Category Archives: Creationism

Mis-reading Romans Chapter 8

Does Romans support the idea of a fallen or wounded creation? Most translations, commentaries and theologians seem to say yes (even if they say no).



William Buckland in 1841 dressed for fieldwork in geology

Here is a quote from an article on CS Lewis and suffering by Bethany Sollerender on the Biologos site

In Romans 8:19-22, arguably the strongest case to be made for a fallen cosmos, it is God who subjects the creation to frustration, not Satan. In a minority reading of this passage some commentators interpret “the one who subjected it” as Adam, but no one suggests Satan (since Satan would not subject it “in hope”). – See more at:


The eighth chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Romans is probably the high point of all his epistles, beginning with the fact that “there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus” and concluding with the ecstatic claim that nothing can “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Paul’s Letter to the Romans is a long sustained argument for the truth of the Christian Faith. All agree that the argument continues to at least the end of Chapter 8, and scholars differ whether it continues to chapters 9 to 11. I shall not consider that and my only interest is whether the Greek word ktisis in Romans 8 should be translated “creation” or “humanity”. Most commentators today state, with no or little argument, that ktisis is “creation”, but older commentators are divided. Related to that are the meanings of “futility” mataiotes and “decay” phthora.

The issue may seem to be trivial but the section Romans 8 vs 18-24 is commonly used to give the final biblical warrant for two rather diametrically opposed opinions within the churches today. First, Young Earth Creationists use the idea of the “creation” suffering and groaning (vs 22) as confirmation of the Adamic Curse of Genesis 3, which brought disease, suffering and death into the world. (This is also present among other Christians, and creeps into writings of those who are anything but Creationists.) Secondly, many Green Christians use these verses as a reason why Christians must heal a “wounded planet” i.e. Creation. Both have some justification if ktisis means creation, but if ktisis means humanity the use of this passage for either of these two purposes is invalid.

As almost all Christians only read the New Testament in translation, the alternative translations of the word are overlooked. Few commentators discuss the alternatives at any length, and often simply make an affirmation that ktisis includes the whole inorganic and organic creation rather than a justification for that translation.

Romans 8 is about the work of the Holy Spirit in empowering a believer. The section relevant to this discussion is Romans 8 vs 18 – 25, with the over-riding theme of hope and endurance in suffering. Here is the NRSV translation


18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know


This is the NRSV version and others do not differ materially. The three words under scrutiny here are creation, futility and decay. From Arndt and Gingrich the words have a variety of meanings. Ktisis can mean creation, that which is created i.e creature, humanity and civil authorities.[1] Phthora can mean either decay or depravity or immorality i.e sin. Mataiotes means futility and is used in the Septuagint of Ecclesiastes. Now here is the same passage of Romans using the alternative translations;

18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For humanity waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for humanity was subjected to moral futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that humanity itself will be set free from its bondage to immorality (moral decay?) and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole of humanity has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only humanity, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know.

This leads on to several questions;

  • Does reading ktisis as humankind make better sense of Paul’s argument and does it give it a better sense of flow?
  • How many meanings does ktisis have? Which fits in best into both the immediate and wider context of Romans?
  • Are there any historical reasons why humankind has been the favoured rendering of ktisis?
  • What is the meaning of “futility” mataiotes and “decay” phthora?

[1] A and g 456-7

Having checked out all the occurrences of ktisis, matiotes, phthora  in both the New Testament and the Apostolic fathers, it is impossible to force one meaning of these three words on to the various texts studied. Frequently the context makes it clear but others are ambiguous. Words are often used to mean different things in different contexts.

The context in Romans.

So far, I avoided the wider context beyond Romans 8. Apart from references in Romans 1 and Romans 8.19-22, Paul does not deal with creation/cosmos in his letter except in passing. The substance is the salvation from sin – of humanity, Jews and Gentiles; Rom 1 vs 16. The first eleven chapters explore this, considering humanity’s relationship to God both in sin or through redemption, and noting the difference with Jew and Gentile. The whole letter is people and salvation orientated, with hardly a nod to creation. That is not a criticism as Paul was writing for a particular purpose. If Rom 8.19-23 is about creation/cosmos then these few verses are like an erratic block which has no relation to what is discussed before or after, and seems to have been transported from elsewhere. If so, Paul goes off at a tangent and then returns to his main them in vs 24

If ktisis is humanity, then there is a seamless argument going back before Romans7, considering the power of sin in chapter 7 before moving to life in the spirit in chapter 8 which deals with how redeemed creation overcomes mataiotes vanity to avoid moral decay phthorai and pasa he ktisis “waits with eager long for the revealing of the children of god.”

This is the argument briefly, and I rest my case.



Two applications of Romans 8 19-24

Frequently Roman 8.19ff is use to buttress to rather different arguments. The first is for Creationism, positing that Rom 8 supports a Fall which resulted in a Curse on all life. The second is to see our planet as a wounded planet and thus to give a particular exegetical support for certain environmental arguments. Both take ktisis to be cosmos and the other words to tally with physical decay etc.

Creationists and the Curse

Many Creationists emphasise that death, even for animals, only came in at the Fall of Adam and after that God cursed all life with death and suffering. Many, like Ken Ham support this from Romans 8, which they read through the spectacles of the Curse. The idea of no death before the Fall is the lynchpin of much creationism today  and biblically is based on a particular reading of Genesis 3 and of Romans 8, as in .

Adam’s sin ushered death, sickness and sorrow into the once-perfect creation (Romans 5:12). God also pronounced a curse on the world, changing it completely (Genesis 3, Romans 8:20–22). As a result, the world that we now live in is merely a decaying remnant—a corruption—of the beautiful, righteous world that Adam and Eve originally called home. The good news is that, rather than leave His precious handiwork without hope, God graciously promised to one day send a Redeemer who would buy back His people from the curse of sin (Genesis 3:15).

This argument was used by opponents of geology in the early 19th Century and to counter this the geologist, Rev William Buckland gave a sermon in 1838 in the Cathedral at Christchurch would reach many, and particularly those considered as opinion formers at Oxford. Buckland later became Dean of Westminster. It was my reading of Buckland that led to this study.

His sermon An inquiry whether the sentence of death pronounced at the fall of man included the whole animal creation or was restricted to the human race given in Oxford in 1839 is in part a response to the noisy minority of nay-sayers of anti-geologists, who included Frank Nolan, the Bampton Lecturer of 1833. Here we do not see Buckland the geologist wielding his geological hammer or tracing out routes of former glaciers, but being a theologian and carefully studying biblical texts.

He took as his text Romans 5.12; “As by one man sin came into the world, and death by sin”[30], which he discussed briefly along with 1 Cor 15 vs21. The heart of his sermon is an interpretation of Romans 8 vs 19-23, followed by a comment on Paradise Lost. In both the Romans 5 and I Corinthians 15 passages Buckland stresses that no mention is made of any “other part of creation” and that “death is mentioned only in immediate apposition to, and connexion with the remedy provided for it by the sacrifice of Christ”.

When Buckland came to Romans 8 vs 19ff, he emphasized that ktisis (creation) can mean both the “whole creation” or  the “whole human race”, and chose to cite Gill, an 18th century Baptist commentator of “ultra-conservative “ views that “’Tis best of all by the creature to understand the Gentile world” i.e. not creation as such. He then referred to Colossians 1 vs 23 and Mark 16 vs 15 where pase te ktisis (the whole creation) clearly means humanity. After all, apart from St Francis, few preach to animals!

Without going into detail, Buckland’s interpretation is the minority one today, but is not without support both now and in previous centuries.

Having raised questions about Romans 8, Buckland then pointed out that such “erroneous” ideas on physical and animal death are “so deeply imprinted on most men’s minds, that maturer judgment rarely stops to enquire precisely as to the source…”  He alluded to painters and poets, especially Milton, almost anticipating both Edward Hitchcock and Bishop Colenso. He took theological support from Shuttleworth and Bishop Bull to buttress his orthodoxy.

Buckland then went to argue that had not Adam fallen, humans would have been mortal but without the pain of death would have passed on to another existence. Here he drew on the Discourse on the State of Man before the Fall by Bishop George Bull 1634-1710, who was very much in the Anglican tradition of Richard Hooker. Buckland seems to have done this to show that Milton’s view was not universal and that he had not diverged from traditional understandings of Genesis 3.

To conclude, Buckland’s sermon has a dated feel about it as it predates both evolution and most critical biblical scholarship, but he does wrestle with the issues raised and takes on those who wish to claim there was a Curse which afflicted the planet and all life on it. By 1839 most educated Christians had accepted the vast age of the earth and, by implication, that the Curse had no real effect on the earth and life, but did not consider the full implications and so for well over a century such questions were either not considered or avoided.

Environmentalists and the Wounded Planet

In recent years some, or even many, Christian environmentalists have focussed on the standard reading of Romans 8 and stress how our “wounded planet” is “groaning”. If ktisis means humanity then the theological reasoning behind this is not valid. However this needs far more elucidation than this brief comment.

There are many examples of this and here are two important ones;

Douglas Moo deals with this in his long paper Nature in the New Creation: New Testament Eschatology and the Environment  [ Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 49 (2006) 449-88]

He favours ktisis being cosmos but refers only to Augustine as a naysayer.

If the argument the ktisis means humanity then the use of this passage is invalid. However I would argue vehemently that a Christian is morally and theologically obliged to care for God’s creation.

Further to use this passage to claim that the creation is groaning is to implicitly accept that either the creation is not as God intended and was so from the beginning of time, or that creation underwent a radical change at the time of the Fall due to human sin. The second necessitates a young earth and a literal fall, as there could be no suffering prior to that.  The first means that creation is neither good nor very good.


Word study in Greek of ktisis, matiotes and phthora. For this I used the Arndt/gingrich Lexicon and the Greek texts of the New Testament and Apostolic Fathers

The meanings of ktisis

Concerning the meaning of ktisis the Arndt and Gingrich lexicon devotes a column to the various alternatives and how they are used in the Old Testament, New Testament, Apocrypha, Apostolic Fathers and other writings. Arndt and Gingrich state the main meaning ktisis is either Creation (the sum of) or a creature i.e. a part of the total creation. AG cite references from both the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers, and both sets of literature use ktisis several different ways, which often can be elucidated from the context. Thus, I Peter 2 vs 13 uses ktisis as civil authorities.


Ktisis in the New Testament

Ktisis as humanity is found in a few examples in the literature and A and G cite Mark 16 vs 15, Colossians 1 vs 23 and Shepherd of Hermas 37 vs 4, using the terms pasa(he) ktisis – all the creation, which in the context must mean humanity rather than the creation, animate and/or inanimate. Using the word rather differently in 2Cor 5 vs17 and Gal 6 vs 15 the Christian is described as kaine ktisis. This could be termed as a new human. Hebrews 4 vs13 uses ktisis for humans. The use in Heb 9 vs11 is more ambiguous, but makes better sense if Ktisis is Creation rather than humanity and thus “not made with hands, that is not [made] by any human” makes less sense. Col 1 v15 speaks of the firstborn of all ktitis. Does this mean the firstborn of all humanity, or the firstborn of all life, thus of creation, i.e. a possibly unicellular organism some 4 billion years ago, or even the firstborn of the total creation, or to put in popular terminology – the firstborn of the Big Bang. Some might even say that Jesus was the firstborn of all evolution! Col 1 vs 23 speaks of the gospel “which has been proclaimed to every creature (ktisis)”.That makes better sense is ktisis  is restricted to humans,

The statement of Jesus that “marriage is from beginning of creation ktisis” Mark 10 vs6 /Matt 19 vs4 contains ambiguity and makes equal sense either way, whether as the beginning of creation or the beginning of humanity. From the context and the first century understanding of time, they are probably seen as synonymous. Mark 13 vs 19 is far more ambuiguous and illustrates a non-specific use of the word. The use in II Pet 3 vs4 is similar, whereas I Pet 2 vs 13 uses ktisis for human authorities, yet no translation indicates the use.


Ktisis in the Apostolic fathers

The Apostolic fathers use ktisis in varying ways. The occurrences of ktisis are listed in A & G. In many cases ktisis means the whole Creation e.g I Clement 34 vs 6, which quotes Isaiah 6 thus meaning the cosmos. A little later in 1 Clem 59 vs3 has “which is the primal source of all creation”, which can be either cosmos or humanity in the context. It is the same for I Clem 19 vs 3.

The Shepherd of Hermas uses ktisis both as humanity or creation.

Hermas 1 vs 3 “and glorifying the creation of God” can mean either the cosmos, God’s creatures (Holmes) or even humanity. I would favour either the first two.

Hermas 12 v1 is also ambiguous, but Hermas 37 vs 5 (Hm 7.5 in AG) clearly refers to humanity; “every creature [humanity] fears the Lord and keeps his commandments” . This is neither cosmos nor the animal kingdom due to the reference of the commandments.

Moving on from Hermas 59 vs3 which already has been mentioned 59 v5 is ambiguous “The pre-existent Holy Spirit, which created the whole creation”, but 91v5 almost contrasts kosmos and pasa he ktisis. 100v4 is again ambiguous. But coming to Hermas 102vs1 “all the lord’s creation (ktisis) drank from the springs, are believers such as these: apostles …” Here ktisis most clearly means humanity.

78v8 uses ktisis differently   “pan gevos tes ktisis” (all species of creation).

Hermas 89 vs2 is intriguing “the Son of God is older than all his creation” Here one could suggest that Arius would say pasa he ktisis means humanity!! However it seems to mean kosmos.

These examples from the Apostolic Fathers show that ktisis can be used to mean either “creation” or “humanity”. Often, but not always this can be worked out from the context.

These examples from both the New Testament and the Apostolic fathers indicate a varied usage of ktisis. At times it clearly means either cosmos or humanity but many are ambiguous.

Arndt and Gingrich in their Greek-English Lexicon seem to avoid the issue on ktisis and state;

The mng of kt is in dispute in Ro8: 19-22, though the pass. Is usu. taken to mean the waiting of the whole creation below the human level…[1]

However they do not substantiate this point. Yet few follow up Arndt and Gingrich, though the interpretation has great implications both on theodicy and environmental responsibility.

Phthoras (vs21)  and mataiotes (vs20).

Both of these words have multiple meanings and are used in the NRSV to support the idea that ktisis is cosmos.

Rom 8 vs 20 reads “the creation was subjected to futility” or untranslated “te gar mataiotes he ktisis upetage

Elsewhere in the New Testament; Eph 4v17, 2 Pet 2 v18 and in the Apostolic Fathers; I Trallians 8 v2, Barnabas 4 vs 10 and Polycarp, Phillipians 7 v2 it is used to mean human folly, echoing the refrain of Ecclesiastes “vanity of vanities” “mataiotes mataioteton” Eccles 1 vs2 (LXX) etc. mataiotes  is used 40 times in Ecclesiates. mataiotes and cognates are widely used for human folly. Sanday and Headlam weakly argue for ktisis to be cosmos but that means taking a different meaning for mataiotes in this verse.

At the beginning of his argument Rom 1 vs21 Paul referred to those who “became futile (ematsiothesan) in their thinking”.

Turning to phthoras in the NRSV Rom 8 vs 21 reads “that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay (phthoras) and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Decay is the primary meaning but it includes religious and moral depravity (AG) . I suggest moral depravity makes better sense in Rom 8 vs21. There is also the question how rocks, minerals and insects “will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

Col 2 vs 22 uses the word to mean “physically perishing” as the “regulations” of vs 20 and 22 are human and finite. Likewise in Paul’s discussion of seeds in I Cor 15 vs 42 and 50. In Gal 6 vs8 Paul uses phthora  in contrast to eternal life, as the ultimate moral and spiritual decay.

In contrast the usage in 2 Peter 1 vs4 “… you may escape from the corruption that is in the world” is clearly moral corruption and likewise in 2 Peter 2 vs 19 are slaves of corruption” I.e. MORAL corruption. However the usage in 2 vs 2b is ambiguous

Moving on to the Apostolic Fathers, in 2 Clem 6 vs 4 which speaks of “adultery and corruption (phthora) and greed and deceit” phthora is only too clearly moral corruption

Ignatius in Romans 7 vs3 wrote “I take no pleasure in corruptible food or the pleasures of this life. I want the bread of life….”  AG takes the “corruptible/perishable food “ of TRom 7 vs 3 “literally”, but Ttrallians 6 vs 1 writes of “Christiani trophe” i.e. a “spiritual food”. I suggest AG is wrong over TRom 7 vs 3.

For the moral sense Barnabas 19 vs5 and Didache 2 vs 2 use  teknon en phthora  to mean abortion. In Did 2 vs 2 paidophthora means corrupting children or as in AG sodomy of children. Barnabas 10vs 6 uses paidophthora with a (strange) typological interpretation of Mosaic food laws

The word phthora  in both the NT and AF is sufficiently fluid and can mean either moral or physical decay.

In Romans 8 it is possible to argue for either, but moral decay makes better sense.


Conclusion on word meanings.

From a consideration of the usage of ktisis, mataiotes and phthora in the NT and Apostolic Fathers, it is not possible to come down firmly on the “standard” translation of the three words. At the weakest, the usage must be seen as ambiguous, but a consideration of the whole argument of Romans favours humanity, human futility/folly and moral corruption.

Sanday and Headlam on Romans 8 state without much ado that  “The two verses [22 &23] must be kept apart.” They must if ktisis means cosmos as verse 23 means Christians and thus the two verses have little relation to each other. However if ktisis means (unredeemed) humanity then the two verses are linked by contrasting the situation of the old and new humanity/ktisis, i.e. before and after regeneration. There is no break indicated by punctuation in the Greek text, which suggests the two verses must not be kept apart and thus give a contrast of the immorality of the old creation/humanity and those who have the first portion of the spirit, to wit – redemption.

[1] Arndt, W.F. & Gingrich, F.W. , A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament, Chicago, Chicago University Press, 1957 p457.

Darwin’s 208th Birthday – and God

Darwin Day 12th February 2017

This year Darwin’s birthday fell on a sunday and thus as it was a family service I preached a Darwin-lite sermon. One thought it a bit controversial


As I preach on creation today I have someone to help me

[most were slow in recognising him, but got it finally]

It is very apt as it is 208th birthday [the organist struck up Happy Birthday] Now Darwin was the greatest British scientist and did so much to help our understanding of creation and its development over the last few billion years and brought out the inter-relatedness of all life through his Theory of Evolution.

We don’t think enough about Creation and whether, in fact, God actually created everything,

how we should aprreciate creation i.e the natural world, and

how we should care for creation.

To consider creation I shall play on three letters


to be arranged as




The first is;


We ask, “Who made Creation?”. The answer is God

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  (Gen 1 vs1)

It comes out in many parts of the bible and in the Nicene Creed.

Too often God is pushed to one side and some Christians almost deny God as creator to avoid “conflict with scientists.”

There are some atheistic scientists who argue that science elimates God. In Britain the most well-known is Richard Dawkins, but in America  P.Z. Myers and Jerry Coyne are more strident. All are good scientists. However, some put up a strawman that Christians must believe in a 6000 year old earth.As the universe is 13 billion years old and the earth is four and half billion this makes it difficult for some Christians and implies you cannot be a Christian and accept science.

Creation does not tell us about that but tells us the WHO – God. We need to keep that foremost and see that God created everything. We need to go further and ask “HOW?”


HOW did creation come about?

HOW does it work?

HOW has it changed over time?

The Bible does not answer any of those questions. That should be obvious as Genesis was written in about 1000BC and thus the writers had no knowledge of science. The New Testament writers also knew very little science  – and there was little to know. The purpose of the Bible is tell us the WHO not the HOW. For the HOW we need to go to science as that looks at creation with the question how. In fact, science hardly goes back to Biblical times and has only taken off in the last 500 years. All the different sciences tell us something about the HOW.

One of the greatest scientists and one of my favourites is Charles Darwin  – 208 years old today. In the 1830s he spent 5 years travelling around the world on the Beagle studying the geology , botany and zoology of wherever he went. From this and what he learnt from others he pulled all the sciences of biology and geology together and produced his theory of evolution. This he published in The Origin of Species  in 1859 and in The Descent of Man of 1871 where he showed how we are evolved from other animals. Darwin did not see this as conflicted with the Christian faith and nor should we.



To put it simply Genesis tells us the WHO of Creation and Darwin the HOW.


We need more than that, we need to know HOW to enjoy and appreciate Creation. Genesis says “God saw that it was good” and so should we!

We must have an appreciation and wonder of Creation, but too often we can suffer from a Creation/Nature Deficit Syndrome, as Richard Louv called it, when people live lives almost cut off from the natural world. An example is when some people from Preston go to Beacon Fell and are scared by the wildness and remoteness. [Beacon Fell is a wooded hill of 850 ft above Preston, where there is a Country Park. It is very much nature tamed but very pleasant. Louv argues that many under 50 suffer from NDS.]


So what do we appreciate? Nature large and small. All creatures great and small. We can see the wonder and beauty  and dramatic scenery like mountains but also flatlands.The same with a Golden Eagle or lovely little black and red Burnet moth. The awe and wonder came out when taking an American biologist friend around the Lake District. We had driven up the awesome and rugged Wrynose Pass and were descending to the east.


(sorry this is Tryfan in Snowdonia!!)

Suddenly he shouted “stop”. He had spotted some sundew by the side of the road.


On Friday I went up the Dales mountain Ingleborough which was dramatic under snow and ice. On the small scale ice had formed on the rocks showing the direction of the wind.


This is something we can do each day, whether in our garden or wherever we go. There is always something to see, whether the first crocus, unusual clouds or a new moon. We need to look at the big things and the little things and remember that “God saw everything that he had made and it was very good.” (Gen 1 vs 31)



How many, not only children, kill any creepy crawlies whether in house or garden? And so wasps, millipedes, spiders  and lots of other creatures are sent to oblivion.

How many, not only children, leave the tap full on while brushing their teeth? That probably wastes 2 gallons of water and is nearly a 10% increase on our daily home usage of water.

These are just two common thoughtless little actions which are damaging to creation. There are thousands of others as well as more corporate large ones, which are too numerous to list.

A trivial action indicates what we should be like. In 1828 Darwin and a friend were walking across the Britannia bridge to Anglesey when he found a lonely toad in danger of being squashed by a cart. Darwin picked it up, took it to the end and let it go.

In this Darwin gives an example to follow as we look for the thousand little things we CAN do to encourage wildlife (plant flowers and shrubs to encourage insects), limit use of materials (use a bike more, use less water etc) and avoid pollution.

As well as these little things there are larger matters which are beyond the individual; major clean-up of rivers, peat restoration on moorlands as well as national policy.


(this shows degradation of our peat moors. 10 ft of peat have been lost in 100 years )

Above all Caring for Creation is both by the individual and more corporately with either groups or the government. All this fulfils Gen 1 vs 26 where have “dominion” over the earth means to care for it and not to wreck it for selfish gain.

On Darwin’s birthday we have considered  the WHO of creation, that God is creator but for the HOW we need science in all its forms.

We also considered HOW we should enjoy creation in all its aspects and HOW to care for it.

Too often as Christians we have ignored Creation  both in our beliefs and our practice. As the focus of the church in the weeks before lent is on creation, then it is a good time to consider how our belief in Creation works out in our daily lives.


As I typed this up from my sermon notes I felt it was too brief and rather superficial. I was tempted to put many additional comments in and develop almost every point I made.

There were many children present so it had to be simple and thus it is only an incredibly brief summary.

I do know that some said it was helpful.

I aimed to give basic principles and not go into depth on scientific issues as my simple affirmation of the correctness of evolution was sufficient here.Other blogs deal with that!

My aim was to prod people to enjoy creation if they don’t already  – and many have lost the joy of birdsong or a flower.

On care of Creation or environmental issues I had to be simplistic and didn’t mention the usual problems of climate change or fracking. Anyway those two subjects are not quite as simple as some Green christians think 😦 . I am aware some reckon I am beyond the pale on both!!

Two useful secular books are; The moth Snowstorm by Michael McCarthy, and The Nature Principle by Richard Louv.

There is an immense literature on Darwin and Christianity, both secular and Christian. The websites of Christians in Science and the Faraday Institute , Biologos or are good starting points





Why Postmodernism kills science and technology 

I have long felt that to follow Postmodernism you can say nothing definite about anything (but you can be definite about that) All have their own truth and this undermines understanding anything technical  (or historical) as creationism is as good as evolutionary science, you can reduce Green issues to feelings wrapped up in a little selective science and so on

Scientists Should Oppose the Drive of Postmodern Ideology


The National Academies of Sciences of the USA recently published a report entitled Gene Drive on the Horizon. This commentary discusses the ‘Aligning Research with Public Values’ aspects in this report, the topic of public engagement, and the worrying ideological shift towards postmodernism which aims to deconstruct Enlightenment values.

Source: Scientists Should Oppose the Drive of Postmodern Ideology

Donald Trump Is The First President To Turn Postmodernism Against Itself

For a longg time I have reckoned Postmodernism is a dead end as it ultimately denies the reality of anything and totally relativises history and science so that one ulimately cannot say creationism is more wrong than evolutionary science.

as Dawkins said “you cannot be a post-modernist at 36000ft” with the cabin door open.

So much of modern discourse leans to Post-modernism with the “science” behind Anti-vaxxers, anti-GMO, anti-fracking , climate change deniers etc.

Maybe Trump will be remembered by philospjers as the first Post-post-modernist!

There is much between the lines here



No one should be surprised that postmodern America chose an antihero to be our next president. Donald Trump is postmodernism embodied.

Source: Donald Trump Is The First President To Turn Postmodernism Against Itself

God’s role in creation-evolution: what is your position? – Ian Palmer – The Gray Nomad

A useful summary of alternatives on evolution for evangelicals by an evangelical oil geologist from New Mexico.

he does so without making much comment  or judging each position for their strength or flaws, So I will restrain myself



In the creation-evolution debate what is God’s role? Did God make the world fast as in creationism? Or gradual as in evolution? Just how long did it take?

Source: God’s role in creation-evolution: what is your position? – Ian Palmer – The Gray Nomad

Young Earth Creationists arguing in circles

This incredibly duplicitous meme appeared on my twitter feed today. Fri 13th Jan 2017icrevolution

Evolution is wrong as it is a circular argument from the age of fossils worked out from evolution

Yes, it is the old chestnut of Young Earthers that the age of rocks is based on a circular argument from evolution. It took me back to 1971 when I made the felicitous mistake of going to L’Abri to sit at the feet of the evangelical guru Francis Schaeffer. I arrived ther all bright-eyed and bushy tailed thinking of all the wondrous things I would learn in the next four weeks. I learnt much but not what I had expected.

On my first morning i was sent to Shaeffer’s son-in-law Udo Middlemann to discuss what I would study. I explained that I was going into the Anglican ministry and had just returned from 3 years working as an exploration and mining geologist in Uganda and South Africa. He then told me what I needed to read; -Morris and Whitcomb The Genesis Flood and a host of other YEC books. I remember blurting out that they were nonsense but he insisted.

My next few hours were most unpleasant as I read The Genesis Flood  and felt they might be onto something. With all the references and apparently academic substance the book was intimidating. But then two things changed that . Second was the misrepresentation over radiometric age dating (My university – Oxford – was quite good on that) and first and foremost the section (p135ff) claiming that the relative age dating of strata leading to the formulation of the Geological Column was false as it was based on a circular argument, which is what his grandson argues in the meme from ICR.


By now I was spitting feathers and realised that the whole argument of Morris, father, son and grandson, was simply dishonest. My reason was very simple. I had just returned from 30 months of field geology in Uganda and south Africa where I had mapped a couple of thousand square miles of Precambrian strata. Most were a series of sediments; conglomerate, sandstones, odd lava , limestones and tillites. I found just one fossil – a stromatolite  – and possibly walked over some ediacara-style rocks. I worked out the order of deposition and produced my own local geological column and with the aid of a handful radiometric dates put numerical dates to the rocks. In 1971 nothing had been published except my own company report, but since then geologists have produced the same geological column in essentials. I was a twit not to publish.

600my Limestones

Numees Tillites

Stinkfontein sandstones, with some lavas

900my              Basal Conglomerate

********unconformity ***************

2400my         Kheis gneiss basement


So how did I do it as the Morris’s say I can’t without fossils?

It was following the Principle of Super-position and I slowly worked it out and traced beds across faults etc. After I worked in a very small area by an ancient copper mine, which proved to be too small to be viable, and got the idea of the regional geology, I spent months traversing and area of some 40×30 miles slowing elucidating the strata. Apart from being totally confused by what I now know to be a large area of slumped tillites(Glacial deposits) I made a coherent map, and then God got other ideas for me. That is why I went to L’Abri before going to theological college, but that may be God’s sense of humour.

I started to explain to those at L’Abri where Morris was wrong and wondered if I would go the way of Servetus. I gave one of their Farel lectures which were kept in their library. As a family we went to L’Abri in 1998 but my lecture was missing, but no others seemed to be missing.

Thus was my introduction to YEC.

If the Morris’s are right with is meme then no order of strata or the Geological Column could have been worked out before Darwin came along in 1859.That is not quite the case.

I find the best way of considering the age of rocks, both in relative order and in absolute age is to see how geology has developed in the last 350 years.

We start in the 1660s with Nils Steno, a Dane who became the Catholic Titular Bishop of Titopolis. From Denmark he went to Italy and looked at strata and worked out his Principle of Super-position i.e. where there are a pile of strata the oldest will be at the bottom. This is obvious but he was the first to see the significance. This works well in working out the order and history of strata – unless they have been turned upside down or slid over other rocks as with the Moine Thrust. Steno laid the foundation and then “poped” and others slowly carried on.

Geology started to take off in about 1780 all over Europe, and if you want to know more read Rudwick’s books! For my purpose in 1788 Prof Michell of Cambridge had worked our a geological successsion from the Chalk down to the Coal strata in what was to be the Namurian in the Carboniferous.

To remain with my Brexit history of geology and overlook geologists across the Channel the next key person is William Smith, who while he was still a Young earther in the 1790s, started to use fossils as stratigraphic markers helping to give the order of strata. By 1802, thanks to local vicars Townsend and Richardson, Smith moved to an old earth but rejected evolution, or rather knew nothing about it. In 1815 he produced his wonderful map of England and Wales, which is remarkably accurate. I find it incredible that he got the geology of the Fylde essentially correct as there is only one rock exposure (of triassic) in 200 square miles.

William Smith's Geological Map of England

Here is Smith after time inside a debtors jail and when he finally got recognition for his work


At the same time as Smith, Brogniart and Cuvier were doing similar work around Paris on Mesozoic strata and were using similar methods and like Smith were unaware of or ignored evolution. For more details read Rudwick’s books.

By 1820 the principles of geology elucidating the strata in an ancient earth were well founded. However, though the historical order of strata was known it was not possible to give actual years. At that time the geological order was known down to the Carboniferous. Below that, what we now know as the Precambrian, Cambrian, Ordovician and Silurian, everything was mystery and muddle and on Smith’s map summed up as Killas.



In 1822 Rev John Henslow of Cambridge went to Anglesey and produced a fine mapand memoir which is the first study of the Precambrian. The map is below. Even today 200 years on, his work is still remarkably good. I found it fascinating going round Anglesey using his and more modern geological maps and was amazed at his skill.


about the same time Rev William Conybeare dealt with Carboniferous and so by 1830 it was only the older rocks to be sorted. That started when Murchison and Rev Adam Sedgwick went to Wales in 1831. Murchison went to Mid Wales and was lucky to meet up with Rev Thomas Lewis, a pupil of Sedgwick, who took him to the outcrops, which are now seen as Devonian lying conformably on”Silurian” Murchison had cracked it, but never properly credited Lewis.

Meanwhile Sedgwick started in Shrewsbury staying with the Darwins. He went a little way up Long Mountainand only found old strata (now Silurian). Had he and Darwin gone to the top they would have found Devonian sitting on Silurian. He missed it and went round north Wales where there was no Devonian or Old Red Sandstone so never found a downwardly conformably sequence. So after three weeks, and after Darwin left to go shooting but went to the Galapagos instead, Sedgwick began work near Llanberis below Snowdon in what is now Lower Cambrian.

Jim Secord describes their work and the falling out of Sedgwick and Murchison but the upshot was to delineate the Cambrian (Ordovician) and Silurian.




19th century geological map with Darwin’s 1831 route on it. this was the area Sedgwick worked on from 1831 to 1845

In the early 1840s attention turned to Devon and the Devonian was elucidated.

I cannot leave this without popping over the Channel where similar work was done. There the French geologist D’Orbigny worked out the concept of stages, mostly in Normandy. (There is a noticeboard about his work at Arromanches.) D’Orbigny was a Protestant and evolution-denier! In part of the Jurassic he worked out nearly 20 stages and reckoned that at intervals God wiped out one set of fauna and then replaced them with a slightly different group. Evolution a la Darwin is so much simply and doesn’t have God popping back to meddle every few million years.


So by 1859 geologists from all over Europe had worked out the order of strata and that the age of the earth was vast but immeasurable. Many made estimates and here are two from the 1860s; Thomas Huxley reckoned the age of the earth to be about 100 million years and Rev Samuel Haughton, Prof of Geology at Dublin and perhaps influenced by Ussher’s dating recroned the base of the Cambrian to be 1800 million years. Haughton wrote strongly against Darwin!

To show the picture of the the “anti-evolutionary” geological column and implications for vast time here is a diagram from the palaeontologist Richard Owen

Image result for richard owen geological column

And so we come to Darwin and The Origin of Species  in 1859. As befits a good geologist Darwin simply used all geological findings including vast ages and in his book developed his theory of evolution from all available biological and geological evidence. If anything, we have to say that evolution is dependent on geolgy and vast ages and not vice versa as the Morris’s falsely claim

Charles Darwin

For the next fifty years many tried to work out the age of the earth with Lord Kelvin firstly putting the limits at 100 million and later to 24 million. Some geologists were not happy! With the discovery of radioactivity things changed as this was used to “date” rocks starting with Boltwood in 1907. Soon it was clear that the age of the earth was billions and not even millions.

From 1913 Arthur Holmes dated the age of the earth at 1.8 billion and slowly refined and increased the age. (His department were not to keen on his dating Dorothy Raynor) Using model lead ages from 1946 Holmes and Claire Patterson (well-known for pointing out the dangers of lead in petrol) concluded that the earth is 4.6 billion and that has not chnaged for 70 years. Since 1946 radiometric dating has developed form simply using 3 dates as Holmes did in the 1930s to using millions!! Again radiometric age dating has nothing to do with evolution as it is based entirely on the non-evolution science of radioactive decay and physics.

In this brief blog I have discussed  – and shown – that geological arguments for Deep Time  are totally independent of evolution. This is both for relative time which was worked out in detail before Darwin and absolute time which come form radiometric age dating which has been used for over a century.

Morris’ argument goes back to Henry Morris in 1961, but he swiped it from McCready Price who put it forward 50 years before.

It is simply a lie to say what the Morris’s say.

For further reading; Martin Rudwicks’s books Worlds before Adam. Bursting the Limits of Time , Earth’s deep History  are excellent.

I deal with more evangelical aspects in Evangelicals and Science (2008) and shorter writngs

This deals with geology and Genesis from 1600 to 1850


Creationist Jack Chick roasted by spoof tract

For many years Jack Chick tracts were the sickest fundamentalists could produce, with there attacks on evolution Roman Catholics etc.

They were as slick as sick and devoid of any love. I wonder about those who used them how they coped with any of Jesus’ injunction to love.

Well he popped his clogs recently and here one anti-fan produced a Chick-worthy tract on his demise.

His tracts on evolution don’t even come into the Fake News or Post truth categories and are marked by duplicity and sheer nastiness.


But he could shout this louder than any1



Here it is and it was reblogged by James McGrath

Jack Chick Goofed

I really like this reworking of Jack Chick’s famous tract, “This Is Your Life,” in honor of Chick’s death, by Gretchen Koch.

Chick smaller

Of related interest, Randal Rauser shared that someone made a movie version of the Chick Tract “Somebody Goofed”