Taking God at His Word: The Importance of a Literal Genesis November 9, 2017 Dave Abell Genesis Genesis Elim Free Church Read View Comments Thomas Richard-Roy says February 26, 2018 at 8:56 pm Dear Mr. Abell, an admirer of yours asked that I consider your teachings, preachings, etc. as something to consider. I watched your sermon on Elim Evangelical Free Church’s website on the topic of Genesis. You stated to the effect of how you deeply (my paraphrase) were influenced and supportive of the ideas of William Lane Craig. I Googled Dr. Craig and watched many of his video debates. (Admittedly, I have not read any of his books.) But, I was underwhelmed by his arguments. It seems to me that an “Almighty God” would be able to be far greater than simply the best possible answer. Surely, our human trifling questions could be conclusively answered. With Respect, T.R-R Reply Dave Abell says February 28, 2018 at 12:38 am Thank you, sir. You raise a good point. Let me first state a position and then explain why I am in agreement with you to an extent. In arguing against atheism, which, by definition, is a worldview steeped in materialism or physicalism, philosophers like Craig are, at base, arguing that naturalistic scenarios are physically and logically incapable of bringing the universe into existence or orchestrating it’s incredible fine tuning. Since time and space had a beginning, it’s cause must lie outside the universe itself. There has to exist an uncaused cause or unmoved mover which has the power of existence within itself. This being must be self-existent, eternal, timeless, spaceless, changeless, and unimaginably powerful. This argument, in part, does speak beyond your objection to God simply being “the best possible answer” because it evidences a positive case for God’s existence and also describes His character and attributes, albeit, on a limited basis. Nevertheless, you are quite right that this alone does not really speak to the deep yearnings and important questions of everyday living. However, God has communicated to us in the Bible as well as in logic, objective moral values, and nature. It is in His Word that these tough questions can be conclusively answered, as well as questions about sin, forgiveness, eternal life, and Jesus Christ. I appreciate your comments. I’d be happy to discuss further. Thanks again. Reply Thomas Richard-Roy says March 30, 2018 at 9:20 pm Dear Mr. Abell, I certainly wasn’t looking for a debate, but, nevertheless, I think it best to respond. It seems to me that when Jesus Christ said “I am the way, the truth, and the life” and if he truly meant it, that this necessarily rules out best possible answers. If best possible answers were in his thinking he could have then said, “I am the best possible way, the best possible truth and the best possible life.” As I understand, arguing that “my scientific interpretations are better than your scientific interpretations because I base it upon…” is nothing more than ceding the argument. The same, it seems, is true for the Socratic method of arguing that is being employed. Tacit within these is the de facto establishment that man creates truth; they are anthropocentric. As post-modernist thinkers have clearly and convincingly shown, science is a man made system of truth. There is no science without man interpreting data and, after all, who determines what equals “good” science and what equals “bad” science? Man. Therefore, with respect, should it be true that man cannot either create nor be the arbiter of truth, especially absolute truth, then the notions that you’ve written seem to me to be established on less than firm foundations. Respectfully, T.R-R Reply Dave Abell says April 4, 2018 at 3:33 pm Mr. Roy, Thanks for responding. We’re in agreement about not wanting to get into a debate, but I do love the spirit of the discussion. I am confused about something, though; are you saying that truth itself is a man-made construct? If so, then your argument would be self-refuting, because your very rebuttal to me would be a truth you created and not an argument based on a tangible element of reason or rationale. My apologies if I got that wrong. In other words, you believe that your rebuttal is accurate. Therefore, we can agree that truth is something we can comprehend and apply. How do we arrive at our conclusions? By simply viewing data, evidence, and propositions in light of pre-existing laws of logic and causality. While science is a man-made construct and man is interpreting the data, I disagree that science is a man-made “system of truth”. Certainly, it can be misused – even deified – to give the appearance that it is the end all and be all for truth. However, in it’s pure form, science is simply a system that helps us better understand certain phenomenon in the world, and as such, it can be a very effective tool. It’s interesting, too, that my last post dealt more with foundational philosophic principles (which science utilizes) more than I really discussed science. Therefore, I’m not understanding your criticism that I am employing a “my interpretation is better than your interpretation” argument. Nevertheless, the same laws of logic that you yourself rely on to argue a point are the same ones that clearly can be utilized to show that someone’s interpretation of scientific data, propositions, claims of truth, etc.… can be sub-standard, incorrect, or illogical. We can also determine if the statements or claims are accurate, logical, and evidential. We do this every day of our lives. If there is not an objective standard to appeal to, all rational discourse – scientific or otherwise – would be impossible and so would survival. No doubt, my salvation in Christ dramatically changed my life for the better, so while I have personal reasons for affirming the Gospel message, it is hardly the only reason. The bottom line is that as a Christian, I assert and affirm various truth claims: that God is Self-Existent and eternal; that He has revealed Himself in Creation (nature), conscience, and objective moral values; that He has communicated to us through the Bible, and further, that He has authenticated His communication; that He loves us so much that He sent His Son to die for our sins and that He bodily arose from the grave; that by trusting in Jesus, we are forgiven and inherit an eternal and joyous eternity. Now, why do I affirm these claims? Many powerful, evidential reasons too numerous to mention but would be happy to discuss in more detail. However, as a brief sample: logical inference; evidence from history, science, and common sense; fulfilled prophecy; and, overwhelming evidence of Design in life (and its subsystems and sub-units) and the universe. Finally, because I so strongly believe – in my heart and my mind – that these things are true, the Words of Jesus – far from being a default, just -so set of words, are the most profound and eternally significant words ever spoken; words – not from man – but from the Living God. My apology for the length of the response. Thanks, Mr. Roy. Regards, Dave Abell Reply Thomas Richard-Roy says April 8, 2018 at 7:28 am Dear Mr. Abell, I fear that this is getting perilously close to a debate. Something I will not engage in. Regarding your point about me being self-contradicting as it relates to truth statements, a third option is that we, you and I, are socially constructing these truths and with you and I socially constructing these truths the position is not self-refuting at all. I suggest that you further pursue these ideas as this would likely enhance your debate positions. However that may be, your assertion that there are “pre-existing laws of logic and causality” demonstrates your paradigmatic framework. With respect, these demonstrate a dogmatic acceptance of a specific scientific method and apparently of a Socratic method of logic. While I am not personally challenged nor offended by these, I suggest to you that your positions would be stronger if you were to support these and not demand, either passively or actively, that a person that you are in a dialog with accept these as truth because you assert that they are. In such instances you are in fact demanding that others accept a truth, albeit a widely accepted truth, that you determine is true (anthropocentricism) for the dialog. Regarding another point of yours, here too you are asserting that science has a “pure form” and that “science is simply a system that helps…” These are position statements that require the person that you are in a dialog with (myself in this instance) to accept as truths. You haven’t established these as truths. Respectfully, it seems as though you are unwittingly patronizing the person that you are in a dialog with. Regarding your point of philosophical principles that science utilizes, having been deemed a research scientist and conferred with a PhD by an accredited academy, I can attest to you that your notion of philosophic principles that science utilizes is not fully accurate. There has been a debate within the academy on these matters for decades. I suggest you start with Thomas Kuhn’s 1970 work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, if you are interested in furthering your knowledge on these matters. Finally, please be reminded that I first posted with a critique of William Lane Craig and my paraphrase of him that Christianity is the best possible answer. This, I presume, is a conclusion that Dr. Craig arrives at based upon a post-positivism scientific paradigm. While my second post was a failed attempt to explain to you the need to establish your positions foundationally, I, nonetheless, still hope that you can explore my assertion that you are (likely unknowingly) in fact demanding others accept your paradigms as truth. I return to my original critique, an “Almighty God” would be easily capable of answering conclusively our trifling questions and, therefore, basing any reasons on a foundation of best possible answers seems tenuous at best. T.R-R Dave Abell says April 8, 2018 at 8:53 pm OK – Fair Enough, sir. I totally welcome a response but understand if you wish to decline. Nevertheless, I must at least respond briefly. When someone says, in English, that, “I cannot speak a word of English”, they affirm the very thing they’re trying to deny. So it goes with those who deny that laws of logic exist. They are not my laws by the way. They are self-evident and the exact same principles you’ve relied on throughout this entire string of posts. Quite frankly, there is no way around this. You say that truth is socially constructed: my question: is that true? Can I be sitting here typing this message to you and at the same time not be sitting here typing this message to you? If I tell you I’m a multi-millionaire, a scratch golfer, and hold a PhD in Euclidean Geometry, you might get suspicious of these claims and investigate their veracity. You would employ the laws of logic we all rely on every minute of everyday to gather evidence to either affirm my claims or expose me as a liar. However, based on your contention, it could not be done because my truth is socially constructed and you effort to prove me wrong would be based on your own logical constructs. You seem to be confusing evidence with foundationally logical principles. If I say that God exists, I don’t expect anyone to accept that because I assert it. However, I am willing to present an exhaustive case to affirm that claim. However, if someone says, “you’re wrong; God doesn’t exist”, I would expect them to also present an exhaustive case to affirm that He doesn’t exist. The logical laws are not the argument. The logical laws are that which allow us to have the debate in the 1st place. You suggest I read Thomas Kuhn; why should I listen to him? Why do you believe what he says? Why do you contend that Bill Craig is wrong? What exactly are you basing either your agreement or disagreement on? If truth is socially constructed and laws of logic and causality are elusive and not real, then you’re framework makes it impossible for anyone to give a conclusive answer. Finally, I believe that God exists and has communicated to us and has authenticated that communication. Further, that God has conclusively answers our question and has provided a path for redemption and eternal life. If you don’t believe that God exists or has communicated, please tell me why you assert that? Thanks very much. Thomas Richard-Roy says April 9, 2018 at 2:44 pm Dear Mr. Abell, It seems as though your analogy regarding speaking English is inaccurate. Many (I won’t say all) social constructionists would agree that we are speaking English because we both accept that we are interacting in a meaningful way and that we both agree to use the term “English” for our verbalized interactions. Regarding your point about those who deny the “laws of logic” existing, without having demonstrated how (established) that “laws of logic exist” externally from your proclamations, it makes sense to deduce that man creates truth since this appears to be, as it stands now, solely a proclamation by you. If man creates truth, then the “laws of logic” are a man-made creation and man is the center of truth; anthropocentricism. Furthermore, it seems that if these are “laws of logic” and that I am inherently utilizing them, then it makes sense to deduce that you are in agreement with St. Thomas Aquinas when he asserted that man’s reason was not corrupted when man allegedly fell in the Garden of Eden. For if these laws are immutable and I inherently use these laws, then my logic is “pure” and my reason not corrupted. However, if these laws are immutable and I inherently use them in a corrupted manner, the question is begged; how can I know what the non-corrupt version of these laws is to use? The answer to that question, it seems, lies outside of man’s limited nature to derive at. Regarding your point about my using these “self-evident” principles throughout this dialog, some social constructionists would say that we are agreeing upon these as principles. Without establishing a foundation beyond your proclamations, we essentially are agreeing upon, to some extent, an assumption of ontology, agreeing upon, to some extent, an assumption of epistemology, and agreeing upon, to some extent, a methodology of logical truths. Respectfully, T.R-R Reply Dave Abell says April 9, 2018 at 6:00 pm Mr. Roy, The English example was one not dealing with an agreed upon language convention. It was an example of a self-refuting statement. If one says, “I cannot speak a word of English” they refute their denial because they did speak a word of English. Your first sentence stated that I was inaccurate. Are you basing that on some foundational principle? If you are, great, let’s roll with that. At least at that point we could use that foundation to discuss specific things about life, the Bible, etc.. However, if it isn’t based on anything, or we are incapable of reason or understanding, or truth is always a moving target, we can simply end the conversation because at that point I could say that the moon is made of green cheese and you would be hard pressed to prove me wrong. I look both ways before I cross the street because there is a reality that the truck hauling through the intersection at 55 mph can’t be there and not be there at the same time and place. If I decide to step out in front of that truck, there is no scenario where that truck hits me and crumbles into a little pieces while I remain standing and unhurt. Am I basing that claim on something tangibly evident and reasonable or is it just my socially constructed truth? Can things pop into existence uncaused out of literally nothing? If they can, explain how. Did the computer software we’re utilizing to exchange these messages just manifest itself by random keystrokes? Or did someone plan, design, engineer, and manufacture it? If the software could come about by accidentally, what logical explanation could there be? We can list endless examples like these to illustrate that no matter how much we deny it, real truth exists, real logical principles and laws of causality exist. To deny them is to affirm them. And it is these same simple principles – that we utilize in daily living and decision making – that many use to discuss God, His existence and His Word and what that means for time and for eternity. To quickly answer your last point – which, by the way, is very interesting – God has explained in His Word that true reason, logic, and morals exist apart from our inability to always adhere to them. We know right from wrong and at times we act illogically or unreasonably, but we can recognize that the standard exists. It seems that even if we don’t read that in the Bible, we are hardwired in such a way to know it. Now, if you don’t believe that God exists or has spoken, that’s a different argument to engage in, which, of course I am happy to do. Thanks, Mr. Roy. My regards to you. Reply Thomas Richard-Roy says April 10, 2018 at 12:02 pm Dear Mr. Abell, I did understand your analogy regarding English. Apparently my response was not clear. I say that you are inaccurate because no serious social constructionist (SC) would deny that they are speaking English to your analogy nor using logic as your analogy was intended to mean. A SC would agree that we are using logic and that logic exists because there is an agreement on the assumption of the ontological existence of logic, an agreement on the assumption of epistemology of logic and an agreement on the assumption that our methods of utilizing logic are largely mutually accepted as truthful. Therefore, your analogy is inaccurate due to its assertion that a SC denies logic exists and it is not self-refuting because of this. It seems that you are claiming to be the arbiter or vanguard of logic in a universal sense. While I find this ridiculous, I have numerous times asked you to support that notion. Your responses have only been to say that they are true and that I have to accept this as truth. It doesn’t seem that you’ve seriously responded. Regarding your points about trucks and collisions, this is a woeful misunderstanding of SC and a disingenuous, at best, attempt to understand it and portray it. I suggest that you at least study what SC is before correlating it to such nonsense. Regarding your point that truth is a moving target, that too is a misunderstanding of SC thinking. Again, I suggest you at least do a modicum of research on it before declaring what it thinks. Regarding your point that God has explained in His Word that true reason and logic exist, I have indeed read the Christian scriptures (both old and new testaments) and I do not recall anywhere in them any discourse on the establishment of reason nor logic. While I readily confess that you would likely be far better versed in the Christian scriptures than I am, I do ask that you point these out to me so I can be better informed. (Thank you in advance.) Respectfully, T.R-R Reply Dave Abell says April 10, 2018 at 7:26 pm Mr. Roy, Apparently we are both awaiting answers because I’ve asked many of my own questions, too. Is it possible that I’ve misunderstood you this entire time? If so, please accept my heartfelt apology. However, did you not say that truth is anthropocentric; i.e., that man creates his own truth? Or more specifically, that that is what I am doing? When I mentioned “laws of logic” did you not brush that aside as me creating my own system and trying to force you to accept it? Perhaps this is what gave me the idea that you were using logic to deny that logic exists. After all, I never contended that I have my own set of logical laws that we should all adhere to. That was never the argument. So do logical laws exist that we can all agree on? Forgetting about the offense of impugning social constructionists – which isn’t my intent – I simply want to know if you believe that truth can be discovered or only invented? If it can be discovered, please tell me how you arrive at it. Maybe we’re both in agreement on how to get there. But if you say that truth is only based on social constructs, my question remains, is that statement true? Yes or no? It seems that, whatever your answer, it is deeply problematic for your position. One of your comments, “As post-modernist thinkers have clearly and convincingly shown…” seems to be – regardless what it pertains to – a truth claim. That someone can clearly show something to you that is intellectually convincing is quite telling. How were you convinced by those post modern thinkers? Are there actual facts or inescapable conclusions that were presented to you that sealed the deal? If so, then we agree that facts and even sometimes inescapable conclusions really exist! Now we’re onto something. Maybe a reboot here is in order: the law of non contradiction, the law of the excluded middle, laws of causality, – do you adhere to these or deny them? Are they man-made constructs or are they foundational? If you adhere to them and believe they are foundational…wonderful! Then maybe we can start over discussing God and the Bible. If you deny these basic laws as being foundational, what superior set of laws or logic are you appealing to, to deny them? If such superior laws of logic exist, please share them. In the meantime, you can give me your definition of social constructionism and then I’ll follow with the theology you asked about. Thanks again. Regards to you, Mr. Roy. Reply Thomas Richard-Roy says April 11, 2018 at 10:26 am Dear Mr. Abell, This is my last post, but I ask that you take the last word. I promise that I will read it. I believe that you have misunderstood what I have been saying because I have responded to your questions. However, it seems that you are so completely wedded to your paradigm that you cannot see beyond it let alone question it. That being said, I will start this last post with hopefully what will prove to be context. A few years ago my wife and I had the pleasure of hiking the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland. (Which, by the way, is one of the most beautiful places on earth.) As we were hiking in Ballydavid where the cliffs meet the North Atlantic Ocean the waves were crashing against the black rocks. This, of course, was beautiful in and of itself, but there was something extra for me. As the waves rolled prior to their crash into the rocks they were a color of blue that I had never seen before. I was mesmerized by that color and my wife and I stared at this for minutes. This color of blue was “deep” and “full.” Sure, I have seen and experienced turquoise blue in the Caribbean and in Hawaii as well as the beautiful blue of a flower, but this was a different blue. I can only describe it as being fuller and deeper. As we continued our hike I was pondering how is was that such a depth of blue could be. As I continued I reasoned that this blue was a product of several things; namely, the light of the sun, the time of the year, the proximity to of this specific location on Earth’s globe to the angle of the sun, etc. Then I thought “how much more deeper blue could this be if I could see it with a brighter sun?” Then it dawned on me (epiphany) I am seeing this blue in the available light. I wondered what blue would be in an “absolute” sense. How deep, how real would that blue be? I realized that I did not know blue, but a “shadowland” (to borrow from C.S. Lewis) of blue. It seems that this is true of logic and reason too. Let me expand. I am assuming that you are utilizing what is known as classical Greek logic as in “A = the opposite of non-A” etc. If I am correct that this is the logic that you claim is a law then my final points are pertinent. If not, I will have to have you correct me on how you see this. Presuming I am correct I then have several points with which to posit. Firstly, is one point that I’ve already made which is that this is a manmade system. It was the ancient Greeks who systematize this. Sure, I would agree that by in large human beings have always though with a subject-object understanding, but this does not take from the fact that this too is human understanding. Let’s step back for a second and analyze this thesis. If A = the opposite of non-A we will eventually lead to the concept that water is the opposite of non-water. And, how do we know water? One way is that we know that water is an object that man cannot walk on. Items man can walk on are the opposite of items that man cannot walk on; and, man cannot walk on water. However, if the Christian scriptures are true, Jesus Christ walked on water. While I know that you’ll quickly jump in and say this was a miracle I would ask was it a miracle to Jesus Christ? Was God surprised when he walked on water? I see the optional answers to this question as either the story is a myth or that it is true. If it is true then our understanding of logic is flawed. It would be flawed because we deduce that water is something that cannot be walked on, but, if true, it was walked upon. The only conclusion to be drawn, if this is true, is that we’ve deduced wrongly. My guess is that you are not convinced by this so let me try it another way. This classical logic would say life is the opposite of non-life and that death is the opposite of non-death. And, that which is dead cannot be living. That which is living cannot be dead. If Jesus Christ truly rose from the dead he defied these “laws.” If these laws are breached, even in the slightest, they are not laws. Again I ask, was God surprised by his ability to rise from the dead to the living? The answer could only be no if he indeed is a God and, therefore, this logic is not a universal law. However that may be, and I ask you to have the last word on this, this does not fully negate your points of argument. I did understand your points from the onset. Any person who argues “there is no universal truth” is in fact saying “it is universally true that there are no universal truths.” Or, if one argued “there is no certainty in the universe” would be in fact saying “we are completely certain that there is no certainty in the universe.” However, I would contend that since (again, assuming I am correct in your thinking of what logic is) logic as we understand and use it is finite (even, perhaps, corrupted) then we are appealing to a manmade ideal of what logic is. This does not negate your points; rather, it merely places them where they, it seems, should be. My contention with your points has been that, if I am correct, you are basing your whole system of logic on a manmade ideal. This is in and of itself anthropocentric which, I truly believe, would be an anathema to you. Should C.S. Lewis be correct that we humans see the shadows of what is true, then this applies to our systems of logic and reason. If man wholly fell at the Garden of Eden’s fall, then our reasoning fell too. There’s more that I could expand upon, but this, I believe, covers my final points regarding our discourse. I wish you well. Respectfully, T.R-R Dave Abell says April 12, 2018 at 12:35 pm That was a beautiful description of Ireland. Thanks for sharing that. Brevity has never been one of my gifts so I hope this isn’t too long. In closing, it comes down to a matter of logic being “transcendent, foundational, invariant, and yet immanent”. If those terms accurately describe logic, then we can have an honest debate; if they do not, how can really know anything, make informed decisions, have an agreement or a disagreement, do math, contemplate the existence of God, etc, etc,. I know we both agree that logic is real, but I do not believe I have my own understanding of it, that it is man-made, or that I am wedded to a paradigm of logic that is different from yours. The conclusions we draw about various things may be different, but the logic we employ to understand the conclusions – and agree or disagree with them – is the same for us both. It cannot be other than that or honest discourse is impossible. If I say that life and the universe have overwhelming evidence of purposeful design – intricacy, functionality, integration, staggering mathematical restrictions, etc.. – and I believe, based on that assessment, that there must be a purposeful “designer” who designed it, i.e., God – I am not employing man-made logic or mistakenly relying on an incorrect or paradymical system of logic. There is nothing illogical or flawed in asserting that evidence of design in something may well mean that the thing is designed. If you followed that you see no evidence of design or that the appearance of design can be accounted for by means other than God, we can debate it but I cannot say that your system of logic is flawed. Without getting into a lot of theology, God cannot act illogically or contrary to His nature. He cannot make 2 + 2 = 5, He cannot create Himself or exist and not exist at the same time. However, if God did create nature and therefore nature’s laws, it seems to follow that He could, when He deems necessary, suspend those laws of nature. I see no problem there or any threat to logic. As to your other statement about the Fall of Man, it is because of that, that I do believe our reasoning can be flawed and that we can act and say things that are illogical, but how do we know that to be the case? Because logic is foundational and allows us to know when we’re illogical. Our flawed humanity prevents us from always being moral and logical, but can’t the standards be clear and real even though we -sometimes mistakenly and sometimes deliberately – violate them? Finally, and more meaningfully, if Heaven and eternal life are real, the beauty of what you experienced at the Dingle Peninsula will be magnified beyond words and carry with it a depth of absolute completeness. Why am I so confident in that? Because I believe God and am trusting what He has spoken in His Word. I also believe that Jesus is the Christ, did die for our sins, and did rise on the 3rd day and that our rejection of God will keep us eternally separated from Him, but by receiving Jesus as our Savior that we are forgiven and Heaven bound. Many of these things I take on faith, but faith is not blind. It is simply the act of placing trust in a real Lord who has really spoken. Nevertheless, for that love and trust to be real and not just an opinion or fantasy there has to be certain intellectual realities about God’s existence and evidence of His supernatural inspiration of the Bible. I believe these evidences to be so strong, clear, plentiful, and across the spectrum of various disciplines, that I’m confident in giving the good news of Jesus Christ as something that I believe not only in my heart but also my mind. Thanks so much, Mr. Roy. I’ve learned a lot during this discussion. I’m always available, but until then, I wish you well also. Leave a Reply Cancel reply Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *Comment Name * Email * Website Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. 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