The Bible Course
In 2018, the Bible Society offered The Bible Course, written by Andrew Ollerton, which is in the format of eight videos designed to be shown in a group setting, with a 158-page manual to be read alongside them. I must say immediately, regarding the work of the Bible Society, any organisation that promotes the distribution and reading of the Bible (as long as it is a valid translation, of course) is to be praised and encouraged.
I must also make clear that overall, I found this course an excellent overview of the Bible. I might perhaps quibble on a few points, but they would not stop me recommending the course. If attending it encourages more people to read more of the Bible on a regular basis, then this too is a very good thing. Andrew Ollerton is a good speaker and presents each session clearly and helpfully.
There were two minor things I found distracting in the videos. One was the way some of the camera shots of Andrew were taken from the side, with him not looking at the camera. Since he quite clearly was not speaking to a person in the room but to the camera, I found this an irritation. By all means change the camera angle for variety, but unless a person is talking to an interviewer or an audience during the filming, in professional presentations the speaker always turns to look at the camera when change to a different camera position takes place.
The other distraction was the highly repetitive and unmusical ‘music’ constantly playing in the background at various intervals. As a musician, I found the more time went on, the more irritating this became and I longed for it to be turned off. These are minor points though and probably a matter of opinion: presumably other people would enjoy them.
The reason for this page is the way theistic evolution is slipped into the course almost unobtrusively - if you blink you’ll miss it - as though it is main-stream, orthodox Christian belief, when in fact it undermines what has been taught in the Christian Church for the whole of its history (see later). In session two, which covers the book of Genesis, page 27 of the manual gives a quote from a known theistic evolutionist and includes a statement only theistic evolutionists would make. It’s only one page, but it’s the little foxes that spoil the vine!
In the video, Andrew is careful not to spell out any view regarding the interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis, but he does give some hints. When mentioning the age of the earth, he does not say how old he thinks it is, but he hints that the universe began with the Big Bang, which involves serious as yet unsolved scientific problems. See the 'Old Earth' section on the Reasons to Believe for some details. It certainly conflicts with the Genesis account that tells us the earth was created before the sun, for example.
He says the flood covered the known earth (not the entire world then?); thus avoiding the clear implications of a universal flood: if there had been a world-wide flood, then the geological formations we now see are the evidence of it.
And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered.
For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.
2 Peter 3:5-6
There is much scientific evidence to support this: see here, for example. However, if the geological formations are the result of billions of years of gradual development, then there is no evidence of a universal flood. We are told in the Bible Course the first 11 chapters of Genesis are on a global scale; but does Andrew really believe the flood was global?
The Bible Course has a Facebook page, and I posted the following on it (but minus the hyperlinks, which are not possible on Facebook. My posting is the indented text, and in between paragraphs I have added explanatory notes that are not indented, for the sake of this page).
"Why, in an otherwise excellent overview of the Bible, is the foundation of this course theistic evolution, as can be seen from page 27 of the accompanying book where a theistic evolutionist is quoted and statements included that only an evolutionist would make? As Jesus pointed out, if the foundation is faulty, the building will collapse;* and since Darwinian evolution is premised on humanity not originating from a single man and woman, the basis of our salvation is destroyed by this theory according to Paul in Romans 5:12–19. It makes God a liar in Exodus 20:11 and 31:17, ** and claims He originally formed a world that functions in a way that He called "Very good"*** but was diametrically opposite, in the first two chapters of the Bible, to the way He intends it to be as described in the last two chapters of the Bible. In other words He used sickness, suffering and death (all essential elements in evolutionary theory) at the start of Genesis to produce all living things, while He intends to eliminate sickness, suffering and death at the end of Revelation (Rev 21:4), and death is called an enemy in 1 Cor 15:26."****
* "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."
** Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned… For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous.
Romans 5:12, 19 (quoted in full a little later)
For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day ...for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.' "
Exodus 20:11; 31:17
*** Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good…
**** Sickness, suffering and death are required to eliminate the weakest and enable to strongest to survive.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."
The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.
1 Corinthians 15:26
"It is not true to say the Bible does not focus on HOW questions but on WHY questions,* as can be seen from its very first chapter that says absolutely nothing about WHY and concentrates totally on HOW."
* The manual claims that science addresses ‘How’ questions, while the Bible addresses ‘why’. More on this later.
"The claim that "life developed" * is completely false, since God created all life fully formed, and there is not a single scripture that says otherwise."
* "Life developed" is one of the ‘hows’ to which the manual refers.
"Theistic evolution is based on "when the Bible says "x" it doesn't mean "x" it means "y"," and reinterprets the Bible into saying what it plainly does not say in order to accommodate scientific speculation * that is based on there being a naturalistic explanation for everything because there is no Creator. It is ironic that you should be including this now, at a time when the Big Bang is in serious trouble with the 'fix' of dark matter and dark energy, which was dreamed up to rescue the theory from being falsified by scientific observation, itself being falsified in the same way and now outlandish ideas such as light travelling at a different speed in the past and gravity acting differently from the way it has always been understood are being considered as rescue devices (I have quotes from scientific publications for this); and when Darwinian evolution is in equal trouble with the 2012 findings of the ENCODE project exposing the 'junk DNA' fallacy (making it impossible for modern man and chimps to have come from a common ancestor in a few million years) and Nathaniel Jeanson's research into DNA proving mutation can only have been continuing for a few thousand years."
* This speculation is theories dreamed up by scientists who, by definition, have an incomplete knowledge and understanding of the universe and everything in it: why else do they conduct research? If their knowledge was complete they would not need to do this!
"If you were going to comment on the interpretation of Genesis, as is the case on page 27, why did you not use the orthodox Christian position that the Bible says what it means and means what it says, as has been taught throughout the history of the Church and can be seen from the works of Origen, Basil the Great, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, James Ussher, Matthew Henry and John Wesley, for example (I can give quotes * from every one of them showing their belief that the world is less than 10,000 years old), and is still accepted by many Christians, including PhD scientists, today?"
Predictably, my posting received no comment at all!
The Big Problem
This issue is by no mean peripheral, but is right at the heart of Christianity, so I include Paul’s statement in full:
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—(For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous.
If you accept evolution, you accept the basic premise that it was a group of sub humans who evolved into modern humans, and therefore, since we have different ancestors, we do not all trace our origin to the one man who brought sin into the world; but according to the Bible, it is only Adam’s ancestors for whom the sacrifice of Jesus is effective, and in the above passage it says they are the entire human race!
Of course, it could be argued that because only Noah’s family was saved at the flood, everyone who has lived since then has descended from Adam; but even though Noah’s sons could trace their ancestry back to Adam, their wives almost certainly could not if evolutionary theory is correct. Furthermore, theistic evolutionists usually do not accept a universal flood and claim it was only ‘local’; so this is not a valid argument for both reasons. Even though Andrew refers to ‘the known world’ and therefore indicates that everyone else was drowned, this still does not solve the problem because the Bible says that Jesus preached to all who perished in the flood, and I think a safe assumption is, therefore, that salvation was offered to them - why else would He preach to them?
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.
1 Peter 3:18–20
It also means, contrary to the Romans passage above, that Adam would have died whether he sinned or not, since death had been a fact of life for millions of years before he appeared on the scene. So death did not enter the world through his sin at all, according to theistic evolution, and the Bible is therefore wrong in saying it did. It means creation is not in bondage of corruption because it is exactly how God designed it when He made it.
…because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.
This is another example of
“when the Bible says “x” it doesn’t mean “x” but “y”.”
I go into much more detail on the scientific and theological issues surrounding theistic evolution in my response to the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion’s ‘Test of Faith’ course, which they produced in 2016 and promoted around the UK. This also includes all the quotes from the Christian Church leaders to which I referred in my final paragraph on Facebook, mentioned earlier.
How Does God Work?
A little while ago I experienced an event that is most unusual for me - almost unprecedented, I think. I woke up in the middle of the night with a thought that I had never had before, which hit me with such force I had to get up and write it down! It was this.
Throughout the Bible, whenever God does anything, it is usually, if not always, in a way that transcends, or runs contrary to, the observable laws of science - the burning bush, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, wild lions kept from attacking Daniel, Jonah in the belly of the great fish, Elijah taken up into heaven by a whirlwind, Jesus walking on water, feeding many thousands with just a few loaves and fishes, rising from the dead, and so on.
In fact you could almost say it is a law, or at least, a ‘rule of thumb’: the evidence in the Bible that it is the work of God is that it is something that would not have happened under the normal course of the observable laws of science. Of course, since it is He who upholds all things and in Him all things consist, then we could also say that the observable laws of science are also His work; but I am here looking at the Biblical descriptions of God's direct intervention in, or interaction with, His creation.
…who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…
And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
And yet... and yet... and yet... the theistic evolutionist claims that the greatest act of them all - the creation of time, space and the entire universe - had to be, from start to finish, in accordance with the observable laws of science! This is totally inconsistent! It is a complete denial of the way God acts throughout scripture.
It is also illogical. For example, you cannot see all the processes that went into constructing a car when it is being driven along the road - welding, for example - so why would you expect to see today all the processes that went into building the universe in the past?
The atheistic evolutionist, refusing to accept any possibility for the existence of God, insists there must be a naturalistic origin for everything and that science can only be about the observable laws we can see today: therefore “God did it” is not science. This is a circular argument, thus:
Science is only about naturalistic laws because God does not exist.
God does not exist because the naturalistic laws of science can explain everything.
So any evidence for the existence of God is impossible because it will immediately be argued away, and the theistic evolutionist has fallen for this version of ‘science’ that only includes naturalistic processes and tries to make the Bible compatible with it! While the observable laws of science can never account for origins if God really “did it,” what they actually do is demonstrate the impossibility of the naturalistic laws of science creating everything.
To return to the claim that the Bible is about 'why' and science is about 'how', then if this is so, how does science explain the resurrection of Jesus, or the feeding of the 5,000, or water turning into wine, or the burning bush, or any of the other large number of miracles described throughout the Bible? Science cannot explain these things in any way, because they are acts of God that go way beyond any of the observable laws of science.
Therefore, in what way is science better able to explain the acts of God described in the first two chapters of the Bible than it can explain the acts of God described through the whole of the rest of the Bible? If it cannot tell us how the latter took place, and it can't, then neither can it explain how the former happened. So the premise is invalid. It is perfectly true that the Bible is about 'why', along with other things as well, of course, but science is totally incompetent to explain 'how' in any way that relates to the works of God.
(The above two paragraphs were added on 18th September 2018, after another experience of a thought hitting me in bed the previous night with such force I had to get up to write it down.)
In today's world, creationists are looked upon as those who are quaintly out of touch with reality. In actual fact, they are those who are totally consistent with the nature of their Creator and the teaching of His Word! Furthermore, they are consistent with the latest, scientific research, which, far from confirming evolution, is casting more and more doubt on it.
At the time of writing this, I have obtained In Six Days, a book with 50 chapters written by 50 different scientists specialising in many different disciplines, all of whom accept the Genesis 1 & 2 version of origins. It is of particular interest that some of them began their professional lives as evolutionists, but turned away from this as a result of their own research that falsified it. I fail to see how any evolutionists could maintain their belief in the face of the observational, scientific evidence that brought about such a profound change in the thinking of these scientists.
There are three major problems with the way the Bible Course treats the subject of theistic evolution, and I take the point that in a course such as this, one would not necessarily wish to spend time on the issue (although it must be said it is usually theistic evolutionists who down-play its importance). However, a more neutral approach, which would have taken up no more time, would have been something along the lines of
"There are different viewpoints among Christians on Genesis, a number of them scientists, with some accepting a literal understanding of the text while others believe it is compatible with the Big Bang and evolution. There is not time in this course to discuss these issues, but it does prove that science is not in conflict with the Bible."
(My suggested statement for the course)
By passing over it so quickly, in a single page and a couple of quick comments from Andrew, it trivialises the issue and implies it is comparatively unimportant and has no implications for the Christian faith.
By using a solely theistic-evolutionary outlook, it promotes this as a valid interpretation of the Bible, with no hint that it is in conflict with what the Church has taught over its entire history.
It inserts theistic-evolutionary thinking into the minds of people who may not have had the advantage of hearing qualified scientists and theologians presenting the orthodox understanding of Genesis.