huge cell phones like this:

Cameras used to be the same way, big and bulky. They took hours to set  and hours for the film to develop.  Advances in technology however have brought us to a place where hours and hours of video can be recorded by a hidden camera and published in seconds. Anti-abortion activists can use technology that Bond or Bourne would use. This is a good thing because murderers like to hide. Doctors who chop up babies do not want to be filmed. They like the dark.  The fact that mini-cameras were used to tape doctors who promote the killing of babies and sell their body parts should bring us satisfaction. Imagine what the French Resistance could have done with button cameras? What about the laws? If the man who made the videos goes to prison, it will be worth it. He has already saved the lives of many, many babies.

Social Media & Blogging
But there is no technological phenomenon quite like social media. Even if the videos from the Center for Medical Progress had been uploaded to Youtube without social media the impact would have been much smaller. Planned Parenthood is trending for all the wrong reasons. It is fascinating to watch things turn around so quickly. Several weeks ago the Christian world was reeling from the decision by the Supreme Court to force states to allow same-sex marriage. Facebook was covered with rainbows. Now Facebook and Twitter have become a war zone over abortion with the pro-life side, for now, having the upper hand. We should use all these things to save the unborn. Social media allows us to plan rallies in a few days or even a few hours. I can follow a good friend of mine who marches in front of an abortion clinic every week and pray for him. I can connect with anti-abortion folks all over the world.  I can read blogs from top Christian thinkers on these topics. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and any other means should be used to destroy Planned Parenthood and the abortion complex. Keep the pressure on. Pursue them until they at least lose their funding, though the goal would be they go out of business. Al Mohler in his book Conviction to Lead argues that if you are not leading on social media you are not leading. Christian leaders should be grateful for these tools God has given to us. And we should use them.

There were many reasons the Reformation happened. But one of the key factors was the advent of the printing press and the ability for books to printed easier and cheaper. Luther used writing to spread his thoughts throughout the world. Calvin did the same thing. The technology available to us as Christians is enormous. What would Augustine have done with a laptop and Twitter? What would Spurgeon have done if he could rally people through Facebook? Would John Wesley have written a blog chronicling his travels as he preached? Who knows? But we have a wealth of technological gifts at our disposal. Are we using them to advance the Kingdom and tear down strongholds or are we sitting around watching the tools rust?

One Warning
Technology can help and we should use it. But it is not at the center of the battle. The center is raising our children in the Lord, loving our wives, worshiping, baptism, preaching, prayer, the Lord’s Supper, loving our neighbors, and evangelizing our communities. With all good things there is a temptation to allow them to consume us. I love Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and other avenues of growth and outreach on the Internet. But none of these compare to the value of hearing God’s Word, spending time in prayer, or reading to my children at the end of the day. As long as the center holds, we can use technology in way that honors God, loves our neighbor, and defeats His enemies. But if the center disintegrates then all the Facebooking, Twittering, and blogging will be end up being a curse instead of a blessing.