Review of “One God in Three Persons” edited by Bruce Ware and John Starke

The debate over the roles of men and women in the church and home has inadvertently created another debate over how the Father and the Son relate to each other within the Trinity. Egalitarians argue that it is unfair for women to not be able to serve as pastors simply because they are women and complementarians reply that differences in role do not imply inferiority in nature based on 1 Corinthians 11:3 where the Father is said to be the head of Christ, yet Christ and God are equal to each other. This has lead to many accusations that complementarians are introducing Arianism into evangelical theology by claiming that there is an eternal relationship of authority and submission between the Father and the Son. One God in Three Persons is a collection of eleven articles defending the belief that there is an eternal functional distinction of roles between the Father and the Son. The submission of the Son to the Father did not just exist while Christ was on earth, but has existed from all eternity and will exist in eternity future. This work is essentially a response to the arguments set forward by egalitarians in the book The New Evangelical Subordinationism? which is another collection of essays on this topic but by those on both sides.

It is interesting to note that the authors do not all agree with each other on many of the issues raised in this book. When it comes to eternal generation, whether terms such as “subordination” or “subordinationism” should be used, whether 1 Corinthians 11:3 applies to Christ before the incarnation, whether Christ has one will or two, and whether different verses offer direct or indirect support for their position, the authors are not always in harmony with each other. This is an apparent weakness which demonstrates that those who hold to ERAS (eternal relationship of authority and submission) or EFS (eternal functional subordination) are still working out the implications of their beliefs and how this truth relates to the other doctrines of Scripture.

While I could give a summary of every chapter in the book, I will just focus on Kyle Claunch’s article “God Is the Head of Christ” which I thought was the most insightful. He argues that 1 Corinthians 11:3 “does ground gender complementarity in the immanent Trinity, but it does so indirectly, by way of good and necessary inference” (82). The economic Trinity reflects the immanent Trinity, but there is not a one-to-one correspondence. A recent objection to the position of this book is that if the Son eternally submits to the Father, then God would have more than one will in contrast to dyotheletist orthodoxy and result in polytheism since the Father and Son would each have distinct wills. But I think Claunch’s response to this objection is excellent: “the one will of the Trinity is exercised by the Trinitarian persons, each one willing according to his place in the intratrinitarian order of subsistence. The Father exercises the will of God for the incarnation according to his place as first in the order of subsistence. So, the Father wills the incarnation as the one sending the Son. The Son exercises the will of God for the incarnation according to his place as second in the order of subsistence” (91-92). In other words, the one will of God is exercised differently by each person. Each person expresses that will differently according to their place in the trinitarian economy. It is the will of the triune God for God the Father to have authority over the Son and for the Son to be eternally obedient to the Father. It is not that one will is in submission to another, but that each person’s expression of that one will is different according to their unique personal properties as Father or Son. But I would disagree with Claunch’s argument that 1 Corinthians 11:3 only refers to Christ as an incarnate man since the term “Christ” can be used to refer to the Son before the incarnation (Eph 1:3-5; 2 Tim 1:9; 1 Pet 1:19-20).

If you are interested in understanding the current debates going on in trinitarian scholarship, then One God in Three Persons is for you. If you are looking for a book explaining and defending the Trinity, then Robert Morey’s The Trinity: Evidence and Issues and James White’s The Forgotten Trinity are better options.

A Response to Old Earth Arguments

I have argued in past three blog posts for young-earth creationism. But how should Christians respond to scientific arguments for the universe as billions of years old instead of only thousands? Many possible answers have been given through internet ministries and books, but I would like to respond here briefly to four of the most common arguments for an old earth: distant starlight, ice core layers, tree ring data, and radioisotope dating. While I am not a scientist or the son of a scientist, I think that I too have the Spirit of God.

How is it possible that we can see stars that are millions of light years away if the universe is only thousands of years old? Wouldn’t the universe have to be at least millions of years old in order for their light to reach us? If the Bible is true in all that it says, then the answer to this question is revealed in Genesis 1. God created the stars on day four and on day six he created man. That means Adam could see the stars when he was first made. God created the stars in such a way that their light was already visible from earth when Adam was created. Not only were stars created, the light particles that stars emit are also part of God’s creative work and he ordered them in such a way that man could see the stars from earth at the beginning of creation (Mark 10:6). And he did not just miraculously extend the light that those stars emit when they were created, he continuously extends the particles of light they emit even to this day. When God created the universe, he created it as a mature universe. Just as Adam was mature (not old) when he was created, the earth was mature from the beginning of creation. The “old” appearance of the earth (the presence of pre-existing mountains, continents, caves, minerals, and canyons) is not God’s attempt to deceive us, but his providential act of creating a mature earth that is fully habitable for his creation. The diamonds that exist in the world are primordial in nature having been created by God directly at the beginning of creation rather than taking millions of years to be formed through uniformitarian geology. God is not being deceptive by placing diamonds in the earth that otherwise would have taken millions of years to form because he has already told us that he created the earth and all that is in it in six days. Using this principle of a mature earth, every argument for an old earth can be explained away. This is not a cop-out, but the natural conclusion taken from Genesis 1:31 that the earth was “very good” from the beginning of creation and complete in God’s sight. It would be deceptive if God had not told us that he created the world in six days, but since he has, no Christian can get mad at another if he employs the “mature earth escape clause” when that is the conclusion that must be drawn from the days of Genesis being normal 24-hour days composed of one evening and one morning (Exod 20:11).

But why are there ice cores that show hundreds of thousands of years of progress if each ice layer only represents one year? Two possible answers can be given to this question. The first is that many of the ice layers are primordial in nature existing from the beginning of creation. Some of the layers were created directly by God and the rest are the result of snowfall over thousands of years. A more “scientific” solution is since multiple layers of ice can form over the course of a single year when there is heavy snowfall, most of the layers were laid down quickly after the flood caused by an ice age due to global climate change. This ice age created the land bridge used by Native Americans to cross from Asia to North America. One recent example of rapid ice buildup can be seen in Greenland when 250 feet of ice built up over a 50 year period.

What about the Bristlecone Pines that are said to be older than the global flood? The oldest living one has 4,600 tree rings. But the assumption that is being made is that only one tree ring can form per year. In extreme conditions, however, trees can produce more than one ring per year. What if the world’s climate after the flood was much colder than it is now? The trees that grew during this period of cold and drought could be more likely to form multiple rings per year in comparison to the warmer climate we experience now.

Radioisotope dating is one of the most common arguments used against a young earth chronology. But creationists do not accept the presuppositions of uniformitarian geology and radioisotope dating. For the dates to be accurate we must: 1. know the starting amount of parent and daughter elements in the original sample and that it is the same for every sample; 2. the decay rate is constant; 3. no parent or daughter material has been removed and the system has remained closed; 4. all daughter elements are produced by radioactive decay. In contrast, I would argue that the ratios of elements present in the samples that are examined during radioisotope dating are primordial in nature rather than the result of millions of years of radioactive decay. The ratio of unstable atoms to stable ones is part of the original created order rather than the result of radioactive decay. The mistaken assumption that all differences in ratios are the result of radioactive decay rather than being the result of a direct act of God leads to the mistaken belief that the universe must be billions of years old.

The debate over the age of the universe is ultimately a debate about authority. Do we interpret the Bible in light of changing scientific theories or do we interpret the world around us in light of Scripture? The Word of God does not change, but scientific theories do. All evidence is interpreted evidence and we must have the right set of principles in place for us to rightly interpret biblical and scientific data. If we believe in sola Scriptura, that the Bible is our ultimate authority in matters of faith and practice, we must interpret the world through the words of the one who was there in the beginning.

Sunday Meditation – An Impossible Command

“But Christ calls and commands men to things and ways contrary to their nature; not to please but to deny themselves, to mortify the flesh . . . to contradict their own inclinations; to pursue a happiness which is so sublime and spiritual and so unsuitable to their fleshly natures that they have naturally no relish for it.”

Richard Alleine

“The great contest of heaven and earth is about the affections of the poor worm which we call man. That the world should contend for them is no wonder; it is the best that it can pretend unto. All things here below are capable of no higher ambition than to be possessed of the affections of men; and, as they lie under the curse, it can do us no greater mischief than by prevailing in this design. But that the holy God should as it were engage in the contest and strive for the affections of man, is an effect of infinite condescension and grace.”

John Owen

How Long Are the Days of Genesis 1?

What did Moses mean when he wrote in Exodus 20:11: “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them”? I would like to briefly argue here that “day” in Genesis 1 and Exodus 20 should be interpreted as a normal 24-hour period of time. More extensive arguments are given by Robert McCabe, Gerhard Hasel, Mark Snoeberger, Jason Lisle, and Jonathan Sarfati.

1. Each day is defined as one evening and one morning whereas long ages have multiple evenings and mornings.

2. When the term “day” is used preceded by a number in Scripture, it always refers to a 24-hour period of time. Hosea 6:2 is not an exception to this rule when Hosea says “on the third day he will raise us up” since this is a messianic prophecy fulfilled when Jesus rose from the dead on the third day (Luke 13:32; 24:46). The first day of the week when Jesus rose again was a literal 24-hour day.

3. Exodus 20:11 interprets the days of Genesis 1 as literal days occurring in the course of one week: “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.” God’s pattern of working and rest is our pattern for life. Notice the introductory causal term “for” explaining why the Israelites should observe this pattern of six days of work followed by a day of rest. A non-literal interpretation of “day” would destroy the force of the argument for the people of God to observe the Sabbath if God did not actually create the earth in six days and rest on the seventh.

4. The term “day” occurs with other temporal markers such as “seasons” and “years” in Genesis 1:14. If “day” is a long period of time, then what are “seasons” and “years”?

5. Genesis 1 is an example of narrative literature rather than poetry as demonstrated by the consistent use of qal waw-consecutive imperfect verbal forms also known as preterites. See Steven Boyd’s work on the subject.

6. Long ages of time would introduce animal death before the fall of Adam into sin contradicting Romans 8:19-23 which includes the fall of all creation with the fall of man. The cursing of the ground is a direct result of Adam’s sin and did not exist beforehand: “cursed is the ground because of you” (Gen 3:17). Death of any kind is not “very good” (Gen 1:31). Even children know this when their pets die. Death will not exist in the new heavens and new earth (Rev 21:4). If animal death was “very good,” then why doesn’t God allow for it to continue forever?

7. The incentive to interpret “day” as something other than a 24-hour period is not derived from exegesis, but by evolutionary constraints to fit billions of years into the text of Scripture and accommodate evolution with Christianity.

8. The history of Christianity is almost universally against interpreting “day” as a long period of time in Genesis 1. The concept of evolution is pagan in origin having its roots in Greek philosophy rather than the Bible. It was not until the rise of evolutionary biology and uniformitarian geology that old-earth creationism gained a foothold in the church.

9. Even if the days of Genesis are long ages, their chronology and ordering of events does not fit in with an evolutionary understanding of astronomy.

10. The nearly universal consensus of Hebrew scholars is that the days of Genesis 1 were intended to be interpreted as literal 24-hour days by the original author.

James Barr, a well-known Hebrew scholar and no friend of Christianity, admitted in 1984 that the interpretation of “day” as intended to be understood in Genesis 1 as a 24-hour period of time is the universal interpretation of Hebrew scholars as far as he knows:

“Probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story (c) Noah’s flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark. Or, to put it negatively, the apologetic arguments which suppose the ‘days’ of creation to be long eras of time, the figures of years not to be chronological, and the flood to be a merely local Mesopotamian flood, are not taken seriously by any such professors, as far as I know.”

This general consensus has been corroborated by others. For these reasons, I see the days in Genesis 1 as 24-hour periods and not long ages of time. The Zondervan Counterpoints book The Historical Adam has a good discussion on whether Genesis 1-3 should be interpreted as literal history or allegorically. Walt Brown has a useful article on how the New Testament interprets Genesis 1-11 which contradicts an allegorical reading of Genesis.

Evidences for a Young Earth

The ultimate reason for my belief that the universe is relatively young and not billions of years old is the consistent exegesis of the text of Scripture. But in addition to that, I believe there are observable and scientific reasons for holding to a young earth form of creationism. While many possible evidences could be brought up, the four examples I would like to mention here are: “Old” DNA and the presence of soft tissue in dinosaur bones, living bacteria in the stomachs of insects trapped in resin, the presence of Carbon-14 in fossils and diamonds, and the existence of comets.

Fragments of DNA have been found in the remains of insects, plants, fish, and dinosaurs dated from 25 to 120 million years old. One example of this phenomenon is the work of Mary Schweitzer on the discovery of blood vessels and blood cells in dinosaur bones. Walt Brown quotes from some of the published articles on the subject: “‘I got goose bumps,’ recalls [Mary] Schweitzer. ‘It was exactly like looking at a slice of modern bone. But, of course, I couldn’t believe it. I said to the lab technician: The bones, after all, are 65 million years old. How could blood cells survive that long?’” (Virginia Morell, “Dino DNA: The Hunt and the Hype,” Science, Vol. 261, 9 July 1993, p. 160). “Soft tissues are preserved within hindlimb elements of Tyrannosaurus rex (Museum of the Rockies specimen 1125). Removal of the mineral phase reveals transparent, flexible, hollow blood vessels …” (Mary H. Schweitzer et al., “Soft-Tissue Vessels and Cellular Preservation in Tyrannosaurus Rex,” Science, Vol. 307, 25 March 2005, p. 1952). “‘I am quite aware that according to conventional wisdom and models of fossilization, these structures aren’t supposed to be there, but there they are,’ said Schweitzer, lead author of the paper. ‘I was pretty shocked.’” (Evelyn Boswell, “Montana T. Rex Yields Next Big Discovery in Dinosaur Paleontology,” Montana State University News Service, 24 March 2005, p. 1). Schweitzer made these discoveries while completing her doctor’s degree under John “Jack” R. Horner, one of the world’s leading dinosaur researchers. Horner is the Curator of Paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies, and was a technical advisor for the film Jurassic Park. When Schweitzer reported her discovery to Horner, he replied, “Mary, the freaking creationists are just going to love you.” Schweitzer replied, “Jack, it’s your dinosaur.” See Jack Horner and James Gorman, How to Build a Dinosaur (New York: Penguin Group, 2009), pp. 80–81.

The discovery of insects in resin that are dated up to 230 million years old look the same as the insects of today. Brown relates some of the research that has been done on them: “In a clean-room laboratory, 30-40 dormant, but living, bacteria species were removed from intestines of bees encased in amber from the Dominican Republic. When cultured, the bacteria grew! This amber is claimed to be 25-40 million years old, but I suspect it formed at the beginning of the flood, only thousands of years ago. Is it more likely that bacteria can be kept alive thousands of years or many millions of years? Metabolism rates, even in dormant bacteria, are not zero.”

Carbon dating is the process of determining how old any organism that was once alive or deposit of carbon is. The amount of Carbon-14, an isotope of carbon, decays over time rapidly with a half-life of only 5,730 years which means that it is impossible for there to be any detectable C-14 left in an organism that is older than 200,000 years. But C-14 has been found in the fossils of organisms, rocks, and petrified wood that are dated millions of years old by evolutionary standards. C-14 has also been found in diamonds dated to the Precambrian era but based on the presence of C-14 in them, they could be no older than 80,000 years. Contamination in diamonds is next to impossible because of the strength of the bonds of carbon in diamonds.

If the universe is billions of years old, why are there still comets around? Each time a comet circles the sun, a portion of it melts away because of the intense heat of the sun vaporizing the ice molecules. Some comets also crash into planets in addition to the sun. After billions of years, comets would have ceased to orbit the sun. Where do comets come from in the first place? Can we really believe that the water on earth came from comets crashing into it? These are just a few of the arguments I would bring up in a debate over the age of the earth. For more information on this topic, I recommend the book Refuting Compromise by Jonathan Sarfati and In the Beginning by Walt Brown.

Sunday Meditation – God Will Judge You

“He is happy in his youth — in his physical vigor, personal attractions, and newly acquired liberty. Feeling strong, he puts the day of judgment far from him. Vain of his person — he is proud of his appearance and abilities. Freed from the restraints of home — he removes the reins from the neck of his lusts. His heart cheers him on — and urges him forward in the pursuit of folly! He walks in the way of his heart — which is always evil. He is ignorant of its powers of deception. He is therefore deceived by the corrupt principles that work within it. He hushes his conscience to sleep, or by violence constrains it to be silent. He then yields to the alluring influence of the world. And while so doing, Satan tempts him to proceed farther and farther — plotting his eternal damnation! He does what he thinks best in his own eyes — allowing them to mislead him. He walks by sight — not according to God’s Word. He is led away by appearances, and despises the counsel and example of the godly. He refuses to listen to, or be guided by the advice of parents. He despises, or slights, the preacher’s admonition, and will be a law unto himself. He chooses vain people for his companions, and follows the example of the foolish!

Young man! Young woman! To you is this word of solemn admonition sent! See how many young people are being called away by death! Fatal diseases and accidents — how common. Sudden deaths — how frequent. It is very probable that God may soon call for YOU! How necessary then that you be ready, for death very often gives but a short notice — or no notice! God . . .
you by His providence;
He directs you in His Word;
He invites you by His ministers;
and He will judge you by His Son!

Whenever therefore you are tempted to indulge in any unholy amusement or practice, remember these words: ‘BUT KNOW that for all these things — God will bring you to judgment!'”

James Smith

Examples of Irreducible Complexity

Irreducible complexity is the state of a biological mechanism being so complex that one missing element renders the entire organism being unable to pass on its genetic information. The concept of irreducible complexity is a challenge for the theory of evolution because if genetic mutation is the mechanism through which organisms evolve, how can these complex mechanisms have evolved and survived up until the present day when a gradual process of evolution would have rendered the organism unable to reproduce or survive without this complex biological structure fully intact? While many examples can be given, I will just list the ones I find the most compelling.

The process of metamorphosis, as seen in insects such as butterflies, is an incredibly complex reorganization of the catepillar. The larva disintegrates and rematerializes as a more complex flying insect. How did the catepillar avoid extinction when it has to first become a butterfly in order to reproduce? Without metamorphosis and then sexual reproduction, the catepillar could not have survived to the present day. How does metamorphosis evolve when it is a highly complex process of taking a non-reproducing organism and turning it into a reproducing one? The reproducing organism must first have existed in order for its larva to exist and acquire the ability to metamorphosize through genetic mutation according to evolution. But how can its reproducing stage exist without metamorphosis in the first place?

The flaggelum of the E. Coli bacteria is a biological motor and living piece of technology.  The bacteria uses reversible motors that control shafts which rotate flagella that act as propellers. The entire process is powered by protons rather than electrons as in an electric motor. The motor uses rings, a bushing, a central rod, an S-ring, and a rotor which is the terminal ring. Diagrams of the bacterial motor can be found all over the internet for you to study further. How could the bacteria survive and reproduce without the ability to move using its flagella? How could such a device evolve over time through random mutations?

Sexual reproduction requires both a male and female partner who are genetically compatible with each other. How can a male and female pair have evolved independently of each other at the same time and at the same place? Extinction would set in unless all of the conditions for sexual reproduction exist at the same time. How could an asexually reproducing creature evolve into a sexually reproducing one? The ability to conceive and nurture unborn life must also have evolved at the same time for sexual reproduction to occur. The intricate process of fertilization is not fully understood even in our day. This is why even evolutionists can speak of the “miracle” of life.

The immune system is necessary for survival in order to fight off invading bacteria and viruses. The body’s defense network can keep track of invading organisms and learn from past victories over disease. But how could the genetic information that supports the immune system have evolved in the first place? An immune system is necessary for survival but existence is first required before the immune system could develop. The organism would have died before the immune system could have evolved. The genetic information for life to exist must have come into existence at once rather than through millions of years of random genetic mutations.

Other topics that could be discussed are: the human eye, photoreceptors, the cupped eye of marine limpets, the biochemistry of vision, the bombardier beetle, the making of proteins, amino acids, RNA, mRNA, DNA transcription, gene regulation, the binding of proteins to catalyze a chemical reaction, cilium, the fibrin protein network and blood clotting, the animal cell, mitochondria, vesicular transport, photosynthesis, antibodies, biosynthesis of the AMP, symbiosis of cells, cell membranes, protein structure, the four levels of nucleic acid structure, lipids, and polysaccharides. While not an example of irreducible complexity, I find it hard to believe that anyone can think that the leaf-tailed gecko, which might as well have “God Exists” painted on its body, could possibly evolve through random genetic mutation.

For more evidence of God’s existence based on the world around us, see Walt Brown’s book In the Beginning.