Environmental Theology

Environmental Theology

home > articles > Examining And Calling For A Theology of The Environment

EXAMINING AND CALLING FOR A THEOLOGY OF THE ENVIRONMENT

A world without trees would be a world without bees which would become a world without birds which would become a world without natural pest control made worst by the desperately high rates of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the dangerously low levels of oxygen available which would cause a rise in the rate of global warming and an even bigger hole in the ozone layer thus increasing the rapid demise of the few remaining forms of human life within an estimated period of about 5 years. Should we be concerned?

Destruction of the Amazon RainforestIt’s claimed that the Amazon rain forest is apparently being cut down at an equivalent rate of several football stadiums every hour! In Indonesia there are thousands of acres of old-growth forests being cut down and burned at an alarming rate. Many parts of Australia have now been turned into dust-bowls and salinity-danger-zones due to the belligerent destruction of bushland. Globally, rainforests are being destroyed at the following rates-

  • 2.47 acres (1 hectare) per second: equivalent to two U.S. football fields

  • 150 acres (60 hectares) per minute

  • 214,000 acres (86,000 hectares) per day: an area larger than New York City

  • 78 million acres (31 million hectares) per year: an area larger than Poland

  • In Brazil 5.4 million acres per year (estimate averaged for period 1979-1990)

  • 6-9 million indigenous people inhabited the Brazilian rainforest in 1500.

A GROWING YOUTH MOVEMENT

All around the world there appears to be a growing movement of young people who are deeply and passionately concerned about the conservation of the environment. This is evidenced by the rise of ‘single issue’ Green political parties which generally attract younger people who are disenchanted with the mainstream political parties and their seeming inactivity when it comes to environmentalism.

The basic premise behind the growing environmental movement is that we are losing forever valuable old growth forests which deserve to preserved. By keeping such forests we are helping to sustain the wildlife and insect-life which depends upon these forests for their survival, and therefore ultimately we are helping to sustain human life as well.

 

A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE IS URGENTLY NEEDED

The response to this worldwide concern over the state of our old growth forests has generally been shallow especially from the Evangelical and Neo-Evangelical (Pentecostals, Charismatics, Seeker-Driven) segments of the Church. We can no longer allow theological liberals to claim to be the only reasoned response to Church’s position on environmentalism. The reason for this is that these theologically liberal scholars are biased to a worldview that is at best described as deistic (God somehow initiated but did not intervene in creation), and at worst can only be described as outright nihilistic (“nothing”…there is no God). These positions are clearly not acceptable to those who have a higher regard for the authority of the Scriptures.

 

UNDERSTANDING ‘WORLDVIEWS’

We all view the world through a window which interprets for us what we see. For the Christian our “window” helps us to interpret life as a deliberate gift from God who actively cares for this world via intervention, the ultimate of which was when the Word became flesh. He has created all life by His fiat command and placed man (His image bearer) as the crown of that creation. God has given the earth as a gift to man whom He has commissioned to exercise management over.

But for many naturalists, their window causes them to view the world through a window which causes them to interpret life as a fragile result of random, chaotic, chemical reactions which have evolved over billions of years of death and struggle filtering out the least adapted and producing what we have today. Within this worldview, life has come from natural matter and diverged into its various forms. Therefore, all life (human, animal, insect, plant) is of equal value. This worldview is clearly the philosophy behind certain segments of the animal rights and nature conservation movements. Increasingly, it is beginning to influence the worldview of Christians as well perhaps largely due to the current vacuum in Christian thinking in this area.

 

MODERN ENVIRONMENTALISM’S SPIRITUALITY

The worldviews of Biblical Christianity and Naturalism are opposite. Little wonder. On the one hand we have the belief that God gave life to man, while on the other hand we have the generally unspoken belief that man gave life to God (that is, man in his ignorance, prior to his scientific discoveries, created God as an explanation for the universe). The Bible is the inspired Word of God or it is the invented word of man. Jesus Christ was either God in the flesh or just another good man. There is either a Lawgiver who has revealed His laws to man, or the only law common to man is don’t hurt anyone (or thing).

Little wonder that these almost religious environmentalists are keen to dismantle what they regard as the “old” worldview of Christianity. This encompasses an agenda of Identity rights, Animal rights, Removal of Religious privileges (such as Blasphemy laws, Sunday trading regulations, and the redefining of Religious Vilification targeted at Christians) and the scathing attacks on (what they regard as) anachronistic institutions (particularly the Church).

Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man; and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
Romans 1:22-23

This worldview regards all forms and expression of life from an absolutely egalitarian view point. This means, animal and plant life is equal in value to human life; gender distinctions are irrelevant; and, sexual orientation is irrelevant. Ultimately it is not God who gives life to all, it is nature (what is natural, matter) that has given life to all. Thus God is not just in nature, He is nature. That is, He is not merely in the trees, He is the trees. This is actually a theological system known as pan-theism.

who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
Romans 1:25

Christians should recognise that this is the driving spirit behind much of the environmental movement. It has arisen to fill the spiritual vacuum created by an abdication of Christian thought on the matter.

 

BIBLICAL ENVIRONMENTALISM

Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.
Genesis 1:28-29

The Biblical worldview includes God’s prescription for the management of creation: animal, insect, and plant life. Creation was never meant to be abused by environmental vandalism. But neither was meant to take dominion over man. Man alone bears the image of God and as such takes a place of honour in the order of creation. This highest privilege carries with it commensurate responsibility.

To claim that man has the right to entirely destroy irreplaceable eco-systems in the name of being God’s agents of dominion over the earth is unsupportable from Scripture. One could only imagine the scene of God coming down in the cool of the day to visit Adam to find that Eden had been completely felled and Adam was preparing to develop and subdivide this new land release!(?)

“When you besiege a city for a long time, while making war against it to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them; if you can eat of them, do not cut them down to use in the siege, for the tree of the field is man’s food.
Deuteronomy 20:19

The Scriptures teach a high regard for nature: both animals and trees. Its worth remembering that it was Christians who started the RSPCA and many other environmentally minded organisations. The Scriptures teach that we are stewards over God’s creation.

A righteous man regards the life of his animal,
But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel (toward animals
Proverbs 12:10

Christians should be on guard against any worldview which removes God as Creator and therefore as the Life and Law Giver. We must live out the revelation that in the beginning was the Word, by Whom all things exist, who around 2,000 years ago became flesh and dwelt among us. He calls to be stewards of this Creation, not to worship it.

Dr. Andrew Corbett

© Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania, 20th December 2003

The Rapture Examined
previous arrow
next arrow
Slider

HOW OLD IS THE UNIVERSE ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE?

HOW OLD IS THE UNIVERSE ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE?

home  >  articles > How Old Does The Bible State The Earth Is?

HOW OLD IS THE EARTH ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE?
Examining the claims of Young-Earth Creationists

One of the most contentious issues among Christians today is the age of the universe. Is it 6000 years old, like 17th century Bishop Ussher calculated, or is it around 14,200,000,000 years old as qualified scientists say? How we determine the answer determines how we interpret the Bible and understand the world around us…

The opening verse of Genesis is perhaps the most famous, and probably the most read, verse in the Bible. It is so plain, so clear, so unambiguous, that nearly every English translation of the Scriptures for the past 400 years has rendered it identically. Of all the statements that God could have chosen to utter first in His revelation to mankind, He gave us this one. Little wonder. If this statement is proven to be false then the entire credibility of the Bible is undermined. But if this statement is found to be true its ramifications are infinite!

WHY BIBLICAL GENEALOGIES CAN’T BE USED TO DATE THE AGE OF THE EARTH/UNIVERSE

But a strange thing has happened ever since an Irish Bishop published some genealogical calculations around 400 years ago. He asserted that Genesis 1:1 could be dated: October 23rd 4004 BC. Within years of this assertion being published it was incorporated into the margins of Bibles by Publishers and led to this date being accepted by Bible readers around the English-speaking-world almost without question. Bishop Ussher could never have foreseen that his chronological speculating would result in a U.S. Supreme Court trial in which trusting Christians would be humiliated!

If we add up all the genealogies in the Bible going all the way back to Adam, we end up with a date range of Adam being created around 4000-5000 BC, Bishop Ussher did. I never questioned this. But the Bible’s genealogies were never intended to be used this way. This is partly evident because there are massive and deliberate gaps in the Biblical genealogies. This becomes evident when we compare come of the same genealogical records in two different Biblical passages. For example-

  • In Exodus 6:16-20, four generations are given from Levi to Moses, yet in First Chronicles 7:23-27 lists 11 generations (many more than four) between Levi’s brother Joseph and Moses’ successor Joshua.
  • The structure of the genealogies in Genesis also implies that the names could have been carefully selected with deliberate omissions, as in Matthew 1. Both the Genesis 5 and 11 genealogies include ten names, and each ends with a father having three sons. Enoch, the key name in the Genesis 5 list, is seventh in the list, paralleling Lamech, the seventh in the list of the generations of Cain’s descendants (Gen. 4:17-19). 

There is a huge difference in time taken between four generations and eleven generations! And this is just one example of how the genealogies cannot be used accurately determine dates. As one Biblical Hebrew scholar said about the peculiar way the Bible records genealogies, it would be perfectly in keeping if the Bible said David was 40 when he begat Joseph who was betrothed to Mary. But it wasn’t this information alone which caused me see that Young Earth Creationism was not a faithful reading of the Scripture. After all, I still couldn’t reconcile an Old Earth position and death before the Fall. Since Romans 5:12 stated there was no death in the Universe before Adam and Eve fell into sin, this verse alone made Old Earth Creationism impossible to reconcile with Scripture. But Dr. Ross dealt with this in his book as well. 

¶ Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—
Romans 5:12

This is a major tenent of Young Earth Creationism – that Adam introduced death into the Universe – and it is entirely based on this verse (there are no other verses in the Bible which support or state this). Taking a slower look at this verse though we notice that it doesn’t say what it is claimed to be saying. It does not say that Adam introduced to death to the world of all living things – “and so death spread to all men because all sinned“. Death came to mankind– not all living things. This was a huge paradigm shift for me. It also enabled me to reconcile some of the other Creation passages of the Bible conisistently. For example, Psalm 104 is a Creation Psalm. To claim that since the last few verses of this Psalm are the Psalmist’s reflection on God’s creation with a prayer (note the opening phrase of this closing section- “I will sing to the Lord…May my meditation be pleasing to Him...” vss. 33-34) and that sinners be consumed and the wicked be no more  means that this not a Creation Psalm is an exegetically weak argument. The Psalm states that lions were created to seek God for their prey (which necessitates the death of other animals from the beginning of creation). 

The young lions roar for their prey,seeking their food from God.
Psalm 104:21

God has designed the digestive systems of lions to eat meat. To suggest that all lions were vegetarian and then suddenly carniverous when Adam sinned is to state something that the Biblical Text does not say or invoke some kind of hyper-evolution. Far from death being a bad or morally evil thing, God had perfectly designed death to fulfil His purpose of one day vanquishing all evil from the universe. It is the result of God’s perfect design that certain bacteria only has a three-hour life-cycle, and that rabbits only live for about 12 years – not the result of the Fall. It is a foundational principle of God’s redemption of His creation that reaches its ultimate expression in the Cross that life comes from death.

Researching the Biblical expression “there was evening and there was morning” we discover that it only used in Genesis 1. Days don’t usually start with evenings. This indicates that the days of Genesis 1 are not ordinary days. The Hebrew word for day Yom is a linguistic wildcard word that takes its meaning from the context it is in. For example, in Genesis 2:4, the entire 6 ‘days’ of Creation plus the 7th ‘day’ of rest (which does not have an “evening and morning” concluding statement to it) are called a “yom” which most English translators render “week” – even though it is the same Hebrew word as Genesis 1 uses.

I grew up in a church where it was promoted that the Bible taught the earth was around 6,000 years old and that God created everything in six literal, consecutive, 24-hour days. For years I never questioned this. The global scientific community had been blinded by sin and was not able to interpret the natural world due to their spiritual blindness. Hence, any measurements they made based on the ordinary laws of physics were completely unreliable because they were unregenerate and were looking at a universe totally depraved by sin which made estimating its age near impossible. For years I accepted this without question.

For some reason, in the church I grew up in, we were tacitly taught that if the earth was older than 6,000 years old the entire credibility of the Bible would be undermined. For those Christians who embarked on a study of physical science through higher education and learned how the age of things was calculated, they were soon confronted with a major contradiction in their understanding of the Bible.

Oldest trees in the worldFor example, 6,000 years for the age of the earth evaporates in the presence of tree-rings. As Christian students in universities examined how trees add a new tree ring to every year of their life they discovered that some trees have over 10,000 rings! (Becker, B. and B. Kromer, 1993 The Continental Tree-Ring Record — Absolute Chronology, C14  Calibration and Climatic Change at 11 ka.“, Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 103 (1-2): 67-71). Ice cores reveal at least how old the earth is.The Guinness Book of Records lists the oldest tree ever discovered as a Californian Redwood at over 10,000 years old but estimates it to have been closer to 12,000 years old. As well as tree-rings, polar ice layers reveal that the earth is at least over 420,000 years old (“Greenland Ice Cores: Frozen in Time”, R. Alley and M. Bender, Scientific American, February 1998 pp. 80-85).

Even if these natural measurements have an error rate of a few percent, there is still a huge difference between 420,000 years and 6,000 years! Another means to measure the age of the universe that students of physical science are confronted with is: starlight. This is what highly regarded Christian apologist, Greg Koukl, says about this –

Greg Koukl with Andrew Corbett

Greg Koukl with Andrew Corbett

One fact has continued to hold my attention in the ongoing debate between creationists on the age of the universe. I can see stars. On a clear night I see thousands of them. Astronomers seem to know a lot about these twinkling specks of light in the heavens, even though they are very far away. This observation prompts a simple question for those who believe the universe is relatively young–thousands of years old and not billions. Do stars exist? Are these astronomers measuring characteristics of actual heavenly bodies when they apply their discipline? “Of course stars exist,” is the reply. “We can see them.” But this raises a problem for the young-earth view. The existence of stars the way we see them is evidence for an old earth, not a young one. If some stars are millions of light years away, then their light must have traveled for millions of years for us to see it, making the recent-creation view impossible.

Whenever these age-measurement tools (tree-rings, ice-cores, star-light) were raised to support the scientific idea that the earth is much much older than 6,000 – 10,000 years old, my childhood church responded by saying that God would have created these things to look old. Greg Koukl goes on to address this issue as well-

APPEARANCE OF AGE?

This point has not been lost on young-earthers, who offer a standard response. Genesis indicates that when God created Adam and Eve they appeared as adults. In the same way, God created the universe with the appearance of age. Light from stars millions of light years away from the earth was created in transit. Observers on earth (Adam and Eve) could see the star instantly, in spite of the great distances, in spite of the fact that the universe was only days old. This tidy rejoinder seems so sensible at first glance it’s easy to be mislead by it. It’s irresistible to those Christians who have a weakness for snappy explanations that save the paradigm.

Such answers may fend off attack for the moment, but often do not have the backbone to survive closer scrutiny. This one does not. First, this comeback is a tacit admission that the universe does, in fact, appear old. This concedes a tremendous amount of ground, weakening the young-earther’s case considerably. Isn’t it safer to draw conclusions on the way things actually look rather than suggest some divine sleight of hand?

Second, it’s not clear that the observation is even accurate. There is a difference between the appearance of maturity and the appearance of age. True, Adam and Eve were created as adults. There’s no evidence, though, that they appeared old–that is, aged. When something appears aged, there is evidence that the passage of time has left its mark. There may be calluses on the hands, wrinkling of the skin due to sun exposure, or plaque build-up in the circulatory system. These are bona fide signs of age. Simply being physically mature is not the same as aging. Starlight actually shows signs of age. The distance it needs to travel to be visible on earth requires the passage of massive amounts of time. Starlight is not mature; it is old. Third, even if the account suggests Adam was created with the appearance of age, where in the text do we get the idea that the entire universe was created like that? There was a practical necessity for creating the first humans as adults. They had to accomplish adult tasks right from the outset.

What practical necessity required God to instantly create other features of the world with the appearance of age? Why the “appearance” of millions of years of erosion on the moon? Why the deep canyons half way around the world from Eden that “appear” to have been slowly carved out of solid rock by running water? Why do the walls of these canyons reveal earth that “appears” to have been laid down one millimeter at a time by ancient accretions of atmospheric dust? “God’s ways are not our ways,” they reply. True enough, but that only applies when we know how God has acted but don’t understand why. Without an explicit statement from the text that the entire universe actually was created with the appearance of age, and lacking good reason why God might do so, we have no justification for assuming He did. The case gets weaker and weaker as the layers of speculation mount. These are serious problems for the God-created-the-light-in-transit theory.

Greg Koukl’s arguments against the idea that God created the world to look old make sense. Added to these arguments, others have realised that if a God of all truth deliberately created everything in the universe to appear to be ancient (much, much older than 6,000 years) and yet tacitly claimed in Scripture that it was no more than 6,000 years old, He was at least vulnerable to the accusation of deception! As Greg Koukl asks, what purpose would God have in uniformly giving the entire universe the appearance of old age if it was in reality extremely young?

 

24-HOUR CREATION DAYS?

GAP THEORY?

The obvious old age of the earth has led to some degree of compromise among those who promote a Young-Earth doctrine as the only way to interpret Scripture. The most common approach is to see an unspecified time-gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. This gap, it is speculated, could have been millions, even billions of years. But the preparedness to see anything other than a wooden literal understanding of the six creation days as six consecutive 24 hour days continues to be uncompromising. Certain arguments are used to uphold this dogmatic idea that the days of Genesis 1 are 24 hour days. These claims include-

(i) The expression “there was evening and there was morning” in Scripture always refers to a 24 hour day.

This is illogical. The expression “evening and morning” only occurs in Genesis 1.

(ii) The Genesis 1 expression “day” is plain and simple and would ordinarily be understood by any sensible person to mean a ‘day’ of 24 hours.

This is grossly overly simplistic. The Hebrew word for day is ‘yom‘ and is various understood as a period of ‘time’ throughout Scripture and translated according to its context. This includes-

(iii) Jesus Christ said that the creation of the world took place in 144 hours (six 24 hour days).

No He didn’t. He asserted that God created, but didn’t specify how long it took.

(iv) Our current 7-day-week was instituted at creation, therefore the creation week must have been 6 literal 24 hour days.

Many scholars regard the Creation Week as an ‘analogy’ of our week. They therefore refer to the Creation Days as analogical. The Old Testament is filled with types and shadows which similarly served as analogies.

These issues strike at the heart of how we interpret and understand Scripture. If we think that words in the Bible are unequivocal (they only ever have one meaning) we will clearly miss how the Bible speaks. Words in the Bible are not unequivocal, they are equivocal. This means that the understanding of words in the Bible is derived from the context in which it is found. For example, what does the Bible mean when it uses words like “salt”, “leaven”, “darkness”, “a thousand”? The answer can only be determined from the context in which the word is found. (By the way, “salt” can mean Sodium Chloride, or Covenant, or Influence. “Leaven” can mean yeast, or moral wickedness, or sinfulness, or Gentiles.) Similarly “day” can mean a 24 hour period, a month, years, an era (“in my Grandfather’s day”) and so on.

There is good reason to consider that the Creation Days were periods of time that perhaps encompassed millions or at least hundreds of thousands of years. But there are some theological reasons offered against this understanding.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—
Romans 5:12 ESV

The argument is made that day-age theories for the age of the universe are theologically inconsistent with the New Testament since there could be no death in the universe prior to Adam’s Fall (Romans 5:12). But take a closer look at Romans 5:12. Is it really saying that Adam’s sin brought death to bacteria, plankton, grass, ants, spiders, birds, whales, and antelopes? Or is it saying that as the Head of the Human Race, Adam’s sin brought spiritual death (in the sense that death is “being separated”) and separated him- and all his descendents (us) from God – Isaiah 59:2? Surely the context of Romans 5 is spiritual life in Christ. It was Adam’s sin which severed that life- but it is Christ’s death and resurrection which restores it. The question therefore is, did ants and antelopes and plankton ever enjoy that kind of spiritual life? Another way of rendering the same question is, do ants and antelopes and plankton have a ‘soul’ to be saved?

the evolution of man debunked

In the ocean of ideas, the S.S. Evolution is sinking and no life-boats have been found to rescue its passengers. And this is heart of the matter that Evolution offers no life-boats: it cannot explain how life began. This point is not lost on Evolutionary Biologists. Their hope a few decades ago was that advanced technology would unlock the mystery of life and reveal how it could be simulated. But alas, the opposite has happened. Breakthroughs in technology have done just the opposite! The discoveries into DNA have shown just how complex even “simple life forms” are. In fact, there is so much complexity and co-dependency of components that it renders evolutionary theory regarding the origins of life impossible.

The problem with compromising between Darwinian Evolution and Creationism, called Theistic Evolution, is that it rejects Scriptures direct statements about God creating ex-nihilo (from nothing). God didn’t merely watch things create themselves, as theistic evolution proposes, He directly intervened and created. This is verified by the fossil record. The sudden explosion of lower life forms on earth is referred to as the “Cambrian Explosion”. This concurs with the Biblical revelation in Genesis 1. It is not evidence for evolution or theistic evolution.

 

THE BIG BANG ACTUALLY POINTS TO A CREATOR

Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
Isaiah 42:5 (ESV)

A few decades ago, Naturalists rejected the idea that an uncreated and eternal God could have created the world. Their explanation for how the universe began? They proposed that all matter was uncreated and eternal! It had always been, they said. But as the science of cosmology developed with exponentially more powerful telescopes and computers, it became more and more obvious that the universe had an origin and ‘birth’ date. When this was first proposed by scientists in the 1940s it was vigorously ridiculed by Naturalists as some attempt to claim that the universe had been “created”. They mockingly referred to this creation-of-the-universe being promoted by scientists as some kind of “Big Bang”. What has become known as “The Big Bang Theory” closely aligns with the Biblical revelation that God spoke and the universe leapt into existence and that He then “stretched out the heavens”.

By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.
Hebrews 11:3 (NLT)

The Bible Does Not Say How Old The Earth Is

The court case in the U.S. Supreme Court Case in late 2005 found that the science of the Young Earthers was not supported by the evidence. When they lost this case in which they were trying to get Young Earth Creationism taught alongside Darwinian Evolution they cried foul claiming that the Supreme Court was stacked with Secular Humanist judges who were committed to destroying Christianity. But it appears that the judges’ decision was not based on a bias to destroy Christianity but on the evidence presented to them. It must be remembered that Darwinian Evolution was not on trial during this case. According to Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons To Believe, the transcripts of the court case reveal that the judges really tried to accommodate the Young Earth arguments into the classrooms of Philadelphia, but were not convinced by the scientific reasons to do so.

 

THE BIBLE DOES NOT SAY HOW OLD THE EARTH IS

It is a gross misrepresentation of Scripture to declare that the Bible states the universe was created in 144 hours around 6,000 years ago. There are many fine Hebrew scholars who acknowledge that the days of Genesis chapter 1 could be “periods of unspecified time”. To make a young earth the touchstone of the Christian Gospel is theological vandalism! The point of Genesis 1 is not to date-set, but to establish that God created the universe, the earth, and in particular: man.

A much better question than when did God create? is Why did God create? The answer to this question is the answer to life itself.

You are created to worship

Amen.

Print Edition

Also related to this article: My 3 Biggest Paradigm Shifts

The Rapture Examined
previous arrow
next arrow
Slider

The Trinity Examined and Explained

The Trinity Examined and Explained

home  >  article  > HOW DO WE UNDERSTAND THE TRINITY?

IS THE TRINITY TRUTH OR A JUST A FALSE TRADITION?

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:
He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
First Timothy 3:16

There is no greater mystery than God. And perhaps there is no greater quest than to answer the question who is God? as truthfully as possible. When the identity of God is discussed there are a wide range of ideas put forward. Some have gained acceptance and formed the basis for the world’s religions. For those who have realised that God must have an identity they conclude that He must be a person. This is called theism- or more precisely, monotheism. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are three great monotheistic religions of the world. But Christianity is further distinguished from these other monotheistic religions by identifying God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The reason for this is the clear presentation in Scripture of God’s identity by these three terms. For example-

The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
Acts 5:30-32 ESV

For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.
First John 5:7 NKJV

But the mystery of the Scripture’s presentation of God as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is that it in no way diminishes the emphatic declaration of “one God”-

For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
First Corinthians 8:5-6 ESV

We refer to the Scripture’s presentation of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as the “Trinity”. Some have argued that this is a false conclusion about the identity of God. Some of these opponents of the Trinitarian concept of God claim that God is a singular Person. This is called “Unitarianism”. One of the main reasons for rejecting Unitarianism is that it presents us with a major contradiction about the Supreme Being. Since God is Supreme He can not change- either in nature or character (since this would bring into question whether He has improved- then He was never ‘supreme’– or diminished- maybe He is no longer supreme?). The unchangeable nature of God is referred to as immutability.

“For I the LORD do not change…”
Malachi 3:6a ESV

Since God is eternal (always been) and immutable (unchanging) it is just not possible for Him to be the “Eternal Father” if there was ever a time when He was not a Father. Likewise it is not possible for God to have been indifferent then to have become loving. This is the logical equation of saying that God was a singular being who originally dwelt alone. Genuine love is only possible when there is an object of love. To argue that God has always loved even though He had no-one to love is to either suggest that He was self-obsessed, or that He needed to create an object of love due to His desperate loneliness. Both of these proposals are obnoxious and impugn the nature and character of God.

When we refer to God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we use the term ‘Trinity’ which identifies them as three co-equal, co-eternal, immutable persons, who are one.

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”
Deuteronomy 6:4 ESV

We do not claim that God is Three Gods. That is not the Trinity. We worship One God. The Hebrew word in Deuteronomy 6:4 for “one” is echad. It can mean first, a unit, or most commonly united. It is different to the more common Hebrew word for a singular unit iysh. Deuteronomy 6:4 declares that God is echad – “united” – and that is exactly where the Biblical revelation of the Trinity begins: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one God, not three. This is monotheism. There are clues to understanding this one-ness of God when the Scriptures give us ‘shadows’ of God, such as marriage, where a husband and his wife are referred to as being “one”. We refer to this as a “shadow” because it is not the exact likeness of what it illustrates (in much the same way as a shadow is similar to, but not exactly like, the object it shadows).

We also get another picture of “one” from Christ’s statement in John 17-

[I pray] that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,
John 17:21-22

The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are eternal. Again, we have no parallel, or even a shadow to compare this concept to. The closest we can get to defining ‘eternal’ is to say that something had no beginning and will have no end. But even this definition still attempts to describe ‘eternal’ in terms of time. And that’s what makes the no beginning and no enddefinition so inadequate- since the very point of ‘eternal’ is that it is not subject to any form of time lapse (making such expressions as beginning and end not only irrelevant terms but absolutely foreign concepts).

The Biblical concepts for eternity include God’s statement to Moses that He was the “I AM” and that He alone dwells in “today” or “now”. Not one of us live in the “now”. We are either going to do something (future), or we have done something (past). Even if we ask someone what they are doing “now” they can never tell us because the moment they tell us what they are currently doing it is already in the past! Only God is constantly in a state of “now” because only He is eternal.

When Constantine converted to Christianity he declared himself the Pontifex Maximus of the Church. He called for a Council of Bishops to come to Nicea to resolve the divisive doctrine invented by Arius that Christ was a created being and therefore the Trinity was not a Biblical concept. It was Athanasius (depicted above) who swayed the debate in favour of accepting Christ’s claims of divinity and the Biblical presentation of the Tri-une God. He argued that if it could be shown that God the Father was eternal, then He must have an eternal Son. Similarly, if Christ is eternal, then He must be the eternal God. This is what they conferred-

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. 
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, light from light, True God from true God, Begotten, not made, Of one Being with the Father;
Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation He came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; He suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. 
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son],
Who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.
Amen.

The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are equal. This does not mean that that they are a triumvirate (the rule of three), but God is instead, a Trinity (the rule of one). The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit equally deserved to be honoured and worshiped. This is what Christ taught-

that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.
John 5:23

but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—
Mark 3:29

While each member of the Trinity or the Biblical word: Godhead (Romans 1:20; Col. 2:9) [note Strong’s Concordance #2305, Greek: theiotes; divinity — “Godhead”] are equal, there is still order within that equality. This is something that we often struggle to understand. How can there be rank and order among persons who are equal? The Scriptures present God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as equal yet in that order. We have such a paltry concept of “order” that we find such concepts of submission and hetero-authority among equals as inconceivable. That’s why we need to understand that “equal” does not mean “the same” in all respects (especially in role and authority). The Biblical presentation of equality is that a husband and wife are equal, while not being the same. In one respect a cup of sugar is equal to a cup of flour, but in another respect they are different. Because Christ submits to His Father does not mean that He is less than, or inferior to, His Father.

For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.
John 6:38

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Phil. 2:8

He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human!
Phil. 2:6-7 THE MESSAGE

The Trinity is sometimes presented as the One divine Person who has either simultaneously or progressively revealed Himself as Father, then the Son and then the Holy Spirit. This is variously referred to as “One-ness”, “Unitarianism”, or “Modalism”. In essence it says that the one God has manifested Himself in three ways- or that God is as three. But the Bible presents God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit who are eternally in communion with each other which is revealed by their simultaneous appearances and conversations. For example, in the act of forming the earth it says that God [the Father] created the Heavens and the Earth in the beginning (Gen. 1:1) and that the Spirit of God [the Holy Spirit] was hovering over the surface of the waters (Gen. 1:3). In Genesis 1:4 it says that God spoke “Let there be light.” The New Testament reveals that this was Christ.

Christ is the one through whom God created everything in heaven and earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see — kings, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities. Everything has been created through him and for him.
Colossians 1:16 NLT

Therefore, we see the simultaneous involvement of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in Creation. We also read of the members of the Godhead in Isaiah 48:16-

Draw near to Me [Christ], hear this:
from the beginning I have not spoken in secret,
from the time it came to be I have been there.”
And now the Lord GOD [the Father] has sent me, and his Spirit [the Holy Spirit].
Isa. 48:16 ESV

Some say that while all this may be interesting, it cannot be true because God cannot die. Since the doctrine of the Trinity states that Christ is the co-equal, co-eternal God, how could He die? After all, wouldn’t that immediately disqualify Him from being God? This type of reasoning is grounded in a faulty understanding of death. For many, “death” means ceasing to exist. But Biblically it refers to “separation” between a body and its life-source.

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
James 2:26

While the eternal Son of God is in eternal communion with His Father when He entered into this dimension of time by incarnation He also became subject to all of the limitations associated with His humanity (for example, He could “thirst”, “grow older”, “get weary”, and “hunger”). When Christ died on the Cross He did not cease to exist. He was simply separated from His body. In this death He became the object of the wrath of God in our place-

He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised from the dead to make us right with God.
Rom. 4:25

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Second Corinthians 5:21 ESV

Because of Christ’s death on the Cross and His resurrection from the dead (reunion with His body) we now know that the highest possible price for our redemption has been paid. Therefore the death of Christ on the Cross is not an argument against the Trinity but an argument for it.

We see several pictures of the Trinity within Scripture. For example,

* At the baptism of Christ the Father spoke from Heaven and the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ.

* In Revelation 5 we are given a brief glimpse of the centre of Heaven where we see the Glorious Father on the Throne, the Majestic Holy Spirit portrayed as the Seven Flaming Spirits of God and the Son of God portrayed as the Seven Eyed and Horned Lamb.

 

THE IMPLICATIONS OF GRASPING THE TRINITY…

When we appreciate that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit who are each co-equal and co-eternal, we will realise that God has always lived in community. Since we are created in the image of God this explains why we are generally drawn toward community as well. It should also help us to appreciate that God wants us to be in community and not to attempt life as an independent venture. At the very least we need to live in communion with God.

The doctrine of the Trinity is the only satisfactory theological reason for explaining why Creation reflects both diversity and unity. It is in essence reflecting the nature of its Creator. If God was monolithic (one Person) rather than the (monotheistic) Trinity then creation would more likely reflect a monotone than the actual harmony which we see.

But the ultimate implication of understanding the Trinity involves our worship. We are called to worship God in Spirit and in Truth. We are able to worship the True God accurately because we are more accurately able to identify Him. Worship is really the ultimate response and purpose of mankind toward God. This response is diminished if we don’t truly know who we are worshiping. We acknowledge that the Father is God, Jesus Christ is God and the Holy is God, yet they are One God.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Second Corinthians 13:14

Andrew Corbett, January 2006

The Trinity Examined And Explained

by Dr. Andrew Corbett

Was The Original Creation of Paradise Perfect

Was The Original Creation of Paradise Perfect

home > articles > Was The Original Creation Paradise Perfect?

Interpreting Bible Prophecy or Just Fortune-Telling?

To properly understand “the end” we need to properly understand the beginning. The latest instalment from Hank Hanegraaff makes much of the idea that Paradise has been lost and must be ‘restored’. The idea that Paradise was “perfect” has some serious implications for how we understand the Bible!

How would you define “perfect”? l’m not sure that too many people have pondered how many things in life are perfect. Perhaps most Christians would regard only two things as ‘perfect’: (i) God, and (ii) The original Creation.

I try to teach my church that Biblical literacy involves being able to discern what is indeed a Biblical statement, and what is meant by a Biblical statement. When it comes to pondering what “perfect” means, we may have a problem if we look to support our two examples with Scripture. Firstly, Matthew 5:48 asserts that God is perfect. Not only is God essentially perfect, but so are His ways (Deut. 32:4), and His will (Rom. 12:2).

But the second assertion is a little more difficult to demonstrate from Scripture. In fact, it’s so difficult we may have to concede that it’s impossible. Yet, despite this obvious difficulty the idea that God’s original creation was “perfect” is so widely assumed that to suggest otherwise meets with astonished bewilderment. Yet it is this unquestioned assumption that forms the foundation for several seriously important teachings. I want to suggest that what we regard today as being “flawed” with our world (earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, storms) were probably a part of God’s original design. Therefore the “perfection” of the original creation which is described as being “good” and “very good” may not have been the kind of perfection that might have romantic notions of.

 

WHAT WE THINK WHEN WE THINK CREATION WAS PERFECT…

In Hank Hanegraaff’s book, The Apocalypse Code, he makes the assertion that the end will ultimately be a restoration of Paradise: “Paradise lost will be Paradise restored.” The assumption behind this statement is that the original creation was both “Paradise” and that it was “perfect”. This is just one way in which our understanding of the beginning affects our understanding of the end.

If we are to assume that the earth was the kind of “Paradise” where there were no “natural disasters” or laws of decay operating (like desiduous trees dropping their leaves) and that it was “perfect” before the Fall of Man, then we must assume that everything was created immortal (never to end). Scripture doesn’t say this. Secondly, we will assume that Adam’s sin imputed sin to all of creation (birds, animals, reptiles, vegetation). This leads to the rather Platonic idea that the physical world can be ‘evil’. And it also leads to assumption that when animals kill to eat, like a lion catching and eating its prey, it is the evil result of the Fall of Man. But Psalm 104, widely regarded as a “creation” Psalm, seems to suggest that the lion is actually created by God to eat prey, and that this is not the result of the Fall- but the design of God-

The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God.
Psalm 104:21

How then could the Scriptures be saying that animals eating animals is the result of the Fall when on the other hand it says that this is the way God designed things? In other words, what we have romantically assumed as being “perfect” (a world with no decay or death of any kind) may not have been what was actually originally created! Natural Laws, such as gravity and decay, may have been instituted by God before the Fall. Certain organisms have a life-cycle of just a few hours. In that time they are birthed, matured, reproduce, then die. For the Christian who rightly rejects the explanation of naturalistic evolution as the explanation for how life began, yet maintains that there was no death at all prior to the Fall of Man, this presents a problem. Either, that organism is doing exactly what it was designed by God to do or it was formed after the Fall. Since God rested from creating on the sixth day, we cannot claim that God created these organisms after the Fall. This is just one example of how reasonable it is to accept that there was death of non-humans before the Fall of Man.

 

GOD’S CURSE OF THE GROUND…

But some might argue, “Didn’t all of creation lose its perection after Adam sinned when God cursed the ground?”

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.
Genesis 3:17-18

We need to accept what this text says rather than add to it. When Adam sinned, he forfeited the blessing of provision that was original. But just because something is blessed doesn’t mean that it was ‘perfect’. Secondly, we note that Adam’s sin affected him, rather than creation. Thirdly, it would be wrong to think that weeds, thistles and thorns were created as a result of Adam’s sin (God had rested from creating after the Creation Week). These things were already present in the original creation of God. But Adam’s sin resulted in mankind being ‘cursed’ (the removal of God’s blessing) since the ground was cursed “because of you“.

Before Adam sinned he was protectively blessed from sickness and some would suggest perhaps even from injury. After the Fall, that protective blessing seems to have been forsaken by Man. We are all therefore now subject to the futility that is associated with living in this world. Romans 8:22-23 says that Creation now “groans” awaiting redemption. But since it was mankind’s sin that wrought the curse upon it, it is our redemption that it now groans for.

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Romans 8:22-23

The resurrection of Christ has assured the ultimate redemption of mankind. For Plato, the body and the physical world was corrupt and of less value than the spiritual. But Christ’s physical resurrection shows us that our physical bodies are intrinsic to our identity. Far from Plato’s concept of the physical realm being incompatible and corrupt with the spiritual, Christ’s resurrection reveals that “goodness” lies not in the nature of an object or being, but in its allegience- for God or against God?

In speaking of the End, Paul says that creation one day will be released from its bondage to decay.

that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
Romans 8:21

But this same Romans 8 passage does not describe the original creation as “perfect” or even Adam’s Fall imputing sin to all of creation. When Adam’s sin came into the world, it came to mankind

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned
Romans 5:12

Is God’s ultimate purpose to restore earth to a perfect Paradise? This may happen in the end, but I doubt that it’s God’s ultimate purpose. His ultimate purpose is His Glory. In the meantime, if we regard this earth as “fallen” then there is little motivation to look after it- after all, it’s been broken by sin and God will one day throw it away. But if we regard the earth as having been created “good” and remained “good” even after the Fall of Man, then we have no excuse to be party to the deliberate environmental vandalism that some Christians unwittingly give assent to. Conversely, if we equate “natural” as being as close to “perfect” as possible we will argue that forests should never be logged or tended. The implications of how we understand what God had originally created are far-reaching.

Before you repeat the idea that Paradise Earth was originally created perfect, consider whether this is truly what the Bible reveals. It will affect how you understand the current climate-change debate, the future of our planet, and your understanding of how God will culminate the end.

___

The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible, eBook, by Dr. Andrew Corbett

The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible, eBook, by Dr. Andrew Corbett

I’m on a mission to counter this discrediting of Scripture. It is my mission to help reverse Biblical illiteracy rates and produce resources to help readers understand what they are reading and how to correctly interpret the Scriptures. I opened this article by saying that the issue of eschatology is secondary to how we read and interpret the Scriptures (Hermeneutics). That’s why I’ve made my eBook- The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible available for an immediate download. Thousands of people around the world have now read this eBook and many have written to me thanking me and others for promoting a more sound method for reading and interpretting the Bible. I encourage you to download this eBook and read for yourself an alternate view to End Times than the one presented by many of these pop-preachers. When I first released this eBook several years ago I was a bit of a lone voice. But now some big ministries are beginning to say the same things. Most notably is Hank Hanegraaff’s book, Unlocking The Apocalypse Code, where he now makes the same assertions. I predict that in the days, weeks, months, years to come, Jesus Christ will be Lord and His Word will be found true and reliable.

 

Dr. Andrew Corbett, 10th May 2007

How Dispensationalism Distorted Biblical Creationism

How Dispensationalism Distorted Biblical Creationism

home  >  articles  > How Dispensationalism Distorted Biblical Creationism

The Bible is emphatic that God is the Creator. It’s entire message of redemption is founded upon this truth. If God is not Creator then the Scriptures have no authority at all – let alone credibility. Similarly, if the entire human race is not descended from one man: Adam, then its revelation about man’s fallenness is without basis.

This opening account in the Bible of the Creation Story must be factual for Scripture, or Christianity for that matter, to have any credence. In the USA in the early part of the 20th century this issue became the basis for a court case where a High School Science teacher was charged with teaching something other than this (evolution) in what famously became known as the Scopes’ Monkey Trial. Curiously, Christians were called to defend their position rather than Mr Scopes his, and only one school of thought was presented during that trial – Dispensational Fundamentalism, which claims that the six creation days were consecutive 24 hour periods, and that all of this took place just 6,000 years ago. This court case was made into a Hollywood movie (Inherit The Wind) and presented Christians as bumbling, ignorant, bigotted, empty-heads. Although the movie was riddled with historical inaccuracies, the thrust of the actual ‘Christian’ presentation was not.

What Dispensational Fundamentalism Teaches About Creation

Dispensationalism is a method of Bible interpretation which was devised around 1830. (This is actually an important point to note –  that it is a very recent theological school of thought.) Its major premise is that God has a strict timetable in which He has divided time into seven dispensations (periods of time) each with a different mode of salvation. Intrinsic to this scheme is the theory that the original six days of Creation correspond to the six periods of time for each dispensation. Dispensationalist teachers appeal to the Bible to support this notion that the original days can be equated to periods of a thousand years each.

For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.
Psalm 90:4

But, beloved, be not ignorant — of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years , and a thousand years as one day.
Second Peter 3:8

They also base their calculations on the Genealogical research of Scripture by Bishop Usher who arrived at a date of 4004BC for the commencement of Creation. Therefore it was 4000 years from Creation to Christ (“4 days”) and it will be 2000 years (“2 days”) from Christ to His return to establish the Millennium (typified by the seventh “day” of rest), they claim. They often cite Hosea 6:2 to support this theory-

After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him
.
Hosea 6:2

 

Equating of Old Earth Theories With Evolutionary Theories

The major promoters of this Dispensational Young Earth Theory see no other reason for even entertaining the idea that the earth could be old except to attempt to justify evolutionary theory as an alternate explanation for explaining the origin of all life. Henry Morris, of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), says-

“The continued insistence on an ancient earth is purely because of the philosophic necessity to justify evolution and the pantheistic religion of eternal matter.”
“Recent Creation Is A Vital Doctrine,” impact, no. 132 (June 1984): iv

This appeal is based on two major premises. Firstly, Secular Science is totally unreliable and biased towards atheism, they claim, that’s why these secular scientists claim that the universe is ancient (between 12 – 15 billion years old). Secondly, theologically they say that if death existed before Adam then the basis of sin and redemption through Christ’s atonement on the Cross is pointless. These two arguments have given rise to the claim that evolutionary theory is at the heart of all society’s ills. For example, Ken Ham, the President of Answers In Genesis says this starts when Christians teach that the earth may be older than 10,000 years old-

If Christian leaders have told the next generation that one can accept the world’s teaching in geology, biology, astronomy, etc., and use these to (re)interpret God’s Word, then the door has been opened for this to happen in every area, including morality.”
Ken Ham, “A Young Earth–It’s Not The Issue!” AiG-USA Newsletter, January 1998, p.2

John Morris, the President of ICR, goes further than his father (Henry) when he equates any notion of an old earth (older than 10,000 years) directly with evolutionism and therefore-

…an unmitigated evil…[the philosophical root of] fascism, racism, Marxism, social Darwinism, imperialism…the modern ills of promiscuity, homosexuality, abortion, humanism, new-age pantheism, etc., etc., flower from the same evil root.”
John D. Morris, “How Can a Geology Professor Believe That The Earth is Young?” Back To Genesis, no. 29 (May 1991): d

 

Is Old Earth Science Atheistic?

With the discoveries made by the Human Genome Project several scientific and pseudo-theological pronouncements were shown to be false. By unlocking the Creator’s “language of life” (as they referred to it) we now know scientifically that the entire human race descended from one man and woman as a couple (which confirms the Bible story of Adam and Eve). Secondly, the myth that humanity can be regarded as containing races was dispelled (we are all human, there is but one race of man).

Theologically, Mormons pin the authenticity of divine inspiration on the Book of Mormon’s claim that the American Indians are the direct descendents of the Israelites. But DNA discoveries do not support these claims. No mind. Mormons simply state that “secular science” cannot be trusted. While the absurdity of this is immediately obvious, what is less obvious is the same reasoning by Young Earth Dispensational Creationists who find that science does not agree with their theories and therefore this science cannot be trusted.

There is a concerning problem with this approach. Young Earthers say that any credence given to old earth science fatally undermines the authority of Scriptures. But its worth noting that prior to Charles Darwin there were many (if not most) Biblical scholars who considered the days of Creation to be periods of time rather than 24 hour calendar days. This included, Charles Hodge and Benjamin Warfield. Today, such scholars as D.A. Carson, Gleason Archer, Norman Geisler, and Walter Kaiser espouse an Old Earth view. Some leading pastors have now come out from the pack and declared that they too are Old Earth in their Biblical understanding. These include Bill Hybels, Jack Hayford and Ron Wilson (past President of AOG Tasmania). These men see no undermining of Scriptural authority (sola scriptura) by regarding that the Creation days as periods of time rather than 24 hour periods. Rather than regarding science as the enemy of Scriptural revelation that see it as complementary to it.

 

Facts Always Eventually Align With The Truth

One Young Earth Advocate recently said to me that he predicts that one day all honest science will confirm that the earth is only a few thousand years old and that the conspiracy to cover up these facts will be exposed. If this was really the case, then those in the scientific community who relish in “uncovering” and “breakthroughs” would have broken ranks by now. But the opposite is true. All the scientific evidence is confirming that the universe is around 12-15 billion years old, earth is around 4.5 billion years old, first life on earth (vegetation) first appeared 3.8 billion years ago, animal life appeared suddenly around 530 million years ago (the “Cambrian Explosion”) and that the first man (whom we know to be Adam) appeared around 40,000 years ago. (Science is also increasingly undermining Darwinian Evolution and pointing to an Intelligent Designer.)

Science points to the geological sedimentary layers to support the age of the earth; the distance of stars and the time starlight takes to reach the earth as supporting their claims for the age of the universe; and, calculates the rate of the universe’s expansion to work back toward a date for the start of the universe (the “Big Bang” which was never actually a bang but confirms the Biblical account that the universe leapt into existence at the command of God, Heb. 11:3). Despite Young Earth claims that Carbon Dating is a flawed technique by citing that objects that are relatively young are shown to be ancient by the Carbon Dating method, they offer no actual examples as proofs of these claims or any viable alternatives that would satisfy them for geological dating. Other claims that starlight is not an accurate measurement of time because light is slowing down, or God could have created them immediately visible from earth are feebly offered to counter this science. But the speed of light has been examined by over 18 major scientific studies and found to be (as Einstein said) constant (causing many scientists to say that Einstein’s “Theory” of Relativity must now be regarded as a “Law”). Therefore, when we measure that some starlight takes several million years to reach earth Young Earthers have a major problem. To suggest that God created the universe with the appearance of age is to suggest that God deceives!

  

Theological Challenges

Was there death before Adam? Settle this question and the theological evidence either supports or counters the Young Earth theory. Romans 5:12 says that death entered the world through one man and his sin.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—
Romans 5:12

Did Adam’s sin result in death being introduced to vegetation and animals? For Young Earthers, the answer is “Yes!”. But is that what Romans 5:12 actually says? When I pointed out to one advocate of Young Earth theory that God gives to lions their prey (Psalm 104:21) and therefore lions were created by God to eat meat he responded by saying that that created order was the result of the Fall of Man. When I asked what he thought lions would have eaten before the Fall he said grass. So I asked whether the grass would have died when the lion ate it, he admitted that he didn’t know about that one. And this becomes the problem when we adopt a view of death that it is when something ceases to exist. Biblically, human life is distinct from all other life forms. Only human life bears the image of God. Only human life has an immortal spirit. Only humans can know God relationally. When Adam sinned he put to death these qualities- the image of God in man became marred; the immortal spirit of man would now be eternally separated from God; and man could no longer know God, because of sin. This is the “death” that Adam introduced and it therefore magnifies Christ and His act of redemption rather than diminishes it! Christ did not come to die for grass! He came and gave His life for mankind!

When we consider that God made trees to reproduce after their own kind it demands that their seed would have to fall to the ground and “die” in order to propagate new trees. This was not because of the Fall, but was spoken by the Creator before the Fall of man. While its true that all of Creation groans it’s worth noting what the passage says it groans for-

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Romans 8:22-23

 

A Simple Reading of Scripture

Young Earthers claim that “a simple reading” of Scripture would leave no-one doubting that the earth is young and that God did it all in six calendar days. This is an illogical statement worthy of swift dismantling and exposure.

We apply this Hermeneutic to no other part of Scripture without first employing some reasonable principles of interpretation. For example, the Scriptures declare that God has seven eyes (Zech. 4:10); seven horns on His head (Rev. 5:6); wings like a mother chicken (Psalm 91:4); and uses earth as His footstool (Isaiah 66:1). What impression would a “simple” reading give of God from these passages? When we read in Genesis 1 of six creation days the Hebrew word for “day” is “yom”. Despite claims by Young Earthers that this word is always translated in the Bible as a 24 hour day, this word can mean “a period of time”. Note the following Strong’s Concordance definition-

STRONGS #3117. yom; from an unused root meaning to be hot; a day (as the warm hours), whether literal (from sunrise to sunset, or from one sunset to the next), or figurative (a space of time defined by an associated term), (often used adverb):—age, + always, + chronicals, continually(-ance), daily, ((birth-), each, to) day, (now a, two) days (agone), + elder, x end, + evening, + (for) ever(-lasting, -more), x full, life, as (so) long as (… live), (even) now, + old, + outlived, + perpetually, presently, + remaineth, x required, season, x since, space, then, (process of) time, + as at other times, + in trouble, weather, (as) when, (a, the, within a) while (that), x whole (+ age), (full) year(-ly), + younger.

Note its Biblical use in these sample passages-

When he had been there a long time (Heb. “yom”), Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out of a window and saw Isaac laughing with Rebekah his wife.
Gen. 26:8

Like the cold of snow in the time (Heb. “yom”) of harvest
is a faithful messenger to those who send him;
he refreshes the soul of his masters
.

Prov. 25:13

A study of this word in the original language shows that just like in our language, the word “day” is not restricted to a 24 hour period. “In my Grandfather’s day” is just one example of how the word day can be used to speak of an era. Even adding the expressions morning and evening changes nothing because the Hebrew for these words simply means beginning and end.

Trends In Science Confirm Rather Than Contradict Scripture

Christians have nothing to fear from scientific discoveries. Increasingly they are confirming Scripture not contradicting it. We have at the core of our Gospel the revelation of man’s problem: sin; and the solution: Jesus; and the means: His Spirit. We can boldly proclaim this Gospel and have a choir of scientists singing backup. Romans 1 makes it clear that God is known first through the power of the Gospel (vs 16) but can be observed in creation. Religion and Science do mix since they are both the study of God and His created world.

Andrew Corbett, 14th March 2006

The Subsequent Experience

The Subsequent Experience

Is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit subsequent to salvation or inclusive in it?…

Even after a hundred years of modern Pentecostalism there are a growing number of people who are sympathetic to the modern availability of the gifts of the Spirit butreject the idea of them being only available to those who have had an experience ‘subsequent’ to their salvation generally referred to as the baptism in the Spirit

An “Evangelical” is someone who takes the Bible “literally” and regards Christianity as the work of a God who performs miracles, has sent His Son to save lost sinners. Evangelicals believe that God now accomplishes this saving work by the power of the Holy Spirit each time someone is born-again. 

Pentecostals also believe this, but they also believe in the baptism with the Holy Spirit. This belief is what sets “Pentecostals” apart from “Evangelicals”. It is the belief that after the regeneration of a person by the Holy Spirit (being “born-again”), that there is another experience with a “work of grace” that Holy Spirit can accomplish in a believer. This ‘subsequent’ experience with the Holy Spirit is also referred to as the Doctrine of Subsequence. Most Evangelicals believe that when the Holy Spirit saves a soul that His work in the believer in this life is completed and that He now works on the believer only (we looked at this in our study on ‘Sanctification’). 

Pentecostals base their belief that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is another experience to salvation on three sources: the Scriptures, history, and personal experience. 

.

SCRIPTURES

In the Old Testament, God established the Sabbath celebration and 7 special festivals. Each of these festivals were symbolic of something that Jesus was to do. 

OLD TESTAMENT FESTIVAL NEW TESTAMENT PICTURE
(a) The Sabbath Foreshadowed the rest from works achieved by Christ’s finished work of atonement
(b) Passover (Lev. 23:3) Foreshadowed the death of Christ as the Ultimate Sacrifice – the Lamb of God
(c) Unleavened Bread (Lev. 23:6) Foreshadowed the period of Christ’s death and the bitterness of soul this caused His followers
(d) Firstfruits (Lev. 23:10) Foreshadowed the resurrection of Christ as the first to rise from the dead forever
(e) Pentecost (Lev. 23:16) Foreshadowed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit establishing a new “Commonwealth” (Eph. 2:12)
(f) Trumpets (Lev. 23:24) Foreshadowed the last Trumpet when Christ shall return to judge everybody 
(g) Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:27) Foreshadowed the day of judgment when we shall all stand before God and be judged
(h) Tabernacles (Lev. 23:34) Foreshadowed the resurrection of the Redeemed (2Cor. 5:1)

The point here is that we can see a separate Festival corresponding to our salvation through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, that is being born again, and another Festival corresponding to the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. 

Within my lifetime I have witnessed an amazing shift in thinking, practice and response to the charismatic gifts. As a boy I remember when Pentecostals were looked down upon by ‘mainstream’ Christians. They were generally regarded as uneducated, ignorant, and gullible. As Pentecostalism birthed its super-preachers, who often boasted in their lack of education and minimal theological training, this stereotype was often reinforced in the minds of traditional Christians. But then came the charismatic movement which began in the 1960s and reached amazing heights in the 1970s when nearly every mainstream denomination had their pockets of ‘charismatics’. Pentecostals were no longer seen as “them” but were increasingly becoming “one of us”. Evangelical leaders, like Billy Graham, were quick to recognise the rise of Pentecostals and warmly embraced them into his city-wide crusades. Pentecostals had arrived. 

One hundred years on and the influence of Pentecostal churches upon the mainstream, traditional churches can hardly be understated. Pentecostals now form the largest segment of church-attending, active Christians in the world. It is the only expression of the Church that is generally growing worldwide. Pentecostals now hold positions of influence in politics, media, sport, entertainment, literature and community service groups. Pentecostals are now being noticed.

For the most part, Pentecostals have held a wide range of doctrinal positions from Reformed to Arminian, from Calvinist to Semi-Pelagian, from modalistic to classic trinitarian. But the one unifying doctrine which distinguishes them even from ‘charismatics’ is the belief that there is an experience with the Holy Spirit subsequent to salvation called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit which is evidenced by the receipt of a heavenly prayer language called: tongues. But now Pentecostals are being questioned.

 

HISTORY

Through out Church history there are numbers of documented occasions when believers sought God and were graced by an extraordinary outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In the second century AD, somewhere between 135 AD and 177 AD, there was a group in Phrygia (Asia Minor), led by a man named Montanus, who all claimed that they had received the Baptism with the Holy Spirit subsequent to their salvation. They practised speaking in tongues and especially prophesying. [Source: Wikipedia] Records of Christian groups experiencing the subsequent Baptism with the Holy Spirit continue down through the centuries, of note is the experience of the Moravians from August 13th 1727. These believers gathered to pray and seek God. As they did, there was a physical sense of wind rushing into their meeting place and strange things began to take place. This event has become known as the Moravian Pentecost. [Source] Around 1870 in several parts of the globe, there were numerous reports of similar Pentecostal outpourings and stirrings. Figures such as D.L. Moody, Andrew Murray, C.H. Spurgeon have identified themselves with these events. Around the turn of the twentieth century there were several Christian groups in Wales, Australia and the USA which each experienced what they described as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit where speaking in tongues and prophesying resulted.

Today it is estimated that there are over 600,000,000 Pentecostals worldwide who testify to experiencing a subsequent Baptism with the Holy Spirit to their salvation.

 

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

Some people dismiss personal experience as evidence for proving something. But this is quite unreasonable. Courts of Law place a great deal of weight in people’s experiences to determine whether a defendant is guilty or not. My own story is that I came to Christ in what was for me a dramatic conversion. But it was some time after this that I was baptised with the Holy Spirit when I then spoke in tongues and began to experience other gifts of the Holy Spirit.

When Peter and John prayed for the Samaritans to receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-15), something happened which people “saw” (Acts 8:17-18). If they had received the Holy Spirit and spoken in tongues and prophesied, this would clearly have been visible.

In Acts 9, Saul is converted to Paul. Later, Ananias lays hands on him and prays for him to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17). 

There appears to be two types of “tongues” in the New Testament (1Cor 12, 14). Firstly, there is speaking in tongues which is similar to prophecy. It requires another Holy Spirit gift called interpretation of tongues. This gift strengthens the whole church when it is interpreted. This prophesying in tongues seems to be what was happening on the Day of Pentecost. These recently Spirit-baptised believers were mostly speaking in known languages – even though they had never learned them.

But there appears to another type of tongues. This is used in prayer (1Cor. 14-1-4). When someone prays in a tongue they are not talking to anyone else except God (1Cor. 14:2). When a person prays in tongues they are strengthening themselves spiritually (1Cor. 14:4). 

– – –

What makes someone Pentecostal is not whether they use a certain spiritual gift, or even how they worship, or whether they use choruses or hymns. The distinguishing feature is the belief, promotion, and practice of the doctrine of subsequence. Pentecostals believe, teach and invite people to a subsequent experience with the Holy Spirit variously called being filled or baptised in the Holy Spirit. This is the touchstone of Pentecostalism. Either the charismatics are right- that all of the Holy Spirit in His fullness is given at the point of salvation, or the Pentecostals are right- that one can be saved yet still lacking the ‘Promise of the Father’. Pentecostals are now being challenged. 

What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Now there are some, as we have seen, who say that there is really no difficulty about this at all. . . They say that it is simply a reference to regeneration and nothing else. It is what happens to people when they are regenerated and incorporated into Christ, as Paul teaches in 1 Cor 12:13. But for myself, I simply cannot accept that explanation, and this is where we come to grips with the difficulty. I cannot accept that because if we were to believe that the disciples and the apostles were not regenerate until the Day of Pentecost – a supposition which seems to me to be quite untenable.”
GREAT DOCTRINES OF THE BIBLE, Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones 

I’ve been reading the life story of the great Baptist preacher, and the world’s greatest ever Christian essayist, F.W. Boreham. He talks about sitting under the ministry of C.H. Spurgeon, F.B. Meyer, and other great men of God. He describes his dramatic conversion in 1888 when aged 17. But he then goes on to describe his encounter with the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands in 1890. From that point he experienced a newness in his walk with Christ, a passion for the lost, and a fresh love for God’s Word. He alludes to what we would call today “gifts of the Spirit” operating throughout his life over his many years of ministry, including discernment and prophecy. He even makes mention of the fact that he was prophesied over as a little baby that he would grow to be a very successful writer. His story is one that is repeated multiplied times over throughout history. People who have been soundly converted have then experienced a later encounter with the Holy Spirit which they refer to as either a baptism or a filling with the Spirit.

For those who see no distinction between regeneration and the baptism in the Spirit salvation was not fiished at the Cross but at Pentecost. Not until the first believers were baptised in the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost as described in Acts 2 did they simultaneously experience regeneration. The various gifts of the Spirit, including tongues and prophecy, were distributed to believers as the Spirit willed. And this same pattern has continued to the present day. All regenerated believers have whatever spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit has bestowed. It may take time for a believer to discover this gift, but by virtue of their salvation they have already received the fulness of the Spirit and His gifts in their life. This we might call the doctrine of inclusiveness.

But Pentecostals regard salvation as having been finished by virtue of the Cross of Christ. The blessings of salvation, including our physical resurrection and the baptism in the Holy Spirit, come as a result of Christ’s atoning and redeeming work on the Cross (including His resurrection). Thus, to a Pentecostal, a person can be regenerated but not yet physically resurrected. Similarly, a regenerated person may not yet have received the baptism with the Holy Spirit. 

So, according to the Doctor [Martin Lloyd-Jones], the baptism with the Holy Spirit is AFTER regeneration, it’s experiential, and we’re conscious of it, and of course it’s everywhere in the New Testament.”
Adrian Warnock

Pentecostals point to Biblical examples of subsequence. Firstly, the original disciples. At a post-resurrection appearing of Christ He breathed on them and told them to receive the work of the Spirit in their lives – which we might reasonably take to mean regeneration (new birth, salvation). And then 10 days or so later they are waiting for a further encounter with the Holy Spirit which Christ taught was the “Promise of the Father” or the “baptism in the Holy Spirit”. Secondly, the Samaritans who responded warmly to Philip’s preaching were clearly saved. But Philip called for the apostles to come from Jerusalem to pray for these new converts to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 8). Similarly, in Acts 19 Paul enquires of the Ephesian believers as to their response to the Holy Spirit subsequent to believing. Upon discovering that they had not yet received the Holy Spirit, he prayed for them to do so – and they did. 

It’s therefore one thing to assert that the New Testament teaches that the baptism in the Spirit is synonymous with salvation, and another thing altogether to claim that Pentecostals have no basis for believing that it is a subsequent experience to salvation. The latter claim is at least challenged with the Acts narratives which give Pentecostals support for their position. Either way, it should be the modern believer’s earnest prayer to fulfil Ephesians 5:18.

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
Ephesians 5:18

You do not have to speak in tongues to be saved. You do not have to speak in tongues to be a member of this church. If you have been baptised with the Holy Spirit, there is a strong likelihood that you are now open to being used in the gifts of the Holy Spirit (some of which are mentioned in First Corinthians 12). There clearest evidence that someone has been baptised in the Holy Spirit is that they now continually want intimacy with Christ; they want to continually serve Christ; they love the Church and continually want to see it blessed; they have a burden for the lost and work to see them come to know Christ; and, they produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

If you have never received the baptism with the Holy Spirit, and experienced the blessing of praying in tongues, you are invited by Christ to seek the Father for this empowerment for service (Luke 11:13). 

And if the baptism with the Holy Spirit has merely become for you an historic event in your walk with Christ, then Jesus and the Spirit bid you to come back to the Waters and be filled again (Acts 4:30-31).

Dr. Andrew Corbett, 17th September 2006

Subscribe To Our Finding Truth Matters (ftm) Perspectives eMail

Subscribe to receive the latest news, updates and discounted special offers.

Thank you for subscribing to the Finding Truth Matters PERSPECTIVES with Dr. Andrew Corbett regular eMail