Monthly Archives: November 2018

Happy What-i-Days?

1. In President Abraham Lincoln’s A.D. 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation he asked his fellow Americans to “…set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”

As of A.D. 2018, Thanksgiving Day is 156 years old and going strong. Thanks indeed be our beneficent Father in heaven. What a blessing to live in a constitutional republic that still has one day set apart for that high and holy purpose. No violation of the First Amendment’s non-establishment clause here!

2. Hanukkah (or Chanukah) is an eight day festival which originated in 165 B.C. at the time of the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire. Hanukkah commemorates the re-dedication of ancient Judaism’s temple in Jerusalem where the God of the Bible was worshiped in Old Testament times. According to the Gospel of John (10:22) this festival was observed by Jesus Christ.

3. Although we do not know the actual date of Jesus’ birth, the December 25 holiday called Christmas exists because of that birth. (The Santa Claus legend has its origins in the life of a fourth century leader in the Christian Church.) Moreover, the former Occupant of Bethlehem’s renowned manger is smack dab in the center of the whole world’s calendar.

4. Why? Because whether the years before His birth are designated B.C. or “B.C.E.” and the years after His birth called A.D. or “C.E.,” the fact remains that the years are counted backward and forward from the birth of Jesus. Every New Year’s Day is the first day of another year Anno Domini – of our Lord. So Jesus the unique One makes the years of antiquity “Before Common Era.” Jesus the peerless One makes the years since His birth “Common Era.”

Note, this is true even though calendar year A.D. 1 is actually a few years after Christ’s birth. The calendar used universally today is the Gregorian calendar, introduced by Pope Gregory in A.D. 1582. Just what is it about that Man from Galilee that the whole Earth is now reckoning time according to His birth?

Listing these four historical holiday tidbits was occasioned by another list. If was found on Facebook in a meme which included this text:

“I say happy holidays because I don’t always know if the person I am speaking to is Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Wiccan, Navajo, Pagan, Atheist, Pastafarian, Klingon, Jedi, or Scientologist, and I just want to say something nice.”

Let’s think about that. Think word origins…think of the two word term “holy day” changing over time into one word…letter Y becomes letter I, giving us holiday. So a holiday is a holy day, a day set apart for religious observation and/or celebration.

Now let’s think a little further about that list of religions from the meme in connection with what our society calls the holiday season. People of all beliefs agree that in early 21st century America, that season is roughly the time between Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day, as it has been for a long time. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Go ahead, sing it.

Stick with me here. Hanukkah is primarily a Jewish holiday, and Christmas is primarily a Christian holiday. Virtually all Americans observe Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day, even if it is only a day off work for some.

But what holiday, widely recognized by society in general, is observed or celebrated as holy primarily by followers of other religions during the days beginning around late November and ending on January 1, when the expression “Happy Holidays” is used by many?

If the user of that expression is concerned about his or her lack of knowledge of others’ beliefs, how do they know they are not offending followers of those religions by saying “Happy Holidays” since those religions don’t have any holy days –any days set apart for a purpose pertaining to them – during that season?

And if they are consistent with what they believe, followers of the belief system which claims it is not a religion (a-Theism) have no holy days, no holidays, at all. Perhaps we should go with “Happy Nothing Day” every day of the year to make sure we don’t offend them. Hmm…come to think of it, what do a-Theists have to be happy about?

(Maybe their own birthdays? In other words, that day about nine months after some molecules which had turned into two cells which in turn had come together and grown into a non-viable lump of tissue which somehow became something called a baby which would grow up, die, and go back into the darkness of oblivion, birthday candles eternally extinguished. Oh the warm fuzziness of it all!)

Finally, the meme included Navajo in its list. Can a person not be a Buddhist Navajo or a Christian Navajo or a Muslim Navajo, etc? What’s wrong with that part of the picture? How offensive!

So putting this all together, if you say Happy Holidays between Thanksgiving and New Years Day in the good ol’ U.S.A., the John Q. or Jane X. Public whom you so greet will assume you refer to a holy day that our society recognizes (even if some do so begrudgingly or even if some don’t observe it religiously), and which exists in one way or another in honor of the God of the Bible.

So all you out there saluting us your neighbors with Happy Holidays, thanks! And Happy Thanksgiving, or Happy Hanukkah (starts December 2 in A.D. 2018), or Merry Christmas, or Happy New Year back to you!

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Old Earth Vs. Young Earth

Matt Walsh seeks to defend old earth creationism in his November 16, A.D. 2018 Soundcloud audio blog, Ep. 145 – Responding To Ken Ham’s Distortions And Misinformation *

As the title informs us, Walsh there delves into interaction between himself and Ken Ham of the organization Answers in Genesis, a well known advocate for young earth creationism. Although occasioned by listening to Walsh’s audio blog episode, this text blog episode will criticize old earth creationism in a more general way, using Walsh’s as a source of focal points.

Early on in his monologue, Walsh introduces a subject with which Christians of good will on all sides of the ongoing old earth/young earth discussion are familiar. That would be how to understand the duration of creation days one through three in light of (take the pun as you will) the creation of the sun on the fourth day, according to Genesis chapter one.

According to Walsh days of ordinary length exist solely because of the relationship of the sun and the earth. Therefore he claims that we cannot know what the nature or duration of a “day” would be, if that day occurred before the existence of the sun.

Hold that thought while we jump ahead in Walsh’s discourse to where he struggles with a theological difficulty, namely the divine toleration of death for eons before the Fall of man. He admits that he cannot conceive how God would allow “millions of years” of death, including extinction, to exist before Adam’s sin. (Apparently Walsh also embraces evolution.)

Walsh’s argument indicates that he considers plants as well animals to be capable of death. This young earth creationist as well as others do not regard plants, and possibly other organisms such as bacteria, as living beings in the way that humans and animals are. We classify plants as organic; capable of both growth and decay but not alive. We note that God gave vegetation to our first parents and to animals for food before the fall, but eating flesh was not divinely sanctioned for mankind until centuries later after the Noahic flood.

Upon its completion God pronounced His creation very good. So we infer that the first occurrence of death was when God Himself used the skins of animals to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve, replacing the tawdry fig leaf gear they had cobbled together. Herein we have the Bible’s earliest foreshadowing of the necessity of the shedding of blood for the covering of sin and a graphic display of a foundational reality echoing throughout holy writ: donning garments weaved from foliage and all other man-made religion is useless superstition!

Let us get back to Walsh’s theological struggle. He wonders how the God of the Bible could permit millions of years of death, predation, and extinction in a universe into which sin had not yet entered. What is his resolution?

“Just because I can’t wrap my head around that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.”

What! Is that an appeal to our limited powers of conceptualization? OK, consider this. After God created the heavens and the formless earth, He called light into existence and divided it from the darkness, establishing day and night. What problem is there in believing that almighty God, the Creator of time itself, determined that a day would be a certain length before the sun existed?

Or why murmur if the record reveals that He later created the sun and the other luminaries to make them for signs and seasons, and for days and years…and to be for lights in the firmament to give light on the earth? Why stumble if Scripture states that He ordained the sun and moon to “rule over” an already existing period of time called day and night, evening and morning? Why doubt that the light spoken into existence on day one, whatever it might have been, was the sun’s predecessor?

In other words Mr. Walsh, you are correct. At present we can’t conceive how the cycle of evening and morning, the day of ordinary length (i.e. twenty-four hours; the hour is a man made unit of time) could obtain without the sun. But our inability does not require that the first three evenings and mornings were of a duration differing from all subsequent evening and mornings!

“Just because I can’t wrap my head around that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.”

Why, when we are dealing with that extraordinary, never to be repeated first week of the universe’s existence…why, when almighty power is working prodigiously, must the ordinary duration of the first three days be denied because an astronomical relationship did not exist until day four?

Why is it that scientifically minded, Bible believing Christians do not impugn the virgin birth which defies biological rationality? Answer: “Just because we can’t wrap our heads around that cornerstone Gospel truth doesn’t mean it isn’t true.”

Without providing textual warrant, Mr. Walsh also declares the teaching of Romans 5 to be that death came into the world only for human beings as the result of sin’s entry. To shoot down this canard we need but move ahead in this Holy Spirit inspired letter to chapter 8. There, Paul teaches that the whole creation was subjected to futility as a result of human sin. He writes that the creation is now in the bondage of corruption awaiting the revelation of the sons of God, when it will be delivered.

Thus the apostle gives us an enlarged, new covenant understanding of what was revealed with adumbration in the old covenant per Genesis 3: a curse on man and on woman, on that member of the animal kingdom behind which was our malevolent adversary, the father of lies for whom the lake of fire has been prepared, and on the ground itself, now doomed to bring forth not only fruit and crops but thorns and thistles.

But the divine second Adam has nullified all curses. At the consummation, every trace of the consequences of sin in the entire cosmos will have vanished. Bible believing Christians cherish the hope which comes from the declaration that He will make all things new. According to His promise, Bible believing Christians are looking for that new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells – when death, sorrow, and pain will be no more forever. Thanks be to God!

Yet in this present time both “old earthers” and “young earthers” face the grim reality of death, corruption, savagery, and diverse sorrows even in the lower creation. The old earther scratches his head and wonders why God permitted that state of affairs to go on for millions of years even before sin came into the world. The young earther is given the reason (so dreadful and sobering) why it has existed for a relatively short few thousand years. Which position has the greater theological difficulty?

Walsh places a great deal of emphasis on the authority of what in our age is virtually personified, set upon a pedestal, and named Science. He puts great trust in the sheepskin credentials of those professionally involved with it; persons revered essentially as priests by the masses of today’s secular western culture. Are they and Walsh exalting human wisdom above the authority of Scripture? Whose science is to be trusted, and by what standard do we measure its trustworthiness?

Consciously or not, scientists worthy of the vocation according to its original sense fallibly follow God’s infallible and orderly mind, displayed in His faithful, perpetual care for His entire creation (a.k.a. providence). They observe, hypothesize, and theorize. If they also are faithful and sincere, they ever aim at objectivity over funding, tenure, and recognition. Their work is ever subject to correction by more rigorous observations, more creative hypotheses, and superior theories.

At one point in his blog, Walsh alludes to Ham’s assertion that there are mountains of evidence for young earth creationism, but dismisses the assertion with “Where is that evidence?…let’s move on.” The evidence is there, and many credentialed, faithful, objective scientists worthy of the vocation have marshaled it.

The Achilles’ heel of old earth creationism is its lack of any positive exegetical footing. Where in Scripture do we go to find even a hint of these pre-Adamic millions of years? How does a Christian parent or a pastor or a teacher explain to one of Christ’s tender lambs that Genesis 1 is really not saying what it seems to be saying so clearly? What chapter and verse mentions or even alludes to the existence of “deep time?” Can old earth creationists who deny Darwinism do so consistently?

Can you hear the mantras? Science says…most scientists believe…studies have shown…all reputable experts agree…trust me, I’m wearing a lab coat with a pocket protector.

A verse in a non-metaphorical, plain narrative, genealogical passage (Genesis 5:5) tells us that Adam lived 930 years. Was the sixth creation day on which Adam was formed from the dust a day of ordinary length? If not, exactly when did Adam’s first year of a life lasting 339,450 days begin? When was the first 24 hour day? Why was the duration of the eighth day of the world dramatically briefer? Where does God tell us that He made that change in the duration of days? He was careful to tell us about one day in history that was not of ordinary length:

“And there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that the LORD heeded the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel.” (Joshua 10:14)

Like others who have studied the word of God, Walsh correctly observes that the word day in Scripture does not always mean a twenty four hour period. In Genesis 1 itself the word refers both to the illuminated portion of a twenty four period, as well as to an entire twenty four hour period!

Context is king when it comes to rightly dividing the word of truth. And that brings us to a portion of Scripture written under the Spirit’s inspiration by the same human author (Moses) at the same time and to the same immediate audience, the Israelites who had made their exodus from Egypt.

The fourth commandment, recorded originally with finger of God and preserved for us at Exodus 20:11, appeals to the Genesis record to give it force with hearts that love His law. The Old Testament Hebrew word for day is transliterated YOM. The plural form of that word is transliterated YAMMIM, and that form is used in this verse where we read that in six days God created the world and all it contains. Again, context is king. Let the old earther search as he will, no context in all of the Old Testament can be found in which that plural form YAMMIM refers to anything but literal days of ordinary length. The gauntlet is thrown down…

But it is intended as a charitable gauntlet. Granted, true Christians can hold erroneous positions on creation and on other doctrines. Unless one who claims to be a Christian consciously and deliberately denies cardinal truths such as the deity of Christ, or the Trinity, or that justification before God is only by His grace in Christ, we dare not judge that person as outside the fellowship of the redeemed. We do maintain that they are in error. Why is that?

Many of those aforementioned tender lambs belonging to the Good Shepherd have been poorly taught! Let all under shepherds beware and consider the holy Bible’s diverse warnings to those responsible under Him for feeding His sheep!

Just as Christ’s kingdom inexorably advances despite setbacks and temporary defeats, so it is with the church’s growing body of theology. Her ecumenical confessions reflect an increase of depth, clarity, and purity from Nicea to Westminster et. al.

Although in ancient Christianity we might find an occasional speculation about instantaneous creation (i.e. that it took place in far less than six days of ordinary length!), the position articulated in the Westminster Confession (“in the space of six days”) has been normative from antiquity.

On the other hand, the old earth view is quite innovative within the church catholic. Again, the old earth position does not originate with exegesis, but appears to exist only to accommodate ideas derived from fallible human reasoning.

The Lord Jesus in His sermon on the mount (Matthew 5 – 7), affirming that He did not come to abolish the law, declared that whoever would break the least of God’s commandments would be called least in the kingdom of heaven. Surely then we rightly infer that teaching incorrectly about “the least of God’s doctrines” also would make one least in the kingdom of heaven. Are any of God’s commandments less than holy, righteous, and wise? Is any of God’s testimony about His creation trivial…secondary…of little importance? May it never be!

“I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation.” (Psalm 119:99)

“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. … If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:11; 14,15)

* https://soundcloud.com/mattwalshshow/ep145

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