Monday, 9 March 2015

Critiquing Bruce Gurd's attack on Evolutionary Creationism - 2

This is Part 2 of my critique of Bruce Gurd's recent lecture on evolutionary creationism. Part 1 can be found here.

The credibility of Gurd’s argument is further eroded by his second point:
The second point, we believe God has instantaneous power to create and it’s in our statement of faith and we believe he made Adam and Eve as the first beings of the entire race of humans we don’t believe in hominids, we believe Adam and Eve were the descendants of all the people on the earth. 
And you can throw all the science at us and say well it’s impossible for all the genetic diversity on the globe to go back to a pair, a human pair 6000 years ago well I don’t understand science and I can’t answer everything going on in our world but I like to believe the bible exactly as it is written.
Gurd’s claim that God has ‘instantaneous power to create’ is one that no one disputes. However, it is worth noting that creation in six days is not instantaneous, raising the question of why God took six days to create when he could have instantaneously created a fully formed universe.[1]

Furthermore, when combined with Gurd’s stated claim that he takes the Bible as written, it highlights the problem, well known to OT scholars, that the two creation accounts in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 when taken ‘exactly as [they are] written’ fundamentally contradict each other. As the respected OT scholar Peter Enns points out:

As can be seen in the chart below, the differences between the two creation stories are significant, not superficial, and should therefore be respected rather than harmonized. Particularly telling is the sequence of creation in the third row.

These two stories are clearly significantly different, and they cannot be harmonized by saying that the first gives the overview and the second fills in some of the details. The presence of two different creation accounts is troublesome for readers who assume that Genesis 1 and 2 are historical in nature and that the Bible’s first priority is to recount history accurately.  
Yet the divergence of these stories cannot be reasonably questioned. To stitch them into a seamless whole would dismiss the particular and distinct points of view that the authors were so deliberate in placing there. The differences between the two creation accounts are further complemented by differences seen in other Old Testament passages such as Psalms 77:16–20; 89:5–37; Job 9:4–15; 26:5–14; 38:4–38; and Isaiah 40:12–31; 44:24–28.  
It does not seem to be a concern of the biblical writers to provide God’s people with a “unified” story of creation.[2]
Enns hardly represents a minority view: that the two creation accounts in Gen 1 and Gen 2 contradict each other fundamentally when real literally is acknowledged by the vast majority of Biblical scholars. Even fundamentalists implicitly acknowledge this when they begin to construct ad hoc harmonisations which would not be necessary if the narratives could be read exactly as written.

This fact alone shows that the Biblicist hermeneutic Gurd champions is selectively used by fundamentalists, and quietly discarded without acknowledgement when its limitations become apparent.

Gurd’s third point shows an alarming tendency among some Christadelphian fundamentalists to drag the atonement into every theological battle, privilege idiosyncratic readings of a human fellowship document above the witness of creation and the written word, and endorse a flawed view of the nature of Adam which owes more to Augstine and the false doctrine of Original Sin than to Scripture.

Gurd’s opening paragraph is little more than inaccurate, inflammatory rhetoric:
The third thing I think there is a challenge to, is our belief in the saving power of the cross of Christ.
My view of the atonement never changed when I accepted the fact of evolution; the same is true of other evolutionary creationists with whom I have discussed the subject. All of them accept that death as a punishment for sin (Rom 6:23) did not exist prior to Adam’s transgression. All accept that only by participating in Christ’s sacrificial life do we have a change of eternal life.

Gurd's invocation of the CCA is ironic given that it was created to unify our community, but Gurd seeks to abuse it as a tool of division and exclusion:
We have the CCA which was put together in 1958 and bought the ecclesias together across this land
Apart from his flagrant misuse of the CCA, his next comments show that he holds an aberrant, flawed view of Adam’s nature pre and post fall:
And it was about Adam and Eve became mortal and sin prone as a result of sin, they were not created mortal and sin prone which is what the Evolutionary Creationists claim Christ came as there descendent he didn’t descend from hominids or any other beings, he descended from Adam and Eve, in fact, he descended from Noah and his wife because we all come from them and he came to save us from our sins, and on the cross he declared that we are rightly dying creatures, we are all sinners and we deserve death and we all receive this because of our inheritance of our sin prone natures from Adam and Eve.
Gurd’s claim that Adam became mortal and sin prone as a result of sin, one that was subsequently inherited by ever human being is not only flatly contradicted both by the scriptural and scientific data, but worse still dangerously close to the heresy of Original Sin. The Westminster Confession of Faith, used by many in the Reformed Faith tradition states:
1. Our first parents, being seduced by the subtilty and temptation of Satan, sinned, in eating the forbidden fruit. (Gen. 3:13, 2 Cor. 11:3) This their sin, God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to His own glory.

2. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion, with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body. 

3. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed; and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation. 

4. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil do proceed all actual transgressions. [3]
Gurd’s insistence on a mythical intermediate ‘very good’ state which is ‘neither mortal nor immortal’ not only is contradicted by Paul’s statement in 1 Cor 15 that there are two classes of body – heavenly and earthly – but runs counter to what our community has traditionally believed.

L.G Sargent, writing in the January 1941 edition of The Christadelphian not only rebuts the erroneous view that Adam was neither mortal nor immortal, but points out the obvious point, that Adam was physically capable of death and corruption prior to sin, but having not sinned, did not have the sentence of death pronounced on him:
The difficulty arises not from any lack of essential clarity in Dr. Thomas’s thought, but from an ambiguity in the term “mortal”. The word “immortal” is taken to mean “incapable of death”; and “mortal” might be expected to mean its simple opposite, “capable of death”: whereas in fact it is used in the sense of “subject to death, destined to die”—a more restricted meaning which has the support of dictionaries. 
It was owing to this ambiguity that Dr. Thomas could write: “But, if they were not mortal in their novitiate, it is also true that they were not immortal. To say that immortals were expelled from the garden of Eden, that they might not live for ever by eating of the tree, is absurd”. It is indeed. He then continues cogently: “The truth is in few words, man was created with a nature endued with certain susceptibilities. He was capable of death; and capable of endless life; but, whether he should merge into mortality; or, by a physical change be clothed with immortality, was predicated on his choosing to do good or evil. Capacity must not be confounded with impletion”. 
The bare terms, stripped of the qualifying and amplifying phrases with which Dr. Thomas defines his meaning, have sometimes been thrown into the bald proposition that “Adam before the fall was neither mortal nor immortal”; which (to quote Euclid and Dr. Thomas) is absurd. A thing is either X or not-X: there can be no “neutral” position between.  
A man cannot be neither mortal nor not-mortal; and he cannot be neither not-mortal nor not-not-mortal. A thing is either black or not black, white or not white; it is either in the class of objects which have in common the quality of blackness, or it is in the class “not-black” which includes every other kind of colour, shade or tone. But it must come in one class or the other: there can be no neutral position between those two classes. 
If, then, we take “immortal” to mean “incapable of dying” (as Dr. Thomas does in the passage quoted), we must say that Adam in his novitiate was not incapable of dying, therefore capable of dying, and therefore “mortal” as a simple antithesis to immortal, and using the widest sense of an ambiguous term.  
There is a class, “incapable of dying”; all not included in it must be included in the class “capable of dying”; but the latter class may be divided into two sections: (A) those in whom death is only a capacity—a latent capacity, as we might say; and (B) those in whom it is an active condition. Both are included in one wide classification, “not-immortal”: but it is the sub-class in whom death is an active principle who are, on a stricter definition of terms, called “mortal”, because they are “subject to death, destined to die”.  
Adam was always within the class, “capable of death”, but on the sentence of God he passed from the sub-class in whom it is a latent capacity to the sub-class who are actively subject to corruption as a law of their being; and in that class all his posterity have remained—all save One, who has been “made perfect”.[4]
If Gurd seriously believes that prior to his transgression Adam was not corruptible, or maintains the existence of a mythical ‘very good’ status which was neither mortal nor immortal, then he has departed from Christadelphian teaching on this point.

L.G. Sargent’s article makes that point quite clear. In fact, his assertion that “we all receive this because of our inheritance of our sin prone natures from Adam and Eve” comes dangerously close to the heresy of Original Sin. The irony of Gurd accusing ECs of maintaining a heterodox position hardly needs to be pointed out.

Gurd finally approaches the core of his rebuttal:
I want to put up three tests tonight of what we believe: 
1) What did Jesus teach

2) The test of Simplicity – I want to argue to you that what we believe was not written for hyper intelligent individuals, you see this disease of EC has tended to hit young, or youngish men, 30s/40s who are very intelligent capable men, and they can reason very complex things from the world, from the bible – I don’t believe the bible is written that way. 

3) The third test is the humility test, because the problem with this topic, with very intelligent brothers fighting each other is we tend to get a lot of ego, too much ego and not enough God in the discussion.
Gurd’s first point has little if any relevance to the question of evolutionary creationism, something that becomes readily apparent when he refer to the birds and lilies of the field in Matthew 6:26, 28 and declares:
What did Jesus think, what’s a reasonable way to listen to Jesus, did he not believe that his heavenly father looked after the birds, do you think Jesus believed that these birds were Gods creation? Or they came through billions of years, did he think they were the work of God and God maintained them, that’s the way I listen to Jesus, maybe I’m reading it a bit too simply... What did he understand by “God clothed the grass of the field” with beautiful flowers? Some wild anemones growing on the hill top. 
Did he think, well God just allowed these to happen, or did he really believe that this was the work of his father – Well am I being too simplistic in saying I think what Jesus is teaching that God made these beautiful flowers and he looks after them even though they are going to be burnt up.
Gurd ignores the point that not only does Jesus’ point stand independent of the mechanism employed by God to create them, he has failed his own hermeneutic standard of simplicity by reading into these verses, in which Jesus reminds people not to be overly anxious about the cares of this life, a cryptic denial in advance of evolution. 

Likewise, his reference to Matthew 19:4 poses no problems for evolutionary creationists who believe that Adam and Eve were specially created people on a planet already populated.[5] Again, Gurd makes the same elementary error by reading into the verses a denial of evolution which simply does not exist in a passage whose point is to make a point on divorce.  To quote Gurd, he is guilty of “inventing things” and “extrapolating vast things from the Gospels” rather than “read them in their simplicity.”

This leads to his second point, the ‘test of  Simplicity’. Again, no one denies that the gospel message is simple, but given that we are separated from it by time, language, and culture, we are obliged to study language and culture in order to bridge this gap. There is also powerful Biblical witness to the fact that the meaning simply does not fall from the text with a superficial reading. The author of 2 Peter was hardly alone in writing in 2 Peter 3:
So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.
Early Christadelphians were also well aware of the perils of a ‘test of Simplicity’ that veered into literalism and ignored the cultural context of the original audience. Robert Roberts in Christendom Astray wrote:
Now with regard to the Bible, it will be found that in the main, this is the character of its composition. As a revelation to human beings, it is a revelation in human language. 
It is not a revelation of words but of ideas, and hence everything in its language is subordinated to the purpose of imparting the ideas. The peculiarities of human speech are conformed to in the various particularities already mentioned.”[6]
In 1866, an anonymous brother, cited with approval by Roberts, pointed out the problems with the ‘test of simplicity’ Gurd champions:
So far from receiving the ‘literal’ of Scripture, the most opposite possible is the truth in most instances. If that were wisdom, then Paul’s advice is utter foolishness. 

If no interpretation is necessary, then no ‘comparing’ is of any use, and if the ‘literal,’ or as it stands, is to be taken, comparison becomes at once superfluous, for every sentence would be complete in itself.”[7]
These words could not be more removed from the travesty of exegesis that Gurd insists is normative for our community. Gurd’s assertion that he does not believe the Bible is “written that way” is one that is rebutted both by the Bible itself, and our early pioneers.

It is ironic that Gurd’s third point is the “humility test” given that he dismisses both the consensus of our early pioneers on what constituted proper exegesis, as well as the Bible’s own witness to the fact that a simple surface reading does not suffice. To that one can add the fact that despite his admission that he knows nothing of science, he ignores a solid, long-standing, well-attested scientific consensus on the origin of the diversity of life. It is difficult to see how a person who thinks a fundamentalist reading of the Bible trumps the scientific evidence is being humble.


[1] It also fails to explain why a careful scientific study of the Earth shows it to have an undeniable history of progressive change over a 4.6 billion year history, as well as a progressive appearance of more and more complex life over most of this period. Such evidence flatly rules out a recent creation in six days, a point that early Christians such as Robert Roberts and C.C. Walker, both fiercely opposed to evolution nonetheless acknowledged.

[2] Peter Enns, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2012), 52.

[3] The Westminster Confession of Faith (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).

[4] Sargent L.G. "Adam in Innocence" The Christadelphian (1941) 78:14

[5] In fact, a ‘plain reading’ of Gen 1 states that God created many human beings (male and female he created them) while Gen 2 refers to the creation of two people. Once again, Gurd fails to follow his ‘hermeneutic of simplicity’.

[6] Roberts R Christendom Astray from the Bible (1984 ed) p 29

[7] Brother Z,. “‘How Readest Thou?’ A Word on Interpreting Figures of Speech”, The Christadelphian (1866) 3:194