Creation Vs Eternalism: (The Age of the Earth Part 1)

Historically, the debate has not been between creation and evolution, but creation and eternalism. During the apostolic and patristic eras, the pagans did not argue simply for an ancient earth, they contended that the universe was eternal. Even though Aristotle believed that the world was caused by God, he did not believe that God created the world, in time, in the usual understanding of the word “create.” God, as the perfect, unchangeable being, did not act in time. Since he is the eternal source of the world, Aristotle reasoned, the cosmos and its elements must also be eternal. Such a view is called eternalism. During the first centuries of the church, neo-Platonic philosophers would use Aristotle’s arguments to attack the Christian doctrine of creation. For example, in his book, On the Eternity of the World, Proclus gives 18 arguments against creation in favor of an everlasting universe. From biblical times up through the medieval era, the greatest challenge to the doctrine of creation was eternalism. 40 questions creation evolution

Eternalism, by its very nature, is fatalistic. The ancient pagans believed that the world operated within an eternal framework of oscillating and recurring cycles. The early cultures—Sumerian, Indian, and Chinese—universally held to the notion of never-ending, repeating, cyclic time. The Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks all held to 36,000 year cycles while the Hindus believed that the cycles were as long as 4.3 million years. The Mayans taught that the world had been created, destroyed, and re-created at least four times, with the last re-creation occurring on February 5, 3112 BC. The pagans understood time as a circle rather than an arrow.

Early Christian writers such as Tertullian and Augustine responded to the threat of eternalism by demonstrating that the Bible taught that God created in time, and that He created the world ex nihilo (i.e., out of nothing). John Philoponus, a 6th century Christian philosopher, exposed the internal inconsistencies of Aristotle’s arguments, and demonstrated that the notion of a world created in time is more logically tenable than belief in an eternal universe. By the end of the patristic period the doctrine of creation had won the day. However, the scientific revolution and the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries will be accompanied by the resurgence of eternalism. This needs to be kept in mind as we survey the attempts to ascertain the universe’s age. (Adapted from 40 Questions about Creation and Evolution)

This blog is cross posted at www.theologyforthechurch.com

The Difference between Evangelizing Pagans and Neo-Pagans

In a recent edition of First Things, J. Budziszewski argues that a sea change is about to happen in western culture. The first time the Gospel arrived the in the west, pagans were converted to Christ. Now, as the culture is dominated by a neo-paganism, Budziszewski believes a re-evangelization is about to take place. However, as the title of the article indicates, this time will not be the same. He discusses seven differences between the original pagans and today’s neo-pagans:

First, the early pagan made excuses for transgressing the moral law; today’s neo-pagan denies that morality exists.

Second, the early pagan wanted forgiveness, but didn’t know how to find absolution; today’s neo-pagan refuses to admit he needs forgiveness. Budziszewski explains:

“[T]he Neo-Pagan certainly feels the weight of his sins. But he thinks the way to have peace is not to have the weight lifted but to learn not to take it seriously. Hearing Christ’s promise of forgiveness, he thinks, ‘All those guilty Christians!’ Having chosen to view the freest people as the most burdened, he naturally views the most burdened as the freest.”

Third, the early pagan usually was either exposed to the Gospel all at once or not exposed at all; today’s neo-pagan has been “exposed to just enough spores to develop an allergic reaction.”

Fourth, the early pagan knew he was an idolater. Today’s neo-pagan denies he is even religious, much less an idolater. The pagan’s idols were tangible and visible. The neo-pagan’s gods are intangible and invisible.

Fifth, the early pagan was unfamiliar with Christian ideas. Today’s neo-pagan is “brimming with them.” The neo-pagan has appropriated them after having “emptied them of Christian meaning.”

Sixth, the pagan knew he had no one else to blame for the faults of his country and culture. Today’s neo-pagan places all the blame on his nation’s Christian heritage.

Finally, the early pagan knew he was not a Christian. But there is a certain type of neo-pagan who thinks he is one.

In the end, Budziszewski concludes on an optimistic note. Neo-pagans still have the same needs of the heart as the rest of humanity. The Gospel is still powerful. But this time will not be the same.rpg mobil

Who Needs Adam? Denis Lamoureux Jettisons a Historical Fall

For about a month we have been looking at the answers given by evangelicals to two questions: 1) did animal death exist before the fall of Adam and Eve?, and 2) what was the impact of Adam’s fall on the rest of Creation? We have summarized the answers provided by young-earth creationists (YEC), by old-earth creationists (OEC), and a hybrid position argued by Bill Dembski. This blog looks at the position advocated by evolutionary creationist (EC) Denis Lamoureux, in which he argues that Christian doctrine suffers no real loss in abandoning a historical Adam.40 questions creation evolution

In his book, I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution, Denis Lamoureux argues as the title indicates, and probably represents for evolutionary creationists (EC) the majority position concerning the Fall. Lamoureux is an evangelical, charismatic Christian who affirms an orthodox Christology (Christ’s virgin birth, vicarious death, and bodily resurrection) while at the same time arguing that evolution was the means by which Jesus created (32). While he views EC’s strongest point to be that it “embraces both biblical faith and modern science,” he concedes that EC’s weakest point is its denial of a literal or historical fall (30). “In other words, evolutionary creation rejects the traditional Christian belief in the cosmic fall” (31-32). (However, there are some EC advocates who affirm a historical Adam and Eve. For example, see Denis Alexander’s Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Chose?) Lamoureux argues that God used a fallible, errant account of origins to convey an infallible truth:

“To conclude, there is no sin-death problem. Adam never existed, and consequently, sin did not enter the world through him. Nor then did physical death arise as a divine judgment for his transgression, because once again, Adam never existed. Indeed, sin did enter the world, but not through Adam.” (148)

Lamoureux admits that his reading of Gen 1-3 is “very unnatural and counterintuitive” and “is not an easy position to accept” (30-32).

Lamoureux appeals to evangelicals not to dismiss theistic evolution too quickly. The Fall is a spiritual mystery, he argues, not unlike other mysteries affirmed by Christian doctrine (i.e., the Image of God and the age of accountability) (29-30). Specifically, he contends that the Fall is analogous to the age of accountability. Christians are not agreed about spiritual state of children, whether a child is born condemned or becomes morally accountable at a later date. For those who do affirm an age of accountability, no one dogmatically holds to a certain time—either for a particular child or for children in general. Though the doctrine of the age of accountability is vague and mysterious, no orthodox Christian denies that all children possess an intrinsic, sinful propensity which eventually, inevitably renders all guilty before God. Similarly, argues Lamoureux, we do not understand the particulars of humanity’s fall. There was no simple, single original sin. Rather, “‘original sin’ was manifested gradually and mysteriously over many generations during the evolutionary processes leading to men and women” (157). Gen 3 presents, in mythical terms, a present reality: humanity is estranged from God.

The end result of Lamoureux’s argument is the conclusion that man’s fallen state has had no impact on creation. Rather, it is the other way around. Fellow EC proponent Daniel Harlow echoes Lamoureux’s position when he states, “Far from infecting the rest of the animal creation with selfish behaviors, we humans inherited these tendencies from our animal past” (PSCF 62:3, 180).

Lamoureux sees the origins account to be a fallible human text used by God to communicate an infallible message. He claims to hold to a version of inerrancy, but his view of Gen 1-3 seems to be much closer to that of neo-Orthodoxy. Lamoureux’s position runs the danger of revamping the Fall beyond recognition. I don’t question Lamoureaux’s devotion to Christ, but I strongly disagree with his position. Theologically speaking, we need Adam. (Adapted from 40 Questions about Creation and Evolution.)

This blog is cross-posted at www.theologyforthechurch.com.