God, Sky & Land – by Brian Bull and Fritz Guy

by Sean Pitman:

In their new book, God, Sky, and Land, Drs. Bull and Guy (former president of La Sierra University) argue that, “The ancient Hebrews were operating with only two explanacepts, God and Humans. Therefore, any humanly unexplainable phenomenon was by default attributed to God.”  They go on to suggest that Genesis must be read through this and other limited perspectives and therefore cannot be taken literally from the modern perspective.  For example, they discuss what they claim is the ancient Hebrew concept of a flat Earth and a solid metallic or crystalline half-dome covering the Earth. Certainly these concepts cannot be accepted by the modern reader and therefore the text of Genesis simply cannot be taken to be a literal historical account in any empirically-trustworthy or factual sense of the word.

Brian Bull

Fritz Guy

At least part of the problem with the thesis proposed by Bull and Guy is that, contrary to their assertion, the Biblical authors did seem to have a rather good concept of “chance” occurrences outside of the direct action of either God or man – i.e., the Biblical authors had a concept of natural laws that function independent of the direct actions of either God or man.

For one example of this understanding, consider the experiment described in the Bible where the Philistines put the Ark of God into a cart to send it back to Israel.


Now
then, get a new cart ready, with two cows that have calved and have never been yoked. Hitch the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and pen them up. Take the ark of the Lord and put it on the cart, and in a chest beside it put the gold objects you are sending back to him as a guilt offering. Send it on its way, but keep watching it. If it goes up to its own territory, toward Beth Shemesh, then the Lord has brought this great disaster on us. But if it does not, then we will know that it was not his hand that struck us and that it happened to us by chance. – 1 Samuel 6:1-12

Notice that the concept of random chance events or natural law was well established in the mind of this biblical author.

Randall Younker

Another problem with the arguments presented by Bull and Guy is in regard to the supposedly Hebrew concept of “raqi’a” as an inverted metallic or otherwise solid half dome covering of a flat Earth. According to Randall Younker (Andrews University):


“The idea that the ancient Hebrews believed the heaven(s) was a solid vault appears to emerged for the first time only during the early 19th century when introduced as part of the flat earth concept introduced by Washington Irving and Antoine-Jean Letronne. Scholars who supported this idea argued that the flat earth/vaulted heaven was held throughout the early Christian and Medieval periods, and indeed, was an idea that goes back into antiquity and was held by both ancient Mesopotamians and Hebrews. However, more recent research has shown that the idea of a flat earth was not held by either the early Christian church nor Medieval scholars. Indeed, the overwhelming evidence is that they believed in a spherical earth surrounded by celestial spheres (sometimes hard, sometimes soft) that conveyed the sun, moon, stars and planets in their orbits around the earth. Moreover, research of ancient Babylonian astronomical documents shows that they did not have the concept of a heavenly vault. Rather, this was erroneously introduced into the scholarly literature by a mistranslation of Enuma Elish by Peter Jensen.

A review of the linguistic arguments that the Hebrews believed in the idea of a flat earth and vaulted heaven shows that the arguments are unfounded. The arguments derive from passages that are clearly figurative in nature. Indeed, one of the great ironies in recreating a Hebrew cosmology is that scholars have tended to treat figurative usages as literal (e.g. Psalms and Job), while treating literal passages such as in Genesis as figurative. The noun form of raqia is never associated with hard substances in any of its usages in Biblical Hebrew; only the verbal form raqa. And even the latter cannot be definitely tied to metals, etc. Rather it is understood as a process in which a substance is ‘thinned’ – this can include pounding, but also includes stretching. The noun raqia is best translated as expanse in all of its usages.”

Randall Younker, The Myth of the Solid Heavenly Dome: Another Look at the Hebrew [raqia], pre-published version, July 2009

 

If the writer(s) of Genesis believed that the raqi’a was a solid structure, it seems odd to me that God would be quoted as defining it as “sky” – a place within which birds can also fly (Gen. 1:8, 20 and Deut. 4:17). Now I know that some argue that the description is of birds flying across, not within, the raqi’a (in possible conflict with Deut. 4:17). However, everything seems to fit better, as far as I can tell, if this term is understood as an expanse – similar to the space or raqi’a that contains the sun, moon, and stars (Gen. 1:14).  Consider also that the psalmist spoke of God’s “sanctuary’ as being “in the firmament” or raqi’a (Psalm 150:1).

It is difficult to imagine, therefore, that the term raqi’a must always indicate some sort of metalic or solid structure as Bull and Guy argue given some of these passages.  After all, what sense does it make for God to be living in a santuary that is within some sort of solid metallic raqi’a?  Is this not a valid question?

It seems like the context in which this word is used needs to be taken into account before one automatically assumes that the author(s) were clearly talking about some solid crystalline or metallic dome-shaped structure. In context, this doesn’t seem clear at all – and was probably why the original NIV translators used the word “expanse” instead of definitively indicating something more solid.

Now, I understand that this is an attempt by many to undermine a literal view of the Genesis account – despite the fact that the author(s) of this account clearly intended it to be taken literally. The problem is that you don’t have to be a scientist to be a good witness in describing what you saw in the language that you understand. It is very difficult to misinterpret something as basic and easy to understand and describe as “evenings and mornings”. In other words, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice “evenings and mornings”. It also wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to understand God if God had said, “By the way, it took me a bit longer than one week to make everything on Earth . . .”

Really, if God doesn’t actually speak to us in language that we can understand when he is talking about our origins, why even bother? Why say that it took a “week” when it really took hundreds of millions of years? Why even bother describing evenings and mornings in such detail and in such consistency? – so much so that the authors themselves believed in the literal interpretation of their own work? It would only hurt the credibility of the metaphysical claims of the Bible to find out that its physical claims, especially those that are so easily investigated, aren’t actually true.

God knows this. In fact, he often uses physical evidence to support his metaphysical claims within the Bible – just read the story of the healing of the paralytic in Mark 2:9 – “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?…” Clearly, the falsification of the physical claim says something about the validity of the metaphysical claim as well . . .

Suffice it to say that there are plenty of scholars on both sides of most of these issues. One has to somehow weigh the evidence on a personal basis rather than blindly go along with the consensus view of the so-called “experts” all the time.

Share on Facebook0Pin on Pinterest0Share on LinkedIn0Tweet about this on TwitterDigg thisShare on Google+2Share on Tumblr0Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Print this pageEmail this to someone

33 thoughts on “God, Sky & Land – by Brian Bull and Fritz Guy

  1. Some of our brightest lights will go out. Maybe faith and pride in the human mind is the cause? Time will tell if God can create in 6 days as we watch him recreate the new heavens and the new earth. Then the debate will be ended once and for all. Why don’t these folks just form a new denomination like the Sunday folks have done many times, instead of sticking in a church with which they do not agree and then pulling at the doctrines like taffy? I just don’t understand . . .




    0
    View Comment
  2. Why do we have leaders that don’t accept the Bible for what is says and always trying to make God saying something he isn’t. This evolutionay thinking that has been put forward by these learned (?) men are going to have to answer to God someday leading his people in the wrong direction.




    0
    View Comment
  3. Great article. It shows that the narrow thinking that goes into Guy’s naysaying of the bible frequently misses the most obvious Bible examples disconfirming Guy’s “don’t trust your Bible” agenda.

    Given that Guy was president of LSU, and has been leading their theology department for decades – it is little wonder that LSU ended up in this mess.

    in Christ,

    Bob




    0
    View Comment
  4. Without rehashing any specifics, it seems quite clear that Bull and Guy are pandering to the “old earth boys network” through their broad brush assumptions of “knowing” what the Hebrews were really trying to say…so I guess that means any alternative explanation—such as a young earth belief—would then “expose” one as lacking insight and academic understanding as well as being hopelessly bound by primitive logic…makes me almost eagerly anticipate the next imaginative variation on the “science” of macro evolution!




    0
    View Comment
  5. Two uninspired, egocentric, pseudo-intellectuals attempting to give us their convoluted version of the inspired word of God. In the light of eternity, not exactly the high ground to be on. If they don’t believe the inspired author of Genesis, then I would assume that they have trashed the SOP also. How sad.




    0
    View Comment
  6. What I have hard time understanding is why these people were allowed to remain in their positions for decades instead of being removed from their teaching positions years ago–back when all of this was starting. Surely someone in a position of authority must have known what was going on. It would have been a whole lot easier to pull up a small “weed” then before it became the monstrous, poisonous “tree” it is today. It makes you wonder if there is anybody you can trust in positions of authority.

    This is very unsettling to those of us who were taught years ago that these people were “God’s anointed” and we should render them respect and confidence. It reminds me of the way the priests of Israel turned their backs on what God had told them to do and instead led the whole nation into sin. Is this the situation we find ourselves in today? It surely does seem like it!

    I’m sure I’m not the only one whose faith in “leadership” has been severely shaken. I’m also sure Satan and his helpers must be laughing so hard they have a hard time standing up. I’m afraid we have reached the place where it will be a case of “everyone for himself with the help of God” if any of us make it to the other shore.

    A lot of us are going to have to answer to God about this and the loss of the many souls that have been led away from Him as a result.




    0
    View Comment
  7. There is something else I would like for someone to tell me—

    Where in the world is the GRI in all of this? I have searched the internet and find virtually nothing there that would attract anybody to what it has to say–if it has anything to say.

    There are several non-Adventists sites that are full of books, videos, etc. They have these things for Toddlers through University students and they are attractively presented and a lot that aren’t very expensive.

    I thought we were supposed to be the head and not the tail in all things Biblical. From what I’ve been able to find our “outreach” on the web isn’t even a very impressive “tail”!

    I asked this question once before and was told GRI was basically a “research center.” But nobody explained to me what earthly good a “research center” is if it’s “research” isn’t posted in an attractive way and made available to the public?

    True, these centers do not yet teach the Sabbath but maybe God is holding His Hand over this right now for reasons only He knows about. My personal conviction is that the honest in heart–which these people seem to be–will see it and proclaim it when God sees the time is right. Will these folks be ready to meet Jesus when He comes while some of the rest of us are standing there wondering “what happened?”




    0
    View Comment
  8. Lydian said:

    “It reminds me of the way the priests of Israel turned their backs on what God had told them to do and instead led the whole nation into sin. Is this the situation we find ourselves in today?”

    Bingo!

    The gods these people serve are education–and worldly education at that–and self. The worship of self has been strengthened and widely proclaimed by psychology for centuries. That’s why SOP says it is from the bottomless pit. However, our institutions are deep in the mire with that as well as evolution in the science dept and spiritualism (spiritual formation and contemplative prayer) in the religion dept.

    A good housecleaning is long overdue.




    0
    View Comment
  9. God, Sky & Land
    – by Brian Bull and Fritz Guy
    On the one hand
    it is quite funny to think of Bull & Guy
    as advocates for pie in the sky by & by.
    On the other hand
    Are they really too smart to try
    to build a house on the sand?




    0
    View Comment
  10. John Manuel: Two uninspired, egocentric, pseudo-intellectuals attempting to give us their convoluted version of the inspired word of God. In the light of eternity, not exactly the high ground to be on. If they don’t believe the inspired author of Genesis, then I would assume that they have trashed the SOP also. How sad.

    Your description of these men is very accurate. Why would anyone who is a bible-believing SDA give these men any credibility? Yes, I believe they do trash Ellen White also.




    0
    View Comment
  11. Marian: Why do we have leaders that don’t accept the Bible for what is says and always trying to make God saying something he isn’t.

    Great question. Why does La Sierra hire people who do not believe the Bible for what it actually says? Does anyone have an answer? Does the Board not care? Do the constituents not care? Does ANYONE care?




    0
    View Comment
  12. If this was not such a serious issue, these two guys should be laughed out of town. Ten year old kids could easily understand what these guys hope to obscure.

    Skepticism, unbelief, doubt, and every evil attack on the bible is the norm in our day. Even in the SDA church.

    So, the question, ” Why does La Sierra hire people who do not believe the Bible for what it actually says? Does anyone have an answer? Does the Board not care? Do the constituents not care? Does ANYONE care?”

    I suggest that we individually “care” because no one is going to “care” for us. And if we are waiting for someone to “care” who will do anything about it, I suspect we are in for a long wait.

    Bill Sorensen




    0
    View Comment
  13. We ought to be careful about trashing people and stick to the points under discussion. No matter what our personal opinion of these men may be, we are not in a position to second-guess their motives. We can decry the poor scholarship that may lie behind their presuppositions and conclusions, and we may wonder why the church has been so tolerant for so long about addressing this issue (retaining on the payroll those who cannot and will not support the church’s doctrinal positions) more directly, but let us practice Christian restraint in regard to direct attacks against the men themselves. They may sincerely believe that they are doing the church a service in moving us forward into the modern world, even though we may believe that they are badly mistaken. To impute sinister motives or to engage in character assassination is not rightly representing Christianity. Let’s not be like those on the Spectrum and Adventists Today blogs, always attacking their opponents with unkind and sarcastic remarks. Surely we can do better. Let people see that we are truly Christians.




    0
    View Comment
  14. Thank you Bill for caring as I also do. We do have some who take our religion seriously and not as some kind of secular philosophy to adapt to others’ worldly standards.




    0
    View Comment
  15. Any God ordained movement worth a nickle or a dime is always “radical”.

    The pioneers discerned that before Jesus comes, the whole world will be confronted with the bible Sabbath and it is and will be the testing truth of who is a believer and who is not.

    Simply meaning, when Jesus comes, there will be no Sunday keepers at that time who will be saved. Some who have died before that time may well be saved since some have not been enlightened about this issue.

    This truth was even more radical in the days of the pioneers because they were incredibly few and the task of informing would seem impossible.

    This radical truth is not really believed by many in the SDA church of today, and thus, our motivation for confrontation has diminished considerable.

    For many, even the issue of creation vs. evolution is a non-issue concerning salvation. Once a false gospel is advocated and received in a church community, it soon wears away more than a few aspects of truth in general and the law in particular.

    So, the issue of Sabbath vs. Sunday is still advocated, but with less conviction and dynamic since many believe Sunday keepers will be saved, even up until the time of the second coming.

    Once you “new model” the cause, it is doubtful you can truly re-capture the original dynamic in the church as a whole. No doubt some can and will eventually see what has been lost and return to the loyalty of the historic SDA faith.

    Some just need to be re-affirmed in their original convictions that have been continually undermined over the last few decades. The church within the church, will eventually be “the church”.

    In which case, the church will get a lot smaller before it can eventually fulfill its God ordained calling. We just need to be sure we know what we believe and why.

    We are a “close of probation” ministry like Noah before the flood. The sun is setting on the “day of salvation” and many are too indifferent to get ready and be ready.

    When Jesus comes, the living church will be a Sabbath keeping church and no Sunday keeper at that time will be saved.

    Is that radical or what?

    Bill Sorensen




    0
    View Comment
  16. Bill–

    “And if we are waiting for someone to “care” who will do anything about it, I suspect we are in for a long wait.”

    *******************

    And I more than suspect you are right, Bill!

    It’s been several months since the GC met in Atlanta and we heard such wonderful promises about the problem being worked on–but, there has been since then, almost total silence.

    I realize private sin must be handled quietly but this certainly isn’t “private.” The opposition is making sure it’s out there for the whole world to see and, to me anyway, the almost total silence from us these past months will lead the “world” to believe we are a pretty weak kneed bunch that really does’t have a position worth defending. Meanwhile, the evolution side is going all-out to publicly make their point–and to make us look silly. I just don’t understand it!

    As for the GRI, I am shocked and saddened at their total lack of involvement. At the very least (or so it seems to me) they should be putting out some attractive information that defends our belief. There are other sites out there that are strongly standing up for Creation and putting out beautiful articles, videos, books and other information for all the world to see–and their offerings are for folks from the cradle to the grave–while we
    are cowering in the background in total silence.

    What in this world is wrong with US? Is the Michigan Conference the only organization in our whole church that is willing to stand up and be counted?

    I don’t mean to be critical but I am simply bewildered at the way things have gone since the GC in Atlanta–and I am sure I’m not the only one.

    Will the Lord find any sort of faith in our church when He comes? At the rate we rate we are going, I doubt it! (It’s no wonder that God calls us Laodiceans! How much longer will He wait before He spews us out of His mouth?

    .




    0
    View Comment
  17. Jody.

    Sorry to be so slow answering your question as why they don’t form their own church instead of sticking with us.

    It’s really quite simple. If they left they would simply be a “little frog in a big puddle” instead of “a big frog in a smaller puddle.” I could be wrong but I believe they want to take over LSU first–and then the rest of the church little by little–or maybe in one big swoop. Wouldn’t they just love to sit in the chair of the GC president?

    But, thankfully, God has drawn a line which they cannot cross. They are not challenging weak human beings but the God of the universe and He will not be trifled with. He is giving them enough rope to hang themselves on but they cannot go beyond that line which He has made.

    We have been told that there will be a big “shaking” of the Adventist church shortly before Jesus comes. I believe this is bringing it on–and it is just one more sign that Jesus coming is a whole lot closer than we think! The important thing (as I see it) is for us as individuals to be ready to meet Him. Let’s not get so tied up in this or any other distraction that we end up losing our own salvation.

    EGW tells us over and over again that it is of the most importance that we, as individuals, understand the prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation. These are the most necessary books of the Bible for us to know, understand, and preach to the world at this time in history.

    I’ll admit I do not know them as well as I should and my daughter (with whom I live) and I are endeavoring to make it our first priority–to study them until we understand them well enough to share them with others in a meaningful way. At 87 I probably don’t have a lot of time left but will do the best I can during it and hope I can be a help to my daughter since often “two heads can be better than one!”

    “Even so, come Lord Jesus!”




    0
    View Comment
  18. [edit] Why are they kicking against the goads? Why are they questioning God’s cosmology and cosmogony? Its all right to say I don’t believe but its not all right to say it does not exist when it (creation) clearly comes from God in seven days. I pray that Bull and Guy will finally repent from their [edit] ways and ask God to forgive them for leading so many young minds into apostasy. My prayers are with those who have lost their faith and almost lost their soul over these [edit] lies.

    Winston Adventist Lee Crawford
    2011




    0
    View Comment
  19. I know you folks do not want to hear this, but the Church ACTUALLY HAS BEEN and right now IS VERY BUSY doing something about the La Sierra situation–so I think you folks should stop the incessant bashing.

    At this point, the GC has apparently hired the best available law firm–and non-SDA at that–to defend both LSU and Church defendents in the law suit. They will not allow LSU and its own lawyer to defend itself. According to the latest press release on the Church’s position:

    •La Sierra University is not a separate institution, and is, instead, part of a single unified church entity.

    •La Sierra University is not a true University, but rather a “church operated college (emphasis added)”

    •That the spiritual leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church know what is best for this Seventh-day Adventist university, implying that Church leaders should be making academic and curriculum decisions.

    •That this controversy is a theological one. This position is in direct conflict with the previous express statement of La Sierra University administration to the faculty, WASC, and the community, claiming that the forced resignations had nothing to do with the “origins controversy.”

    More details here:

    http://www.atoday.org/article.php?id=846

    So, this should make you all very pleased to know that the Church will do whatever it takes to keep WASC and other evildoers from controlling the curriculum at LSU. If it’s a choice between accreditation and Church control, too bad for the students–it’ll be Church control.

    As many EducateTruthers have pointed out, the Church should have never sought accreditation and worldly acclaim for its educational institutions to begin with. As the song goes, “Don’t worry; be happy!” Hurrah for Educate Truth and its attempt to reform LSU!!!




    0
    View Comment
  20. Oh dear…wait a minute. I overlooked the fact that many EducateTruthers wanted LSU to leave the Church rather than remain within it, or be destroyed altogether. I suppose this latest development could be a dreadful thing for those with this view. What a shame it is to see the Church with all its “spineless” leaders (a term not rarely used here) fighting to protect LSU. What can be done now to reverse this?




    0
    View Comment
  21. What in this world is wrong with US? Is the Michigan Conference the only organization in our whole church that is willing to stand up and be counted?.

    It appears so. Even the Central California Conference, since Jerry Page has left, is completely silent!




    0
    View Comment
  22. Lydian: There is something else I would like for someone to tell me—

    Where in the world is the GRI in all of this? I have searched the internet and find virtually nothing there that would attract anybody to what it has to say–if it has anything to say.

    Good question.

    There are a number of Adventist sites that deal with science supportive of the biblical world view, Sean Pitman’s among them.

    It seems that the only Adventist university that has a site supportive of a biblical world view in science appears to be Southwestern Adventist University.

    Their Earth History Research Center features research papers as well as material quite understandable to lay persons. I recommend clicking through their links to see what is there.

    Perhaps this is where we should look (and perhaps send our dollars) instead of the GRI. You will see that Ariel Roth, former director of the GRI (when it was more supportive of a biblical world view) is part of the Earth History Research Center.

    May God abundantly bless the efforts of all who are connected with this project.

    PS Currently http://ssnet.org is featuring an article by Cindy Tutsch entitled, “Does It Matter How Long God Took to Create?”




    0
    View Comment
  23. PS Currently http://ssnet.org is featuring an article by Cindy Tutsch entitled, “Does It Matter How Long God Took to Create?”

    Cindy blogs on A-today. She is conservative in her SDA views and defends her convictions.

    Daniel was thrown into the lions den. I am not sure we are required to “jump” into the lions den when we know the situation.

    Eve was not required to dialogue with the Snake, and when she did, it was more than she could handle. She felt real secure in what she thought she knew.

    But, the devil was able to out think her, and through subtle reasoning, convince her otherwise concerning her faith.

    It is a matter of caution.

    “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed, lest he fall.” Ask Pippim.

    Bill Sorensen




    0
    View Comment
  24. @Inge Anderson:

    Yes, Southwestern sure is wonderful with their Earth History Research Center, aren’t they?

    Isn’t it wonderful that among the ranks of the staff of the Center (which is composed overwhelmingly of retired individuals) there are Faculty from numerous institutions? Like say, <a href="http://origins.swau.edu/who/menzmer/default.html"Dr. Menzmer from Pacific Union College?

    Go through and look at the staff of the center, more specifically, click through to their “Full C.V.s”. It will quickly become apparent that only a very small number of them are actually staff of SWAU.




    0
    View Comment
  25. Adventist kid: Go through and look at the staff of the center, more specifically, click through to their “Full C.V.s”. It will quickly become apparent that only a very small number of them are actually staff of SWAU.

    Why is a Loma Linda emergency room physician listed as an authority on physics, and the familiar pathologist who is the single most knowledgable authority on origins omitted altogether?

    Yes, mostly retired people. Apparently, the Church needs some fresh young blood in its science ranks. No one really wants to address this issue.




    0
    View Comment
  26. Inge Anderson: Their Earth History Research Center features research papers

    I was a bit disappointed with all the copyright 2009 papers that failed to cite anything in the most recent decade or two. If you want somewhat more updated material at an SDA website, you have no better online recourse than Sean Pitman’s DetectingDesign.com. But if you really want solid science and a mature, responsible discussion of it, you’re going to have to get Leonard Brand’s book. By the way, why was he excluded from Southwestern’s Center?




    0
    View Comment
  27. Why don’t these folks just form a new denomination like the Sunday folks have done many times, instead of sticking in a church with which they do not agree and then pulling at the doctrines like taffy? I just don’t understand . . .

    As others have stated before, these types of people want to destroy our SDA Church from within, rather than forming their own denomination. They don’t have the numbers, either of people or dollars to do it on their own.

    That is why they not only attack our SDA Church’s beliefs, but also, in many cases get paid from the Church as well! Check it out yourselves.




    0
    View Comment
  28. I have had the rare privilege of listening to Guy, Bull, and Pitman on numerous occasions over the years. I may disagree with them on certain issues, but I must admit that what I have seen, heard, and read indicates that all three of them do sincerely believe what they preach.

    All three of them have made a valuable contribution to my theological thinking in spite of the fact that some of my views differ for what they defend. I have discovered that sometimes I can learn more from those who hold opinions which diverge widely from what I believe.




    0
    View Comment

Comments are closed.