Monday, March 8, 2010

Creation Science Misuses of Scripture

In this post I would like to comment on two passages of Scripture that are commonly used by the Creation Scientists to support their interpretation of Scripture, but upon careful reading can be shown to be quoted out of context.

Job 38:4
The first passage is from Job 38:4ff., which begins, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” This text is commonly used to say that since nobody but God was present at creation, we should listen to what he said about it in his Word e.g. here. Certainly, if it’s a question of God’s Word against ours, the choice should be obvious but it isn’t that simple.

This interpretation of Job 38:4 misunderstands the point that God is making to Job. Since a text without a context is a pretext, let's look at the context. Job 38:1 states that God answered Job, but in response to what? For the answer we need to go back to chapter 31, where Job defends his innocence before God, stating that he does not deserve the calamity which God has allowed Satan to inflict upon him. Job’s defense is in response to the accusations of his "friends" that he must have done something wicked. The younger Elihu gets the point though, and chastises Job for trying to understand why God has allowed these things to happen to him, that Job in a sense is accusing God of being unfair.

Thus Job’s challenging of God’s ways is the context to chapter 38, where God tells Job that he darkens counsel by words without knowledge (v. 2). Yes, chapter 38 speaks of creation, but it is described in the context of God's wisdom compared to that of Job. The next chapter speaks about God's wisdom in making things the way they are (incidentally, this chapter and chapter 41 are strong evidence against the notion of a gentle and death-free world before the Fall, because it is clear that God made fierce creatures as we find them today e.g. 39:30). In chapter 40:8 the Lord returns to the theme by asking Job, “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?”

In short, the purpose of Job 38-41 is not a warning for us not to look into the history of creation; rather, it is a warning for us not to question God's ways.

Isaiah 11
The second passage I would like to address is Isaiah 11:6-9, “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them...” This passage is commonly used by Creation Science supporters to describe a return to Eden-like conditions in the new heavens and new earth (or by some dispensationalists, in the millennium) e.g. here. However, a careful study of this passage will show that it's not talking about Eden-like conditions or animal behaviour, but as C. John Collins explains in chapter 10 of his book Science & Faith: Friends or Foes (Crossway Books, 2003), it's speaking about the church.

In the previous chapters of Isaiah we read a series of pronouncements of judgment against Israel and against the instruments God uses against Israel, including Assyria. In these chapters we see punishments and promises of restoration.

Chapter 11 gets back to restoration but in this case we see not only restoration after the captivity but in this prophecy’s double fulfillment we also see the promise of the Messiah and the future of the church. Using beautiful word-pictures Isaiah describes the church, but in words that fit the context of the previous chapters. Assyria is an instrument of God's judgment but will be punished for its sin (10:12), but the Messiah will judge justly (11:4).

In chapter 11:5-9 we read about the future of the church when the Messiah will reign i.e. the present time. Note the back-reference to these verses in verses 10 and 11, "in that day" when the church will be gathered from all over the world. The Israelites would be dispersed but God’s people would be gathered from all over the world (v. 12) as the church of Jesus Christ. Indeed, Paul quotes verse 10 in Romans 15:12 in this exact context.

So how do verses 5-9 fit into this picture? We've had military descriptions of judgment and battles in the earlier chapters of Isaiah but the reign of the Messiah will be a striking contrast, with otherwise unthinkable associations: wolf/lamb, leopard/goat, calf/lion, child/cobra etc. This is a direct contrast with the actions of the wolf, leopard and lion that Jeremiah describes (Jeremiah 5:6).

Isaiah's description is a picture of the new heavens and earth, but it’s also a prophecy that is being fulfilled already today. Christ is gathering his church from all over the world. We are brothers and sisters in Christ with people who, in the minds of Isaiah’s original readers, would otherwise be enemies. The church is filled with unthinkable combinations of people, not tied to any nation or ethnic group. Thus this passage is not about biology, it's about Christ building his church.

To sum up, a careful study of Scripture does not support the Creation Science argument for an idyllic pre-Fall animal world, nor does it support the idea that we cannot determine anything about the creation of the world. If we are to use Scriptural arguments, it is important that we understand the context to use them correctly.

Readers interested in learning more about this would do well to read the Collins book mentioned above.

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