Attack on Genesis

How can something come from nothing? That’s what a recent cosmology theory purports to explain. The scriptures present a different story:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 English Standard Version (ESV)

And this explanation isn’t confined to the first three chapters of Genesis but is found throughout the scriptures. If it is false, then all of scripture can be reckoned as false as well. And there are significant consequences if the scriptures aren’t true.

In an October 10, 2012 Ligonier blog post titled: “In the Beginning God,” which is an excerpt taken from the book God’s Love, R. C. Sproul discusses the Genesis account:

When Genesis speaks of a beginning, it is referring to the advent of the universe in time and space. It is not positing a beginning to God but a beginning to the creative work of God…Genesis merely asserts that the universe had a beginning…We declare with Scripture that God is eternal…Does His eternality mean that He is somehow outside of time, that He is timeless? Or does His eternality mean that He exists in an endless dimension of time?

[Whichever way] we answer this question; we conclude that God Himself never had a beginning. He exists infinitely with respect to space and eternally with respect to time. His existence has neither a starting point nor an ending point. The dimensions of His existence are from everlasting to everlasting. This means that He always has been and always will be.

Sproul then touches on a topic we covered last week:

Because God Himself had no beginning, He was already there in the beginning. He antedates the created order. When we affirm that God is eternal, we are also saying that He possesses the attribute of aseity, or self-existence. This means that God eternally has existed of Himself and in Himself. He is not a contingent being. He did not derive from some other source. He is not dependent on any power outside Himself to exist…He is not an effect of some antecedent cause. In a word, He is not a creature. No creature has the power of being in and of itself. All creatures are contingent, derived, and dependent. This is the essence of their creatureliness.

And, as we discussed last week, all that we perceive in the world would not exist without their First Cause, God All Mighty. Sproul examines this consequence as he concludes:

Thinkers hostile to theism have sought every means imaginable to provide a rational alternative to the notion of an eternal, self-existent deity. Some have argued for an eternal universe, though with great difficulty. Usually the temporal beginning of the universe is granted, but with a reluctance to assign its cause to an eternal, self-existent being.

The usual alternative is some sort of self-creation, which, in whatever form it takes, falls into irrationality and absurdity. To assert the self-creation of anything is to leap into the abyss of the absurd because for something to create itself, it would have had to exist before it existed to do the job. It would have had to be and not be at the same time and in the same relationship.

…If there ever was a time when absolutely nothing existed, all there could possibly be now is nothing. Even that statement is problematic because there can never be nothing; if nothing ever was, then it would be something and not nothing.

The attack upon the Genesis account doesn’t stop at nothing, though. There is too much at stake. Another avenue is the reconciliation of the apparent age of the universe with the days of creation described in Genesis’s first two chapters. The church has been on the ropes over this one for decades if not longer.

CMB Timeline

Timeline of the Universe, circa 2006, NASA/WMAP Science Team, in the public domain in the United States

We’ve previously examined why the earth appears so old. Dorothy Leigh Sayers, in her book Letters to a Diminished Church: Passionate Arguments for the Relevance of Christian Doctrine, offers an intriguing explanation for Genesis, chapters 1-3:

…God had, at some moment or other, created the universe complete with all the vestiges of an imaginary past…Extravagant…if one thinks of God as a [scientist]…but, if one thinks of Him as working in the same sort of way as a creative artist, then [it seems] the most natural thing in the world.

Albert Mohler, in his sermon: “Why Does the Universe Look So Old?” says, “because the Creator made it whole,” that is, fully developed, and it “bares testimony to the effects of sin and testimony to the judgment of God.” This last point merits development.

Usually, some will object, how can fossils have been created in the first six days, which God pronounced very good, since these fossils represent the deaths of many creatures? The answer is that death entered through the curse (Genesis 3; Romans 5:12) sometime after the seventh day, a day of rest. Further, the Apostle Paul comments on Genesis 3 when he says:

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans 8:19-21 (ESV)

Clearly, God’s curse on humanity materially affected all creation, including the earth itself, with corruption. For self-consistency, that corruption naturally must include dead creatures.

Therefore, if the Genesis account is true, how should we then respond?

W. Robert Godfrey: God’s Design for Creation, YouTube, Mar 2, 2016 , Ligonier Ministries

In Whom We Have Our Being – Part 2

Last week we discussed Oprah’s favorite verse again. We saw how God’s animating power causes all His creation ‘to live, move, and have its being.’ It is His self-existence that gives us existence. Were He to withdraw His spirit from us, we would all return to dust.

The context for Oprah’s verse is:

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. Acts 17:26-29 English Standard Version (ESV)

Calvin has much to say about verses 26 through 29. Here’s a condensation (if you can believe it!) He starts by saying that those, meant to know the One God, splintered from one another and created gods in their own likeness:

And he has made of one blood. …Paul [appeals to] the nature of God that men must be very careful to know God, because they [are] created for the same end, and born for that purpose; for [God] briefly assigns to them this cause of life: to seek God.

…In sum, he meant to teach that the order of nature was broken, when religion was pulled in pieces among them, and that this diversity, which is among them, is a testimony that godliness is quite overthrown, because they are fallen away from God the Father of all, upon whom all kindred depends.

Calvin states that, despite their rebellion, God still provides light and life for His creation according to His will:

To dwell upon the face of the earth. …[Paul] says not that the times were only foreseen [by God], but that they were appointed and set in such order as pleased him best. And when [Paul says] God had appointed from the beginning those things which he had ordained before, [he means] that [God] executes by the power of his Spirit those things which he has decreed in his counsel…

…For though men, by raging upon earth, …seem to assault heaven, that they may overthrow God’s providence, yet they are enforced, whether they will [to do so] or not, rather to establish the same. Therefore, let us know that the world is so turned over [in] diverse tumults, [through and by which] God…brings all things to the end which he has appointed.

This last paragraph has bearing for every age, and particularly for our own. This calls for patient endurance.

Then, Calvin points out the goodness of God and the unreasonableness of mans’ position:

That they might seek God. …Surely, nothing is more absurd, than that men should be ignorant of their Author, who are [endowed] with understanding principally [to seek God].

And we must especially note the goodness of God, in that he does so familiarly insinuate himself, that even the blind may grope after him. For which cause the blindness of men is more shameful and intolerable, who, in so [obvious] and [palpable a display], are touched with no feeling of God’s presence.

…Though they shut their eyes, yet may they grope after him…Their ignorance and [lack of understanding] is mixed with such [contrariness], that being void of right judgment, they pass over without [discerning] all such signs of God’s glory as appear manifestly both in heaven and earth…(Romans 1:20.)

Further, Calvin calls out man’s indifference as monstrous, in light of God’s availability to us:

Though he be not far from every one of us. [So he might discuss] the [contrariness] of men [further], [Paul] says that God is not to be sought through many [twists and turns], neither need we make any long journey to find him; because every man shall find him in himself, if…he will take any heed. By which experience we are convicted that our dullness is not without fault, which we [inherited from] Adam.

For though no corner of the world [is] void of the testimony of God’s glory, yet we need not go [outside] ourselves to lay hold upon him. For he affects and moves every one of us inwardly with his power in such [a way], that our [insensibility] is [grotesque], in that in feeling him we feel him not…

While correctly emphasizing God’s separateness from creation, Calvin dissects how it is that we dwell in Him:

For in him. …God himself separates himself from all creatures by this word Jehovah, that we may know that, in speaking properly, he is alone, and that we have our being in him, inasmuch as by his Spirit he keeps us in life, and upholds us…

…All those who know not God know not [that] they have God present with them not only in the excellent gifts of the mind, but in their very essence [or that, since] it belongs to God alone to be [(i.e., I Am)], all other things [including we ourselves] have their being in him.

…God did not create the world [and] afterward depart from his work; but [the world, which He created from nothing,] stands by his power [moment-by-moment], and that the same God is the governor thereof who was the Creator. We must well think upon this continual comforting and strengthening, that we may remember God every minute.

Carefully, Calvin delineates in what way all men may be considered sons:

Certain of your poets. …Paul [cites a confession of that knowledge which is naturally engraven in men’s minds], though it were corrupt with men’s fables, that men are the [creation] of God…This is that which the Scripture teaches, that we are created after the image and similitude of God, (Genesis 1:27.)

The same Scripture teaches…that we [are] made the sons of God by faith and free adoption when we are engrafted into the body of Christ, and being regenerate by the Spirit, we begin to be new creatures, (Galatians 3:26.)…

…[Because the image of God is almost blotted out in men,] this name, [Sons], is [rightly] restrained to the faithful, who having the Spirit of adoption given them, resemble their heavenly Father in the light of reason, in righteousness, and [in] holiness.

Finally, Calvin shows us men’s folly in depicting God with man-made images.

Therefore, seeing that. …God cannot be figured or resembled by any graven image forasmuch as he would have his image [existing] in us. For the soul wherein the image of God is properly engraven cannot be painted; therefore, it is a thing more absurd to go about to paint God…

…Paul…inveighs against the common superstition of all the Gentiles, because they would worship God under bodily shapes…God is falsely and wickedly transfigured, and that his truth is turned into a lie [as] often as his Majesty is represented by any visible shape… (Romans 1:23.)

…But seeing that God far surpasses the capacity of our mind, whosoever attempts with his mind to comprehend him, [that person] deforms and disfigures his glory with a wicked and false imagination. Wherefore, it is wickedness to imagine anything of him according to our own sense.

God reaches out to us who are alienated from Him. Though we try to throw off His governance, yet He still rules. Created to know Him, we do not acknowledge His presence in heaven, earth, and even ourselves. His animating power gives us existence and life. We are wayward children; His image, engraven in our souls, is gravely marred, yet He still freely offers faith to us so we might become His sons and daughters. I urge you, if you haven’t yet, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.

Time-Lapse: 7 Amazing Views of Earth from Space, July 26, 2016, National Geographic

Where Are You?

On at least two recorded occasions, God has called out, “Where are you?” or words to that effect. The first call was in the garden of Eden at the beginning of creation:

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

Genesis 3:8-11 English Standard Version (ESV)

God created Man: Adam and Eve, gave them dominion over the earth, commanded them to obey one constraint, and placed them in the garden He created to tend it. Within a short time, by the will of God, their obedience to His one command was tested. They failed that test, and hid themselves because of their shame.

John Calvin comments on this crucial drama. First, he explains the nature of Adam’s and Eve’s fall:

Eve erred in not regulating the measure of her knowledge by the will of God…whereas the principal point of wisdom is a well-regulated sobriety in obedience to God.

…For the sake of complying with the wishes of his wife [and] being drawn by her into fatal ambition…[Adam] gave greater credit to the flatteries of the devil than to the sacred word of God.

God…manifest[s] himself to men…through the word, so…his majesty [is] maintained [and he is properly worshipped by us only] while we obey his word. Therefore, unbelief was the root of defection.

…They had been made in the likeness of God; but [they unlawfully aspired to] equality [with God by knowing good and evil].

As to the consequences of our ancestors’ fall, Calvin says:

…We are despoiled of the excellent gifts of the Holy Spirit, of the light of reason, of justice, and of rectitude, and are prone to every evil; that we are also lost and condemned, and subjected to death, is both our hereditary condition, and, at the same time, a just punishment which God, in the person of Adam, has indicted on the human race…From the time in which we were corrupted in Adam, we do not bear the punishment of another’s offense, but are guilty by our own fault.

Expounding on God’s confrontation of Adam and Eve in the garden, Genesis 3:8-11, Calvin says:

They had been already smitten by the voice of God, but they lay confounded under the trees…God now approaches nearer, and from the tangled thicket of trees draws him, however unwilling and resisting, forth into the midst…

Although this seems to be the confession of a dejected and humbled man, it will nevertheless soon appear that he was not yet properly subdued, nor led to repentance. He imputes his fear to the voice of God, and to his own nakedness…he fails to recognize the cause of shame in his sin; he, therefore, shows that he does not yet so feel his punishment, as to confess his fault.

…God [states] that Adam was admonished [prior to his disobedience]; and that he fell from no other cause than this, that he knowingly and voluntarily brought destruction upon himself.

Again, the atrocious nature of sin is marked in this transgression and rebellion; for, as nothing is more acceptable to God than obedience, so nothing is more intolerable than when men, having spurned his commandments, obey Satan and their own lust.

The second cry of “Where are you?” comes through other words from Christ on the Cross:

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 (ESV)

Calvin dissects this passage with help of old testament witnesses to Christ’s sufferings:

…Not only did he [i.e., Christ] offer his body as the price of our reconciliation with God, but in his soul also he endured the punishments due to us; and thus he became, as Isaiah speaks, a man of sorrows, (Is. 53:3.)

…When this temptation [i.e., being forsaken of God] was presented to Christ, as if, having God opposed to him, he were already devoted to destruction, he was seized with horror…but by the amazing power of the Spirit he achieved the victory.

In short, during this fearful torture his faith remained uninjured, so that, while he complained of being forsaken, he still relied on the aid of God as at hand.

Thus we see two diametrically opposite outcomes to similar events. God called to the first Adam, “Where are you?” The last Adam called to God “Why have you forsaken me?” The first Adam forsook his obedience to God’s word in exchange for his own self-exaltation. The last Adam overcame the temptation to reject God’s plan through faith in His Father’s promises. The Apostle Paul summarizes it nicely:

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:18-19 (ESV)

So, I must ask, where are you?

Ecce homo! (Behold the man!), by Antonio Ciseri, 1871

Pontius Pilate presenting a scourged Christ to the people, Ecce homo! (Behold the man!), (circa 1860–1880), by Antonio Ciseri (1821–1891), in the public domain in the United States

Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences?

Eugene Wigner, theoretical physicist and mathematician, famously addressed the effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences in a lecture delivered at NYU on May 11, 1959. The Foundational Questions Institute (FQXi) recently held their spring 2015 essay contest on the same topic.

According to Wikipedia, there are three main responses to Wigner’s lecture:

Richard Hamming, applied mathematician and a founder of computer science, extended Wigner’s arguments. But finally, he considered them unsatisfactory. They were:

  1. Humans see what they look for.
  2. Humans create and select the mathematics that fit a situation.
  3. Mathematics addresses only part of the human experience.
  4. Evolution has primed humans to think mathematically.

Max Tegmark, physicist and Scientific Director of FQXi, suggests Our external physical reality is a mathematical structure, which posits we are living in Platonic reality.

Ivor Grattan-Guinness, historian of mathematics and logic, found mathematics’ effectiveness explainable in terms of analogy, generalization, and metaphor.

The same Wikipedia article offers quotes from famous scientists on the subject. Many more responses can be found on the FQXi site. They are complicated and some are bewildering.

In all these musings, no one even contemplates the possibility that humans can describe the world mathematically because both mathematics and the world were created by the man, Christ Jesus. The Apostle Paul declares:

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. Romans 1:19-20 English Standard Version (ESV)

This truth holds for Astronomy through Zoology and all the sciences that derive from them. Yet no one considers Him:

For thus says the Lord,

who created the heavens

    (he is God!),

who formed the earth and made it

    (he established it;

he did not create it empty,

    he formed it to be inhabited!):

“I am the Lord, and there is no other.”

Isaiah 45:18 (ESV)

Take into account, however, that these scientists have been given gifts by virtue of bearing God’s image as His creations. They’re just like any of us. Ask the Lord that these men’s and women’s eyes be opened and that they’d be saved.

Lightning

Lightning, NOAA, in the Public Domain

Authority of Scripture?

Since we appeal to the authority of the scriptures on this blog, we should discuss what we mean by it.

We agree with John Calvin in his defense of scripture’s necessity, authority, and character:

Institutes, Chapter 6: …For if we reflect how prone the human mind is to lapse into forgetfulness of God, how readily inclined to every kind of error, how bent every now and then on devising new and fictitious religions, it will be easy to understand how necessary it was to make such a depository of doctrine as would secure it from either perishing by the neglect, vanishing away amid the errors, or being corrupted by the presumptuous audacity of men.

It being thus manifest that God, foreseeing the inefficiency of his image imprinted on the fair form of the universe, has given the assistance of his Word to all whom he has ever been pleased to instruct effectually, we, too, must pursue this straight path, if we aspire in earnest to a genuine contemplation of God;—we must go, I say, to the Word, where the character of God, drawn from his works is described accurately and to the life; these works being estimated, not by our depraved Judgment, but by the standard of eternal truth.

Institutes, Chapter 7: …The next thing to be considered is, how it appears not probable merely, but certain, that the name of God is neither rashly nor cunningly pretended. If, then, we would consult most effectually for our consciences, and save them from being driven about in a whirl of uncertainty, from wavering, and even stumbling at the smallest obstacle, our conviction of the truth of Scripture must be derived from a higher source than human conjectures, Judgments, or reasons; namely, the secret testimony of the Spirit

Still, however, it is preposterous to attempt, by discussion, to rear up a full faith in Scripture…. Profane men think that religion rests only on opinion, and, therefore, that they may not believe foolishly, or on slight grounds, desire and insist to have it proved by reason that Moses and the prophets were divinely inspired. But I answer, that the testimony of the Spirit is superior to reason. For as God alone can properly bear witness to his own words, so these words will not obtain full credit in the hearts of men, until they are sealed by the inward testimony of the Spirit…

Institutes, Chapter 8: …For it is wonderful how much we are confirmed in our belief, when we more attentively consider how admirably the system of divine wisdom contained in it is arranged—how perfectly free the doctrine is from everything that savors of earth—how beautifully it harmonizes in all its parts—and how rich it is in all the other qualities which give an air of majesty to composition.

Our hearts are still more firmly assured when we reflect that our admiration is elicited more by the dignity of the matter than by the graces of style. For it was not without an admirable arrangement of Providence, that the sublime mysteries of the kingdom of heaven have for the greater part been delivered with a contemptible meanness of words.

Had they been adorned with a more splendid eloquence, the wicked might have caviled, and alleged that this constituted all their force. But now, when an unpolished simplicity, almost bordering on rudeness, makes a deeper impression than the loftiest flights of oratory, what does it indicate if not that the Holy Scriptures are too mighty in the power of truth to need the rhetorician’s art?

In light of our previous post, we do not so much agree with the tone with which Calvin defends his positions (and these are mild). He’d definitely have given the current crop of vehement deniers a run for their money were he alive in this day and age.

Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva after storm. Picture taken from Montreux, on the left side in the rays of light – Saint-Gingolph by Rulexip. (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

We say that the scriptures, in the original languages, carry God’s authority as His proclamation of redemption for all who will believe. We say this, rather than maintain, as some do, that they are an accretion of fables or that they consist of truths [that] are illusions which we’ve forgotten are illusions. We believe that God deigns to use vernacular translations in the communication of His truth to the world. We see the scriptures as the window He offers us through which we may know the True and Living God.