Nov 29

Creation and Change, by Douglas Kelly ???

I purchased and read this book at the recommendation of a friend in hopes that I would have a better biblical rationale for a 6 day creation, over that of an old-earth creation.  My comments later will discuss the efficacy at achieving that end. Kelly is a theologian who teaches at Reformed Theological seminary, and is definitely not a scientist, a fact that he does not hide. I review the book chapter by chapter to offer adequate comments.

Chapter one is a simple introduction, stating his goal of developing the scientific and Scriptural necessity for a 6 day creation.

Chapter 2 develops the literary genre of Gen 1-3, arguing against poetry and for pure history as the literary construct in these passages. His main source material for the argument comes from the work of E.J. Young, who adamantly states that there is no poetry in Gen 1-3. The argument posed by Young is not given. I tend to disagree on forming a dichotomy, and feel that Gen. 1 reads very clearly as poetry, yet, as true poetry, and thus also historical. It is both. Kelly argues briefly against the documentary hypothesis, which proposes two accounts of creation, that found in Gen. 1-2.3, and that found in Gen 2.4 and on. I agree with Kelly that the best reading is a single account with Genesis 2 expanding on details in the creation narrative.

Chapter 3 provides an argument for creation ex nihilo, and the argument of intelligent design, as well as an argument for the necessity for a creation from the laws of thermodynamics.

Chapter 4 discusses day 1 of creation. Much of his discussion centers around what might be considered pre-day 1, that is, the account of the Spirit of God moving over the unformed earth, before He creates light.

Chapter 5 is a partial diversion, arguing about the timing of the creation of angels, for which nothing is said in Scripture and thus isn’t worth speculating on. He discusses the gap between Gen 1:1 and Gen 1:2, mostly countering a theory that supposes the world to have been developed, and then destroyed, after which God begins again to create the earth as we know it. He doesn’t discuss why the literary structure would most easily be read as a gap, especially since he is concerned about the “plain reading” of the verses.

Chapter 6 specifically examines the meaning of the word “day”. He offers a very incomplete argument regarding the entire scriptural usage of the word “day”. In this chapter, he discusses the framework hypothesis, popularized by Meredith Kline, which states that the six days are only a framework for God’s creative activity, and not necessarily a chronological account. He contends that a more “literary” approach dangers on nominalism, which is a strange argument, since such reasoning could be used to argue against just about anything. As an example, an argument against predestination is that it logically leads to fatalism is simply not true. The technical notes at the end of this chapter argue again against the documentary hypothesis. He discusses Augustine’s ambiguous stance on creation and various New Testament quotes, none of which address the young earth vs. old earth controversy.

Chapters 7 and 8 are his plunge into science. In chapter 7, the first argument is for the timing of Adam, which he feels fits the Ussher chronology, and to which I have no serious problems. Unfortunately, this addresses only timing following the seven creation days and nothing more. He then spends much time discussing the theory that the speed of light over time has slowed down, in fact, since the creation 6000 years ago, it is going 5 x 10(11th power) slower, which would give the earth an apparent age of billions of years. This sounds overtly appealing but logically destroys all of Kelly’s argument. He suggests that we reference the 24 hr/day of creation by today’s reference. Under this scheme, the clock which ran ran apparently for 24hrs would now run for millions of years. This explanation creates as many problems as solutions by making time variable and thus meaningless for discussion. Finally, Kelly tortures me in his absence of scientific knowlege in this chapter. He constantly speaks of such things as the “velocity of an electron in its orbit around the proton”, a kickback to the old Bohr theory which nobody including Bohr accepts.

Chapter 8 deals with physical means of determining chronological age. He first argues that all things were created with apparent age, a statement that I couldn’t disagree with. If things were created with apparent age, then science (as he offers) simply could not help us resolve a timing issue. Regarding geological evidence provided by Morris and his comrades, my Christian geology friends attest it to be woefully wrong. Morris does not take account of plate tectonics and other geological explanations as to why things appear the way they are. Kelly argues strongly against uniformitarianism, i.e., that the laws of physics do not change, since the catastrophe of a great flood could explain matters without uniform physical laws. The discussion then turns to dating methods such as carbon-14, showing a moderate inaccuracy in the dating technique as well as reason to doubt the validity of c-14 dating. I have no disagreement with his arguments, even though C-14 dating has also been quite helpful at establishing biblical type dates to many archeological finds, and thus is not totally without value. Much of his criticism stems from the work of Morris and Brown, who tend toward doing poor science at best, and whose arguments in this chapter do not bear worth contending with since are are so poorly thought out. As a brief example, Morris and Brown, as others, contend against uniformity, yet use uniform physical properties to claim calculations of the age of the earth and universe, a questionable enterprise at best.

Chapter 9- This chapter speaks about days 2 &3 of creation, first the separation of waters from heaven and earth, and then the “gathering” of water to create dry land. Finally, vegetation is created. Much of the discussion relates to the creation of vegetation, and the argument against time and chance possibly creating plant life.

Chapter 10 discusses briefly day 4 &5 of creation, i.e., the creation of the sun, moon and stars, and later the creation of fish and fowl. He makes minimal elaboration but tries to explain how plants were made on day 3 and the sun on day 4 – surely plants could survive one day without sun!

Chapter 11 speaks very briefly of the creation of the animal world followed by the creation of man. He leaves many holes in the explanation of the creation narrative. He too briefly touches on theistic evolution, and to my dismay, offers minimal critical arguments against this thinking on a theological basis.

Chapter 12 finishes with a discussion of the Sabbath day and it’s relevance for today as a creation edict. I have no problem with this discussion, though he fails to offer an explanation why the seventh day doesn’t end with the typical closure verbiage of the previous 6 days.

So, did the book persuade me against old earthism as distinctly an error in the interpretation of Genesis 1? Unfortunately, his arguments relied heavily on such people as Henry Morris, who, more than any other writer, persuaded me against a solid 6 day creation scheme because of his sloppy thinking and writing. There were stylistic issues that I had with Kelly. I don’t like when somebody overuses superlatives, such as “Prof. X wisely reminds us…”, “distinguished Christian exegete XX”, “crisply states”, etc. Kelly repeats often, and could have edited the book down a bit. Kelly’s exposition of Hebrew grammar sometimes is too harsh and determinative. As an example, he discusses Gen 1:26 ” Let us make man…” arguing that the pleural for God is a first argument of a trinitarian God. Contrary, Waltke (whom I don’t always agree with) takes a much more cautious approach, but offers adequate explanation as to how he comes to a certain conclusion.

In summary, Kelly does a poor job of arguing for a young earth. He fails mostly in that he should have given a better theological development for a young earth. Thus, I remain undecided yet between old and young earth explanations for creation.  I don’t believe it humanly possible to scientifically prove one way or another, since things could have been created with age. There remains the question as to whether old-earthism does violence to Scripture, which I remain unconvinced by Kelly’s arguments.

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One Response to “Creation and Change”

  1. Uncle Dennis says:

    This is the second 6-day creationism book on the list. Why the fascination for a failed doctrine?

    Some brief comments:

    “Day” in scripture is the same word in Genesis 1 that is used to clearly not to mean 24 hours elsewhere, in the same paleo-Hebrew.

    If one ignores the customs by which the creator upholds the creation, it is possible to suppose all kinds of ludicrous ideas, such as light slowing down, at least enough within the last 6000 years to give the universe the appearance of billions of years of age. Sorry. One has to be a scientific obscurantist to ignore the multiple, independent lines of evidence for an old universe and old earth, from astronomy to geology to physics. Why would a person who admits ignorance of science then proceed to try to make arguments based on it? Young-earth creationists have an ambiguous relationship to science. On the one hand, they would like to conquer it and use it for their purposes while on the other hand, they fear it and thus either try to refute it or, failing that, simply ignore it. This author appears to do both too.

    However, “He constantly speaks of such things as the “velocity of an electron in its orbit around the proton”, a kickback to the old Bohr theory which nobody including Bohr accepts.” Bohr is dead and is no longer accepting anything, though it is not absurd to talk about calculating electron velocity. The Bohr model is not so incompatible with subsequent refinements that it makes no sense to talk about orbits and electron speeds.

    “Kelly argues strongly against uniformitarianism, i.e., that the laws of physics do not change, since the catastrophe of a great flood could explain matters without uniform physical laws.” This line of thinking eventually leads to a pagan view of the creation, where there is simply no underlying order to it. The author completely fails to appreciate the many profound implications of changing some of the basic laws of physics. A reading of Barrow and Tipler’s book on the anthropic cosmological principle would apprise him of how finely-tuned the physical structure of the world is.

    “… a moderate inaccuracy in the dating technique as well as reason to doubt the validity of c-14 dating.” Roger Wiens’ paper on radioisotope dating at will disabuse any facile notions that radioisotopic dating cannot be done.

    What bothers me most about the exegetical scheme of 6-day creationism is that it depends on a magic-wand view of God’s activity in the creation. The only distinction between God and the gods is that he has a bigger magic wand. Why the 6 days of creation events need to be understood as though Genesis is a modern scientific treatise, giving us chronological precision on the creation is beyond me.

    It seems to me that Conrad Hyers is far closer to the mark when he points out that Gen. 1 is primarily an apologetic against paganism, not a pre-scientific attempt at science. The conclusion of Gen. 1 is Gen. 2:4: all of these regions of nature, with their clusters of gods on each day, are created by the one God, not procreated by the genealogies of the gods. There are many indicators in the Gen. 1 text itself that this is a better line along which to try to make sense of it.

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