Affirmations and Denials Essential to a Consistent Christian (Biblical) Worldview

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A rebuttal to "Affirmations and Denials Essential to a Consistent Christian (Biblical) Worldview", published in an appendix to the book Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth. Both the book and this document are promoted by Answers in Genesis.

Affirmations and Denials Essential to a Consistent Christian (Biblical) WorldviewAnalysis of Bizarre Fundamentalist Rationalization

[edit] Introduction

The following affirmations and denials reflect the almost universal consensus of the church throughout history, until the early 19th century. Their substance, rigorously defended by many past and present scholars, is currently rejected by a large portion of the contemporary worldwide church and, sadly, by many Christian scholars involved in explaining and defending the Christian worldview. Therefore, as an addendum to the affirmations and denials of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy and of the International Church Council, the undersigned present these affirmations and denials to the Church as an essential part of the presentation of the Christian worldview to the world of the 21st century. If you agree and want to add your name to the list of signatories, follow the instructions at the end of this document.

The opening statements are a shameless appeal to tradition. Although the "consensus of the church" has been changing throughout history, particularly on issues such as heliocentrism and slavery, few people would complain about those changes. The argument here is, fittingly, nothing new. Those changes that have been widely accepted decades or centuries ago are copacetic, but any ongoing or future changes are irresponsible and dangerous.

There's a certain shocking arrogance in the way this declaration claims to speak for all Christians (or it would be shocking if this was anything new from the Young Earth crowd). There is, of course, no one Church (capitalized or not), nor is there a single Christian worldview, as evidenced by the very need for this document. Yet the signatories of this document want to claim authority to declare what is "an essential part of the presentation of the Christian worldview".

[edit] Affirmations/Denials

[edit] 1

We affirm that the scientific aspects of creation are important, but are secondary in importance to the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ as Sovereign, Creator, Redeemer and Judge.

We deny that the doctrines of Creator and Creation can ultimately be divorced from the gospel of Jesus Christ, for the teachings of Genesis are foundational to the gospel and indeed to all Biblical doctrines (directly or indirectly).

Nothing too surprising here. Science is "affirmed" to be secondary to Christianity, and Christianity without creationism is "denied". The assertion that Genesis has bearing on "all Biblical doctrines" is telling. Clearly Genesis is not directly relevant to everything that Jesus and company ever taught. More likely, because the Genesis crew believes the Bible to be one big ball of pure, divine perfection, and because different parts of the Bible are used to justify each other, they consider any concession, however slight, to be a threat to the perfection of the whole system. Genesis is foundational "to all Biblical doctrines" because any of these people's major beliefs about the Bible is the foundation for some part of this theological network of self-justification.

[edit] 2

We affirm that the 66 books of the Bible are the written Word of God. The Bible is divinely inspired and inerrant throughout. Its assertions are factually true in all the original autographs. It is the supreme authority, not only in all matters of faith and conduct, but in everything that it teaches.

We deny that the Bible’s authority is limited to spiritual, religious or redemptive themes and we deny the exclusion of its authority from its assertions related to such fields as history and science.

Simple enough. The entire Bible is always right, no matter what it's talking about. Apparently these people either rationalize or turn a blind eye to all the parts which are unclear or contradict other parts of the Bible, as well as to the parts where a literal reading is inconsistent with observable reality.

Oddly, this declaration is limited to "the original autographs", which implies that modern Bibles could all be wrong, if the original texts were not preserved intact (as they almost certainly weren't). Besides, several books of the Bible are considered to have been created over long periods of time. Genesis itself is thought to have been compiled from two earlier documents, which explains why some of the stories have substantial (sometimes very confusing or contradictory) repetition. Oh, but the Genesis crew probably thinks that Moses wrote the whole thing. Never mind.

For some reason "the" 66 books recognized by most modern Protestants are completely inerrant, whereas other texts, which were recognized as divinely inspired in previous ages, and some of which are still used, are not recognized at all. Sorry Catholics and Eastern Orthodox adherents, the deuterocanonical books don't count. And while God allowed the apocrypha for the first few centuries AD, those have apparently been recalled.

On top of all that, these guys really need to understand the problem of using superlative word forms. Apparently placing the Bible as "the supreme authority" kind of puts the Bible ahead of God, making them a bunch of Bibliolaters.

[edit] 3

We affirm that the final guide to the interpretation of Scripture is Scripture itself. Scripture must be compared with Scripture to obtain the correct interpretation of a particular text, and clear Scriptures must be used to interpret ambiguous texts, not vice versa. We affirm that the special revelation of infallible and inerrant Scripture must be used to correctly interpret the general revelation of the cursed Creation.

We deny that uninspired sources of truth-claims (i.e., history, archeology, science, etc.) can be used to interpret the Scriptures to mean something other than the meaning obtained by classical historical-grammatical exegesis. We further deny the view, commonly used to evade the implications or the authority of Biblical teaching, that Biblical truth and scientific truth must remain totally exclusive from each other and that science could never agree with the Bible.

Only the Bible interprets the Bible (interprets the Bible interprets the Bible). The Bible also interprets all the rest of observable reality (which, since the whole universe is "cursed", means that scientific inquiry is considered inferior and subordinate to this kind of ad hoc bibliomancy).

The denial here is even worse. Not only can the Scriptures not be re-interpreted in light of new knowledge (say, the germ theory of disease, zoology, heliocentrism, genetics, modern physics...), but science must agree with the Bible. This is a complete rejection of the real world, in which science does not agree with (the Genesis crew's interpretation of) the Bible, so we're already definitely in the realm of wishful thinking. Not to mention the fact that science changes to fit new evidence, something that their concept of Genesis cannot do, which virtually guarantees eternal conflict.

Really this is the thinking behind the whole creationist movement. When experts are doing science, they are fallible. But when creationists are reading their Bibles, they have a source of magic knowledge that is never wrong. Compromise is impossible, so whenever science and Christianity disagree, creationists have to make science agree with them. The idea that the Bible is ever incomprehensible or straight-out wrong is impossible to contemplate, equivalent to a rejection of Christianity (and all that is good). Rather, creationists must be willing to deny all the evidence in the universe, anything that could possibly be used against them. Almost by definition that evidence is considered wrong and requires a creationist to come fix it. But then again, their source of magic knowledge is really not wrong. So not wrong that it is not even wrong.

[edit] 4

We affirm that no apparent, perceived, or claimed evidence in any field, including history, archeology and science, can be considered valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record. We also affirm that the evidence from such fields of inquiry is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information.

We deny that scientific “evidence” used to “prove” millions of years is objective fact and not heavily influenced by naturalistic presuppositions.

Apparently, if scientific evidence contradicts the Bible then it can be dismissed out of hand. Scientific evidence "is always subject to interpretation by fallible people", an objection that somehow does not apply to any part of the writing, copying, translation, distribution and interpretation of the Bible.

Through clever use of quotation marks, the Genesis crew attacks scientists who were influenced by supposed "naturalistic presuppositions" (because how could they possibly disagree with us if they are not biased against us right from the beginning?). This is projection on the part of the Genesis crew. They interpret all the evidence through a filter that says "Above all, (our interpretation of) the Bible must be right." Their opposition, therefore, could only be interpreting the evidence through a filter that says "Nature did it, not God." The idea that someone might simply want to know the age of the Earth, without focusing on his/her own preconceptions about who made it, apparently has not crossed their minds. They choose the empirical world they live in based on the theology they think it would result in, rather than building their theology based on the world in which they clearly live.

[edit] 5

We affirm that the account of origins presented in Genesis is a simple but factual presentation of actual events and therefore provides a reliable framework for scientific research into the question of the origin and history of life, mankind, the Earth and the universe.

We deny that Genesis 1–11 is myth, saga, or any other type of non-historical literature. We also deny that it is a parable or prophetic vision. It therefore should be interpreted with the same care for literal accuracy as other historical narrative sections of Scripture in, for example, Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Kings, the Gospels, and Acts.

Again, this asserts that Genesis is true and the only "true" science is the kind that assumes the Bible is right from the very start. Also, those people who recognize that we know more about the universe than people who lived thousands of years ago, and interpret their religion accordingly, are Not True Christians.

As for the claim that Genesis can only be literal, they have to disregard virtually all of the early Church Fathers, including titans like Augustine of Hippo, in order to make it.

[edit] 6

We affirm that the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 are chronological, enabling us to arrive at an approximate date of creation of the whole universe. We affirm that mankind is essentially as old as the whole creation. While some disagreement exists between young-earth creationists over whether or not these are strict, gap-less genealogies (i.e., no missing names between Adam and Noah and Noah and Abraham), we affirm that Genesis points to a date of creation between about 6,000–10,000 years ago.

We deny that millions of years of history occurred before Adam and Eve. Therefore we deny that the geological record of strata and fossils corresponds to long geological ages before man. We also deny the Big Bang and any other naturalistic theory of the origin and history of the universe. We further deny that the radiometric dating methods, which are claimed to give dates of millions of years, are trustworthy and can be used to overthrow or disregard the Biblical teaching on the age of the creation. We further deny that the Egyptian, Chinese, or other pagan chronologies are more reliable than the Bible’s chronological statements and we deny that those pagan chronologies can be used to overrule the careful exegesis of the relevant Biblical texts regarding the age of the earth and other Old Testament events.

The affirmation is nothing new. There were only a few generations (and a lot of inbreeding) at the beginning of the human race, but people lived really long so that gives a few thousand years of history. We are the most important things in the universe, so it doesn't predate us by much. Genesis is literal, Genesis is right, Genesis is true.

The denial is a blanket denial of science, history, and really human inquiry in general. The people who believe in this stuff don't have to know anything substantive about geology, or the Big Bang, or radiometric dating, or "pagan" histories. They only have to disbelieve it all. Our current understanding of the universe is the products of decades of work, by thousands of people, who were dedicated, not to promoting any one ideology, but to the search for objective truth. That means nothing to these people. If anyone disagrees with a "careful" Biblical exegesis (one with no subtleties that takes every statement about creation at face value), they are wrong, right off the bat, no evidence needed. Christian leaders basically get to dictate history and science to everyone else, because they have a monopoly on objective truth. Regular Christians are expected to confront mainstream science by sticking their fingers in their own ears and yelling back.

[edit] 7

We affirm that the days in Genesis do not correspond to geologic ages, but are six, consecutive, literal (essentially twenty-four hour) days of Creation.

We deny that the days of creation are symbolic of long ages or that millions of years can be placed between the days or before the six days of creation.

Bland assertion that Old Earth creationism is wrong. Expelled: No Subtleties Allowed.

[edit] 8

We affirm that the various original life forms (kinds), including mankind, were made by direct, supernatural, creative acts of God. The living descendants of any of the original kinds (apart from man) may represent more than one species today, reflecting the genetic potential within a particular original created kind. Only relatively limited biological changes (due to such processes as natural selection, mutations, and other biological processes that might be discovered in the future) have occurred naturally within each kind since Creation.

We deny that there has ever been any evolutionary change from one of the original created kinds into a different kind (e.g., fish to amphibian, reptile to mammal, reptile to bird, ape to man, or land mammal to whale, etc.).

This is a tip of the hat to baraminology. The idea is that all animals derived from a few thousand "kinds", a term which doesn't seem to correspond to any objective classification of modern organisms but which they claim as a historical reality. Since these guys deny "millions of years", they are left with the peculiar idea that animal kinds evolved into various descendant species very very quickly after the flood. Presumably this is classified as "microevolution", although it in fact involves a much faster and more drastic set of changes than any mainstream biologist would find remotely plausible. At least baraminology recognizes some basic ideas from cladistics, so some real biology is sneaking in.

As usual though, common descent is slammed. The thousands of transitional fossils, the reams of genetic evidence, and the correspondence between both those lines of evidence and cladistics are denied outright, not even mentioned offhand first.

[edit] 9

We affirm the supernatural creation of Adam from dust and the supernatural creation of Eve from Adam’s rib in a very short period of time (seconds or minutes) on the sixth day of Creation.

We deny that Adam was in any way made from a pre-existing hominid (or any other living creature). We further deny the existence of any creatures which looked or acted like man but which did not possess a soul. We deny also that categories of creatures such as “Neanderthal Man” and “Cro-Magnon Man” were pre- or sub-human (rather than being fully human descendants of Adam).

This is the Goddidit explanation of humanity. For some reason God could have taken seconds or minutes to design the female body, but not hours (or, horror of horrors, days).

The mention of a soul here is telling. Many versions of Old Earth creationism or theistic evolution raise the question: when did human beings receive souls? An atheist might say that there is no such thing as a soul, or, insofar as "soul" is taken as a substitute for "mind" or "consciousness", the soul was something that developed gradually. Traditional Christianity, with its sharp dividing lines between man and animal, and between salvation and damnation, can't handle these intermediate stages. In order to make sense of evolution, it has to posit that at some point in human evolution God put souls into our ancestors. Either non-human beings were granted souls, or human-like beings were granted souls, but their parents who were also human-like did not possess souls.

Either alternative will make many people uncomfortable. The Young Earthers opt instead for the simplicity of denying that the intermediate stages ever existed. Anything that looks more human than ape, no matter how different from modern humans, must be a modern human with unusual features or deformities. No matter what the weight of evidence says.

[edit] 10

We affirm that the account of the Fall of Adam and Eve into sin is a literal historical account and that the Fall had cosmic consequences. We also affirm that both physical and spiritual death and bloodshed entered into this world subsequent to, and as a direct consequence of, man’s sin. We further affirm that this historical Fall is the reason for the necessity of salvation for mankind through the redemptive work of the “last Adam,” Jesus Christ.

We deny that the account of the Fall was mythical, figurative, or otherwise largely symbolic. While certain aspects of Genesis 1–11 are typological with reference to the work of Christ, we deny that this in anyway negates or eliminates the literal historicity of the text. We deny that the judgment of God at the Fall resulted only in the spiritual death of man or only consequences for man but not for the rest of animate and inanimate creation. We, therefore, also deny that millions of years of death, disease, violence, and extinction occurred in the animal world before the Fall and thereby deny that those millions of years claimed by the evolutionary scientific establishment ever happened.

Since human beings are so important, they are also somehow responsible for everything bad in creation. Creation was such that all kinds of terrible things happened the instant that someone first did something wrong. One wonders why God allowed the serpent to tempt Eve, and made Adam and Eve so vulnerable to temptation. One also wonders why God would design carnivores with traits highly specialized to kill and eat other animals, if his perfect creation did not involve predation. When the lion and the lamb lie down together, what, exactly, does the lion do with dentation, a digestive tract, and dietary needs all specialized for meat-eating? How the hell did certain wasps reproduce? Oh yeah.

And the denial continues. Interpretation of the Old Testament is judged primarily by how well it sets the stage for Jesus to show up (although I think most Jews would agree that the text doesn't really do that very well). More scientific evidence rejected; creationists will certainly try to debunk it if they can, but the goal of this exercise is not honest inquiry. It's maintaining the beliefs of a True Christian at any cost.

[edit] 11

We affirm that the great Flood described in Genesis 6–9 was an actual historic event, worldwide (global) in its extent and extremely catastrophic in its effect. As such, it produced most (but not all) of the geological record of thousands of meters of strata and fossils that we see on the earth’s surface today.

We deny that Noah’s Flood was limited to a localized region (e.g., the Mesopotamian valley of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers). We also deny that the Flood was so peaceful that it left no abiding geological evidence. We further deny that the thousands of meters of sedimentary rock formations with their fossilized remains were largely produced after or before the Flood or even before Adam.

Here's the favorite Young Earther hand-waving excuse for almost all of geology. The flood did it. Millions of years of sediment? The flood did it. Tons of fossilized extinct animals? The flood did it. Huge eroded features like canyons and rock formations and cliffs? The flood did it.

Note that they also deny the possibility that anything-else-did-it, whether that anything-else is consistent with the Bible (or Young Earth Creationism) or not. The Bible doesn't really say "and the waters deposited thousands of cubits of mud over the bodies of the dead people and animals" or anything like that. So in theory some creationists could propose an alternate theory that's better than "The flood did it." and still consistent with the Bible, but this declaration would deny that. Not that that's likely, but it again shows the striking arrogance of this document. It's basically saying "Creation happened exactly the way we interpret it, and anyone who substantially disagrees is automatically wrong."

One can also see, from the way that specific views of the flood are denied, that this declaration is clearly a statement against non-Young-Earther Christians, rather than, say, irreligious folks. This is in part an attack by fundamentalists upon science, but it is also largely an attack by fundamentalists upon non-fundamentalist Christianity. Although Young-Earthers rarely frame the issue in this way, they are in fact far more threatened by other Christians than by atheists and agnostics, because the former are much more difficult to demonize, far more difficult to disregard as an out-group, and thus far more persuasive to many religious people.

To frame issues like creationism as being black and white fights of "Christians vs. the world" is useful to the Genesis crew because it allows them to claim that they speak for Christianity in general and that "Old Earth" theories are not the modern face of creationism, something which is becoming more and more clearly false over time, particularly after the Intelligent Design fiasco(s). It also allows them to maintain a persecution complex, where mainstream science is portrayed as a hostile, conspiratorial reaction to creationism, even though the converse is probably more accurate (most evolutionary biologists don't really have to worry about fending off creationism on a daily basis).

[edit] 12

We affirm that all people living and dead are descended from Adam and Eve and that as such all people equally bear the image of God, their Maker. We, therefore, affirm that there is only one race of human beings and that the various people groups (with their various languages, cultures, and distinctive physical characteristics, including skin color) arose as a result of God’s supernatural judgment at the Tower of Babel and the subsequent dispersion of the people by families.

We deny that the so-called “races” have different origins and that any one “race” is superior to any other.

While this is superficially a nice sentiment, there are a number of serious issues here. Besides the usual issues raised by the Bible (how did Adam and Eve not have inbreeding problems, why was God threatened by the Tower of Babel but not NASA, why don't languages show signs of having descended from a single language-generating event...) there's a not-so-subtle nod to misleading creationist propaganda here.

Darwin has long been equated with racism and Nazism in the creationist mind. Part of this is due to a few racially-charged statements made by Darwin himself, who was fooled by "common knowledge" regarding the differences between races in his day. This has no bearing on the modern study of evolution, in much the same way as the fact that the Founding Fathers owned slaves has no bearing on modern interpretations of the United States Constitution. Another part of this is due to the insinuation that evolution somehow "ranks" creatures, with human beings being "more highly evolved" than apes, and that evolution therefore might also rank human beings on "how evolved" they are. This second idea is, of course, a complete misunderstanding of the theory, which only produces "family trees" of organisms, never "rankings" that describe their overall quality and complexity.

Another reason for the evolution-racism connection is because of the phenomenon of "Social Darwinism", based on the shaky science behind eugenics, and re-incarnated in a lighter form by more current books such as The Bell Curve. It's important to note that eugenics (which preceded The Origin of Species by some time) was not based on natural selection or common descent, and actually borrowed rather lightly from Darwin's ideas. Rather, it was based on the much older idea of artificial selection, aka domestic breeding. The idea was to breed human beings like cattle or dogs, and was based on the ancient idea that some lineages are better than others, an idea which even receives some support from the Old Testament, which focuses heavily on the genealogies of kings, and in which God frequently discriminates between tribes, clans, and families based on the behavior of their ancestors (after all, the tribes of Israel were separated based on ancient male-line ancestry). Additionally, texts like The Bell Curve discuss recent unguided selection within an organized class hierarchy. By creationist standards this would make it a discussion of "microevolution", unrelated to evolutionary pressures on small tribes over 10,000 years ago. In no case does common descent itself actually imply any kind of racist message. And even if it did, that would be irrelevant to the truth of the theory.

It's great that the Genesis crew wants to "deny that the so-called “races” have different origins and that any one “race” is superior to any other." This is something which evolutionary biologists would also deny; after all, they think that all life on Earth has a common origin. In fact, the scientific study of evolution, which has explained the origins of many differences between human populations, also tends to argue against the idea that those differences are clean-cut and substantial, although they may be of limited use in medical research and diagnosis.[1] Human beings have a fairly low degree of genetic diversity compared with other species, and most genes vary far more within a local population than between distant populations. Furthermore, races seem to originate, not from specific ancient branching events, but due to the slowness with which genes can spread over geographic distance, meaning that most different "races" have likely never had clear genetic boundaries separating them.[2]

In evolutionary terms, it has not been all that many generations since we shared a close-knit gene pool, so evolution hardly implies substantial differences between the races. Even if we bought into this idea that "It promotes racism!" could possibly be a valid criticism of a theory not primarily about race, it would still not actually be true of common descent.

[edit] Conclusion

We, the undersigned, call on the Church to embrace these affirmations and denials as they are explicitly taught or implied by Holy Scripture and are consistent with the historic belief of the Church prior to the rise of old-earth (“deep time”) theories in geology and astronomy in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and evolutionary theories since that time.

Finally, the Genesis crew exhorts the Church many different Christian denominations to critically think about accept their straightforward view of the Bible. Because really, do you want to believe in this new-fangled science stuff, or in primitive guesses that were fossilized by tradition?

[edit] References

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