Primitive Monotheism

Primitive Monotheism

by Norman L. Geisler, Ph.D

Copyright © 1998, 2013 Norman L. Geisler – All rights reserved

THE PROBLEM OF EARLY MONOTHEISM

The Bible teaches that monotheism was the earliest conception of God. The very first verse of Genesis is monotheistic: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). All the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, reflect an early monotheism (Gen. 12-50). This reveals one God who created the world and who, therefore, is prior to, more than, and different from the world. These are the essential elements of theism or monotheism.

Likewise, long before Moses, Joseph clearly believed in a moral monotheism. His refusal to commit adultery was because it would be a sin against God. While resisting the temptation of Potiphar’s wife he declared: “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9).

The other book in the Bible that reflects an ancient pre-Mosaic period, Job, clearly has a monotheistic view of God. There is good evidence that the book of Job was set in pre-Mosaic patriarchal times (see below). It speaks of an “almighty” (see 5:17; 6:14; 8:3, etc.) personal God (cf. 1:7-8) who created the world (38:4) who is sovereign over it (42:1-2).

What is more, Romans 1 affirms that monotheism preceded animism and polytheism, affirming that “what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator — who is forever praised” (Rom. 1:19-25).

FRAZER’S THESIS OF A LATE MONOTHEISM

The early monotheism thesis was championed by W. Schmidt in his High Gods in North

America (1933).[1] However, James Frazer’s The Golden Bough (1912)[2] has dominated the history of religion for the past few generations. His hypothesis is that religions evolved from animism through polytheism to henotheism and finally monotheism. In spite of its selective and anecdotal use of sources that are outdated by subsequent research, the ideas from the book are still widely believed. Frazer’s contention that a monotheistic conception of God evolved late is without foundation for many reasons.

 

ARGUMENTS FOR AN EARLY MONOTHEISM

There are many arguments in favor of primitive monotheism. Many come from the records and traditions we have of early civilization. These include Genesis, Job, the Ebla Tablets, and the study of preliterate tribes.

The Historicity of Genesis

There is no doubt that the book of Genesis represents a monotheistic God. Likewise, it is clear that the book of Genesis purports to be a record of the history of the human race back to the first human beings. Hence, what argues for the historicity of the first chapters of Genesis also argues in favor of an early monotheism. Noted archaeologist, William F. Albright, has demonstrated that the Genesis record of the patriarchs (12-50) is historical. He wrote, “Thanks to modern research we now recognize its [the Bible’s] substantial historicity. The narratives of the patriarchs, of Moses and the exodus, of the conquest of Canaan, of the judges, the monarchy, exile and restoration, have all been confirmed and illustrated to an extent that I should have thought impossible forty years ago.”[3] He added, “Aside from a few die-hards among older scholars, there is scarcely a single biblical historian who has not been impressed by the rapid accumulation of data supporting the substantial historicity of patriarchal tradition.”[4] However, Genesis is a literary and genealogical unity, being tied together by a listing of family descendants (Gen. 5, 10) and the literary phrase “this is the history of” (Gen. 2:4 NKJV) or the “account of” (NIV). The phrase is used throughout the book of Genesis (2:4; 5:1; 6:9: 10:1; 11:10, 27; 25:12, 19; 36:1, 9; 37:2). What is more, events from every one of the disputed first 11 chapters of Genesis are referred to by Jesus and New Testament writers as historical, including Adam and Eve (Matt. 19:4-5); their temptation (1 Tim. 2:14); their fall (Rom. 5:12); the sacrifice of Cain and Abel (Heb. 11:4); the murder of Abel by Cain (1 Jn. 3:12); the birth of Seth (Luke 3:38); the translating of Enoch (Heb. 11:5); marriage before the flood (Lk. 17:27); the flood and destruction of man (Mt. 24:39); preservation of Noah and his family (2 Peter 2:5); the genealogy of Shem (Lk. 3:35-36), and the birth of Abraham (Luke 3:34). So, if one were to question the historicity of Genesis, then he would also have to question the authority of Christ and many other Scriptures which refer to Genesis.

There is strong evidence for the historicity of the Genesis record about Adam and Eve in particular. Yet this record reveals that the very first parents of the race were monotheists (see Gen. 1:1, 27; 2:16-17; 4:26; 5:1, 2). 1) Genesis 1-2 presents them as actual persons and even narrates the important events in their lives (=history). 2) They gave birth to literal children who did the same (Gen. 4:1, 25; 5:1f.). 3) The same phrase (“this is the history of”), used to record later history in Genesis (6:9; 9:12; 10:1, 32; 11:10, 27; 17:7, 9), is used of the creation account (2:4) and of Adam and Eve and their descendants (Gen. 5:1). 4) Later Old Testament chronologies place Adam at the top of the list (1 Chron. 1:1). 5) The New Testament places Adam at the beginning of Jesus’ literal ancestors (Luke 3:38). 6) Jesus referred to Adam and Eve as the first literal “male and female,” making their physical union the basis of marriage (Matt. 19:4). 7) The book of Romans declares that literal death was brought into the world by a literal “Adam” (Rom. 5:14). 8) The comparison of Adam (the “first Adam”) with Christ (the “last Adam”) in 1 Corinthians 15:45 manifests that Adam was understood as a literal, historical person. 9) Paul’s declaration that “Adam was first formed, then Eve” (1 Tim. 2:13-14) reveals that he speaks of a real person. 10) Logically there had to be a first real set of human beings, male and female, or else the race would have had no way to get going. The Bible calls this literal couple “Adam and Eve,” and there is no reason to doubt their real existence. And what argues for their historicity also supports an early monotheism.

The Evidence from the Book of Job

Other than Genesis, Job is possibly the oldest book in the Old Testament. At the least the story is set in pre-Mosaic patriarchal times. Yet it too reveals a monotheistic view of God. God is the personal (see Job 1:6, 21), moral (1:1; 8:3-4) yet sovereign (42:1-2), and Almighty (5:17; 6:14; 8:3; 13:3, etc.) Creator (4:17; 9:8-9; 26:7; 38:6-7). The early setting of Job is evidenced by: 1) the pre-Mosaic family clan organization; 2) the lack of any reference to the Mosaic Law; 3) the use of the characteristic patriarchal name for God, “the Almighty” (Job 5:17; 6:4; 8:3 cf. Gen. 17:1; 28:3, etc.) 4) the comparative rarity of the name “LORD” (Yahweh) (cf. Ex. 6:3); 5) the offering of sacrifices by the head of a family rather than by a levitical priest; 6) the mention of early coinage (Job 42:11 cf. Gen. 33:19); 7) use of the phrase “sons of God” (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7) found elsewhere only in Genesis 6:2-4); and 8) the longevity of Job who lived 140 years after his family was grown (42:16) fits a patriarchal period. But Job speaks of One God who created the world (Job 38:4) and is sovereign over all things in it (cf. 42:2), including Satan (see Job. 1:1, 6, 21 etc.). But all of these are characteristics of a monotheistic God. Thus, the early time of Job reveals that monotheism was not a late development.

Evidence from the Ebla Tablets

Outside the Bible, the oldest records come from Ebla in Syria. And they reveal a clear monotheism declaring: “Lord of heaven and earth: the earth was not, you created it, the light of day was not, you created it, the morning light you had not [yet] made exist.”[5] This lucid statement of monotheism from such early tablets is an evident sign of early monotheism. It alone should lay to rest the idea of an evolved and late monotheism.

Primitive Religions are Monotheistic

Contrary to popular belief, the primitive religions of Africa unanimously reveal an explicit monotheism. The noted authority on African religions, John S. Mbiti wrote of the 300 traditional religions, “In all these societies, without a single exception, people have a notion of God as the Supreme Being.”[6] This is true of other primitive religions as well, many of which have a High God or Sky God which reflects a basic monotheism.

The Influence of Evolution

The idea that monotheism evolved is itself late, gaining popularity in the wake of Charles Darwin’s theory of biological evolution (On The Origin of

Species, 1859) and even stated by Darwin later in his Descent of Man (1896). He wrote:

Belief in God — Religion. — There is no evidence that man was aboriginally endowed with the ennobling belief in the existence of an Omnipotent God.” On the contrary, Darwin believed that human “mental faculties . . . led man to believe in unseen spiritual agencies, then to fetishism, polytheism, and ultimately monotheism . . . .[7]

Frazer’s evolutionary idea in religion is based on several unproven assumptions. One, it assumes biological evolution is true when it fact it seriously lacks support. But this has been seriously challenged by noted scientists.[8] Second, even if biological evolution were true on a biological level, there is no reason to believe evolution is true in the religious realm. It is a methodological category mistake to assume that what is true in one discipline is also true in another. Social Darwinism is another case in point. Few Darwinians would agree with Hitler in Mein Kampf that we should weed out the inferior races since evolution has been doing this for centuries! He wrote: “If nature does not wish that weaker individuals should mate with the stronger, she wishes even less that a superior race should intermingle with an inferior one; because in such a case all her efforts, throughout hundreds of thousands of years, to establish an evolutionary higher stage of being, may thus be rendered futile.”[9] But if evolution should not be applied to human social development, then there is no reason to apply it to religion either.

Anecdotal Evidence

Frazer’s evolution of monotheism thesis is based on fragmentary and anecdotal evidence, not a serious historical and chronological search for the origins of monotheism. Like the so-called evolution of the horse once used by evolutionists, alleged examples of the hypothesis are taken out of order and without due regard for their proper ancestors. In short, Frazer’s evolution of monotheism assumes an evolutionary thesis and then finds bits and pieces of evidence to fit it.

A BETTER EXPLANATION

The origins of polytheism can be explained as well, if not better, as a degeneration from original monotheism just as Rom. 1:19f. declare. That is, paganism is a falling away from the primitive monotheism. This is evident in the fact that most pre-literate religions have a latent monotheism in their view of the Sky God or High God (see Mbiti). William F. Albright likewise acknowledges that the “high gods may be all-powerful and they may be credited with creation of the world; they are generally cosmic deities who often, perhaps usually, reside in heaven.”[10] This clearly runs counter to the animistic and polytheistic conceptions of deity.

CONCLUSION

There is no real reason to deny the biblical account of an early monotheism. On the contrary, there is every evidence to believe that monotheism was the first religion from which others devolved just as Romans 1:19f. declare. Indeed, this fits better with the strong evidence for the existence of a monotheistic[11] God and the proven tendency of human beings to distort the truth God reveals to them (cf. Rom. 1:18f). In short, man’s view of God has devolved, not evolved, over the centuries. God made man in His image, but man has returned the compliment.


 

[1] See W. Schmidt, High Gods in North America (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1933), The Origin and Growth of Religion: Facts and Theories (London, Methuen, 1931), Primitive Revelation (St. Louis, MO: B. Herder, 1939).

[2] James G. Frazer, The Golden Bough (London: Macmillan, 1890).

[3] William F. Albright, From Stone Age to Christianity (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1957), 1329.

[4] William F. Albright, The Biblical Period (New York: Harper, 1955), 1.

[5] Cited by Eugene Merrill, “Ebla and Biblical Historical Inerrancy,” Bibliotheca Sacra (Oct.Dec., 1983).

[6] See John S. Mbiti, African Religions and Philosophy (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1969); Concepts of God in Africa (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1970).

[7] Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (New York: Appleton and Company, 1896), 302, 303.

[8] See Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (Bethesda, MD: Adler and Adler, 1985) and Michael Behe, Darwin’s Black Box (New York: The Free Press, 1996).

[9] Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf (London: Gurst and Blackett Ltds, Publishers, 1939), 239-242.

[10] Albright, From Stone Age to Christianity, 170.

[11] See William Lane Craig, The Kalam Cosmological Argument (London: The MacMillan Press, 1979); Norman L. Geisler, Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1976), chapter 13; Fred Heeren, Show Me God: What the Message from Space Is Telling Us About God (Wheeling, IL: Searchlight Publications, 1995); Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God. Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress, 1993.


Further Reading

Winfried Corduan wrote In the Beginning God: A Fresh Look at the Case for Original Monotheism

ISBN: 9780805447781 | BHPublishingGroup | 2013

Christians believe that religion began when God created human beings and revealed himself to them. But is there scholarly evidence for this belief? In the nineteenth century academic world a stormy debate took shape over the origin of religion. Scholars explored the ancient languages of mythology and then considered evolutionary anthropology. A dominant view emerged that religion began with animism — the reverent honoring of spirits — and from there evolved into higher forms, from polytheism on to monotheism. However, scholars Andrew Lang and Wilhem Schmidt contended there were cultures throughout the world — pygmy people in Africa and Asia, certain Australian Aboriginal groups and Native American tribes — that originated as monotheistic, acknowledging the existence of one supreme God who created the world and holds people accountable for living morally upright lives. The debate wore on, and Schmidt, a member of the Catholic order and a priest, was accused (without evidence) of letting his faith interpret the facts. By the mid-twentieth century a silent consensus formed among scholars not to discuss the origin and evolution of religion any further. The discoveries of Lang and Schmidt have since been largely ignored. However, the evidence on which these scholars based their conclusion of monotheism is still out there. In the Beginning God attempts to educate Christians about the debate on this topic, the facts that were accepted and those that were ignored, and the use to which Christians can put all of this material in making a case for the truth of Christianity.

A Review of Michael Behe’s The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism

A Review of Michael Behe’s The Edge of Evolution:

The Search for the Limits of Darwinism

By Norman L. Geisler

Introduction

This book is the follow up of Behe’s revolutionary work, Darwin’s Black Box. Like the first volume, this 307 page tome will also created a stir in the perennial creation-evolution debate. Unlike the first book, the emphasis here is on the limits of evolution rather than the need for intelligent design. Behe’s general conclusions are based largely on the Malaria and HIV studies which enable scientists to determine the rate of “helpful” chance mutations (13) for micro evolution. When this is applied to mutations in living things, Behe believes the mathematical odds eliminate the Darwinian belief that the origin of all living forms can be explained by random mutations and natural selection. This attempt to define the limits of Darwinism provides a way to determine the borders for micro-evolution within an overall intelligent design framework. It is one of the most sophisticated attempts to define the border between macro and micro evolution. The previous effort was by Ray Bolin’s book, The Limits to Biological Change (1984). Much of Behe’s work deals with a technical microbiological discussion of the nature of the cell. However, because of the use of good illustrations, even the scientifically untrained reader can understand the overall argument.

The Central Thesis

Behe concludes that everything from biological classes, types, and phyla clearly need a designer. Everything from species, varieties, and individuals can be explained by purely natural processes like “random mutations, natural selection, and common descent” (1). The Line, then, between, Darwin and design is somewhere in the area of orders, families, and genera (218), though he thinks it is likely that even the orders are designed (193, 199).

In other words, micro evolution (changes within different types) can be accounted for Darwinian processes without any intelligent design. Before that level, however, only an Intelligent Designer can account for the irreducible complexity in living things. Thus, the origin of new life forms cannot be accounted for by a completely Darwinian random processes of chance mutations, and natural selection.

Theistic Evolution

Creationists who missed the fine print in Behe’s first book, acknowledging that he held an overall evolutionary common ancestry thesis, will be disappointed with The Edge of Evolution. For here Behe makes it clear that he is a theistic evolutionist (166, 182, 232). He says: “I’ll show some of the newest evidence from studies of DNA that convinces most scientists, including myself, that one leg of Darwin’s theory–common descent–is correct” (65). He adds, “when two lineages share what appears to be an arbitrary genetic accident, the case for common descent becomes compelling …. This sort of evidence he sees in the genomes of humans and chimpanzees” (70-71). “More compelling evidence for the shared ancestry of humans and other primates comes from …a broken hemoglobin gene” which they share (71). Creationists, however, have shown that a common Creator explains this same data as a result of intelligent design (see Fazele Rana and High Ross, Who Was Adam?, 2005, Chapter 14).

Behe seems to favor the position that “intelligent design is quite compatible with the view that the universe operates by unbroken natural law, with the design of life perhaps packed into its initial set-up” (166). Thus, “the bottom line is this: Common descent is true; yet the explanation of common descent … is in a profound sense trivial” Why? Because “It does not even begin to explain where these commonalities came from, or how humans subsequently acquired remarkable differences” (72). Behe believes that it comes from pre-planned and pre-set intelligent design, perhaps from the moment of the Big Bang.

Random Changes are Inadequate

As one would suspect from his first work, Behe reaffirms his initial thesis that “Random duplicating a single gene, or even the entire genome, does not yield new complex machinery… [or] novel, complex forms of life” (74). Indeed, he insists that the studies since his first book show that “the problems of its [cilium’s] irreducible complexity has been enormously compounded” (94). And “The cilium is no fluke. The cell is full of structures whose complexity is substantially greater than we knew just ten years ago” (95). He also points to the incredible timing it takes to construct a cell, comparing it to the preparation and execution of the material and machinery necessary to erect a large building (96).
Returning to the bacterial flagellum (motor mechanism), he calls it “mind-boggling complexity” (101) since we know there are control switches that exert control over its construction. Citing noble laureate Francis Crick, Behe concludes that “An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going” (216).

Possible Divine Interference

In spite of his common descent thesis, Behe allows for the possibility of divine “interference” after the initial creation at the Big Bang. He concludes: “The bottom line is that, if one allows that a being external to the universe could affect its laws, there is no principled reason to rule out a priori more extensive interaction as well” (210). In short, “If there really does exist an agent who tuned the general laws of nature with the goal of producing intelligent life, then it’s reasonable to think the agent would have taken whatever further steps were necessary to achieve its goal” (213). However, typical of evolutionists, with or without and initial Creator, Behe agrees with the party-line criticism that this positing a series of creative events after the beginning is an unnecessary God-of-the-gaps move.

The Anthropic Connection

Behe skillfully ties his intelligent design thesis in with the anthropic principle (207-208), saying, “It’s reasonable to conclude not only that the universe is designed, but that the design extends well beyond general laws, at least down into particularities of the physical and chemistry of certain molecules” (210). This has the advantage of showing that the designer is beyond the world and that He preplanned emergence of complex life before the Big Bang. He declares that “the hard work of many scientists across many scientific disciplines in the past century unexpectedly demonstrated that both the universe at large and the earth in particular were designed for life. The heavens and earth–and life itself–alike are fine-tuned” (210). In spite of this, Behe strangely allows the view that the Designer may be within the universe like Fred Hoyle proposed (228). However, this is not consistent with the fact that the Designer preplanned the original Big Bang event before the natural world existed and pre-packed it with the necessary conditions for human life to emerge.

The Evidence for Intelligent Design

Behe posits two criteria for an intelligent cause. First, the odds against a natural cause must be great. Random mutations cannot explain the irreducibly complex nature of life for “the majority of even helpful mutations are lost by chance before they get an opportunity to spread in the population” (111). In short, the complex structure of the cell makes it unreasonable for blind Darwinism to navigate the maze necessary for life (113). For both the necessary parts and the action to achieve cell construction make it highly improbable that it would occur naturally (121).

By comparison with the HIV virus in which nothing “significantly new or complex” (155) developed in 1020 copies, Behe concludes that the likelihood of even simple helpful changes for complex cell construction are virtually nil. It is in this connection that Behe offers a helpful distinction between mere theoretical possibility (which Darwinian evolution depends on to make its case) and biologically reasonable expectation (103), namely, something that is likely to occur in nature (which Darwinians is not).

Second, the evidence of purpose is necessary to posit an intelligent cause. Indeed, Behe defines “design” as “the purposeful arrangement of parts” (168). Rational agents can coordinate things into a large system like a ship. Such an arrangement is not only highly unlikely to occur by chance, but we know from previous experience that an intelligent agent can organize things in this manner. All necessary parts must not only fit together but they must stick together (124-126). Even two new useful properties need an intelligent cause since the odds are 1040 against it. This is more than all the mammals that ever lived (135). This is so unlikely that it calls for an intelligent cause at the outer edge of evolution (145-146).

The Role of Chance (220).

The design thesis is not extended by Behe to every detail of the universe. He asks: “Is nothing left to chance? No, there is no reason to think that any but a minuscule fraction of the details of the universe or life are intended” (219). So, “we have no scientific evidence of the design of the details of most inorganic matter” (220). Hence, “Explicit design appears to reach into biology to a certain level, to the level of the vertebrate class, but not necessarily further, Randomness accounts perfectly well for many aspects of life. Contingency is real” (220). In making this claim, Behe is not discounting that even the tiniest cells are elegantly designed. He insists that random mutations can not take many coherent steps by purely natural processes (179).

Addressing Objections
Behe addresses several objections to His view. One deals with the possibility of numerous universes of which this one is the lucky shot that turned up where life emerged, as improbable as it may have been in a single universe.

The Multi-Universe Hypothesis

Behe addresses the atheistic response that this universe is only an isolated oasis of apparent design in a vast dessert of chance involving multi-universes (221) which make this unusual universe in which we live a plausible result of chance. He believes this hypothesis actually undercuts Darwinism for the models are purely speculative and iffy. That is, there is no observational evidence for such an hypothesis–which is the very basis for science. Further, on such a scenario only a bare-bones universe would be produced, not the lush one we have (223). Science can only deal with what is–not with what one imagines or wishes there to be.

Behe struggles with the infinite universes possibility which would explain this one as one of the many that would actualize in that amount of time and space. However, being unarmed with solid philosophical reasoning, he does not seem to realize that one cannot have an actual infinite number of actual universes (but only abstract ones). He does note that an infinite universes hypothesis would undermine both any meaningful sense of evidence and the fact that all false thought will appear endlessly in such a scenario. More fundamentally, he asserts that science is based on the premises that the universe is real and our senses are reliable. Without this even the first steps of reasoning are impossible (226). But granted these, the infinite universe scenario is unfounded.

The Religious Connection

In answer to the objection that the design position leads to God, Behe quotes Nick Bostrom with approval, affirming that “The ‘agent’ doing the designing need not be a theistic God …,” even though that is one possibility (228). He believes–I think wrongly–that “To reach a transcendent God, other nonscientific arguments have to be made–philosophical and theological arguments” (229). Much of the book deals with a technical microbiological discussion of the nature of the cell. However, by the use of good illustrations even scientifically untrained readers can understand the overall argument.

The God of the Gaps Objection

This reasoning, Behe insists, is not “God of the gaps” because non-randomness “encompasses the cellular foundation of life as a whole” (147). In short, it is not the lack of evidence for a natural cause but the presence of an all-permeating presence of purpose that points to a designer. According to Behe, “purposeful designer” is taken in a broad sense (229) to include either a supernatural cause beyond the universe or one inside the universe. For “the designer need not necessarily even be a truly ‘supernatural’ being.” Thus, he argues that “if one wishes to be academically rigorous, he can not leap directly from design to a transcendent God” (228). But this conclusion is unnecessary in view of Behe’s own argument since the anthropic evidence points to a supernatural cause beyond the universe, as does the evidence for the Big Bang to which he alludes. For the cause of the whole natural universe cannot be part of the universe. And the only Cause beyond the natural universe is by definition a supernatural Cause. Indeed, on his own definition of science as a conclusion relying on physical evidence, “plus standard logic” (233) one can logically infer a supernatural cause from the Big Bang origin of the entire natural universe, as we just did.

Common Ancestor or Common Creator

Behe argues that: “If mammals and flies use the same switching genes, it is reasonable to think that they inherited them from the same ancestor or ancestors” (182). Indeed, it is true that “every Hox gene seen in the fruit fly has a very similar counterpart in humans!” (180). However, Behe forgets that from this we need not infer common ancestry. For it is also reasonable to conclude that they have a common Creator. For common design points more reasonably to a common Designer than to a common ancestor. For example, the progressive models of airplanes from the Wright brothers to space ships are not evidence of a common ancestor but a common creator. And in many case a function that worked well in a previous model was incorporated into a later one.

Is the Bible Scientific?

Behe claims that it is “silly” to treat the Bible “as some sort of scientific textbook” (166).
However, while the Bible is not a systematic science text on the various sciences, nonetheless, there is no evidence to demonstrate that it is not scientifically accurate when it speaks on matters of origin. Indeed, modern science has confirmed the basic facts of Genesis one: 1) There was a Creator of the universe (Gen. 1:1). 2) First life was created (Gen. 1:21). 3) The basic kinds of multi-cellular life “exploded” on the scene in the Cambrian (Gen. 1:21-24). 4) All forms of life appeared fully formed from the beginning. 5) These forms of life remain basically the same throughout their geological existence, producing after their kind (Gen. 1:24). 6) Human beings are unique creatures with distinctive intellectual and moral capacities, even God-consciousness (Gen. 1:27). Even the Agnostic astronomer Robert Jastrow concluded, “”Now we see how the astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commence suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy” (God and the Astronomers, 14).

Does Nature Self-Organize?

Darwinian evolutionist claim that nature performs self-organizing acts such as hurricanes. But, as Behe points out these systems are not like “complex genetic systems” (159). They have no irreducible complexity, nor do they have any specified complexity such as the DNA has. Hence, this Darwinian analogy is fallacious.

Origin vs. Operation Science

Behe shows no evidence that he understands the distinction between origin and operation science distinction that we made in our book, Origin Science (1987). In fact, he seems to blur them in his definition of science as “any conclusion that relies heavily and exclusively on detailed physical evidence, plus standard logic” (233). But this is too broad and does not bring out the distinctives of each domain. Operation science deals with observed regularities in the present, but origin science treats unobserved singularities in the past. The first one is an empirical science which includes micro-evolution, but not macro evolution. It relies on observation (and experimentation) and repetition. Each theory, therefore, must be measured against a recurring pattern in the present.

However, origin science operates like a forensic science. It involves neither repetition nor direct observation of events. Rather, it relies on two other principles: causality and uniformity. The first principle posits that there is a cause for every event. The second principle declares that the kind of causes know by repeated observation in the present to produce certain kinds of events in the present are assumed to be the same kind of causes to produce like events in the past. And the two basic kinds of causes are intelligent and non-intelligent natural causes. Sciences that deal with intelligent causes in the past includes both forensic science and origin science. Had Behe explicitly used this distinction, he could have solved more problems more readily. Likewise, speaking of “testing” (233-234) an origin hypothesis is misleading in the normal sense of an empirical test. In a forensic situation, being a singular unobserved past event, there is no such way to “test” the event. One can only posit a certain kind of cause (known from repetitions in the present) as the most likely cause of that past event of origin, whether a non-intelligent natural cause or an intelligent cause.

Prediction or Retrodiction?

Failing to distinguish origin science form operation science, Behe labors to explain how intelligent design can make predictions better than Darwinian evolution (188-189, 234). But neither theory as such is primarily concerned with making predictions, though some may be inferred from them. Origin science, such as macro evolution and creation, deals with projecting back (retrodiction) from present evidence to past causes based on uniformity (the present is the key to the past). Hence, the main concern is not with verifying the theory by predictions, but with identifying the proper cause for the specific events, whether non-intelligent natural one or an intelligent one.

Suffering and Design

Behe briefly tackles the painful problem of suffering (237f.). He responds to the argument that “because it is horrific, it was not designed” by pointing out that the “revulsion is not a scientific argument.” Indeed, he insists that “denying design simply because it can cause terrible pain is a failure of nerve, a failure to look at the universe fully in the face” (239). Of course, this is a less than satisfying answer to the problem. A more direct response would be to point out two things. First, suffering does not negate the strong evidence for design. At worst, it only raises questions about the nature and purposes of the Designer. Second, the attempts to disprove the Creator based on the apparent lack of purpose for suffering are notoriously unsuccessful. At best they boil down to this: “The Creator cannot have a good purpose for allowing suffering because the creature cannot think of one.” But clearly if the Creator is infinite in knowledge, then we would expect that He would know infinitely more than we do. And if He is absolutely good (which He must be or else we could not know the world is not-perfect without this absolute standard of Perfection by which to measure it), then He must have an absolutely good purpose for everything, even if we do not know it (Deut. 29:29; Rom. 11:33).

Purpose for Apparent Randomness

Behe seems to lack a full understanding of the relation of randomness and design. They are not mutually exclusive. There is a purpose or design for randomness. For example, the random mixing of carbon dioxide which humans exhale has a good purpose, namely, it keeps them from inhaling the same poison because it did not mix with the air we inhale. Likewise, random natural selection has a good purpose: It enables various kinds of animals to survive by adapting to adverse circumstances. In short, it helps the race survive when weaker individuals are eliminated. Just as a saw mill uses the “wasted” saw dust to make other products, even so there is a purpose for the “wasted” animals who did not survive. They provide food and fertilizer for those who do survive.

Likewise, Behe’s argument for common ancestry based on alleged common mutations in genes between primates an humans is fallacious. Just as the once 180 vestigial organs of Darwin’s day have diminished to virtually none, even so, the recently so-called “junk” genes are now known to have a crucial purpose in the development of life. Any alleged “ waste” in God’s universe is probably a byproduct of a good purpose such as higher life living on lower forms. But even this byproduct of a good process (like saw dust from cutting logs) has a good use. Darwin’s view of nature that is “red in tooth and claw” was not the paradise God made in Eden (Gen. 2), nor will it be the Paradise regained in the end (Isa. 65:25; Rev. 21-22). It is the Paradise lost because of man’s sin (Gen. 2:16-17).

Conclusion

In summation, Behe’s work is a mixed blessing to the creation and intelligent design movements. It is a blessing in that: 1) It strengthens the already good argument from specified complexity to an intelligent Designer; 2) It provides a scientific basis for the limits of biological change known as micro-evolution or variation within created kinds or types of life. On the down side: 1) Behe does not seem to understand the difference between operation science and origin science (see my book Creation in the Courts (Crossway, 2007), Chap. 8); 2) He does not see how the scientific evidence leads to a supernatural Cause; 3) He buys into the unfounded argument that similarity shows a common ancestor, rather than a common Creator; 4) He wrongly assumes that some apparent mutations are evidence for common ancestry when they are really highly complex means produced by an intelligent Designer. Thus, so-called “junk” genes are not really junk. Crucial roles have been discovered for them in the increasing complexity of life. And not all apparent mutations are real ones. Granted that it took a supernatural and super intelligent Cause to produce this world (as the Big Bang and Anthropic evidence shows), there is good reason to believe that “God does not make junk!” And if it looks like junk, then scientists need to take another look. For the history of science has shown that apparent left-over organs and junk genes have turned out to have important functions. Any One who can pre-plan and produce a highly complex universe as this one should not be charged with purposeless activity. It is more likely that we are dumb than it is that a supernatural Creator is dead.

 

Does Believing in Inerrancy Require One to believe in Young Earth Creationism?

DOES BELIEVING IN INERRANCY REQUIRE ONE TO BELIEVE IN YOUNG EARTH CREATIONISM?

by Norman L. Geisler

 

The age of the earth is a hotly debated issue among evangelicals.  Old Earthers believe, like most scientists, that the universe is billions of years old. Young Earthers, measure the age of the universe in terms of thousands of years. The debate is not new, but the insistence by some Young Earthers that belief in the inerrancy of the Bible demands a Young Earth position is relatively new.

                                         The Biblical Status of the Young Earth View

            In order to establish the Young Earth view one must demonstrated that there are (1) no time gaps in the biblical record and that (2) the “days” of Genesis are six successive 24 hour days of creation.

 

Possible Gaps in Genesis

 

Unfortunately for Young Earthers, these two premises are difficult to establish for many reasons.  (1) There could have been a gap of long periods of time before Genesis 1:1 (called Recent Creationism).  (2) There could be a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 (called the Gap Theory with or without and intervening fall of Satan, as C. I. Scofield had it). (3) There could be long gaps between the six literal 24-hour days (Alternating Day-Age Theory).  The point here is not to defend any one of these views, but it is to note that belief in an Old Earth is not incompatible in principle with belief in inerrancy and a literal interpretation of Genesis. (4) There are known gaps after Genesis. For example, Mathew 1:8 affirms that “Joram begat Uzziah.”  But in 1 Chronicles 3:11-14 it mentions three missing generations between Joram and Uzziah.  Likewise, Luke 3:35-36 lists one missing generation (Cainan) not mentioned in Genesis 11:20-24.

 

So, with demonstrable gaps in the genealogies, the “Closed-Chronology” view needed to support the strict Young Earth view is not there. This would mean that a Young Earth view of creation around 4000 B.C. would not be feasible.  And once more gaps are admitted, then when does it cease to be a Young Earth views?

 

 

Evidence that the “Days” of Genesis May Involve more than Six 24 hour days of Creation

 

Not only is it possible that there are time gaps in Genesis 1, but there is also evidence that the “days” of Genesis are not 6 successive 24 hour days, called the Day-Age View (see Hugh Ross, Creation and Time and Don Stoner,A New Look at an Old Earth).  Consider the following:

(1) First, the word “day” (Hb. yom) is not limited to a 24 hour day in the creation record.  For instance, it is used of 12 hours of light or daytime (in Gen.1:4-5a).

(2) It is also used of a whole 24 hour day in Genesis 1:5b where it speaks day and night together as a “day.”

(3) Further, in Genesis 2:4 the word “day” is used of all six days of creation when it affirms: “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created in the day [yom] that the LORD God made them” (Gen. 2:4).

(4) What is more, on the “seventh day” God “rested” from His work of creation.  But according to Hebrews 4:4-11, God is still resting and we can enter into His Sabbath rest (v. 10).  So, the seventh day of creation rest is still going on some 6000 plus years later (even by a Young Earth chronology).

(5)  Further, there are biblical alternatives to the strongest argument for a 24 hour day.  (a) For example, numbered series with the word “day” (as in Genesis 1) do not always refer to 24 hour days, as Hosea 6:1-2 shows.  (b) Also, “evening and morning” sometimes refers to longer periods of time rather than 24 hours, as they do in the prophetic days of Daniel 8:14.  (c) And the comparison with the work week in Exodus 20:11 need not be a minute-for-minute but a unit-for-unit comparison.  Further, the seventh day is known to be longer than 24 hours (Heb. 4:4-11).  So, why cannot the other days be longer too?  (d) As for death before Adam, the Bible does not say that death of all life was a result of Adam’s sin.  It only asserts that “death passed upon all men” because of Adam’s sin (Rom. 5:12, emphasis added), not on all plants and animals, though the whole creation was subject to “bondage to corruption” (Rom. 8:21).

(6)  Others like Hermon Ridderbos (Is There a Conflict Between Genesis 1 and Natural Science?) took the “days” of Genesis as a Literary Framework for the great creative events of the past.  Still others (Bernard Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture) considered the “days” of Genesis to be six 24 hour days of revelation (wherein God revealed what he had done in the ancient past to the writer of Genesis) but not literal days of creation.Again, the point here is not to defend these views but to point out that there are alternatives to a Young Earth View, most of which are not incompatible in principle with a belief in the inerrancy of Scripture.

(7) The Relative Time View claims the Earth is both young and old, depending on how it is measured.  Gerard Schroeder, a Jewish physicists (inGenesis and the Big Bang), argued that measured by God’s time when He created the universe it was only six literal days of creation.  But measured by our time, the creation of the universe is billions of years old.

(8) The Apparent Age View proposes that the universe just looks old, even though it is young.  The book by Philip Henry Gosse was titled Omphalos(1857), meaning navel, proposing that Adam had a navel, even though he was created as an adult.   Likewise, on this view the first tree would have had rings in them the day they were created.

If there is evidence for Gaps in Genesis and longer period of time involved in the six day of Genesis, then the Young Earth view fails to convincingly support its two pillars.  At a minimum it leaves room for reasonable doubt.  In view of this, one can ask why is it that many still cling to the Young Earth view with such tenacity.

 

 

A Theological Assumption

 

For some the belief in a Young Earth seems to be based on a kind of intuition or faith in God’s omnipotence.  It reasons that if God is all powerful, then certainly He would not have taken millions of years to make the earth.  However, by reduction ad absurdum, one could ask why God did not create it in six minutes or six second rather than six days? If He is all-powerful and can make something from nothing, then why did He not create the whole thing lock-stock-and barrel instantaneously!

The Evolutionary Fear

Many Young Earthers seemed to be afraid to grant long periods of time for fear that it may help support an evolutionary conclusion.  However, this is unnecessary for two reasons.  First, time as such does not help evolution.  Dropping red, white, and blue confetti from an airplane a thousand feet above the ground will not produce an American flag in one’s yard.  And going up to ten thousand feet (and giving it more time to fall) will not help.  Time as such does not organize things into complex designs; it further randomizes the material.  It takes an intelligent cause to form it into an American flag.  Further, separating God’s supernatural acts of revelation to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and the prophets by many hundreds of years does not make them less supernatural.  It just makes his revelation progressive over a period of time.  The same could be true of God’s acts of creation, if they were separated by long periods of time.

Second, there are plenty of other problems with macro-evolution for it does not explain (without an intervening intelligent cause) how (a) something can come from nothing; b) how non life cannot come from life; c) how non-consciousness can produce consciousness, and d) how non-rational beings can produce rational beings.  Longer periods of time as such do not overcome any of these problems; it takes intelligent intervention to do it.

As we have seen, both premise of the Young Earth View are open to serous objections.  There is no air-tight case for a Young Earth from a biblical point of view.  So, while it may be compatible with inerrancy, nonetheless, inerrancy does not necessitate a belief in a Young Earth.

 

The Historical Status of the Young Earth Theory

 

            Historically, the Young Earth View has never garnered an important, let alone a crucial role in the history of the Church.  It was known to the early Church Fathers (see St. Augustine, City of God 11.6), but it was never made an essential doctrine, let alone given a special status.

First of all, Young Earth creationism was never given a creedal status in the early Church.  It does not appear in any early creeds or in any other widely accepted creed in the history of Christendom.

 

Second, it was not granted an important doctrinal status by the historic Fundamentalist (c. 1900).  That is, it was not accepted or embraced by the Old Princetonians B. B.Warfield, Charles Hodge, or J. Gresham Machen.

 

Third, Young Earth creationism is notably absent in the famous four volume series (1910-1915) The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truthedited by R. A. Torrey and C. C. Dixon.  In fact, not a single article in this landmark set defends the Young Earth Creationism view.  Indeed, all the articles on science and Scripture were written by scholars favorable to an Old Earth view.

 

            Fourth, the founders and framers of the contemporary inerrancy movement (ICBI) of the 1970 and 80s explicitly rejected the Young Earth view as being essential to belief in inerrancy.  They discussed it and voted against making it a part of what they believed inerrancy entailed, even though they believed in the “literal” historical-grammatical view of interpreting the Bible, a literal Adam, and the historicity of the early chapters of Genesis. Given this history of the Young Earth view, one is surprised at the zeal by which some Young Earthers are making their position a virtual test for evangelical orthodoxy

 

If the Young Earth view is true, then so be it.  Let the biblical and scientific evidence be mustered to demonstrate it.  Meanwhile, to make it a tacit test for orthodoxy will serve to undermine the faith of many who so closely tie it to orthodoxy that they will have to throw out the baby with the bathwater, should they ever become convinced the earth is Old.  One should never tie his faith to how old the earth is.

 

Even if the Young Earth view were true, it would not thereby earn it a position in the Christian Creed or the equivalent.  That is another matter altogether reserved for truth that are essential to the Gospel (see Geisler and Rhodes, Conviction without Compromise).  There are many minor Christian doctrines that have not earned creedal status along with The Apostles’ Creedwhich declares of creation only that “I believe in God, the Father Almighty,the Creator of heaven and earth” (emphasis added) and nothing about how long ago it happened.

 

Some Concluding Comments

 

After seriously pondering these questions for over a half century, my conclusions are: (1) The Young Earth view is not one of the Fundamentals of the Faith. (2) It is not a test for orthodoxy.  (3)  It is not a condition of salvation.  (4)  It is not a test of Christian fellowship. (5) It is not an issue over which the body of Christ should divide. (6) It is not a hill on which we should die. (7) The fact of creation is more important than the time of creation. (8) There are more important doctrines on which we should focus (like the inerrancy of the Bible, the deity of Christ, the Trinity, and the death and resurrection of Christ, and His literal Second Coming.  As Repertus Meldenius (d. 1651) put it: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty, and in all things charity.” And by all counts, the age of the earth is not one of the essentials of the Christian Faith.

I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist

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I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist

by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek

Crossway Books, 2004

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Translations available:  Dutch, Korean, Portuguese and Romanian

Translation in Brazillian Portugese: Não tenho fé suficiente para ser ateu

Não tenho fé suficiente para ser ateu

Norman Geisler

Editora Vida

Idéias com o objetivo de destruir a fé cristã sempre bombardeiam os alunos do ensino médio e das universidades. Este livro serve como um antídoto excepcionalmente bom para refutar tais premissas falsas. Ele traz informações consistentes para combater os ataques violentos das ideologias seculares que afirmam que a ciência, a filosofia e os estudos bíblicos são inimigos da fé cristã.

Antes de tocar a questão da verdade do cristianismo, essa obra aborda a questão da própria verdade, provando a existência da verdade absoluta. Os autores desmontam as afirmações do relativismo moral e da pós-modernidade, resultando em uma valiosa contribuição aos escritos contemporâneos da apologética cristã.

Geisler e Turek prepararam uma grande matriz de perguntas difíceis e responderam a todas com habilidade. Uma defesa lógica, racional e intelectual da fé cristã.

from http://www.apologia.com.br/?p=33