Blame Augustine for “Adam” (II)

Is it true that “no one in the Bible believed that construct of the historical Adam” but that the idea originates with the church father Augustine (354–430)? Such is the assertion of Scot McKnight, a leading NT scholar, in this video from the Canadian Scientific and Christian Affiliation.

Last time we laid out the Scripture texts that consistently identify Adam and Eve as the original couple, from whom the whole human race descended. These texts expose McKnight’s pronouncement to be false, and no Scripture text can be advanced that supports his position. I realize that McKnight is depending not only upon Dennis Venema’s biological study in their co-authored book, but also upon the OT scholar John Screen Shot 2017-11-25 at 4.07.25 PM.pngWalton’s claim that Genesis 1–2 is an account of origins that speaks only of the function and purpose of the parts of creation, not their material or temporal origins. Walton relativizes the message of Genesis 1 & 2 by claiming that he is reading it within its Ancient Near Eastern context. I’ve attended an entire conference listening to Walton and have read some of his books as well as critiques of them. Maybe his views can be explained and critiqued in a future blog, but aside from Walton’s treatment of Genesis 1 & 2, all the other Scripture texts I advanced last time clearly treat Adam as a real historical person who was the first man, and origin of the human race. Therefore it would not in the least surprise readers of the Bible to find writers from the early church saying the same thing. But recall McKnight’s second assertion, “I think we can blame this one on Augustine and those who followed after him, that they created this construct, that we need salvation because of the sin nature that has been passed on from Adam to everybody else.” If McKnight is correct, we would not find writers prior to Augustine holding out Adam as a real historical person who passed on sin to us.

Irenaeus, Against Heresies (c. A. D. 180)

Screen Shot 2017-11-25 at 4.05.42 PM.png
Irenaeus (c. 130–c. 202)

Let me highlight one early church apologist who does the very thing McKnight says didn’t happen. Irenaeus was a student of the apostolic father Polycarp, who himself had sat at the feet of the apostle John (all three are connected to Smyrna in Asia Minor). Irenaeus particularly opposes the Gnostic heresies in his book Against Heresies. One of their teachings was that material reality came about by a mistake or defect by some lesser divine being, and was not intended by the uppermost First Principle or highest “God.” Salvation therefore now involves the escape of “us,” who are like little sparks of the divine currently trapped in material bodies, and such escape is achieved by learning the higher mysterious system of the Gnostics. Gnostics therefore tended to say that Christ only “seemed” to have a human nature. They then took disciples like Thomas and wrote “gospels” in his name, praising his doubt. In their Gospel of Judas, Judas’s greatest deed, praised by Jesus himself, is to secure Jesus’ death, so that Jesus could escape from his material body. In that context Irenaeus found it necessary to affirm Adam, Jesus, and us all as historical persons with material bodies. He also strongly affirmed the resurrection of the body, a very counter-cultural teaching in his day.

Let’s see what Irenaeus writes in Against Heresies, Book 3, chapter 23. In this first quotation he is arguing against some false teachers who asserted that the rest of humanity could be saved, but not Adam.

But this is Adam . . . the first formed man . . . and we are all from him: and as we are from him, therefore have we all  inherited his title. But inasmuch as man is saved, it is fitting that he who was created the original man should be saved (3.23.2).

Irenaeus then affirms that Adam’s captivity to sin and death was inherited by all humanity, when he writes,

For it is too absurd to maintain, that he who was so deeply injured by the enemy, and was the first to suffer captivity, was not rescued by Him who conquered the enemy, but that his children were—those whom he had begotten in the same captivity (3.2.32).

He illustrates this by speaking of how unjust it would be to rescue children from their captors while leaving the parents under the power of those same captors, to do as they please. What Irenaeus means by this captivity is something he explains in the preceding section, where he writes that Satan made Adam captive by “bringing sin on him iniquitously, and under colour of immortality entailing death upon him,” and, further, that when God rescued the captive Adam, he was “loosed from the bonds of condemnation” (3.23.1). Though Irenaeus doesn’t use the language of original sin and doesn’t distinguish mediate and immediate imputation, he certainly understands that Adam’s sin had brought him and all humanity under God’s condemnation.

A bit further on, he states that God put enmity between Satan and the woman, and that it was to be continuous until the promised Seed of the women came, born of Mary. To that Seed would apply the promise of Psalm 91, that, “You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra; you shall trample the great lion and the serpent” (Ps 91:13). In Irenaeus’s version, the translation of “serpent” was “dragon,” and either term is taken in Scripture to refer to Satan (see Rev 12:9). Irenaeus then interprets the text as follows:

indicating that sin, which was set up and spread out against man, and which rendered him subject to death, should be deprived of its power, along with death, which rules [over men]; and that the lion, that is, the antichrist, rampant against mankind in the latter days, should be trampled down by him . . . wherefore, when the foe was conquered in his turn, Adam received new life; and the last enemy, death, is destroyed 1 Corinthians 15:26, which at the first had taken possession of man (3.23.7).

He adds, finally, that if Adam, as the lost sheep, had not been found and saved, “the whole human race [would] still [be] held in a state of perdition” (3.23.8).

Later, in Book 5 of Against Heresies, Irenaeus again affirms Adam as the first created man, “For in the same way the sin of the first created man (protoplasti) receives amendment by the correction of the First-Begotten” (5.19.1). The historical reality of Adam is further affirmed by Irenaeus’s teaching that just as the Lord Jesus Christ died on the sixth day of the week (Friday) as the Passover Lamb, so Adam sinned on the sixth day of the week of creation (5.23.2).

I suspect that one could read more widely in the apostolic fathers and early church apologists to find more about their teaching regarding Adam, but our perusal of one treatise of Irenaeus shows that McKnight’s assertion about Augustine is incorrect. Irenaeus wrote this more than 200 years before Augustine. Again, we should not be surprised, for, like us, these men were reading and explaining the Word of God. The clear message of Scripture itself is that Adam and Eve were real, historical people, that the entire human race descended from them, that Adam and Eve sinned and thereby dragged all humanity into condemnation, that our Lord Jesus Christ himself inherited the same human nature, though without sin, and that in that body he paid for sin. Therefore those who believe in him shall rise again to new life in body and soul, to live with God in a new material creation, forever.

Blame Augustine for “Adam” (I)

Here’s the first part of our response to the assertion that “no one in the Bible believed that construct of the historical Adam” and that the church father Augustine (A. D. 354–430) is really to blame for this construct.

The assertion is made in this short video clip from the Canadian Scientific and Christian Affiliation, wherein Scot McKnight explains seven assumptions people have when they ask him whether he believes in an historical Adam. He states that their question operates on seven principles or ideas, namely that:

  1. Adam and Eve were two actual, real, solitary human beings created out of nothing or of dirt;

    Screen Shot 2017-11-25 at 3.54.10 PM
    Scot McKnight: Wikipedia
  2. That a biological or procreational connection exists between Adam and Eve and all humans that follow;
  3. That there is an implied DNA genetic connection between Adam and Eve and the procreation of all humans;
  4. That Adam and Eve sinned and thus died;
  5. That Adam and Eve transmitted their sinfulness to all humans that followed;
  6. That therefore all humans need salvation from this sin;
  7. That the church must therefore preach the gospel of salvation and this gospel is at risk if we deny historical Adam.

Exactly right! He summarized our position at Creation without Compromise rather well.

It’s immediately after listing these seven principles that McKnight asserts, “No one in the Bible believed that construct of the historical Adam.” He specifies that no one between Moses and Paul believed it. Then he tells us that the church father Augustine is really to blame. McKnight has been making this pronouncement lately in support of a book he co-authored with Trinity Western University’s Dennis Venema. In a Biologos interview last February he wrote about, “the so-called ‘historical Adam,’ which is a theological construct in the history of the church but which was not believed by any single author in the entire Bible.”

In response, I will simply supply the biblical data. In my next post I will show that long before Augustine (354–430) the early apologist Irenaeus (c. 130–202) clearly and uneqivocally argued for the very historical Adam that McKnight denies.

No one in the Bible believed in an historical Adam? Really? 

Besides the obvious account in Genesis 1 and 2, Scripture also says:

When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them ‘man.’ When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image, and he named him Seth . . . When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the father of Enosh . . .” etc. (Gen 5).

This is the first of many genealogies, all of which refer to real people. No genealogy in Scripture that goes all the way back to the beginning ever begins with any human but Adam (Compare 1 Chron 1:1; Luke 3:38).

When men began to increase in number on the earth . . . (Gen 6:1).

This verse clearly assumes that it took all the generations of Genesis 5 before the number of humans began to increase, for the human race began with one human pair and only multiplied through the generations. We are never told of a believer in the rest of the OT who challenged or doubted these genealogies, least of all the beginning with Adam and Eve.

But God destroyed the rebellious human race entirely, to start over with Noah. Thus we read,

These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the earth . . . From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood (Gen 9:19, 32).

What happens after Noah parallels what had already happened after Adam, as recorded in Genesis 5 and 6. Many more texts speak of Adam as the source of the human race, our first father, and of Adam and Eve as those who were from the beginning.

Your first father sinned; your spokesman rebelled against me (Isa 43:27).

Like Adam, they have broken the covenant—they were unfaithful to me there (Hos 6:7).

“Haven’t you read,” Jesus replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ ? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matt 19:4–7)

From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth (Acts 17:26).

Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them (Jude 1:14).

Besides these texts one encounters the famous teachings of the Apostle Paul about Christ and Adam. In Romans 5, Paul wrote about death reigning “from Adam to Moses” and that Adam sinned by “breaking a command” (Rom 5:14). Adam was as real to Paul as Moses; further, the Genesis account of the fall into sin was treated by him as historical truth (the same occurs in 1 Tim 2:13–14 when Paul speaks of Adam being formed first, then Eve, and of Eve sinning first, then Adam). Paul then argues from the universal effects of Adam’s sin—the many died, and death reigned through the one man Adam (Rom 5:15, 17)—to the abundant grace and righteousness that came by the other “one man,” Jesus Christ (Rom 5:18). In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul called Christ the “Second Adam” inasmuch as “in Adam all die, so in Christ will all be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22), and, “The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15:45), and, “just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven” (1 Cor 15:49).

McKnight’s assertion cannot stand against the clear evidence of Scripture. He makes his rather odd pronouncement only after accepting his co-author Venema’s arguments for the validity of biological evolution. McKnight even admits that anyone who doesn’t accept Venema’s arguments in their co-authored book (wherein, incidentally, the scientific arguments precede), need not bother with his own arguments. How odd, that a New Testament scholar would let a scientist’s conclusions form the starting point of his own positions, rather than the very Bible that he has been trained to interpret!

AFTER EVOLUTION: 4 Reformed figures who accepted evolution and kept on moving

What follows are very brief bios of four prominent Reformed figures who have accepted evolution and gone on to accept increasingly unorthodox positions.

Tomorrows-Theology2

Peter Enns

Enns once taught at Westminster Theological Seminary (1994- 2008) from where the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) gets many of their ministerial candidates. After accepting evolution he now has a very different understanding of the Bible, claiming, “God never told the Israelites to kill the Canaanites. The Israelites believed that God told them to kill the Canaanites.”

Howard Van Till

Van Till taught at the Christian Reformed Calvin College (1967-1998) and was for a time one of the best-known Reformed defenders of evolution.

He no longer holds to the Reformed confessions, and, according to a 2008 piece in The Grand Rapids Press seems to have migrated to some form of pantheism, seeing “God not as a transcendent, separate creator, but an active presence within and inseparable from creation.”

Edwin Walhout

Walhout is a retired Christian Reformed Church (CRC) pastor, and was once the denomination’s Editor of Adult Education. In 1972 he suggested

…it may well be that science can give us insights into the way in which God created man, but it can hardly discover or disclaim that man is an image of God.

In a 2013 Banner article “Tomorrow’s Theology,” he was far more definitive, proposing that in light of evolution the CRC needs to re-examine the doctrines of Creation, Original Sin, the Fall and Salvation, as well as whether Adam and Eve were real historical people.

Deborah Haarsma

Haarsma was a professor at Calvin College from 1999 until 2012. In 2007, along with her husband, she authored a book that discussed various views on origins and, while endorsing none, treated evolution as at least credible.

She is now the president of Biologos, a think tank that aggressively promotes evolution as true and that questions Original Sin, the Flood, the Fall into Sin, and whether Adam and Eve were actually historical people.

Moving in just one direction?

Does this mean that accepting evolution always leads to liberalism? Couldn’t we counter this list by coming up with one made up of Reformed luminaries who have accepted evolution and stayed generally orthodox?

We could come up with such a list and Tim Keller might be at the top of it. But the problem is that twenty years ago Peter Enns might also have been on such a list. He didn’t reject orthodoxy immediately. Any such “counterlist” might simply be a list of evolution-believing Reformed figures who don’t reject orthodoxy yet. Only time will tell.

No, if we’re going to try to make the case that evolution and orthodoxy are a natural fit, then the better counterlist would be that of liberals who, after embracing evolution, moved in a more orthodox direction. That would be a good answer to this list.

But does that ever happen?

This article first appeared in Reformed Perspective and is reprinted here with permission. You can also find a Dutch version of this article here.

The Secrets of Insect Flight

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 11.48.45 AM.pngBusy bees. Dazzling dragonflies. Meddlesome mosquitoes. They all have the most amazing flying abilities. How do they do it? We are happy to offer a new article about God’s marvellous creation which explains some of the secrets of insect flight, supplied to us by Mr. Martin Tampier.

Martin is a professional engineer and energy consultant in Laval, Quebec. He is also a hobby photographer fascinated by insects, as the amazing close-ups of flying insects in the article demonstrate. He has already published elsewhere on God’s amazing creation. We thank him kindly for this article and trust that readers will praise God as they learn more about how insects fly.

Martin concludes,

Research around insect flight is on-going and many mysteries still need to be solved. However, some of the complicated features of insect wings are already being copied for man-made technology, including the development of micro-aerial vehicles—ironically modelled after the ‘primitive’ flying of dragonflies.

So while they may not recognize insects as divinely designed, researchers are confirming that they are incredibly complex and use extremely sophisticated physical mechanisms. To date, even the most amazing modelling software is insufficient to properly show how they achieve all of their amazing feats.

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 12.48.09 PM.png

To read the entire article and enjoy the exquisite photographs, click here.

Follow the money…

moneybagIn my previous post, I examined the roots of the Templeton Foundation, the philosophy of its founder, Sir John Marks Templeton, and the way in which his philosophy is being disseminated through the Foundation’s ongoing efforts. In that post, the BioLogos Foundation and the Canadian Christian and Scientific Affiliation are mentioned as groups that receive Templeton Foundation funding to support their work.

A little research shows the incredible reach that the Foundation’s money has. And an examination of the nature of the grants that the Foundation provides, as well as the purpose behind these grants, is telling indeed. One of the Foundation’s main funding areas is “public engagement,” and a representative sample of grants (ranging from tens of thousands to millions of dollars) clearly shows the Foundation’s goals. Here is a small sample of grants that have been made over the past three years:

  • Vatican Observatory Foundation – “Building a bridge between faith and astronomy”

  • John Carroll University – “Integrating science into college and pre-theology programs in U.S. Roman Catholic seminaries”

  • Union Theological Seminary – “Project to develop a spiritual worldview compatible with and informed by science”

  • Cambridge Muslim College – “Developing religious leaders with scientific awareness”

  • American Association for the Advancement of Science – “Engaging scientists in the science and religion dialogue”

  • Luther Seminary – “Science for youth ministry: The plausibility of transcendence”

  • Christianity Today – “Building an audience for science and faith”

Other grants have been made to train Roman Catholic teachers and preachers to engage the dialogue between science and religion, to promote science engagement in rabbinic training, and to measure science engagement in Roman Catholic high schools and seminaries. Further investigation in the nature and purpose of these grants reveals a common thread. For example, La Jolla Presbyterian Church received a grant from the Templeton Foundation for a program that “seeks to engage young adults (college and post-graduate) in a discussion of science and faith with leading scientists who are Christians.”

The McGrath Institute for Church Life at Notre Dame University received a $1.675 million grant for their Science and Religion Initiative, which “seeks to frame science education within the broader context of Catholic theology.” According to the Institute’s director, “The perceived conflict between science and religion is one of the main reasons young people say they leave the Catholic church… this grant allows us to address this misperceptions and help high school teachers create pedagogies that show that science and religion – far from being incompatible – are partners in the search for truth.”

Multnomah Biblical Seminary has received a Templeton grant (as well as a grant from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, itself supported by the Templeton Foundation), to “equip pastoral studies majors to become more effective in engaging our scientific age.” Among a number of other Christian theologians, Niels Henrik Gregersen, professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Copenhagen, received a Templeton research grant for his work on the constructive interface between science and religion.

Another recent recipient of the Templeton Foundation’s largesse is Regent College in Vancouver, which this year received a grant funding a program called “Re-faithing Science at Regent College.” The program will seek, over the next two years, to address this question: “How can the relationship between Christian faith and scientific endeavour be conceptualized and communicated in a way that effectively engages diverse audiences?”

The detailed description of this particular grant on the Templeton Foundation website is insightful:

“Sir John Templeton recognized that science and spirituality should be neither sealed in separate boxes nor positioned at opposite ends of a battlefield, yet even a cursory glance at contemporary culture reveals that the supposed incompatibility and even hostility between faith and science is something of a truism in much of Western society. Regent College believes that this widespread perception is a significant threat to the development of theology and science alike, as well as to the spiritual and intellectual flourishing of countless individuals.”

So, utilizing Templeton’s funds, Regent College’s project team will “propose an alternative model for the relationship between faith and science: mutual coinherence, or existence within one another.” Their goal is to communicate this proposal “in an accessible form” that will encourage and enable further exploration of science, theology, and their interaction, using academic publications, public lectures, graduate-level courses, and an online presence, to “target different audiences with the same basic narrative, a story of one world, created by one God, who can be known and worshipped through both theology and science – and who is best known and best worshipped when theology and science work together.”

What can we learn from all of this? If we were unaware of the foundational principles behind the Templeton Foundation, perhaps all of this would appear to be somewhat innocuous. After all, who could argue against Christians being involved in the sciences? Why oppose efforts aimed at developing “scientific awareness”? Certainly we shouldn’t want to bury our heads in the sand, and ignore what the sciences have to offer, as if science were somehow “off-limits” to the faithful Christian, should we?

But remember this important fact: the Templeton Foundation has a very clear agenda – a utopian, panentheistic philosophy that has an ecumenical goal of uniting the religions of the world around a synthesis of “science” and religion, with “science” seated firmly in the driver’s seat in this relationship. This agenda is being promoted by the lavish dispersal of funds to Islamic, Roman Catholic, Jewish, and other religious organizations, including, sadly, many evangelical Christian groups, many of which are making their influence felt in Reformed churches as well.

Two popular sayings come to mind: “Follow the money,” and “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” The money trail leads us to Sir John Marks Templeton. And clearly, Templeton’s agenda is making headway in many places, although it is also clear that this agenda faces many obstacles.

First of all, there is reluctance to accept the premises of this movement among religious organizations, as can be seen from the numerous grants being made to support efforts to decrease the resistance of religious leaders and members of religious groups, including evangelical Christians, to this religious/scientific paradigm. But that reluctance is being overcome, as the Templeton agenda makes inroads through a judicious use of funding. Efforts to reach youth, and those who teach the young, are effective means of dissemination for any propaganda effort, whether political, cultural, or religious in nature. Young people are more easily influenced, and they are most definitely being targeted, in a well-funded, concerted effort.

But there is also resistance from the other side – from unbelieving scientists who reject all religion, any idea of transcendence, and the idea that anything exists beyond the physical. This group is also being addressed by the outreach efforts of the Templeton Foundation, as it works toward fulfilling its long-term goals.

A spiritual war is being waged against God’s people, using that ancient question, “Has God really said?” This is not novel; every generation of Christians faces this reality, in different ways at different times in history. The battle is being played out in a world in which money talks, and a lot of money talks loudly. We cannot afford to be naive on this issue. We need to be on our guard against the influence of the Templeton Foundation’s money, even if it’s being spent by organizations that may have been respected among us. That money is being spent to promote an agenda that is radically different from the agenda of God’s kingdom. Our allegiance to the One True God must lead us to reject alliances with organizations like the Templeton Foundation, whose agenda is completely incompatible with that of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

“The Humble Approach”

9781890151331-usPossibilities For Over One Hundredfold More Spiritual Information: The Humble Approach in Theology and Science. Sir John Templeton. Templeton Foundation Press. Philadelphia and London. 2000.

Sir John Marks Templeton (1912-2008) is best known as the creator of the Templeton Growth Fund, an investment fund established in 1954, which made him a very wealthy man. Two years before his death in 2008, Templeton, who was born in Tennessee and later became a British citizen, found himself in 129th place on the Sunday Times‘ “Rich List.” But Templeton was not only an investor and a money-maker; he was also well-known as a philanthropist, through the work of his charitable organization, the Templeton Foundation. Established in 1987, the Templeton Foundation offers over seventy million dollars’ worth of research grants each year. The Foundation is currently headed by Templeton’s daughter, Heather Templeton Dill, and it is an important source of funding for a number of individuals and organizations, including the BioLogos Foundation and the Canadian Scientific and Christian Affiliation.

One of the Templeton Foundation’s purposes is to advance what Templeton called “Humility-In-Theology” – “helping spiritual information to multiply over 100 fold about every two centuries, especially by encouraging people of all religions to become enthusiastic (rather than resistant) to new additional spiritual information, especially through science research, to supplement the wonderful ancient scriptures” (Templeton, 180).

“Humility” was an important word for Sir John Templeton, as can be seen from the title of this book, as well as throughout its pages. Templeton’s philosophy of humility, and the way it shaped his thinking and his philanthropically efforts, is central to his thinking. For example, Templeton writes, “Although we seem to be the most sophisticated species at present on our planet, perhaps we should not think of our place as the end of cosmogenesis.” We must resist the pride that might tempt us to think that we are creation’s final goal, and seek to become “servants of creation or even helpers in divine creativity.” We may be “a new beginning, the first creatures in the history of life on earth to participate consciously in the ongoing creative process” (p. 41).

Templeton argues that theologians need to be “humble and open-minded,” and that most of the world’s religions exhibit a “tendency for dogma or hierarchy to stifle progress.” Humility should lead religious leaders to “re-form dogma in a more open-minded and inquiring way as a beginning point for continual improvements” (p. 41). Templeton claims not to want to quarrel with any theologian, and that we must “happily admit” that a particular theologian may be right. “But,” he writes, “let us listen most carefully to any theologian who is humble enough to admit also that he may be wrong – or at least that the door to great insights by others is not closed” (p. 50).

The great problem, for Templeton, is egotism, which has led to many mistaken ideas throughout history – including the notions that the stars and the sun revolve around mankind, and that humanity is as old as the universe. “Egotism is still our worst enemy… Only by being humble can we learn more,” Templeton writes (p. 59).

So where did this understanding of “humility” lead Sir John Templeton? Sadly, it led him to practically reject the Bible as the completed Word of God, his perfect self-revelation. The Bible, which Templeton includes as simply one of the  “ancient scriptures” of all the world’s religions, was written in a different context than today. We now know that the universe is much larger, much older, and far more complex than the ancients believed. And so we are confronted with a challenge: “to enrich understanding and appreciation for the old with a welcoming of concepts and perspectives which may represent truly new insights and creative improvements, which can leverage the power of the past into a forward-looking adventure of learning more and more about the wonders of god and his purposes through ongoing creativity.” Since our understanding of the universe has been “vastly enlarged,” we should no longer be limited in our expression of spiritual truths to “obsolete words, limited concepts, and ancient thought patterns.” The tremendous development in human understanding, Templeton writes, allow us a “fuller and wider interpretation of divine revelation today” (p. 47-48).

Ideas have consequences. While Templeton was an elder in a Presbyterian congregation (Presbyterian Church – USA), and even sat on the Board of Princeton Theological Seminary, he did not “limit” himself to the doctrines of orthodox Christianity. His “humble approach” led him to declare, “I have no quarrel with what I learned in the Presbyterian Church. I am still an enthusiastic Christian,” and then to ask, “But why shouldn’t I try to learn more? Why shouldn’t I go to Hindu services? Why shouldn’t I go to Muslim services? If you are not egotistical, you will welcome the opportunity to learn more” (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/julyweb-only/128-31.0.html). The sad fact is, however much one claims to be “an enthusiastic Christian,” believing that the teachings of religions that deny Christ can be positively appropriated by a Christian makes one, for all intents and purposes, anything but.

And this unfortunate truth is also clearly revealed in Templeton’s book. While Templeton denied being a pantheist (one who believes that the universe is God, and God is the universe), his understanding of the nature of God can only be described as a form of panentheism, which declares that God and the universe are distinct, but that the world is “in” God. Traditional pantheism serves a useful purpose, in Templeton’s mind, but he admits that it is incompatible with the Christian understanding of God. And so he turns to the teaching of the Unity School of Christianity for his conception of God: “God is also me: and I am a little part of him.” As little parts of God, “we may realize the mutual unity of god and his creation. We may conceive that our own divinity may arise from something more profound than merely being ‘god’s children’ or being ‘made in his image'” (p. 86; note that the use of the word “god” as written is in the original).

At this point, it must be said that, for all his self-proclaimed “humility,” Templeton’s foundational beliefs are, in Christian perspective, anything but humble; they are, in fact, blasphemous. True humility is expressed in Psalm 8:

“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens… When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man, that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Ps. 8:1,3, ESV).

True humility is expressed in humble submission to the LORD, the Creator, who has revealed himself clearly and completely in his Word – those “ancient Scriptures” which we humans have not outgrown, or surpassed, with all of our scientific understanding.

True humility is acknowledging our origins as the direct creation of God, acknowledging the reality of the Fall into sin, and its enduring impact on humanity and all of creation, God’s provision of a Way of salvation, and the fact that we can do nothing in ourselves to merit that salvation. We are created in God’s image. That image has been badly marred by sin. But in Christ, that image is being restored among God’s people.

True humility is submitting ourselves to Jesus Christ, who declared that he, and only he, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Templeton’s “humility” is, at bottom, and however unwittingly, the height of human arrogance and pride in disguise. In refusing to submit to God’s perfect Word, Templeton set a man on the throne in God’s place. And now, through the work of his Foundation, Templeton’s utopian vision for human society, based in anything but the Word of God, is continuing to be spread.

Templeton foresaw a “glorious” future, and thanks to his great financial savvy, his legacy lives on. His Foundation has three billion dollars in its reserve fund, and that money is being spent to promote that legacy, with a very definite, and very long-term, goal in mind. Templeton’s vision of the future is summed up in two citations in his book. He first cites Marceline Bradford:

“…Millions of intellectuals the world over have become disenchanted with backward-looking religious institutions… In order to recapture the great thinking minds of the world, the clergy must turn their heads 180 degrees from past to future. With feet planted squarely in the present and eyes directed to the future, leaders can find factual bases in science for viable, solid, dynamic doctrines. For science and rationality are enemies not of religion – only of dogmatism” (Templeton, p. 47).

Next, he cites Ralph Wendell Burhoe, who was awarded the Templeton Prize in 1980:

“…At several points in the next few years and decades the traditional theological and religious communities will find the scientific revelations a gold mine, and… by early in the third millennium A.D. a fantastic revitalization and universalization of religion will sweep the world. The ecumenical power will come from a universalized and credible theology and related religious practices, not from the politics of dying institutions seeking strength in pooling their weaknesses. I cannot imagine a more important bonanza for theologians and the future of religion than the information lode revealed by the scientific community… It provides us with a clear connection between human values, including our highest religious values, and the cosmic scheme of things. My prophecy, then, is that God talk… will in the next century increasingly be fostered by the scientific community” (Templeton, 103).

In the conclusion of his book, Templeton lists a number of the “founder’s favourite charities,” which also provides real insight into Templeton’s agenda. They include the promotion of education about free competition, entrepreneurship, and the enhancement of individual freedom and free markets; supporting research and publications in genetics; supporting education and other help in voluntary family planning; supporting character development research, and also:

“Supporting the publication and dissemination throughout the world of the religious teachings of the Unity School of Christianity… and of closely similar organizations, provided that major support for such organizations shall continue only so long as the Trustees of the Foundation… determine that such organizations adhere to the concepts of (i) usually pioneering in religion and theology with little restrictive creed, (ii) usually teaching that god may be all of reality and man only a tiny part of god and (iii) generally accentuating the positive ideas and attitudes and avoiding the negative” (Templeton, 183).

Such were the goals of Sir John Marks Templeton, and such are the goals of his foundation. A serious examination of Templeton’s guiding philosophy, and the philosophy of the Templeton Foundation, in the light of Scriptural principles, should lead us to a sense of genuine concern about any organization that the Foundation chooses to support financially, to question the ultimate motivation behind this support, and the fruits that this foundation is bearing in the numerous organizations that receive its funding. “The Humble Approach” of Sir John Marks Templeton has absolutely nothing in common with the genuinely humble approach of the Lord Jesus Christ. His utopian vision has nothing in common with the eschatological vision of God’s Word.

My concluding thought is this: those who receive large amounts of financial support from the Templeton Foundation may do so “with no strings attached,” and perhaps some recipients may be unaware of the totality of the Foundation’s founder’s spiritual vision. But could it be that they are unwitting victims of a larger, and more nefarious, agenda, which has at its base a desire to proclaim a different gospel, by denying the explicit teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ and his exclusive claims?

Operational vs. historical science

Evolution is just a theory.
Then again, so is gravity.
– as seen on a t-shirt.

Is the theory of evolution like the theory of gravity? How are they different? This is just one of the topics that professors John Byl and Tom Goss cover in their book, How Should Christians Approach Origins? In this excerpt they note that there are two very different sorts of science happening here.

*****

It is sometimes argued that it is inconsistent to use modern medicine and technology originswhile rejecting evolution, since both are products of mainstream science. However, we must be careful to distinguish between two types of science: operational science and historical science.

  1. OPERATIONAL SCIENCE is the experimental science done in the lab or in the field. It investigates repeatable events in the present. This concerns most of physics, chemistry, and biology, as well as observational geology, astronomy, and the like. It gives us all the science needed for technology, such as in developing smartphones, satellites, cars, planes, cures for diseases, and so on. It studies the present material reality and how it normally functions.
  2. HISTORICAL SCIENCE, on the other hand, is concerned with extrapolating from present observations to the distant, unobserved, and unrepeatable past. This includes various theories and explanations in archaeology, cosmology, historical geology, paleontology, biological evolutionary development, and so on.

These two types of science differ significantly:

  1. Operational science aims to discover the universal laws by which nature generally operates, whereas historical science aims to establish ancient conditions or past causes. Operational science explains present events by reference to general laws, whereas historical science explains present events in terms of presumed past events.
  2. Operational science calculates forward, deducing effects from causes, whereas historical science calculates backwards, inferring past causes from present clues. One problem here is that more than one possible historical cause can give rise to the same effect. For example, in a murder trial, the prosecution and defense may present very different historical scenarios to explain the material evidence.
  3. Operational science assumes methodological naturalism. Since it is concerned with what normally happens, in the absence of miracles, it is reasonable to consider only natural causes. Historical science, on the other hand, seeks to find what actually happened in the past. Constraining ourselves to natural causes amounts to metaphysical naturalism – the further assumption that no miracles have in fact happened in the past.¹

The well-known evolutionist Ernst Mayr acknowledged,

Evolutionary biology, in contrast with physics and chemistry, is a historical science – the evolutionist attempts to explain events and processes that have already taken place. Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques for the explication of such events and processes. Instead one constructs a historical narrative, consisting of a tentative reconstruction of the particular scenario that led to the events one is trying to explain.²

In short, the scientific know-how needed to make smartphones is much better established than, say, the claim that humans evolved from [some chimp-like creature].

End notes
¹ Stephen Meyer, Signature in the Cell (New York: NY, HarperCollins, 2009), 150–172.
² Ernst Mayr, “Darwin’s Influence on Modern Thought.” Scientific American, November 24, 2009 (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/darwins-influence-on-modern-thought/).

This excerpt reprint with permission. How Should Christians Approach Origins? can be purchased at Amazon.ca. Inquiries about bulk pricing can be directed to Tom Goss at tgoss@rogers.com