Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tom Nettles Responds to Paige Patterson and David Allen

In what will go down in Southern Baptist history as the introduction of a new genre of academic literature, last month Paige Patterson, David Allen and William Dembski combined to give a written response to Tom Nettles' review of Dembski's latest book, The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World. Dembski, Research Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas, is well-known for his work in intelligent design.

The End of Christianity was written as "a theodicy that is at once faithful to Christian orthodoxy ... and credible to our mental environment" (4). The book was widely promoted by its publisher, B&H Academic when it was released last year. Nettles' review of Dembski's book was published in the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. The review is engaging, respectful and takes Dembski's book seriously. Nettles raises some serious questions theological positions expressed in the book--one of which (regarding Noah's flood) caused the administration to have a heart-to-heart with Dembski for clarification and resulted in the author "abandoning" the view he argued in the book.

Because Patterson, who is President of Southwestern, did not think that Nettles' evaluation of Dembski was quite right, he commissioned David Allen, Dean of Southwestern's School of Theology, to write a review of the review. Patterson added a preamble to that document and Dembski added a "Clarification" resulting in, as far as I know, the birth of the first Southern Baptist "Review of a Review with a Preamble and Clarification." In it, Allen accuses Nettles of misreading and misrepresenting Dembski, of engaging in "fallacious" arguments that results in a "less than charitable" review that is "significantly skewed."

This document got a few bloggers excited. One "Baptist Identity" blog team even held a podcast to discuss it and the issues it raised. Only one of the participants owned Dembski's book and none had even seen Nettles' review. That, however, did not hinder their offering their opinions that Allen did a good job in correcting Nettles. Such is the state of intellectual integrity in certain quarters of the SBC Today.

Nettles, Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has responded to this document in a letter that I am posting below with his permission. Since Patterson & Allen published Allen's review of his review, those who have read that document have a right to read Nettles' response. As you can see, Nettles finds no reason in anything Allen has written to change any of his evaluations of Dembski's book. The contrast between the two documents is stark and represents two different ways to engage issues of theological importance. And the issues raised in Dembski's book are of vital importance.

One of the major concerns that Nettles raises is that Dembski "has subdued the gown of theology to the lab robe of the scientist. He has given to natural revelation the task of tutor to special revelation" (p. 81 of Nettles' review). Allen chastises Nettles for this critique, calling it "inaccurate," leaving one to wonder if he even read these words written by Dempski in the opening paragraph of chapter 6:
The young-earth solution to reconciling the order of creation with natural history makes good exegetical and theological sense. Indeed, the overwhelming consensus of theologians up through the Reformation held to this view. I myself would adopt it in a heartbeat except that nature seems to present such strong evidence against it (55, emphasis mine).
Dembski freely admits that what nature seems to indicate trumps "good exegetical and theological sense," what he also calls "the most natural reading of Genesis" (54).

In the early years of the Conservative Resurgence we were regularly told by the bureaucrats in charge that we simply did not understand the nuances of the positions of those who put their theological views in writing. The keepers of the academy were ruffled when anyone challenged the published views of professors, no matter how well-documented and gracious the challenge may have been. It is both strange and disconcerting to see the same kind of response coming from those same academic corridors thirty years later.

Read Dembski's book. Read Nettles' review. Then read Allen's review of the review. After that, read the response below. Ask yourself which approach to theological discourse and debate you desire to characterize SBC and evangelical life today.

Tom J. Nettles
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
2825 Lexington Road
Louisville, KY 40280

Dr. David Allen, Dean
School of Theology
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Fort Worth, Texas 76122

David,

Though I have never given a public response to reviews of my books and chapter contributions [that I remember], I can appreciate several reasons that you might feel obliged to defend the work of your honorable colleague, Dr. William Dembski. Your reply to my review of The End of Christianity has raised several points, however, at which you seek unjustly to discredit my critique and call into question my fair-mindedness as well as my scholarly care. I thought that you and others interested in this exchange ought to see why your reply has not changed my mind on the issues with which I dealt nor has it presented the issues accurately.

I understand why you would wonder if I believe "the old-earth position is a legitimate Christian option." You go a bit far, though, in suggesting, "Though he does not state it overtly, he seems to deny that one can be an orthodox Christian and subscribe to an old earth creationist position." First and most relevant response: I do not deny that William Dembski is an orthodox Christian. I will not enumerate the many central doctrines of the faith in which he and I would be in total agreement. The list would be too long. In my 34 years of teaching I have known and counted as friends many men that hold an old-earth position who are confessionally orthodox and deeply concerned with the defense and propagation of Christian truth. Dembski's book was written to elicit response. Neither he nor you would think that it would be ignored. He has helped clarify what is at stake in the old-earth hypothesis. He has seen clearly what must be put in context from an orthodox Christian perspective. One, the relation of death and destruction prior to the time of human existence must be explained. Two, how does Genesis 1 relate to that explanation, and consequently to Genesis 2 and 3. These are the two issues upon which I have focused and at no point have questioned his orthodoxy.

You refer to my "assertion that Dembski believes the universe is 13 billion years old and the earth is around 4.5 billion years old," and that I view Dembski as treating this as "an undeniable conclusion that provides an infallible scientific framework for theological discussion." Then you ask where Dembski says it. I merely assume that Dembski says this, you claim. On top of that, I have missed "the fact that Dembski's book is an exercise in speculative theology."

You are right, on the basis of Dembski's material, I assume this. What other assumption could I have? I have invented neither these numbers nor the impression that they are so certain as to warrant his theory of retroactive-effects-lapsarianism. They were provided by Dr. Dembski. I am willing to look at others if he, or you, will provide them. If Dembski does believe that, do you think it is a problem? The only other option he provided was the young-earth chronology, which he obviously does not accept. He introduces, in the form of questions, these other figures and proceeds to develop his thesis with that as the model before the reader (49). "In that case, for hundreds of millions of years, multicelled animals have been emerging, competing, fighting, killing, parasitizing torturing." He never gives any other option, or no other case. He leaves us to assume that his theodicy, including his interpretation of Genesis 1, will keep this scenario intact, while demonstrating that it is a way to maintain this science and Christian theology too.

You are concerned that my use of the word "solely" compromises my meaning and misrepresents the overall project of Dembski. His reinterpretation, by his own admission comes solely because of science. The motive that he attributes to the friends of R. C. Sproul that have not followed him into young-earthism is "One thing and one thing alone: Science." (54) When a friend provides a possible exegetical explanation [footnote 19, 205], Dembski, probably accurately, rejects the nuanced genre and etymological studies as a sufficient explanation and contends that they were introduced under the pressure of modern science's conclusion on the age of the earth. If we have as a common starting point that evil is a result of Adam's fall, what would drive such a reinterpretation as Dembski gives? That he seeks to reinterpret does mean that he believes that any alternate view must be shown to be consistent with the Bible. He is not dismissive of the Bible. That is right and that issue drives him also. If you look at my context, however, you will see that the purpose of the word was to emphasize that Dembski's re-interpretation of the chronology between evil and the fall, and the consequent use of Genesis 1, comes solely from his acceptance of old-earth science. Nothing in the text of Genesis 1 suggests such an approach. Nothing other than old earth and evil's existence prior to human existence could engineer such a complex undertaking. What other reason could exist for such a reconstruction of the centuries old acceptance of the standing of Genesis 1 as it relates to the history of the world? Given our common ground, the sole reason for his departure is his commitment to old-earth scientific orthodoxy. I cannot disagree with your reminder that this is speculative theology (how could anyone doubt it?), but it represents what Dembski thinks is best in light of the necessity of rethinking evil and the fall, for science has assured us, as a part of its orthodoxy, that we are dealing with a very old earth.

You express concern that I am too zealous in pointing to the influence that science exerts in Dembski's discussion. I am clear on the fact that Dembski has taken issue with those members of the scientific community that espouse evolution and that he does not accept "all of these beliefs of the scientific community." I have indicated such in my review. That does not mean that he is tentative about his commitment to the evidence for old earth received from geology and astrophysics. He seems to be virtually certain of that when he says, "I'm hardly alone in my reluctance to accept young-earth creationism. In our current mental environment, informed as it is by modern astrophysics and geology, the scientific community as a whole regards young-earth creationism as scientifically untenable" [126] Where is my "blind spot," or what is "unwarranted" or "inaccurate" in my assumption that Dembski agrees with the beliefs of the scientific community on this issue in spite of the young earth position that "makes good exegetical and theological sense?" Why does he not accept that reasoning? Because "nature seems to present such strong evidence against it." (55) He may indeed hold the theory that any scientific judgment must be made with the caveat of pessimistic induction, but his hold on scientific orthodoxy seems so secure that even "good exegetical and theological sense" can not drive him from it. Is my presentation that he has made nature tutor to special revelation inaccurate in this case? His position on this may well fall within the parameters of acceptability, but I have not misrepresented him.

You fault me for not seeing clearly the distinction between "arguing his position on the assumption that old-earth creationism is accurate" (which he does) as opposed to "arguing his position using old-earth science for support" (which, in your estimation, he does not do). I am willing to grant this distinction; but it makes virtually no difference in the thesis Dembski defends or the theological and exegetical approach he takes. If assuming old-earth science is not quite the same as using old-earth science, I can't see that that disarms the analysis. If you are right here, I surrender to your perceptive powers in seeing such a "clear distinctive." But to me, you seem to be making a distinction without a difference. Does the "assumption that old-earth creationism is accurate" not involve "arguing his position using old-earth science for support." Why would he argue so tediously for such a strange view of cause and effect unless he were utterly committed to the idea that science has demonstrated that the earth is millions of years old and death, destruction, and corruption have characterized it from the beginning? He in fact does present data that he synthesizes in such a way as to support old-earth science and reject young-earth science. He performs the rudimentary task of synthesizing data and positing a working hypothesis for that data (chapter 6). He accepts it as virtual fact and argues a theodicy in light of his, not others', conclusion.

Again, I think you are making a vain objection in saying that I quote Dembski "out of context" in assuming his acceptance of the idea that science has discovered "momentous new truths" and has not gone "massively awry." These are the two options Dembski himself provides. Since he argues for a new paradigm, against the young-earth paradigm, it does not seem logical that he believes science has gone "massively awry" but has "discovered momentous new truths." Does he provide us with another way to conclude which of these he has accepted? On the positive side, his discussion seeks to correct the over-reaction of some thinkers that dissociate present evil from the Fall. His answer is not to dissociate them, but to give his retroactive interpretation. His is simply a different response but still an acceptance of what he has called "momentous new truths." He has moved in the right direction by maintaining the connection between suffering and fall but the consensus of the "current mental environment" (55), which in this case he does accept, drives his answer as truly as it does the others.

You also believe I have been misleading in my discussion of Dembski's use of kairos. Yes, Dembski does see occasions where chronos and kairos intermingle and the one carries the substance of the other. On this issue, however, Dembski states, "Instead of conflating chronos and kairos as young earth creationism does, I propose to detach them." (Dembski 126) This is one of the major issues that drives his entire book and one of the weakest points of your review of my review. I hope you can imagine my bewilderment when you mounted such an argument against my credibility on this issue in saying, "He charges Dembski with moving Genesis 1 to the realm of kairos (God's time) and thus denying that the events there happened in chronos (ordinary space-time). But Dembski makes clear that kairos and chronos are not mutually exclusive and do indeed intersect. As he writes in chapter 16: 'When the visible and invisible realms intersect, kairos becomes evident within chronos. The creation of the world and the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity are the preeminent instances of this intersection' (126). Thus, to say that Genesis 1 happens in kairos is not to deny that it also happens in chronos." In fact, that is exactly what he does, exactly what he informs the reader that he intends to do, and summarizes himself as having done. Dembski says in "pellucid" style, "Given that God responds to human sin across time (both retroactively and proactively), there never was a chronological moment when the world we inhabit was without natural evil (or a disposition toward it; it is, for instance, not apparent how, at the moment of the Big Bang, the universe could have exhibited natural evil.)" You also assert in opposition to Dembski's own presentation, "God does not create a fallen world. God creates a good world. As Dembski emphasizes, its fallenness constitutes a subsequent corruption." Dembski, however, wrote, "Our world is dynamic and messy. There never was any other, so far as we are concerned. . . . To be sure, in the intentional-semantic logic by which God creates and organizes the world--not chronologically but kairologically--evil is always logically downstream. In that logic God creates a good world, it becomes even better once human are created, and then it goes haywire once humans sin. Seen chronologically, however, the world has always been haywire." (171, 172) This insistence by Dembski, and quoted in my review, makes your opposite insistence puzzling. "Thus, to say that Genesis 1 happens in kairos is not to deny that it also happens in chronos." Dembski denies it precisely.

You further seek to correct my presentation, "As the context of The End of Christianity validates and Dembski's own clarification statement below makes unambiguously clear, he accepts Genesis 1–11 (and thus Genesis 1 in particular) as happening in ordinary space-time. It therefore fundamentally misrepresents Dembski's position to claim, as Nettles does, that the days in Genesis 1 do not have any palpable existence." I am glad you have the benefit of the "clarification," not only on the flood, but on Genesis 1. As a "careful reader" I see this statement on Genesis 1 as a correction more than a clarification. You seem to think that that is the view he presented in the book. If you really think this, it is an egregious error. You completely missed Dembski's point. I paid careful attention to the progress of Dr. Dembski's argument in several pivotal chapters preceding his interpretation of Genesis 1-3. He would be disappointed if someone did not consider carefully how he builds his justification for his important exegetical chapter. He lays concept upon concept as he constructs a philosophical matrix from which he gives birth to his hermeneutic of reading those chapters kairologically. In "Creation as Double Creation" he summarized his point in his statement, "In particular, God could make the effects of the Fall evident in creation so that those effects, though attributable to the Fall, come temporally prior to it;" (110) and "He can respond to the Fall by changing not only the history that comes after it but also the history that comes before it" (112), and in "Moving the Particles," he writes in anticipation of his treatment of Genesis 1, "The lesson of this chapter, however, is that God can also get information into the world without moving particles," (121) meaning that the historical progress seemingly presented by the temporal relation of Genesis 1-3 is not necessary if we accept the concept of "double creation" and his presentation of information theory. Also important is his presentation of intentional-semantic logic as non-linear (132) and how that affects the "Infinite Dialectic" in which God's anticipatory actions are related to his purposes or priorities, "priority here conceived not temporally or causally [chronos] but in terms of the intentional-semantic logic [kairos] by which God orders the creation" (140, brackets and italics his). All of this serves his interpretive purpose stated clearly, "Genesis 1 is therefore not to be interpreted as ordinary chronological time (chronos) but rather as time from the vantage of God's purposes (kairos)" (142, parentheses and italics his). In other words, that is the world God would have created had he not anticipated the effects of the Fall. The Garden of Eden, segregated from the fallen world in Adam's and Eve's actual experience, allows Adam and Eve to experience what the world would have been but never was and at the same time phenomenologically to experience a fall from perfection and resultantly enter a fallen world (152-53). Now saying that Genesis 1 is "not to be interpreted as ordinary chronological time" and saying that Genesis 1-11 "happened in ordinary space-time" might be saying the same thing. It doesn't appear that way to me. Mine is not a fundamental misrepresentation, but the fundamental truth of Dembski's approach.

In light of all this, where you can find that Dembski accepts Genesis 1 as chronos in his book, I do not know. Of course, there is no doubt that he is "a realist about creation." That is not the point. What was actually created is the point, and what was actually created in chronological time was a fallen, dangerous, death-filled world. You have several paragraphs written in an attempt to make Dembski's view of kairological creation equal one of the eternal things that are unseen, while at the same time asserting the chronos of Genesis. Are you arguing that creation was an unseen eternal thing? God's purpose in creation would partially be in that category, but the result of the act of creation would not. Because I question this, you shift the "dangerous theological ground" to me by insinuating that my critique of Dembski means I don't believe in the imperishable and superior nature of eternal things as opposed to temporal. Let me assure you, as I do my own soul, that my hope is suspended on the Christ through whose completed redemptive work we are promised an inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled, that does not fade away reserved in heaven for those that are kept by the power of God through faith.

Also, in opposition to my view of the character of the animals that Adam named, your argument calls for a separate creation of a new race of docile submissive animals specifically for Adam's naming in the garden. If he were naming the animals of the original creation, according to Dembski, he was having blood-thirsty, carnivorous, fearful and fearsome creatures surround him for this exercise. Nothing in the text indicates that these animals were a distinct creation from those that God created on days five and six. It was "every beast of the field and bird of the heavens" that God had formed. In addition, the presence of a Garden does not mean that the rest of the world was undesirable and corrupt. A garden can exist of an especially appropriate environment for those made in the image of God while the rest of the world has differing degrees of glory for the habitat of the variety of both the plants and animals that inhabit it. God had different degrees of glory present in the creation from the beginning. Sun, moon and stars differ in glory; fish, birds and land animals differ in glory; angels and men differ in glory. Adam saw this difference in glory and knew that none of the other animate creatures was fit for him, leading to God's creation of woman. All of that which God made in the six days was unfallen. The placing of men in a garden is not an exegetical hint that the rest of the world is fallen.

You state, "but this attempt to disparage the distinction because it is associated with so heterodox a thinker as Tillich is clearly an unfair tactic." I do not disparage it because it is associated with Tillich. I doubt its validity because the New Testament evidence for it is nebulous at best and certainly does not warrant bearing the theological weight that Dembski places on it. You call my lexical work "fallacious" because "in certain contexts" the words may actually have "significantly different meanings." The examples I gave certainly are not exhaustive but are sufficiently representative to show that use of the distinction to build the kind of theological and exegetical edifice Dr. Dembski is attempting is the true fallacy, not my examples of verbal comparisons.

As for the "fallacy of guilt by association," I am not the one that introduced the association. I merely responded to Dembski's introduction of Tillich's distinction and lengthy quote of Tillich's explanation. It seems to me that Dembski wanted his readers to associate his kairological theologizing with Tillich's endorsement of that method. I did not go around fishing for a "heterodox" comparison, to use your word; it was provided for me with an invitation to draw the conclusion I drew. Tillich did indeed use the distinction in service of his radical existentialist approach to a Christianity which had no dependence on the historical existence of Jesus. Dembski's kairological enterprise perfectly fits in creation what Tillich did in Christology. It is not a "cheap shot" or an "unfair tactic" but an honest reading of Dembski's material. A careful reading of the book would not yield my comparison as "patently untrue," but as a sober interpretation as to why Dembski invited the comparison. You call my treatment "untrue" because, as shown above, you apparently do not understand how Dembski interprets the Genesis 1 creation narrative.

We should all be greatly encouraged that Dr. Dembski has publicly stated his reconsideration of the nature of the Genesis flood and has included his view of Genesis 1 as reflecting "ordinary space time." It will be interesting to see how this changed perspective works its way into his view of the chronos of Genesis 1, what that implies about the original condition of the whole world as God created it, and how that relates to the temporal relationship between the Fall and a cursed natural order.

Fraternally,


Tom J. Nettles



42 comments:

Mark | hereiblog said...

Tom,

Wow,that is some letter. Thanks for posting it. It is interesting to see these issues thought out and disagreements handled in a decent manner.

Russ Reaves said...

Tom, just curious ... Do you know if anyone intends to bring this up in the form of a motion or resolution at the sbc this year? It doesn't seem like an altogether different issue than the Elliott or Broadman cases. Here again we have a SBC seminary prof taking a nonliteral approach to Genesis, published by the SBC's literary arm, and being defended by the use of doublespeak. It seems to me that we either need to address it or else issue an apology for how the Elliott & Broadman cases were handled.

TheSaxonHus said...

I must say my head hurts. I read this far too early in the morning!

While I have not read the book, Dr. Nettle's review, or Dr. Allen's review of the review, I can say I have read Genesis 1-11 multiple times in light of the New Testament. Genesis 1 seems fairly straightforward to me and I accept it as special revelation from God. The "opinions" of natural science will not sway me from my understanding of Genesis.

Besides, "natural" science would tell me no one can rise from the dead.

Bruce Walker

Tom said...

Russ:

Others have raised similar questions. The issues certainly are serious enough that they need to be explored and not swept under the carpet or shrouded behind the fog of political posturing. I do not know of anyone who plans to bring this up at the convention.

Russ Reaves said...

I just found it ironic that the Elliott and Broadman cases are typically used as landmark events that set the stage for the Conservative Resurgence, and now one of the lead architects of the CR is defending Dembski's position. I haven't read the book yet, but B&H sent me a free copy as a result of some Twitter thing (a gift they may regret later). If Nettles is correct in his review (and I have full confidence that he is), then Dembski's doctrinal errors are at least as severe as the earlier two, regardless of the codewords he uses in his own defense. Inerrancy may be hard to define, but it is easy to spot its absence or corruption.

Corey said...

Awesome! I'm so glad that we have guys like Tom Nettles defending the Truth with such clarity of thought. Thank you so much for posting this here.

And as far as Russ' question, I would love to see someone bring this up at the convention. This IS a big deal. Sadly, so many have been educated by the godless state that they can't even see it as a problem. The world has given them the same "momentous new truths" that Dembski talks about. I can see most of them just shrugging and saying, "What's the big deal?" And here we go again...

James Hunt said...

It certainly does take a person with a PHD to become stupid enough to not believe the plain teaching of scripture. Geesh, makes me almost want to be a legalist again. But, alas, I will not. Thanks for posting Nettles' letter.

Ironic - Patterson defending such a professor's abherant theology.

Steven said...

A quote from Ravi Zacharias might be in order:

I remember lecturing at Ohio State University, one of the largest universities in this country. I was minutes away from beginning my lecture, and my host was driving me past a new building called the Wexner Center for the Performing Arts.

He said, “This is America’s first postmodern building.”

I was startled for a moment and I said, “What is a postmodern building?”

He said, “Well, the architect said that he designed this building with no design in mind. When the architect was asked, ‘Why?’ he said, ‘If life itself is capricious, why should our buildings have any design and any meaning?’ So he has pillars that have no purpose. He has stairways that go nowhere. He has a senseless building built and somebody has paid for it.”

I said, “So his argument was that if life has no purpose and design, why should the building have any design?”

He said, “That is correct.”

I said, “Did he do the same with the foundation?”

All of a sudden there was silence.

You see, you and I can fool with the infrastructure as much as we would like, but we dare not fool with the foundation because it will call our bluff in a hurry. <>

It seems to me that Dr. Dembski has been fooling with the foundation of sola scriptura. At least it appears that Dr. Nettles is making that point.

James Hunt said...

Okay...I wasn't so nice in my above post. I just tire of the same compromise theories of creation being re-packaged and promoted by those who won't take the Word of God at face value in this area. In my opinion (which is worth little, I know), such attempts are eisegetical theorizing. Why not just simply believe scripture as it is presented? Why anacronistically impose upon the text what is not there?

I went to SWBTS back in the mid-90's for about a year. Began my M.Div there and earned 28 hours. I left seminary. Why? Because of things taught such as compromise theories of creation. Granted, if I had to do it all over again I'd stay and spit out the bones and keep the good parts; however, I am also a lot older and more set in my theology than I was back then. Sad to see that the school is still allowing for this fallacious interpretation of the creation account to be taught.

Come on, Dr. Patterson!

Brent Hobbs said...

This exchange is a great reminder to never get in a debate with Dr. Nettles! :)

That said, this does not come close to the problems with Ralph Elliott or the Broadman Commentary. Dr. Dembski was even willing to backtrack in some areas he went too far and correct himself.

Calls for action to be taken over this are over the top, IMO.

Greg Welty said...

I have lots of views on lots of topics raised by this exchange. But let me say something that is very important: the idea that Dembski rejects inerrancy is ridiculous. Just read his chapter 8, where he defends the distinction between inerrancy and hermeneutics. "Although the truth of Scripture is inviolable, our interpretations of it are not. The history of biblical interpretation simply does not support that a well-established interpretation of Scripture should always trump alternative interpretations. In fact, the history of biblical interpretation includes cases where interpretations of Scripture once universally held were later abandoned -- and for scientific reasons no less!" He goes on to discuss geocentrism and Ps 93. (He could have added Ps 19, and Joshua 10.)

That is to say, there's a difference between someone saying, 'Genesis 1 is true, but I have a different interpretation of it than you,' and saying, 'Genesis 1 has errors, and so I don't follow its teaching.' Dembski is clearly in the former camp. In addition, Dembski's views are fully in accord with the BFM 2000, which only refers to the special creation of man, not the age of the earth or the chronological placement of natural evil with respect to the fall.

Dembski's interpretation of Gen 1 is open to challenge (as is the interpretation of his detractors). The reasons for Dembski's interpretation of Gen 1 are also open to challenge (as is any uninspired, scholarly study). But after years of working with the man, and reading his stuff, I can assure you: he doesn't take the view he takes because he rejects inerrancy. This is a red herring being inserted into the dialogue by some commenters here, and was not an issue raised by Nettles in his original review. Nettles' concern is that Dembski's interpretation of Gen 1 is overly-driven by the conclusions of modern science, that his view does not have "positive exegetical foundation," and that, in general, his interpretation of Gen 1 is implausible. In short, for multiple reasons, Nettles finds it very hard to see how Dembski's interpretation could be the right one. But Nettles has not accused Dembski of asserting or even implying that Gen 1 has errors in it.

If the fundamental distinction between inerrancy and hermeneutics has fallen on hard times in the Southern Baptist Convention, then there simply is no basis for gospel cooperation among us, since our differences in interpreting various passages are legion. We are one in our commitment to inerrancy. We are one in our commitment to those doctrines enshrined in the BFM 2000. We are not one in our interpretation of passages to which the BFM 2000 does not directly speak. Let's not make this current disagreement more serious than it already is, as that is not helpful to anyone.

Ironically, in battles of this sort, the first casualty is truth, especially speaking the truth about the participants involved. I could go on, but I'll stop now. I felt I needed to pipe up. Full disclosure: Dembski's office door is about two feet away from mine.

James Tippins said...

Off specific topic, when is the SBC going to deal with the lack of scriptural integrity and gospel application with their quarterly materials for Sunday School?

Amazing, just amazing...

Nathan said...

It is possible some might accuse Dr. Welty of defending his colleague Dr. Dembski out of some professional interest. Well unlike Dr. Welty, I do not teach at SWBTS. I'm on faculty at Southeastern Seminary, so I cannot be accused of having a professional interest in what happens at SWBTS. (Though as an individual Southern Baptist, I certainly care about what happens at all of our seminaries and other agencies.) I think Dr. Welty is correct in his distinction between inerrancy and hermeneutics.

Whether or not Dr. Dembski's views are correct or not is up for debate, but the brother affirms inerrancy and the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Ralph Elliott and G. Henton Davies (the latter authored the first volume of the Broadman Bible Commentary) both denied biblical inerrancy. Their situation was fundamentally different than Dembski's.

If the BF&M codified a particular interpretation of the age of the earth (like it does for, say, women in pastoral ministry) then Dr. Dembski could be in trouble. But the BF&M doesn't argue for a young earth creation (or an old earth creation, for that matter). It never has. In fact, an amendment to that effect was rejected by messengers in 1925. The SBC has never mandated belief in a young earth creation. So long as a professor (or other denominational servant) affirms special creation (including that of humanity) and rejects macroevolution, he is within the bounds of our confessional orthodoxy.

While it is totally appropriate for Dr. Nettles to engage Dr. Dembski's book (and for Drs. Allen, Patterson, and Dembski to respond to that engagement), it is not appropriate to argue that Dr. Dembski's views represent a rejection of inerrancy. Scrutinize his interpretations--he has made them public. But don't accuse him of being something he is not because you disagree with his interpretations.

In the interest of full disclosure, I write this as someone who is unconvinced of Dr. Dembski's interpretation, yet believes it is fully within the bounds of orthodoxy. The book is well worth reading.

NAF

Russ Reaves said...

Perhaps it would have been better if I had chosen to emphasize what appears to be a deficient view of the sufficiency and perspicuity of Scripture, which to me, are closely bound up with the idea of inerrancy. Given Dembski's acknowledgment of an inerrant text, the question should be, "Is Scripture clear, and is it enough?" Nettles accuses Dembski of elevating general revelation above specific revelation, and I don't find Nettles specifically recanting that charge in his response. Don't worry about me -- I have no plans to bring it up at the SBC, but others may. As I said before, I haven't read the book, and would never go further than informal dialog with my brothers unless I had. I do believe that we have developed quite a bit of wiggle room in our modern understanding of inerrancy, and that therefore the current broader debate needs to be focused more on sufficiency and perspicuity.

Tom said...

Greg, Nathan and Brent:

Thanks for your comments and helping to keep the responses here from running afield. Dembski's views certainly are worthy of careful analysis and even debate. No doubt he fully intended that when he published them. I would guess that he would welcome the kind of substantive review that Nettles' gave of his book.

What I find fascinating and somewhat alarming is the response that Nettles' review evoked. In both tone and accuracy Allen missed the mark. Having his review of Nettles' review and Nettles' response side by side demonstrates two significantly different approaches to theological discourse and analysis.

James Hunt said...

Mr. Reaves said, "the question should be, "Is Scripture clear, and is it enough?""

Exactly the issue.

Greg Welty said...

"Perhaps it would have been better if I had chosen to emphasize what appears to be a deficient view of the sufficiency and perspicuity of Scripture, which to me, are closely bound up with the idea of inerrancy... I do believe that we have developed quite a bit of wiggle room in our modern understanding of inerrancy, and that therefore the current broader debate needs to be focused more on sufficiency and perspicuity."

Russ,

Let me try to address some of your concerns from a historical perspective.

The BFM 2000 contains no doctrine about the perspicuity or clarity of Scripture. For some reason, it didn't make the cut. However, this doctrine *is* articulated in earlier, Reformed confessions (whether of the Baptist or Presbyterian stripe). For instance:

"All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them." (1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, I.7; identical wording in WCF I.7)

Notice that this doctrine is not a global doctrine of clarity (all things in Scripture are clear), but a restricted doctrine of clarity, pertaining to "those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation." Presumably, believing in a young earth or an old earth is not necessary for salvation.

Perhaps there is a sizable group of Christians that has historically confessed a *global* doctrine of Scriptural clarity, and thereby claimed that everything in Scripture is clear. But I haven't found any such group. Maybe God put the Book of Revelation in Scripture to ward us off from this view ;-)

Again, speaking historically, I don't see how "sufficiency and perspicuity... are closely bound up with the idea of inerrancy." For instance, the BFM affirms that the Bible is totally trustworthy, but it contains no statement on sufficiency or perspicuity. Significantly enough, neither does the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy. In addition, the Chicago Statement explicitly endorses the distinction between inerrancy and interpretation in its section, "Infallibility, Inerrancy, Interpretation."

Now, some claims in the Chicago Statement might look troublesome for Dembski. For instance: "We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood" (Article XII). But I think I know how Dembski would respond: that he is overturning one popular *interpretation* of Genesis, and offering in its place his alternative interpretation of the teaching of Scripture. In no way is he saying, "Well, modern science shows us that the earth is old. Guess we need to reject the teaching of Genesis 1!" On the contrary, the whole rationale of his book is that modern science does not overturn the teaching of Scripture. Indeed, in ch. 8 he strenuously argues that it cannot do so.

Christopher said...

As a student at SWBTS currently, and knowing Dr. Dembski through his writings and as my professor, I have to thank Dr. Welty for clarifying Dr. D's position. I have not read his new book but I know Dr. D pushes the envelope and my understanding has been challenged at times but I welcome his scientific background and my understanding being pushed. I would encourage you all to allow this as well. I am sure Dr. Nettles has no less done the same.

This issue is in no way on the same level as Elliot. Knowing Dr. D through our class discussions, his views are extremely conservative. Indeed, he repeatedly stated that he wanted to see theology as the "queen of the sciences" again, guiding all of our disciplines.

I think if we were honest, most of us would admit that we don't have the scientific background to really understand half of what he says. Nettles has done a great job of getting to the heart and challenging Dembski on a crucial point. I am glad for the dialogue and I think we should create an atmosphere that allows for such interpretations of Genesis. If this is about "new earth" vs "old earth" being accepted Baptist orthodoxy, we are going to see many of our respected Christian scientists, mathmeticians, etc. abandon our fellowship if we cannot allow for an old earth.

Dr. James Willingham said...

It seems that Dr. Nettles made a careful and thoughtful review of Dembski's work (this is said without having read the work in question). One, therefore, wonders at the upset at SWBTS over what he wrote. After all, if the author accepts the ancient earth thesis due to present day science, then the more consevative elements which Dr. Patterson and others have represented in the past three decades needs to reassess the parameters of their precepts for fellowship and cooperation. While I hold to the YEC, I am open to the other view due to the present state of science (which is really a paradigm of a flawed scintific method, something that most science educators seem to know). We really need to work out a broader perspective for cooperation (one that ensures orthodoxy while allowing less than orthodox views to be subjected to the process of give and take in public debate until the errors are obvious enough to let adherents set their ideas aside for something better). Mr. Patterson and his coterie are now going to have to retrench as they are the ones with a problem; they are the ones who need to deal with what others prceive as a departure from orthdoxy. I say this not to put them on the spot (they have aready done that to themslves), but to get every one to thinking about how we might better address our differences in a way that ensures prevalence and success to the truth, while showing how error can be recognized and avoided. My training in mediation, counseling, theology, and history suggests that this can be done. Shall we let the so-called liberals out do us? I refer to the reconciliation commission of South Africa as a case in point which, though it might have acoomplished little, yet stands as a beacon of hope. And we have motivation for such an undertaking in the 10,000 plus foreign and home missionaries which bids fair to succumb to the split of the moderates and conservatives along with further fragmenting and splintering on various other theological and practical issues. The intellectual nature of the challenge with the concomitants of biblical precepts about loving one's enemies and etc. offers an opportunity to our people to display a remarkable degree of compassion and love before a watching world which just might be helpful in the evangelizing of the same.

creationin6days said...

The only "facts" that we can know for sure are true and without error are found only in the special revelation of God's Word. Scientific conclusions come into existence in the context of a cursed creation. As a result, it would be foolish to place science at the same level of authority as God's revealed Word. This is especially true when we are talking about the Origins issue. In this case you have a cursed mind, looking through cursed eyes, at a cursed present creation in an attempt to figure out the past. This kind of science (historical science) cannot be tested or repeated. As a result its conclusions are merely the philosophical/theological/metaphysical musings of scientists, a scientific creation story with the scientists playing the part of God.

As a result, if a person places science at an equal or usually higher level of authority than scripture, they have committed an act of idolatry. They have put the word of man in authority over the Word of God. They have bowed down to men as if they were God and attempted to kick God off of His throne regarding truth.

How would this hermeneutic of using science to interpret scripture affect other doctrines?

If science is allowed to be used to interpret God's Word, then the first time somebody proposes the existence of a gene for homosexuality, suddenly we would have to say homosexuality is no longer a sin. Some other scientist then comes out with a study that determines that polygamy and fornication are natural in animals and since we are just a more evolved animal it should be normal for us as well. Then another scientist says we have more proof against the Resurrection of Jesus than we have against Genesis chapter 1 because we have never observed anyone rise from the dead. When people die, they are dead, buried, decompose, and return to the earth. Suddenly we have lost both the doctrine of the Resurrection and eternal life itself.

The creation issue is actually a litmus test for orthodoxy because it exposes a person's hermeneutics and their views on the doctrines of the inerrancy, authority, clarity, and sufficiency of scripture. Without these doctrines, the foundations of our faith are shattered and all we are left with is a truly blind faith.

I am not saying that we should put everyone who does not believe in the young earth position under church discipline. What I am saying is that if we love the truth, we must treat (Old Earth Creationism/Theistic Evolution/Genesis is an allegory etc...) as false teaching. As a result, we must publicly tear down this stronghold of Satan and prevent people from teaching this false idolatrous hermeneutic in our churches.

Roy Hargrave said...

We are not being shoved off the cliff by such speculative elements as provided by Dembski’s postulations, but if we are not somewhat skeptical of such; we are inching our way in that direction.

I’m reminded of the 18th Century’s heated debate over the free-will issue that soon subsided, to a great extent, due to Jonathan Edward’s work, “Freedom of the Will.”

In like manner I am personally grateful that God’s mercy has bestowed upon Dr. Nettles’ the mind as well as the discipline to defend the faith, which is solely based on biblical revelation. How can we now deny what we’ve stood for these many years? “Sola Scriptura!”

James Hunt said...

Mr. Welty, you said, "Perhaps there is a sizable group of Christians that has historically confessed a *global* doctrine of Scriptural clarity, and thereby claimed that everything in Scripture is clear."

Okay...I get your point. But with all due respect, I am not saying that all things are equally clear in scripture...however, there are some things that are clear. I believe that in the Genesis 1 creation account we have an example of such clarity on matters such as the following things:

1. God created
2. God created in days (these are presented in the text in a plain reading as simple, 24 hour days, correct?)
3. God created in 6 days and rested (ceased creating) on the 7th
4. God made all things good - and man was very good
5. God made man in his image as the crowning point of his creation

Another thing that is abundantly clear in scripture is that death came through sin. It never hints at death in any form coming prior to sin. To say that death in any form or by any means entered into the world prior to the Genesis 3 fall is to impose an anachronistic theory as a hermeneutical grid into holy writ. How can this be otherwise true?

Perhaps we ought to just accept all things that are clearly presented in scripture just as they are? Perhaps we should let the scientific community laugh at us because we are too simple...too unsophisticated?

Respectfully disagreeing with you on this point.

James

Corey said...

A hearty "Amen!" to creationin6days' comment.

Dembski's book and hermeneutic seem to me to be just one big long "Did God really say...?"

Russ Reaves said...

There have been some great truths exchanged on both sides of this discussion here, and for that we should all be grateful. I want to thank Brother Tom for providing a forum for this kind of "iron sharpening iron." Thanks to those who have interacted with the statements I have posted here. We ought to always be thankful for any dialogue that mutually helps us arrive at a deeper grasp of truth.

Greg Welty said...

creationin6days,

I agree that "it would be foolish to place science at the same level of authority as God's revealed Word." But no one is proposing that. As Dembski's book explains (have you read it?), "Although the truth of Scripture is inviolable, our interpretations of it are not." The Word of God is infallible, and its truth cannot be corrected or revised by anything. But our interpretations of that infallible Word are themselves fallible. Now, there is an important debate as to whether we should allow our interpretation of natural revelation to have *any say at all* in our interpretation of special revelation. It seems to me that the hardline position here – no influence at all – is indefensible, given our approach to Ps 19, Ps 93, Joshua 10, and other texts. After all, it is not Scripture that leads us to interpret those texts phenomenologically rather than realistically, but our rejection of geocentrism and Ptolemaic astronomy. Pre-Copernican Christian commentaries on these texts will confirm this point.

That said, it is certainly possible for someone to allow his interpretation of natural revelation to have *far too much* influence on his interpretation of God's Word. I think this is one of Nettles' central concerns. But as far as I can tell, no party to the discussion is proposing that we "place science at the same level of authority as God's revealed Word." That charge doesn't make the proper distinction between God's Word itself (which is infallible, and not open to correction), and our interpretations of God's Word (which is fallible, and is open to correction).

"Scientific conclusions come into existence in the context of a cursed creation." Yes, but the same can be said of theological conclusions and biblical interpretations: they are set forth by fallen men who labor in the context of a cursed creation. God's Spirit has guaranteed that His written Word comes to us free from error. He does not similarly guarantee that our interpretations of that Word are always free from error.

"As a result, if a person places science at an equal or usually higher level of authority than scripture, they have committed an act of idolatry." On the contrary, it would be idolatry to regard our interpretations of God's word as immune to revision and free from correction. Contrary to the Roman Catholic church, there is no infallible magisterium, and we are at best fallible interpreters of an infallible Word.

"How would this hermeneutic of using science to interpret scripture affect other doctrines?" I don't know. Do you believe that the sun races from one end of the heavens to the other every day? Do you believe that the earth doesn't move? Do you believe the sun literally stopped in Joshua 10? If not, why not?

"If science is allowed to be used to interpret God's Word, then the first time somebody proposes the existence of a gene for homosexuality, suddenly we would have to say homosexuality is no longer a sin." Why would we say that? That would be a fallacious inference, and we shouldn't be in the business of accepting fallacious inferences. Quite apart from scientific considerations, the BFM 2000 states that the sons of Adam "inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin" (Ch. III). Would confessing that theological truth mean that 'suddenly we would have to say' that "homosexuality" is *not* one of the "forms of sexual immorality" (Ch. XV)? The BFM has already rejected your slippery slope argument on this point, and for good reason: it would preempt the biblical teaching on original sin. You did not (personally) choose to inherit a nature inclined toward sin. Nevertheless, you are responsible for the sins you commit with that nature.

Greg Welty said...

James Hunt,

"I believe that in the Genesis 1 creation account we have an example of such clarity on matters such as the following things…"

Right. I understand this view. I have great sympathy with it. If you'll reread my earlier comments, I think you'll find that I never endorse Dembski's reading of Genesis 1 as the most plausible or defensible view. However, Dembski *has* given arguments on this point, so I don't think it's fair to just ignore his arguments and declare that he's wrong. My purpose in entering this discussion has been twofold: to respond to charges that (i) Dembski's reading of Genesis 1 involves a rejection of inerrancy, and that (ii) Dembski is rejecting the doctrines of the sufficiency and clarity of Scripture, as those doctrines have been historically formulated. I do not mean to also contend that (iii) Genesis 1 is unclear, or that (iv) Dembski's reading of Genesis 1 is the most defensible one.

There's *lots* of room for open debate and discussion on (iii) and (iv), and I think Dembski's book invites this. You bring up important considerations in this regard. But I think that that (necessary) debate is only hindered if we saddle Dembski with (i) and (ii) as well.

Chris said...

When we speak of the Bible containing the only "facts" we can trust, just what are we saying here? I understand placing special revelation (Scripture) over natural revelation, but I am confused by the language which seems to state that the Bible is our only source of truth and that no truth discovered outside of it can be trusted. All other "truth" is up for interpretation. Do we really believe this?

geekforgreek said...

I think this whole debate would be helped with a dose of John Frame's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God.

Corey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gospelandgrace said...

I may be missing part of the point but I don't think the point of the debate is Dr. Dembski's interpretation of Gen 1 -3. I too am a "young earther" and think that he has missed the mark. I also have to say the the hermeneutical gymnastics you must perform to have the effects of the fall manifest billions of years before the fall ought to win him a gold medal in the "Pretzel Logic Olympics".
That being said, it is clear that though many of us would not hold to an old earth it is certainly within the tent of orthodox interpretations of Gen 1-3.
I picked up a copy of the book today, have just started reading it but did notice that it was endorsed by many "heavy weight and popular" folks such as J.P. Moreland, Josh McDowell and Hank Hannegraff.

What I take issue with in this whole exchange is not Dr. Dembski's ideas or Dr. Nettles review, rather it is Dr. Allen's review of the review. It strikes me that he is offended that Dr. Dembski's book was not met with fanfare and parades by Dr. Nettles. I may have misinterpreted him but it seemed as if he had to prove Dr. Nettles wrong in all of his concerns for some reason. I will admit that I have a small bias or skepticism when it comes to Dr. Allen due to what I thought were some very ugly comments about Calvinists in the SBC surrounding the John 3:16 Conference. To be honest I see that same spirit in this review of Dr. Nettles review. Again I may be wrong but it strikes me that Dr. Allen and by extension Dr. Patterson (since he initiated the review of the review) simply cannot tolerate those who disagree with them if they are outside the SWBTS community.
I found Dr. Nettles response to the review of his review to be on point, gracious and of a humble spirit - quite the opposite that I think is routinely coming from SWBTS.
I had considered Southwestern for my MDiv once I retire fromt he military but am increasingly being drawn elsewhere due to these types of responses.

creationin6days said...

Hi Everyone,

The main point that I'm trying to make was that we need to let the Bible speak for itself. Only a grammatical historical interpretation of the Bible gives us the most accurate information regarding the text.
Whatever the Bible says on any given topic even when it relates to astronomy, biology, chemistry etc... is correct regardless of the "science" because the Author is God.
Regarding truth. Yes there are "facts" that are true that are not found in Scripture. But we can't be 100% certain they are true because they were not derived from God's special revelation. On the other hand we can be 100% certain about the facts that are presented in Scripture. When using a grammatical historical approach, the right interpretations for most texts are extremely clear.
To answer Greg Weltly's comments regarding seemingly difficult texts about the sun going around the Earth or the sun standing still etc... For all of the passages that I am aware of regarding issues such as these, there are a variety of contextual reasons and allowing for miracles that would allow us to arrive at a correct interpretation without putting science in authority over God's Word.
In the end, the use of "Science", our culture, personal experience etc... to interpret God's Word is to be guilty of committing the sin of "pride of knowledge" where we think us mere humans know better than God.
In the end we must stick to what God says. Everything else is potential false teaching.

Christopher said...

Just to acknowledge Tom's original question: I think Dr. Nettles' tone is the example to follow in this type of exchange. We should be as respectful as possible and Dr. Nettles has come accross as that in both his initial review and his response to the review of the review (!).

Creationin6days: Historical Grammatical method is a scientific approach to the study of a text. The results of it are never beyond critical review. Natural Revelation, as I understand it, is God's revelation of Himself through the order of nature aka creation. Laws such as gravity or 2+2=4, I believe we can trust 100%. Scripture testifies to the natural order on more than one occasion and if what I understand Romans 1 to say--that all men know there is a God based on this natural testimony and that they stand condemned bc they still don't believe--to argue that man can't trust the facts of nature gets dangerous. I want to challenge you with that. Maybe you or someone else has a better way of understanding this than I.

Tom said...

gospelandgrace,

I think you have refocused the conversation on the primary issue, here. And Christopher, I share your concern that theological discourse be patterned after the Nettles model rather than the Allen model.

Will said...

Won't heaven be sweet....?

....No more of this nonsense.

I really believe that folks who live and breath in the academic world of seminary are very similar to their secular counterparts....they have lost touch with what is really important.

Tired of it all in Cedar Hill Tx

Will

Joshua Owen said...

I'm about 65 pages into The End of Christianity. I find it interesting that Dembski wants us to ask if Creation Science would argue for a young earth if it weren't for a plain-sense reading of Gen 1, while he has no problem articulating an old earth interpretation of Gen 1 based on his acceptance of predominant geological and astronomical dating.

He wrote, A good reality check in such discussions is to ask yourself what age you would estimate if you didn't feel the need to square the age of the earth with a young-earth interpretation of Gen 1-11. p. 61

I wonder how many scientists have wanted to ask him a similar question, simply pushing the line a little further back to Gen 1.1. A good reality check in such discussions is to ask yourself, would you be arguing for intelligent design if you didn't feel the need to square the origins of the universe/human life with a Creator.

Of course we feel the need to reconcile our understanding of the world to our best understanding of Scripture; much like Dembski's convert who wrote in the forward, Unlike this geologist, I couldn't live in parallel universes, one old and one young. p. xv

After reading the first few chapters of the book, it seems that Dr. Allen was misleading to suggest that Dembski does not accept the current mental environment, but merely wants to speak a relevant word to those who do. While I would agree that he does not uncritically accept all that scientific academia sends down the pipe, he seems fairly well convinced of certain conclusions of his mental environment that drives his reading of Gen 1-11.

The book is clearly written (if you can set aside the confusion introduced by the review of Dr. Nettle's review). So far, I haven't found it so technical that the arguments are beyond me, as one comment above suggested. I appreciate Dr. Dembski for writing on a scientific layman's level.

Josh

The Pilgrim said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Steve Cowan said...

creationinsixdays said:
"The main point that I'm trying to make was that we need to let the Bible speak for itself. Only a grammatical historical interpretation of the Bible gives us the most accurate information regarding the text."

This comment allows another point to be added to the excellent ones that Greg Welty has alreayd made concerning what I (at least) consider the naivete of some of the young-earthers here. In their zeal to avoid "letting science interpret the Bible", they forget (as Greg has pointed out) that we all do it already with Ps.93, Josh. 10, etc. But, they also don't see the inconsistency in their uncritical adoption of "historical-grammatical exegesis". We are all taught in hermeneutics class, are we not, that we need to make sure that we take into consideration the historical background to any text before we can be sure we have got th right interpretation. But isn't history just as much a fallible human discipline as science? Why, if it is wrong to "let science interpret the Bible", do we have no trouble letting history interpret the Bible? Why do the conclusions of historians allow us to make pronouncements about the meaning of a text, but the pronouncements of a scientist carry no weight at all? I may not agree with every point of Dembski's book, but one thing he has got right and we all need to hear it: strong scientific evidence can and should be allowed to overturn cherished interpretations of the Bible, even if it is painful and even if it means we have to adopt interpretations that may not be as "straightforward" and obvious as those cherished interpretations. We have done it before (in the move from geocentrism to heliocentrism), and we can do it again when the situation warrants it. Afer reading Dembski's critique of young earth science, I for one think that the situation may warrant it now (I said "may" not "does"--I'm still thinking about it).

Bill said...

Interesting take on this debate. My first impression was that I was heartened that two young earthers would defend the rights of an old earther to believe and publish what he did. As a Calvinist and an old-earther, it is nice to see that at least some people (this comment stream notwithstanding) think that there is room for folks in the SBC who don't interpret all of Genesis literally.

Pastor Bob Farmer said...

Certainly there are differences of interpretation between evangelical believers. Though I am of a young earth persuasion, I don't castigate old earthers as long as they are teaching a definite creation and not an evolutionary process. However, I shouldn't need to remind the good doctors who have opined above that there are rules for interpretation. Maybe Dembski just needs a good hermeneutics class. After all, Genesis is history not parable (Genesis 2:4).

Pastor Bob Farmer said...

One more little tidbit... we "theologians", and I use the term of myself only with regards that I am unworthy to tie the shoes of any of the good professors at Southwestern and with the understanding that one of my church members is under your tutelage at my recommendation, need to remember that Theology is the Queen of the sciences and the natural sciences must bow to her not the other way around. Only a very unsound theologian can come up with a run on sentence like that...

Steve Cowan said...

Bob Farmer said...
"Theology is the Queen of the sciences and the natural sciences must bow to her not the other way around."

Yes, indeed, sir. But, the good Queen ignores her handmaid (philosophy) and her other counselors (science, history, etc.) only at her grave peril!

Shawn said...

Just to be clear, you can take the text of Gen. 1 literally and still find an old universe and earth. The text does not preclude it.