Monday, December 22, 2008

Change of Mind -- Huge!

Some new news to reach my ears/eyes. The change of mind (both theologically and scientifically) of R.C. Sproul is a joyful event in my mind’s eye.

Biblical Archaeology:

RC Sproul is a well-known evangelical scholar who has authored some 60 books and produced an enormous selection of other resources such as audio tapes and videos. According to Ligonier Ministries, founded by Dr Sproul, he has degrees from Westminster College, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and the Free University of Amsterdam. Further, he has an extensive teaching career at seminaries and colleges, including Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando and Jackson, Mississippi, and Knox Theological Seminary in Ft. Lauderdale.

Recently RC Sproul published a three-volume layman’s guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith entitled Truths We Confess.

His treatment of creation within the first volume especially caught my attention because he says he has changed his position from what he held for most of his teaching career. He says that he is now a six-day, young-earth creationist.

Creation on the Web:

Sproul discusses the four main approaches that evangelical academics have taken concerning Genesis: 1) the gap theory, 2) the day-age theory, 3) the framework hypothesis, and 4) six-day creation. (p. 122 [of: Truths We Confess: A layman’s guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, Volume I: The Triune God]) ....

Concerning the gap theory Sproul says:

However, Scripture nowhere explicitly teaches that the original creation was marred and then after many years, reconstituted. The broader context of the whole of Scripture militates against the gap theory. (p. 123)

Neither does it solve the conflict with ‘science’. He also dismisses the day-age theory:

However, the day-age theory, like the gap theory, ignores the immediate context, as well as the larger biblical context. … From a literary, exegetical, and linguistic perspective, the day-age theory is weak. As a Christian apologist, I would not want to defend it. (p. 123)

The day-age theory does not resolve the conflict with ‘science’ either. Regarding the framework hypothesis, Sproul says:

[T]he framework hypothesis allows one to step into a Big Bang cosmology while maintaining the credibility and inspiration of Genesis 1–2. This is not history, but drama. The days are simply artistic literary devices to create a framework for a lengthy period of development. (p. 127)

It’s an attractive idea for those who think Genesis is untenable in the light of modern scientific knowledge. It avoids the issue. But Sproul concludes:

For most of my teaching career, I considered the framework hypothesis to be a possibility. But I have now changed my mind. I now hold to a literal six-day creation, the fourth alternative and the traditional one. Genesis says that God created the universe and everything in it in six twenty-four–hour periods. According to the Reformation hermeneutic, the first option is to follow the plain sense of the text. One must do a great deal of hermeneutical gymnastics to escape the plain meaning of Genesis 1–2. The confession makes it a point of faith that God created the world in the space of six days. [emphasis in original, indicating these words are part of the Confession] (pp. 127–128)

Note his use of the words ‘traditional’ and ‘escape’. Why try to escape the plain meaning of Scripture as traditionally accepted? As Sproul previously indicated, it is to avoid conflict with the dominant scientific view of evolution over millions of years, which is mistakenly regarded as fact. Significantly, Sproul includes some important scientific evidence for a young earth to dispel this misconception....

The question becomes this... what was the vehicle that changed R.C. Sproul’s mind. He was asked this in fact by Doug Philips of Vision Forum. Here is a brief discussion of this conversation:

When I ran into Dr. R.C. Sproul at a conference in Nashville earlier this year, I asked him to share the reasons for his relatively recent conversion to six-day creationism. His answer was simple: "Doug Kelly's Creation and Change." I was not surprised. For more than five years, I have been using this same book to convince Christian skeptics that only the six, twenty-four-hour day, creationist position is biblically acceptable and scientifically valid. Using clear language and impeccable exegesis, Professor Douglas Kelly argues for a literal interpretation of Creation found in Genesis chapters 1 and 2 and assesses both the biblical details and the scientific data. He demonstrates that a literal view of Genesis was the overwhelming consensus of scholars and theologians for more than two thousand years, and that the change in theology has only resulted from an accommodation to modern evolutionary presuppositions. Creation and Change: Genesis 1:1-2:4 in the Light of Changing Scientific Paradigms, is a paperback, 272 pages in length.

Welcome to the fold Dr. Sproul. This reminds me of a conversion in thought for a well known evolutionist, which demands a re-post of an old essay:

Two Ways To Look At Origins

My Main Premise: Science, with a philosophical naturalist presupposition isn’t science, it is faith.

I will elucidate: The following interview was held with Dean Kenyon, the professor of biology at the University of San Francisco University, who was for many years a staunch evolutionist; he wrote the book Biochemical Predestination (McGraw-Hill, 1969), which was the best-selling advanced level university textbook on chemical evolution during the decade of the 1970’s. One of Dean Kenyon’s students gave him a copy of a book written by Dr. A. E. Wilder-Smith (who holds three earned doctorates) entitled The Creation of Life: A Cybernetic Approach to Evolution. In this book by Dr. Wilder, Dean Kenyon’s book is critiqued.

Instead of Kenyon saying – “Well, Dr. Wilder is just a creationist, who would listen to him?” – Dr. Kenyon read the book and tried to answer the arguments in it against his own book. When he couldn’t, he began to investigate where the evidence led to. It ended up leading outside of his previously held naturalistic presuppositions commonly known as evolution.

One of the questions asked of Dr. Kenyon in the before mentioned interview was: “What are the general presuppositions that scientists make who study the origin of life?” Dr. Kenyon responded:

“Well, I think there are two general kinds of presuppositions that people can make, one is that life, in fact, did arise naturalistically on the primitive earth by some kind of chemical evolutionary process.

“The second presupposition would be that life may or may not have arisen by a naturalistic, chemical process.

“Now, if you have the first presupposition, then the goal of your research is to work out plausible pathways of chemical development to go to the bio-polymers, then to the protocells; and what would be likely pathways that you could demonstrate in the laboratory by simulation experiment.

“If you have the second presupposition, your still going to be doing experiments, but you’re going to be more open to the possibility that the data, as they [it] come[s] in from those studies may actually be suggesting a different explanation of origins altogether.”

This is what the fervor was over in Kansas a few years back. The Kansas Board leaving microevolution mandatory, but making the teaching of macroevolution optional (for the local districts discretion); the part that caused the biggest “stir” was changing one word in a definition. The original drafting commission defined science as:

“Science is the human activity of seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us.”

The Kansas Board defined science as:

“Science is the human activity of seeking logical explanations for what we observe in the world around us.”

This simple word change, and the subsequent fervor it caused, illustrates the embedded philosophy in current science (i.e., materialism, empiricism, existentialism, naturalism, and humanism – whatever you want to call it… it is still a metaphysical position as it assumes or presumes certain things about the entire universe).

This is what caused Richard Lewontin to plainly state (Dr. Lewontin is a geneticist and professor of biology at Harvard University):

“We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories; because we have a priori commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

Plain and simple, this is not science, but a philosophical/metaphysical paradigm. I will illustrate with another example. The Miller experiment – which was proposed on the basis of a hypothetical atmosphere – has been disproven by the evidence that the early atmosphere was not reducing. Unfortunately, like many other doctrines, it too still graces our universities and textbooks as being experimentally sound. This study is still cited not for empirical (evidential) reasons; but rather, for methodological necessity. In other words:

If molecular oxygen had been present (even a tenth-of-one-percent of today’s percentage), then chemical evolution could not have happened. Therefore, molecular oxygen must have been absent; because we know that chemical evolution happened.

Another way to explain this obvious philosophical outlook that dresses itself in drag/science is that of a conversation between a professor and his student:

Professor: “Miracles are impossible Papa_Giorgio, don’t you know science has disproven them, how could you believe in them [i.e., answered prayer, a man being raised from the dead, Noah’s Ark, and the like].”

Student: “for clarity purposes I wish to get some definitions straight. Would it be fair to say that science is generally defined as ‘the human activity of seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us’?”

Professor: “Beautifully put, that is the basic definition of science in every text-book I read through my Doctoral journey.”

Student: “Wouldn’t you also say that a good definition of a miracle would be ‘and event in nature caused by something outside of nature’?”

Professor: “Yes, that would be an acceptable definition of ‘miracle.’”

Student: “But since you do not believe that anything outside of ‘nature’ exists [materialism, dialectical materialism, empiricism, existentialism, naturalism, and humanism – whatever you wish to call it], you are ‘forced’ to conclude that miracles are impossible”

(Norman L. Geisler & Peter Bocchino, Unshakeable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions About the Christian Faith. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House (2001), pp. 63-64).

So an honest “atheist” [philosophical naturalist] would realize that his position is philosophical / presuppositional (presuppose – to suppose or assume beforehand; take for granted in advance), and not rationally nor logically defensible. Plato was right, “atheism is a disease of the soul before it is an error of the mind.”

Another example, in syllogistic form, is in order. The atheist can be shown that his starting point – presupposition – interferes with how he views evidence; much like the above example, biased philosophy is the guiding force rather than systematic investigation:

Premise: Since there is no God,

Conclusion: all theistic proofs are invalid.

Premise: Since the theistic proofs are invalid,

Conclusion: there is no God.

(Robert A. Morey, The New Atheism: And the Erosion of Freedom. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R (1986), p. 57.)

It is quite comical that people ask for evidence, and I give them many, but they still, a priori,” reject it because they are already committed to a philosophy of life (e.g., a worldview) that states that this evidence is invalid. I wish to end with a quote I often use; it is from Scott Todd, a Kansas State University immunologist:

“Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic”

(Correspondence to Nature, 410 [6752], 30 September, 1999).