Mutations: a problem for evolution

We’re breaking down.

As Dr. John Sanford outlines in this presentation, there are two conflicting worldviews at battle in out culture:

1) we as a species are naturally going up
2) we as a species are naturally going down

The first is the theory of evolution: Mankind is supposed to the end result of a long process of beneficial mutations that changed us, improved us, from our origins as a single cell, simple organism, to become the incredibly complex creatures that we are today. We as a species are improving.

The second is the Biblical worldview. After the Fall into Sin we know that the world was put under a curse. Things started off perfect, but are broken now. We as a species, like all of creation, are breaking down.

So which is it?

Well, what Dr. Sanford explains is that the supposed driver of evolution – mutations – are hurting, not helping us. While an occasional beneficial mutation can happen, Sanford discovered that the rate at which we are mutating, from one generation to the next, is so rapid that we, as a species, are not long for this world. These mutations are accumulating like rust does on a car. Just as a little rust doesn’t harm a vehicle, so too a few mutations won’t harm our genome much. But rust spreading across a car will eventually cause the whole vehicle to fall apart, and in this same way accumulating mutations are eventually going to do Mankind in. Roughly 100 mutations are being passed on per generation – we, as a species are going down. We are slowly rusting out.

To find out more, watch this very intriguing 1 hour presentation. Or you can visit www.logosresearchassociates.org, a site run by Dr. Sanford and a number of other scientists. Who is Dr. Sanford? He is a geneticist, a former professor at Cornell University, and one of the inventors of the gene gun. He was once an atheist and an evolutionist, but after bowing his knee to God he first investigated theistic evolution, then Old Earth Creationism, and finally settled on Young Earth Creationism.

 

Tim LaHaye Has Left Us Behind

Tim LaHaye (1926-2016)
Tim LaHaye (1926-2016)

Noted American evangelical pastor, author, and activist Dr. Tim LaHaye died on July 25 at the age of 90. LaHaye was best-known for his Left Behind series of end-times novels. However, he was also involved in the political sphere, cooperating with Jerry Falwell Sr. in the establishment of the Moral Majority movement in the 1970s.

Far fewer people remember him as a fervent supporter of the biblical understanding of origins but he was that too. In September of 1970, LaHaye asked Dr. Henry Morris to join him in founding an institution which would come to be known as San Diego Christian College. The name of Morris will be familiar to many RP readers since it’s associated with the Institute for Creation Research (ICR). Originally a department of the San Diego Christian College, ICR has grown to become one of the world’s leading creationist ministries. In its obituary for LaHaye, ICR acknowledged the significant influence he’s had on that ministry throughout its existence.

While we can be thankful for his contributions to the defence of God’s truth about creation, we also have to acknowledge that LaHaye was, like all of us, a fallible human being. When it came to the doctrine of the end times (eschatology), Dr. LaHaye was a premillennial dispensationalist and this came through clearly in his Left Behind books. Premillennial dispensationalism teaches that Jesus Christ will come back before (pre-) a literal 1000 year-reign on earth. By contrast, most Reformed theologians today teach that the 1000 years of Revelation 20 is symbolically referring to the present reign of Christ. LaHaye’s eschatological scheme also makes a marked distinction between the Church and Israel, whereas Reformed theology insists that the New Testament church is the continuation of Old Testament Israel.

Although some Reformed believers were perhaps duped into thinking that the Left Behind series was an accurate, biblical portrayal of things to come, the reality is that these books do not stand up to the scrutiny of what we confess from the Scriptures in places like article 37 of the Belgic Confession. While the Left Behind series authored by LaHaye (with Jerry Jenkins) cannot be recommended at all, resources from the creation ministry that LaHaye helped found can be very useful, but have to be used with discernment. The Institute for Creation Research does not feature premillennial dispensationalism in its “Core Principles,” but it does appear in some of their publications, such as the Henry Morris Study Bible. It’s good to be aware that while ICR gets many things right on creation (like the late LaHaye) there are other important areas in theology where they are less reliable. 

Review: The Genetics of Adam and Eve

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Dr. Georgia Purdom is a research scientist and speaker for Answers in Genesis. In this presentation, Dr. Purdom, who has her PhD in molecular genetics from Ohio State University, addresses the importance of the existence of a literal Adam and Eve. She then goes on to explain that the science of genetics is consistent with the existence of a literal Adam and Eve, who were the first two human beings, directly created by God.

Purdom begins by citing the views of several well-known Christian scientists who don’t believe that the traditional understanding of Genesis 1 lines up with scientific evidence. Francis Collins and Karl W. Giberson, for example, state that “literalist readings of Genesis imply that God specially created Adam and Eve, and that all humans are descended from these original parents. Such readings, unfortunately, do not fit the evidence, for several reasons.” They go on to assert that, “it is simply not reasonable to try to turn the brief comments in Genesis into a biologically accurate description of how humans originated.” It is impossible for Adam to have been created from “dust and God’s breath,” they state; nor is it feasible that Eve was actually created from Adam’s rib: “Human beings are mainly water, not dust, and there is no process by which an adult person can be made quickly from a rib” (The Language of Science and Faith, 2011).

Purdom also quotes Denis Alexander, who argues that “the disciplines of both science and theology should be accorded their own integrity. The Genesis texts should be allowed to speak within their own contexts and thought-forms, which are clearly very distant from those of modern science. We can all agree that the early chapters of Genesis exist to convey theology and not science.” According to Alexander, “the data are overwhelmingly supportive of certain scientific truths, for example that we share a common genetic inheritance with the apes.” What Christian scientists must do, Alexander claims, is “to treat both theological and scientific truths seriously and see how they might ‘speak’ to each other.”

Finally, Purdom quotes Peter Enns, in his 2012 book The Evolution of Adam, who argues that “the evidence points us clearly in the following direction: the early chapters of Genesis are not a literal or scientific description of historical events but a theological statement in an ancient idiom, a statement about Israel’s God and Israel’s place in the world as God’s people.” Enns goes on to write that it is not necessary for Christians to hold to the existence of a literal Adam and Eve, asserting that, “attributing the cause of universal sin and death to a historical Adam is not necessary for the gospel of Jesus Christ to be a fully historical solution to that problem.”

Purdom disagrees strongly with these conclusions, and spends the first half of this video dealing not with the interpreting the evidence of science, but with the teaching of Scripture. This is the great strength of her presentation – the fact that, despite her scientific specialization in the field of genetics, she begins with God’s Word, and draws her conclusions from that starting point.

Unlike Collins, Alexander, and Enns, Purdom understands the devastating results that denying Adam and Eve’s existence as actual human beings will ultimately have on the Christian faith. As Frank Zindler, editor of American Atheist Magazine, stated in a debate with William Lane Craig, “Now that we know that Adam and Eve never were real people the central myth of Christianity is destroyed. If there never was an Adam and Eve, there never was an original sin…” And if there never was an original sin, there is no need for a Saviour. If there is no First Adam, what are we to think of the Last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45)?

Only after discussing the necessity of Adam and Eve’s existence to the message of the gospel does Purdom move on to discussing the genetic evidence. It is to her credit that she does not draw unwarranted conclusions from the available data. She does not argue that genetic evidence proves the existence of a literal Adam and Eve. Rather, her thesis is that the evidence of genetics, far from disproving their existence, is actually consistent with their existence as the first humans.

I won’t go into the details of Purdom’s discussion of the evidence in this presentation. However, her conclusions show that many of the “assured results” of scientific inquiry are not nearly as assured as they sometimes claim to be. Peter Enns has made the claim that “The Human Genome Project, completed in 2003, has shown beyond any reasonable scientific doubt that humans and primates share common ancestry.” For those of us who aren’t “in the know,” who have little knowledge of the intricacies of genetics, let alone the findings of the Human Genome Project, statements like this can be troubling. But Purdom shows that “beyond any reasonable scientific doubt” is, to say the least, an overstatement.

I highly recommend this video without reservation, especially to high school level science students, or those who may be struggling with how to interpret and understand the claims that are being made about the current scholarly consensus, and how those claims affect the Christian faith and the reliability of Scripture. Dr. Purdom’s methodology is sound, and she shows a clear understanding of the importance of our presuppositions, the foundations of our thinking, in leading us to draw conclusions from the evidence in creation. Her concluding statement is a radical rephrasing of a statement made by Dr. Bruce Waltke, and it’s a good one:

“We have to go with Scripture. We can’t ignore it. I have full confidence in Scripture, not in man’s ideas about the past. Only when we begin with the Bible’s authority can we rightly understand the science of the past and it is consistent with the existence of a literal Adam and Eve.”

The Genetics of Adam and Eve is available as a DVD ($12.99) or for download ($7.99) on the Answers in Genesis website. The presentation is 62 minutes long.

 

Dooyeweerd, Scripture, and Creation

Herman DooyeweerdA while back, my fellow blogger Dr. Ted Van Raalte wrote a series of posts on Tim Keller.  In one of those posts, he mentioned (in passing) the Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd.  Dooyeweerd was the founder of a school of thought which is often termed “cosmonomic philosophy.”  As noted in that blog post, this school has been subjected to some criticism from within our Reformed tradition, most notably by Dr. J. Douma.

I just finished reading John Frame’s A History of Western Philosophy and Theology.  I’ve read a number of works by Frame and this is definitely among his best.  He surveys the most influential thinkers — both those from within Christianity and those who’ve impacted Christianity.  Among those thinkers is Herman Dooyeweerd.  He gets about five pages of attention in the last chapter.

Frame’s approach in this volume is to summarize the important features of a philosopher/theologian and then provide some brief analysis and commentary.  When it comes to Dooyeweerd, Frame begins with as simple an explanation as you’ll find of the key features of cosmonomic philosophy.  Dooyeweerd distinguishes between fifteen “modal aspects” or “law spheres” in the world.  For example: faith, moral, history, biotic, energy, spatial, and numerical.  Says Frame, “Each modal sphere defines a particular science:  mathematics the science of number, physics the science of kinetics, biology the science of life, and so forth.  Theology is the science of faith” (519).  As I hinted above, this is far more complicated — I’ve only highlighted a couple of features.

When he makes his brief critique of cosmonomic thinking, Frame zeroes in on the most important problem of all.  It is a foundational problem with Dooyeweerd:  his view of Scripture.  Does Dooyeweerd do justice to what Scripture teaches about itself?  If he does not, then he has, in some measure, succumbed to the myth of human autonomy.  What Frame thinks is clear enough from this excerpt, although you may have to read it two or three times:

Though I hesitate to criticize this undoubtedly impressive intellectual structure, I have found fault with it in detail, and particularly in the doctrine of revelation that emerges from the project.  As I mentioned, for Dooyeweerd the Word of God is a supertemporal reality that speaks to the human heart in a realm beyond all theory and concept.  Scripture, however, is a temporal book.  It is directed toward the faith aspect, studied by the science of theology.  Now, Dooyeweerd might have argued (in the spirit of Kuyper) that since the faith aspect retrocipates all other spheres and all other spheres anticipate it, Scripture addresses all areas of human life, though it deals focally with faith.  Dooyeweerd chose, rather, to say that Scripture’s focus on faith is exclusive, so that Scripture may not address the concerns of other spheres.  So disciples of Dooyeweerd have argued that Scripture does not teach morality, the difference between right and wrong.  Dooyeweerd himself taught that the “days” of Genesis 1 cannot be literal, since Scripture is about only faith, not numbers.  The days of Genesis are faith numbers, not numerical numbers.

The disturbing conclusion that I reach from all of this is that for Dooyeweerd, revelation in the highest sense is a supertemporal, non-conceptual reality that transforms the heart, but does not direct the philosopher or scientist in any propositional way.  The Bible, on the other hand, contains propositional revelation in the sphere of faith (theology), but does not direct us in every area of human life… (520-521)

In that excerpt, Frame refers in a footnote back to some earlier work he has done in response to cosmonomic philosophy — you can find that helpful work here.

The bottom line:  Dooyeweerd did not have a biblical view of the Bible.  Scripture says in Psalm 36:9b, “in your light do we see light.”  And in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a lamp to my path.”  With no justification, Dooyeweerd qualifies those sorts of passages so that they refer only to the faith (pistical) sphere.  As a result, he also ran up against the biblical doctrine of creation.  This school of thought sometimes goes by the name “Reformational,” but unless it really starts and finishes with the Bible and what the Bible says about itself, it certainly cannot be called Reformed.

God is visible to any who will see

Our universe, if just slightly different, would never have been able to support life. For example, a proton’s mass is 1,837 times greater than that of an electron, but it carries a positive charge that is exactly equal to that of the electron’s negative charge. How very strange that the two, so different in size, would yet be perfectly matched in charge! If they weren’t paired just so, then the vast array of elements could never have formed and life could never have existed.

This is but one example of the fine-tuning that so troubles atheists that they’ve resorted to “what if” stories to explain it away. Yes, they acknowledge, the universe is too finely tuned to have come about just by chance…if we’d had only one role of the dice to get here. But what if this wasn’t the only universe? What if there were billions and trillions and gazillions of universes out there somewhere? What if we could stack the odds in our favor by supposing as many universes as we might need? Then it wouldn’t seem so very improbable that at least one of these might be suited to life…right?

And these same atheists will mock Christians because we speak of faith!

A fire like moon
Shot of a solar eclipse blotting out the sun

There is no evidence of these other universes. None at all. So on what basis do they propose this theory? Because they need it to be true. The only case that can be made for it is that the alternative is too terrible for them to consider – that a Fine-Tuner brought the balance, order, and wonder to our universe.

Atheists can be clever, but God won’t leave them with any excuse. As Psalm 19 explains the heavens declare His glory. Want to explain away fine-tuning by postulating a multiverse? Well, then answer this: why would the Sun just happen to be 400 times bigger than our moon and also 400 times further away?

This precise pairing means that the moon and sun appear to be the same size in our sky. This allows us, during a solar eclipse, to study the Sun’s corona in a way that we just can’t any other time and wouldn’t ever be able to if the two celestial bodies weren’t sized just so. As the moon passes in front of the Sun only the corona is still visible – flaring fire crowning the moon in the dark daytime sky. Yes, dear atheist, we are not only in a universe impossibly finely tuned for life, but implausibly suited for us to study our own Sun.

Why would that be?

The multiverse doesn’t explain it. There is no reason that the one universe in which all the dice rolled just right for life would also be the same universe in which we’d be gifted with a moon that was sized exactly right to study our own Sun.

Atheists have no explanation.

But we do. We know our God created us as the very pinnacle of His creation (Psalm 8:3-9, Genesis 1:26-28) and that our purpose is to glorify Him. So it isn’t surprising to us that God would so arrange things that the size of the sizing of the moon enables us to study our Sun – God is showing us His wonders!

This article was first published in the May 2016 edition of Reformed Perspective.

RELATED ARTICLE: Observatory Earth: Eclipses and our Privileged Planet

Review: “Inerrancy and the Undermining of Biblical Authority”

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In this video presentation, Dr. Mortenson addresses the apparent lack of consistency that has become evident among many of the signers of the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Article XII of the Chicago Statement includes the following denial:

We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.”

But the fact is that a number of the signatories to this important declaration have expressed agreement with the findings of evolutionary geologists and cosmologists, who hypothesize that the world came to its present condition through a process of development that has been ongoing for millions of years.

Mortenson addresses some very important questions in this presentation. First of all, he asks, “Is it possible to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture while at the same time accepting a form of evolution over millions of years?” And his answer is “Yes, it is. Thousands of seminary professors and other Christian leaders do.” But he follows up that first question with this one: “Is it actually consistent to believe in inerrancy while at the same time holding to the idea that the universe has evolved over millions of years?” And his answer is a good one: “No!” The fact is, that inconsistency undermines the authority of God’s Word.

Mortenson provides a number of examples, and an able refutation of the conclusions that many have drawn. I’ll just mention one of those examples for the purposes of this review, that of Dr. Norman Geisler. Dr. Geisler was one of those who signed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, but he has shown a real inconsistency in his own subsequent writings. In rejecting Dr. William Lane Craig’s “limited inerrancy” view, Geisler wrote: “Unlimited inerrancy contends that the Bible is inerrant not only on all matters it address, not only on redemptive matters, but also on historical and scientific matters as well.”

However, in his book Unshakable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions about the Christian Faith, Geisler wrote the following:

In terms of the order of nature and appearance of new life forms, the fossil record indicates that they appear in the following order:

  1. Invertebrates
  2. Fish
  3. Amphibians
  4. Reptiles
  5. Mammals
  6. Humans”

Geisler goes on to state:

In presenting the design model, we are not interested in assigning exact dates and ages to all of these events; we will leave that up to you to decide. We will offer a suggested time scenario later, but our purpose right now is to show that the Genesis account of the origin of living things is essentially in accord with modern science.”

Geisler continues:

Now, let’s assume that the order of appearance is correct but that the corresponding dates, as proposed by gradualist macroevolutionary geologists, are in error… after carefully considering all the evidence, the progressive view of the design model (or something like it) appears to be a viable model of origins. Three independent fields of study support its integrity: cosmology, molecular biology, and paleontology.”

Mortenson points out a number of problems with Geisler’s approach, including his gross simplification of the order of the fossil record. But the overarching problem is Geisler’s inconsistency. While holding to the Chicago Statement’s denial that “scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood,” Geisler goes on to use these “independent fields of study” to do just that.

It is an inconsistency, and it is a serious one, because the conclusions drawn on the basis of an interpretation of the physical evidence completely undermine the authority and trustworthiness of Scripture. It is inconsistencies such as this one that strike at the foundation of our faith: God’s Word.

It is important that we use Biblically-informed discernment when dealing with all sides of the issue of creation and origins. We must be critical readers and watchers, whether we’re studying the message of evolutionary science or that of “creationists.” Not all material that is labelled as “creationist” is equally helpful, and some creationists, in their zeal for defending Scripture, have ended up misusing Scripture or overstating their conclusions. With that in mind, I do not hesitate to highly recommend this video for high school students and Bible study groups, as a springboard to further instruction and discussion of these vital issues.

“Inerrancy and the Undermining of Biblical Authority” is part of the “Answers in Genesis Creation Library Series” of videos. Dr. Terry Mortenson has a PhD in history of geology from Coventry University, and he has also written a very helpful book on the history of geology, The Great Turning Point: The Church’s Catastrophic Mistake on Geology – Before Darwin.

“The Historic Reformed Understanding of Genesis”

QA 7 of the Heidelberg Catechism -- the first German edition in 1563.
QA 7 of the Heidelberg Catechism — the first German edition in 1563.

Creation Without Compromise exists because of concerns about origins in our Reformed churches.  In the “About” tab on this website, we state that we are “committed to the historic Reformed understanding of Genesis.”  In the November 6, 2015 issue of Clarion, Rev. Peter Holtvluwer wrote a review of our website and under the heading of “Improvements,” he suggested we fill out the meaning of that statement.  What do we understand by “the historic Reformed understanding of Genesis”?

Essentially, what we mean is the consensual understanding of the first chapters of the Bible that prevailed amongst confessionally Reformed and Presbyterian churches especially prior to Darwin.  In the Reformation era, our theologians agreed in emphasizing the literal understanding of Genesis as the ground for doctrine — this was coupled with an emphasis on careful methods of interpretation.  Hence, prior to Darwin, there was a definite consensus regarding how to read the first chapters of the Bible.  Occasionally there were dissenters from that consensus, but this dissent was not encouraged or tolerated.  After Darwin, we recognize that this consensus was challenged in significant ways.  Yet it must be remembered that the Reformed consensus was maintained in the church courts even after Darwin.  For example, we think of synodical decisions against Rev. J.B. Netelenbos and Dr. J.G. Geelkerken in the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (1920 and 1926) and Dr. Ralph Janssen in the Christian Reformed Church of North America (1922).

What are some of the features of this historic consensus?  First and foremost would be the insistence that the first chapters of Genesis describe history in a literal and straight-forward fashion.  While they may have some literary features, these chapters are not metaphorical or mythical, but plainly historical and should be interpreted as such.  What follows from that is creation in six ordinary days.  When Genesis 1 speaks of “days,” it means days more or less as we experience them today.  Moreover, if we take Genesis at face value, Adam was created from actual, physical dust of the earth by God.  He was the first human being.  He became a living being when God breathed life into him.  He did not have a biological father or mother, human, hominid or whatever else.  The first woman Eve was created by God from Adam’s rib.  She did not have biological parents either.  Together, they were the first human beings and the parents of all human beings who have since lived.  God also created all other kinds of creatures in the six day creation period – and these were created by his Word.  More could be said about what follows in Genesis – a literal snake speaking to Eve, a fall into sin, a worldwide flood, etc. – but I trust readers get the picture.  Everything I have said up to here was the historic consensus view in Reformed theology.

Some elements of this historic consensus have found their way into the Reformed and Presbyterian confessional heritage.  On the matter of creation days, we can think of the Westminster Confession’s statement in chapter 4.1 that “it pleased God…to create or make of nothing the world…in the space of six days, and all very good.”  In article 12 of the Belgic Confession, we confess that “the Father through the Word, that is, through his Son, has created out of nothing heaven and earth and all creatures, when it seemed good to him, and that he has given every creature its being, shape, and form…”  Article 14 goes on to say that “God created man of dust from the ground.”  Heidelberg Catechism QA 7 confesses that our depraved nature comes from “our first parents” Adam and Eve.  Other elements of the historic consensus are not found in our confessional heritage, arguably because they were considered to be so self-evident from Scripture as to not require such codification.  When most of the Reformed confessions were first written, the challenges that we face today regarding origins were virtually unthinkable.

Since this is just a short blog post, I’m not going to lay out all the evidence for the existence of this historic consensus.  William VanDoodewaard has done that for us at length in his excellent book The Quest for the Historical Adam (see my review here) and I refer readers to his research.  Amongst others, VanDoodewaard discusses John Calvin, Wolfgang Capito, Girolamo Zanchi, Lambert Daneau, William Perkins, William Ames, the Leiden Synopsis, Thomas Goodwin, Thomas Manton, John Owen, Bernard Pictet, Herman Witsius and Wilhelmus à Brakel.  According to VanDoodewaard, figurative interpretations of Genesis existed even before Darwin, but they were found amongst Roman Catholics, Socinians, and Anabaptists.  Reformed and Presbyterian churches would not countenance such interpretations.  He writes, “Anything that contradicted or failed to cohere with the literal reading of the Genesis text was rejected as subversive to God’s revelation.” (p.86)

Now the big question is:  why do we think that “the historic Reformed understanding of Genesis” is so important to maintain and defend?  It’s not because we’re conservative and just want to hold on to old-fashioned things because old-fashioned must be better.  No, it’s simply because we are convinced that the old consensus is biblical.  Old-fashioned often is better, but only when it lines up with God’s Word.  That’s where we stand.

Thus says the LORD:  ‘Stand by the roads and look, and ask for ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls…’”  Jeremiah 6:16a