Category Archives: Science and faith

Schaeffer: Inerrancy is a Watershed Issue

“Several years ago the respected evangelical leader Francis Schaeffer used the example of a watershed in the Swiss Alps to illustrate what happens when some Christians begin to abandon the complete truthfulness of the Bible in places where it speaks to matters of history and science.  When spring comes, two bits of snow that are only an inch apart in the high mountains of Switzerland will melt on two sides of a ridge in the rock, and the drop of water from one side of the watershed will eventually flow into the Rhine River and then into the cold waters of the North Sea, while the drop of water on the other side of the watershed will eventually flow into the Rhone River and finally into the Mediterranean Sea.  In the same way, Christians who seem so close together on many issues, if they differ on the watershed issue of biblical inerrancy, will in the next generation or two train up disciples who will be a thousand miles apart from each other on many of the most central matters taught in the Bible.”

~ Wayne Grudem, “Theistic Evolution Undermines Twelve Creation Events and Several Crucial Christian Doctrines,” in Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique (ed. by Moreland, Meyer, Shaw, Gauger, Grudem), p.822.


The GKV’s Major Leap off the Cliff

Last week, the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands decided to open all the offices of the church (minister, elder, deacon) to women. Here’s a reflection from someone who’s seen the downward spiral of the RCN from the inside.

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20170619 - Leap of Faith_Flickr Photo by Sabrina c via Flickr (CC)

When asked by a friend for a response to the decision by the Dutch GKV (Reformed Churches (Liberated)) to ordain women in all offices, I felt emotionally numb. As an adult convert to Christianity, the GKV was the church I was catechized and baptized in and where I discovered the richness of Reformed doctrine. Sure, in places that beauty was encrusted with the barnacles of cultural traditions that had arisen out of the peculiar history of the denomination and the cultural and intramural fights that had taken place over the preceding fifty years but the gospel was there.

Since moving to the United States in 2002, however, I have witnessed from a distance the rapid march towards a new hermeneutic and ecclesiology heavily infused with postmodern views of culture. It is hard to diagnose where things started to go wrong, and in any…

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Byl on VanBruggen’s Blind Man

Some time ago an English magazine published in the Netherlands included an article by Dr. J. Van Bruggen entitled, “The Blind Man Sat Down by the Road and Cried…”  The magazine, Lux Mundi, is an official publication of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, specifically from their Committee for Contact with Foreign Churches (BBK).  In this article, Dr. Van Bruggen discussed the conflict between what some scientists are concluding and what Scripture says.  Dr. John Byl has penned a helpful response which you can find here.


Critiquing Keller on Evolution/Creation

As most readers know, I’m also involved in another blog, a cooperative venture entitled Creation Without Compromise.  That blog was the brainchild of Dr. Ted Van Raalte — together with Rev. Jim Witteveen and Jon Dykstra, we seek to “promote a biblical understanding of origins.”  Since its inception, Creation Without Compromise has published several significant pieces addressing the challenges we face in upholding the biblical doctrine of creation.  Some of the best ones, in my view, are collected on this page.  Last week, Dr. Van Raalte began a series that has long been in the works, one that likely contains the most important material we’ve published so far.  A number of years ago, Tim Keller wrote his “White Paper” for BioLogos.  In case you’re not familiar with it, BioLogos is one of the foremost promoters of a synthesis between creation and evolution.  Keller’s paper has been influential and is therefore worthy of a closer look.  Does it stand up to biblical scrutiny?  Does Keller present a good model for reconciling Scripture with the conclusions of so many scientists regarding origins?

Part One of Dr. Van Raalte’s critique can be found here.

Part Two is found by clicking here.

 


How I Was (Temporarily) Deceived

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It was back in the mid-1990s.  I was a student at the University of Alberta, majoring in history and minoring in English.  I suspected that my path was leading to seminary — I took a keen interest in matters theological.  When I had spare time outside of my studies, I read voraciously.  To serve my appetite, Edmonton featured a variety of decent used book stores.  My story takes us to one of these.

On campus at the U of A was a large mall — HUB mall.  Student accommodations climbing several floors on each side, there were shops and restaurants on the main floor.  Near one end was a small used book shop.  Between classes I would often browse their selection.  One day in the small “Religion” section, an attractive cover beckoned a closer look.  It was a paperback by Harold Bloom and David Rosenberg.  As I paged through The Book of J, I seemed to be entering a new world of scholarship.  It sounded so erudite and confident.  The book claimed that large swaths of the Pentateuch were not authored by Moses, but by a mysterious author designated as ‘J.’  It took a couple of return journeys to the bookstore to enter a little more into their argument and its conclusions.  One of those conclusions was that ‘J’ was likely a woman.  This was serious scholarship, and I was beginning an academic career — so, like anything published on Facebook today, it must be true.  I didn’t buy the book; after all, I got the gist of it by just browsing and, besides, didn’t have the cash.

Thankfully, my deception didn’t last overly long.  My bus route home from the U of A took me along Whyte Avenue, through the Old Strathcona neighbourhood.  In that neighbourhood were several really good bookmongers.  One of those was Alhambra Books.  I decided to get off the bus near there and spend a half hour or so checking whether they had any new volumes.  Indeed, they did.  There in the tall stacks of Christian books (of which they had many at the time) was a volume from “The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company.”  Today that company is still around, but their books appear only with ‘P & R’ on the spine.  If you don’t already know what ‘P & R’ signifies, you can miss some good stuff.  But this one had the name of the publisher entirely spelled out and that served my edification, because I knew I was Reformed, so this would probably be a good book.  Besides, it was related to the subject of the previously mentioned book that seemed so persuasive.  The title:  The Five Books of Moses, by Oswald T. Allis.  Subtitle:  “A reexamination of the modern theory that the Pentateuch is a late compilation from diverse and conflicting sources by authors and editors whose identity is completely unknown.”

Oswald Allis introduced me to a solid critique of what is known as the Documentary Hypothesis.  According to this notion, the Pentateuch was written long after the events it purports to describes, not only in Genesis, but also in Exodus-Deuteronomy.  Moses was certainly not the author.  Instead, critical scholars, beginning during the Enlightenment period, posited that there were several authors/editors.  They go by the names J, E, D, and P.  ‘J’ stands for the Jahwist — one of his characteristics is the use of the personal name of God, Yahweh (or Jahweh).  ‘E’ stands for the Elohist — he’s known for using Elohim.  ‘D’ was the Deuteronomist, responsible for much of that book.  ‘P’ was the Priestly source, the one who wrote much of the holiness codes and so on.  Allis ably shot holes right through all of this.  This JEDP stuff could only be held by people who don’t take the Bible seriously as the Word of God.  Obviously, the arguments of The Book of J were built on this Documentary Hypothesis and they didn’t hold any water either.  I would have heard this theory demolished in seminary eventually, but I was thankful to providentially discover Allis already a couple years before.

All of this came rushing back to my mind as I was reading Carl Trueman’s contribution to God, Adam, and You.  Trueman’s task was to survey what modern theology has taught about original sin.  One of the modern theologians mentioned is Karl Barth.  Barth has become somewhat cool, but his doctrine of Scripture leads somewhere a bit warmer.  Trueman highlights one of the problems with Barth:

…Barth sees part of the key to understanding Adam to be an acceptance of the implications of the documentary hypothesis of the Pentateuch, which for him makes it clear that the events recounted should not be taken at face value.  (page 197)

In a footnote, Trueman provides the proof.  Barth is quoted as referring to Genesis 3 as a Yahwistic text, whereas Genesis 2:2-3 is a Priestly text.  It sounds so scholarly and sophisticated — but it is unbelief.  Barth has taken this theory about the Pentateuch and used it to deny the historicity of the creation of Adam.  The Documentary Hypothesis not only emerges from theological liberalism, it also reinforces it.

I’m thankful that Allis came along to steer me away from the abyss.  If there’s any lesson to be learned in this, it’s that when we encounter a new idea in the field of biblical or theological studies, we should be extremely cautious.  This new idea could prove to be exceptionally dangerous.  Especially when you’re a young person, before climbing on board, you’ll want to check and see if people you can trust have critiqued this appealing new idea.  Search for those who’ve offered critiques with biblical arguments and humbly hear them out.  As Proverbs 18:17 says, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”  It’s wise to hear out what others have said.  And as John says in 1 John 4:1, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”