Monday, July 30, 2018

Crossway: Bible Reading Habits and Ken Ham's Reaction

Crossway conducted a survey to find out which parts of the Bible Christians read and how often.  The results are not surprising.  Most people, it turns out, read the New Testament and the epistles and Revelation.  Now, having said that, the survey is oddly constructed, with a dichotomy between "hardest to understand" and "read most often."  I know people who don't understand a bit of Revelation, and yet read it in order to try to understand it.  From the story:
Many Bible readers struggle to understand certain books of the Bible (especially the prophets) and turn their attention to easier-to-grasp sections (like the Gospels and the epistles). Though tackling some of the more difficult parts of Scripture can be challenging, we should attempt to spend time in each section, trusting that each part is divinely inspired and plays an important role in the biblical narrative.
Of course, as soon as I read the part about the Gospels being easy to understand, the first passage that came to mind was John 6:57-6:63, which completely vexed the disciples.  Nonetheless, It makes sense that most people gravitate toward the epistles as the expense of, say Deuteronomy and Leviticus, simply because they reflect the teachings of Christ through Paul and comprise the nuts and bolts of Christianity. Contrast this with the narrative of the early Hebrews, who God blessed, in spite of themselves.

Consequently, it is a bit baffling (and telling) that Ken Ham responded to the survey thus:
Crossway survey re Bible reading habits. One result shows people spend much more time reading towards the end of the Bible than at the beginning. illustrates a major problem in the church--many no longer understand the foundations in Genesis
How is it a major problem in the church for people to focus on the Gospels and the epistles?  As Christ points out, He was “The Way, the Truth and the Life.”  He is the focal point of Scripture.  What is the most commonly-cited scripture?  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  All of the Old Testament points toward the New Testament and Christ.  Yes, the Old Testament is important for instruction (often what not to do) and we have it for many reasons, since it is the record of God's relationship to his people.  But Christ is the pinnacle.  For those of us who profess a faith in Christianity, He is why we believe.

Is the Primeval History important?  Of course.  It shows us that God created the heavens and the earth and He, alone, is God.  That is its purpose.   But, despite what Ken Ham says, it is also controversial.  Scholars over the centuries have been perplexed about how to interpret these passages.  It is hard to reconcile the simple words of Genesis with the fact that everywhere you turn, you are confronted with evidence of an incredibly old earth and not a shred of evidence for a world-wide flood.  How can they not be controversial.

Also, the Old Testament is clearly written for a select people.  When Christ came, he preached first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles.  We have been included in His people.  That is the gift of the New Testament.  That is why it is so important. 

There are quite a few other aspects covered in the survey, including daily time reading habits and other demographic data.  Read the whole thing. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

New Chinese Material Pushes the Exit From Africa to 2.1 mya

Nature is reporting research on new Chinese material that strongly suggests that the Georgian site of Dmanisi is not the earliest location to which migration out of Africa went.  Here is the abstract:
Considerable attention has been paid to dating the earliest appearance of hominins outside Africa. The earliest skeletal and artefactual evidence for the genus Homo in Asia currently comes from Dmanisi, Georgia, and is dated to approximately 1.77–1.85 million years ago (Ma)1. Two incisors that may belong to Homo erectus come from Yuanmou, south China, and are dated to 1.7 Ma2; the next-oldest evidence is an H. erectus cranium from Lantian (Gongwangling)—which has recently been dated to 1.63 Ma3—and the earliest hominin fossils from the Sangiran dome in Java, which are dated to about 1.5–1.6 Ma4. Artefacts from Majuangou III5 and Shangshazui6 in the Nihewan basin, north China, have also been dated to 1.6–1.7 Ma. Here we report an Early Pleistocene and largely continuous artefact sequence from Shangchen, which is a newly discovered Palaeolithic locality of the southern Chinese Loess Plateau, near Gongwangling in Lantian county. The site contains 17 artefact layers that extend from palaeosol S15—dated to approximately 1.26 Ma—to loess L28, which we date to about 2.12 Ma. This discovery implies that hominins left Africa earlier than indicated by the evidence from Dmanisi.
For the new site sequence data, we don't have any hominin remains so we don't know exactly what these folks looked like but the tools are very primitive.  A section from a companion piece reads thus:
The identity of their makers is, for now, unclear: no hominin bones have been recovered at Shangchen. “We would all love to find a hominin — preferably one with a tool in its hand,” says Dennell. Homo erectus is one possibility, because some of the earliest members of this species were found at Dmanisi. But Dennell thinks that the Shangchen toolmakers belonged to an earlier species in the genus Homo.

Petraglia and Rezek both say that the age of the tools — not to mention the possibility that hominins arrived in China even earlier than the 2.12-million-year mark — suggests that the toolmaker was a species such as Homo habilis. This relatively small-brained hominin is thought to have been confined to Africa between around 2.4 million to 1.4 million years ago.

Jungers holds open the possibility that the Shangchen toolmaker was a species of Australopithecus, a group of more ape-like hominins to which the iconic fossil Lucy belongs. So far, all Australopithecus fossils have been discovered in Africa.
Before his death, Grover Krantz argued for the presence of Australopithecus in East Asia but could never get anyone to come on board with him. Everyone was pretty content to label what was coming out of the ground as Homo erectus.I think it would be a stretch if the hominins from Shangchen were australopithecines since we don't see any advanced species of Australopithecus in East or North Africa between 2 and 2.5 mya.  In fact, Au. boisei drops out around 2.1, likely out-competed by early Homo.

Nonetheless, something was making stone tools in China at 2.1 mya and that is “Yuuuuge” news. 

Saturday, July 07, 2018


Texas has, once again, waded into the waters of the evolution/creation controversy.  The Texas Tribune reports that wording that is claimed to open the door to creationism has been provisionally left in the most recent guidelines for teaching science in the public schools.  Aliyya Swaby writes:
The process began in July, when the board convened a teacher committee that recommended the deletion of several high school science standards, including four controversial biology standards they said would be too complex for students to understand. In their recommendation for deleting a clause requiring students examine explanations on the "sudden appearance" of organism groups in the fossil record, they included the note, "Not enough time for students to master concept. Cognitively inappropriate for 9th grade students."

Republican board member Barbara Cargill led the charge Wednesday to keep three of those four standards in some form — arguing that they would actually help students better understand the science and keep teachers away from creationist ideas.
As I wrote a bit back, Barbara Cargill has, in recent years, been less vocal about her support for creationism and intelligent design, but has always supported the range of Wedge Strategy ideas promoted by the Intelligent Design movement, including “teach the controversy,” “teach the full range of scientific views,” and teach the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution.    

The board members have also bought into the idea that fossil forms appear in the geological  record fully-formed, a notion completely debunked by Don Prothero

Friday, July 06, 2018

Todd Friel: The Holy Spirit Taught Them That the Earth Was Young

This is heresy.  Straight up.

Sorry for the light posting. I have been extremely busy and have not had time to devote to it.  I am taking a break from my hectic schedule to post on an AiG article that is one of the most offensive things i have read in some time.  The title of the post is How Do I Stay Humble When I Know I’m Right? and is written by Todd Friel, who has no biography on the web site, so we have absolutely no idea what his qualifications are. He also fronts a web site called Wretched, which, likewise, gives us no information than we already had.  So, why has this post made me a hateful person?  Here's why.

Friel recounts the story of Bob, who gets stuck in the Sonoran Desert near Tucson and has to be rescued.  Apparently, Bob is not sufficiently thankful to God for his good fortune and so Todd has this to say:
You would think Bob is either very forgetful or very arrogant. Bob was not the author of his good fortune; he was merely the recipient. The Apostle Paul would rightly ask him, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (See 1 Corinthians 4:7.)

Do you know why godly creation scientists believe God created the world in six 24-hour days?

They are brilliant.
They have PhDs.
They understand the plain meaning of Genesis 1 and 2.

While all three of those options may be true, the real reason they know the earth is young is that the Holy Spirit taught them the truth.
“The Holy Spirit taught them the truth.”  That has to be one of the most arrogant, myopic idiotic things I have yet read from Answers in Genesis and given the quality of the material on the site, that is saying a lot.  “The Holy Spirit taught them the truth.”  

In the last few years, Answers in Genesis has become much more strident in its position that if you don't accept a six-day creation, you are not a Christian.  This is one more piece that promotes this nonsense.  The implication is that if I think the earth is not six thousand years old, I don't have the Holy Spirit.  Here is a short, non-exhaustive list of other people who, apparently, don't/didn't have the Holy Spirit:
  • Billy Graham
  • Francis Collins
  • Hugh Ross
  • Pat Robertson
  • Davis Young
  • Carol Hill
  • N.T. Wright
  • J.I Packer
  • John Polkinghorne
  • B.B. Warfield
  • William Jennings Bryan
  • Tim Keller 
  • John Stott
That list is not even remotely exhaustive.  You might recognize some of the people on that list as being some of the most influential Christian thinkers and evangelists that the world has ever seen, and all of whom can think circles around Todd Friel.

Joel Edmund Anderson has written about the heretical notions in Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis.  Here is yet another example.  Friel claims that the Holy Spirit has given special knowledge just to young earth creationists that no one else has. 

The people in the list above have/had the Holy Spirit and it guided them to lives of evangelism, helping people come to Christ and living inspired Christian lives. Why didn't the Holy Spirit correct their thinking about the age of the earth?

Now I am quite convinced that the Holy Spirit does guide us and nudge us in certain directions, such as “Maybe you should join the mission field,” or “Go reach out to that person over there.” On the other hand, the Holy Spirit telling someone that the earth is young is like telling someone that, when Jesus wasn't preaching the gospel, he was strangling cats. There is no biblical evidence that He did any such thing, just as there is no biblical evidence that the earth is “young.”  While it is true that some interpret the Primeval History as being literal, many, many people of great faith have wrestled for thousands of years to understand exactly what those scriptures mean and I am convinced that God honors those who earnestly struggle with those passages but have faith in Him and his son. 

I don't know who taught those brilliant people that the earth was young but I don't think it was the Holy Spirit, and Todd Friel could use a dose of humility.