Death & Decay in Genesis 3

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When you study God’s perfect creation in Genesis 1, it is hard to harmonize it with the world that we live in today. However, Genesis 3 provides an explanation for our tension. So, after having looked at the creation of Adam and Eve, last Monday evening we examined Genesis 3, as well as a few other relevant biblical texts, to see how and when death and decay entered in the created order. The point of this examination is to demonstrate that disease, suffering, and death did not become a part of God’s good universe until God’s vice-regent, Adam ate from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Here are the three parts around which our discussion was organized:

I. Temptation leads to the fall by magnifying disobedience, 1–7.

II. God responds to the fall by announcing judgment, vv. 8–24.

III. The fall has a fourfold significance for Biblical Creationism.

With the first part of the lesson, we focused on Genesis 3:1-7. This text shows that the satanically-possessed serpent deceived Eve who became the first human sinner when she ate from the fruit in v. 6. However, we should carefully note that God’s curse on humanity and the created order did not occur when Eve ate but when Adam ate from the fruit, v. 6 (see 1 Timothy 2:12-14 and Romans 5:12-21). In addition, we demonstrated from Genesis 3:8-24 and other pertinent biblical texts that God’s announcement of judgment focused on Adam & Eve, their posterity, Satan & the serpent, the animal & plant kingdoms, and finally the whole creation.

Finally, we saw how the fall has a fourfold significance for biblical creationism. (1) The fall teaches that disease, suffering and death were not part of the created world over which Adam ruled before he ate from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (2) Because the created order was cursed at the fall (Rom 8:19–22), this means that Adam’s rule as God’s vice-regent would no longer be peaceful, but would be marked by hostility. (3) Since the fall is the time when disease and death started in the world, this rules out any form of evolution, its supposed Christian offshoot known as theistic evolution or its more current form known as progressive creationism, day-age view, the gap theory and framework interpretation. If any of these hypotheses are correct, Adam and Eve, prior to the fall, ruled over a graveyard of fossils and not the Garden of Eden. (4) As a righteous judge, God had to hold Adam accountable to the standards he had established. Therefore, God had to impose the curse on his creation. However, in the midst of judgment, God announced in microscopic form, Genesis 3:15, his provisions to bring blessing to His fallen world.

With our next lesson, we will look at the nature of the Noah’s flood.

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Creation of Adam and Eve

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Because of academic and domestic commitments, I have been delinquent in blogging about my Biblical Creation class. Nevertheless, I will return to our recent lesson that focused on the creation of Adam and Eve. With this post, I will summarize our discussion.

Our lesson had six parts:

I. God’s direct creation of Adam in Genesis 2:7

II. God’s direct creation of Eve in Genesis 2:18, 21–25

III. God’s creation of Adam and Eve in His image in Genesis 1:26–27

IV. God’s mandate to His image-bearers in Genesis 1:26, 28

V. The antiquity of God’s image-bearers

VI. God’s design in creating His image-bearers

To begin with, in Genesis 2:7 God formed man’s body “from the dust of the ground” followed by his breathing into his nostrils “the breath of life.” In Genesis 1:20-21, God also animates the animals with “the breath of life.” What makes God’s animating principle in man distinct from animals is that man is created as imago dei, a divine image bearer. Second,, we saw that a little later on day six, God took one of Adam’s ribs and formed his wife (Gen 2:21-22). Besides the creation of Eve in the image of God, we saw a number of truths that affirm God ordained the biblical roles for husband and wife before the fall. Further, Genesis 2:24–25 also teaches us much about marriage.

Third, when we looked at the first couple being created in the image of God, I argued that this means that humans are a representation and likeness of God in that they are personal, spiritual and moral beings. While people shares these qualities as finite, created beings, God has these qualities as the infinite Creator. Genesis 5:3 illustrates what it means to be created in someone else’s image and likeness. “When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.” We should observe that “image” and “likeness” are used interchangeably in this verse. We should further note that Seth is not identical to Adam, but he is like Adam. As such, Seth is like and a representative of Adam but he is not Adam. In an analogous way, man is like and represents God, but he is most emphatically not God. In short, God is the infinite Creator and we are the finite creation. Fourth, God gave the dominion mandate to his image bearer’s. In Genesis 1:26, 28 there is a strong connection between one being in the image of God and one having dominion over the creatures of the earth. We highlighted six aspects of the dominion mandate: fill the earth (Gen 1:28), subdue the earth, rule over the animal kingdom, cultivate the garden (Gen 2:15), maintain a vegetarian diet (Gen 1:29-30; cf Gen 9:3), and abstain from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:17).

Fifth, we looked at the antiquity of God’s image bearers. Before the nineteenth century, biblical genealogies, especially Genesis 5 and 11, were used as prima facie evidence to establish an age for the earth as well as the creation of man being only a few thousand years ago. There are three views we examined: (1) a strict chronological interpretation of Genesis 5 & 11 found in the Masoretic Texts, (2) a strict chronological interpretation of Genesis genealogies as supported from the Septuagint, and (3) gaps in the Genesis genealogies allowing for creation to be anywhere from 10,000 to 25,000 years ago. As a result of reading Whitcomb and Morris’ The Genesis Flood, in the early 1970s, I had embraced this later view for many years. However, since writing my chapter in Coming to Grips with Genesis as well as interaction with others when I went white water rafting down the Colorado River in 2008, I have rejected this understanding. Though there is supposed evidence that supports arguing for gaps in the Genesis genealogies (for example, see William H. Green, “Primeval Chronology,” in Classical Evangelical Essays, ed. Walter C. Kaiser [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1972]), the Genesis genealogies, in distinction from other biblical genealogies, contain an age when a specified son is born to a patriarch along with his age at death. As such, the two genealogies seemingly have chronological significance.

Though good men follow Usher’s chronologies for valid reasons (for example, see the arguments of Travis Freeman, “Do the Genesis 5 & 11 Genealogies Contain Gaps?” in Coming to Grips with Genesis), I currently am persuaded that the Septuagint’s approach to Genesis 11 is more accurate (the source that has influenced me most is Benjamin Shaw’s “The Genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 and their Significance for Chronology” [Ph.D. dissertation, Bob Jones University, 2004]). The following two charts reflect this approach to the Genesis genealogies (the two charts are taken from Shaw, pp. 218-19).

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I will make a couple of observations based upon the above charts. First, creation took place at 4954 B.C., in contrast to the Masoretic Texts’ date of 4004 B.C. Second, the flood took place in 3284 B.C., in distinction from the MT’s 2349 B.C. There are two reasons that support my understanding. Initially, what drives me to my conclusion is not so much the Septuagint but Luke 3:35-36 which places a Cainan in between Arphaxad and Selah, whereas Cainan is omitted from the MT. In addition, a flood in 3284 fits with historical records of the ancient Near East. These records lucidly reflect that the monumental civilizations of the ANE were scattered and rebuilt around 3200 B.C. almost 900 years before the flood if you are following the MT. In the final analysis, I am persuaded that the view of the LXX provides the most persuasive evidence in explaining the biblical material as well as generally providing a reasonable explanation that harmonized with the ancient Near Eastern material.

Finally, God created man for His own glory and not because He needed him. Because God is infinitely independent, He does not need His creation and He does not need His creatures. God did not create because He was lonely. God created in order to bring glory to Himself. According to Isaiah 43:7, God speaks to his people whom He has created for His own “glory.”

With this evening’s lecture, we will look at death and decay in Genesis 3 and, the Lord willing, we will begin looking at the Genesis flood.

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Young-age Creationism’s Benefits for Science

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Though young-age creationists (YAC; aka young-earth creationists) are often dismissed as the lunatic fringe in the scientific community, this is an unhealthy position for both the scientific world as well as society as a whole (the above picture is from John Whitmore). As Brett W. Smith continues in his abstract, “the current treatment of young-age creationists in the scientific community and society at large is unfair and unwise. Scientists and philosophers of science, including old-age creationists and naturalists, should respect young-age creationists as legitimate contributors to science. Young-age creationists offer to the current origins science establishment a competing rational viewpoint that will augment fruitful scientific investigation through increased accountability for scientists, introduction of original hypotheses and general epistemic improvement.”

For the scientific community to regain respectability and make progress, Smith argues that scientists should learn an adversarial system, drawn from an ideal use of the US legal system, for making positive progress in scientific research. However, as he observes “YACs are already doing their part for adversarial science in a role that even the Intelligent Design movement cannot fill. YACs are showing, through real, responsible research that they have some valuable, original hypotheses to suggest based upon a biblical young-age model. Some YACs, such as Leonard Brand, Russell Humphreys, and Steve Austin have made scientific discoveries that were long overlooked by naturalists because the young-agers dared to suggest hypotheses which would never have occurred to one dedicated to an old-age view.” Smith has written an engaging article and everyone interested in biblical creationism should take time to read “Why young-age creationism is good for science.”

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Genesis 1:1–2 Represented in Young Earth Creationism

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This past Monday in Biblical Creationism, we wrapped up our examination of old-earth re-creationist models followed by a presentation about how Genesis 1:1–2 ties in with young earth creationism.

Initially, we finished looking at a modification of the gap theory, the precreation chaos theory. Because of the inherent syntactical problems with Genesis 1:2, while still maintaining unwavering commitment continuing to embrace the concept that Genesis 1:2 reflects a chaotic state of judgment, Merrill Unger modified the gap theory and Bruce Waltke formulated this into the “precreation chaos theory” (see his five-part series in the 1975–76 issues of Bibliotheca Sacra; you can find this entry listed in my bibliography). To read an impressive rebuttal of this view, see Mark Rooker’s 1992 Bibliotheca Sacra article “Genesis 1:1–3—Creation or Re-creation? (Part 2)” (again, this can be found in the bibliography).

In the last part of our class, we examined a young-earth creationist’s understanding of how Genesis 1:1–2 connects with the rest of Genesis 1. Verse 1 is an independent statement declaring that God created the original mass called earth out of nothing. Since Moses used the waw-conjunctive to introduce v. 2, he was explaining what the earth was like at the time of its creation in 1:1. Consequently, v. 2 is answering the question, what was the earth like at the time of its creation in v. 1? The answer of v. 2 is that it was in an abiotic form, it was “without form and empty.” It was covered by water and the Spirit of God was hovering over it. However, for there to be a literal day, God, immediately after his first creative activity, created a light source in Gen 1:3 in order to begin a day-night cycle for day one, as Genesis 1:5 indicates. Day 1 was the first normal 24-hour day of a six-day project. When God created the heavens and the earth, He chose to complete this process in six normal days (see also Exod 20:8-11 & 31:15-17).

DBTS has a spring vacation next week but when our students return we will look at the creation of Adam & Eve and how death & decay entered the created order in Genesis 3.

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Old Earth Re-Creationist Models that Interpret the Days of the Creation Week Literally

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Over the past two Monday evenings in our Biblical Creation class, we started covering old-earth creation models that interpret the days of Genesis 1 literally. More specifically we started looking at the Gap Theory by describing and evaluating this hypothesis.

Description of the Gap Theory

    Though gap theorists disagree on some details of this hypothesis, all advocates of the traditional gap theory agree that Genesis 1:1 describes a perfect and complete creation of the heavens and the earth, that 1:2 records the ruin of the originally perfect earth, and that an elapsed period of time between the originally perfect earth and its restoration set forth in 1:3–31.

Evaluation of the Gap Theory

    In class we looked at five of of my criticisms against key arguments supporting the gap theory: the use of “create” and “make” to support the gap theory, a grammatical allowance for a temporal gap, retranslating “was” as “became” to support the gap theory, “formless and void” as a reflection of judgment, and “darkness” as a reflection of judgment. This was followed by addressing three theological deficiencies with the gap theory. Since my class notes are an update of a paper that I previously wrote, I will not describe it in this post any further. If you would like to check out my arguments against the gap theory as an example of how not to interpret the Bible, go to “What about the Gap Theory?

This evening in our class, we will finish looking at old-earth re-creationists models followed by a presentation of arguments for young-earth creationism. I hope to post about this later on the week.

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Extending the Future Impact of Canyon Ministries

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One of the ministries that can have a great influence on educators in evangelical colleges and seminaries is Canyon Ministries. Rather than presenting a week of academic lectures in an air conditioned classroom, CM, under the leadership of renowned rafting guide Tom Vail, is able to have an impact on these educators by providing a week long white water rafting trip down the Colorado River. This trip provides explicit geological evidence from the Grand Canyon, God’s classroom of nature, that supports a literal interpretation of the Genesis Flood. For the past two years, CM has provided scholarships, with the financial help of a few other ministries and individuals, to specifically chosen Christian educators. 2010 will mark the third year that CM has offered this type of trip. What is distinctive about the Christian leader’s trip is the way it is set up. The objective of each trip is to invite 1/3 of the group who are committed to young-earth creationism, another 1/3 are those who adhere to old-earth creationism, and the final 1/3 are somewhere in between.

Because of my biblical studies, I have been convinced of a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11 for many years, including the Genesis flood. Since I have been involved with other young-earth creationists for some time, I was invited to be part of the 1/3 of the group in the 2008 trip that were committed to young-earth creationism. Though it was not necessary for my convictions to be confirmed by anything other than the Bible, it was gratifying on this trip to see physical evidence from the Grand Canyon that supported the biblical view (for some details on my trip, read my blog post).

Besides Tom’s capable leadership as well as starting each of our trips on our rafts with the memorable “let’s go boatin’,” we had other capable scholars join us to lecture on various aspects of a literal interpretation of the flood narrative in Genesis (to see who these leaders are as well as their credential, you can return to my blog entry and scroll half way down the page). One of the scholars who had a profound impact on me was geologist Dr. Andrew Snelling. I often think of Andrew as a cornucopia of geological data as well as his ability to correlate how this data connects with a literal interpretation of Genesis. In addition, I was privileged to make friends with over 20 biblical scholars from other evangelical institutions.

Because of CM’s impact on me over the course of a one-week white water rafting trip, I would like to be able to assist this good cause by making two recommendations. First, if you are interested in the June 21st 7-day trip, there are a few seats still available (go here). Second, 24 scholarships have been provided for Bible educators from around the country (including Dr. Mark Snoeberger from DBTS). At this point CM is $30,000 short of meeting their scholarship expectations. Let me encourage you to pray and to financially contribute to this year’s “Christian Leader’s Trip.” If you are interested in financially partnering with this Christ-honoring trip, simply go to their website and scroll down to the bottom of this page where you are given instructions on how to contribute; or you can contact them at CanyonMinistries.com. I pray that God will continue to bless Canyon Ministries.

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The Global Flood & Mining Mountains in West Virginia

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In West Virginia uniformitarian geological wisdom dates the coal in their mining mountains to 300 million years ago. Supposedly, this region was an enormous swamp with no distinguishable characteristics that stretched for hundreds of miles, just above sea level. However, in contrast to the 300 millions years, Dr. Tas Walker presents good evidence that questions conventional geological wisdom about the West Virginia Coal Mines and supports this as being only a few thousand years old.

Dr. Walker, with Creation Ministries International, has posted an informative article that deals with this evidence about these coal mines. Not only does he point out a number of problems with the swamp idea, he shows how the actual evidence from the mines “points to the vegetation being dumped by a huge watery catastrophe—strong evidence to the reality of the global Flood,” a few thousand years ago. I highly recommend that you read the whole article at “Mining Mountains in West Virginia.”

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Old Earth Creationism: Figurative Interpretations of the Days of Creation (Part 2)

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This past Monday in my Biblical Creation class, I finished covering my fourth lesson that focused on four figurative interpretations of the days of creation week (to read about this, go here). In our class we covered three areas of weakness and a questionable presupposition that theistic evolution, the day-age view, progressive creation, and the framework interpretation share. With this post, I will summarize four items: a hermeneutical inconsistency, an inconsistency with the perspicuity of Scripture, undermining the fall of Adam & the Edenic curse, and presuppositions & biblical interpretation.

A hermeneutical inconsistency. If the narrative in the creation week is historical literature, then it should be interpreted according to the conventions of that genre—conventions that most evangelicals use when interpreting the remainder of the narrative in Genesis. Though some want to interpret the creation account as something other than historical literature (e.g., poetry), the presence of distinctly narrative features calls such approaches into question.

Non-literal interpretations of the creation week minimize the historical details of the creation account. And, this is what we would expect if Genesis 1:1–2:3 were a poetic, or even a semi-poetic, account. However, this account has the characteristics of historical, narrative literature, rather than poetic literature. If this account were poetry, poetic parallelism would be its dominant feature, as it is in passages such as the creation hymn in Psalm 104. In contrast to the expected rhetorical features associated with poetry, Genesis 1:1–2:3 consistently uses a grammatical device that characterizes historical literature, the waw consecutive. This device occurs some 2,107 times in Genesis, averaging out to 42 times per chapter. In Genesis 1:1–2:3, while there is an absence of poetic parallelism, there are 55 waw consecutives. Whatever else may be said about the creation account, this grammatical device marks it as historical narrative, just as it does in the remainder of Genesis.

An inconsistency with the perspicuity of Scripture. The doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture maintains that the average believer can comprehend the Bible’s overall message. What this doctrine denies is that a believer needs assistance from an external interpreter, whether it be a Pope, philosophy or any other human authority, to arrive at a proper understanding of the Bible’s basic doctrines.

In Scripture, the literal understanding of the creation account is both assumed and used as the basis for other commands, such as the Sabbath command in Exodus 20:8–11. Furthermore, the literal interpretation is set forth and assumed throughout Jewish and Christian history. In fact, it was not until the nineteenth century with the development of uniformitarian geology that the literal interpretation of Genesis 1:1–2:3 was even questioned, something that lead Pipa to remark, “What in Genesis 1 or the rest of scripture suggests a non-literal view? Did the church make such a gross error in almost 2000 years of interpretation”?

Undermining the fall of Adam and the Edenic curse. Each of the non-literal views of the creation days directly affirms or allows for suffering and death before the fall of the head of the human race and, thus, undermines both the headship of Adam and the Edenic curse. When Adam fell, it not only affected his posterity but also the realm over which he ruled, the Edenic curse. In developing these two doctrines, we looked at a number of biblical texts that support this interpretation: Genesis 1:26, 28; 2:5, 15; 3:14, 1 Corinthians 5:21-22; and Romans 5:12-21, 8:21-22. The two biblical texts that I use most often are Romans 5 and 8. Paul’s biblical theology about the the Fall and the Curse on the created realm are strong texts for which I have never had a reasonable to get around their force. As such, death, suffering and decay of necessity started with the Fall our Federal Head, Adam, in Genesis 3.

Presuppositions & biblical interpretation. As previously noted, the 24-hour day view has been the dominant view of Christian interpreters from the Church Fathers until Charles Lyell in the mid-1800s. What has primarily changed since Lyell’s time is the way man defines and uses science. Modern scientific opinion has seemingly been elevated to the status of general revelation, and with its elevation “scientific opinion” has become an a priori that influences how we interpret Genesis 1:1–2:3.

It is not uncommon for me to hear professing Christians assert that the discoveries of contemporary scientists are a form of general revelation and that the special revelation that the Bible communicates has the same level of authority as scientifically discovered general revelation, both are the voice of God. If this is the type of reasoning being circulated in our culture, does this not imply that the “general revelation” communicated by “contemporary scientists” is something other than general revelation since it was unavailable from the time of creation until the modern era. Further, this confuses general revelation with scientific opinion and implies that general revelation has the same propositional force as special revelation. It is the propositional revelation of Scripture (Ps 19:1–6, Eccl 3:11, Acts 14:17, 17:23–31, Rom 1:18–25, 2:14–15, 10:18) that defines general revelation. And, Scripture defines general revelation as a constant knowledge about God that is available to all men; it is, however, not comprehensive knowledge about God (e.g., it reveals no Gospel) or nature (e.g., it does not include accumulating scientific opinion.

Through the years I have heard and read statements like these from well-known Christian scholars and and have often asked myself that, if we did not live in our current age, would this type of statement have been made and, furthermore, would any of the alternate interpretations of Genesis 1:1–2:3 even be valid options for evangelicals? It seems that the spirit of our age has created a modern mindset conducive to a reinterpretation of the creation account. However, many of the influences that shape such reinterpretations are external to Scripture, rather than being derived from a consistent biblical theology. In my estimation, there is no biblical reason to reinterpret Genesis 1:1–2:3.

Therefore, my conclusions are that theistic evolution, progressive creationism, the day-age and framework views pose more exegetical and theological difficulties than they solve and that the traditional, literal reading provides the most consistent interpretation of the exegetical details associated with the context of the early chapters of Genesis and the overall theological message of Scripture.

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Old Earth Creationism: Figurative Interpretations of the Days of Creation (Part 1)

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In my Biblical Creation class this past Monday, I covered more than half of my fourth lesson that focuses on figurative interpretations of the days of creation. We looked at four of these interpretations: theistic evolution, the day-age view, progressive creationism, and the framework interpretation.

Theistic evolution, recently labeled by one of its current advocates as “the fully gifted creation,” argues that God created inorganic matter that contained properties with the potential to evolve into the wide variety of life forms presently observable. The advocates of this view affirm that God “created” all current life forms over extended geological ages and through random mutations and natural selection.

The day-age view maintains that the six days of the creation week were six
chronologically-arranged geological ages. This “concordist” position is supported by two primary arguments. The first is that the Hebrew term yôm (“day”) can be used figuratively to refer to an extended period of time, as it does, for example, in the expression, “the day of the LORD.” The second argument relies on the results of modern scientific dating. As such, the obvious advantage of this view is that it harmonizes the Bible with the current scientific estimate for a 4.5 billion year old earth.

Progressive creationism is distinct from theistic evolution in that progressive creationists postulate that God, while using evolution, intervenes at key junctures to create life forms that would not naturally evolve. In reference to God’s involvement in evolution, theistic evolutionists postulate that God created all current forms of living things from non-living matter by strictly using the mechanism of evolution. In contrast to this, progressive creationists assert that God progressively intervenes in many places to create specific life forms in the course of billions of years. In reality, the progressive creationist view is very similar, if not at times identical to the day-age view, though progressive creationist defenders do not tend to promote it as a concordist understanding, which often focuses on harmonizing the so-called findings of Scripture with the progression related to the unfolding of the days of the creation week.

The framework view asserts that the creation “week” of Genesis 1:1–2:3 is a literary device intended to present God’s creative activity in a topical, non-sequential manner, rather than a literal, sequential one. Framework defenders supports this hypothesis with three primary arguments. First, they contend that the figurative nature of the creation account demonstrates that it is arranged topically rather than chronologically. The following chart reflects the framework’s literary frame.

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The parallel nature of days 1–3 with days 4–6 reflect that this is something of a poetic account which overrides the sequential numbering of the creation days. Second, it is argued that the unending character of the seventh day (Heb 4:3–4 cites Gen 2:2) indicates that the six days of the creation week are not normal days. This argument is a fundamental aspect of the framework. If the seventh day of the creation week is a continuous day, then the days of the creation week are also long periods of time, heavenly time as opposed to earthly time. Third, those framework advocates who follow Meredith Kline’s version of this position also argue that God used ordinary providence (i.e., the non-miraculous sustaining and directing of all creation) to control the creation “week.” This argument is predicated on interpreting “because it had not rained” in Genesis 2:5 as suggesting that God did not create plants until he first created an environment conducive to sustain plants Based upon what Kline calls “the unargued presupposition of Gen 2:5,” he infers that God primarily used ordinary providence to control the creation “week.” Thus, Genesis 1:1–2:3 cannot be a sequential account because, for example, vegetation was created on third day before the sun was created on the fourth day.

In our next class on March 8, we will look at the major problems with these four views.

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The Recent & Rapid Rise of Civilization

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The ancient Peruvian city of Caral was discovered in 1994 (the above picture is taken from wikipedia.org). It is estimated that it flourished contemporaneously with Mesopotamia and Egypt. This is consistent with what the Bible has to say about the global flood in Noah’s day and subsequent spread of civilization after the Tower of Babel along with its implications for the diversity in human language.

Dr. Carl Wieland, from Creation Ministries International, has posted a brief and informative post about the biblical significance from the discovery of the Caral pyramids. According to this entry, Peruvian archaeologist Ruth Shady notes that the discovery of the pyramids at Caral “raises questions about what prompted ‘civilizations to form throughout the planet at more or less the same time.'” Dr. Wieland aptly responds: “This is no mystery to the Bible-believer, of course, given the history in Genesis of how a civilization at Babel, after the Flood, scattered all over the globe in a short period of time.” The thesis of this post is that the book of Genesis informs us that the dispersion of people groups from Babel lead to a “burst of civilization,” which included diversity of language within each group. To read the full article, go to “All At Once.”

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