Category Archives: Romans 8

Has the Church of England gone Creationist in Live Lent?

Surely the Church of England is far too liberal to think the earth is only 6000 years old.

Most would respond to that question by saying, “don’t be so daft!” After all in many ways the CofE is somewhat liberal both in belief and ethics. The church has many who have held fast to evolution; Gore, Temple and others in the 19th century, most theologians in the 20th century, and more recently theologians with scientific training – notably Arthur Peacocke, John Polkinghorne and Alister McGrath and many other lesser fry, like myself! If anything is the default position of the Church of England, it is one which accepts a 4.56 billion year old earth and life which has been evolving for the last 4 billion years. But against that about 5% vicars are Creationist. and lots of churchmembers are a bit confused. and not a few clergy!

So what is this article doing as part of the Church of England’s Lent Live?

It takes the NRSV translation of Romans 8 vs 19, 22-23, with an odd omission of verses 20 to 21, and then comments on the passage, claiming that 

” the whole creation has somehow been infected, and fallen under the influence of darkness.”

Now, that is just how Creationists argue from their ideas of a 6000 year old earth and no evolution, as they reckon when Adam bit the apple, God put a Curse on Creation, making it Fallen and thus death, illness and earthquakes began. 

Consider the image and brief article. The image just gives the biblical text but the article reflects on it.


And so the reflection;

The reflection is very brief, as is needed for short thoughts for Lent, it is difficult to see how they find their comments in the extract from St Paul. It raises many questions on whether the article actually reflects Paul and his teachings in his letter to the Romans. And whether it has any Christian basis………………….

The second paragraph doesn’t refer to Romans but makes an extraordinary claim about the Gospel story;

“The Gospel story doesn’t merely talk about individual human sin and weakness, difficult enough although those things are. It goes on to claim that because of our collective selfishness and distance from God the whole creation has somehow been infected, and fallen under the influence of darkness.”

This totally baffles me as I cannot think on anywhere in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John which either says of implies this. At best, they may look to John with his “cosmos” as opposed to God, but there John normally uses “cosmos” to mean humanity in opposition to God and not the whole creation, as in John 3 vs16. In other words this statement is just wrong.

It does seem that the writer takes a particular interpretation of this passage from Romans as looking to the Fall of Genesis 3 – or rather that God inflicted a curse on the whole of creation because of Adam’s sin. That seems a bit harsh. It is NOT the teaching of almost all Anglican theologians, but is what Young Earth Creationists teach about the Fall and the curse, in which animal pain and suffering, and earthquakes and tsunamis were inflicted by God on creation AFTER Adam ate the apple! It seems rather harsh to curse the whole of creation for Adam’s deed.

This idea, though largely and correctly rejected today, has a long history going back to John Milton’s Paradise Lost, and has resulted in a misreading of creation in Genesis.

Further the quote from C S Lewis does not speak of creation but of human behaviour. Citing it here implies that Creation is enemy-occupied territory , whereas Lewis meant so much of human behaviour, which rang true in the war years.

How can one say “The Whole creation has somehow been infected and fallen under the power of darkness?”

Granted humans have made a mess of this planet but what infection is there in the rest of the Solar System. ; for example in Venus, Jupiter, or the Sun? The idea becomes even more absurd when we consider further stars and galaxies. On a starlit night just look out at stars and consider how we have infected the stars of the Great Bear or Orion – if we have! Or closer at home consider the beauty of Nature/Creation around you.


This kind of writing sounds all very good and spiritually challenging – until we ask how and when it all happened! If we do that, then we will see it as vague gnostic woffle, which is soothing to our feelings but not to our soul – or it is an argument for Young Earth Creationism, with its curse on the whole of creation.

Romans 8 vs19-23 is a baffling passage and many, and perhaps most, commentators see it as an allusion to Gen 3 and the Fall permeating all creation. If so, they need to see Paul’s theology they present here is nonsensical as the Universe in 13 billion years old and Adam’s scrumping did not affect the universe!! Unless of course, you are a Creationist and endorse a curse and a young earth!!

The idea or FACT of an ancient universe is not new, and goes back well over two centuries. By 1800 astronomers and geologists had demonstrated that both universe and earth were – then reckoned only to be millions of years old. With all the fossils it was clear that life was ancient too and thus the idea held by some theologians that the Creation was not what God intended it to be was way off the mark. To suggest that humans are to blame is simply absurd! Though that is the reading of John Milton in Paradise Lost.

Humans have stuffed up Planet Earth, but not in that sense. Too many theological writers are careless about this and one bishop recently wrote “the whole creation, in its original unfallen state….” meaning that the creation as we now experience is now fallen and originally was not. The bishop should have said when the creation transitioned from “unfallen” to “fallen”. This kind of poor thinking tends to make Christianity incredible.

This understanding of Romans 8 vs 19-23 Turns on the meaning of the greek word ktisis used here, which is commonly translated as “Creation”. Ktisis has a variety of meanings as brought out in any decent Greek lexicon. It can mean the whole creation or simply the mass of humanity. The latter makes better sense in Romans 8, as it does in Mark 16 vs15 (longer ending) If these are words of Jesus , did he mean the whole creation and to preach the gospel in the vicinity of Sirius or Betelgeuse? I don’t think so, do you? Otherwise you’ll preach to dogs and cats and birds and bees. He means to every human as we find in the Post-resurrection commands as presented by Matthew and Luke. (see Day 28 for a reflection on Matthew 28)

For details read;

This reading is common today with our very justified concern for the environment today. There is no question about humany’s environmental damage to this earth , which I have held since reading Silent Spring in the 1960s. This has happened in so many different ways; Pollution, species loss, climate change and damage from careless mining , development, including fishing and farming.

This contribution for LIVELENT was, I think, written to make us care more for the environment, and we need to.

It is vital to care for creation (what have you done for creation today?) but misreading Paul is not the way to argue for it.

Is Covid-19 Evil? A Christian answer?


Is Covid-19 Evil? A Christian answer?



The only reasonable answer is NO. Definitely No, the virus is not evil.

It is simply part of the natural order, so can be no more evil than a Koala Bear, a bluebell, a sunset or a beautiful woodland. Some will disagree, but lets consider the universe, the natural world or the creation, call it what you will.

The universe is billions of years old and billions of light years across. Our tiny planet was formed some four and half billion years ago along with the Solar System. Initially Earth was too hot for life and gradually cooled, with volcanic activity, earthquakes and the like. The first life was formed some three or four billion years ago. Grossly simplifying it was some kind of bacteria, which lived and died at a great rate. Viruses appeared as dubiously living things riding piggy-back on any life-form they could and often killed them. Since then the earth has been violent, with bits of crust whizzing round the surface of the planet with earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis. Life has also moved on. New and more complex forms arose and went extinct to be replaced by others. Animals could only thrive by eating up other living things, whether plant or animal. At times fossil animals have been found with the teeth marks of predators. Disease and death was the other side of life and many of these were caused by bacteria or viruses. Animals have a love-hate relationship with bacteria and thus half the human body is made up of – not human flesh – but BACTERIA. Last to appear on Planet Earth were humans and for many millennia their lives were “nasty, brutish and short”. Life expectancy did not top 40 anywhere until the 19th century. Famine, starvation and disease were rampant, with regular pandemics, most notably the Black Death.

All of this is totally natural with suffering and death going on for a few billion years. Triceratops suffered in agony when ripped apart by a T Rex, as much as we do if we suffer from covid-19 or another ghastly disease.

All this is totally natural and is simply the way the world is.

Think of watching an animal in at the kill. Consider a lion bringing down a springbok. Once looking out the kitchen window I saw a sparrow eating honeysuckle berries. In a flash a sparrowhawk appeared and grabbed the poor sparrow. Last autumn I discovered spiders in my garden were catching tortoiseshell butterflies in their webs, wrapping them in silk nd taking them to their food cache. All is totally and utterly natural.

Too often we only consider the cuddly bits of nature and forget the rest. We want to stay with Bambi. Nature is not like that. Neither are our lives and we know most of us will die of dementia, heart, respiratory disease or cancer. Three hundred years ago we never lived long enough to die from those.

I spent over a year living in a mountainous desert, which was as rugged as it was beautiful. Each day was self-indulgence on fantastic scenery, which was even more fantastic when the desert flowered after rains. But I did not keep my social distance with a Cape Cobra, which probably would have been fatal. Before that I was in the Ugandan bush, beautiful in a different way, but I had to take anti-malarial tablets. Mosquitoes kill more humans than any other animal – including humans. Closer to home our enjoyment of snow-covered mountains can end up with hypothermia. Not to mention all the other diseases we can get.

All is totally natural, but suffering and death is never far away

Violent earth processes, predation, disease, suffering and death is usually referred to as Natural Evil, but that seems a misnomer as if it is Natural how can it be Evil – unless some devil put its oar in? Too much Christian theology does just that; the alleged Curse given by God after the Fall of Genesis 3, or due to a very early angelic Fall, spiritual warfare as the devil tries to wreck everything now.

To say that suffering is Natural is not comforting if we see a pyroclastic cloud or tsunami coming towards or a large branch falls on our head or we are struck by lightning. Or even when we get a bad cold and feel like death warmed up. Worse is when we break a bone, get a nasty illness especially if it is fatal or when we witness illness in others. Think of watching the 2004 Tsunami clips on TV.

It is painful, it is sad, but we need to admit it is totally natural and normal so Natural Evil is not a good term.

What about Covid-19 and other suffering?

Is it always natural and not evil?

It seems most likely that it came from a bat at a live, wet, market and jumped to humans at the end of 2019. In a sense that makes it harder as we can’t blame one person or a group.

If suffering was caused by agent then we could blame the agent.

There are those who want to identify the agent. Some say it is God cursing the earth after the sin of Adam and Eve related in Genesis 3. Many evangelicals believe just that. Others, noting that the previous idea can’t be tenable if we accept and ancient earth and evolution suggest a primeval fall of angels, who have been causing havoc ever since. Even today, well over two centuries after the discovery of geological time and extinction before humans, far too many Christians still accept this untenable set of beliefs.

Or else one may claim to believe in spiritual warfare, in that we live in a world where natural disasters, disease and evil are tied up not only with the choices of human beings but with the freedom exercised by spiritual forces in rebellion against God. Despite the victory of Christ is his death and resurrection, there are still lots of spiritual battles of good and evil, whether cancer, a tsumani or a pandemic.

These divide creation into good and evil. But how do you decide which parts of creation is evil? When in Yellowstone some years ago a Ranger told me that some visitors told him to remove all the bad animals from the park. I presume they meant grizzlies and bison who are not very cuddly. Just because they are potentially dangerous doesn’t mean they are evil. I must admit I was a bit jumpy on one hike despite having a bear bell! Some extend this to the inanimate creation and consider earth forces like earthquakes and volcanoes to be bad and with malign spiritual forces behind them. This is totally Manichean with a battle of good and evil and makes people look for the good and the bad, rather like that Yellowstone visitor.

We cannot make this simplistic division of creation into good and bad, but we need simply to accept creation as it is, and realise there are some uncomfortable aspects. I’ll come back to suffering.

More recently some, and not fundamentalist, have stressed the Groaning of Creation from Romans 8. This can be tied into the fundamentalist view of the curse of Genesis 3, or have a curse without a curse, apparently accepting the whole evolutionary picture by saying the cosmos needs redeeming. I have to admit that I do not know what it actually means, and really only makes sense if we believe a literal fall which changed the cosmos. It is also dependent on a particular translation of Romans 8 vs 19ff.

One of the most common theistic explanations which is brought out every disaster is that the event – hurricane or virus – is an Act of God and a judgement on sin. This is a common practice of leading pastors and they single out things like gay marriage. I find it hard to believe in a loving god who’d bump off so many people because a few went for single-sex marriage. It makes God an ogre and a nasty bit of work.

Granted this is an old view and was wheeled out for many natural disasters and pandemics in the past. It does have some roots in the Old Testament but not in Jesus Christ.

None do justice to a loving God (though there are issues why He allows such disasters) or to the brute naturalness of these disasters whether floods or pandemics.

Not all suffering is natural

Much suffering is not from a natural cause and is caused, directly or indirectly, by humans. Human history is full of examples and the Holocaust is the worst of many. I write this close to the 75th anniversary of the freeing of Belsen. Words fail on that. Or take some examples from history; the Thirty Years war of the 17th century, the harrowing of the north of England by William the Conqueror, the blood-bath of WWI for a few.

It is too easy to focus on the evil of the Holocaust and Pol Pot and ignore all the lesser evils like the ones each of us commits – assuming we can grade them. Human evil always hurts others to a greater or lesser extent. Just read a standard history book and think of the human suffering caused by war, revolution, or misgovernment. The most well-known is the history of World War II with its horrific toll of suffering and death. Just read a volume by Max Hastings or Anthony Beevor or Michael Burleigh’s aptly titled work on WWII Moral combat, which is a most unsettling book.

It does not have to be the world at war, it can be within a family, local community or a church community. On the last there is not only child abuse but spiritual abuse Title. Many have left a church totally hurt by “nice Christians” who behaved badly.

Some may try to play down the moral side by insisting that often it was not deliberate. That comes from the common, but simplistic and wrong, view that for an action to be sinful/evil, it must be deliberate. Not all evil is deliberate, but that does not make it not evil. In one of the Anglican prayers of confession we find these words;

We have sinned…..

Through ignorance, through weakness, through our own deliberate fault…

I confess that when I first used it half a century ago I thought it misguided as I thought sin had to be cold-bloodedly deliberate. I gradually appreciated its wisdom.

Weakness is the failure to do what is right as Edmund Burke said “All that is needed for evil to thrive is that good men do nothing.” In fact, good men become evil. Weakness can often mean lacking the moral fibre or guts to do what is right.

Ignorance comes in various forms. At the simplest it is simply not knowing and there is nothing wrong in that, provided we admit to it. It is wise to realise one’s ignorance. But there is a more serious ignorance when we simply fail to find out something on a vital issue. This can have lethal results if a mechanic is ignorant on fixing a bike, car or plane, because he failed to consult the manual. Ignorance can be deliberate and/or culpable, when a person simply fails to find out what they can. Many years ago there was a ghastly accident on Snowdon. A group of hillwalker out to climb Snowdon in January, and without skill or equipment attempted a snow and ice climb. Halfway up one slipped and broke his leg, they left him there. They carried on, another slipped and died. It was a catalogue of culpable folly and Snowdonia Mountain Rescue were fulsome in criticism, something they do not usually do. You may be ignorant about a route up a mountain and thus when you attempt it you may have a serious accident. But that does not make you blameless, as if you have not worked out the route before by studying the map and guide book and checked whether you and the party are capable of returning safely, you are responsible for everything which goes wrong. Many years ago the Welsh Mountain Rescue ascribed nearly half of accidents one year to folly.

Now the Holocaust is simply “deliberate fault” and unmitigated human evil. There are many lesser examples of bad actions due to “deliberate fault”, and I am sure you can think of many – including your own.

Where does covid-10 come in? The virus itself is totally natural, and, if the present scientific consensus is right, then C-19 had existed for ages in bats. In Wuhan the virus did what viruses often do, especially when its host animal is badly stressed – it jumped to another species and this time to humans and we know the rest and the terrible results.

There is no evil in the C-19 virus itself, though it causes disease, but the evil and sin is in how conditions were formed to enable the virus to jump species. All the evidence points to the live trade in exotic animals, which is illegal in civilised countries. Animals are kept in appalling conditions and if alive are highly stressed and if dead squalid and filthy. It is not a hygenic environment, ideal for spreading diseases and that is what happened. (I am aware that some say it came from a lab – when the same strictures apply.)

Some may try to play down the moral side by insisting it was not deliberate, so we go back to the prayer of confession;

We have sinned…..

Through ignorance, through weakness

The outbreak of C-19 was not deliberate but seems to have been caused by blatant ignorance and weakness in taking part in live markets. The lack of animal welfare could be seen as deliberate. Before too many fingers are pointed, the whole human race has a bad record on treating the earth and the life in it.

We could list many other examples like the drunk or careless driver who kills.

Earlier I gave some of the false explanations for so-called Natural Evil and why they are wrong. They gain traction because they do appear to be explanations and I’ve offered nothing by way of explanation. My omission is deliberate, but it is not an omission, but a realisation that an explanation is not forthcoming. We are simply stymied by suffering, whether on a personal level when we lose a relative, a pandemic or a war.

When suffering strikes many want an explanation, be it “Why is God punishing me?” as if is a result of wrong-doing, either ours or Adam’s. Suffering is often seen as punishment and enough theological spin-doctors down the centuries have spun their tales, which often cause more hurt than comfort.

We live in a world where suffering is guaranteed whether on a large or small scale. Each of us has experienced suffering in the past, more for some than others. From the news or history books we will hear of more. However much we put it on one side we know it will continue to hit us until the day of our deaths. That death will cause suffering to others. My mother, who lost my father at 51, once said to me decades later, “you never get over it.” Move from the family to the wider society.

Suffering is more of a problem today than before when life expectancy was about 40, you’d expect to lose half your children, famine and disease hanging over like a cloud. If you read about 19th century Britain, you find women dying in childbirth, lots of children dying and a life where death was never far away. At the end of the 19th century Sunday School hymnbooks had several hymns to sing to mark the death of a fellow scholar – as that was expected. Then most, Christian or not, were much more acceptive of suffering, as they had to be.

The Bible gives us nothing tangible on the origin of evil and suffering.

On the former it accepts some kind of spiritual evil, which is weaker than the power of God. I am very hesitant to call it in on every occasion but have occasionally come across it.  This needs to be emphasised, especially as many want spin a theology of little biblical basis, whether to explain suffering or to give comfort.

Human evil or sin is a brute fact and common to every person, The Old Testament is weaker on it than the New Testament. And the behaviour in the OT is often appalling! It is almost that the character of Jesus highlights what human evil is by contrast. Each human comes off worst in comparison, thus giving the central theme  – all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God – which on its own would be soul-destroying, but the greater emphasis is on Jesus Christ, whose forgiving transformative powers are presented in so many different ways, like the many facets of a cut diamond.

I suggest the common and popular view of atonement – penal substitution – is very limited and self-centred focusing on the individual’s salvation, rather than the reconciliation and redemption which litter the pages of the New Testament. It also leans to seeing suffering as punishment, and is also rather smugly triumphant.

Focusing just on punishment for sin, it overlooks the fact that we have a mangled Jesus, who was humiliated and beaten up before being strung up. Jesus had entered into human suffering, in a way which most of us won’t. During his life He was not the strong man overpowering his opponents but identified with the unpowerful. Nothing is further from the Jesus of the Gospels than the corruption of the Nazi Churches with their fuhrer Christology. Jesus was no ubermensch superior to everyone else (with blue eyes and blond hair too). Instead he was an untermensch – everybody’s dogsbody. As he made clear in Mark 10 when two disciples wanted to bag the best seats in the Kingdom.

42 So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’

He came to serve, not to be served and that is the calling of every Christian. Paul brings this out in Phillipians 2. Where Paul looks to the example of Jesus for a Christian to follow

2If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5Let the same mind be in you that was* in Christ Jesus,

6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess  that Jesus Christ is Lord,  to the glory of God the Father.

12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Here the example of Jesus’s sacrificial service and devotion is something to be emulated and that it something which has come into the wider society through the Christian faith as Tom Holland argues in his book Dominion, even though many would not confess to being Christian. We have seen this sacrifice during the covid pandemic.

Perhaps sacrificial service is the only Christian answer to any suffering on any scale, rather than spinning yarns about god cursing Adam and Eve, or a spiritual warfare. It is probably the only human answer too.

Suffering and death is a given and never explained and that is the theme of Job, a fine religious novel in verse. How anyone can take it a historical beats me as the whole story is artistically contrived and none the worse for that. The writer enjoyed piling it on with a certain black humour in the first few chapters and then introduced the reader to four, well-meaning but wrong-headed advisors (just as we have today from many religious writers).

Job ends up after his four advisors were no help being confronted by God;

“Were you there when I created the universe”

Or rather Job 38 vs1 ff

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: 2 ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me. 4 ‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you  have understanding.5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know!  Or who stretched the line upon it?

The essence of God’s message to Job was “trust me”,  without the superficiality of today’s usage. Job turned to God in trust and then to action. In the absence of any answers on suffering a Christian who rejects all the dodgy theological yarns spun in despair has only the option of trusting God in Jesus Christ and striving to serve.

As I wrote above the essence of Jesus’s life was to serve others and so that became the mark of the early Christians, as, unlike the Romans, Christians actually cared for those in need, and this became apparent in the pandemics which afflicted the Roman world. This marked out Christians from the beginning and the contrast with the Roman lack of care for others is summed up pithily in the Epistle to Diognetus ch5 vs7 “They share their food but not their wives.” Many Romans did the opposite! This stemmed from the second of the two commandments and other parts of Jesus’ teaching and extended in Paul’s ethical teaching and above all in the letter of James chap1 vs27

 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

And so, despite the Church being sucked into power structures since Constantine, It has always had an emphasis of caring for those in need, heroically in pandemics and more mundanely in the setting up of hospices and the care of the sick. Many of these became hospitals with a legacy of such names as St Mary’s, St Thomas’s and others. With the missionary movement, Christian missionaries of all denominations pioneered hospitals and medical work in areas where there had been none.

However it is wrong to see Christianity as primarily a moral code devoted to good works rather than a faith in Jesus Christ, with all the added religious mumbo jumbo about salvation as Clement Atlee called it. The two are totally intermeshed and cannot be separated.

In his letters Paul often first gives his doctrine and then his ethical teaching.  John in 1 John presents it almost as an oscillation between “religious faith in Christ as saviour” and loving action.

1 John 3 vs23 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.

1 John 4 vs 7-117 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.

Clarity can be worse than imprecision and can lead to arrogance, whereas if our imprecision comes from not knowing we are more likely to be humble and understanding, and thus more able to help others.

I suggest there is no “answer” to C-19, and all attempts to give an answer are doomed as I demonstrated earlier. Perhaps I should be more dogmatic and say


We have witnessed some arrogance in response to C-19 , like those who scrawl “Jesus is my vaccine” on their trucks, or think their faith will protect them.

Pandemics are not like that and never have been, or else the Black Death would have been neither.

The answer comes in doing the best one can and that means looking for the science, as did the earliest attempt at quarantine or some ways of dealing with outbreaks like typhus in Philadelphia in 1836. Any solutions will be in the scientific knowledge of viruses and how to deal with them. As this is so matter of fact, technical, and apparently soulless, more emotive responses are often preferred. That is doomed. To understand one needs to be practicing a very high de-coupling, and then, and only then, dealing with the personal suffering with skill and care. Many of the daily scientific reports this March and April have been rather cold and distant and some have criticised them for their lack of human warmth. However the best scientific evidence is needed before making moral and political decisions. Those decisions are not easy, as often the least bad option must be chosen.

To those Christians who have to have a “biblical” answer to everything, this will be a feeble and wrong response. It is so much easier to see Covid-19 as God’s judgement on a wicked world or a similar ghastly theological explanation. Using the word correctly and wisely they are heretical and also very hurtful.

We are in the position of Job, in that magnificent Old Testament legend about suffering. No one can give an answer, except that on this planet “shit happens” – there is death, disease and suffering which hits us in so many different ways. Most of the time it is one individual in one family but a Pandemic affects everyone potentially. Corporately we face our mortality and find no answer.

We can understand it partially with our reductionist science and then need to apply that as those who suffer are cared for and hopefully led to the road of recovery.

For a Christian that is to look at the example of Christ and to love one another.

Perhaps this meme quoting an American Old Testament sums up what we shoulf think and above all do.

Image may contain: text


COVID-19,Good Friday and the Death of Christ.

Why did a loving God allow the Coronavirus?

Is this actually true?

The Christian story is of a broken and rebellious creation that is awaiting the renewal of all things.




Little did we think when we heard the reports from China in January 2020 that within two months virtually the whole world would be in lock-down. I shall not deal with all the medical and scientific issues. But what about issues raised for Christians?

How should a Christian think about such a pandemic? Yes, there have been many in the course of history and the worst in Britain and other countries was the Black Death in the 14th century.

A pandemic raises such questions like;

Why did God allow it?

How can God be good?

Which are all variants trying to understand the WHY of suffering.

Most attempts consider what is called Natural Evil and for long I have wondered whether that is both a misnomer and misunderstands the nature of the universe, or the way the world is. One who has taken it head on is Justin Brierly of Premier Christian Radio in a recent blog. I think his alternative understandings are most unsatisfactory.

The question of God and suffering is one of the oldest questions ever asked and there are no easy answers. Most often the response needed for those who are walking through suffering is our love and care, not our clever theology and philosophy. However, when the time comes for intellectual answers, I believe there are some helpful way to make sense of suffering.

Justin is right on here. There are no easy answers and I wonder if there is ananswer. He is right to say those suffering need love not theology, clever or not. Some are most unclever. As he continues Justin offers some theology, which is focussed on Romans 8 vs 19ff.

The Groaning of Creation

But when it comes to Coronavirus we may be tempted to ask: Why has God allowed death, disease and natural disaster to exist at all? We may be able to understand the existence of evil caused by our own free will, but what about the ‘natural evil’ that exists in the world? This question can only be answered by a Christian from within his or her own worldview, and means we must expand our perspective to a cosmic scale.

This is the Fundamental question which is almost impossible to answer – I keep failing on it.


Out of Kilter?

The apostle Paul states that “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:22). The Christian story is that the whole created order is in some sense ‘out of kilter’ at a cosmic level. Some theologians trace this to human rebellion – an outworking of ‘the fall’ which acts both forwards and backwards in time. Others point to the existence of an earlier rebellion in the angelic realm that sparked a ‘cosmic fall’ (hinted at in Revelation 12:9).

This is dangerous pinning a certain idea on a few verses, especially as they have long been open to different understandings. There are questions on the translation here, but I’ll leave that. What does it means for the whole creation to be groaning?

Is Creation out of kilter?

Is it actually true that creation is ‘out of kilter’ at a cosmic level.”? Here he seeks to answer

Why has God allowed death, disease and natural disaster to exist at all? We may be able to understand the existence of evil caused by our own free will, but what about the ‘natural evil’ that exists in the world?

Justin does not consider that fact that death and natural disaster i.e volcanoes, earthquakes and floods, were there from the beginning of this planet’s history. Further, if he is right that the creation is “out of kilter”, when was the creation knocked out of kilter? We need to ask


“in what ways “

 “and in what ways was it out of kilter a billion years ago, when there were no humans?”

I never had a sense the created order is “out of kilter” whether in my geological work or as I look around me or when I cycle or walk in the countryside. That is not to say humans are not trying to put creation out of kilter, but that is totally different

What Justin is claiming that a Fall, whether of humans in the Garden of Eden or of an angelic Fall, has put the whole cosmos out of kilter. This is not what either Genesis 3 or Rev 12 vs9 state. It is reading into it. It probably has more to do with Milton’s Paradise Lost than the Bible.

I am fully aware that many theologians have argued for one or the other to get God off the hook for suffering, but succeed in attaching God more firmly to the hook, and making Him an ogre. To afflict the cosmos with a Curse because of the misdemeanours of Adam and Eve seems cruel to everyone and everything else.

He claims; “Whatever the origin, the result is a world that is not as it should be.” I have to ask in what ways is the world not as it should be.

If you mean the physical world, nothing has changed in geological time. The physical laws have not changed. Volcanoes are still erupting four billion years on. Yes, I’ve looked at volcanic rocks one or two billion years old. Viruses also keep attaching themselves to other living things as they did billions of years ago, and at times kill their hosts.

However human behaviour is totally out of kilter and often damages the natural world. I suspect the Coronavirus would have stayed in bats if humans had not mistreated them.

 Yet Paul includes the promise that one day “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).

What does Justin glean from this?

Everybody has experienced living in the tension of this broken world. The groaning of creation brings both good and bad across our path. The natural laws that operate are both a blessing and a curse. Tectonic plate activity renews the surface of the earth with minerals, yet wreaks havoc when humans build cities on the fault lines. Cell replication allows our bodies to grow and develop, yet can result in cancer when natural processes misfire. Death is a necessary part of the cycle of life, yet still remains our “last enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26).

Who says this is a broken world? It is as it has always been. The movement of tectonic plates is just normal and has been going on for billions of years, causing earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis.

Why does Justin not accept this?

The Coronavirus is just one more example of the broken world we live in. Life is a God-given miracle of extraordinary engineering and complexity. Yet the physical process of life itself are subject to viruses, parasites, and disease. The “bondage to decay” that St Paul speaks of reverberates through the cosmos.

This is rather high-flown with an appeal to the bondage of decay from Paul. It sounds impressive but what does it mean?

By creating a world of free creatures – both physical and spiritual – God has granted a level of freedom to the whole of the created order. That means that God won’t simply step in and wave a magic wand to take away the suffering in the world. We are part of the problem of evil, and God has chosen us to be part of the solution too.

Where does Justin think the other part of the problem of evil comes from?

Throughout the New Testament we are presented with a worldview of spiritual warfare in which God has chosen his people to be fellow combatants waging a war, not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual “principalities [and] powers” (Ephesians 6:12) through our prayer, love and action.

How on earth (literally) does Justin see spiritual warfare in plate tectonics?

God hates Coronavirus

I have increasingly seen that this ‘warfare’ view of reality may help those who have experienced great suffering to understand that God is not the author of their pain. One such person is Jessica Kelley, whom I interviewed about the loss of her four-year-old son Henry to brain cancer as related in her book Lord Willing?.  …….Jessica had come to reject what she terms the ‘blueprint’ view of a God who creates pain and suffering as part of his sovereign plan. Instead she embraced the warfare view, that we live in a world where natural disasters, disease and evil are tied up not only with the choices of human beings but with the freedom exercised by spiritual forces in rebellion against God. Although the war was decisively turned towards victory through the death and resurrection of Jesus, there still remains a world of running spiritual battles.  …….. Henry was a casualty in the ongoing battle to redeem a fallen and broken world:……………..

Jessica’s perspective can equally be turned to this present Coronavirus pandemic. God did not will this crisis. Let’s not lay the blame at his door. But he is working through the actions and prayers of those who are seeking to see his Kingdom come on earth.

It is hard to comment on this owing to Jessica’s tragic loss of a child, which I have not had to go through, but to argue “Instead she embraced the warfare view, that we live in a world where natural disasters, disease and evil are tied up not only with the choices of human beings but with the freedom exercised by spiritual forces in rebellion against God.” It is very dubious to tie up what he calls natural disasters i.e. volcanoes etc with spiritual warfare..

Are volcanoes, earthquakes, floods caused by spiritual forces in rebellion against God” There is nothing in the bible to support that and is very Manichaean.

Alternative views

Nevertheless, Jessica’s view is controversial to some. Many would object that a God who isn’t in control of the whole show isn’t the God of the Bible.

Why should we ever believe that God is control down to the last detail? It sounds great but it is not true to experience, though many of us experience a general guidance at times, but not at others. Did God really was in control when you twisted your ankle while out on a walk?

Some e.g. Thomas Oard rightly argue that God does not “interfere with and control” his creation, as in his book The Uncontrolling love of God. He extends the idea from Phillipians 2 of Jesus Christ emptying himself to God emptying himself in creation and often letting things be.

 Calvinist theologians believe that God is the author of both joy and sorrow and, even though we may struggle to see it, works through both for his ultimate purposes and glory. They say the warfare view contains too much of the same sort of randomness in suffering that the atheist must contend with. 

For me, I end up with a certain agnosticism in respect of God’s control but the warfare view is both Manichean and tries to divide creation into good (flowers etc) and evil (volcanoes) and makes Christians see everything as warfare and conflict.

Inevitably, different Christians will come to different understandings of how to reconcile God and suffering. What we can agree on is that God is good, suffering is bad, but that his love and purposes will win out in the end.

Yes, but that does not mean we should tolerate what can only be called extreme views – as is the warfare view, or that popular view of the Curse. What we need to agree on is that God is good, even when things are going badly and don’t make sense. That is found in Romans 8 especially the conclusion

Justin states;

The Christian story is of a broken and rebellious creation that is awaiting the renewal of all things.

This is simply not biblical. Just considering the Bible, there is nothing to support “a broken and rebellious Creation”. It is a variation of the Curse mythology which reckons God screwed up a supposedly “perfect “ creation because of Adam and Eve. The Christian Story IS of a broken humanity who are also stuffing up the rest of creation, but only on this planet but not beyond the Solar System, if that. In what ways are meteors, distant stars and planets “broken and rebellious”? Or even birds and bees and even bats and pangolins? Or, dare I say, viruses? The story starts there with humans stuffing up the earth and culminates with Jesus Christ who “unscrews” humanity and reconciles them (2 Cor 5)

If, and a big if, Justin’s is the Christian story then I wholeheartedly reject it as fanciful and absurd. Further it is not the Christian story held by all Christians over the last 2000 years.

The Christian story in its basics is that humans screwed things up and Jesus thorugh his death and resurrection has shown the way to unscrew it. Forget about warfare with volcanoes, or animal predation.

 How should we see God in the light of the coronavirus?

Above all it is wrong to focus on death and suffering as due to Adam’s misdeeds, and neither of Justin’s alternatives make sense. This is the danger of a self-contained biblical argument and not looking at what we know of the world. Any world view which disregards the science is worthless. If we applied that principle to astronomy we would believe in a flat earth and that seeds actually die before they germinate (1 Cor 15). We need to take note of science and especially the history of the earth and the life therein. Here it is in outline

The Universe was formed 13.4 by years ago with the big Bang (which was put forward by a Christian cosmologist Fr G Le Maitre)

The Earth was formed 4.6 billion years ago and since then its surface has been sundered by plate tectonics. There seemed to be no involvement by naughty angels and it was too early for Adam to cause the eruptions.

Life first formed between 3 and 4 billion years ago. The earliest forms were like bacteria with viruses going piggy-back. Thus from then on bacteria were dying and being infected by viruses. We then have the sequence of life and so to vertebrates, dinosaurs, mammals and lastly humans.

This makes it clear that death disease and suffering were there from the beginning and along with volcanoes. The earth is IN kilter.

So it continues today with volcanoes, earthquakes, animals and people dying.

Every so often the earth is hit with something like the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, which some implied had a human origin, rather than being natural. Some want to regard the bits which are painful as Natural Evil. That is a wrong term as those things are simply – – – NATURAL.

Can you call this evil – natural or not? It is simply life and the way the world is .Any belief system or worldview which does not accept this is flying in the face of facts.

Here we come face to face with problem of suffering, which comes out so starkly in Covid-19. All living things die, often after getting a disease. Even the fossil record shows that. At times it is accompanied with great pain. It is a problem because it is downright ghastly and we feel it should not be that way We try to rationalise it and often by one of the three put forward by Justin. We are unwilling to say it’s purely natural and believers don’t want to say God did it.

It is a dilemma, which we all seek to resolve. Not all find a resolution which supports faith and many conclude that God cannot allow the suffering and if He did then He must be the Devil. This alone should stop us from coming out with slick answers, which may help us but repel others.

Suffering was a great problem for Charles Darwin as I discuss here

What should we say as Christians?

Here we turn to the Christian story – the four gospels, which are odd as they give so much on Jesus’s last week on earth, describing in his public execution in gruesome detail.

As Jesus he died, he shrieked;

Eloi eloi, lama sabachthani!

My God. My God, why have you forsaken me?

There was Jesus, the Son of God, suffering an excruciating death. Imagine those fat, rusty nails hammered through your wrist and ankles. Then being suspended making it almost impossible to breath along with the nails tearing your flesh and broken bone.

The centre of the Christian Faith is on the ghastly death of Jesus and his surprising resurrection. Traditionally Christian have viewed the death of Jesus being purely an atonement without considering that in death Jesus shared human suffering.

Is this an answer?

Yes and no

It is not a simplistic answer.

The Old Testament doesn’t give an answer, but a poem/saga about suffering – the book of Job. Job had suffered badly and all his advisors were useless and then he met God, who asked him if he was present at creation (Job 38 -41). Job realised he did not understand and then trusted God. We can do no more, as we don’t understand as suffering gives no logical explanation and there is no logical explanation for suffering. The message was “trust God”.

This where Moltmann’s insights in The Crucified God are so helpful, as we see that the cross is not only forgiveness and reconciliation but also God in Christ entering into all suffering and shrieking “My God, My God. Why have you forsaken me?” That is what we often do when suffering hits us. Suffering points to the cross.

That is as far as we can go. There is nothing wrong in saying our understanding is partial, but it is very wrong to think we have understood suffering.

This raises the question whether suffering can be called Natural Evil as it is not Evil but just Natural. Volcanoes are just the normal activity in the earth’s crust. OK, some suffering is caused by the evil of others, but that should never be called Natural Evil, but just Evil. It’s a bit tough if you are being eaten by lion, drowned in a tsunami, or suffering a disease, but this is the fabric of creation. For the record I put my foot four inches from a sleeping Cape Cobra!

Many Christians are unwilling to accept that suffering and “natural disaster” is written into the structure of the earth, and thus what some call “Natural Evil” is simply natural. Many perform theological contortions and bad exegesis to explain evil and suffering. The temptation is to explain it away by an appeal that suffering came in at the Curse when Adam fell, or some angelic fall, or spiritual warfare. I would argue that not only are they bad/heretical/false theology but are liable to have very bad pastoral effects.

First, it results in a Manichean dualism, where everything natural is split into good and bad. An amusing example of this is that when we were in Yellowstone National Park, some visitors asked Rangers why they didn’t remove the bad animals – presumably grizzlies and wolves!! It is unfortunate if your hiker’s bear bell is found in grizzly scat, but that is not because that grizzly is bad. It is unnerving to hike in Yellowstone. This negativity spreads to those who want to kill every “bad critter”, especially insects. So the insect spray is always handy. Why zap every wasp and squish every beetle?

Secondly, this can have disastrous results on the environment as we purge it of everything bad from dandelions (weeds) to daddy long legs.

Thirdly, it can easily create a judgmentalism with a tendency to regard suffering and illness as the penalty of sin. An example is a minister I knew telling the parents of a boy suffering from cancer, that someone had sinned in the family. And then most clergy often heard people who are ill or suffering asking, “Why is God punishing me?”

It is understandable why some may think these things, but that does not make them right. Just think that menstruation was once called the Curse.

What about the Coronavirus?

As said earlier, viruses are part of the natural order and have existed as long as life itself. They cause a vast number of serious diseases in plants, animals and humans. Though they are not evil in a moral sense, they cause disease to all forms of life. Simply considering humans they cause an immense amount of suffering and death.

However the damage viruses cause is often made worse by human behaviour whether innocent, reckless or due to a lack of care for the natural world. It seems likely this coronavirus entered humans from a bat in a live animal market in China. That trade is perverse and criminally evil to animals. It also provides the right conditions for viruses to jump species.



Thus, we can say that the coronavirus is a mixture of the natural and human evil. Were it not for the latter – both the live animal market and the cover –up – we may never have heard of it.

The wildlife trade is repulsive. Ultimately we have say that it and other ways of trashing the environment are immor and evil.  The coronavirus is just one of many examples. If we hold to an Adamic or Angelic Fall, or “spiritual Warfare” we are in danger of not recognising the human sin behind it. It removes the responsibility away from those who caused it – and that includes all of us who mistreat God’s creation in any way.

Now my answer is not definite or clear-cut as it starts from the fact that volcanoes, suffering and death are totally natural and written into all creation, without a malevolent being, human or spiritual, causing them. And most definitely not a God after the Fall.

This, and the need to look after the environment in myriad ways, deals with the more general aspects, but suffering is on a personal level we must go beyond that. We need effective action not explanations. To do this involves risk and sacrifice, which we see in those who are on the frontline in the health services and other vital services today. We have seen some of them die of Covid-19.

No appeal to spiritual warfare or the Fall of Adam or angels is of any value here – except to give an attitude of spirituality superiority, which is neither Christian nor humanitarian. If Christianity is not humanitarian it is not Christian.

Suffering reduces us to a position of weakness and humility. This is a major theme of both the Old and New Testament, even though it is often sidelined in Christendom and revivalism, which prefers Christ as Lord and King rather than servant. It can be argued that the New Testament refers to Jesus as Lord and Saviour  to subvert the demand in the Roman Empire to see Caesar as Lord. How could an executed felon be Lord and Saviour?

So consider this felon. His teaching was a development of the prophetic side of the Old Testament Law with the emphasis on love of neighbour.  Apart from their worship of a different god to most Romans, this became their mark along with their keenness to care for the less fortunate. This put most expressively in the Letter to Diognetus (late 2nd cent?), “They share their food, but not their wives.” Holland discusses it in his chapter (V) on Charity in his book Dominion.

This love and service to others is self-emptying, or kenotic. It is hinted at in Isaiah with his suffering servant; Chap 42 vs 1-9, and Chap 52 vs13 to53 vs12, which forms the backcloth of the accounts of Jesus’ death.

Suffering is emptying. Paul develops that in his appeal to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ in Philippians 2.vs5-8

4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.

Yes, I know I left out the resurrection, but my emphasis is on self-emptying love in action here.

His self-emptying is seen finally in the cross and comes out in his putting down of power hungry disciple Mark 10 vs 43-5

43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

As a result when early Christians after Constantine were not involved in politicking and re-inventing the trappings of the Roman Empire, were in the forefront of caring for those in need. This was manifest during the intermittent plagues and more continually in the foundations of hospices and places to care for the sick.

This is probably where the only “answer” to suffering can be found.

Eloi, eloi, lama sabacthani.

Can a Christian believe the earth is billions of years old?

For nearly sixty years now Young Earth Creationists have been trying to convince the world that the earth is only a few thousand years old and evolution never happened.

Science Confirms The Bible

The book which started it all.


Most stop short of saying that if you accept deep time and evolution you cannot be a Christian. However, I’ve been told that many times.

The result is that Creationists, and especially Ken Ham have been successful in convincing both Christian and non-Christian that to be a Christian you must believe in a young earth.

Ham and other believe there were dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden.

Image result for ken ham image51gBlHMEfwL__SS500_

I prefer this!

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Recently Ken Ham has been asking this question and then answering it

Can a person believe in an old earth and an old universe (millions or billions of years in age) and be a Christian?

It’s was on Facebook on 28th September 2019, with the following introduction and a web reference.



“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
~Romans 10:9

Numerous other passages could be cited, but not one of them states in any way that a person has to believe in a young earth or universe to be saved.

And the list of those who cannot enter God’s kingdom, as recorded in passages like Revelation 21:8, certainly does not include “old earthers.”

Even though it is not a salvation issue, the belief that earth history spans millions of years has very severe consequences. […] The point is, believing in a young earth won’t ultimately affect one’s salvation, but it sure does affect the beliefs of those that person influences concerning how to approach Scripture. We believe that such compromise in the Church with millions of years and Darwinian evolution has greatly contributed to the loss of the Christian foundation in the culture.…/does-the-gospel-depend-on-a…/

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So here it it in its full glory and unexpurgated.

I’ve included it all and put my comments in quotation form

like this. Anything in a grey background is yours truly.

Chapter 1

Does the Gospel Depend on a Young Earth?

by Ken Ham on September 28, 2019


Can a person believe in an old earth and an old universe (millions or billions of years in age) and be a Christian?

A typical Ham question where the answer is “yes” but really “no”.

First of all, let’s consider three verses that sum up the gospel and salvation. 1 Corinthians 15:17 says, “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” Jesus said in John 3:3, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Romans 10:9 clearly explains, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Numerous other passages could be cited, but not one of them states in any way that a person has to believe in a young earth or universe to be saved.

I think I second him on this

And the list of those who cannot enter God’s kingdom, as recorded in passages like Revelation 21:8, certainly does not include “old earthers.”


Elsewhere we can find more as in Galatians 5 vs 20

Many great men of God who are now with the Lord have believed in an old earth.

This is rather patronising to say the least. In fact it is most since geologists started hammering the earth.


Some of these explained away the Bible’s clear teaching about a young earth by adopting the classic gap theory. Others accepted a day-age theory

What Ham doesn’t seem to realise is that these interpretations of Genesis weren’t “made up” to make geological time palatable , but go back hundreds of years earlier and right back to the early Fathers.

See my chapter in Myth and Geology, Geol soc Special Publications 273 2007.



or positions such as theistic evolution, the framework hypothesis, and progressive creation.

This is rather sweeping and dismissive of the many who have considered Genesis in the light of science

My chapter (in English from Streitfall Evolution

Evolution and religion in Britain from 1859 to

Scripture plainly teaches that salvation is conditioned upon faith in Christ, with no requirement for what one believes about the age of the earth or universe.

In many ways I agree with that, but Christians can put others off beleif in Christ by holding silly beliefs themselves or rejecting science. St Augustine sums it up


Now when I say this, people sometimes assume then that it does not matter what a Christian believes concerning the supposed millions-of-years age for the earth and universe.


Now we are getting to it! I disagree with Ham as rejecting “billions-of-years” makes the Gospel absurd. I find this rather duplicitous  as the diagram shows what Ham really thinks as his honest answer is that you cannot.

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Even though it is not a salvation issue, the belief that earth history spans millions of years has very severe consequences.

Having softened his readers up, he nows let rip.

Let me summarize some of these.

Authority Issue

The belief in millions of years does not come from Scripture, but from the fallible methods that secularists use to date the universe.


As the Bible was written some 2 to 3 thousand years ago, this is not surprising. Neither do the following come from Scripture; heliocentrism, genetics, DNA, periodic table, but according to Paul in I Corinthians 15 seeds actaully die before they germinate. That is simply untrue!!

To attempt to fit millions of years into the Bible, you have to invent a gap of time that almost all Bible scholars agree the text does not allow — at least from a hermeneutical perspective.

Here Ham is alluding to the Gap Theory, which suggests a gap of time between the initial creation in vs1 and the final re-ordering in vs2, which was the most common view of conservative evangelicals up to about 1970 to accommodate geological time. Here Ham implies it was invented/concocted as an adhoc response to deep time.

That is not the case. Some in the early church held it. In fact before 1800 most western Christians reckon God first created chaos and then later re-ordered it after a period of time. Before geology opinions differed on the duration of Chaos. Ussher nobly allowed a few hours, but others allowed much more. Thus in 1801 Thomas Chalmers took this “Chaos-Restitution” interpretation and allowed most geological time to be in this period of Chaos.

Hence it was not invented but an old interpretation modified. OK it was rejected by most in later years.

Or you have to reinterpret the days of creation as long periods of time (even though they are obviously ordinary days in the context of Genesis 1).


Again this is not another invention but a modification of an ancient interpretation which was held by some in the early church. It was not as widely held as the Chaos-Restitution

See my chapter in Myth and Geology and also this paper in The Evangelical Quarterly

Genesis of Ray

In other words, you have to add a concept (millions of years) from outside Scripture into God’s Word. This approach puts man’s fallible ideas in authority over God’s Word.

Sorry, Ken. You misrepresented this “alternative” views and failed to acknowledge they were common before any geologist wielded his hammer.

As soon as you surrender the Bible’s authority in one area, you unlock a door to do the same thing in other areas.

Ken would do well to read John Calvin on accommodation in his commentary on Genesis, on chapter one!! Here Calvin stresses the Bible is about God and not scientific detail. In other words

the Bible tells you how to get to heaven

Not how the heavens go.


Once the door of compromise is open, even if ajar just a little, subsequent generations push the door open wider. Ultimately, this compromise has been a major contributing factor in the loss of biblical authority in our Western world.

Ken loves the word compromise, possibly because it puts those he disagrees with in a bad light. It implies we all lack integrity, which is very offensive

It is not compromise, but striving to understand the world around us in the light of Scripture.

The Church should heed the warning of Proverbs 30:6: “Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.”

Not a kindly remark. One should not weaponise the Word of God.

Contradiction Issue

A Christian’s belief in millions of years totally contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture. Here are just three examples:

Thorns. Fossil thorns are found in rock layers that secularists believe to be hundreds of millions of years old, so supposedly they existed millions of years before man. However, the Bible makes it clear that thorns came into existence after the Curse: “Then to Adam He said, ‘Because. . . you have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat of it”: Cursed is the ground for your sake. . . . Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you’ ” (Genesis 3:17–18).

Nope. Gen 3. 18 does not say thorns came into existence at the so-called Curse.

Disease. The fossil remains of animals, said by evolutionists to be millions of years old, show evidence of diseases (like cancer, brain tumors, and arthritis). Thus, such diseases supposedly existed millions of years before sin. Yet Scripture teaches that after God finished creating everything and placed man at the pinnacle of creation, He described the creation as “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Certainly calling cancer and brain tumors “very good” does not fit with Scripture and the character of God.

It’s odd that Christians in previous centuries did not have this problem with “very good”. Why should “very good” mean the absence of death?

Diet. The Bible clearly teaches in Genesis 1:29–30 that Adam and Eve and the animals were all vegetarian before sin entered the world. However, we find fossils with lots of evidence showing that animals were eating each other — supposedly millions of years before man and thus before sin.

To be pedantic this does not preclude meat in one’s diet.

  Death Issue

Romans 8:22 makes it clear that the whole creation is groaning as a result of the Fall — the entrance of sin. One reason for this groaning is death — the death of living creatures, both animals and man. Death is described as an enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26), which will trouble creation until one day it is thrown into the lake of fire.

Th is is eisegesis on eisegesis. Paul is not clear at this point – hence the diversity of opinion among commentators. Paul neither says or implies “One reason for this groaning is death”.

Romans 5:12 and other passages make it obvious that physical death of man (and really, death in general) entered the once-perfect creation because of man’s sin. However, if a person believes that the fossil record arose over millions of years, then death, disease, suffering, carnivorous activity, and thorns existed millions of years before sin.


Again Ken his selecting his preferred interpretation.

The first death was in the Garden of Eden when God killed an animal as the first blood sacrifice (Genesis 3:21) — a picture of what was to come in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who would take away the sin of the world. Jesus Christ stepped into history to pay the penalty of sin — to conquer our enemy, death.


This depends how you consider Genesis 3, but nowhere does it say animals did not die before this point. Most importantly it does not say god offered a sacrifice to make those clothes. This is ingenuous.

By dying on a Cross and being raised from the dead, Jesus conquered death and paid the penalty for sin. Although millions of years of death before sin is not a salvation issue per se, I personally believe that it is really an attack on Jesus’ work on the Cross.

Well, this is not an argument, but what he personally believes! It is better to follow Scripture and look to all commentators to see how we should understand it. One person’s personal views do not count for much.

Recognizing that Christ’s work on the Cross defeated our enemy, death, is crucial to understanding the good news of the gospel: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

Far more important is to see that through the cross Christ forgives us and that the resurrection opens the way for new life.  (Could write much more here.)

Rooted in Genesis

All biblical doctrines, including the gospel itself, are ultimately rooted in the first book of the Bible.

This is universal Christian belief.

  • Marriage consists of one man and one woman for life (Genesis 2:24).

I won’t challenge this as the ideal, but it is a pity many Creationists don’t follow it!!

.However you read Genesis, sin started with humans

  • From the beginning God promised a Messiah to save us (Genesis 3:15).

Not all Christians accept this “bruised heel” argument

Genesis 3 16-19 does not actually say this. It is a popular interpretation which owes to John Milton than the Bible


Not the best biblical passage on this!!

I think all Christians would agree, but prefer to look elsewhere in the Bible and especially Jesus’ teachings.

Agreed. I reject the views of Creationists in Apartheid South Africa and the Confederate States who used Genesis to support racism.


False Claims

The New York Times on November 25, 2007, published an article on the modern biblical creation movement. The Creation Museum/Answers in Genesis received a few mentions in the article. However, I wanted to deal with one statement in the article that the writer, Hanna Rosin, stated concerning the Creation Museum:

The museum sends the message that belief in a young earth is the only way to salvation. The failure to understand Genesis is literally “undermining the entire word of God,” Ken Ham, the founder of Answers in Genesis, says in a video. The collapse of Christianity believed to result from that failure is drawn out in a series of exhibits: school shootings, gay marriage, drugs, porn, and pregnant teens. At the same time, it presents biblical literalism as perfectly defensible science.

“Note particularly the statement: “belief in a young earth is the only way to salvation.” Had the writer done just a little bit of homework, she would have found that not to be true! Even if Christians believe in an old earth (and even theistic evolution), they would know that such a statement is absolutely false.

 The Creation Museum avoids saying this explicitly, but it is implied in everything Ham, AIG and the Creation Museum say.

The Bible makes it clear that, concerning Jesus Christ, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). When the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:30 asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas (in verse 31) replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

He’s on stronger ground here, but reflects standard Christian belief

In Ephesians 2:8–9 we are clearly told “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” And Jesus Christ stated “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’ ” (John 14:6).

Creation Museum/Answers in Genesis Teachings

As one walks through the Creation Museum, nowhere does it even suggest that “belief in a young earth is the only way to salvation.”

Not so, Maybe it does not state it, but the whole approach of the Creation Musuem and AIG, not only suggests it, but makes it to be the only conclusion.

In fact, in the theater where the climax of the 7 C’s walk-through occurs, people watch a program called The Last Adam. This is one of the most powerful presentations of the gospel I have ever seen. This program clearly sets out the way of salvation — and it has nothing to do with believing in a young earth.

As I often tell people in my lectures, Romans 10:9 states “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” By confessing “Jesus is Lord,” one is confessing that Christ is to be Lord of one’s life — which means repenting of sin and acknowledging who Christ is. The Bible DOES NOT state, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead — AND BELIEVE IN A YOUNG EARTH — you will be saved”!

You protest too much!!

Concluding Remarks

So it should be obvious to anyone, even our opponents, that this statement in the New York Times is absolutely false. Sadly, I have seen similar statements in other press articles — and it seems no matter what we write in website articles, or how often we answer this outlandish accusation, many in the press continue to disseminate this false accusation, and one has to wonder if it is a deliberate attempt to alienate AiG from the mainstream church!

I was not aware that AIG was part of the mainstream churches !

I believe that one of the reasons writers such as Hanna Rosin make such statements is that AiG is very bold in presenting authoritatively what the Bible clearly states. People sometimes misconstrue such authority in the way Hanna Rosin has. It is also interesting that people who don’t agree with us often get very emotional about how authoritatively we present the biblical creation view — they dogmatically insist we can’t be so dogmatic in what we present! It’s okay for them to be dogmatic about what they believe, and dogmatic about what we shouldn’t believe, but we can’t be!

In my lectures, I explain to people that believing in an old earth won’t keep people out of heaven if they are truly “born again” as the Bible defines “born again.” Then I’m asked, “Then why does AiG make an issue of the age of the earth — particularly a young age?” The answer is that our emphasis is on the authority of Scripture. The idea of millions of years does NOT come from the Bible; it comes from man’s fallible, assumption-based dating methods.

Here we go again. The false questioning of anything connected to geological or cosmological dating.

That has been dealt with so many times.


If one uses such fallible dating methods to reinterpret Genesis (e.g., the days of creation), then one is unlocking a door, so to speak, to teach others that they don’t have to take the Bible as written (e.g., Genesis is historical narrative) at the beginning — so why should one take it as written elsewhere (e.g., the bodily Resurrection of Christ). If one has to accept what secular scientists

i.e atheistic scientists. Ken will not admit how many Christian scienitsts have been involved in all this old age stuff, whether those geologists like Sedgwick and Buckland



in the early 19th century or Fr leMaitre, the Belgian astrophysicist and priest who put forward the idea of a Big Bang.

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say about the age of the earth, evolution, etc., then why not reinterpret the Resurrection of Christ? After all, no secular scientist accepts that a human being can be raised from the dead, so maybe the Resurrection should be reinterpreted to mean just “spiritual resurrection.”

This is plain deceptive as he wishes to imply all non-creationist scientists are atheistic and deny the resurrection.

Perhaps he has not heard of Francis Collins,


Sir John Polkinghorne and a whole galaxy of greater and lesser scientists throughout the world , who see no conflict between faith in the resurrection of Jesus and acceptance of the vast age of the universe, and those things which go along with it.

The point is, believing in a young earth won’t ultimately affect one’s salvation, but it sure does affect the beliefs of those that person influences concerning how to approach Scripture. We believe that such compromise in the Church with millions of years and Darwinian evolution has greatly contributed to the loss of the Christian foundation in the culture.

You have not proved your point!!

However you have shown  that you are prepared to misrepresent other Christians, history  and science to make your claim.

Your approach is deficient both in the Ninth Commandment and our Lord’s Second great commandment and rather replete with what Paul warns us about in Galatians 5 vs16-21

I think I prefer Adam Sedgwick’s ways two hundred years ago. We should do the same today . Here it is;



Is Genesis History? Well, nope


Image result for is genesis history

Is Genesis History? is a DVD to show that early Genesis is “history” and that the earth is a few thousand years old, God talked the universe into being in 144 hrs, the flood was worldwide and most of the strata were laid down at that time. Evolution is a big no-no.

It has the support of most creationist groups and many of their “experts” have contributed to this beautifully flawed production.


More can be found on their website. 

The introductory page makes it clear.

“Will strengthen confidence in Scripture, clarify understanding of the relationships of revelation, science, history, and faith, and enhance understanding of difficult questions all while being both beautiful and entertaining.” – E. Calvin Beisner, PhD

Is Genesis History? features over a dozen scientists and scholars explaining how the world intersects with the history recorded in Genesis.  From rock layers to fossils, from lions to stars, from the Bible to artifacts, this fascinating film will change the way you see the world.

The film’s goal is to provide a reasonable case for Creation in six normal days, a real Adam and Eve, an actual fall, a global flood, and a tower of Babel. Dr. Del Tackett, creator of The Truth Project, serves as your guide—hiking through canyons, climbing up mountains, and diving below the sea—in an exploration of two competing views … one compelling truth.

This says it all, but who are the experts?

Experts Interviewed

Many people don’t realize just how many scientists and scholars see Genesis as the key to understanding the world around us. Each of these experts has spent decades working in his respective field to better understand how it relates to the history recorded in the Bible.


Those who fllow Young Earth Creationism will recognise most of these names. It’s true that they have Ph.D.s and have worked for years in their chosen fields, but…..

I’ve met five of them, but none have more than a few academic papers to their name – which, in the case of geology, do nothing to refute “old earth ” geology. At times their treatment of standard science is duplicitous.

And so another page deals with their answers to “questions”.

I’ll focus on one – the theologian Douglas Kelly

Dr. Douglas Kelly explains the history of the church’s relationship with Evolution and the Bible.

DEL: Where do you see all of the sudden the thought beginning to work its way in, that there is something less than historical record found in Genesis?

DOUG: Dr. Nigel Cameron, who did a book a number of years ago which unfortunately it’s out of print, Evolution and the Authority of the Bible, in which he shows convincingly to me after serious study on his part that the whole church as far as commentators and creeds on into Protestant confessions held straight six day creation, until the European enlightenment. And particularly two things happen, well many things happened in the European enlightenment but two things particular reference to creation. One is there was the introduction of the thought of vast geological ages being evidenced by geological structures. That was happening largely in the 18th Century, late 18th Century. And then in the 19th Century of course we have Charles Darwin. It was not that theories of evolution were totally novel. They weren’t, because if you go back to certain pre-socratic philosophers, Democritus, Lucretius and others, they held some kind of evolution, but that Christianity had purged that out and said it’s ridiculous and it goes way underground.

DOUG: It’s able to come back to the surface by the European enlightenment. Geology first and then with particularly Darwin and his grandfather was teaching Erasmus Darwin but Charles Darwin’s major work came out in 1859 and sold out in about two days because people were so desperate to find an intellectual alternative to divine creation. Well Cameron shows that when about five years, five or six years after Darwin’s book became popular i.e. by the late 1860s there was scarcely a protestant commentator, a protestant commentator that didn’t accept some form of evolution or at least say this is a matter best left to the scientists. Let’s deal with the spiritual.

DEL: It happened that fast.

DOUG: It happened that fast within six or seven years. Now there were exceptions. Good Bishop Wilbur Force resisted it, but that’s how quickly it happened.

I facepalmed at the last sentence “Bishop Wilbur Force”. It clearly they meant Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, son of William Wilberforce.


Wilberfoce was competent in science and attended geological lectures by William Buckland for three years while at Oxford. His 1860 review of the Origin of Species was competent though rejecting evolution.

Kelly studied for his Ph D in Edinburgh under T F Torrance, the leading 20th century Scottish theologian, who had a sound view of science and theology!

In 1999 he published a YEC book supporting a six day creation , full of poor theology and worse science.

The quotes by Kelly here are weak. He is wrong to say theologians held to a six day creation until the Enlightenment. See my chapter here; Genesis 1 & geological time from 1600-1850 Until there was geological evidence for an ancient earth theologians took varied opinions but after 1780 few opted for a young earth. What Kelly does not say is that after 1800 very few theologians, Protestant or Catholic accepted a 6-day creation. That includes conservative protestants and evangelicals on both sides of the pond. By 1870 most accepted some kind of evolution.  This is just for Britain, the situation in the USA was similar  – at least til the Scopes trial. Evolution and religion in Britain from 1859

So lets get on with this blog  on

6 Reasons Christians Should Embrace 6 Day Creation

Watch the film

The blog  has a clear purpose – to give 6 reasons why Christians must accept a 6-day creation.

When Is Genesis History? opened in theaters last year, we had no idea it would be the top grossing Christian documentary for 2017. We were even more surprised when our distributor said they were bringing it back to theaters on Feb 22, 2018 for an Anniversary Event.

Why did this film resonate so much with audiences?

Perhaps it demonstrated that it’s intellectually reasonable for Christians to embrace 6-day creation.

By ‘6-day creation,’ I’m referring not just to one’s view of Genesis 1, but to an entire chronology of historical events. These include the immediate creation of everything in six normal days, a Fall that brought corruption and death into the universe, and a global Flood that destroyed the world.

I recognize that among some Christians this is not a popular view of history. Instead, some have adopted the framework hypothesis, analogical days, or the cosmic-temple model to interpret Genesis 1.

They then accept the conventional chronology of universal history. This includes the slow formation of everything over billions of years starting with a Big Bang, the corruption and death of trillions of creatures before the arrival of Adam and Eve, a Fall that introduced death only to mankind, and a local flood during the days of Noah.

It is the events included in 6-day creation that are essential for Christian theology.

I realize that intelligent and godly Christians hold to this model of Earth history. Nevertheless, many seem unaware of the actual events they must inevitably adopt when affirming a 13.8 billion-year-old universe.

After all, one cannot extend history for billions of years without attaching new events to it. Those events have theological consequences.

This is why thinkers like Geerhardus Vos, Louis Berkhof, and D. Martin Lloyd-Jones embraced 6-day creation. They understood it is the events included in 6-day creation that are essential for Christian theology.

Note that included is not only a 6-day creation, but also a Fall which brought death into the world. This latter is a plank for YEC as the death of Christ is often presented as reversing the effects of the Fall, thus giving more plausibility to YEC. Note how the expression “corruption and death” is put forward in contrast to a “good2 and “very good” original creation.

Then Six theological reasons for YEC are considered.

Here are six theological reasons worth considering:

N.B. Here I give the blog in “quotes” , the rest are my comments

1. God’s Goodness Must Be Reflected in the Original Creation

Ligon Duncan observed in an interview for ‘The Gospel Coalition’ that affirming the goodness of the original creation is non-negotiable. As the Westminster Confession states, the goodness of the original creation is the manifestation of the glory of God’s own goodness. (WCF 4.1)


If the expression “original creation” was not used, most , if not all Christians subscribe to this. Creation,( however it came about, however old it is), “is the manifestation of the glory of God’s own goodness. (WCF 4.1)”. However the use of “original Creation” is used to imply that creation took place in a matter of 144 Hours. That most Christians disagree with.

they then ask;

What does that goodness look like? It is full of life-giving power and bounty.

I find this photo an odd one to show the earth without corruption 🙂 In fact it shows beauty and tranquillity and so much of our scenery and wildlife shows the beauty and wonder of Creation. Here are two taken from near home I quickly found at random . It is difficult to see it as “not good”. I try hard to see the corruption here.

DSCF5863DSCF8789 (1)


This is what we see in Genesis 1. God pronounces His original creation ‘good’ and ‘very good.’ It was a world of plenty and beauty without animal carnivory (Gen 1:30) and without corruption and death (Rom 8:21).

Yet this picture of an artistically-designed, beautiful world only fits within the chronology of 6-day creation.



I’d be very surprised if any reader does not see this as a “picture of an artistically-designed, beautiful world”. Just look at the colours and delicacy of the plant’s structure and the exquisite tiny flowers coming into bloom. Many will recognise it as sundew (drosera rotundiflora) which is common in boggy areas. I found this ten miles from my home in a gorgeous boggy lake full of drosera and surrounded by Bog asphodel.


Beautiful though it is, the sundew is  – er  – um -” a product of the Fall and Curse” as it is a  carnivorous plant and gains some sustainence from catching insects with those tentacles in the leaves. as well as that the boggy area is a morass of dead plants and animals in varying stages of decomposition. So if the sundew and bog asphodel are beautiful they are the result of the Fall and Curse!! This rather contradicts the claim that “this picture of an artistically-designed, beautiful world only fits within the chronology of 6-day creation”.

Further they are right to say “This is what we see in Genesis 1. God pronounces His original creation ‘good’ and ‘very good.’ It was a world of plenty and beauty …..” We see this good and very good all around us, and especially if we are tuned to see the wonder of creation in both large and small things.


But then they say “It was a world of plenty and beauty without animal carnivory (Gen 1:30) and without corruption and death (Rom 8:21).” Well, we see a world of plenty and beauty WITH corruption and animal death. We must ask how the Fall and Curse changed creation. The photos I chose all show a world of plenty and beauty with carnivory present! Gen 1 vs 30 has to be squeezed very hard to make it affirm carnivory. I’ll deal with Romans 8 later.

If one adopts the conventional chronology, one must accept that the Earth was absent from the universe for its first 9 billion years. After a galactic cooling event, the Earth slowly formed through billions of years of uninhabitable environments. God eventually created the first complex marine life, then progressively created or evolved different types of organisms. These experienced death and massive extinction events that led to the destruction of trillions of living creatures.

All this happened long before the appearance of Adam and Eve.

I realize that some Christians may not be interested in these sorts of details. Yet anyone who chooses to accept an old universe implicitly accepts the historical events that go with it. It is a history filled with lifelessness and death, not the goodness of God.

This flight of fancy begs some questions. Yes, we have a long evolution over 13.4 billion years and during most of that there was no life – but why is that bad? To correct an error of emotive appeal, the earth was not “slowly formed through billions of years of uninhabitable environments”. Yes, earth was formed 4.6 billion years ago, but life was almost certainly there by 4 billion. There has been life ever since.  But even “lifeless creation” has beauty and wonder.


Now this is the “lifeless” view from the present summit of Mt St Helens taken in October 2009. The foreground is “lifeless” lava and glacier! Behind the area was wiped clean of most life in May 1980, but is now regenerating.

2. Adam’s Sin Resulted in Universal Corruption and Death

According to the conventional chronology, corruption has always been a part of the universe. This can be seen in the fossil record which supposedly represents 540 million years of animal suffering and death. It provides snapshots of a world often full of thorns and thistles.

It’s a funny use of corruption, when it is used to denigrate the endless cycle if the universe changing over time. The universe has a history of stars being born and dying, but why is that corruption? The next sentence is rather inaccurate. The fossil record goes back 4 billion years, not 540 million!!

In this view, Adam’s sin could not have been the ultimate cause of universal corruption. As an historical event, his disobedience occurred long after “corruption” was present. Of course , their assertion is that the earth is young and geological and cosmological ages are wrong. But no evidence for that is given. Neither do they point out that arguments for these vast ages go back 300 years or so, so cannot be laid at the door of Darwin.

By ‘6-day creation,’ I’m referring not just to one’s view of Genesis 1, but to an entire chronology of historical events. These include the immediate creation of everything in six normal days, a Fall that brought corruption and death into the universe, and a global Flood that destroyed the world.

Where does it say the Fall brought “corruption”  to the universe. It is simply not in any version of Genesis 3. Yes, Genesis 3 speaks of thorns and thistles (vs18) but not animal death, earthquakes or anything else. They really need to show that DAY must mean 24 hours. For 2000 years Christians have varied on this and though until about 1680 most reckoned the earth to be young, a significant number did not on theological grounds as they had no scienitific evidence to guide them.

Further the popularity of their view of corruption stems from Milton’s poem Paradise Lost, rather than a theological consensus.

However animal pain and death is a problem to all who beleive in a benifient God. As Darwin asked about the Ichneumon fly and a cat playing with a mouse


Ultimately there is no resolution and either the Curse or “billions of years of suffering and death ” does not get God off the hook!! It is a hard thing to accept that God created a world with death and suffering, but equally hard if God introduced death and suffering because a pair of nudists went scrumping.  It is irresolvable.

Or even more starkly

This is what Paul affirms in Romans 8:21. It is what Christian theology has always affirmed: Adam was given dominion over the entire creation at the beginning; when he sinned, the entire creation was subjected to corruption as a consequence of its unique relationship to him.

Here we have the usual appeal to Rom 8 vs21. It is the standard interpretation but not unanimous. This turns on the translation of several Greek words. The word translated creation is ktisis, which can mean humanity in both parts of the New Testament and Apostolic Fathers. Few accept that today, but it was the view of the 18th century commentator John Gill and the 17th century John Lightfoot, who dated creation to 3926BC, making him more young earth than Ussher.

Too many “orthodox” (i.e old earth) theologians seem to go for a Fall in creation as did the commentators Sanday and Headlem and also NT Wright  in Evil and the Justice of God p 117 and p109.

There is a lack of clear thinking in this area, but it must be said that if the earth is even a few million years old, then death is of the order of creation and not due to a Fall. Creationists cash in on this lack of clarity. Perhaps I spent too long in scorching temperatures in the Namib Desert sorting out the geology !!

3. The Pattern of Creation-Fall-Redemption Culminates in the New Creation

If the universe contained death and corruption that wasn’t the result of Adam’s sin, what does that mean for Jesus’s redemption of both man and creation?

This is a superficially appealing argument, BUT it shifts the emphasis of the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross from the atonement of human sin to sorting out the mess of the Fall and Curse.

Consider His miracles: He was re-forming the world according to the goodness of the original creation. Whether Jesus was healing the sick, raising the dead, or feeding the hungry, He was showing that redemption results in tangible bounty to actual people. It is a goodness that culminates with the new creation. Passages in the Prophets and Revelation suggest a return to the space-time goodness of the original creation.

Yet it is only the chronology of 6-day creation that provides the historical framework for this pattern to have meaning.

If the original creation was not good, or if the Fall did not transform that creation into something evil, then what is the real nature of our redemption? And what is the real potential of the new creation?

For the bookends of creation to match, they must be mirrors of each other. This is only possible with 6-day creation.

This is a bit rambling.

4. Scripture Must be Used to Interpret Scripture

In the Odyssey, when Penelope wants to prove her husband’s identity, she requests he shoot an arrow through 12 axe handles placed in a row. She knows he is the only one who can do it. In the same way, although different interpretations claim to be accurate, only those which pass intact through the entirety of the Bible are true.

This is what we see with the events associated with 6-day creation: they are affirmed throughout the entire Bible.

Whether it is Moses connecting creation week with a normal week in the fourth commandment; or Isaiah affirming God created man at the same time He created the heavens and the earth; or Jesus explaining the global destruction of the Flood in light of His second coming; or Luke tracing the history of the world through a single genealogy; or Paul relating the work of Adam to the work of Christ; or Peter showing the relationship between the creation, global flood, and judgment to come, there is only one historical sequence that consistently fits: 6-day creation.

This is not what it says as it is an appeal claiming that THEIR interpretation is correct and the others wrong. To interpret Scripture one must use other parts of Scripture, but alway consider the context and genre and use extra-biblical information, especially on the cultural context.

5. Essential Doctrines are Embedded in History

Last year, I had lunch with a friend who takes a more liberal view of the Bible. As he heard what was in the film, he said, “if there really was a global flood, that changes everything.” This is similar to the line of thinking we see in Acts: if a man really rose from the dead, that changes everything.

Paul establishes the necessary connection between the events of history and Christian doctrine in 1 Corinthians 15. Peter does the same in 2 Peter 3 with creation, the flood, and the final judgment.

Yet it is only within the historical framework of 6-day creation that all these events cohere to the fabric of time.

For instance, if the thick fossil-bearing rock layers are the result of a global flood, they are a physical reminder of God’s global judgment on the earth in the past—as well as in the future.

If, however, one adopts the conventional chronology, those huge layers are merely a testimony to millions of years. God’s judgment is erased from the earth—and perhaps overlooked in the future.

This is based on an obvious assumption  and that is that the history of the New Testament is the same as early Genesis. It is hard to say they are. This overlooks so many differences. I note that they look to God’s judgement in the Flood as if this were a proof of a young earth.

6. Presuppositional Thinking Helps Us Understand the Discipline of Science

Finally, what about science itself?

When I started researching our documentary, I came across a book entitled The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn. Although there is much that could be said about Kuhn, his method is easy for philosophically-minded Christians to grasp: he applies presuppositional thinking to the discipline of science.

Anyone who has read Christian philosopher Cornelius Van Til can see the similarities between them:

Both point out that data is not “value-neutral,” but that people bring a ‘set of glasses’ toward the interpretation of the world around them. Both recognize the intense commitment people have toward certain views to the exclusion of all others. Both note that groups consistently interpret what they observe in light of their base presuppositions.

Night Sky

Now what makes Kuhn interesting is that he explores the history of science in light of this thinking. The result is that he effectively questions the absolute epistemological authority of modern science.

This is a total misreading of Kuhn. He argued that accumulated evidence changes the “paradigm” of scientists  eg geocentricity to heliocentricity. It was not a case of changing “presuppositions”. It can also be done on geological time and evolution (though Kuhn did this v badly), plate tectonics etc. People did not change their views on geological time due to changing presuppositions, but accumulated evidence gleaned from a methodologically naturalistic perspective. Thus scientists gradually changed their views on the age of the earth, from a few thousand in 1660 to millions in 1800 to billions by 1910. It is often overlooked that many of these geologists were Christians.

Having read both Van Til and Kuhn I cannot see the similarities, though I have to admit I’m a fan of neither!


In Closing

I regret the abbreviated nature of these thoughts. They are only a few of the many I arrived at during my three year process researching this film. I have explored them at greater depth in the Is Genesis History? Bible Study that accompanies the film.

In closing, it is my strongest conviction as a Christian that 6-day creation is the only longterm viable option for Christian theology. As D. Martin Lloyd-Jones said, “I have no gospel unless Genesis is history.”

They have not made their case!! To claim Genesis is history as we know it today is to make the Gospel incredible and thus no gospel.

Michael’s Conclusion; is Genesis History?

In the normal sense NO and it does not claim to be. To ask this question and to put it in a way that you must answer YES is to misunderstand early Genesis and the rest of the Bible.

It stems from the view that the bible is written in the same way from Genesis to Revelation and all is equally “history”. The Bible is variable on history. When we study the Gospels and Acts we find that is akin to our historcal understanding today and that of its time. It can stand alongside Caesar’s Gallic Wars as a narrative account. This, in itself, does not mean it is accurate history and Caesar was prone to massaging the facts for his own purposes. Opinions vary on the historical reliability of the New Testament, but I am persuaded that it is reliable history, and to some I take a hopelessly conservative position.

Once we consider the Old Testament things change. and its historicity and reliability  becomes less the earlier the events are. From Saul onwards i.e. after c1000BC the account fits with other contemporary accounts. But this is far less so for the Exodus and conquest, though some link it to contemporary events. For the Patriarchs – Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, the sitz-im-leben is the early Second Millenium, but there is no supporting evidence. Hence some say the Patriarchs are non- historical figures. I disagree there.

And so we come to Genesis 1 to 11, the substance of these films and blog. It is fair to say they were seen as history until the 18th century, but discoveries of an ancient earth – both geological and anthropological challenged that.

Most important is to see the historicity of Jesus Christ and not a pair of anti-diluvian nudists.

I reckon G M Hopkins gives us a better way to consider Genesis

Michael Roberts gets hung, drawn and quartered by Australian Creationists!! the final fatal blows

Oh dear my Premier Christian Radio blog of last year has caused some upset down-under. Not content with shredding my first five questions, they have had me hung, drawn and quartered as well. Have I really touched a raw nerve with these Australian creationists?


Well, Creation Ministries International have now shredded my points 6 to 10 and I’m gutted

Much was predictable and they seem disappointed I have not taken heed of their books and articles, which they know I have read. Yes, I took head of them as far was sensible , which was not at all. Jonathan Sirfartie’s Refuting Evolution was a remarkably bad book.

Not being so blessed as them with unlimited time I make a few comments on some of their quotes from the blog.

It is essentially saying one must believe in a 6-day creation and not to do so you are compromised by secular thought and have rejected the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Over the last half century I have not found one argument for creationism which dust not turn to dust on inspection.

Here is my response to Part 1 of their crit

I give the url to their blog at the end of my response to their response, and here I pick up a few of their points.

Apostle Paul’s theology is contingent upon the Bible’s history, recognizing that the spread of death to all mankind resulted from the sin of Adam. Not only humanity but all creation suffered from the effects of sin, including animals. In a chapter dealing with salvation from sin, Paul describes the whole creation as “groaning” and being “subjected to futility” and suffering under the “bondage to corruption” (Romans 8:20–22).

CMI’s argument that all creation suffered the curse and that brought in death is not there in Genesis, however much you holler that it is. Clearly if animals, or even bacteria, have been biting the dust since the early Precambrian, then the curse is null and void. Or else the whole of science is.

The writer then appeals to Romans 8 vs 20-2. This passage is open to disagreement , especially if you take the word Ktisis in vs 20ff to mean creation/cosmos. Many theologians and NT scholars get in a fix over this and it is worrying that NT Wright almost seems to accept a curse as he does in Evil and the justice of God, where on p 117 he even thinks seasons are a sign of futility, which is very weird.

In fact ktisis has a variety of meanings and after much research I prefer to follow Archbishop Ussher’s contemporary and fellow chronologist John Lightfoot and translate ktisis  as humanity. It makes better sense.

In Michael Roberts’ introduction he states, “for the last 2000 years most Christians have not believed in a young earth and it is only in the last half century that it has become a big issue for some Christians”.1

This is a blatant misrepresentation of Church history. Belief in a recent creation was the default historical position of the church from the first century right up until the era of Darwin

Total facepalm.


If CMI studied what writers had written and especially from 1600 they would see that I am right. Slowly after 1660 a longer time for creation was accepted and by 1790 few educated Christians held to a young earth, and those diminished rapidly after 1800 after from the scriptural geologists (see below) . By 1859 there were hardly any young earthers in Britain , USA or the rest of Europe.


he idea that there was no “geological evidence to guide” Christians is contradicted by the fact that the scriptural geologists of the time (see next section) were men who possessed expert geological competence. However, they were ignored by the establishment (many of whom were deists), which followed the academic trend of Hutton and Lyell’s uniformitarianism.

That’s fogging it up by flipping from the 17th to 19th century without noting the difference! In the 17th and early 18th there was virtually no geological evidence as so little geological work was done. A cursory look at any history of geology will show that . It was only after 1750 that geological evidence began to accumulate. This also ignores  (deliberately?) any geologist of a different perspective to Lyell and Hutton. Just take Brogniart and Cuvier in France, deLuc and de Saussure in Switzerland , William Smith (the Father of English geology), Townsend, Buckland, Coneybeare Brothers, Sedgwick and a host of others in Britain. Their inaccuracy here beggars belief.

This question borders on the fallacy of generalization, as Roberts implies that all early geologists’ views were similar and that they rejected a ‘young earth’. Terry Mortenson, in his book The Great Turning Point,3 gives detailed descriptions of seven ‘Scriptural Geologists’ who objected to ‘old earth’ (deep time) theories (see also The 19th century scriptural geologists: historical background). However, in the time of Charles Darwin, the rapidly developing field of geology became divorced from Scripture. Subsequently, many early geologists (even some Christians) pursued secular uniformitarian thinking. Sadly, then, they “deliberately overlook[ed] this fact, that … the earth was formed out of water … by the word of God, and … the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished” (2 Peter 3:5–6).

Ah Terry Mortenson! His book is based on his Ph D thesis from Coventry Univ. I had a copy of his thesis in my house for years and returned it to the the owner. It was not the best of theses. To say these anti-geologists “were men who possessed expert geological competence”  is risible when you assess their grasp of geology as measured by the standards of the early 19th century. Apart from George Young, who did some good field geology in Yorkshire, the rest did their field work sitting in an armchair. Mortenson wrote “George Fairholme was quite competent to critically analyze old-earth geological theories.” as I wrote in Geological Society, London, Special Publications 2009; v. 310; p. 155-170 Adam Sedgwick (17851873): geologist and evangelical

A frequent contributor to the
Christian Observer during the 1820s and 1830s
was George Fairholme (1789–1846), who signed
himself as ‘A Layman on Scriptural Geology’. Fairholme
was a Scot and was probably educated at
home rather than university. He wrote the General
View of the Geology of Scripture (Fairholme
1833) and the Mosaic Deluge (Fairholme 1837).
The preface of the latter discussed the theological
results and scepticism caused by geology and
especially the rejection of a universal deluge:
‘there cannot be conceived a principle more
pregnant with mischief to the simple reception of
scripture’. Fairholme emphasized the universality
of the Deluge: ‘if false . . . then has our Blessed
Saviour himself aided in promoting the belief of
that falsehood, by . . . alluding both to the fact and
the universality of its destructive consequences to
mankind’ (Fairholme 1837, p. 61).
In the General View of the Geology of Scripture
(Fairholme 1833), he gave an appearance of geological
competence by citing geological works.
However, his geology does not bear comparison
with that of major geological writers of his day.
His lack of geological competence is best seen in
his discussion of the relationship of coal to chalk.
Fairholme wrote:
the chalk formation is placed far above that of coal, apparently
from no better reason, than that chalk usually presents an elevation
on the upper surface, while coal must be looked for at various
depths below the level of the ground (Fairholme 1833, p. 243).
He had previously discussed this (Fairholme 1833,
pp. 207–210) and concluded, having misunderstood
an article in the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia,
Nothing can be clearer than this account; and it appears certain,
that, as in the case of the Paris Basin, this lime-stone formed the
bed of the antediluvian sea, on which the diluvial deposits of
coal, clay, ironstone, and free-stone, were alternately laid at the
same period (Fairholme 1833, p. 209).
It is clear that Fairholme regarded Carboniferous
Limestone and the Cretaceous chalk as the same
formation, and he wrote that coal fields,
lie among sandstones . . . but have, in no instance, been found
below chalk, which is one of the best defined secondary formations
immediately preceding the Deluge.
Thus the Cretaceous strata were pre-Flood and the
Coal Measures were deposited during the Flood.
He continued,
But during the awful event [the Deluge] we are now considering,
all animated nature ceased to exist, and consequently, the floating
bodies of the dead bodies must have been buoyed up until the bladders
burst, by the force of the increasing air contained within them
(Fairholme 1833, p. 257).
It is impossible to agree with Mortenson’s assessment
that ‘By early nineteenth century standards,
George Fairholme was quite competent to critically
analyze old-earth geological theories’ (Mortenson
2004, p. 130). Although Fairholme took it upon
himself to criticize geology, he did so from sheer
ignorance, as is evidenced by his claim that Chalk
always underlies Coal. Fairholme, like all antigeologists,
attempted from his armchair to find
fault with geology, but his ‘scientific’ objections
were simply misunderstood geology. Then, as
now, the advantage of writing such works is that
the refutation of their absurd arguments is beyond
the patience of rational people. The geological fraternity
had very little respect for the anti-geologists
and the response was frequently biting sarcasm,
often led by Lyell.

reproduced in

I just love the Coal measures lying above the Chalk 🙂 and dead mammals floating because of bloated bladders!! Imagine the yuk when the bladders burst.


No wonder the good evangelical parson Sedgwick had so much fun ridiculing the Scriptural geologists!! Sadly no leading Anglican has done the like in recent years. Bishops do’t seem to want to refute heresy  – and it is their job.



We are not sure where Michael Roberts gets his figures “250 years” (under question 2) and here, “350 years”? In the former case, we assume he is referring to the publication of James Hutton’s 1788 Theory of the Earth (230 years ago). Hutton’s publication was a philosophical imposition upon the rocks. It was not based on extensive field observation over many years but upon an unwarranted extrapolation into the past. This uniformitarian approach followed from his a priori naturalism which, after the promotion of Hutton’s work by Charles Lyell, became the ruling paradigm through which geology has been interpreted ever since. Ultimately it comes down to a matter of authority. Both Hutton and Lyell were anti-Bible deists (who were influenced by Masonic belief). They did not ‘read the rocks’, but set out to undo the Bible’s historical credibility, which was accepted at the time of Hutton. Their aim was achieved by subterfuge.

Simples. 250 takes us back to 1760 when geology really got going and 350 goes back to Steno, Ray and Lhwyd. They have no justification to say Hutton’s publication was a philosophical imposition on the rocks, nor Lyell and overlook the fact that there was a tremendous diversity of outlook among the early geologists. some were Christians eg Michell, Towsend, Sedgwick , Buckland etc and others like the canal engineer William Smith had no philosophy at all!!

The subterfuge in this paragraph is the CMI grossly misrepresenting what happened



and so the compare the two  – good ole creationism and the godlessness of Hutton and his successors, including me.


Just a wee problem, the Big Bang was put forward not by a rabid atheist but bu Fr Lemaitre, a Belgian priest. Whoops!

So just a few thoughts on CMI latest tirade against me.

Am I thick?

Maybe I’m in good company?


I am most honoured to get the response as it shows my blog has had some effect. Perhaps I have convinced some that Young Earth Creationism is twaddle

Meanwhile I remain a simple believer in God as creator and Jesus as my lord and Saviour and I delight in both the bible and geology.

Perhaps that is rather sarcastic, but groups like Creation ministries seem to delight in rubbishing the faith of Christians who do not believe the same as them. They compound that by not being rigorous in their honesty by continually misrepresenting those who accept standard views of science and rather unpleasantly calling them “compromisers”.  They seems to be a lack of both love and truthfulness.

Yet, too many Christians fall under their spell.

Now read their blog and see how I am hung, drawn and quartered.


Source: Answering the Premier Christianity article by Michael Roberts – 10 questions to ask a young earth creationist – Part 2 –

Why Mohler gets evolution so wrong? from Why Does the Universe Look So Old? (Albert Mohler)


Why Does the Universe Look So Old?

This seems a very odd question to ask.

Does the earth look old? Not when you see this – two photos of spring in Lancashire


But then in the winter or autumn (fall to non-english speakers) the landscape can look old and tired


This is an address  Albert Mohler gave way back in 2010, but it is an excellent summary of the scientific, historical and biblical arguments some use to uphold young earth creationism. Those who don’t know Mohler is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, one of the leading seminaries for the Southern Baptists – one of the largest denominations in the USA. Mohler has probably shifted the Southern Baptists into a more fundamentalist and creationist stance, and along with John MacArthur one of the theological giants who argue their view is the only option for Christians.

I cannot deny the strength of his following, but I can say where he is wrong. I am afraid I read his address with increasing amazement;

First, his understanding of science,especially geology and cosmology is so inaccurate that it is dire. Geology is all about fossils and not rocks.

Secondly, his historical treatment of these sciences and Christianity is full of mistakes and error, and is a garbled version of the discredited Conflict Thesis. He totally ignores the fact that many early geologists were devout Christians

Thirdly, his grasp of the history of interpretation of Genesis 1 is very patchy and incorrect.

His address is internally coherent but wrong at every turn as he operates on  ping-pong false polarisations. By that I mean he presents only the extreme alternatives of a 6-day creationism centred on fundamentalist Christianity or the scientific atheism of Dennett, Dawkins and Hitchens. His address has the implicit call to decide for one extreme or the other and is probably quite effective.

He is very critical of all who don’t accept Young Earth Creationism. In the USA, Biologos, ASA, Peter Enns and Francis Collins are put on the naughty step as is Denis Alexander in Britain.

Mohler is quite unwilling to acknowledge that a vast number of highly orthodox Christians accept deep time (what he calls “fossils”) and evolution. Implicitly he puts large numbers of Southern Baptists on the naughty step too.

I am proud to be on the naughty step in solidarity with orthodox Chrsitans down the ages and throughout the world.

I can’t help asking what is taught at  Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and wonder how it will affect the Southern Baptists. I am aware why he has deflected a good number to follow his views. This address explains why Ken Ham has such a high regard for him.

This quote sums up the oddity of his views

The universe looks old because the creator made it whole.

I cannot even begin to grasp what he means.

Here is his address

Source: Why Does the Universe Look So Old? (Albert Mohler)

which I reproduce in full with my various criticisms.



Why Does the Universe Look So Old? (Albert Mohler)

The following video and transcript is from the 2010 Ligonier Ministries National Conference. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world. Mohler also hosts two programs on “The Briefing,” a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview; and “Thinking in Public,” a series of conversations with the day’s leading thinkers.



It is extremely assuring to see this room filled at this hour on a Saturday morning of people here to seek Biblical truth on any number of questions. This conference has hopefully drawn us to some of the most pressing questions that Christians face, the tough questions. It is an honor to be here as always with my dear friend Dr. R.C. Sproul, with so many others, all these speakers, and the dear colleagues in the fight of the faith in coming to understand the great truths of the Christian faith and how these might most helpfully be applied in the confrontation with the questions of contemporary life. For so many years Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul have demonstrated that you really can teach the deep things of the Christian faith to a church and to Christians in the late 20th and 21st centuries. We are indebted to a model of such faithful teaching and it is on the basis of that, it is driven by years and years of ministry, it is living in the surplus of all of that teaching that we are able to be here today in this conference to ask these questions. And our absolute confidence is that there is no question Christians need fear. There are only questions we need to learn how to answer. This is a tough one. My assignment: Why Does the Universe Look So Old?

This seems a funny question. How can it look old or young, for that matter? That is a very subjective question.

Well, we have limited options. Number one: Maybe the universe looks so old because it is so old. Option number two: Maybe the universe looks very old, but it is not actually so old as it looks. There could be perhaps a third option or any number of derivatives in which you simply say, “We can’t answer the question.” Or there would be some who would say, “The question isn’t important.” Now I’m going to suggest to you this morning that the question is extremely important and that it is one for which we must be ready to give an answer.

I want to invite you to turn with me to Genesis chapter one. We dare not seek to answer this question without first looking to the Word of God. [Reads Genesis 1, 2:1-3]. This is the Word of the Lord. What we have here in Genesis 1:1 – 2:3 is a sequential pattern of creation, a straightforward plan, a direct reading of the text would indicate to us seven 24-hour days, six 24-hour days of creative activity and a final day of divine rest.

This begs many questions on how you read Scripture

This was the untroubled consensus of the Christian church until early in the 19th century.

This is not the case. The early church varied on this and Augustine thought all of creation was simultaneous. After 1500 there was no consensus of any church. Both RC and Protestant churches tended to a young earth but soon reckoned the “time” of Genesis 1 was more than 6 days, so that by 1800 few educated Christians thought the earth was young.

Genesis 1 & geological time from 1600-1850


It was not absolutely unanimous. It was not always without controversy. But it was the overwhelming, untroubled consensus of the church, until the dawn of the 19th century.

Repeating himself but gives no evidence. As I demonstrated in cited paper there was no overwhelming untroubled consensus, but all churches gradually accepting geological time without regarding it as undermining of doctrine


Four great challenges to the traditional reading of Genesis have emerged in the last 200 years or so. The first of these is the discovery of the geological record. Early in the 19th century, building upon discoveries made in the late 18th century, there became an awareness of fossils that appeared to be telling a story especially in that period of time.

This is muddled. It was rock strata, not fossils, which pointed to a great age of the earth. The nature of fossils was only worked out in about 1690 and the fact of extinction only in the 1790s. Fossils only began to be used for relative age-dating after 1800. Mohler seems to focus on fossils when geologists centre on rocks. This is a warning signal to all that he doesn’t seem to understand the science he is criticising and rejecting. He should have read a good history of geology eg by Martin Rudwick (a fellow Christian) eg  Earth’s Deep history


In the wake of the enlightenment – when expeditions were going to far corners of the earth for the first time, in the discovery of so many things that were new and unknown – the knowledge of a fossil record and various strata of fossil deposits became known.

This is plain wrong. Knowledge of the fossil record was very limited until 1800. Mohler is highly confused both on geology and the history of scientific discovery in the 18th century. Geology began by trying to work out the history of deposition of strata and putting the rocks into sequence. It started in about 1660 and come to fruition after 1800


William Smith’s 1815 Geological Map

And that knowledge began to prey upon the minds of those who had been raised in a Christian culture, been taught Christian truths, and who had assumed that Genesis is the great historical account of how the world came to be.

This begs many questions. Many of these savants and scientists were Christians who believed that Genesis told them about the Creator but gave virtually no details. Apart from a few, new knowledge about geology did not prey on many minds


The second great challenge was the emergence of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Coming at the midpoint of the 19th century, we need to be reminded that Darwin was not the first evolutionist. We need to be reminded that Darwin did not embark upon the Beagle having no preconceptions of what exactly he was looking for or having no theory of how life emerged in all of its diversity, fecundity, and specialization. Darwin left on his expedition to prove the theory of evolution.

Speechless. Darwin did not go on the Beagle to prove evolution. There is no evidence to support that claim. He sailed as a competent naturalist and geologist trained up by the Revs John Henslow and Adam Sedgwick, two devout non-evolutionary Anglican clergymen. He did not consider evolution in his Notebooks until about 1837 , well after his return. This is simply false history



A theory that was based upon the fossil record and other inferences had already been able to take the hold of some in Western civilization.

It would be correct to say that Darwin devised the rudiments of a theory of evolution in about 1838, but previous attempts by Grandfather Darwin and Lamarck in about 1800 did not use the fossil record –  if only that it was too rudimentary to use. Evolution was based on many aspects of biology and geology eg, morphology, biogeography, fossil succession, classification etc


The dawn of the theory of evolution presents a direct challenge to the traditional interpretation of Genesis and, as we shall see, to much more. (10:55)

No. By 1859 most Christians, evangelical or not, had accepted geological time and thus did not take Genesis as an account of 6 days of creation. At that time only a handful of educated Christians did not accept geological time. In the USA the main ones were Dabney etc in the Southern Presbyterian Church (who supported slavery) and the Lord brothers. It is very hard to find more than 20 in USA and UK from 1860 to 1900. The main challenge perceived was the evolution of humans implicit in what Darwin wrote, which to some reduced humans to animals

The third great challenge in terms of the traditional understanding of Genesis came with the discovery of ancient near eastern parallels to the Genesis account. Once these ancient parallels became known, the Enuma Elish, the Epic of Gilgamesh, scholars began to look at these documents and then to look at Genesis and begin to see Genesis as just one more of these ancient near eastern creation accounts.

How are you meant to look at writings of similar age and some similarity of content?  Some did see Genesis after that as just one more account. Many did not.


The fourth great challenge to the traditional interpretation of Genesis was the development of higher criticism, and in particular the development of the documentary hypothesis—a hypothesis and an approach to the Old Testament, in particular to the Pentateuch, that sought to establish different strata, different sources and to take the text apart, treating it as a merely human document and seeking to look at dependence and borrowings and polemics and literary styles.

Biblical criticism had long been practiced , but some , especially in Germany, developed it in a way which removed any relaibility from the bible. Others did not and in the UK foremost were Westcott, Hort and Lightfoot


These four movements together were devastating in terms of the larger Western consciousness to the traditional interpretation of Genesis. When you add together fossils, Darwin, ancient near eastern parallels, and the documentary hypothesis, you have a brew for a massive shift in understanding.

Fossils again!!! Why not say geological time? The main issue, if there was one, were the last two.


Now when we ask the question, “Why does the universe look so old?” we’re asking it over against these challenges, and to each of those we will return. But first we need to define some terms.

If we’re talking about why the universe looks so old we need to ask the question just how old supposedly does the universe look? It’s fascinating when you look at the historical development of this question, that the expanse of time has grown exponentially once persons began to ask this question and to detach it from the Biblical reality. Just on the basis of scientific of phenomenological observation the age of the earth has been getting older and older.

This is naive and simplistic. Yes, in the 17th century geologists moved slightly away from 4004BC. By the end of the 18th, some reckoned the earth to be millions, but others following De Luc (a Christian) as many , many thousands. Up to 1860 there was a great diversity in ages, most were millions but some went for billions. Oddly in the 1860s Huxley and Kelvin suggested 100 million but the Rev Samuel Haughton of Dublin, who opposed evolution reckon that the base of the Cambrian was 1,800 million years ago, somewhat less than the 550 million reckoned today. Until rocks were radiometrically tested no firm dates could be given. This was first done in 1907 and soon it was clear that the earth was billions of years old. From 1946 the age of the earth has been concluded to be 4.56 billion. In other words that has not changed for 72 years. This undermines what Mohler says here.

There is a feeble argument claiming that “scientists” have encouraged this “growth”.  In geologists had no yardstick for time until radiometric age dating was used from 1907. For 40 years things were tricky, but the conclusion arrived at by 1946 have scarcely changed since


The scientific consensus right now is that earth, planet earth and this particular solar system, is approximately 4.5 billion years old. That’s billion with a “b.”

This has not been overturned since 1946. It is a consensus based on a vast number of dates and other geological work


The age of the universe is now established by scientific consensus to be about 13.5 billion years old. The distinction between the age of the universe and the age of the earth having to do with the age of the universe being tracked back to the hypothetical emergence of the Big Bang

A poor parody of astrophyisics. Does Mohler mean consensus is just opinion? But the Big Bang was actually put forward by the astrophysicist Fr Georg Le Maitre, a Roman Catholic priest in the 1920s. He was hardly an atheist!!!! More recently the work of John Polkinghorne has helped Christians on this

Featured Image -- 11353

and with the radiological RADIOMETRIC! data and with the physical extrapolation about the expansion of the universe, the assumption

This is simply nonsense and a mendacious attempt to cast doubt on the work of scientists


is that it would have taken 13.5 billion years to have created this universe looking at the radiometric data that is found here on the planet and in particular that has shifted amongst scientists now more towards the debris from meteorites rather than anything that was considered to have emerged from within the earth itself. The estimation is it’s 4.5 billion years old.

This is incredibly muddled. Mohler tries to reduce so much science to opinion and unfounded speculation.


Now just to place ourselves in the historical and intellectual context of our question, here’s what we’re really looking at. The inference and consensus of the church, through all of these centuries, that the earth and the universe, the cosmos as a whole, is very young, talking about a limitation of only several thousand years by the time you take the book of Genesis and especially its first eleven chapters, and you look at the creation account and you look at the genealogy and you add it all together you’re looking at no more than several thousand years.

This is simply not the case. The church (whatever that is) has never laid dwon what the age of the earth is.


We’re talking about a disagreement that is not slight. The difference between several thousand years and 13.5 billion years is no small matter and I would argue it comes with huge theological consequences.

One of the assumptions you need to have in mind in terms of the assumption about the age of the earth that the scientific assumption comes down to this: uniformitarianism. The assumption that is crucial to establishing the age of the earth is based upon an intellectual assumption that was made in the early 19th century by Charles Lyell and others called uniformitarianism which assumes that the way we observe processes now is a constant guide to how physical processes always have operated. Thus a steady state of understanding physical processes is what we’re talking about as the secular scientific assumption. We gauge these things and measure these extrapolated billions of years based upon the assumption, the scientists will tell us, that things as they are now are as they have always been in terms of physical processes.

This is utterly wrong. Lyell was born in 1797 and scientists were demonstrating the vast age of the earth before he was born!! Hence it cannot be based on Lyell’s Uniformitarianism!. Mohler doe not understand how geologists work, and determine the relative ages of strata. He bases his misunderstanding on a beleif that it was an “assumption”. I cannot see why he mentions a steady state! He would do well to study Uniformitarianism, Catastrophism and Actualism in geology.



Now with that as intellectual background, what’s the urgency of the question?



Why are we here at this meeting asking the question “Why does the universe look so old?” Is this an urgent question? Is it one that calls us to account? The answer to that has to be yes. And there are some recent developments that indicate again and again and anew why it is so. The controversy concerning Bruce Waltke, who even in recent months became a focus of controversy after making a video where he argued that, unless evangelical Christians come to terms with accepting the theory of evolution, we will be reduced to the status of a theological and intellectual cult. The urgency of this question and the demand for an answer comes over against what is pressed upon us with the definition of the assured results of modern science.


Constantly we are addressed with the fact that science has now presented us with a knowledge, with an assured confident knowledge, to which we must give an answer. William Dembski in a recent book, borrowing from Cambridge philosopher Simon Blackburn, speaks of our current mental environment defined in this way. He says, “Our mental environment is the surrounding climate of ideas by which we make sense of the world.” As professor Dembski makes clear in his argument, the current mental environment in which we move and live and speak and communicate and preach and bear witness to the Gospel, is a mental environment that is shaped by the intellectual assumption that the world is very old.

This is an odd argument

To speak in confrontation to that current mental environment, it is implied, comes at a significant cost. The old earth, it is suggested, and old being 4.5 billion years old for the solar system and 13.5 billion years for the universe, is simply part of that mental environment.

Because it is true!


An even greater urgency is pressed upon us by the emergence of the new atheism—Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, three of these four horsemen of the new atheism are scientists, two of them have made their reputation in the defense of the most extreme and yet now commonly held forms of evolutionary theory in terms of the scientific academy.

Extreme evangelical atheists, good to pit against another extreme

Richard Dawkins is the author of the book The Selfish Gene and it is Richard Dawkins who has suggested that Darwinism is what allowed him to become an intellectually fulfilled atheist. In their new argument very forcefully put forth, they are arguing that evolution is the final nail in the coffin of theism. And they are making the claim that the assured findings and conclusions of modern science make not only the book of Genesis, but theism, untenable. In his new book, The Greatest Show on Earth, Richard Dawkins goes so far as to suggest that deniers of evolutionary theory should be as intellectually scorned and marginalized as Holocaust deniers. Evolution, he says, is a theory only by arcane scientific definition. It is a fact—a fact he says no intelligent person can deny. We have the emergence of the evolutionary worldview and its hegemony in the larger intellectual elites.

The new atheism comes along with Daniel Dennett and his book Darwin’s Dangerous Idea suggesting that evolution is what he calls the universal acid. I have to tell you, every middle school boy knows exactly what he is talking about. Daniel Dennett talks about when he was in middle school and he imagined a universal acid. This is an acid that would be so powerful that nothing could contain it. You put the acid in the container, it consumes the container. You then find that it consumes the entire classroom as it breaks out of the laboratory. Then it consumes the entire school—every middle school boy’s dream! Then it continues to consume, and to consume, and to consume until eventually nothing remains. Daniel Dennett says that science has never discovered an actual acid with that physical property, but he suggests that Darwin’s theory of evolution is the intellectual equivalent of a universal acid. It destroys everything in its wake. It completely redefines every understanding of life and its meaning. And I would argue that in that sense he is right.

This is a ping-pong argument as by choosing the extremes of atheism he makes his extreme position seem viable


Darwinist evolution is the great destroyer of meaning. Not only the meaning of the book of Genesis, but of almost every dimension of life. The background of this is also panic among the cultural and intellectual elites. In the United States and increasingly in Great Britain and in Europe and beyond, the intellectual elites are absolutely frantic. They’re scratching their heads in incredulity. How is it that after the Darwinist revolution, after the hegemony of evolutionary theory in the sciences, a majority of Americans still reject the theory of evolution? It is driving them to distraction. My favorite illustration of this is from the year 2003 when Nicholas Kristof wrote an article about the virgin birth of Christ in his column in the New York Times. And he said—as I paraphrase him—I am absolutely frightened to live in a society where there are more people who believe in the historicity of the virgin birth than in the reality of evolution. Well “wake up columnist Kristof!” It’s not just in America. Creationism and the rejection of evolution is not losing ground in Britain and in Europe, it is gaining ground. And intellectual elites on both sides of the Atlantic are in sheer panic. How can these things be?(22:00)


I don’t see the point of this


It’s not just panic amongst the cultural elites in the secular world however. It is also panic among the theologians. There is the warning from Professor Waltke, that if we do not get with the program we will be marginalized as a cult.

There are the warnings of people like Peter Enns, the website BioLogos—a movement started by Francis Collins, now the director of the National Institutes of Health under President Obama, formerly the head of the Human Genome Project, the author of the book The Language of God in which he makes his own argument that, unless we get with the program, we are going to be intellectually marginalized.

Yes, they are correct. Creationism is such intellectual garbage that for Christians to believe it makes the Gospel seem garbage too

And Francis Collins makes the point made by so many others that we will actually lose credibility sharing the Gospel of Christ if we do not shed ourselves of the anti-intellectualism, which is judged to be ours by the elite if we do not accept the theory of evolution.

Collins is spot on, as are Biologos and British counterparts whether people like Polkinghorne  or McGrath or christians in Science and the Faraday Institute

And it’s not just in that circle as well. There are evangelical elites—the faculties of evangelical colleges and universities and seminaries. There are authors such as Karl Giberson and his book Saving Darwin; and then it goes back in terms of the evangelical movement to the emergence in the middle of the last century of the American Scientific Affiliation. Figures such as Bernard Ramm, a well-known evangelical theologian, who argued that there must be an acceptance of evolutionary theory amongst evangelicals.

Here Mohler’s history is very short. Yes the ASA only been going  since the 1940s but there is a long tradition  of Christians and science going back through 1900, 1800, 1700 and so to Copernicus in 1543.

I suspect Mohler has not read Ramm’s 1955 book who fell short of accepting evolution.

To consider geology Christians were in the forefront from 1800 to 1860, with geologists like Silliman and Hitchcock in the USA (Hitchcock’s The Religion of Geology 1850s is an excellent book relating Christianity to geology

In the UK are lots of christian geologists eg Sedgwick, Buckland, Coneybeare and Hugh Miller

In the early 19th century a few Christians in the UK opposed geology but were soon routed!! Consider the evangelical geologists Sedgwick


From 1860 there are Asa Gray and Dana in the USA with theologians like the Hodges and Warfield from Princeton and many others.

In the UK many fine Christians saw that evolution was no threat to faith.

In the USA the were some opposition culminating in the Scopes trial of 1925 but nothing like that in Britain.



In light of this, what are our major options? Thinking about the theories of the age of the earth, theories of the interpretation of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, I’ll reduce the options to four. The first is the traditional 24-hour calendar day view. Now this is the most straightforward reading of the text. As we read and heard the text Genesis 1 through the first three verses of Genesis 2, the most natural understanding of the text would be that what is being presented here by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is a sequential pattern of 24-hour days. The pattern of evening and morning, the literary structure, all of these things would point in a commonsense manner to 24-hour days. These 24-hour days would reveal a sequence, increasing differentiation, eventually presenting in the climactic creation of man as the image bearer of God. Six days of active creation and one day of divine rest. (25:29)

Is it?  Look hard at pre-geology texts  e.g. commentaries on Genesis. Most imply a short earth but have creation starting with chaos and then re-ordering. Several were open to a longer time span

The second option is what is known as the Day-Age view. In this view, what is argued over against the data that is coming to us that is claiming to represent a very old earth, what is presented to us is the option the Hebrew word Yom in this case need not always refer to a 24-hour calendar day but might actually refer to a much more indefinite presumably very long period of time. The Day-Age view, as held by most of its major proponents, would hold that what we have here is indeed a sequence. There’s a sequential understanding of creation towards greater differentiation, greater specialization pointing toward the creation of humanity as the image-bearers of God, but that these days, though sequential, are overlapping and not entirely distinct and are not to be taken as 24-hour chronological days, calendar days, as we know them.

This came up in the 18th century and was widely held in the 19th century. There was an issue over the days i.e. plants before sun. Superficially this Concordism worked but fell apart on detail and went out except for some conservative Christians by 1900.

The third option is what is most commonly known as the framework theory. The framework theory leaps over the question of the length of the days suggesting that it is only a literary framework and it also suggests it is a non-sequential ordering in the text. It is a literary way of telling a story about the providential ordering of creation by God. And thus there is theological content to be derived from Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, but in particular in Genesis 1 we are not to trouble ourselves with the question about the length of time, nor even about the ordering and sequence of the days, but rather to see that this is God providentially ordering his creation for his glory.

This was put forward by  Meredith Kline and is accepted by many Evangelicals who reject a 6 day creation

The fourth option is to take the first two chapters of Genesis, and actually far beyond the first two chapters, into at least the first 11 chapters, as being merely literary. Understanding that what we have here is a parallel near eastern text, in this case customized for the worship and the teaching of Israel. It is a creation myth, a mythological rendering that marks the beliefs of the ancient Hebrews.

This is a parody. The emphasis here is on seeing God as creator and that Gen 1 does that rather than give details.

The first conservative version of this was by George Rorison in Answers to essays and reviews in 1861. This collection of essays was edited by Samuel Wilberforce (!!) to counter the liberal views of Essays and Reviews.

This does not see Genesis as a myth but as a literary way of persuading the reader/hearer that God is creator.


There is a fifth option – Chaos -restitution, which was the dominant view from 1600 to about 1850 when it fell out of fashion. Evangelicals took it over making it much cruder in style in their Gap Theory.

This comes out in Haydn’s Oratorio The Creation 1798 , with the orchestral introduction The Representation of Chaos  and later the aria  and a new created world sprung up.

The libretto was originally written for Handel, showing this was part of the culture!
I am surprised that Mohler ignored the dominant view of evangelicals up to 1870, which gave them a way of accepting geological time, even though most reject evolution.

My article in the Evangelical Quarterly

Genesis of Ray

Now what do these have to do with the age of the earth? Well of all of these options, only the understanding of a 24-hour day creation necessitates a young earth. The rest of them all allow for, if they do not directly imply or assume, a very old earth. As we work backwards in terms of evangelical options, the idea that Genesis is merely literary has to be rejected out of hand as in direct contradiction to our understanding of the Bible as the inerrant and infallible word of God. That option, for any credible and faithful evangelical Christian, must be taken off the table. So then we are left with the framework theory, held by some prominent evangelicals but, I would argue, one of the least defensible positions when we understand that it is based upon the assumption, not only that there may be a very long period of time that is involved and incorporated in Genesis 1 and in the sequence of the days, but actually that the sequence does not matter. It simply is not credible, at least to me, that God gave us this text with such rich detail and sequential development merely that we would infer from it his providential direction without any specific reference to all the direct content he has given us within the text. It certainly seems by any common sense natural reading of the text that it is making historical and sequential claims.

The Day-Age view, working backwards, is much more attractive on theological grounds—much more attractive on exegetical grounds. It involves far fewer entanglements and issues, but as we shall see it involves issues that go even beyond exegeses. (30:24)

Ultimantely Day-Age concordism does not work.



The first thing we need to note, as has been noted by even more liberal scholars such as James Barr, is that any natural reading of the text would indicate that the author intended us to take 24-hour days, calendar days, as our understanding.

Barr is probably right but I wonder if the original writers or hearers were bothered. In fact Gen ! is telling us of the Creator not how he did it!!


I am arguing for the exegetical and theological necessity of affirming 24-hour calendar days.

The first issue we note is the issue of the integrity of scripture. And we must concede that those who hold to a Day-Age view or its equivalent, who argue for an old earth, in so far as they are our colleagues in the evangelical movement affirming the inerrancy of scripture, are seeking to do so in a way that does not do violence to the inerrancy of scripture.

No. It does violence to the science

But I would simply respond most quickly that there is no such need for strained defense when it comes to a 24-hour understanding of creation. But there are issues far beyond exegetical issues that are at stake here. And as time is brief, I want to suggest that what is most lacking in the evangelical movement today is a consideration of the theological cost of holding to an old earth. This entire conversation is either missing or marginalized in the evangelical world today. It is my purpose as I have this opportunity to speak to you about this question today to suggest to you that the exegetical issues are real. And the exegetical evidence based upon a reformation understanding of scripture and the proper interpretation of scripture would lead me to a natural understanding of 24-hour calendar day creation.

Not if you read Reformers eg Calvin who stressed the principle of Accommodation – as in his Genesis Commentary “Moses wrote for the rude and unlearned” and “he who would understand astronomy and other recondite arts , let him go elsewhere.”

In other words the Bible does not teach science


But I would wish to allow, just as a matter of conversation and consideration, that it might be possible that we could be over-reading the text in that regard. It could be possible that we are actually coming to this with the presupposition that it must be a 24-hour day and thus we should hear the warning that comes to us from those that hold to an old age of the universe that we just might be creating an intellectual problem here in late modernity that is not necessary. So I’ve done my very best to consider the question from that vantage point. And when it comes to the exegetical issues I will tell you that I think the exegetical defense of a 24-hour calendar day is sufficient. In other words, the exegetical cost—the cost of the integrity and interpretation of scripture—to rendering the text in any other way, is just too high. But I want to suggest to you that the theological cost is actually far higher.

Think with me here. As we are looking at the Scripture, we understand it to be as it claims, the inspired and inerrant word of God. Every word inspired by the Holy Spirit. We believe that the speaking God speaks to us in this word. This is an inscripturated revelation of the one true and living God. But we also come to understand that this text is telling us a story, and that story, just in a redemptive historical framework, has to be summarized so that we know our accountability to the story and the narrative; the grand narrative of the Gospel can include no fewer movements than these: creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. We come to understand the grand narrative of Scripture, the redemptive historical narrative that is revealed in the unity of the Old and New Testaments in the consistent presentation of the revelation of God. And we come to understand that it begins with creation. It moves quickly to the fall. And then to redemption and consummation or new creation. We understand that the Bible presents a doctrine of creation that is more than merely an intellectual account of how the world came to be. It is a purposeful account of why the universe was created by a sovereign and holy and benevolent God as the theater of his own glory for the purpose of demonstrating his knowledge not only as creator but as redeemer. The doctrine of creation is absolutely inseparable from the doctrine of redemption. But it begins there in this story as is revealed in scripture. And thus we come to understand that what scripture makes clear is that God is revealed, how everything that is came to be, and why.

The second movement is of equal importance and that is the fall. Every worldview is accountable to answer the question “Why are things as they are? What is broken and how did this happen?” And the scripture so quickly takes us to Genesis 3 and to the fall and to human sinfulness and to the headship of Adam. And thus we come to Genesis 3; we come to understand that the world we know is the Genesis 3 world. The creation we observe is a Genesis 3 fallen creation.

Assuming we should take Gen 3 as fairly literal history , it does not speak of a fallen creation but of fallen humans. This is sheer eisegesis.

Mohler clearly believes in the Curse which cannot be gleaned for scripture. His beliefs are more in John Milton than the bible



And we come to understand that if we had merely these first two movements in the redemptive historical narrative of scripture, we would be lost and forever under the righteous judgment and under the wrath of God. But thanks be to God.



These then take us, as scripture takes us, to redemption. And there we come to understand that God, before the universe was created, had a purpose to redeem a people through the blood of his son. And he does this. And we come to understand how the scripture presents this in terms of the person and work of Christ, the meaning of his atonement, and the richness of the Gospel. But the grand narrative of scripture does not leave us merely there. It points toward consummation, final judgment, new Jerusalem, new heaven, new earth. It points towards the reign of God demonstrated at the end of history and the conclusion of this age. It points us to a time when every eye is dry and every tear is wiped away—to a final judgment. To a dual destiny. Heaven and hell. It points us to a new creation, to a new heaven and a new earth that is not merely the reestablishment of Eden, but something far greater. For in the new creation, God is known not only as creator but as creator and redeemer. His glory being infinitely greater by our beholding, by the fact that we know him now as those who have been bought with a price, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.

It’s important for us to remember our accountability in that narrative, because this raises some central questions—two in particular. The first is the historicity of Adam. In Romans 5:12 we read, “Therefore just as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin and so death spread to all men because man sinned.” Paul bases his understanding of human sinfulness and of Adam’s headship over the human race on a historical Adam. A historical fall. Adam may be—indeed I believe really is—the most pressing question: the historicity of Adam and Eve and the historicity of the fall.

romans 5 does not touch on the rest of creation, so he is reading in again!!


An old earth understanding has serious complications because the old earth is not merely understood to be old. The inference that it is old is based upon certain evidences that also tell a story. The fossils are telling a story. And the story they are telling is of millions and indeed billions of years of creation before the arrival of Adam. But the scientific consensus of the meaning of that evidence goes far beyond that to suggesting that there were hominids and pre-hominids and there were hundreds of thousands of hominids and there were, well let’s put it this way. It is possible to hold under an old age understanding to a historical Adam, to the special creation of humanity, but it requires an arbitrary intervention of God into a very long process, billions of years in which at some point God acts unilaterally to create Adam and Eve. Eve out of Adam.

It comes with very serious intellectual entanglements. It is actually difficult and that is reflected by the fact that the contemporary conversation in terms of the age of the earth is requiring a redefinition of who Adam was. Interestingly as I’ve looked at this question I’ve been surprised quite frankly to see how many older evangelicals had already seen this and come to terms with it. In his commentary on the book of Romans, John Stott actually suggests that Adam was an existing hominid that God adopted in a special way, and out of Homo sapiens God implanted his image, and made Adam particularly in his image by ensouling him, and creating in Adam not only Homo sapiens but Homo divinus. Let’s just imagine for a moment what that would theologically require. It requires that there were Homo sapiens who were not the image bearers of God. It requires an adoptionistic understanding of Adam, rather than special creation of Adam.

Denis Alexander in his new book Creation or Evolution Do We Have to Choose?, a fellow at Cambridge University suggests, and I quote here, that “God in his grace chose a couple of neolithic farmers to whom he chose to reveal himself in a special way, calling them into fellowship with himself so that they might know him as a personal God.” Now is that in any way a possible, legitimate exegetical reading of Genesis? That God chose a couple of neolithic famers? What haunts me about that book is not just the contents of the book but what is on its front cover, a blurb from J.I. Packer who says “Surely the best informed, clearest, and most judicious treatment of the question and title that you can find anywhere today.”

Alexander takes a very conservative view of Adam and Eve



Do we not take into account what this means? Well, many others are taking it into account. For instance at the BioLogos website, now becoming the locus classicus for discussion, you find the argument made by Peter Enns very recently, just even in recent weeks in a series of articles entitled “Paul’s Adam,” I quote here, “For Paul, Adam and Eve were the parents of the human race. This is possible but not satisfying for those familiar with either the scientific or archeological data.” He goes on to suggest that we must abandon Paul’s Adam and suggests that Paul as far as he refers to Adam in Romans chapter five is limited by his dependence on primitive understandings.

Karl Giberson, Eastern Nazarene University, says this “clearly the historicity of Adam and Eve and their fall from grace are hard to reconcile with natural history.” He says this, “One could believe for example that at some point” – this dismisses the kind of Stott theory now just so you hear, what I want you to understand from this is that holding to this doesn’t even give you any advantage. In other words, if you’re trying to make peace with the modern secular mind and you’re trying to meet the intellectual elites halfway, guess what? They won’t meet you halfway. Listen to this: “One could believe, for example, that at some point in evolutionary history God ‘chose’ two people from a group of evolving humans, gave them his image, and put them in Eden, which they promptly corrupted by sinning. But this solution is unsatisfactory, artificial, and certainly not what the writer of Genesis intended.”

That’s not said by someone who’s defending the book of Genesis, but rather the theory of evolution, and trying to remove the possibility of the very kinds of things that some who identify themselves as evangelicals are trying to claim. An old earth understanding is very difficult to reconcile with a historical Adam as presented not only in terms of Genesis, but in terms of Romans. It requires an arbitrary claim that God created Adam as a special act of his creation and it entangles a good many difficulties in terms of both exegeses and a redemptive historical understanding of scripture.

That becomes clearer in view of the second great issue at stake here, which is the fall. We understand from Genesis 3 and from the entire narrative of scripture from texts like Romans 8 that what we know in the world today as catastrophe, as natural disaster, earthquake, destruction by volcanic eruption, pain, death, violence, predation—that these are results of the fall.

This is a gross misreading of Romans 8. As it is normally translated with ktitsis as creation, those verses do not imply volcanoes , quakes or animal death


We end up with enormous problems if we try to interpret a historical fall and understand a historical fall in an old earth rendering. This is most clear when it comes to Adam’s sin. Was it true that, as Paul argues, when sin came, death came? Well just keep in mind that if the earth is indeed old, and we infer that it is old because of the scientific data, the scientific data is also there to claim that long before the emergence of Adam—if indeed there is the recognition of a historical Adam—and certainly long before there was the possibility of Adam’s sin, there were all the effects of sin that are biblically attributed to the fall and not to anything before the fall. And we’re not only talking about death, we’re talking about death by the millions and billions.

Mohler has a full-blown view of the Curse and thus has to reject geological time.

Some who hold to an old earth in dealing with this question suggest that what Paul is actually talking about—what the scripture claims—is when sin came, spiritual death came. But I would suggest to you that is a very difficult claim to reconcile over against the totality of scripture. And the whole idea that before there could be humanity and certainly before there could be Homo sapiens and before there could be Adam and before there could be sin, there were all the effects of sin written backwards. Let me just point out in the first place that no Christian reading the scripture alone would ever come to such a conclusion, ever. And once you try to come to that conclusion, it’s very difficult to actually reconcile with the scriptures, with the grand narrative of the Gospel. What sense does it make to point to the kingdom and the consummation as when the lamb and the lion shall be together and lay together, if indeed there was predation before the fall. If the animosity between the lion and the lamb is simply a part of a very old story, a very old earth, that we picked up as some kind of symbolic illustration, the writers of scripture simply borrowing it in order to point towards the reality of a new creation, well how are we to understand the scripture at all?

There’s eschatological impact as well. And there is tremendous theological strain when it comes to trying to sever the doctrine of redemption from a straightforward understanding of the scriptural account of creation. We are reminded of how closely these are together. We are reminded that John Calvin teaches us that the knowledge of God is the knowledge of God as creator and as redeemer. The imperative that is presented upon us is not new. And much of the language that is used to confront Christians today on this question goes back all the way to Galileo. Galileo spoke of the two books as he defended himself. He spoke of the book of scripture and the book of nature suggesting that the believer ought to be accountable to both books. And that is a very attractive argument. It’s an attractive argument because we come to understand that the scripture itself tells us that there is a natural revelation, a general revelation. In Romans chapter one Paul goes so far as to tell us not only that God has revealed himself in nature, but that in nature even his invisible attributes should be clearly seen. There is a book of nature. We do learn much from it. We learn a lot of common sense observational truth from looking at the book of nature. We are not only licensed but as we are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, as we are those who by God’s grace have grown to know him as creator, we are given the intellectual responsibility to come to know this earth and this cosmos and all that is within what we might call the Book of Nature because we come to understand that God has revealed nature to be intelligible. But clearly there is a problem. And again we go back to the fall. Because Paul makes clear that, even though God has revealed himself in nature so that there is no one who is with excuse—given the cloudiness of our vision and the corruption of our sight—we can no longer see what is clearly there. The heavens are telling the glory of God, but human sinfulness refuses to see what is plainly evident. Calvin puts it this way in Book One: he says this knowledge is either smothered or corrupted partly by ignorance, partly by malice. The universe is telling a story and Christians have affirmed that the universe is telling a story. Herbert Butterfield, the great historian of science, points out that Christianity was the seabed of the rise of modern science because Christians were confident that God had created the world to be known in an intelligible manner.

Exactly  and that is why we have the billions of years of geology!!

(52:40) But modern science, part of the modern project, as driven by forces such as Darwin and his heirs, is seeking to present to the western mind and indeed to a global mind, an intentional challenge to the Christian account of the meaning of things. An intentional alternative to the Christian worldview and to the Christian Gospel.

It is simply untrue to claim Darwin and his heirs sought to challenge Christianity

Evolution is central to the great secular mythology. This is why it is cherished so much by persons such as Richard Dawkins who again said that it is Darwinism that allows persons to be intellectually fulfilled atheists. Now this is not to argue that all who hold to an old earth hold to evolution in any form. Nor to theistic evolution, which had I time I would suggest is the consummate oxymoron. But rather I would suggest that it is, that is an old age theory of the earth comes with theological and exegetical complications that I believe are in the end insurmountable.

It is not fair to say that an old earth position cannot hold to a historical Adam. It is to say that it cannot hold to a historical Adam without arbitrary intellectual moves and very costly theological entanglements. It is to say that this position seems to be at an insoluble collision with the redemptive historical narrative of the Gospel. The cost to the Christian church, in terms of ignoring this question or abandoning the discussion, is just too high. The cost of confronting this question is also costly. It can be very expensive because it can create intensity and conflict and controversy but I would suggest that the avoidance of this will be at the cost of our own credibility.

The two books. We need to recognize that disaster ensues when the book of nature or general revelation is used in some way to trump scripture and special revelation. And that is the very origin of this discussion. We would not be having this discussion today. This would not be one of those tough questions Christians ask, if these questions were not being posed to us by those who assume that general revelation and indeed the book of nature is presenting to us something in terms of compelling evidence, compelling evidence that is so forceful and credible that we’re going to have to reconstruct and re-envision our understanding of the biblical text.

We need to think more deeply about this. The BioLogos website has just even in recent days focused its attention on the direct rejection of biblical inerrancy. Understanding that any rendering of the bible as inerrant makes the acceptance of theistic evolution impossible. Certainly implausible. Kenton Sparks writing on that website suggests that, intellectually, evangelicalism has painted itself into a corner—that we have put ourselves into an intellectual cul-de-sac with our understanding of biblical inerrancy. He suggests that the Bible indeed should be recognized as containing historical, theological and moral error. Peter Enns, one of the most frequent contributors to the site, suggests that we have to come to the understanding that, when it comes to many of the scientific claims, historical claims, the writers of scriptures were plainly wrong.

Our only means of intellectual rescue, brothers and sisters, is the speaking God, who speaks to us in scripture, in special revelation. And it is the scripture, the inerrant and infallible word of God that trumps renderings of general revelation, and it must be so. Otherwise we will face destruction of the entire gospel in intellectual terms. When general revelation is used to trump special revelation, disaster ensues. And not just on this score. It’s not just on the question of the age of the earth. What about other questions? The assured results of modern science. There is so much that is packed in that mental category, that intellectual claim. Just remember first of all that science has changed and has gone through many transformations. The assured results of modern science today may very well not be the assured results of modern science tomorrow. And, I can promise you, are not the assured results of science yesterday.

In the New York Times just in recent days there’s been a major article about one particular fossil which is claimed to be a hominid and just about a year ago that same paper presented it as irrefutable proof of a certain trajectory of human evolution. Now you have scientists coming back saying we don’t even believe that it’s a hominid fossil. The assured results of modern science? What do the assured results of modern science say about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead? What do the assured results of modern science in terms of the methodological naturalism that is absolutely essential to modern science, what does it say about the virgin conception of Jesus Christ? The assured results of modern science? Science is now claiming to tell us about sexual orientation in terms of a physicalist explanation. Is the Christian church going to make its understanding of human sexuality and sexual morality accountable to the assured results of modern science? Are we going to submit our cosmology, are we going to take the redemptive historical understanding of scripture and submit this to interrogation by the assured results of modern science? Let me suggest to you the end of that process is absolute (commercial interferes here) [..] of Scripture includes the claim that Scripture is norma normans normata. The norm of norms that cannot be normed. Any surrender of that on any question leads to disaster.

In conclusion, there is a head-on collision here. There are those that claim there is no head-on collision. Francisco Ayala, who just won the Templeton Award, says that science and religion cannot be in conflict because they’re answering two different questions. Science is answering the how, and religion is answering the who and the why. That is intellectual facile.

In many ways Ayala is  correct but there is much overlap especially on ethical implications


The scripture is claiming far more than who and why and any honest reading of the modern scientific consensus knows that it too is speaking to the who and very clearly speaking to the why. Stephen J. Gould, the late paleontologist of Harvard University, spoke of what he called non-overlapping magisteria. He said science and religion are non-overlapping magisteria. Each has its own magisterial authority and its own sphere of knowledge and they never overlap. Well the problem is they overlap all the time. They overlap in Stephen J. Gould’s own writings. We cannot separate the who and the why and the what, as if those are intellectually separable questions.

Many oppose Gould eg ASA Biologos, and in the UK Chistians in Science,  Polkinghorne Peacocke McGrath for starters.


In his new book Why Evolution is True Jerry Coyne cites Michael Shermer at the very beginning who says this, “Darwin matters because evolution matters. Evolution matters because science matters. Science matters because it is the preeminent story of our age. An epic saga about who we are, where we came from, and where we are going.”

Now it sounds to me like he’s talking about the why, not just the when and the what. I want to suggest to you that when it comes to the confrontation between evolutionary theory and the Christian gospel we have a head-on collision. In the confrontation between secular science and the scripture we have a head-on collision. I want to suggest to you that it is our responsibility to give an answer when we are asked the question “Why does the universe look so old?” In the limitations of time, it is impossible that we walk through every alternative and answer every sub-question. But I want to suggest to you that the most natural understanding from the scripture of how to answer that question comes to this: The universe looks old because the creator made it whole.

This is absurd rhetoric

When he made Adam, Adam was not a fetus; Adam was a man; he had the appearance of a man. By our understanding that would’ve required time for Adam to get old but not by the sovereign creative power of God. He put Adam in the garden. The garden was not merely seeds; it was a fertile, fecund, mature garden. The Genesis account clearly claims that God creates and makes things whole.

Secondly—and very quickly—if I’m asked why does the universe look so old, I have to say it looks old because it bears testimony to the affects of sin. And testimony of the judgment of God. It bears the effects of the catastrophe of the flood and catastrophes innumerable thereafter. I would suggest to you that the world looks old because as Paul says in Romans chapter 8 it is groaning. And in its groaning it does look old. It gives us empirical evidence of the reality of sin. And even as this cosmos is the theater of God’s glory, it is the theater of God’s glory for the drama of redemption that takes place here on this planet in telling the story of the redemptive love of God. Is this compatible with the claim that the universe is 4.5 billion years old in terms of earth, 13.5 billion years old in terms of the larger universe? Even though that may not be the first and central question it is an inescapable question and I would suggest to you that in our effort to be most faithful to the scriptures and most accountable to the grand narrative of the gospel an understanding of creation in terms of 24-hour calendar days and a young earth entails far fewer complications, far fewer theological problems and actually is the most straightforward and uncomplicated reading of the text as we come to understand God telling us how the universe came to be and what it means and why it matters.

At the end of the day, if I’m asked the question “why does the universe look so old?” I’m simply left with the reality that the universe is telling the story of the glory of God. Why does it look so old? Well that, in terms of any more elaborate answer, is known only to the Ancient of Days. And that is where we are left.

Actually no, the evidence of science is that it is 4.56 billion years old!!!


Finally this book is well worth a read


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Southgate on The Groaning of Creation

In his blog Anthony Smith discusses Christopher Southgate’s book The Groaning of Creation and raises several questions.

Southgate like many Green Christians today puts much weight on Romans 8 vs19-22

The Groaning of Creation

Smith comments


The great turning point of history, for Southgate, between the evolutionary ‘groaning’ of creation and its eschatological hope, is the Cross of Christ. The Cross is ‘the moment of God’s taking ultimate responsibility for the pain of creation’ and, with the Resurrection, the Cross also serves ‘to inaugurate the transformation of creation’ (p. 16).

What, then, is the role of humanity? We are now able to participate with God, to a small extent, in the ‘healing of the evolutionary process’ (p. 16). God subjected the creation to the frustration of the evolutionary process, in hope that the creation’s groaning might bring humanity into existence, so that humanity, redeemed by Christ, might share with Christ in bringing about the liberation of the whole creation (see Romans 8:19-22). Considering the evolutionary process to have served its purpose, Southgate writes, ‘I regard this as the eschatological phase of history, in which humans should be looking to their own liberation and to the relief of creation’s groaning’ (p. 126).

What does this mean in practice? The example Southgate gives is the role humanity should seek to play in protecting species from extinction, whether that extinction would be through human actions, or by ‘natural’ causes. In this ‘penultimate’ phase of history, such actions would serve as a sign of the future hope for the whole creation.

This argument for the groaning of creation and its redemption in Romans 8 is commonly held today by Christians and may almost be the Green Orthodoxy.

Its validity turns on the translation from the Greek of Romans 8 vs 20 τῇ γὰρ ματαιότητι ἡ κτίσις ὑπετάγη, οὐχ ἑκοῦσα ἀλλὰ διὰ τὸν ὑποτάξαντα, ἐφ’ ἑλπίδι

and especially the first clause

τῇ γὰρ ματαιότητι ἡ κτίσις ὑπετάγη,

This is normally translated “For the creation was subject to vanity/futility”

Here lies the problem. The word for creation here is ktisis which can mean either the whole of the natural world or simply humanity.  The word translated vanity/futility is mataiotes, which, with cognates occurs 14 times in the New Testament and in every other instance refers to the flaws of humanity, with echoes back to the “vanity of vanities” of Ecclesiastes

now for Rom 8 vs22  οἴδαμεν γὰρ ὅτι πᾶσα ἡ κτίσις συστενάζει καὶ συνωδίνει ἄχρι τοῦ νῦν , which is in the NRSV “We know that the whole creation has bean groaning with labour pains until now” Now sustenazw means to groan together and sunwdinw normally means the suffering of childbirth. Again, the question is whether ktisis is humanity or the whole universe.

Almost all commentators today argue, or usually simply affirm without argument, that ktisis is the universe, but many scholars in the past argued that it was humanity, notably Lightfoot in the 1650s and William Buckland in 1838

Ulitmately translation of these verses turns on the meanings of ktisis, mataiotes and phthora (decay).

Southgates’s argument and possibly the whole book turns on ktisis being creation as universe. If this is not the case then his thesis fails. At best it is one of two possible translation, but it cannot be seen as THE ONLY translation. Thus we cannot say with him;

God subjected the creation to the frustration of the evolutionary process, in hope that the creation’s groaning might bring humanity into existence, so that humanity, redeemed by Christ, might share with Christ in bringing about the liberation of the whole creation (see Romans 8:19-22).

However much this reading of Romans 8 may chime in with environmental ideas today, it cannot be seen as an adequate dealing of the text and does not recognise the variety of ways in which key words in this passage are used.

Hence his book cannot be seen as an answer or solution to God, evolution and the problem of evil.

Here is my earlier blog which is being revised



The Groaning of Creation: God, Evolution, and the Problem of Evil | Anthony Smith

This is a blog by an ordinand at Cranmer Hall Durham, which exposes the issues of suffering , evolution and the Bible by considering Romans 8vs 19-22. This understanding is common among green Christians, but I have my reservations as in this older blog



I’m going to be engaging this term with Christopher Southgate’s wide-ranging book, The Groaning of Creation. Here I attempt to summarise the book.

Source: The Groaning of Creation: God, Evolution, and the Problem of Evil | Anthony Smith

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.