Keller, Moore, and Duncan on the Non-Negotiable Beliefs About Creation

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TylerR's picture

Editor

Moore asked what a Christian leader or teacher has to believe in a local church, in order to be orthodox. Here are the answers:

  • Duncan: creation ex nihilo, goodness of the original creation, the uniqueness of mankind
  • Keller: He didn't really answer the question. He refuses to take a position on the age of earth ("people disagree," etc.). He refuses to take a stance on evolution. He believes in the historicity of Adam and Eve, but claims Christian scientists have evidence that humans are not genetically descended from a single couple. Yet, he confesses, he feels duty-bound to believe Scripture over the scientific consensus. 

I think this is asking the wrong question, in the wrong way. A local church should have a doctrinal statement or subscribe to a confession of faith that takes a clear position on these issues. Both men ducked the issue of evolution. You can't duck this, because people will realize very quickly that you're tap-dancing. You have to decide where you stand.

Ironically, Duncan and Keller dodged the issue of origins. Duncan came close, but even he qualified himself by admitting that "people disagree" over creation ex nihilo.     

The question shouldn't be, "what are the minimum requirements" for orthodoxy. Who are we to set these artificial limits, anyway? The question should be, "what does Scripture teach us about creation and origins."  

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jay's picture

One of Keller's biggest areas of weakness is how he handles Genesis 1-3, so it doesn't surprise me at all that there was some tap dancing going on there.  It seems like this is an area where he generally leans more towards science and logic (evolution) than Scripture.  It's very disappointing.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Philip Golden Jr.'s picture

I thought there were somethings that were very concerning. As many know, Keller's hermeneutic for Genesis 1-3 is, well, hard to pin down and wrought with issues. They talked a little bit about the Christian view of origins as an "intellectual liability." It has always been concerning to me that some Christians would try to jump through exegetical hoops to shed that "intellectual liability." Also, Keller's mention of science "informing my understanding of the Bible" is a little bit alarming. Yes, he gave a good example of how that has happened in the past regarding the idea of a geocentric view of our solar system, but, Evolution is not a clearly evidence based deduction. It is interpretation of evidence. And the literal, seven day view of creation is also a legitimate interpretation of the evidence. I think that is where we need to address the "intellectual liability." 

That being said, I do think the question about what becomes essential for orthodoxy is legitimate. Yes, we should ask what does the Bible say and perhaps that's where this discussion should have begun, but, how far can we diverge on what we believe the Bible says about Origins and still remain within the realm of historic Christian doctrine is a good question to ask.

As I have seen on other threads, diverse views of Origins have not historically been a dividing line. We need only point to Augustine or Scofield as examples of those within the vein of believing Christianity who took a divergent view from the modern 7 literal day view. So do you think they identified the basics for orthodoxy? It seems they are arguing for two main things. Creation "ex nihilo" and the historicity of Adam and Eve. Have they identified the basics? What more should be added?

For me, personally, I also think a proper understanding of the origin of death needs to be taken into consideration. If one would hold to those two basics, but still believe in some sort of theistic evolution, how then does death originate on the earth, since, evolution only progresses through death. Since the curse brings death, not just to humanity but to the entire created order, then how can evolution progress without death? I am not sure if this rises to the level of an irreducible minimum, but since death is so closely related to the curse and redemption history, its pretty close in my estimation.

Phil Golden

TylerR's picture

Editor

i think Duncan's answer is a very good one. These are the things that I emphasize when I explain the Gospel, or when I teach other people how to explain the Gospel:

  1. God created this entire creation out of nothing. This means He governs it and is in charge of it, and He gets to set the rules and expectations for His own creation.
  2. God created everything perfect and good.
  3. Man and woman are not animals, we are unique creations that dimly reflect some of His characteristics and attributes

This is pretty foundational.  

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

dgszweda's picture

Philip Golden Jr. wrote:

I thought there were somethings that were very concerning. As many know, Keller's hermeneutic for Genesis 1-3 is, well, hard to pin down and wrought with issues. They talked a little bit about the Christian view of origins as an "intellectual liability." It has always been concerning to me that some Christians would try to jump through exegetical hoops to shed that "intellectual liability." Also, Keller's mention of science "informing my understanding of the Bible" is a little bit alarming. Yes, he gave a good example of how that has happened in the past regarding the idea of a geocentric view of our solar system, but, Evolution is not a clearly evidence based deduction. It is interpretation of evidence. And the literal, seven day view of creation is also a legitimate interpretation of the evidence. I think that is where we need to address the "intellectual liability." 

It only becomes intellectual liability, when you begin to defend or interpret the Biblical account in terms of science.  Which it is not.  There is not enough detail, on purpose, within Genesis 1-3 to provide a scientific defense.  In addition, its very nature (a miraculous even ex nihilo) is in and of itself is outside the realms of science.

Quote:

As I have seen on other threads, diverse views of Origins have not historically been a dividing line. We need only point to Augustine or Scofield as examples of those within the vein of believing Christianity who took a divergent view from the modern 7 literal day view. So do you think they identified the basics for orthodoxy? It seems they are arguing for two main things. Creation "ex nihilo" and the historicity of Adam and Eve. Have they identified the basics? What more should be added?

I do think that these two points are the most critical.  With that said, they are also the two most problematic as it relates to science.  So if he has a challenge with intellectual liability, than I struggle with how he can hold to ex nihilo and a literal Adam and Eve.  Where I think the challenge for orthodoxy becomes the slippery slope that people take in not holding to a more rigid creation account.  The very presupposition that what the Bible states is true, leaves the entire Scripture open to Intellectual Liability, that is expressly addressed by Paul to the Greeks.  The virgin birth is much more anti-science than the creation account.  Why?  Because the virgin birth is directly observable and testable.  Resurrection of the Dead is even more so.  So if you struggle because academia throws up concerns with the creation account and you as a Christian struggle with it, why not more so with Christ's resurrection.  Even with all of our advances in science we cannot raise someone from the dead, yet we wholesale believe that someone on their own volition, raised themselves from the dead.  Either your faith holds to that or it doesn't.  And it if holds to it, than why not Creation?

Why do we as Christians feel compelled to defend our belief with science by trying to use science.  I think God, really laid this out for Job, when he stated, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?  Tell me,  if you have understanding."  It is incomprehensible to man and to science as to what God did, since it is void of man's understanding.