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Review of Creation in Scripture by Herold Weiss

Review of Creation in Scripture by Herold Weiss

Creation in Scripture by Dr. Herold WeissHanz Gutierrez has reviewed Creation in Scripture by Herold Weiss on the Spectrum Magazine web site. Spectrum is published by the Association of Adventist Forums. Many may not realize that Dr. Weiss is Seventh-day Adventist, though he clearly differs with the officially proclaimed church view on creation. He describes his journey in another book, Finding My Way in Christianity.

I commend Creation in Scripture (note that I’m the publisher, so that’s likely!) because it looks at multiple views of creation in scripture. Each of these viewpoints can help us understand something about God the creator.

Here’s a YouTube of Dr. Weiss talking about God the creator and creationism:

Would I Publish a Creationist Book?

Would I Publish a Creationist Book?

creation-5I’ve been promoting the creation book set from my company, Energion Publications. The authors of this set of books all support the theory of evolution. In fact, the contribution made by these books, I think, is that they are talking about how we should live in light of a belief that the “how” of creation, at least with respect to life, is by means of biological evolution. (This could have been a post over on the Energion company site, but since it’s also so much about my own beliefs, I thought I’d post it here.)

Here’s a clip:

Herold Weiss is a biblical scholar and is talking about creation and creationism from the biblical and theological point of view. It was his book Creation in Scripture that got the book set started.

“For creationism I have no use.” I publish that. I’m also a known advocate of excluding creationism from the public school classroom. I’m a board member of Florida Citizens for Science. So we know where I stand on the issue. I’m a theistic evolutionist, though I don’t like that term.

So would I publish a creationist book?

Short answer: Yes.

Now for the longer answer.

I’m often asked this question by people who wonder just how far to the liberal side of the spectrum I’ll go in terms of publishing. In this case, considering how strongly I’m identified with one side of the issue, we have the opposite question.

The easy way to figure out the general answer to this question is to read the company’s short doctrinal statement. As you read that statement, remember several things:

  • Energion Publications is not a church. Nobody is asked to sign or affirm this statement
  • We judge manuscripts, not authors. I have been asked about things an author said on his web site and whether they “fit.” That’s not my concern.
  • There are many issues of definition in even that short doctrinal statement. For example, amongst our authors we have quite a number of definitions of what the word “inspired” means with relation to scripture.
  • It does provide a general guide to let us focus on an audience

Having said that, if a book falls within that statement, we’ll consider it. Does creationism fall within those parameters? Absolutely.

So the longer answer is again, yes. But remember that this openness to publish covers a large number of other issues as well.

Why are all our books on creation written by those who accept theistic evolution? Again, a simple answer. Those are the ones that were submitted and accepted.

Aha! A snag! What our hypothetical questioner would probably like to know is whether this manuscript, the one he or she has in hand, expending from days to decades, would be considered for publication and what its chances would be. Would the fact that I have a firm position on the issue prejudice me against that manuscript?

Without doubt my beliefs influence what I do. But one of my beliefs is that the best thing to do with theological disagreements is to discuss them, entering into genuine dialogue. I consider creationism to be a very live theological debate and one on which we should be having dialogue in the church. I think actual dialogue on this subject is rather rare, but I’m ready to promote it.

In fact, I see myself as a publisher in the role of an advocate for advocacy. So if I publish a book on creationism I will also put every effort into marketing it.

That doesn’t mean that I will bend over backwards to accept the first manuscript on the topic that I get. I have been studying this subject since I first learned to read, and so I have a very good feel for the literature.

Let me provide an example. Dr. Kurt Wise, who earned his PhD under Stephen Jay Gould at Harvard, is a creationist. He wrote the book Faith, Form, and Time. The link provided is to my review. It’s a good book. I disagree with practically every word in it. I don’t see those two statements as contradictory. I consider it the best statement of a Christian creationism as is available for a popular audience. Wise starts from the premise that Genesis teaches a young earth and a literal creation week, so we must follow from that point and discover the science that proves God right. I disagree with that premise.

If you can send me a manuscript that is as good as that one (good luck!) I’m bound to publish it. And there are lots of other manuscripts that would be good. For example, looked at from the point of systematic theology, how does a young earth or a literal creation week (or both) fit into a doctrinal pattern? What other pillars of the faith lean on those concepts? One could write some excellent systematic theology in that area, and consequently argue with our existing volume, Creation: The Christian Doctrine, which argues that those are not important. It happens I agree with the latter book, but that won’t prevent me publishing a rebuttal!

Now if I had a category for science, which I don’t, I would require that material in it be reviewed by qualified scientists. That would be another matter. I don’t think modern creationism has yet earned a place at the scientific table, and I’m not the one to offer that place. It must be offered by scientists who are active in their disciplines. I’d have a team of them as readers if I were a science publisher. But the biblical, religious, and theological debate is very relevant and active.

For those who are interested, I didn’t become convinced that the earth wasn’t young or that the creation week wasn’t literal by studying biology. In fact, I never took a college course in biology. I’m not going to judge one’s biological pretensions. Well, unless they violate elementary principles, that is. It was through study of the scriptural material that I became convinced it was not possible that God was intended to provide either the “how” of creation or the timeline of earth’s history.

There’s a great deal of open territory for studying biblical studies and theology involved in that!

I can’t help but finish with some pictures that illustrate how thoroughly indoctrinated a creationist I was. These are pictures of the “Eden to Eden Timeline.” You can see in the second image that we were taught that the date of creation was 3957 BC, a correction of the more common 4004 BC. Students added pictures and colored maps as we worked our way through the Bible, entirely guided by this timeline.

Eden to Eden Timeline
The title indicates the topic. It starts with creation and ends with recreation. Everything is on a timeline, though the time of the final events is left open.

Eden to Eden Timline - Antediluvian Period
You can see the date of creation represented here and also the proposed date for the end of this period with the flood.

Timeline - Antediluvian period
This shows how the timeline spread out. I did this outside by the fence, so it’s a bit scraggly. In our classroom we had the whole thing stretched out around the wall. Click on it for high resolution.

In Which I Discover that I Am Not a Thinking Person

In Which I Discover that I Am Not a Thinking Person

I just made this discovery this morning.

I mentioned Jerry Coyne’s site in an earlier post Five Sites I read Because I Disagree, and I still read it. I get some good information about evolutionary science and great cat pictures and videos. But Jerry Coyne is not particularly friendly to believers.

Now I want to be clear. I’m not one to be terribly upset by vigorously expressed viewpoints, so I’m not offended by the new atheists. I’m more concerned with Christians who use excessive rhetoric. After all, we’re supposed to be on the same team. So the new atheists are proud and open about their atheism and their objections to religion, and I have no objection.

So today I read Coyne’s latest on Bart Ehrman’s new book in which he presents evidence that Jesus existed. Now one has to be careful in stating Ehrman’s thesis. Ehrman doesn’t mean that the divine savior of the world of Christian doctrine existed. He means that there was a man Jesus who existed in history and about which certain things can be said with reasonable historical validity. (I haven’t yet read the book, but I think this much is clear from the reviews. Further, it’s an unsurprising thesis.)

Coyne is concerned that people will misunderstand Ehrman, and that Christian believers will take comfort from the book. Coyne says, “I’m hoping he isn’t being deliberately ambiguous to cater to believers.” Probably not. Ehrman hasn’t really been known to cater to believers, though his book jackets seem to be designed to annoy them. Compared to the relatively tame content, the jackets manage to stand out as shocking. (I previously blogged through Misquoting Jesus [link to the summary and conclusion with links to the parts].)

Then his penultimate sentence:

But what is important, and all those Christians who buy the book should know this, is that both Ehrman and atheists see not a scintilla of evidence that Jesus was the son of God or divine in any way, was born of a virgin or resurrected, or is the way to salvation.

Really? I would have thought that the important issue was whether Ehrman had done his historical work with any accuracy. Not having read the book yet, I can’t comment in detail, but I suspect he has. I can certainly understand his annoyance with the mythicists who use very poor historical methodology. I see the annoyance that Ehrman seems to be expressing as the the annoyance of a scholar at the use of unscholarly methods and approaches. Coyne would doubtless be quite annoyed were the methods of mythicists used in science. (See James McGrath on this issue–for example, Creationists, Mythicists, and Schroedinger’s Scholar Fallacy.)

But then there’s the last sentence:

That remains fiction to all thinking people.

I am, of course, aware that Coyne regards this as fiction. I’m aware that Ehrman does as well. But that wasn’t the point of Ehrman’s book.

It’s an interesting form of attack. If you think Jesus was divine in any way, then you are not a thinking person. Not You are a person whose thinking is faulty. Not even You are a thinking person who is mistaken on this point. If you disagree, you are just not a thinking person.

I think Christians should be forthright and open about what they believe. But when I hear a Christian say something like “You have to be stupid to see the universe, and not believe in God,” I will tend to point out that there are definitely very intelligent atheists, those who are able to think clearly on issues about which we agree. Why would one assume they are suddenly stupid because they disagree on one point? My preference would be for one to simply say, “It is not sensible to assume that something came from nothing.” That may simply push the issue back a level, but it is an attack on the idea, and by implication on the person’s thinking in that particular area, but not an attack upon the person.

But since I confess that I regard Jesus as divine, not to mention savior of the world, something that is not really an historical question as such, I guess I am not a thinking person.

Oh well!


Creationism vs Anti-evolutionism

Creationism vs Anti-evolutionism

The Creation of Adam
Image via Wikipedia

According to Todd Wood there’s a real difference, and I agree, although I think real creationists are a bit thin on the ground.  He writes about this on the Center for Faith and Science International web site. One of the requirements, in my view, is the admission that the foundation of young age creationist thinking is accepting Genesis 1-11 as history and building from there.  To claim that one accepts young age creationism based solely on current scientific evidence is simply no believable.

That is precisely where Todd Wood and Kurt Wise (author of Faith, Form, and Time–the one creationist book you should read if you want to understand it) are refreshingly honest.  They admit they start with their conviction about what the Bible says and that there is much science to be done to back up such a view.

What caught my attention in this article is the reference to George McCready Price, a Seventh-day Adventist who pioneered modern day creationism and flood geology.  I got to Price’s writings by starting with Frank Lewis Marsh and his small book Evolution or Special Creation.  Marsh was somewhat more accessible than Price.

Despite the fact that I believe that to read Genesis 1-11 as history is generally to misread it, I appreciate the faith stance of Todd Wood and Kurt Wise and their honesty in admitting their starting point in faith.

(I’m experimenting with Zemanta.  I may have overdone the linking!)

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Academic Freedom and Creationism in SciAm

Academic Freedom and Creationism in SciAm

Glenn Branch and Eugenie Scott have an article in Scientific American titled The Latest Face of Creationism in the Classroom, detailing the latest approach to getting creationism in the classroom.

Since I touched on this briefly in two previous posts, I thought I’d link to this longer article so people can get the context. I really don’t have the patience for detailing these legislative strategies, so I’ll let others do it.


Good Sermon Science Comments

Good Sermon Science Comments

Today I attended Pensacola’s First United Methodist Church where Dr. Wesley Wachob is pastor. He recently saw the movie Expelled!, and though he said he recommended people see it, he proceeded to dump pretty heavily on the movie’s content. He encouraged the church’s young people to become “brilliant scientists” and noted that there is no contradiction between good theology and good science, and that creationism is not science, no matter how you dress it up.

Some of the wording may differ in the audio I’m linking, because he preaches three times, and the audio is not of the same service I attended (9:45 am), but I listened to sections, and it sounds like the goal was much the same.

More pastors need to speak boldly like this to their congregations so that people will realize that creationism isn’t the only Christian option. It’s good when Christians who are scientists speak out; we need more theologians, and specifically more pastors to do so.

You can find the audio on this page. Click on the little speaker by “The Unknown God.” (Update: Comments on science start at about 14:30.)

Expelled! Humor

Expelled! Humor

This is simply too funny. Put down your coffee. Chew and swallow whatever food you may have put in your mouth.

OK. Ready. Go read this post on Panda’s Thumb.

[Don’t read on until you’ve read the linked post.]

I’ve been amused at the way the producers have been promoting Expelled!, annoyed by the way the tricked interviewees when they were producing it, and appalled by some of the things reported by reviewers. It looks like one of those movies that make me glad I have dedicated friends who will watch and report. My blood pressure won’t tolerate the watching!

I do note the “alternate” story provided in the comments, in which I put about as much faith as I do in the producers of this movie.

But now we have incompetent expelling . . . this is just too much fun.