Harmonizing Genesis, Literally

Please note that this is a thoroughly updated essay of an earlier essay which I posted just after this site was started. Nevertheless, this essay is sufficiently different to warrant reposting.

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Harmonizing Genesis, Literally

For many years, Christians in the West have argued over the days of creation as found in the Genesis text. In opposition to the scientific claim that the world is vastly old, with an existence numbering into the billions of years, so-called Young Earth Creationists generally hold to the idea that the Earth was actually created in six literal days and is only a few thousand years old; not only do they hold to this view, but they argue against other Christians who do not. Indeed, vast quantities of time and effort have been expended in pursuit of this issue. And to many Christians, this issue is vitally important, which is why it deserves our attention. But given the friction that this matter has caused among different Christian groups, it is an issue which not only deserves our attention, but it also deserves a solution which can be reasonably accepted by all the different parties in this dispute. And that is precisely what this work aims to do. Indeed, this brief essay endeavors to take on a herculean task: in essence, it seeks to show, in a way that is both scripturally faithful and plausible, that a ‘six-day’ view of the creation in Genesis can be completely, directly, and literally harmonized with a creation that also took billions of human years to occur. In doing this, this article hopes to lay to rest the constant debate over the creation-days in Genesis.

Now, in order to understand the solution to this problem, the first critical thing to note is that in Genesis 1:1, scripture makes it clear that the Spirit of God came down to the Earth and was hovering or moving over the waters of the Earth. Furthermore, note as well that this Earth-bound but Godly perspective is introduced to the reader of Genesis before any of the creation days are even mentioned. Thus, it is quite reasonable to accept that the perspective of the Genesis text from the start is not only God’s perspective, but specifically the perspective of God very close to the waters of the Earth and hovering right over them. Additionally, in the text itself, there is no other individual mentioned there except for God, thereby providing yet another reason to believe that the Genesis text is looking at creation from the perspective of God who is hovering over the waters of the Earth. And also note that this ‘God’ perspective carries on throughout the rest of the Genesis 1 text. So this is the first point to realize.

Second, it is vital to understand that in the Genesis text specifically, the days of creation are not counted by hours or minutes or by any other human time calculation; rather, a literal and direct reading of the Genesis text shows that a day is only counted as a completed day by the fact that there was the day, then the evening, and then the morning. Thus, in the Genesis text, when read literally, the days are only “days” once there has been a cycle of day, evening, and then morning; the days are not counted by some human time calculation of 24-hours, but rather they are counted by the cyclical occurrence of day, then night, then day again. This cannot be stressed enough: the text of Genesis 1, when read literally, shows that the days of Genesis are counted through the physical transition of day-to-night-to-morning, not through human time references.

So, with all this in mind, the way to harmonize the idea of six literal days of creation, as the Genesis text describes it, with the scientific evidence that the Earth is billions of years old, is both simple and clear. Remembering that the Genesis narrative, when it locates God, locates Him specifically as moving over the Earth and therefore in direct and close proximity to it, and also remembering that the Genesis narrative is from God’s perspective, then the solution to the Genesis problem becomes the following: during creation, God simply remained moving in what was essentially “daytime” even while millions of human years passed by, and God only allowed Himself to complete the day-to-night transition cycle when He wished to do so. In this way, there would be only one literal Genesis day occurring to God, even though, in human time, millions or billions of years might have actually passed. Indeed, the fact that God, as He moved over the Earthly waters, could remain in the daylight phase for as long as He desired to do so is obvious, for He is God, and thus there is no difficulty in accepting that this is a logical possibly; furthermore, this idea is also reasonable from a scriptural perspective given that, as stated, scripture itself describes God as hovering or moving over the very surface of the Earth right at the very start of the creation account. And this is precisely the type of verse that would be needed to make the aforementioned solution both scripturally sensible and faithful, so it is very interesting that this is indeed exactly the type of verse that is found in the Genesis creation account.

Now, as an analogy to this proposed solution, note that the explanation in question mirrors the way in which even a human person can exist in just one “day” even though weeks might pass him by. After all, consider the following example: if a person lived in certain extreme northern places on the planet where the sun never rises or sets for weeks at a time, then even though weeks might pass in actual measured human time, it would still be true to say that that person only experienced one “day” if a day was being counted as a day-to-night transition rather than as a period of hours. And indeed, certain people do live in a situation where the day-to-night transition does not happen for a few weeks, and so to these people, one of their day-to-night cycles lasts weeks rather than just lasting 24 hours. So even we human beings, in our own lives, can see how one day, if defined as a day-to-night cycle, could remain as just one day even though much more than 24 hours might pass by in just that one “day”. And to extend the analogy even further, note that if a person, say, wrote a book during the weeks-long time when the sun never set, then it would be coherent and logical to say that the person created a novel in just one day, if a day was being counted as a day-to-night transition, while at the same time saying that it took that person weeks in measured human time to write his novel. Indeed, there would be no contradiction in taking both of these claims to be true.

Furthermore, and in addition to the above analogy, also note that a thought-experiment can help make it clear how the proposed solution to the Genesis day issue would work. So, for example, consider that if a person was in a hyper-fast plane that was as fast as the rotation of the Earth, and if, for the sake of argument, that plane was self-sustaining in terms of its fuel and food, then a person inside the plane could literally stay on the day-time side of the Earth for his entire life, thus living eighty-to-ninety years of human time in just one “day”, so long as that day was defined as a day-to-night transition. In fact, it can even be imagined that if the person had life-enhancing technology, and if the person could live to be a million years old, then such a person could literally have a million years of human time pass-by in just one day. At the same time, whatever the person had created in the plane over the course of a million years—perhaps beautiful paintings and music—could also be considered to have been created in just one day, so long as, once again, a “day” in that case was being measured as a day-to-night transition. And so, just as it is in this thought-experiment, so to could God have created things in just one “day” even though billions of years might have passed at the same time as the one “day” did.

Additionally, and as further support for the above solution, note that 2 Peter 3:8 advises that to God, a day is as a thousand years and, more importantly, a thousand years is also as one day. And while a number of meanings could be drawn from this scriptural passage, it is clear that the ‘thousand years’ is meant more to give the impression of a long period of time than an exact thousand years, and so the point is that this verse lends support to the aforementioned solution to the Genesis problem, for this verse shows that a day to God could be a seen as a very long time to us, and that a very long time to us could be but one day to God, which is precisely what the solution above is claiming.

Another benefit to this particular solution is that it can help resolve some other scriptural difficulties that arise in the creation account. For instance, in Genesis 2:2-3, scripture alludes to the fact that God rested on the seventh day of creation, and yet since there is no day-to-night transition listed for the seventh day, the most literal interpretation of this passage is that the seventh day is still with us and that God is still in the seventh day, for the change to night and then a new day is not mentioned there like it is for the first six days of creation. But if a day is a 24-hour period of time, then this would not be possible, as even the most ardent Young-Earth Creationist admits that centuries have passed since this last day of creation. Yet with the solution proposed in this work, no problem arises, for reconciling that passage of scripture is as simple as understanding that the Spirit of God from Genesis 1:2 is still in the “day” phase of the seventh day, but the rest of his creation—like human beings, who obviously cannot remain in the day phase indefinitely like God can—has experienced the passage of thousands of days since that time. Consequently, it can be seen that the acceptance of the aforementioned solution to the Genesis days problem also helps deal with the issue of the current day-phase of the seventh day of creation. Next, note that certain tensions between Genesis 2:4, which alludes to the fact that creation was completed in just one day, and Genesis 1 can also be resolved through the use of this proposed solution and an understanding of the Trinity. After all, given the Trinity, and given the solution presented, it would be possible for one person of the Trinity, namely the Holy Spirit, to do His work of creation in six Genesis days, whereas another person of the Trinity could complete His work of creation in one Genesis day. Indeed, since, as repeatedly stated, the Genesis days are measured by the observer’s experience of a day-to-night transition, then, both logically and scripturally, it would be possible for one person of the Trinity to create in what to Him is one day whereas the same creation process could take six days for another member of the Trinity. And so again, the proposed solution can not only plausibly and scripturally harmonize six Genesis days with billions of human years, but it can also resolve other tensions in the creation account.

Now, in terms of objections against it, note that the proposed solution is quite robust. For example, this solution to the Genesis problem can easily absorb the fact that the Hebrew word for ‘day’, namely ‘yom’, often means a period of light and/or darkness, such as is experienced by us during one day. Indeed, since this solution agrees that each creation day was only one period of light and darkness—but one period of light and darkness from God’s perspective, which could have been billions of years to human beings—then this solution is easily able to accept the claim that ‘yom’, in the case of Genesis, is best defined as just one period of light and darkness. And so the word ‘yom’ can be accepted in its most conventional understanding, and yet this solution still works just fine even in that case. Furthermore, the section of scripture in Exodus 20:8-11, which speaks of the days of creation as being literal days, is also easily accommodated by the solution proposed here so long as the ‘day’ in those scriptural verses are properly understood: namely, as one day-to-night transition. Indeed, when understood in this way, Exodus 20:8-11 offers no problem to this solution, for observe how those passages adapt once the word “day” is understood as the aforementioned transition:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six [day-to-night-to-morning transitions] you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh [day-to-night-to-morning transition] is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. … For in six [day-to-night-to-morning transitions] the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh [day-to-night-to-morning transition]. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11, ESV)

So, when understood in this way, Exodus 20:8-11 can be taken literally, and yet there is no tension between this passage and the days being a long period of time because both are still literally true. God did take six day-to-night transitions to complete creation, but those day-to-night transitions took billions of years to complete; however, since, in Exodus 20:8-11, God is speaking to a people who have no technological means of having one day-to-night transition last longer than a normal 24-hour period, and since these people do not live anywhere where the sun remains up for days or weeks at a time, then of course it would be the case that in such a situation, the six day-to-night transitions that God experienced would match six 24-hour days in actual human time for the human beings that Exodus 20:8-11 is being written for. Consequently, when understood in this way—which, as we have seen, is the proper way to understand a Genesis day—then the fact that the passage in Exodus seems to equate six human days with the six creation days used by God is not a problem at all for the old Earth view so long as the “day” is properly understood as a day-to-night-to-morning transition, which is how it literally appears in the Genesis text.

Thus we see that when the Genesis “days” are understood as they are literally described in the Genesis text, which means as the completion of an observer-relative day-to-evening-to-morning cycle, and when we understand that, in Genesis, the observer in question is a God who would not have to transition through a single one of those cycles for billions of human years if He did not wish to do so, then we can understand that it is actually easy and scripturally reasonable to harmonize six literal God-perspective Genesis creation days with billions of human years.

Finally, it is worth mentioning why God would use billions of years to create the universe and the Earth. Very briefly, Romans 1:20 tells us that God’s nature is seen and understood through His creation. But part of God’s nature is His eternality or His everlastingness. Now, a universe that was created billions of years ago—an age almost incomprehensible to us—points to an eternal or everlasting creator much more clearly, and much better, than a universe which was only created a few thousand years ago does. After all, consider that it is possible to conceive of some super alien-like entity being able to create a universe like ours that is only a few thousands of years old, but a universe that is billions of years old makes it much easier to picture only an eternal or everlasting God as being the sole possible creator of such a universe. Indeed, for given that human experience teaches us that material things only live a few hundred years at most, then if humans looked at a created cosmos which was billions of years in the making, with a creator who existed for those billions of years, then it becomes readily apparent that the only reasonable belief to have concerning that creator is that he is what all people call “God.” And so, the reason God would use billions of years to create is because doing so reflects His nature better, and it also helps to ensure that no one mistakes the true Creator for some merely advanced human-like creator, for only a thing which all people take to be God could have created the cosmos over the course of billions and billions of years.

And so, in the end, not only can we see that the Genesis text can be literally harmonized with billions of years of Earthly existence, but we can also see that there is a reason why God would use billions of years to achieve His ends. And while the solution presented here will obviously not suit everyone, and while this solution does not resolve every concern with the Genesis text, the fact is that this particular approach to the Genesis day problem is indeed a way to plausibly, faithfully, and reasonably reconcile the Genesis text with the scientific claims about the age of the Earth. And achieving even this is no small thing.

Author’s Note:  Please be aware that the solution to the Genesis problem presented in this article is, to the best of the author’s knowledge, unique; but if it is not, then that is the author’s error and all credit goes to those who saw this solution first.

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Anno Domini 2017 02 16

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

 

The Gospels, Personal Relevance, and A Priori Commitments

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

The Gospels, Personal Relevance, and A Priori Commitments

Note:  Please be advised that this essay was inspired by David Marshall’s blog post located here:  http://christthetao.blogspot.ca/2017/01/epic-rap-battle-jesus-vs-alexander.html

When speaking about the gospels, as well as the veracity of all the records for Jesus’s life, unbelievers often point to the fact that there is a great deal of dispute amongst scholars concerning the details of Jesus’s earthly existence—especially when compared to the relative agreement that scholars have concerning the details of the lives of other historical figures—and such unbelievers point out this fact as a means of undermining both the credibility of the gospels and certain Christian claims about Jesus Himself. And so indeed, unbelievers thus bring up this issue as a reason to reject the claim that we can know much about the life of Jesus. However, there is often an ignored reason for why there is such a major dispute concerning the life and times of Jesus and so relatively little dispute about other ancient figures: namely, personal relevance. After all, for the unbeliever, if the gospels are true, then this not only means that his entire worldview is false, but also that, suddenly, he is morally at fault for various things, he is morally responsible for those faults, and there are even potentially everlasting repercussions to his faults if he does not repent of them. Thus, the debate over Jesus is not merely an academic one, as it is in the case of most other historical figures. Rather, it is a debate which affects every single one of us, whether we want it to or not. And in such a case, both motivated reasoning and cognitive biases can flare up to a major level in anyone who wishes to deny the evidence for Christian theism, such as the evidence found in the gospels.

Therefore, the issue of “relevance” concerning the gospels is a point that cannot be overlooked. In fact, it is so important that one wonders whether one should, before having a discussion with a non-believer, ask them whether they would genuinely come to believe that Jesus had caused miracles to occur or that God had resurrected Jesus from the dead even if they had ten eyewitnesses to the events in question as well as video evidence of both Jesus’ miracles as well as his death and subsequent resurrection. Since I doubt that many of them actually would believe in Jesus’s miraculous workings or his resurrection even given such evidence—rather, they would grasp at any naturalistic explanation possible, such as that ‘aliens’ did it or that the video evidence was forged—then it soon becomes reasonable to believe that such unbelievers’s current objections to the gospels are merely objections meant to give more plausibility and apparent legitimacy to their already existent a priori rejection of Christianity and the gospels. In essence, their current objections against the gospels—which, though not without merit, are all-too-often exaggerated and selectively-skeptical—make it easier for them to maintain their intellectual credibility in light of their a priori commitment against theism and Christianity; and such objections certainly make such unbelievers seem more rational than if they outright admitting that no amount of historical evidence would ever convince them to believe in miracle-working Jesus or in his miraculous resurrection from the dead.

And lest you think that I am merely “supposing” that some atheists would react this way, note the following examples.

First, note atheist JJC Smart, when, on page 46 of the 2003 second edition book Atheism & Theism, he states the following:

 [QUOTE] …someone who has naturalistic preconceptions will always in fact find some naturalistic explanation more plausible than a supernatural one… Suppose that I woke up in the night and saw the stars arranged in shapes that spelt out the Apostle’s Creed. I would know that astronomically it is impossible that stars should have changed their position. I don’t know what I would think. Perhaps I would think that I was dreaming or that I had gone mad. What if everyone else seemed to me to be telling me that the same had happened? Then I might not only think that I had gone mad—I would probably go mad. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added]

Second, consider arch-atheist Richard Dawkins, who, in an interview with fellow atheist Peter Boghossian, which can be found on Youtube under the title “Richard Dawkins in conversation with Peter Boghossian”, essentially admits that no evidence can convince him that God exists. Here is a transcript of their conversation between the 12 minute and 30 second mark and the 15 minute and 30 second mark (and please note that I am indebted to the ‘Shadow to Light’ blog for this transcript):

[QUOTE] Boghossian: What would it take for you to believe in God?

Dawkins: I used to say it would be very simple. It would be the Second Coming of Jesus or a great, big, deep, booming, bass voice saying “I am God.” But I was persuaded, mostly by Steve Zara, who is a regular contributor to my website. He more or less persuaded me that even if there was this booming voice in the Second Coming with clouds of glory, the probable explanation is that it is a hallucination or a conjuring trick by David Copperfield. He made the point that a supernatural explanation for anything is incoherent. It doesn’t add up to an explanation for anything. A non-supernatural Second Coming could be aliens from outer space.

[Peter Boghossian begins to speak and is in full agreement with Dawkins, arguing, for example, that if the stars spelled out a message from God, we would first have to rule out alternative explanations, like an alien trickster culture.]

Dawkins then agrees with Boghossian.

Boghossian then asks him: So that [stars aligned into a message] couldn’t be enough. So what would persuade you?

Dawkins: Well, I’m starting to think nothing would, which, in a way, goes against the grain, because I’ve always paid lip service to the view that a scientist should change his mind when evidence is forthcoming. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added, https://youtu.be/qNcC866sm7s%5D

Third, in a Pharyngula blog post which was written on the 9th of October 2010, accessed on the 14th of January 2017, and titled “It’s like he was reading my mind”, atheist PZ Myers—author of the aforementioned popular atheist blog site—also admits that no evidence could convince him that God exists:

[QUOTE] Steve Zara has a nice article at RD.net [Richard Dawkins.net] that is actually saying the same thing I’ve been arguing at recent talks: There is no possibility of evidence to convince us of the existence of a god. … There is no valid god hypothesis, so there can be no god evidence, so let’s stop pretending the believers have a shot at persuading us. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added, http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/10/09/its-like-he-was-reading-my-min/%5D

Finally, Steve Zara—mentioned above—in an article on ‘richarddawkins.net’, which was written on the 30th of July 2011, and accessed on 14 January 2017, and titled “There can be no evidence for God (revisited)”, writes:

[QUOTE] …we should challenge the very concept of gods, we should not let believers set the rules of the game with flim-flam about the possible truth of Biblical miracles, or other ways of knowing reality, or necessary beings. We should make it clear that all arguments that lead to gods are wrong because they lead to gods! God is a singular mistake, a philosophical division by zero, a point at which the respectability of arguments break down. God is out of the question, the ultimate wrong answer. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added, https://web.archive.org/web/20140121204114/http://old.richarddawkins.net/discussions/642394-there-can-be-no-evidence-for-god-revisited%5D

In light of the above quotes, is anyone surprised that such unbelievers would vociferously argue that the gospels are not persuasive and that they would use any means necessary to make their objections against the gospels and against any historical record which supported Jesus’s historical nature? Of course not, for doing so is the only way to maintain their intellectual credibility in light of their a priori anti-theistic commitments. In fact, given the above quotes, it is not even shocking that some unbelievers try to outright deny the very existence of Jesus, for doing so makes their dismissal of the gospels that much easier. And so, while points can indeed be made concerning certain weaknesses in the gospels, we cannot lose sight of the fact that objections against the gospels would be made no matter how good the evidence for them was. In fact, funnily enough, Jesus himself tangentially admits as much in a more general way in Luke 16:27-31 when he says that some people would not believe in the miraculous or in Christian theism even if they saw a man raised from the dead, and so Christians should not only not be surprised when people readily deny the evidentiary value of the gospels, but they should actually predict that this will be the case in many instances.

Finally, it should be noted that while Christians are not immune to the same problem as the one identified above, this problem is not necessarily as acute for believers as it is for unbelievers. After all, even if the gospels are deemed to be weak historical evidence, a Christian could nevertheless remain a Christian on purely philosophical grounds, or on the basis of Paul’s writings, or the Christian could even move to fideism or to Reformed Epistemology as the grounds for his faith; or even, the Christian might lose Christianity, but he could remain a religious theist, and so the blow to the Christian would not be nearly as much as it would be to the unbeliever if the unbeliever had to admit that the gospels were powerful historical evidence. Thus, for the Christian, changing his perspective on the gospels would not be nearly as life-changing as such a change would be for the atheist. Thus, a good case could be made that the atheist’s drive to deny the strength of the gospels is greater than is the believer’s drive to affirm their strength.

And so, the long and short of it is this:  as unpleasant as it might be to have to question a person’s motives and worldview commitments when dealing with their arguments concerning the gospels, the fact remains that when it comes to assessing the gospels, a person’s a priori commitments concerning them are highly relevant, and so they simply cannot be ignored. And this is a point that should never be forgotten when discussing the gospels with an unbeliever.

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Anno Domini 2017 01 14

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

 

There is Nothing Intrinsically Wrong with Slavery

The Reconquista Initiative

 Presents…

 There is Nothing Intrinsically Wrong with Slavery

One of the arguments that Christians routinely hear unbelievers make against both the Bible and against Jesus Himself is something along the following:

“Jesus and the Apostles never condemned slavery and the Old Testament actually encouraged both indentured servitude and slavery; and so, in light of these points, both Christian morality generally and Biblical morality specifically, as well as the personal example of Jesus Himself, are all suspect and unworthy of being fully followed.”

And indeed, I have heard an objection like this one being used as a moral indictment against both the character of Jesus and the moral code found in the New Testament, as well as serving as an objection against the Bible as a whole. As such, this is not some fringe objection to Christian truth but one which many people consider to be a serious issue for Christianity.

Now, in answer to this objection, many Christians try to explain that the commands of God in the Old Testament were unique to the Jews and were very specific to their particular circumstances, and so while slavery may have been allowed at that point in time, it no longer is. Or, alternatively, Christians try to claim that slavery was simply part of the ancient world and could not be easily or quickly changed, which is why Jesus nor the Apostles condemned it outright at that time, for to do so would lead to the end of the Christian message before it could even start. Or some Christians claim that opposition to slavery, and its condemnation as evil, is made implicitly through the other teachings of Jesus and the Apostles, and so these Christians argue that the New Testament actually does condemn slavery, but only via inference from other teachings. And finally, some Christians simply shift the discussion by pointing out that Christians, and primarily Christians, led the push to outlaw slavery, and so the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament ultimately did lead to the end of slavery, which thus points to Christianity’s ultimate opposition to the institution of slavery.

Now, while all the above responses have merit, and while they are all true to some degree, I wish to answer this objection in a totally different, and perhaps shocking, way. In essence, I will argue that the reason that Jesus never condemned slavery is because there is nothing intrinsically wrong with slavery; indeed, I contend that, in-principle, slavery is not necessarily immoral, and so there was no reason for Jesus to condemn it as such. And to explain why this is the case, a short thought-experiment can be made. But before that occurs, it needs to be clear that by slavery, or more specifically by the word ‘slave’, I mean “a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them”, which is how the online Oxford dictionary—accessed on the 5th of December 2016—defines the term. And the Cambridge dictionary online, accessed on the same day, defines a ‘slave’ as “a person who is legally owned by someone else and has to work for that person.” So this is what is meant by the idea of slavery. Additionally, note as well that some versions of slavery or bondage could be set for a certain period of time, such as with indentured servants, or they could be indefinite, such as with slaves or bond-servants. Thus, the length of time that a person serves in servitude can vary, but whatever amount of time this is would not negate one’s status as a slave during that time.

Note as well that, in this essay, it needs to be absolutely and categorically clear that I am not claiming that, say, the kidnapping or abduction of a person to make him into a slave is moral; indeed, such an action would be immoral. But the fact remains that there is no necessary connection between slavery and the kidnapping of people to make them into slaves, for while the latter action is indeed immoral, for no one should be taken against their will, that does not mean that slavery itself is moral. After all, it is true that a person could volunteer himself to become a slave, much like is the case with indentured servants, and so there is nothing which in-principle connects the idea of slavery with an immoral way of acquiring a slave. So it must be clear that this short essay is not arguing that all the means of acquiring a slave are moral, for they are not, but the essay is arguing that there are moral means of acquiring a slave—such as the slave consensually volunteering to be a slave, thus being an indentured servant—and also that the idea of slavery itself is not intrinsically immoral. And lest one think that no one would ever volunteer to be a slave, note, for example, that the Bible itself provides for just such a possibility in Exodus 21:5-6, and there are stories of freed slaves in the past who wished to stay with their masters even though they did not have to.

So, with all that stated, let us conduct the aforementioned thought-experiment to see why slavery is not, in-principle, immoral.

Imagine a society where everyone was free to quit the work that they had and move around at will, but, for nearly everyone, all the work offered in every place in that society was such that 1) people had to work like dogs just to make enough to survive to the age of reproduction and they would die a few years after, and 2) they were given no holidays, and 3) they were fired from their job if they had a conscientious objection to some form of their work or they complained about their conditions, and 4) they were fired from their work if they did not accept the advances of their superiors, and 5) they were fired for having the wrong religion or the wrong views, and so on. But now imagine another society where nearly everyone who lives in this second society is a slave bound to a master whom the slave ultimately has to obey, and yet, in this society, the masters 1) ensure that the slaves’ work hours are entirely reasonable, and 2) that the slaves are very well paid (based on merit) and have full health and retirement benefits, and 3) that the slaves can change to different jobs if they wish to do so and are qualified to do so, and 4) that the slaves have self-chosen holidays and family days and sick days, and 5) that the views and opinions of the slaves are listened to and respected, and 6) that the slaves can move elsewhere if necessary, and finally 7) that the slaves can freely worship, speak, complain, and so on. Now, in viewing these two aforementioned societies, both of which are possible, it is clear—at least to me—that the immoral one, and the one that truly denigrates people made in the image of God, is the former ‘free’ society, whereas the latter ‘slave’ society is quite moral and genuinely respects men as being human persons made by God. In fact, in a strange inversion, the in-principle “free” society is the in-practice slave society, whereas the in-principle “slave” society is the in-practice free society. And note that while such a free “slave” society would likely not exist in-practice—for humans, being humans, would very likely mistreat any people that they owned as slaves—the point is that, in-principle, a slave society could be much more just, moral, and free than a free society could be. And indeed, note that, under slavery, there is nothing, in-principle, that could stop a master, whom the slave must obey, from telling the slave that the slave is free to do whatever the slave wishes to do; in fact, if he so wished, the master could decide to not even give the slave any command at all for the slave’s entire tenure as a slave! Thus, in-principle, a master could command a slave to act freely and to be free in a practical sense, even though, by law, the slave would be bound to obey the master in all things. In fact, in-principle, a slave master could, in-practice, free a slave while still indefinitely supporting the slave and paying for his livelihood, much like a financial patron would; and such a life, for the slave, would not only be moral, but could be considered even more moral and beneficial than a life of ‘free’ toil. So the whole point here is to realize that, in-principle, there is nothing about slavery which means that a slave must necessarily be mistreated, nor that the slave must necessarily be less-free, in-practice, than a man who is ostensibly considered free; thus, in-practice, a slave could be better treated and more free than a man who is theoretically free but is actually little more than a wage-slave.

Thus, what this little thought experiment helps to show is that a good case can be made that slavery, on a theoretical level, is not, in and of itself, immoral. Furthermore, this thought experiment helps to bring out the point that what is potentially immoral about slavery is how the slaves are treated and dealt not, not the fact that they technically fit the definition of being a slave. However, it is also obviously understood that, in practice, sinful men, being fallen creatures, would readily abuse their authority and nearly always abuse their slaves, and so the institution of slavery should be abolished and remain abolished for pragmatic reasons; but again, this does not therefore mean that, theoretically-speaking, slavery as such is an immoral institution, but only that men cannot be trusted to faithfully institute such a practice here on Earth.

And so, the long and short of it is this: a solid argument can be made to show that slavery, as a mere concept, is not necessarily immoral, but rather that it is how slaves are treated in practice that is the immoral aspect of slavery. But, if this is the case, then we would expect that Jesus and the New Testament would not object to slavery outright nor condemn it directly, but rather they would focus on how the slave is treated; and lo and behold, note that in Ephesians 6:5-9 and in Philemon—both of which speak to the fact that a slave should be respected and treated like a brother—that is precisely what the New Testament does indeed focus on. Thus, when it comes to slavery, the New Testament actually does address the primary moral point which should be addressed concerning slavery: namely, the treatment of slaves. And so the ‘slavery’ objection against the New Testament is, in light of this fact, much weaker than is normally assumed.

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Anno Domini 2016 12 05

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

Literal Genesis Days & Billions of Years Harmonized

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Literal Genesis Days & Billions of Years Harmonized

For many years, traditionalist Christians in the West have argued over the days of creation as found in the Genesis text. In opposition to the scientific claim that the world is vastly old, with an existence numbering into the billions of years, so-called Young Earth Creationists generally hold to the idea that the Earth was actually created in six literal days and is only a few thousand years old; not only do they hold to this view, but they argue against other Christians who do not. Indeed, vast quantities of time and effort have been expended in pursuit of this issue. And while it is important to both appreciate and discuss theological differences, it is arguably the case that all that time and effort could have been better spent dealing with such things as the secularization of our culture, the liberal take-over of the media, and so on. Nevertheless, to many Christians, this issue is vitally important, and so, in light of this fact, this short essay endeavors to take on a herculean task: in essence, this essay seeks to show, in a way that is both scripturally faithful and plausible, that a ‘six-day’ view of the creation in Genesis can be completely, directly, and literally harmonized with a creation that actually took billions of years to occur. In doing this, this article hopes to lay to rest the constant debate over the creation-days in Genesis.

Now, the forthcoming solution that will be presented to this problem is, to the best of my knowledge, unique; but if it is not, then that is my error and all credit goes to those who saw this solution first. Nevertheless, the important thing is that this solution truly has the potential to resolve the Genesis ‘days’ issue once and for all. And though some may call this solution contrived, the fact is that it is actually a perfectly plausible and reasonable interpretation of the Genesis text.

So, moving to the solution itself, the first critical thing to note is that in Genesis 1:1 we are told that the Spirit of God was hovering or moving over the waters of the Earth. Furthermore, note that this Earth-bound but Godly perspective is introduced to us before any of the creation days are even mentioned. Thus, it is quite reasonable to accept that the perspective of the Genesis text from the start is not only God’s perspective, but specifically the perspective of God close to the Earth and moving over it. Additionally, in the text itself, there is no other individual there except God, thereby giving us yet more reason to believe that the Genesis text is looking at creation from God’s perspective. And also note that this ‘God’ perspective carries on throughout the rest of the Genesis 1 text. So this is the first point to realize.

Second, it is vital to understand that in the Genesis text specifically, the days of creation are not counted by hours or minutes or by any other human time calculation; rather, a literal and direct reading of the Genesis text shows that a day is only counted as a completed day by the fact that there was the day, then the evening, and then the morning. Thus, in the Genesis text, when read literally, the days are only “days” once there has been a cycle of day, evening, and then morning; the days are not counted by some human time calculation of 24 hours, but rather they are counted by the occurrence of day, then night, then day again. This cannot be stressed enough: the text of Genesis 1, when read literally, shows that the days of Genesis are counted through the physical transition of day to night to day, not through human hours or minutes.

So, with all this in mind, the way to harmonize the idea of six literal days of creation, as the Genesis text describes it, with the scientific evidence that the Earth is billions of years old, is both simple and clear. Remembering that the Genesis narrative, when it locates God, locates Him specifically as moving over the Earth and therefore in direct and close proximity to it, and also remembering that the Genesis narrative is from God’s perspective, then the solution to the Genesis problem becomes the following:  during creation, God simply remained moving in what was essentially “daytime” even while millions of human years passed by, and God only allowed Himself to complete the day-to-night cycle when He wished to do so. In this way, we have one literal Genesis day occurring to God, even though in what we would see as human time, millions or billions of years actually passed. Indeed, the fact that God, as He moved over the Earthly waters, could remain in the daylight phase for as long as He desired to do so is obvious, for He is God, and thus there is no difficulty in accepting that this is a logical possibly.

And note that this is in much the same way that if a person, for example, remained in some of the places on Earth, such as the North Pole, where the sun never sets or never rises for weeks at a time, then even though weeks might pass in actual measured human time, it would still be true to say that that person only experienced one day if a day was being counted as a day-to-night transition rather than as a period of time. So even we, in our own lives, can see how one day, if defined as a day-to-night cycle, could remain as just one day even though much more than 24 hours might pass by in just that “one” day.

Additionally, note that in 2 Peter 3:8 we are told that to God, a day is as a thousand years and, more importantly, a thousand years is also as one day. And while a number of meanings could be drawn from this scriptural passage, it is clear that the “thousand years” is meant more to give the impression of a long period of time than an exact thousand years, and so the point is that this verse lends support to the aforementioned solution to the Genesis problem, for this verse shows that a day to God could be a seen as a very long time to us, and that a very long time to us could be but one day to God, which is precisely what the solution above is claiming.

Note as well that this solution can absorb the fact that the Hebrew word for ‘day’, namely ‘yom’, usually means a period of light and then darkness, such as is experienced by us during one day. Indeed, since this solution agrees that each creation day was only one period of light and darkness—but one period of light and darkness from God’s perspective, which could have been billions of years to us—then this solution is easily able to accept the claim that ‘yom’, in the case of Genesis, is best defined as just one period of light and darkness. And so the word ‘yom’ can be accepted in its most conventional understanding, and yet this solution still works just fine even in that case.

And so we see that when the Genesis “days” are understood as they are literally described in the Genesis text, which means not as being a clear period of human-like time but rather as the completion of an observer-relative day-to-evening-to-morning cycle, and when we understand that the observer in question is a God who would not have to transition through a single one of those cycles for billions of human years if He did not wish to do so, then we can understand that it is actually easy and scripturally reasonable to harmonize six literal God-perspective Genesis creation days with billions of human years.

Finally, it is worth mentioning why God would use billions of years to create the universe and the Earth. Very briefly, Romans 1:20 tells us that God’s nature is seen and understood through His creation. But part of God’s nature is His eternality or everlastingness. Now, a universe that was created billions of years ago—an age almost incomprehensible to us—points to an eternal or everlasting creator much better than a universe which was only created a few thousand years ago. After all, we can easily conceive of some super alien-like entity being able to create a universe that is only a few thousands of years old, but a universe that is billions of years old makes it much easier to picture only an eternal or everlasting God as the possible creator of such a universe.

And so the long and short of it is this: not only can we see that the Genesis text can be literally harmonized with billions of years of Earthly existence, but we can also see that there is a reason why God would use billions of years to achieve His ends. And while the solution presented here will obviously not suit everyone, and while this solution does not resolve every concern with the Genesis text, the fact is that this particular approach to the Genesis issue is indeed a way to plausibly, faithfully, and reasonably reconcile the Genesis text with the scientific claims about the age of the Earth. And achieving even this is no small thing.

Anno Domini 2016 11 12

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam.

The Trinity in Nature & a Biblical Explanation

The Reconquista Initiative

 Presents…

The Trinity in Nature & a Biblical Explanation

The Trinity: one God; three persons. A fascinating concept, but one which many people have said is mysterious, difficult to grasp, and hard to accept. Yet we can rightly wonder whether we make the Trinity more mysterious than it actually is, especially since, when we look at our own world, we can see analogous examples to it existing in the here and now. Indeed, how can the Trinity be so difficult to understand and accept when we have an example of something very much like the Trinity in nature. After all, consider, for example, the story of Krista and Tatiana Hogan, which is a real-life case of conjoined twins where we have two distinct individuals with two centers of consciousness, and yet, given its interconnectivity and inseparability, these two people share one large and unique brain. And miraculously, these girls, being connected as one, can see through each other’s eyes, can share sensory inputs, and might even be able to share the same thoughts. But don’t take my word for it; instead, here is a snippet—which has been edited for relevance—of an article from Denis Ryan of the Vancouver Sun newspaper, published on the 2nd of January 2014, and accessed on the 27th of October, 2016:

–QUOTE–

Tatiana and Krista Hogan hold hands. …they perch on a sofa between the two women raising them in Vernon — their grandmother, Louise McKay, and their mother, Felicia Hogan.

Louise covers Tatiana’s eyes.

Felicia holds up a small stuffed animal in front of Krista’s open eyes.

“What am I holding?” she asks Tatiana.

Tatiana, her eyes completely covered, hesitates.

Her mother prompts her. “Tati, look through your sister’s eyes.”

…Tatiana, eyes covered, somehow floats into her sister’s brain: “The Lorax!” she announces.

In order to see through each other’s eyes there is some internal shift, a decision, as if each sister’s soul moves over and makes space for the other.

The moment, repeated at will or on request, is as magical every time as the last. Each girl can see through the eyes of the other: a purple crayon, a teddy bear.

Recent functional MRIs demonstrate that physical sensation can be a shared experience too: one can feel the touch of a hand on the other’s kneecap, identify a particular toe being tugged, laugh when her twin is being tickled. They also may share some motor function.

This seemingly magical ability — to see through each other’s eyes, to feel what the other experiences, perhaps even to share thoughts — has stunned neurologists and makes these tiny girls unique in the world.

They are conjoined not just by flesh and bone. Their brains are “zippered” together by a neural bridge between the thalami, the sensory processing hubs of their brains.

This bridge, which the girls can flitter across at will, has raised questions and inspired a sense of wonder among even the most seasoned specialists.

How does it work? What are its limits? What could it mean to our understanding of the ability of the brain to change and adapt? What does it mean in terms of how we understand the development of personality, empathy and consciousness?

What does it feel like to literally see through another’s eyes?

(http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Through+sister+eyes+Conjoined+twins+Tatiana+Krista+were+extraordinary+from+beginning/7449226/story.html, emphasis added)

–UNQUOTE–

So here we have, for all intents and purposes, two people in one brain. Two people who can share what they see, what they touch, and what they sense. Two people who might very well share their own thoughts with each other directly and without the medium of verbal communication. And so, in this real-life case, it is possible to see and understand how a thing that is ultimately one in its ‘whatness’, namely their one unique brain, can be two in its ‘personhood’. But is this not analogous to the Trinity, in that the ‘whatness’ of God is shared by three persons. And while such an analogy for the Trinity is, of course, not perfect—for no analogy is—this analogy nevertheless does provide us with a living example of two centers of consciousness in one brain sharing sensations and perhaps even their thoughts, which is precisely what the Trinity is said to do. Thus, this real-life case does serve as an example which should diminish the mystery that surrounds the Trinity itself, for here we have an illustration, in nature, of two persons being able to act in a manner reflective of how Christian theology teaches that the Trinity can act.

At the same time, I also wish to point out that the Bible itself, in its interesting distinction between a ‘spirit’ and a ‘soul’, as found in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and Hebrews 4:12, might also provide us with the very means to better explain the Trinity, for God could be one soul with three spirits, or vis versa, just as Krista and Tatiana Hogan are one brain with two persons. Indeed, in such a case, the soul would be analogous to the body and the spirit would be analogous to the mind of a person (or vis versa). Furthermore, since, in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, the New Testament states that a human person is a mix of soul and spirit and body, and since the Bible, in Genesis 1:26-27, also says that men are made in the image of God, then this gives us yet further reason to think that God is a mix of soul and spirit. Finally, Isaiah 42:1 also hints that God is indeed both soul and spirit when it says, speaking in God’s voice, that “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him (NASB)”. So the idea that God is both soul and spirit, and that the Trinity thus could be three spirits in one soul, has some Biblical support. Thus the Bible itself, through its division of soul from spirit, when combined with the real analogous example of two persons sharing one brain, provides us with yet further means by which we can better understand the Trinity.

And so the long and story of it is this: not only does nature provide us with a living example of something that is analogous to the Trinity—namely, two persons in one brain—thereby lessening the alleged mysteriousness of this Christian concept, but the Bible itself gives us the grounds to understand that the Trinity might be structured in a similar way, namely three spirits, or three minds, in one soul. And there is nothing contradictory or overly difficult to grasp about that.

Anno Domini 2016 11 11

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam.