Barriers to Understanding the Truths of Creation


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Why do so many God-fearing people reject new interpretations of scriptures relating to how the universe, the world and mankind were created by God? How does one define – what is true? What is truth? For each person – early in life, truths are based on what they have been taught to believe by parents and other authoritative persons. Later, what one views as truth – on important matters – this may change based on new information (data) and/or personal experiences.

Sometimes individuals resist believing changes in matters they hold very dear. They often allow their emotions rather than their intellect to control what they believe. Their truths are the same truths their families have held for generations and they will be defended at all costs. They may not be open to new information and will avoid addressing unfamiliar and complex ideas because their educational background limits what they are prepared to evaluate and attempt to believe.

The beautiful stories of beginnings given to us in the early chapters of the book of Genesis express broad and general information that people of the Old Testament could understand.  The powerful and central message was that “God created the Heavens and the Earth.” This landmark statement establishes the foundation and source of beginnings through the power and creative nature of our heavenly Father. Somehow, some way, the Holy Spirit gave to Moses and other early biblical writers, the next level of detail, seven sequential events that broadly describes how God created the universe, the earth and then all living creatures. These allegorical writings set the stage for later understandings of God’s creation processes. The detailed knowledge of how the world came into being could not possibly be understood by the first generations of ancient people. At this point in pre-history, science did not even exist as a known discipline. Over three thousand years of evolutionary history would be required by scientists to discover and understand the mechanics of how God put together the complete story of creation. To reach our current level of understanding, God would allow and help create multiple scientific fields of study such as: biology, physics, chemistry, geology and paleontology (to name a few) to evolve and identify the detailed pieces of God’s creation plan.

It has taken the International Scientific community over the last several hundred years to recognize and agree that: the Universe is 13 billion or more years in age, the earth is 3 to 4 billion years old and mankind struggled through several million years of evolution to become fully human. To be fully human, God’s upright, bipedal creatures had to slowly acquire brain sizes that finally attained the knowledge to discern the difference between right and wrong, the power to love and care and thus gain a human conscience. Most Christians believe the Holy Spirit was involved in this first awakening  of fully human beings. This broad and general description of God’s evolutionary process is recognized as fact – not just theory – by the overwhelming majority of informed scientists in every country in the world. Wow, what a marvelous beginning!

So today, turning a page to national statistics, we learn (in 2014) that only about 27% of our adult population have a bachelor’s degree or higher in some discipline. This means that about two-thirds (or more) of all students have not had any chance (maybe a little in high school) to be exposed to the details of this evolutionary process. In some rural areas, this percentage is even larger.

If these statistics are true, there is good reason to understand why so many fine Christian people reject or simply avoid scientific reports of God’s creation that seem to negate their traditional understandings and the literal words of the Bible. Many would conclude that accepting modern scientific creation explanations is a vote against the Biblical story. In reality, this is not true – one must learn to understand that God’s Word in the bible and later scientific interpretations are very compatible.

It may be helpful to reflect on the Christian values received from the Bible. While many of God’s important messages are wrapped in ancient historical stories, one must remember that God’s Word in the bible is about: purpose, meaning and God’s struggle to evolve a primitive civilization to believe in one God. The Bible was never meant to be a science book. To attempt to interpret scripture as a scientific explanation of creation is a mistake practiced by many good folks expecting the writers of the bible to literally explain the details of God’s complex creation process. It is only through intelligent and prayerful thinking that God’s people may begin to understand how the broad and beautiful report of beginnings, recorded in the book of Genesis, may be reconciled with the abundance of new and detailed facts which the scientific community has accumulated over the last millennium.

In the middle of intense debates about creation, some well-meaning Christians rationalize that understanding the truths of God’s creative processes are of little importance.  They suggest that the center of our Christian faith is given to us in the New Testament through the life, teachings and sacrifices of Jesus, and thus, the details of Creation do not seriously impact our Christian faith. I disagree with this conclusion.. If the Christian faith is about anything meaningful, it is about seeking to understand truths. The real creation story discovered by the full world scientific community is absolutely true – even if some of the details are not yet fully understood. It is the most exciting, logical and inspiring story anyone could ever imagine.

John Wesley, gave us the Wesleyan Quadrangle containing the proper elements for making serious decisions:  Reason, Tradition, Experience and Scripture. Surely, the more knowledgeable all Christians become regarding the real truths of God’s evolutionary creation, the more attractive the Christian faith should become for all intelligent and educated people. Think about this:  Why would a young college educated Christian want to be associated with a traditional church that hangs on to the literal words of the bible suggesting that the universe and mankind were created in seven, twenty-four hour days? And we wonder why many young adults are leaving or avoiding the churches of their parents.

As for all dedicated Christians who, for whatever reasons, do not have the fortune of advanced education, please study when you can, keep an open mind, and pray that God will help you to believe these scientists that have given us all so many beautiful, complex, and useful scientific inventions to enjoy. Although we trust but do not always understand their creation. God surely blessed us with many wonderful scientific discoveries long after the Bible was written.

Please know that all of this written presentation is meant to inform, wake up traditional thinkers, strengthen their Christian faith and hopefully help our traditional churches, in every denomination, to survive and grow. “O Lord, please help us all to accept these truths!”

Jesus said: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

W.F. Peck, Jr.

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The Beginning of Human Life

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As Christians, we look to the biblical stories in the Old Testament seeking to understand God’s messages regarding how mankind first began. A literal reading and interpretation of the “Adam and Eve” story seems to produce more questions than answers regarding how mankind first evolved. Tradition labels their act of disobeying God as a negative experience with God reacting punitively against them and the symbolic serpent. One could easily surmise that their disobedience doomed the development of the human race – but the reverse interpretation makes more sense.

Prior to Adam and Eve’s defiance of God’s directives, they are described as mere happy, naïve and comfortable children, or angels or partly evolved homo sapiens with little understanding of who they really were or who they were destined to become. God chose the events needed to create fully human kind through a beautiful allegorical story that allowed our first symbolic humans (Adam and Eve) to make decisions that opened their eyes (for the first time) and awaken  them to recognize the differences between right and wrong. In Genesis, chapter three, God says: “they became like me (god) with the power to decide what is right and what is wrong!” This is the positive interpretation of this ancient story and it fits well with our modern understanding of how up-right, bipedal hominids over thousands of years, evolved brain sizes and cultural relationships that came to fruition when God breathed his Holy Spirit into his developing creatures and they became fully human! Human life truly began when the first humans realized they were in direct relationship with God as well as with one another. 

Whether we like it or not, God chose to create humans as imperfect beings with the freedom to make good or bad decisions. Mankind could not exist without the power to exercise a “free will”. This was not man’s decision – it was God’s decision. To suggest that “the devil made us this way” – is to conclude that God was not fully in charge of man’s creation. Surely, we do not believe this!

From this creation event forward, the Old Testament presents numerous stories, generally organized chronologically, that picture God’s struggles to teach his wayward people how to grow in their understanding of a “one God  (Yahweh) concept”. We are allowed to witness multiple triumphs and failures in the Old Testament as God’s chosen people slowly move, over more than two thousand years, from paganism to the one and only true God. His people finally are blessed with the presence of God through the life, teachings, death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ.

This inspiring interpretation of human beginnings in the early chapters of the book of Genesis provides a sensible and solid foundation for the building of the Christian faith.

Written by W.F. Peck

Seeking to Understand the Nature of God

 

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Throughout recorded history countless numbers of religious scholars have sought to better understand the nature of our Christian God. Why would a plain, ordinary lay theologian attempt to improve on the multiple volumes on this subject written by hundreds of renowned heros of the Bible?

My reasons include:

  • Being concerned and analytical about our loving God, in my judgment, is superior to being silently afraid or passive about him.
  • Being seriously interested in exploring the nature of God, may be risky, but it draws me closer to him – even if my judgment is wrong.
  • When one truly cares about another, one seeks to be involved more closely with that person, rather than sitting a far off in fear of offending or judging. To ignore God is one of the greatest sins.
  • While it is obvious that much about the nature of God shall always be a mystery, God gave mankind a mind, a keen sense of wonder and a propensity to explore the very depths of all human experience. I believe God approves and may even enjoy man’s feeble attempts to know him more personally. Lord, I hope so!

I am prompted to explore God’s nature and even to attempt to defend him, after reading all the misguided rationale expressed by atheists (who say God does not exist) and agnostics who confess (they do not know if God exists or not). Many of their writings appear to be well thought out and often make some logical sense. My first line of defense would be to counter that the very nature of God cannot be fully explained by logical reasoning or material facts.

Second, two thousand years of human experience by millions (even billions) of religious peoples from dozens of ethnic backgrounds in hundreds of countries, will easily trump the opinions of all intellectual, non-religious people in the world. If we take a vote, there is no contest!

Praise God for doubt leading to blind faith, but should we not attempt to truly understand the nature of God? I think so – fully realizing it is a risky endeavor. We must not assume to be equal to God!

Atheist, in particular, enjoy discounting the existence of God because:

  • Evil and suffering exist in the world and our all powerful, all knowing and all present God seems to ignore or retreat from stepping in and preventing or correcting bad things.
  • A God of love and compassion cannot sit idly by and allow bad things to happen to good people.
  • How could a loving God allow natural events such as: volcanos, earth quakes, tornados, famine, flooding and disease to destroy lives and property of innocent people? Where is God when all of these terrible things are happening? There are no easy answers but here are some thoughts to ponder:
  • God created the universe, the earth and all living creatures. He is continuously involved in our human experiences – but in my view, he does not micro- manage the individual events in our daily lives. He ordained that part of being human would be free will, thus allowing mankind to freely choose between doing good or doing evil. I believe “evil” is a condition – a substance – it is not a person in a red suit and forked tail going around infecting people with sin. In essence, evil is the absence of God.
  • Our all powerful God chooses to limit his power in some relationships with humanity. For example, God will not make 2 plus 2 be anything but 4, God will not step in and make the color blue to be red or any other color, and God will not step in and rescue a small child that wanders, unsupervised, into deadly traffic or an open swimming pool. God honors the physical laws that hold the world together.
  • Some horrendous events or conditions such as the Holocast or devastating earth quakes cannot be logically explained. They remain a mystery. Maybe, just maybe, God allows some tragic events to occur with knowledge that – later a greater loving consequence will be realized. We humans may never understand some tragic events.
  • Is God all knowing? Maybe, but has he always known about countless numbers of scientific inventions such as – computers and cell phones? It seems more reasonable that God gained new knowledge as it was discovered or created. The Bible says: God sometimes changed his mind. If this is true, then it follows that he must have gained new information to persuade him to change his mind. Since humans were made in the image of God, we too grow and gain new knowledge that causes us to change our minds and our understandings of events and circumstances. To think otherwise relegates the world to being a dull and preplanned robot. Perish the thought!
  • Is God everywhere? Probably so – since the presence of the Holy Spirit is available to all who seek it. God seems to find a place next to all humans and to enjoy their happiness as well as their feelings of suffering and pain. For reasons we do not clearly understand, God selects (at least in most cases) not to intervene in our painful human experiences.
  • In the middle of these considerations, God created mankind with a free will to choose between doing good and doing evil. If this is true, God cannot honor this decision and at the same time control the outcome of every human experience. Such control would negate the principle of free will which is basic to our human existence.
  • So, it seems fair and logical to surmise that God is all powerful (within his rules of creation).
  • God is all knowing at any point in history but he gains more knowledge as his created world evolves. This may not be standard Christian thinking but it is what I believe. Forgive me Lord.
  • God is everywhere and while seeing all human events (good or bad) he feels and suffers with us rather than intervening in the natural laws he created. Intervention would reduce the world order to chaos.
  • Most natural disasters can be scientifically explained. Scientists know, without any doubt, that multiple sections of the earths crust (tectonic plates) have moved about over prehistoric time and finally settled to form the continents we have today. From time to time, subterranean movements of these tectonic plates sometimes cause volcanos to erupt, earth quakes and tsunamis to flood the earth. Many civilizations have suffered from these geological events. Did God premeditatedly plan these events? I don’t think so. They are only the result of natural events that God does not select to control. God does not create complex physical laws and then jump in and oppose or change them!

These humble thoughts about the nature of God may be grossly inadequate. How will mankind ever fully understand the mysteries of God? Probably never.

It is comforting to remember that Job, while being humble and respectful to God, debated and argued with God and challenged God’s treatment of him. God finally responds to Job and teaches him right thinking but he also admitted that Job’s hardships and suffering were not the result of his sins. Job’s advisors were wrong.

There are earthly consequences for human sin, but God does not impose punishment on any living creature for their sins. However, mankind is capable of generating its own earthly punishments. The rains fall equally on the just and the unjust. Suffering is a normal event of our human experience. How sad and sterile the world would be without suffering persons to love. This is one of the lessons Job learned.

God ultimately agreed with Job and restored him to a deserving and normal life. I believe God welcomes thoughtful inquiries and prayerful studies into his nature. After all, we were made in the image of him.

 

Written by W.F. Peck

To Become Fully Human- Prehistoric Man Must Choose to Disobey God

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Interpreting Scripture

The true meaning of the eating of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil presented to us in Genesis, chapter three, has troubled God’s people since the beginning of modern history. Prior to this act of disobedience, only partially human, upright bipedal hominids existed. The bible symbolically identifies these first pre-humans as Adam and Eve. Hominids, God’s very early human creatures, were innocent of sin because they were not yet fully human with a conscience and an understanding of the difference between right and wrong.

There were metaphorically two important trees at the center of the mythical Garden of Eden – the Tree of  Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life (immortality). Although in the third chapter of Genesis, God instructs Adam and Eve not to partake fruit from the tree of good and evil, they disobeyed God for the first time and ate the forbidden fruit. While God clearly objected to this act of disobedience, this  symbolic act is the key to mankind reaching full maturity. Scriptures tell us – their eyes were opened and they realized who they were – and they were ashamed of their nakedness. God then said: “Man is now like God” – with intellect, a conscience and the ability to discern the difference between right and wrong. 

Based on a traditional interpretation of scripture, God objected to Adam and Eve’s act of disobedience and  “slapped their wrists” with several metaphorical penalties. They were ordered to leave the Garden of Eden – (it was time for mankind to move out into the real world) and also work and sweat at their labor (normal conditions for all responsible humans). Worries about birth pains seem superfluous since near humans had for thousands of years experienced birth pains.

If one reflects carefully on the Genesis story, it is obvious that any act of disobedience must be initiated by man for surely God would not initiate such an act. Throughout the history of mankind, imperfection, disobedience and rebellion against God have been the “Human Condition”. A positive interpretation of this historic event, outlined in detail in the third chapter of Genesis, represents mankind’s first act of adult thinking and choosing for the first time to exercise a free will.

To be made in the full image of God means (in part): Man became aware of his intellect, powers of reasoning and a sensitive conscience.

The early scriptures do not tell us if it was God’s plan to allow his pre-human creatures to become fully human. The scriptural wording seems to suggest that God temporarily resisted this evolutionary process. A more positive interpretation of Genesis three expresses a beautiful story of how humanity came into being. Man’s initial act of disobedience inaugurated and emancipated the human race.

Genesis three also reports that God chose to block mankind from partaking of fruit from the Tree of Life – that is to immediately allow man to gain eternal life – immortality. God, in his infinite wisdom, knew that the goal of attaining immortality must be a slow and life long struggle for humanity – not something man should gain instantaneously. The entire Old Testament presents mankind with a continuing struggle to gain eternal life which culminates with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

The Christian theology of the western culture was to a large extent developed and presented to us through the writings of Bishop Augustine of Hippo. This great theologian gave us the terminology  of: “Original Sin” and the “Genesis Fall of Mankind”. Neither of these ideas is mentioned in the Bible. Most modern biblical scholars discount the Augustine theory that every generation has biologically inherited the initial sin of Adam and Eve – their act of disobedience. They also object to Augustine’s conclusion that all unbaptized babies are doomed to hell!

It is true that fully human beings possessing a free will, can choose to act in accordance with God’s will or can select to perform ungodly acts. The existence of evil in the world is part of the “Human Condition”, but each person has the choice , every day, to choose to do good or evil. To agree with Augustine’s theory of “original Sin” tends to absolve mankind of the responsibility to exercise its God given right of free will.

Interpreting Scientific Information

This positive interpretation of the meaning of the events presented in Genesis, chapter three, matches well with our current scientific knowledge regarding the slow and gradual evolution of God’s primordial creatures. For at least the last four hundred years, anthropologists, archeologists, geologists and paleontologists, all over the world, have unearthed, dated and classified bones, skulls and fossils of pre-human (hominids). Several million years ago, hominid brain sizes were only 400cc according to scientific measurements of ancient skulls. Over long periods of time brain sizes developed and grew to 1000cc and finally at the dawn of humanity, Homo sapiens brains were 1450cc – about the same size as modern humans.

At this point in pre-history, evidence abounds that these nearly human upright, bi-pedal creatures were:

  • Creating stone weapons and tools
  • Cooking over fires
  • Caring for their families
  • Organizing into groups (tribes)
  • Presenting creative art and pictures on walls
  • Burying their dead with preparations for an after life

At some point in time, most experts believe between 6000BC and 10,000BC, God breathed his Holy Spirit into these evolved hominids and they became fully human. In Hebrew theology this marvelous act of God is identified as the “Neshama”. Man is fully whole – with a free will, a conscience and the capacity to discern the difference between right and wrong for the first time.

Understanding these scientific facts and believing in God’s messages expressed in metaphorical language through the stories of Adam and Eve, offers a giant leap in mans ability to blend scientific information with our holy scriptures.

There is no question that God created human – kind over eons of time using all of his laws of nature and bringing the culmination  of his final acts to us through the beautiful stories in the early chapters of the book of Genesis. It is the most logical and inspiring explanation of God’s evolutionary processes that any educated student of the Bible could ever imagine!

This wonderful reconciliation of our current scientific knowledge, with God’s messages hidden in the book of Genesis, will greatly enhance our chances of attracting and keeping younger, educated Christians loyal to our traditional churches. More open and totally honest dialogues are needed by church leaders if this reconciliation  is to be meaningful and supportive of God’s work through his churches.

Oh Lord, we pray, someday our church leaders will have the intellect, knowledge and courage to abandon misleading, traditional interpretations of Old Testament scriptures and thus strengthen the effectiveness of their Christian callings.

 By W.F.Peck

Book Review: “Good Without God” By Greg M. Epstein

 

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I am impressed with much of this scholar’s writings, but as a Christian, I am astonished and of course disappointed that the writer rejects any supernatural existence – our God!  He is a PhD from Harvard, an excellent writer and obviously very intelligent. I will speculate that his Jewish heritage has caused him to squarely face the facts of the Holocaust and may be the main reason for his rejection of God. He joins many bitter Jews with this same conclusion. He suggests that a billion people follow his philosophy – generally defined as “Humanism”.  Well, what is humanism and why is it so attractive to so many?

Humanism Defined: 

“devotion to the humanities; literary culture; the revival of classical letters, individualistic and critical spirit, and emphasis on secular concerns characteristic of the Renaissance; Humanitarianism: a doctrine, attitude or way of life centered on human interests or values; a philosophy that usually rejects supernaturalism and stresses an individual’s dignity and worth and capacity for self-realization through reason, a person promoting human welfare and social reform.”

My first thought was: “I wonder how many of this group are “hard core atheist” and how many have simply slipped away from Christianity under the rush and attractiveness of secularism?

Intellectualism:

Smart people like to write about intellectual topics and this book speaks loudly about the importance of intellect, being well read  and informed. 

It’s about self  improvement, self centeredness – it’s about me and my friends – it’s about feeling good about one’s self! It seems to attract the rich, intelligent and sophisticated clientele who do not like to be accountable to anyone – especially God. One could guess that “humanism” has low appeal to the poor and uneducated.

Rejected God but Supporting Godly Principles:

As I read this book I gained a positive impression that the writer’s philosophies and values parallel many Christian philosophies and values. I am satisfied that Dr. Epstein is a very good person. While there is rejection of “spirituality”, there are substantial references to religions and specifically Christianity. Omitting rejecting God, I could easily accept this as a Christian  or writing within Judaism. This is a mystery!

What is Missing?

I sense a lot of rhetoric, communications and broad activities, go on within some leadership groups, but I fail to recognize any real organizational structure. Maybe its there, but it was not displayed in the writing. How can a billion people accomplish anything effectively without systems of accountability? No specific listing of missions or sponsorships for the needy are listed.  I’m sure some good things are done – but it appears to be fractured and disorganized. Maybe further investigation will clear up this impression.

Conclusive Questions?

  • How can humanism contain so many good motives, be so people centered and reject God?
  • What is so important to you, to promote humanism?
  • What are you seeking to accomplish?
  • Why not focus your intellect, energies and mission on simply serving the needs of others?
  • Much of this story sounds like the golfer who spends all his time and energy hitting golf balls on the driving range, and seldom plays the real game.
  • What good does intellect and enthusiasm do if its main focus is on self improvement? I for one – read books and work out at the YMCA regularly. 

I hope and pray, with all my heart, that this vast group of people, with good intentions, lots of resources and intelligence could become a marvelous force for the building of God’s Kingdom all over the world!

How Important is it for Modern Christians to Believe in Miracles?

 

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Miracles happened in Jesus’earthly life, and have continued to occur through out history. It is part of our Christian faith to pray for miracles for healing of our love ones. But is it possible we may (sometimes) be praying for the wrong things? Rather than praying for God to intervene against his natural laws, should we be praying for strength, courage and guidance for all parties? Do some people lose faith in God because he selects not to intervene and heal illnesses that are (normally) impossible to heal? Would you allow an unanswered prayer – for healing – to interfere with your Christian faith?

My Christian faith and belief in Jesus Christ are not centered or dependent on miracles. Jesus’ miracles were especially needed in the first century A.D. to convince his polytheistic followers that he was the true Son of the only God.

The center of my Christian faith is based on “the life and the  mind of the human Jesus.”His life models the way to live and demonstrates how imperfect humans may reach out and upward and make decisions to give of themselves with love and caring for the needs of others.

Miracles today, reveal the power and activity of God continuously in the world, but for me, they are secondary to the central message of Jesus Christ. The power of God is real but I am more moved by the love, compassion and forgiveness of God rather than a dependence on or fear of his power.

Finally, I am convinced that the life, death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ is real. It is backed by multiple historical reports of the Gospels as well as other historical records. There is no doubt in my mind that the miracle of the resurrection occurred and it stands forever as the foundation of our Christian faith.

What are the Possible Reasons Why Some Christians Emphatically Defend the Literal Interpretation of Scriptures?

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  • They have been trained since childhood to believe that the “Bible is God’s Word” rather than the more modern and accurate statement “The Bible contains God’s Word”. How could any thinking Christian believe God directed or approved of all the heinous acts in the Old Testament? They may have occurred as acts of man, but my God did not will them to be done.
  • They fear that to question or to assign portions of the Bible (especially in the O.T.) to allegorical or metaphorical interpretations is discrediting the Bible.
  • They hold rigid literal interpretations of God’s Word and are not open to considering new scientific information.
  • They feel that fundamental traditions are more valid than new scholastic interpretations of scripture.
  • They may feel that it is a sin to not except the entire Bible as it is literally written.
  • They may think they are better Christians by  accepting the Bible as written which also allows them to not deal with current scientific knowledge that may be complex and difficult to understand.
  • There may be other reasons.

My research resources include fifty books written by: scientists, theologians, historians and even some who are both scientists and theologians plus numerous conversations with senior Methodist ministers and several professors of Christian theology.

 Bill Peck