Michael Denton’s Awe-Inspiring Description of A Living Cell –What I’ve Been Reading (9)

Pin It

In 1986, Michael Denton published Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Many attribute this book with starting the Intelligent Design movement. Denton provides an elegant description of the living cell that I want simply to quote at length:

“To grasp the reality of life as it has been revealed by molecular biology, we must magnify a cell a thousand million times until it is twenty kilometers in diameter and resembles a giant airship large enough to cover a great city like London or New York. What we would then see would be an object of unparalleled complexity and adaptive design. On the surface of the cell we would see millions of openings, like the port holes of a vast space ship, opening and closing to allow a continual stream of materials to flow in and out. If we were to enter one of these openings we would find ourselves in a world of supreme technology and bewildering complexity. We would see endless highly organized corridors and conduits branching in every direction away from the perimeter of the cell, some leading to the central memory bank in the nucleus and others to assembly plants and processing units….A huge range of products and raw materials would shuttle along all the manifold conduits in a highly ordered fashion to and from all the various assembly plants in the outer regions of the cell.

“We would wonder at the level of control implicit in the movement of so many objects down so many seemingly endless conduits, all in perfect unison. We would see all around us, in every direction we looked, all sorts of robot-like machines….

“We would see that nearly every feature of our own advanced machines had its analogue in the cell: artificial languages and their decoding systems, memory banks for information storage and retrieval, elegant control systems regulating the automated assembly of parts and components, error fail-safe and proof-reading devices utilized for quality control, assembly processes involving the principle of prefabrication and modular construction….

“What we would be witnessing would be an object resembling an immense automated factory, a factory larger than a city and carrying out almost as many unique functions as all the manufacturing activities of man on earth. However, it would be a factory which would have one capacity not equaled in any of our own most advanced machines, for it would be capable of replicating its entire structure within a matter of a few hours. To witness such an act at a magnification of one thousand million times would be an awe-inspring spectacle.” (pp. 328-29).

Awe-inspiring indeed. “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.” (Psalms 139:14)

Cross-posted at www.theologyforthechurch.com

What I’ve Been Reading (6)–Creationism Is Evolving

Pin It

We often forget to make the distinction between creation and creationism. Creation is a doctrine, and as such it is an unchangeable tenet to the Christian faith.  Creationism is an apologetic approach which attempts to integrate the doctrine of creation with the current understandings of the natural sciences.  As such creationism is always changing and subject to amendment. Ronald Numbers has provided us with an excellent history of creationism with his book, The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism. Numbers’ father was a Seventh-Day Adventist evangelist who preached in tent revivals sermons such as “God’s Answer to Evolution: Are Men and Monkeys Relatives?” Numbers today appears to be agnostic, but he treats creationists with respect, and he writes as who was an insider to the creationist movement. Creationism indeed has evolved, and Christians need to be aware of the changes that have occurred over last 150 years. The Creationists makes several points of interest: 

1. Virtually all early fundamentalists and evangelicals held to an ancient earth. For example, B.B. Warfield, who coined the term “inerrancy”, held to theistic evolution. R.A. Torrey, who founded both Moody Bible Institute and BIOLA and who edited The Fundamentals (from which we get the term “fundamentalist”), held to the gap theory.  In a celebrated debate over the creation account in Genesis between two early fundamentalists, W. B. Riley and Harry Rimmer, neither advocated young-earth creationism. Even William Jennings Bryan, of the Scopes Monkey Trials fame, held to a day-age interpretation of Genesis One. 

2. Young-earth creationism (YEC) did not ascend to prominence until the early 1960′s with the publication of Whitcomb and Morris’ The Genesis Flood (1961). Prior to Whitcomb and Morris, the view that the proper interpretation of Genesis requires that the earth be less than 10,000 years old was advocated almost exclusively by Seventh-Day Adventists such as George McCready Price. Ellen G. White, founder of Seventh-Day Adventism, claimed to have received a vision in which she was carried back to the original week of creation. There, she said, God showed her that the original week was seven days like any other week.

3. Young-earth creationism (YEC) originally was called “scientific creationism.” Whitcomb and Morris argued that, when the evidence is examined in an unbiased manner, the case for a young earth is much more compelling than for an old earth.  Artifact number one was the claim that humans footprints were found along with dinosaurs tracks in the river bed of the Paluxy River near Glen Rose, Texas.  YEC advocates don’t make that claim about the tracks anymore, nor do they still use the label of “scientific creationism.”

The Creationists was published in 1992, so it doesn’t cover significant developments within creationism over the last 20 years.  Most notably, there is no discussion of Ken Ham and the Answers in Genesis organization, nor is there anything about the rise of the Intelligent Design movement.  However, if one wants to know how the debate got to be where it is today then this book is an excellent place to start.

What I’ve Been Reading (5)–The Evolution of Adam

Pin It

Peter Enns is the fellow that Ken Ham has been warning about. Members of the Answers in Genesis organization (such as Ken Ham and Terry Mortenson) have often contended that abandoning young-earth creationism is the first step on a slippery slope in which the historicity of Adam and the Fall is denied, and eventually the gospel is compromised.  Logicians generally consider the slippery slope argument a fallacy (or a poor argument at best), but Enns makes the AIG guys look like they’re on to something. Peter Enns’ The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins is both disturbing and disappointing.  Enns doesn’t present much that is all that new (Bultmann made many of the same arguments 75 years ago).  What is new is that the arguments are being made by one who, until recently, signed the ETS statement affirming the inerrancy of Scripture.

Enns argues that Paul got it wrong about Adam, but but we shouldn’t worry about that because the apostle got it right about Christ.  According to Enns, Paul’s use of Adam is idiosyncratic.  Because Paul engaged in the creative hermeneutics typical of 2nd Temple Judaism, he presents a view of Adam that cannot be sustained by a close reading of the Old Testament.  Actually, Paul’s understanding of Adam is not typical of 2nd Temple Judaism.  He may have been using their hermeneutics, but he doesn’t arrive at their conclusions. In passages such as Rom 5 and 1 Cor 15, Paul engages in the theological equivalent of reverse engineering.  He saw Christ’s resurrection as a solution in search of a problem.  He begins with the resurrection of Jesus, and then re-interprets the Old Testment (particularly Genesis 3) to make sense of it all.   In the end, the apostle presents us with a view of Adam and the Fall that cannot by justified by theology, biology, history, or even the Old Testament itself. 

The classic theological liberals of the 19th and 20th centuries demonstrated the danger of accommodating the modern worldview to the point the gospel is lost.  Has Peter Enns made the same mistake? I fear he is on the verge of doing so.  Enns affirms the bodily resurrection of Christ, but he abandons the first half of the grand biblical narrative that makes sense of the event.  Enns puts that narrative–Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration–in serious jeopardy.  When he jettisons a historical Adam and a subsequent historical fall, Enns seriously damages the first half of the gospel.

The problem is not simply that Enns advocates theistic evolution.  Other evangelicals in the past have done so (B. B. Warfield and C.S. Lewis come to mind) and some current evangelicals do so today (think J. I. Packer and Tim Keller).  I think they’re wrong about evolution, but they still held, or hold, to a literal Adam who fell in a literal garden.  Enns says that there must be a synthesis of evolution and Christianity. “The only question,” states Enns, “is how that will be done” (123).  I can think of at least one more question. After the merger, is the result still Christian?

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