Dr. Terry Mortenson – The Religion of Naturalism

Naturalism, or philosophical naturalism, is one of the most popular religions in the world today, although most people don’t recognize it as such because it has no obvious worship centers, clergy, liturgy, or holy book. It has adherents in every country and dominates many countries, especially among the intellectual elites in the culture. It is therefore important to understand this major religion and how it became so popular. But sadly, it has also had a very significant and largely unrecognized influence on the worldview of many Christians, which is an even greater reason for Christians to understand it.

Naturalism is known by other names: atheism, scientific materialism, and secular humanism. Atheists, secular humanists, and other advocates of naturalism will protest that their view is a religion, but would say it is the opposite of religion. So we need to begin by defining “religion.” According to the 11th edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, one definition of religion is “the service and worship of God or the supernatural.” That obviously doesn’t apply to atheism. But another given by that dictionary certainly does apply: “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.” Many people who hold to naturalism are just as passionate about their belief as the most convinced Christians, Muslims, Hindus, or adherents of any other religion.

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Terry Mortenson – Adam, Morality, the Gospel, and the Authority of Scripture

Introduction

In the preceding chapters several important propositions have been thoroughly established.

1. Genesis 1–11 clearly teaches, and the rest of the Bible confirms, that God supernaturally created Adam from dust and Eve from his rib (not from any pre-existing living creature) on the sixth literal 24-hour day of history a little over 6,000 years ago.

2. All humans are uniquely made in the image of God and all humans who have ever lived are descended from Adam and Eve, regardless of their language, skin color, eye shape, etc. There is only one race — Adam’s race.

3. Until the 20th century, this was the universal belief of Bible-believing Christians about Adam (except for some in the late 19th century who after denying any chronological value to the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 pushed back the date of Adam’s creation several tens of thousands of years).

4. The fossil evidence does not support the idea of human evolution, but rather confirms Genesis. Controlled by a naturalistic (i.e., atheistic) worldview, the evolutionists have misinterpreted the evidence. The public has been deceived by imaginative art and relentless dogmatic claims that do not survive careful scrutiny.

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Terry Mortenson – When Was Adam Created?

Introduction

When did Adam come into existence? Evolutionists say Homo sapiens came into existence 200,000 to 400,000 years ago (depending on which evolutionist you consult, because they do not all agree on what a Homo sapiens is). Can we harmonize that with the teaching of God’s Word? Today, many Christians, including many leaders and scholars, think they can.

From my reading and interaction with old-earth creationists of all varieties in 25 countries over the last 35 years, I think one reason many of them think they can harmonize the two is that they have not paid very careful attention to the relevant biblical texts. They have just assumed that the scientists have proven the age of the creation to be billions of years and the age of mankind to be many tens or hundreds of thousands of years. They often recite the mantra that “the Bible is not a science textbook” (thereby confusing the vital difference between origin science and operation science, as discussed in this book’s introduction). Therefore, it is claimed, the Bible does not deal with the issue of the age of mankind or even how man came into existence.

Another reason that a great many Christians think that the age of man and the universe does not matter and that the scientific establishment’s view does not conflict with Scripture is because they or their teachers have been influenced by William Henry Green.1 The famous Old Testament professor at Princeton Theological Seminary wrote an article in 1890 in which he argued that “the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 were not intended to be used, and cannot properly be used, for the construction of a chronology.”2 He concluded that “the Scriptures furnish no data for a chronological computation prior to the life of Abraham; and that the Mosaic records do not fix and were not intended to fix the precise date either of the Flood or of the creation of the world.”3 In other words, Green contended, the Bible is silent about the age of man and also the age of the earth and universe, so scientists are free to determine these ages according to the scientific evidence, and Christians need not reject or fear any date so determined.

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Terry Mortenson and Bodie Hodge – The Documentary Hypothesis: Moses, Genesis, and the JEDP?

moses

In the past few hundred years, the Bible has been under severe attack by scientific and philosophical skeptics of all sorts. In this scientific age the most-attacked book of the Bible has arguably been Genesis, particularly the first 11 chapters. Long-age geology, big-bang cosmology, secular archaeology, liberal theology, and philosophical attacks on miracles in the Bible have deceived many people to believe that the Bible is not true and therefore cannot be trusted.

One of the major attacks on the Bible in the past three hundred years has been directed against Moses and his authorship of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament (Genesis–Deuteronomy). Such attacks on these foundational books of the Bible come both from non-Christians as well as professing Christians.

Seminary courses, theology books, introductions to the Pentateuch in Bibles, and the secular media have promoted the man-made idea that Moses did not write the Pentateuch (also known as the Law or Torah). Instead, it is claimed that at least four different authors (or groups of authors) wrote various portions of these books over many centuries and then one or more redactors (editors) over many years combined and interwove everything together into its present form. For example, one translation of the Bible we surveyed said this in its introduction to the Pentateuch:

Despite its unity of plan and purpose, the book is a complex work, not to be attributed to a single original author. Several sources, or literary traditions, that the final redactor used in his composition are discernible. These are the Yahwist (J), Elohist (E), and Priestly (P) sources which in turn reflect older oral traditions.

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Dr. Terry Mortenson – The Fall and the Problem of Millions of Years of Natural Evil

A very controversial issue within the church today involves the question of millions of years of animal death, disease, predation, extinction and other natural evils, such as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and tsunamis. Can this evolutionist view of the history of natural evil be harmonized with the Bible? In particular, is the Bible’s teaching on the Fall of Adam and its consequences and on the character of God compatible with millions of years of natural evil?

Prominent New York pastor and author Tim Keller states the problem this way in a recent white paper for the theistic evolutionist group, Biologos Forum”

“One of the greatest barriers to belief in God is the problem of suffering and evil in the world. Why, people ask, did God create a world in which violence, pain, and death are endemic? The answer of traditional theology is—he didn’t. He created a good world but also gave human beings free will, and through their disobedience and ‘Fall’, death and suffering came into the world. The process of evolution, however, understands violence, predation, and death to be the very engine of how life develops. If God brings about life through evolution, how do we reconcile that with the idea of a good God? The problem of evil seems to be worse for the believer in theistic evolution.”

In his article Keller provides no real solution to this serious problem for his theistic evolution view. But careful attention to the Bible’s teaching on the Fall and its consequences as well as on Christ’s redemptive work in response to the Fall requires Bible-believing Christians to reject the idea of millions of years of natural evil before Adam. The character of God also militates against this evolutionary view of earth history.

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Dr. Terry Mortenson – Exposing a Fundamental Compromise

For thousands of years Christians have faced the danger of being deceived by Satan (2 Corinthians 11:3). Sometimes in the process of defending the Christian faith, respected Christian leaders have unknowingly compromised with error.

Surprising examples include founders of modern fundamentalism.

The Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy

At the turn of the twentieth century, a wave of liberal theology was sweeping through churches worldwide. To fight back, a group of stalwart Christians wrote what are widely considered the founding documents of modern fundamentalism. From 1910 to 1915 they published ninety articles in twelve volumes, collectively known as The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth. The aim was to defend the most basic and foundational doctrines of biblical Christianity.

In total, three million copies of the volumes were eventually distributed free of charge to church leaders throughout the English-speaking world.

The authors were selected by a committee of some of the most doctrinally sound men of the day under a succession of godly editors. The third and final editor, R. A. Torrey, was a close associate of evangelist D. L. Moody and the second president of what became Moody Bible Institute. The evangelical authors hailed from America, Canada, and Great Britain and represented diverse denominations—Baptists, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Congregationalists.

Most articles were sound and are still well worth reading, but the six articles on the early chapters of Genesis and science must be read with care. Two of these articles helpfully contend that evolution is contrary to Scripture.1 But two other articles that oppose atheistic evolution and human evolution do not clearly oppose the compromise idea of theistic (God-directed) evolution. Worse yet, three of the six clearly accept the claim of evolutionary geologists about history over millions of years. None of the six articles takes a stand for the clear biblical teaching of a literal six-day creation a few thousand years ago.

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Terry Mortenson – Death Is Not Good

death-is-not-good Many pastors and theologians today believe that the earth is millions or billions of years old. But based on my reading and interactions, it is clear that most of them have never really considered the theological implications of allowing animal death, disease, predation, and extinction prior to Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden.

When challenged about this seeming inconsistency, they usually point to the “overwhelming scientific evidence” and say or imply that their perspective is easy to harmonize with the Bible and it doesn’t significantly affect any important doctrines. This attitude is being promoted in theology textbooks widely used in conservative evangelical seminaries, colleges, and churches.

An example is Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (1994). This work is helpful in many ways and immensely influential, having been translated into at least eight major languages. Like many other evangelicals who reject the young-earth view, Grudem believes that the Fall had an impact on the whole creation. And he teaches that when Jesus returns and renews the creation, “there will be no more thorns or thistles, no more floods or droughts, no more deserts or uninhabitable jungles, no more earthquakes or tornadoes, no more poisonous snakes or bees that sting or mushrooms that kill” (p. 836).

But this outstanding, highly respected theologian apparently does not see how the concept of millions of years of death before the Fall destroys the Bible’s teaching about the goodness of the original creation, the prospect of goodness in the new heaven and earth, and the goodness of God Himself.1 Are you prepared to answer Christians who say the age of creation isn’t important?

The Goodness of the Original Creation

As with any theological discussion, the place to begin is God’s Word. We all need to work hard to set aside our personal agendas and let Scripture inform us. When we examine Scripture closely, the timing of animal death directly impacts at least three critical doctrines.

First is the goodness of the original creation. Genesis 1 says six times that during Creation Week God called the creation “good.” When He finished creating on Day Six, He called everything “very good” (Genesis 1:31). This weighty term is clearly chosen to emphasize “goodness,” a core concept of Scripture.

In creation’s initial “very good” state, God’s Word says that man, land animals, and birds were originally vegetarian (Genesis 1:29–30). Now we find creatures fossilized inside the stomachs of other creatures. So this carnivorous behavior must have occurred after the “very good” creation was cursed (Genesis 3).

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Terry Mortenson – Jesus Devastates an Old Earth

millions-of-years Introduction: Blindsided into Debate

I was attending a Christian conference and staffing an Answers in Genesis booth. As I walked around to look at the other booths at the beginning of this conference, a man quickly came up to me (from his booth), even though there was a crowd waiting to speak with him. He evidently felt the need to confront me (in front of the crowd at his booth) because he saw that I was wearing an Answer in Genesis conference badge.

In a hostile tone, the first thing out of his mouth was something akin to, “Is Answers in Genesis here at the conference? Well, I guess I am going to have to find your booth and set you straight about the age of the earth!”

Perhaps you are thinking, “I’m glad I wasn’t in that situation.” Well, I don’t like those situations either! But for some reason, I tend to be in the middle of debates way too often. What ran through my head was, “How did I get myself into this situation? I was only walking through the conference halls!” But I realized there was crowd of people staring as this man began his diatribe, so there I was, blindsided and thrust into a debate.

Needless to say, 2 Timothy 2:24–25 and 1 Peter 3:15 say to always be prepared to give an answer and be ready in season and out of season to rebuke and correct with gentleness and patience. I realized this “out of season” debate was going to occur, but I still need to do it with gentleness, while being bold.

My Response

I asked this man, “In the context of the first marriage between Adam and Eve, do you think Jesus was wrong in Mark 10:6 when He said that God made them male and female at the beginning of creation? Or do you believe that the creation has been around for 13 billion years and marriage first came about at the end of creation a few thousand years ago with Adam and Eve?”1

For the reader, allow me to explain why I asked the question this way. If you start with the Bible, Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day of creation. So Adam and Eve were created about five days after the initial creation event on Day One. Then if you add up the genealogies from Adam to Jesus you get a few thousand years (about 4,000 years). Most chronologists agree on this point.

But all Christians who have bought into an old earth have much more than 4,000 years between creation and Christ. They insert about 13.7 billion years between the creation event that they call the big bang and the marriage between the first human male and female. They further state that Adam and Eve only showed up a matter of thousands of years ago. So all old earth scenarios have marriage (between a human male and female, which first began with Adam and Eve) about 13 billion years after creation, which is the end of creation, nowhere near the beginning of creation.

Returning to questioner, it was apparent that he was not ready for that question. What I did was contrast his stated position against what Christ had said. And this man knew it right off the bat. So did the crowd watching. They wanted to hear his answer, and so did I.

Realizing he was trapped in a “catch-22,” this man immediately changed the subject to talk about what secular scientists believe about the age of the earth. I wasn’t going to let him do that. He needed to address what Jesus said.

So I again kindly asked, “Was Jesus wrong in your view?” This man, who was so confident and aggressive, began to squirm right where he stood. And he responded, “I don’t want to deal with that.”

At this point, I concluded our conversation by saying, “That is the crux of the issue: either you trust God’s Word, or you don’t.” Hopefully, it was apparent to the crowd that this man was not standing on what Christ said in His Word but was clinging to outside influences and did not want to address what Christ had said. Frankly, I was nervous, but I was being bold and seeking to be kind and gracious.

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Dr. Terry Mortenson – Critique of Hugh Ross’s Creation Story

Introduction

When and how did God create the world? How long did He take? At a 3-day conference organized by the Fixed Point Foundation in Birmingham, Alabama, June 15–18, 2011, Dr. Michael Behe, Dr. John Lennox, Dr. Hugh Ross and I debated the questions of origins. Dr. Behe defended theistic evolution. Dr. Lennox argued for a gap of millions of years between the first two verses of Genesis 1 and then gaps of indefinitely long ages (millions of years) between each of the literal days of creation.2 Dr. Ross advocated the day-age view of Genesis 1.

The Day-age View

As I heard Dr. Ross explain in this debate (which is consistent with his previous teachings over the years), his belief about Genesis 1 regarding the origin of the earth, sun, moon, and stars can be summarized as follows.

In the beginning God created the heavens by first creating the “cosmic egg” (the small and incredibly dense ball of matter, energy, and space) and then caused it to begin to expand (which, he said, occurred in Genesis 1:1). For the next 9.2 billion years the universe expanded and stars and galaxies gradually formed by physical and chemical processes as cosmic gas clouds collapsed due to gravity. Our sun formed about 8.7 billion years after the big bang (or about 5 billion years ago).

For the first 7 billion years of history, the expansion of the universe was initially very fast and gradually slowed down due to gravity and then it started to expand more rapidly due to dark matter and dark energy (and the expansion has continued to accelerate over the past 7 billion years).

The solar gas cloud around the sun evolved over millions of years to form rings and eventually evolved into planets. In this way the earth was formed about 9.2 billion after the big bang (about 4.5 billion years ago)5 and was covered in such thick clouds of an opaque atmosphere that absolutely no light could reach the surface of the earth, and hence darkness was on the surface of the earth (which, he said, is described in Genesis 1:2).

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Dr. Terry Mortenson – Mutilating God’s Word: Adam, Bilbo, and Peter Enns

In a recent blog post, Old-Testament scholar Dr. Peter Enns strongly accused Ken Ham of teaching obvious error and misleading Christians into believing in a literal Adam.1 But do Enns’s criticisms stand up to scrutiny? Let’s see. I will intersperse my comments throughout his December 7, 2012, blog post. In Enns’s text, all bold and italics are his emphases.

Bilbo–I Mean, Adam–Was a Historical Person (and Ken Ham has a poster to prove it)

“Before I get going here, I want to be crystal clear about something. I am not remotely interested in trying to change Ken Ham’s mind about Genesis. Nor am I trying to raid his flock and steal his sheep.”

Note that the first word in his title is “Bilbo.” Who is Bilbo? Well, he is the primary fictional character in The Hobbit and a supporting character in The Lord of the Rings. These are two of the most well-known of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy stories. So right from the start, Enns has a mocking tone, indicating that in his mind the “Adam” in Genesis is no more historical that the “Bilbo” in Tolkien’s fictional books! Does this mean that Enns thinks the Bible is fiction?

“But quite often he says things that are transparently wrong and highly misleading. My concern is for those who are being mislead [sic] and have perhaps begun to sense it, and might be looking for voices to confirm their suspicions and finding a way forward.”

As I proceed with my comments below, the reader can decide who really is “transparently wrong and highly misleading.”

“Which brings me to today’s topic, the “wall chart” (a.k.a., poster) you see below.”

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