Cursed Christmas Carols; Mohler’s moanings

 

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One of my favourite Christmas Carols or hymns is Joy to the World, with words by Isaac Watts and a tune by the heavyweight composer G F Handel.
In fact it is hardly a Christmas Carol and is based on Psalm 98

O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.
2 The Lord has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
4 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
5 Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody.
6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.
7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it.
8 Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy
9 at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

When you compare the hymn with the psalm, it is clear that Watts dealt with the words very freely, but has made the psalm into a superb creation hymn with an implicit, but no more than implicit, reference to Jesus Christ. I wonder whether it is more suitable for the Creation Season than Christmas, but I will still use it for Christmas!!

Verse 1
Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.
Verse 2
Joy to the earth! The Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

Verse 4
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Recently I read an interesting blog by Albert Mohler on the hymn. Mohler is a Southern Baptist who has shoved the Southern Baptists in a more reactionary direction in the last decade. I am no fan of his, but follow him as he is significant in the USA. He is also a young earther, which does not draw me to him. His recent blog on 8/12/17 caught my attention as he discusses the much-omitted third verse of this hymn. Here it is;

Verse 3
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

I winced as I read this, with its way of reading Genesis 3 with a CURSE afflicting the whole of Creation. I’ve written on this before and especially the influence of John Milton from Paradise Lost; https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/why-the-apple-didnt-kill-adam-and-eve/

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Mohler is very much in the tradition of Milton! His blog is found here and included at the end https://albertmohler.com/2017/12/08/far-curse-found/?mc_cid=2244bcb749&mc_eid=9710ba7c22
Mohler takes the typical 6-day creationist view of the Fall as historical, with Adam’s fruit-eating resulting in god cursing the whole of creation, causing thistles and predation! He then stresses that Jesus’s death on the cross not only gives redemption to humans but also reverses the effects of the curse. (not that I can see that when the local cats eat our birds or I struggle with thistles.) Many YECs use their belief in a CURSE as why they must reject all science which demonstrates an ancient earth and evolution. After all, there can be no curse if T Rex munched other dinosaurs.


There are many problems with the so-called CURSE. Why would a loving god inflict all this “suffering” on animals who had never met humans, like Smilodon or even canivorous dinosaurs and trilobites?

Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis would totally agree over the CURSE

Of course, Mohler would collapse 4,560,000, 000 years into Ussher’s 2021 years, with creation in a mere 144 hours. More than that, however “literally” we read Genesis 3 it does not actually teach a CURSE as the language of Genesis 3 vs 14-18 is to elusive and poetical to conclude such a firm and harsh conclusion. I also reckon that it is a totally unsuitable reading for the first lesson of the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols. I would replace it with Ecclesiastes 4 vs 1-6.
Mohler then writes,

“Where is the curse found? Everywhere we look, we see the curse and its malignant effects. How far does it extend? To every atom and molecule of creation — from coast to coast, shore to shore, sky to sky, and to every square inch of the planet. That’s how far the curse is found.”

I am trying to visualise how all chemical reactions are CURSED and wonder how the CURSE afflicts the outermost reaches of the universe.
All in all, by emphasising a CURSE Mohler makes everything about Jesus Christ more incredible and rather bizarre, where Jesus seems to have been born in Bethlehem to correct the naughtiness of a pair of prehistoric scrumpers, rather than sorting out the folly and moral stupidity of the human race giving both a new and living hope and a guide for life, far better than any other way. Thus we think of Jesus Christ when we sing;

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

But I couldn’t possibly sing verse 3.

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https://albertmohler.com/2017/12/08/far-curse-found/?mc_cid=2244bcb749&mc_eid=9710ba7c22
Think with me about verse three of the hymn, in which we read,
“No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground. He comes to make his blessings flow, far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found.”
The reversal of the curse is promised in the coming of the Messiah and the fulfillment of his atoning work. Implicit in this third verse is the promise of the new creation. We live in light of that promise, even as we look back to Bethlehem and as we celebrate Christmas.
But look carefully at the reference to the curse. Christ’s victory over sin is declared to extend “far as the curse is found.” What curse? How far does it extend? Where is it found?
We find the curse in Genesis, chapter 3. After Eve has eaten of the forbidden tree, and then Adam also ate, and after they found themselves facing God in the reality of their sin, God first cursed the serpent:
The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Then, God cursed the woman:
To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”
Then came to curse to Adam, and through Adam to all humanity:
And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
By Adam, our federal head, the curse of sin came upon all humanity. We are dust, who must return to the dust, for the wages of sin is death. All creation is under the effects of the curse. “Cursed is the ground because of you,” Adam is told.
The curse is God’s righteous judgment of sin, and the effect of the curse is death. The curse has fallen upon all human beings, first because of Adam’s sin and then because of our own. In Adam, we all sinned. In Adam, we all died.
Where is the curse found? Everywhere we look, we see the curse and its malignant effects. How far does it extend? To every atom and molecule of creation — from coast to coast, shore to shore, sky to sky, and to every square inch of the planet. That’s how far the curse is found.
Most importantly, every single human being is found under this curse. “For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
So, how can we sing about joy to the world?
Look with me to Galatians 3:10-14:
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Here is the gospel of Christ, the good news. But first, the bad news. All who rely on works of the law are under a curse. All humanity is born under this curse, and under the law. The congregation that originally received Paul’s letter would have understood immediately where Paul grounded his argument, in Deuteronomy 27 and 28. At the end of the series of curses God delivered from Mount Nebo, we find the most comprehensive of all: “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” [Paul in Galatians 3:10, citing Deuteronomy 27:26]
We are born under the curse, we are cursed by the curse, and the law offers no escape. We cannot work our way from under the curse.
So where is the good news? Where is joy to the world? Look at verses 13 and 14.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. What we sinners could not and cannot do for ourselves, Christ has done for us. He removes the curse and the power of the law to condemn us.
How? He redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse for us. The sinless Son of God became incarnate as the Word became flesh and dwelled among us. That sinless Son of God became sin for us, in order that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). He became a curse for us, by hanging on a tree, in fulfillment of Scripture.

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Sausage Rolls and Christmas

Sausage Rolls and Christmas

During the summer I went on a pleasant cycle ride to Silverdale and back.

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I had decided to buy some sandwiches in booths as I came through Carnforth but as I peddled up fro the Brief Encounter station I saw Greggs and decided to buy some sausage rolls. I then found a seat on the canal and started to eat them. I realisede there was no sausage meat but only ork slime – yuk. but I was hungry and needed for for my last 20 miles.

The high street chain, Greggs, thought they had a wonderful advert for Christmas; they took a crib scene and put a sausage roll in the crib. More sensitive Christians were offended, but others replied in a spirit of jest and mockery. Apart from the fact that their sausage rolls are filled with pork slime, they have attracted much ridicule. My favourite is that “Lord Jesus” spelt backwards becomes “susejd rol”

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. If nothing else it is a great illustration of the silly commercialisation of Christmas.
Commercialisation of Christmas is nothing new and goes back centuries at least as far back as the Victorians, who were always looking for new ways of making money – and writing Christmas Carols! The Victorians mixed religious sentimentalism and profit and that may make one cynical.
To remain cynical is futile and we need to see Christmas, despite all its shortcomings, is an opportunity to remind the world about Jesus. What’s the point of always complaining about early Christmas shopping deals and the rest. That reflects what many want, whether we like it or not.
One thing stays the same and that is the challenge of Jesus. Why should we celebrate the birth of some Gallilean builder’s son 2000 odd years after he was born? When we get beyond the tinsel, donkeys and Santas, Jesus has had a tremendous influence for 2000 years. Most faiths give him some recognition including Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. Usually they accept some of his moral teaching and reject the importance of his death and resurrection.
Jesus’ moral teaching is widely respected, particularly his emphasis on love. Thus the principles of the Beatitudes and several of his parables (especially the Good Samaritan) are widely acknowledged. However Jesus’ teaching was more than moral and also has a strong religious element which is often played down. This is his whole kingdom teaching which comes out in parables like the Sower, the Ten Virgins, The talents and the Sheep and the Goats. These are meaningless if you make Jesus only a moral teacher.To follow those one must move on the aspect of Jesus as the Messiah or Christ and consider the importance of his death and resurrection. However that is the emphasis of Good Friday and Easter.
But for the next month we focus on the birth of an enigmatic person, who, despite his humble beginnings, still influences the world today and it is difficult for any to deny his existence or the value of his teaching. We can moan at all the Christmas tat, but we should rejoice that Jesus is brought to the public mind in so many ways. It also reminds us that Britain is not as secular and godless as some claim. Perhaps Christians should spend less time moaning and more sharing their faith in Jesus.
Most of all we should see that there is something more than just Christmas and continually ask the question why Jesus is continues to hold our imaginations.

Big oil stops selling oil

I nicked this blog as it sums up the daftness of the KEEPITINTHEGROUND policy on fossil fuels.

I often do not agree with Luis, but this is very good

http://daysgt.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/i-read-news-today-oh-boy.html

I Read the News Today, Oh Boy!

Tired of being demonized by the green fringe and by the media in general, a secret meeting of the most important oil companies CEOs took place during the weekend.*

They decided enough is enough so, unilaterally they have suspended all oil deliveries immediately and for an indefinite period of time.

The world’s reaction was swift and brutal. The news services are currently overwhelmed so we only know a minute part of what this decision has triggered. Here are some of them:

 

Airlines do plan to operate their flights on Monday, but no new bookings are being accepted at this time. Among other things, this means travelers are being stranded all over the world with no easy way to go back home. The revenue of the airlines will quickly drop to zero and their financial position will deteriorate rapidly if the oil flow is not restored fast.
State oil companies are not all participating in the boycott but the price of oil has skyrocketed already. Frantic traders have pushed the price above $250 per barrel but the ceiling is nowhere near. At least in the short term, Saudi Arabia and Iran seem poised to benefit from the chaos.
Stock markets all over the world plummeted by more than 20% but the floor has not been reached. Markets are essentially in free fall.
Long lines at petrol stations are being observed all over. Violence has broken out in several instances.
Car sales have ground to a halt. It seems nobody wants to buy a product that cannot be fueled.
Absenteeism at companies and schools reached an all time high. It is expected this metric will further deteriorate and by the end of the week the whole economy would have come to a halt.
Food shortages are beginning to alarm. Most of the food bought worldwide is transported by truck or ship and there is a serious risk riots will break out in all major cities. Price gouging has already began. The prices of some staples have already reached levels never encountered before.

 

Additional updates:

World leaders condemn the decision of the oil companies and urge their CEOs to immediately reconsider their actions.
In a joint press conference called by the executive director of Greenpeace and the president of Sierra Club both begged oil companies to reconsider. They both came close to apologizing for their previous unfair attacks on the oil companies.
Layoffs at many companies have begun.
All sorts of services gradually begin to shut down as people cannot commute to their jobs.
Trash begins to accumulate in cities around the world. Public health officials fear epidemics will be triggered at any moment.

 

More updates:
While the world spirals toward an uncontrolled economic depression, the main oil CEOs stand firm and have not yet reversed their decision.
Panic, riots, violence, despair have erupted all over the world. This truly looks like the end of the world. Ironically, this catastrophe was not caused by CO2.
Stock markets globally have lost more than 50% of their value.
Supermarkets begin to close as they have nothing left to sell.
Motor vehicles begin to run out of fuel and are being abandoned wherever they shut down.
Even though ambulances have fuel priority, they cannot go anywhere as abandoned cars block almost every street and avenue. People are now dying.

 

Overnight, almost eveybody has turned into a pauper. Despair is rampant.

Stay tuned for more updates…

 

 

* Obviously, what is mentioned here is fiction but moving away from fossil fuels before the time is right would be catastrophic for humanity. Let’s be responsible and not advocate medicines that would be much worse than the illness.

 

 

Human Agency and the Lord’s Prayer

Interesting thoughts on the Lord’s prayet and the pope’s shocking revision!! The pope may be correct!

SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE

Caveat: I am neither a theologian nor a specialist in Biblical Greek (my specialty is Homeric Greek). I claim no authority in what follows and will gladly add any comments or corrections.

A twitter correspondent recently noted that Pope Francis wants to change the standard translation of the Lord’s Prater because of the line typically translated as “lead us not into temptation”. The Pope’s objects is that this version might lead people to believe that God is the cause of human sin.

Even though I probably said this prayer a thousand times as a child, I never really thought about it or where it came from. So, Master Clarke’s question made me nervous. I looked at the Greek, and it is…

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Take the Pro-Truth Pledge (because we’re all fallible)

Not all like signing pleadges like this, but it very relevant today.

LPolitics is plagued by fakenews and post-truth as it seems politicians compete with each other to spew out the most blantant post-truth aka lies.

It is equally bad when science impinges on daily lives. We all know of the post-truth of Creationists, which is often deliberate. But we see the same on GMOs and glyphosphate. On climate change we have the fake news and post-truth from the extreme climate deniers to the radical activists like Bill McKibbin, Friends of the Earth and Christian groups like Operation Noah. I don’t who are the worst

And then there is fracking, and antifrackers have got post-truth down to fine art.

Read and enjoy, but only after you have marked, learned and inwardly digested

Even if you do not sign the pledge, make sure that you carry it out by sharing, honouring and encouraging truth and show no quarter to those who persistently do not

This is another pertinent post from Paul Braterman

Primate's Progress

Pro-Truth Pledge LogoI  learnt about this pledge from the Skeptic Reading Room. And while I generally loathe public pledges (too much virtue signalling for my liking), I am making an exception for this one, in response to our exceptional times. And the fine print makes admirable reading. Besides,  several hundred public figures and organizations have signed it, including Steven Pinker and Peter Singer, and what’s good enough for them is good enough for me. Many dozens of politicians have signed it as well, and one of the aims is to persuade more to do so, and hold them accountable.

Truth matters. Propagating untruth is big business and big politics. The traditional guardians of truth have abdicated, are compromised, or lack traction. By default, the job of protecting truth falls to us. We need to take our responsibility seriously.

We are all drawn towards confirmation bias, group think (our own group, of course!)…

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Why is Young Earth Creationism so appealing?

Appeal of Young Earth Creationism

 

Forty years ago creationism and anti-Darwinism was almost unknown outside the USA but today it is common throughout the world and results in conflicts in various religions and over education. The roots of creationism are in American fundamentalism and the modern movement effectively dates from 1961. Since the 80s creationism has grown throughout the world influencing faiths, education and museums. 

 

Creationism has grown within evangelical Christianity, which often tends to take the Bible literally. Within Europe this has resulted in pressure to make science teaching critical of evolution and to recognise creationism as valid science. So far this has been rejected within the UK and EU. 

 

  The growing evangelicalism in Africa, Asia and Latin America is dominantly creationist, and is beginning to impact on education, though there has been pressure to alter anthropological displays in Nairobi museums and to teach Creationism in various countries.  

 

            It is difficult to give a clear picture of creationism as the situation is confused. One thing is clear; Creationism will be at the centre of controversy both in world faiths and in education for many years to come. 

To many YEC is simply absurd but simply saying that will not help. We need to understand why some Christians believe it so fervently

 

Answers magazine, Oct-Dec 2014 issue

The appeal of YEC cannot be understood without grasping the deeply felt reasons for believing what many scientists think nonsense. YEC provides the “scientific” capping to a “biblical world view,” which provides an all-embracing outlook on life and integrates every aspect of life. It enables one to oppose non-Christian world views and to be confident in the “Culture Wars.” Recently many evangelicals have stressed the uniqueness of the biblical world view against the secular world view, which may look to science for its justification. This is expounded, for example by John MacArthur of The Master’s College in California in Think Biblically (MacArthur, 2003) and on the AIG Web site.

 

The reasons for accepting YEC are interrelated and are threefold being theological, moral and anti-reductionist. These predicate the scientific objections to “evolution” and are more than adherence to a literal Bible.
The most important reason for accepting YEC is a concern for salvation through Christ. The heart of evangelical faith is redemption through the death of Christ, expressed as (penal) Substitutionary Atonement in that Jesus’ death on the cross forgives sin and takes away the penalty of death. This goes back to St. Anselm of Canterbury in the eleventh century. Since the late eighteenth century, the corollary of an ancient earth was that animals were living and dying long before humans, thus most evangelicals have limited the “death” brought about by the Fall to humans, and regard animal death as of no consequence to the atonement. However some evangelicals in the early nineteenth century, for example George Bugg, and YECs today argue otherwise and that physical death came in at the Fall (Genesis 3), and that the Fall resulted in a Curse over all creation, and before that no animal died or suffered. If T. Rex had actually attacked and killed herbivores 100million years ago, then the whole Christian Faith will collapse like dominoes, hence the geological timescale must be false. This is at the heart of YEC arguments as expounded by Sarfati (2004, Refuting Evolution pp. 195–224), and Whitcomb in the appendix to The Genesis Flood (Morris and Whitcomb, 1961). Carefully presented (with evangelistic overtones) this is crucial.
The authority of the Bible is central to evangelicals, who often interpret it in its plain or literal sense. For early Genesis, that means creation in six days and a worldwide flood. A Young Earth model supports this “scientifically,” so YEC is the only valid interpretation. A further “biblical” appeal is the Sabbath as the day of rest. The Fourth Commandment reads, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work. . . . for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day” (Exodus 20 vs 8–11). Hence the Sabbath is dependent on a six-day creation and thus “billions” of years must be wrong. To reject this is to reject the Commandments.
Hence the biblical arguments for YEC are threefold,

first, upholding the plain sense of scripture, which is inerrant in history and science,

second, buttressing salvation through Christ’s death, dependent on no death before the Fall, and

third, defending the Commandments .

As these are essential to evangelical belief then a Christian must be YEC. The appeal is irresistible. Well, almost.
To understand why YEC beliefs have grown in the Anglican Church, the approach of evangelicals like Richard Blackham are very instructive. He was curate of All Souls Langham Place under Richard Bewes for many years and has a particular perspective on the bible. Briefly he seeks to interpret the Bible without external influences and thus no input from any other knowledge. On Genesis and creation that means that he ignores science and opts for a literal interpretation. i.e a theological argument for YEC. This has manifest itself on his video on Genesis for the Open Bible series, produced while at All Souls. This caused controversy at All Souls as several members, with scientific backgrounds saw this as moving from the classic evangelicalism of John Stott to fundamentalism. More recently Blackham has been working with John Mackay on a creationist understanding of Genesis.

This self-sufficient and internally-consistent world-view and very appealing as it is a very strong faith position, which appears to give a powerful challenge to secularism and any alternative religion. Its Achilles heel is on biblical literalism in relation to Genesis and if that is not accepted the worldview collapse like a line of dominoes.

Moral concerns, particularly over eugenics, motivated the antievolutionists of the 1920s and the Scopes trial . YEC has amplified this position and stress that evolution leads to immorality of every kind. In his book The Genesis Solution (Ham and Taylor 1988, p. 97). Ham argues that evolution leads to a decrease in marriage, an increase of suicides, euthanasia, pornography, abortions, promiscuity, sexual abuse, homosexuality, theft, violence, racism, etc.

evolution leads to a decrease in marriage, an increase of suicides, euthanasia, pornography, abortions, promiscuity, sexual abuse, homosexuality, theft, violence, racism, etc.

Hence evolution is contrary to family values. The concern to counter teaching evolution partly stems from this.
A further appeal of YEC is the opposition to Reductionism, or Nothingbuttery as Donald Mackay called it. This is the view that everything is nothing but physics and chemistry and that there is nothing distinct about humans. Reductionism often stems from a scientific materialist philosophy. Opposition to reductionism is by no means restricted to YECs. Many oppose reductionism. Arthur Peacocke, the British biochemist and clergyman, opposed reductionism for decades from a liberal theology and founded the Society of Ordained Scientists in 1986 to facilitate this. John Polkinghorne, Donald Mackay, and many evangelical members of the CIS also oppose Reductionism. However YEC is extreme antireductionism. When these arguments are put before an evangelical audience the appeal of YEC becomes compelling. Anyone who to challenges them, and “scientific arguments” for YEC are compromising the Gospel. That is why such beliefs are so tenacious. The argument is more over deeply held religious convictions than intellectual ones. Recent anti-evolutionism is often bound up with the Religious Right and family values, but one must ask whether the motivation is the control of education or religious belief. All YECs I know of are so because of religious rather than political or educational convictions. It may be hard to understand their outlook if one is not “religious” and thus one may look for a nonreligious explanation in line with the secular outlook of Western academic culture. But this often fails to understand their motivation. One must grasp the religious and moral appeal of YEC in order to understand the movement and how it has developed. The scientific arguments are beyond the wit of most people, but the average evangelical will understand why the blood of Christ washes away his sin, even if he cannot evaluate the arguments for and against the decay of the speed of light.

Hence acceptance of Young earth Creationism supports one’s Christian faith in a world which can be hostile to Christianity