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Yes, Creation!: Report I

In a recent post Yes, Creation!: Faithfulness or Folly, Charles Scriven opined:

To the degree that ‘Yes, Creation!’ stands up for the biblical anthropology—we were made a little lower than the angels; we are objects of God’s care—it will strike a welcome note. But to the degree that it makes a fixation out of literalism, it will veer into profound and destructive folly.

Scriven said while listening to these presentations he would be giving his attention to three questions:

  1. Will these lectures be a step toward the closing of the Adventist mind?
  2. Will “Yes, Creation!” be a step toward the hardening of the Adventist heart?
  3. Will these lectures help to unite us in an energetic witness against the dehumanizing thrust of dogmatic evolutionism?

Now that we’re half way through the Geoscience Research Institute-sponsored series of presentations in support of creation, I thought it would be worth giving a preliminary report. Of the fourteen presented in English, I’ve managed to make twelve of them. Given their sponsorship, one would expect most of them to provide scientific support for the traditional church position, but that has not been the case.

Only three of the speakers I have heard thus far have been scientists; all the others have been theologians or biblical scholars. As one would expect, some have taken their tasks more seriously than others. As a general rule the presentations have been long on assertions and short on evidence. The lecture hall assigned to GRI has varied from being packed to having very few attendees. Most of the latter have seemed very appreciative of what they have heard. Tim Standish, the GRI organizer, has kept things moving and on schedule. The point of the series, he said, was simply to review “what we believe and why we believe it.”

The Davidson family (father, Richard; mother, JoAnn; and daughter, Rahel Schafer) clearly took their assignments seriously and gave thorough Bible studies on their topics. The most comprehensive was Richard Davidson who answered the question, “Does Genesis Really Teach a Recent, Literal, Seven-Day Creation Week and a Global Flood?” To no one’s surprise, his answer was in the affirmative in each case. However each affirmation was backed up by a thorough review of biblical and E. G. White references. He stated that Genesis 1 is prose (as opposed to Jacques Doukhan who stated it is poetry). He reasoned that the Genesis 5 and 11 genealogies are accurate, complete, and given for chronological purposes so cannot accommodate even tens of thousands of years, and that Noah’s flood was global, providing quite a comprehensive list of arguments, including the claim that a universal flood is necessary to explain the geological time-scale. To a question about the date of earth’s inorganic rocks, he said that on the basis of John 1:1’s use of Genesis 1:1, he preferred the view that everything was created recently but does not insist on it because the Hebrew allows for a gap before creation week. Since his arguments supported about 6,000 years since creation, one questioner wondered why he didn’t just say that instead of using the term “recent.” He replied that he wanted to be faithful to the ambiguity that results from the Septuagint allowing another thousand years and also to be charitable to those who differ.

In thoroughly referenced papers, JoAnn Davidson (pictured) and Rahel Davidson Schafer both dealt with God’s care for animals—something that the theory of evolution might call into question. Rahel noted that vegetarians have a head start on taking God seriously when it comes to their accountability for the animals in their environment.

I’ve never heard anyone suggest that biblical creation is passé, but, as one would expect, Greg King responded to that question in the negative. He and Jacques Doukhan both emphasized the centrality of the doctrine of creation to Adventist thought and life, in King’s case, calling it “present truth.” Nikolaus Satelmajer and Rollin Shoemaker emphasized the relationship of the Sabbath doctrine to creation, emphasizing that the Sabbath was created for the benefit of humanity. John Baldwin dealt with the question of why a good God permits evil. He suggested that theistic evolution does not solve the problem of evil because the God of theistic evolution is a “serial slayer of species”; in fact death before sin undermines what happened at Calvary. Only a compassionate God of a recent creation temporarily permits evil to show that all moral agents are free. When asked in a question whether God created or allowed the flood, without amending his previous comments Baldwin came down firmly on the side of God being responsible for the flood.

The most unusual presentation came from Kwabena Donkor who talked about the relationship of evolutionary thought to spiritualism and the end of time. After tracing the development of evolutionary thought he claimed that mysticism and pantheism are influencing modern expressions of Christianity such as “the emerging church” and the writings of popular authors such as Richard Foster.

Two scientists employed by the Geoscience Research Institute (GRI) at Loma Linda University spoke. Jim Gibson, the director, talked about “Lions in the Garden of Eden,” dealing essentially with whether there was predation in Eden. His conclusion: Since death is due to sin, predation came as a result of sin and therefore could not have existed in Eden, i.e. predation was not part of God’s original creation and will therefore not be a part of his new creation. Tim Standish talked about “DNA and Design,” emphasizing how God’s design preceded creation and made it possible (cf. Jeremiah 29:11).

The only non-GRI scientist to speak was Lee Spencer of Southern Adventist University. One presentation was “How many dinosaurs were on the Ark?” He stated that God definitely created the dinosaurs but he didn’t know whether or not they were on the ark. His other presentation, “Paleontology and the Bible: Science in Action,” was an illustrated account of his expedition to high Arctic Canada where, in a layer dated to 17 million years ago, he found DNA, “the first real evidence for life being young.” Such an outcome would indeed be revolutionary! It has not been published.

Thus far, in the 225-seat hall, the answers to Scriven’s questions are both “yes” and “no.” But the week is not over. More lies ahead.

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