Comment on Common Arguments Against a 7-Day Creation Week by Sean Pitman.
He quotes scientists who point out that different radioactive clocks depend on one another FOR ABSOLUTE DATES, but not one denies that the clocks tick at a fixed and invariable rate of radioactive decay. So I hope I can assume that he agrees that although the absolute date of the rocks may be not certain, THE AGE OF THE ROCKS ARE IN BILLIONS of years, not thousands?
While there is some recent evidence of the variability of radioactive decay rates being influenced by solar flares (Link), it seems like this variability is rather small. So, yes, the overall rate of radioactive decay for radioactive materials does indeed appear to be fairly constant and predictable. However, this isn’t the problem with using radioactive elements as a clock. The main problems include determining the original ratio of parent to daughter isotopes within a given specimen and the leaching in or out of parent or daughter isotopes over time. This is the reason why the radiometric dating of igneous rocks simply isn’t a reliable clock.
So perhaps he believes in a Billions of years old earth and universe, upon which a 6 day recent creation 6,000 years ago happened? That would be a good start to having a discussion. But then does his Biblical Literalism insist that earth predated the Sun and Moon by 4 days?
While I do refer to myself as a “young life” creationist rather than a “young Earth” creationist, I do not do so because of any radiometric dating technique. The Bible itself claims (along with Ellen White) that the universe and other intelligent beings on other planets pre-existed the creation week of our particular planet. Also, Genesis itself suggests that the basic material of our planet was also already present prior to its manipulation during our creation week. This is consistent with various other features of our visible universe which seem to require vast periods of time to produce – such as the arrival of light from stars and galaxies that are billions of light years away from our planet.
As far as the appearance of the Sun and moon on “Day 4” of creation week, I’ve always seen this being as a result of an Earth-bound perspective of the observer – so that the Sun, moon, and stars only became visible from an Earth-bound perspective on Day 4. Here’s a short commentary on this option from Richard Davidson:
A second option suggests that the sun was created before the fourth day, but became visible on that day as the cloud cover was removed. This would explain the evening/morning cycle before day 4. The Hebrew syntax of Genesis 1:14 is different than the pattern of the other days of Creation. Verse 14 literally reads, “Let lights in the firmament of the heavens divide the day from the night” (not “Let there be lights…to divide…” as in most translations), perhaps implying that the lights were already in existence before the fourth day. The “greater” and “lesser” lights as well the stars could have been created “in the beginning” (before Creation week, v. 1; cf. John 1:1-3) and not on the fourth day. On the fourth day they were given a purpose,“to separate the day from the night” and “to mark seasons and days and years.” A variant of this view is that the sun and moon were created before Creation week, but in their tohu-bohu (“unformed-unfilled”) state like the earth (see v. 2), and on the fourth day were further formed into their fully-functional state (v. 16). – Link
This view is the one that makes the most sense to me personally…
I maintain that there are no serious scientific questions about the age of the earth in general terms, while the details are still subject to further revision and recalibration. But nothing in the past present or future can be imagined that will give us a 6,000 year old planet.
If we can all agree with an old earth, it is very hard not to agree with the shorter clocks that all agree on a much longer than, 6,000 year old life story. So I maintain again that there are no serious scientific issues for Adventists, only theological issues. And Dr. Pittman has suggested several times that I should leave his version of the church.
The problem, you see, is that your belief in an old Earth is based on the validity of radiometric dating techniques while mine is not. The problems with your position, as I’ve explained in my essay above, are numerous and fundamental. Not only are radiometric dating methods not independently useful, but there are some key inconsistencies that very strongly suggest a recent arrival of life, in particular, on this planet. For instance, it seems to be extremely difficult to explain away the problem the high detrimental mutation rate for all slowly reproducing creatures on this planet and their eventual genetic meltdown and extinction. It also seems to me very hard to explain the high levels of carbon 14 being found in the soft tissues of dinosaurs and other specimens thought to be many tens or even hundreds of millions of years old – not to mention the very existence of intact dinosaur soft tissues to begin with. These aren’t just trivial problems for your position – they are fundamental problems.
Sir I love God and Truth too much to walk away from this wonderful church, just because you don’t get it yet.
I have no doubt regarding your love for God or your sincere search for truth as you see it. I’m sure that you’re quite a sincere and honest man. My question only deals with why anyone who is so sincere and honest, as you obviously are, would wish to carry the title of an organization that so fundamentally disagrees with your own fundamental doctrinal positions? It just doesn’t seem like a good fit nor does the SDA title seem like an appropriate representation of what you actual represent.
It is not the science that is your problem, it is your 18th century theology that needs to be revisited.
Well, you see, the Bible itself hasn’t changed and it still clearly says what it always said for ages past. Your problem is that you simply disagree with what the authors of the Bible clearly intended to say. So, either you accept the claims of the Bible or you don’t. It has nothing to do with having a modern or 18th century mindset – aside from the fact that many modern theologians have become heavily influenced by modern Neo-Darwinian philosophies.
Ellen White led me to Christ, and she has assured me she is fallible. We have enough proof to accept that as a fact. (See my tribute to our wonderful fallible prophetess, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.) So I accept her teaching that church councils have often erred in the past, like our recent one did in the present. I understand but don’t accept her account of how volcano’s form or the age of the earth. She was born before germs were discovered, and thought malaria came from bad air and that Orion was a few miles across. Not her fault, mine if I don’t contextualize her ministry, and reinterpret her messages to fit more up to date information suitable for faith in the 21st century. To let Ellen White keep our church in the 18th century is simply idolatry.
We all agree that prophets, even biblical prophets, were human and fallible. However, what a prophet says in the name of God (as in what a prophet was specifically shown in vision or in other direct communications with God) is not fallible because God himself is not fallible. The Bible lists this as a specific test of a true prophet – if what they say they were shown, by God, actually pans out as true. If it is shown that what the prophet claimed he/she was shown by God is actually false, that prophet is to be viewed as a false prophet. In other words, you have be to able to separate the prophet’s own personal human opinions from what they were shown by God as privileged information beyond what is available to those of us who do not have access to such direct communications with God. You simply cannot pick and choose what you like about what someone who claims to be a prophet is saying. Either they are or they are not in privileged communication with God.
And, in this particular case, Mrs. White says that she was directly shown by God, in vision, that the creation week as a literal week. It seems to me that either you accept this as privileged information, coming directly from God, or you are forced to conclude that Mrs. White was entirely deluded – not the prophet she claimed to be. I fail to see how you can have it both ways? I also fail to see how this particular claim of hers has anything to do with 18th century theology? It’s a direct claim that she was shown, directly by God, the literal nature of the creation week – take it or leave it.
Sean Pitman Also Commented
Common Arguments Against a 7-Day Creation Week
Jesus talked about Genesis in literal terms – to include the literal 7-day creation week and the worldwide nature of the Noachian Flood. Clearly then, the credibility of the Scriptures mattered to Him since He often cited Scripture, and the accuracy of its historical claims, as the basis of authority for many of His arguments against His opponents.
So, while it is possible to be saved in ignorance of the Scriptures and their credibility (by living according to the Royal Law that is written on the hearts of all mankind), it is the Bible that is the means by which God offers us meaningful hope in and understanding of the reality of the “good news” of the Gospel Message in this life – a message of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection in order to bring us a solid hope and rational understanding of a new and better life beyond this current evil world. It is this hope that gives the Christian who has such knowledge an edge, a serious advantage, in this life. This gospel message of hope, based on historical knowledge of real events, helps to make this life more bearable. And, it is this hope that we are told to spread to those around us who are living in darkness without a conscious hope of a bright future to come while living in this evil world.
So, when someone undermines the credibility of the claims of the Biblical authors they are also, at the same time, undermining the rational basis of the Christian hope. After all, even Paul said, “For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:16-19). Notice here how Paul ties in the basis of hope and rational meaningful faith with a real historical event – the resurrection of Jesus.
The same is true for the rational basis of the Christian Hope today. It’s all based on the credibility of the claims of the Bible.
Common Arguments Against a 7-Day Creation Week
Thanks Wes. You’re most kind 😉
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
“Essentially all the administrators, staff and faculty on our campus, including the pastors on our campus already know where I stand. I have never kept any secrets. I have to laugh when I see you say that I am upset because you ‘blew my cover.’ There was no cover to blow.” – Bryan Ness
You’re not the main problem here. I’d have no problem with you personally and what you personally believe at all except that you are a professor in an Adventist school – Pacific Union College.
It’s this school who presents itself as being in line with the primary goals and ideals of the Adventist Church, when it really isn’t. I have friends of mine who have gone to PUC and talked to the leadership about sending their children to PUC. They’ve specifically asked about the situation at La Sierra University and asked the PUC leadership and heads of departments what their position is on teaching the theory of evolution as “the truth” – and if the teachers at PUC support the SDA position on origins and other issues? They were told that PUC does not condone what happened at LSU and that the professors at PUC are fully in line with the SDA position on origins and all of the other fundamental positions of the church.
Of course, you know and I know that this just isn’t true. You, for one, publically speak and teach against the church’s position on origins as well as human sexuality. This reality is not being presented by the leadership of PUC to the parents of potential PUC students. This reality simply isn’t being advertised to the general church membership at all. What PUC should be advertizing to parents and the church membership at large is,
“Yes, we do maintain professors who teach our students that the church’s position on various fundamental doctrinal issues is in fact wrong and should be changed to reflect the more popular secular position on these topics.”
That’s what it should be telling everyone, but this just isn’t what is being done.
I am attacking no one… Since when is a difference of views an attack on the church?
Since it was placed as one of the church’s “fundamental beliefs” by the church (Link). When you publically publish an article stating that the Church’s position is clearly mistaken and should be changed, that’s an attack on the church’s position.
And of all the issues facing the church, same-sex marriage hardly rises to the level of a “primary goal and ideal.”
The SDA Church has chosen to describe the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman as one of the “fundamental” messages to spread to the world – as one of the fundamental reasons for its very existence…
Now, you call what you’re doing, not an “attack”, but a “plea for compassion”. However, your plea for compassion is presented as a clear statement that the church’s position is absolutely mistaken – that the church’s position is not at all “compassionate” or even biblical. Now, you may be very honest and sincere in your views here, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not attacking the church’s position in a very real and fundamental way. The fact is that you are making a very clear attack on the church’s position while accepting money from the church as a representative who is supposed to be supporting the church as a paid employee.
Why do you want to cause such people so much pain?
That’s not my goal. However, if a person wants to know what the Bible has to say about what they are doing, I’m not going to pretend that the Bible has nothing to say when the Bible does in fact have something to say. If what the Bible says “causes pain” to a person living in what the Bible says is a “sinful” lifestyle, that’s between them and God. The very same thing is true of me and my own sinful tendencies. If what the Bible says about what I’m doing causes me pain, I can either respond to that by ignoring what the Bible has to say, or I can ask God for help in changing my ways.
Jesus himself said that He did not come to bring peace to those who are living in rebellion against God’s ideals for humanity, but a “sword” (Matthew 10:34). The denial of self and what we naturally want to do given our fallen condition, in order to follow God and what He calls us to do, is often quite painful indeed. That doesn’t mean it’s not the best path to follow. There simply can be no peace between God and those who wish to hang onto what God has said to give up. God does not condemn the sinner for being born broken, but He does warn those who refuse to accept His offer of help to escape their broken condition that, eventually, such refusals of help will not end well for those who are determined to follow their own way.
Yet, these professors get very upset when their actions are made public – when they can no longer hide what they are doing from the church at large. – Sean Pitman
Uh, I have never hidden my support and affirmation for LGBTQ+ individuals, and any parent who wanted to know my views on the subject could easily look up what I’ve written, or they could just plain ask me. I openly acknowledge where I stand on these issues on social media too. Essentially all the administrators, staff and faculty on our campus, including the pastors on our campus already know where I stand. I have never kept any secrets. I have to laugh when I see you say that I am upset because you “blew my cover.” There was no cover to blow.
You have not simply let people know what I advocate, you have attacked me personally and impugned my motives and personal spiritual path. You are causing pain not just to me, but to the very people I am trying to comfort and encourage. Your words are not just being seen by the legalistic and judgmental people like yourself, but by parents of LGBTQ+ children and those LGBTQ+ individuals themselves, many of whom are likely already heavily weighed down with self revulsion and depression. And you are doing this for who’s good?
And you wonder why I might be angry and upset? As hard as it is for me to do, I have daily decided to pray for you and those like you that God would soften your heart and show you the grave wounds you are inflicting on God’s beloved. I pray God will help you find compassion and clearer spiritual insight.
Do you really think it’s a “little thing” when our own professors are attacking the primary goals and ideals of the church from the inside? – Sean Pitman
I am attacking no one. You act as if you have not even read my article. I did suggest in there that I think it is time for the church to change and affirm same-sex marriage, but that is not an attack, that is a plea for compassion, a plea that the church return and study this topic again, and I laid out the reasons I think it is fully warranted that we do so. Since when is a difference of views an attack on the church? And of all the issues facing the church, same-sex marriage hardly rises to the level of a “primary goal and ideal.” You are inflating the importance of this topic. the only place where same-sex marriage really rises to a high level of importance is when you are an LGBTQ+ person contemplating marriage, or are the parent, relative or friend of an LGBTQ+ person. Why do you want to cause such people so much pain?
The purpose of the H.E. is not to wall people off by modifying curriculum of every subject to fit dogma. The dogma itself has to be enhanced with broader understanding of how to relate various perspectives to these fields of human enterprise.
Certainly, Adventist schools should by no means isolate students from popular ideas that are prevalent within secular culture. If anything, students educated in our schools should have a much better understanding of ideas like neoDarwinism or homosexuality than students educated in secular institutions. However, the education of students within Adventist schools shouldn’t stop here. Adventist education should also give students a reasonable explanation as to why the Adventist perspective on these ideas is actually supported by the Church – by professors who actually personally hold to the Church’s positions on these topics (like the topics of origins or homosexuality, etc).
Again, it is simply counterproductive to have a church school if professors in that school teach that the church’s position is not only wrong, but downright ludicrous, outdated, and completely opposed to the overwhelming weight of “scientific evidence”. Such teaching, by professors that are respected by the students, will strongly influence most students to be naturally opposed to the church’s position on these topics. Clearly then, this would not be in the church’s best interest. It would be far better, from the church’s perspective, not to form church schools at all than to have professors within their own schools attack the church organization from the inside.
But there is world of difference between presenting it as fact that the teacher believes, and a theory with problems. – @ajshep (Allen Shepherd)
I’m in total agreement here. Again, it is one thing to teach about a particular concept that opposes the teachings of the church. It is a far far different thing to then support this particular concept as “true” as compared to showing the students why you, as their teacher, don’t find it convincing.
That is why a teacher, employed by the church, is actually stealing from the church when they attack the church’s position on a given topic from within their own classroom or via a public forum. Such activity simply goes against what a teacher is being paid to do by his/her employer.
Your presumption and hubris are exactly what Jesus pointed out to those who brought the women caught in adultery. Have you learned nothing from the examples of what it means to be a Christian that you would indulge in such harshness and judgemental words and pronouncements.
Consider that while Jesus most certainly was very kind and gentle and forgiving to the woman caught in adultery (certainly one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible), that He did in fact tell her to “go and sin no more”.
I would say that the very same action and recommendation should be given to all who find themselves part of the LBGTQ+ community. God loves sinners and came to save all of us who find ourselves caught in the web of fallen and sinful lives. He doesn’t condemn us for being broken, but He does offer us a way out and tells us to “go and sin no more”.
In light of this, my problem with the efforts of Dr. Ness is that he is making the claim that there is no brokenness or moral problem with committed monogamous homosexual lifestyles – that the Bible says absolutely nothing in this regard and therefore there is nothing for God to forgive here. There is simply no need to say, “I love you, now go and sin no more”.
I’m also not quite sure why Dr. Ness draws the line with monogamy since he doesn’t accept the Biblical statements, often within the same passages as those discussing monogamy, that speak against homosexual activities? This seems inconsistent to me since it seems quite reasonable, given the arguments presented by Dr. Ness, that polygamy could also be argued as being even more consistent with God’s will and natural genetic mutations that God Himself designed. Upon what “scientific” or “religious” or “philosophical” basis does Dr. Ness draw the line at monogamy as being the clear Biblical standard where God draws the line? – when many have very strong and very “natural” polygamous tendencies?
Of course, I also have a problem with a paid representative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, who is responsible for teaching our youth in support of the primary goals and ideals of the Church, publicly arguing that these goals and ideals are completely wrong – on the church’s dime. Such activity, even if one is totally convinced as to the error of one’s employer, is unethical since it is a form of stealing from one’s employer.
At the very least, parents who are paying a great deal of money to send their children to one of our church schools should be very well informed as to what they can expect their children to be taught at our schools and what positions the teachers at the school are publicly promoting. Providing this information to such parents is my primary purpose in responding to Dr. Ness’s publicly published article in public forum.
Do you not understand what it is like in academia? Differences of opinion among scholars is not only tolerated, it is valued. I have nothing more to say concerning your accusations. Our church has no “official” stand on this issue, if by that you mean I am disavowing my membership in the church by simply believing that gays should allow ro get married to one another. That is not even how our church operates. I can point to many other church employees who openly disagree about certain issues of belief, including this one, and congregations that are fully affirming of same-sex marriage. They are a part of the SDA church just as I am.
My concern still is more about the tone and stance of your attacks. You are attacking fellow SDAs, some of them being the most vulnerable members of our church, and you seem to have no sense of the damage you are potentially doing to these individuals. By attacking me in the fashion you are you are also attacking all those for whom I am standing up. You may want to take Jesus’ words to heart:
But whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea. Matt. 18:6
I know very well what it’s like to be involved in leadership positions within the church and within academia. My own father is a retired pastor and teacher. It’s one thing to publicly present and even promote various opinions that do not directly undermine the church or school one is working for. However, it is another thing entirely to directly attack the fundamental positions of the church while being a paid representative of the church. Such activity is not at all encouraged and is, in fact, unethical – a form of theft from your employer. Sure, there are many pastors and teachers who think to do such things anyway. That doesn’t make such activities morally right. It’s still wrong to do what you are doing.