John 8:31-32

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Science - Who Can You Trust?

I submitted this question to the I Didn't Know That podcast from and they chose to answer it! There is no offense meant to any of my wonderful Young Earth friends by the wording of the question, I am just quoting the questions that were posed to me. I This is the question I emailed them:

I really enjoy your IDKT podcast and listen to it while I clean the house. Recently I had the chance to share my view on the age of the universe and earth with my small group at church. We had just finished a study that had a very strong young earth overtones and our pastor asked me to share the “other” side. After my presentations were completed one member expressed concerns that seemed to be echoed by others:

“How do you really know that what science/scientists say is true? One person will say one thing and the next will say the exact opposite.”

This is especially true in the age / creation realm. The answer has always seemed obvious to me – that which agrees with the Bible, is accepted by Christian and mainstream scientists, and usually that which makes logical sense is a good place to start.  It is hard and frustrating to know how to encourage or direct people who don’t have any scientific background or particular interest, yet think that it’s “bad science” to state that humans and dinosaurs *didn’t* live together or think that because Mt. Saint Helens eruption caused a geographic formation that looks similar to a small Grand Canyon that the Grand Canyon must have been formed just as quickly in the same way.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your great ministry and resources!

Listen to their answer here: Science - Who Can You Trust?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Was There Animal Death Before Adam and Eve Sinned?

This posting is a VERY brief overview of this topic which is VERY DEEP and VERY WIDE. There are resources listed at the end if you want to read more about it! It was also very interesting to me because I had never really thought about it before. My brain has definitely been put through it's paces over the last week or so as I try to wrap it around this theological question. Hope you enjoy it too ;-)

One concern I have heard frequently is how could there be physical death before Adam and Eve sinned? Wasn’t God’s creation “very good?” How could anything “very good” include death? For the most part I think people are really concerned about animals, rather than plants, with the question so that is what I'm going to focus on. In order to answer these question we need to look at a number of scriptures that related to both the creation of the earth and humanity as well as God’s plan of redemption.

Let’s start at the beginning with Genesis 2:15-17 - "The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."

It says in verse 15 that God put man in the Garden of Eden. This indicates that the Garden was a special place on the face of the earth; in fact its geographical location is described in the prior verses. Within the Garden there were special provisions for Adam and Eve including the Tree of Life. The conditions in the Garden were ideal; it was the paradise that we imagine when we hear the word “Eden”. The rest of the earth, however, was “natural” or “wild” as we might call it. I believe that in that natural world animals behaved the same way they do today - the way God created them to act:
  • Job 38: 39-41 - "Do you hunt the prey for the lioness and satisfy the hunger of the lions when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in a thicket? Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?”
  • Psalm 104:21-22, 24  “The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. The sun rises, and they steal away; they return and lie down in their dens...How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.”

When Adam and Eve sinned what happened? God said they would surly die! They did not drop dead that very minute, but they did experience something profound and they had something else to "look forward to" in their future. The death that Adam and Eve experienced was spiritual death. They were immediately expelled from the Garden and separated from God. God did kill animals to make cloths for Adam and Eve, but I believe this was more of an object lesson to them about the seriousness of sin – that the penalty of sin is death – rather than some kind of initiation of death into the animal kingdom. Adam and Eve’s physical death would come later.

Another reason I think animal death was not caused by sin is that it is that animals are not spiritual beings. Romans 5:12-13 “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— for before the law was given, sin was in the world.” Death through sin is something that only humanity is subjected to. Also, see I Corinthians 15:21 “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.” This verse discussing death and resurrection is only directed towards people, not animals.

Some people like to suggest that all animals were herbivores before the fall. This seems kind of strange because there are a lot of physical differences between animals that eat plants only and animals that eat meat at least some of the time. Did God originally create these animals to be herbivores and then change their physiology after the fall? Did the carnivores outside of the Garden just not eat? If there was a significant change in animal behavior such that they were now a threat to man would God not have warned Adam about them when He sent him out of Eden?

There is another argument that can come up in a discussion of this topic and that is the “curse” that God gave in Genesis 3:17b-18 ”Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.” Some people would like to take this verse to say that God somehow changed the laws of nature when He expelled man from Eden. There is no physical or scientific evidence for this claim. The ground will become more difficult to work for Adam – life will not be easy as it was in the Garden.

Finally, we cannot leave this topic without looking at Romans 8:18-21 “  consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” This text is often used to argue that the curse of the fall effected all creation including the instigation of animal death, carnivorous behavior and even the second law of thermodynamics being set in motion. There are a number of other interpretations of this “corruption to which creation is enslaved.” One is that Paul was thinking of Isaiah 24-26 where the earth is pictured as a graveyard and then prophecies about the future resurrection of the dead. After this resurrection the earth will then be renewed and be the dwelling of the redeemed.

I would like to propose that just because God pronounced His creation “very good” does not mean that it was perfect. It was very good for His purposes which are to bring a complete end to sin and evil. Is it not possible that death is actually part of this “very good” plan?
  • We know that death and suffering is only temporary. God’s new creation will be perfect.
  • Evil existed before the fall of man – Satan had already disobeyed God before Eve took a bite of the apple.
  • Revelation 13:8 “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” This indicates that it was part of God’s plan that Christ would die for the sins of humanity even before He began the work of creation. This must then allow for death as part of the creation.
  • Physical death is a way to restrain evil in this world; bad people only live so long and can only hurt so many people.
  • Plants and animals do not see death in the same way humans do.
  • Death is what sustains life.
  • To deny that physical death occurred defies scientific observation and data. Without death (and lots of it over a long period of time) where did we get limestone, oil, gas, kerosene, peat, and coral reefs.

So, I hope this at least gives you some ideas to think about. If it is a topic that is of significance to you I would suggest that you study it further. Below are some of the resources I consulted.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Genesis 1 - Why I Believe the Earth is Old

This post is a brief overview of the first chapter of Genesis, verse by verse with some notes about various word definitions and relevant scientific studies. This is by no means a comprehensive discussion, but just something to pique your interest and perhaps give a different perspective on this controversial passage. I put  it together for a presentation to my small group to answer the question Why Do I Believe the Earth is Old? It is basically an overview of the booklet Genesis One A Scientific Perspective by Hugh Ross PhD. So, here we go!

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

The Hebrew words for heavens and earth when used together as they are here are defined as “the totality of the physical universe.” The word translated created is used only when God is bringing something into existence. Genesis 1:1 tells us that God brought everything into existence at a finite point in the past from a position outside space and time (He is not a part of the physical universe.) The idea that the universe has a beginning has been confirmed by scientific observation and research over the past few decades. This verse is the “initial setting” for the narrative that follows.

Genesis 1:2 Now the earth was (or became) formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

The universe, galaxies, solar systems and planets have been created and now God is going to tell us what He did to make earth ready for humanity. The frame of reference has changed from a view of the universe to “the surface of the deep.” The rest of this narrative is from the perspective of the Holy Spirit at or on the surface of the earth.

The initial conditions of planet earth, according to astronomers who have studied other planets in our solar system as well as planets at various stages of development in other solar systems, are as described in Genesis 1:2: formless, empty, and dark (due to a thick atmosphere and much interplanetary debris). See also Job 38:9 I made the clouds it’s [the sea’s] garment and wrapped it in thick darkness.

DAY 1: Genesis 1:3-5 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

Light becomes visible from earth’s surface and so day and night are now discernible. The atmosphere is translucent at this point, but not yet transparent. The word for “let there be” is not the same word as “create”, but rather “to be, become, exist, or happen.” Without going into a lot of details, it is nothing short of miraculous that the atmosphere on our planet is as thin and light as it is.

The word translated “day” is [yôm] in Hebrew. It has many definitions and we must be careful not to make assumptions based on our preconceived ideas or what we read in English. Here are the choices:
  • day (as opposed to night)
  • day (24 hour period)
  • a working day, a day's journey
  • days, lifetime (pl.)
  • time, period (general)
  • year
  • temporal references (yesterday, tomorrow, etc.)
“And there was evening and there was morning.” This is not a normal Hebrew expression for a day, which would usually be evening to evening (think Shabbat/Sabbath) for a 24 hour day. It is more likely an expression meaning from beginning to ending of these particular creation activities.

DAY 2: Genesis 1:6-8   And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

This is the formation of the stable water cycle on earth, which is necessary for the support of all life. See also Ecclesiastes 1:7 All streams flow into the sea, yet the ea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. And Isaiah 55:10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that is yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater. Again, the word for “made” is not the same as the word as “created” in vs. 1.

DAY 3: Genesis 1:9-13 And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so. God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good. Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

Plate tectonics and volcanic activity begin to raise the land above the surface of the water so that life can begin. Plant life also appears. There are three words used for the various kinds of plants and the English translation of those words tends to be more specific than the Hebrew words imply.

DAY 4: Genesis 1:14-19 And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

This day is often the most controversial because people forget that we are still observing what’s happening from the surface of the earth and things that God already created are just now becoming visible from that vantage point. Verses 16-18a are a parenthetical statement reminding us what happened “in the beginning”; now that they are visible the author is telling us why God created them for the earth.

Finally, by day 4 the atmosphere begins to become transparent due to a number of changes that have occurred on the earth:
  • Stabilization of air temperature and pressure
  • Slower rotation rate
  • Consumption of carbon dioxide by plants, and
  • Decrease of volcanic activity.
DAY 5: Genesis 1:20-23 And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky." So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth." And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

The word translated “living creatures” in verse 20 refers to “swarms of small aquatic creatures” which when used for water life include mollusks, crustaceans, fish, and amphibians – the most primitive creatures that require light for regulation of their body clocks. The earliest fossils are of these types of creatures.The word translated “great creatures” in verse 21 refers to “soulish” animals – those that can form relationships with each other or with humans. There are two words used for “created” one which indicates that previously existing materials were used (i.e. the dust of the earth), but they were fashioned into something completely new.

DAY 6: Genesis 1:24-31 And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind." And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

Verses 24-25 focus on three types of animals God created (not all animals are mentioned here, just those that would interact closely with humans), long-legged land quadrupeds which are (1) easily domesticated and those which (2) make good pets and (3) short-legged land mammals like rodents, rabbits, etc.

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Again on day 6 two words are used for “created” indicating previously used materials (i.e. the dust of the earth) being fashioned into something completely new. The “new” aspect for mankind is the spiritual dimension, the “image of God”. DNA evidence now shows that all humanity descends from one man and one woman who lived about 50,000 years ago. Personally I think this is majorly cool! No evolution for this mama!

God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food." And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

God now gives His command to Adam and Eve to populate the earth take care of His creation. The entire chapter of Genesis 2 goes into the details of the sixth day.

DAY 7 Genesis 2:1-3 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested (or ceased) from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Note that the repetitive phrase “there was evening, and there was morning” is not included for the seventh day. This leads us to believe that the seventh day may not yet have ended. There has been no evidence of anything new having been created since humanity appeared on the scene.


From scientific observation the universe and the earth appear to be old. I believe that these observations do not contradict the creation accounts found in Genesis and throughout the Bible. It is contrary to God’s nature to be deceptive.
  • The universe is currently observed to be 13.75 billion years old.
  • The earth is currently observed to be 4.5 billion years old.
I also take exception to the idea that people who believe the earth is old are on “a slippery slope” regarding inerrancy of the Bible. The Christians I know and whose work I have read that believe the universe and earth are old tend to be exceptionally strong in their belief that the Bible is God’s infallible Word and that no part of it should be changed or ignored.

A question that has come up in my small group regarding a number of topics is "What would it take for me to change be view?" My answer regarding the age of the earth is this: evidence that is independently verifiable and accepted by both Christian and non-Christian scientists showing the age of the universe, earth, and humanity is different than currently observed and measured - this could go either way younger or older.

I hope you have found this interesting and perhaps new. As always I would love to see some comments or discussion about this post. I have lots of other topics in mind, but if there are specific things you like to see address please let me know.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Bible and Science

I have often heard the quote “the Bible is not a science book” when people are talking about observations of God’s creation (a.k.a. General Revelation). While this is technically true I guess, there are many verses and passages that do deal directly with the universe, our solar system, and our planet. I think they become even more intriguing when I remember the Bible was written between 2000 and 3500 years ago and little was known about the universe and earth at that time.

Here are a number of verses and their scientific explanations which were compiled by my dad. Thanks dad!

There Was a Beginning

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1
You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you. Nehemiah 9:6
By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. Psalm 33:6

Prior to 1900 there were no observations, data, or scientific theories that supported Genesis 1:1. Most people who had not read or believed the Bible thought that the universe had always existed and that Genesis 1, 2, and 3 were a myth similar to other ancient creation myths. By the early 1900s scientific data and theory from both astronomy observations and atomic physics resulted in a revolution in the understanding of the universe:

  1. Nature of atoms and atomic light spectra
  2. Spectra of stars and star classification
  3. Motion of galaxies away from each other (the red shift –the expanding universe)
  4. Measured constant velocity of light (independent of the motion of the sender or receiver)
  5. Special and general theory of relativity (required a beginning of the universe)
  6. Identifying techniques to measure distances to stars and galaxies
  7. Observing star explosions in galaxies other than the milky way (from the increase in brightness to the decrease in light emission)
  8. Measurement of the cosmic background radiation which agreed with predictions
  9. Etc.

Genesis 1:1 says that the universe had a beginning. Data from science clearly shows that the universe had a beginning.

Reaction from the Scientific Community

Many scientists were unhappy because a beginning to the universe means someone or something had to be the cause. Science has no way of studying before the beginning.

There has been a major effort for many years to develop other explanations of the data to avoid the fact that the universe had a beginning and a finite age. Numerous theories have been proposed including the static universe, steady state universe, and the oscillating universe. Scientific data has shown that all these theories are incorrect and they are no longer being pursued.

However, some scientists are still trying to develop new theories that would explain the origin of the universe without the need of a creator.

Reactions from the Christian Community

Many Christians and Christian theologians are very unhappy with the scientific data and general relativity and subsequent refinements of the theory.

The reason for the extreme negative reaction of the Christian community is that the scientific data supporting a beginning of the universe also arrives at an age of the universe much older than the Biblical chronology developed by Archbishop Ussher in the 17th century. He determined the date of creation to be October 3, 4004 B.C. by using the genealogies in Scripture.

There are Christian groups actively looking for evidence to develop alternate theories of astronomical data to prove the universe has a recent origin.

Things in Space

He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing. Job 26:7

“Hanging the earth over nothing” is an interesting concept. Many ancient societies had their own ideas of what held up the earth, for example the Iroquois said the earth rode on the back of a turtle1. Today we know there is no object that holds up the earth. Pictures of the earth taken from space show the earth hangs in empty space.

He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters for a boundary between light and darkness. Job 26:10
He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. Isaiah 40:22

The Bible teaches that the earth is round (a circle) as viewed from high above the earth, that it is a sphere and not a flat disk as people believed for millennia. Consider this quote from Christopher Columbus’ diary “It was the Lord who put it into my mind – I could feel his hand upon me – the fact that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies … All who heard of my project rejected it with laughter, ridiculing me … There is no question that the inspiration was from the Holy Spirit, because He comforted me with rays of marvelous illumination from the Holy Scriptures… For the execution of the journey to the Indies, I did not make use of intelligence, mathematics, or maps. It is simply the fulfillment of what Isaiah had prophesied.” It was Isaiah 40:22 that he was referring to. The people ridiculed him because they thought the world was flat and the ship would sail off the edge.2

Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God's dominion over the earth? Job 38:33
Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Job 38:31

The explanation of this verse is found in the ordinances (laws) of the heavens – the law of gravity. The Pleiades is an open group (cluster) of stars that are held together by gravitational forces and they move around the Milky Way galaxy as a unit. Also, the stars that make up the belt of the constellation of Orion are held together as a unit by the law of gravity. Another interesting note is that all other star groups visible to the naked eye are unbounded (not attached to any other star with gravity, with one possible exception of the Hyades). Job is the oldest book of the Bible. Very little was known about the nature of stars and which ones were bound or unbound. Were not all stars fixed?

Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Job 38:32
He did away with the pagan priests appointed by the kings of Judah to burn incense on the high places of the towns of Judah and on those around Jerusalem—those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and moon, to the constellations and to all the starry hosts. 2 Kings 23:5

The Hebrew scholars think the words mazzarôth and mazzalôt are related and most likely refer to the constellations in the zodiac. Today we know that the constellations are seen in their season because the earth revolves around the sun.

The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: "This is what the LORD says: 'If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, then my covenant with David my servant—and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me—can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne. I will make the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who minister before me as countless as the stars of the sky and as measureless as the sand on the seashore.' " Jeremiah 33:19-22
He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Psalm 147:4
"To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?" says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. Isaiah 40:25-26

Before the invention of the telescope man tried to number the stars; Ptolemy gave the number as 1,056, Tycho Brahe cataloged 777 and Kepler counted 1,006. Since the invention of the telescope by Galileo in 1608, we now know that the number of stars is innumerable. Today, astronomers estimate that there are about 200 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy. They also estimate that there are between 100 billion to 1 trillion galaxies in the Universe.3 So that would be pretty much “countless” if you ask me!

There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. I Corinthians 15:40-41

The belief in the first century was that all the stars were the same. Today we know that light from each star is different. The colors (spectrum) that make up the light from each star is different as well as which color is the most intense. The most intense color allows scientist to determine the temperature of the star.

Other Topics of Interest

What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings? Job 38:19-20

Until the mid 18th century the nature of light was unknown; light was thought to be either fixed in place or it took no time to go from one place to another. Today we know that light is an electromagnetic wave; light is in motion and in free space its speed is 300,000,000 meters/sec or 186,000 miles/sec.

For He looks to the ends of the earth, And sees under the whole heavens, To establish a weight for the wind, And apportion the waters by measure. When He made a law for the rain, And a path for the thunderbolt, Job 28:24-26 NKJV

The understanding at the time was that the wind and the air was weightless. Now it is known that the air has weight. The barometric pressure at a location on earth is due to the weight of the air column above that location [14.7 lb/in2 or about 30 inches of mercury]. One cubic foot of air weighs 0.076 pounds or 1.21 ounces.

All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. Ecclesiastes 1:7
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, Isaiah 55:10
He draws up the drops of water, which distill as rain to the streams; the clouds pour down their moisture and abundant showers fall on mankind. Job 36:27-28

These verses describe the water cycle on Earth quite nicely.


The Bible has many verses filled with the fundamentals of science which are up to 3,000 years ahead of their time. In most cases the Bible’s statements contradicted the science or knowledge of that day. As modern science learns more, the accuracy of the Scriptures is substantiated. In fact this is a forceful demonstration that Scripture was divinely inspired.

When you think about all these verses and that scientific data from the last 200 or 300 years show them to be correct, we really have to be careful not to ignore data from science that contradicts a particular interpretation of Scripture. If there is a contradiction between what one thinks scientific data means and a particular interpretation of the Bible, then two things should be done. First the science data and the theory that explains the data have to be reviewed critically to see if it is correct or has errors. For example fossil data does not support the theory of macro-evolution so we do not take this theory seriously. In other situations the science data is correct and reproducible so one has to study the Scripture verses to develop the proper understanding of those verses as described in last post Hermeneutics and Exegesis.Because God is the author of Scripture and the creator of the universe we know that there must be harmony and consistent understanding between God’s two revelations.


  1. Iroquois Mythology
  2. Scientific Accuracy of the Bible
  3. How Many Stars?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hermeneutics and Exegesis

This post is dedicated to my Wednesday night small group where we've been having many fun discussions about Bible interpretation and multi-syllabic words lately! So, for those of you who know who you are, the subtitle of this is post is Herman's Whose-Its and Extra Cheez-Its.

Let's start off with some plain old definitions:

  1. Critical explanation or interpretation of a text or portion of a text, esp. of the Bible.1
  2. The process of interpretation where you are trying to find the original meaning of the verse.2
  1. The theory and methodology of interpretation, especially of scriptural text.1
  2. The branch of theology that deals with the principles of Biblical exegesis.1
So what we're going to be talking about is how to interpret the Bible to learn the truths that God has for us! My goal is to make this easy to understand. If something is not clear, please ask questions!

Basics of Bible Interpretation3

  1. Scripture is to interpret Scripture
  2. Interpret Scripture according to its literal sense
    1. Use the rules of grammar, speech, syntax, and context
    2. Identify literary forms of the passage and style
      1. Historic narrative
      2. Teaching narrative
      3. Poetic style
      4. Hyperbole
      5. Personification
      6. Metaphor
      7. Parallelism
  3. Determine the original meaning of the text
    1. Investigate the historical background
    2. Apply knowledge of the setting and situation of the event or book
    3. Use grammar and syntax appropriate to the original language i.e. Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek
  4. Interpret the implicit (implied) by the explicit (fully and clearly expressed or demonstrated)
  5. Beware of the problem of phenomenological language (explaining miraculous or infinite things so we can try to understand them with our human and finite minds and experiences) in historical narrative – much of the language of Scripture
    1. The language that describes things as they appear to the naked eye – the external appearance as seen by humans
    2. An example of this would be “The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.” Ecclesiastics 1:5.  Historicallyy this verse was interpreted to mean that the sun revolved around the earth.  There are more than 50 verses that use the phrases like “the sun rises” and “the going down of the sun”.  That is what it LOOKS like from our vantage point on earth and we use this language today, but we know that this is not a correct interpretation.  It was this specific topic that got Galileo into so much trouble with the church in the 1600s.5
  6. Carefully determine the meaning of words
    1. Word etymology – original meaning, roots, derivations
    2. Customary usage at the time of writing
    3. Words with multiple meanings – need the context
  7. Remember Scripture communicates to all peoples – the original audience and to people today
  8. Normally there is one interpretation and many applications
Here is a small example that uses Scripture to interpret Scripture, taken from

Bible Text
“Jotham was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. . . . He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Uzziah had done, but unlike him he did not enter the temple of the LORD.” 2 Chronicles 27:1-2
Incorrect Interpretation

King Jotham was a good king, just like his father Uzziah had been, except for one thing: he didn’t go to the temple. Just because King Uzziah went to the temple every week didn’t mean that his son would continue the practice.4 We can then extrapolate that the author is implying a fault on the part of Jotham for not being as faithful as his father was.

Correct Interpretation

First, we must read complete the passage and, to fully understand the context, read the histories of both Uzziah and Jotham (2 Chronicles 26-27; 2 Kings 15:1-6, 32-38). In this observation, we discovers that King Uzziah was a good king who nevertheless disobeyed the Lord when he went to the temple and offered incense on the altar—something only a priest had the right to do (2 Chronicles 26:16-20). Uzziah’s pride and his contamination of the temple resulted in his having “leprosy until the day he died” (2 Chronicles 26:21).

Needing to know why Uzziah spent the rest of his life in isolation, the interpreter studies Leviticus 13:46 and does some research on leprosy. Then he compares the use of illness as a punishment in other passages, such as 2 Kings 5:27; 2 Chronicles 16:12; and 21:12-15.

By this time, we understand something important: when the passage says Jotham “did not enter the temple of the LORD,” it means he did not did not repeat his father’s mistake. Uzziah had proudly usurped the priest’s office; Jotham was more obedient.5

Now you may be noticing that it is more work to get a correct interpretation. A surface reading of an isolated verse or passage can be taken to mean just about anything a person could imagine about it. But, as we are seeking the Truth of the Scripture we should be willing to put in the effort to find the real intended meaning of the Word. Only then can we confidently apply it to our lives.

Since we will be looking at a number of Old Testament passages soon, we will also take a look at some important facts about Hebrew.

The Biblical Hebrew Language3

  • Ancient Biblical Hebrew had no vowels
  • Consists of 8,674 words including all proper nouns used in the Old Testament - compare to a Collegiate English Dictionary which will contain more than 200,000 words
  • Because of the limited number some Hebrew words have more than one literal meaning
  • The word meaning must be obtained from the context.  
  • If there is no consistent way of determining the meaning from the immediate context then other parts of Scripture or even external sources need to be studied.

Examples of Hebrew Words3

Heaven [shamayim] has two broad categories of meaning:
  1. The abode of God
  2. The physical heavens which has two categories
    1. The atmosphere above the earth
    2. The location of the sun, moon, and stars
Heaven [shamayim] Used in Scripture
Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven [shamayim], and bless Your people Israel and the land which You have given us, just as You swore to our fathers, “a land flowing with milk and honey”. Deuteronomy 26:15
And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven [shamayim]; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; Genesis 26:4
For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven [shamayim], And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower, And bread to the eater, Isaiah 55:10
Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven [shamayim] , and said: "By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son – blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven [shamayim] and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. Genesis 22:15-17
So Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, "If I am a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven [shamayim] and consume you and your fifty men." And fire came down from heaven [shamayim] and consumed him and his fifty. 2 Kings 1:10
(Note:  sometimes it is very difficult to know what is the correct meaning)

Another example:
[‘erets] translated earth or land has six different meanings:
  1. All the land, water and the supporting foundation which is planet earth
  2. Soil
  3. The territory or land possessed by an individual, family, tribe, or nation
  4. The territories of all peoples and nations
  5. A city state
  6. The underworld or the grave
For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth [‘erets], And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower, And bread to the eater, Isaiah 55:10
Since the day that I brought My people out of the land [‘erets] of Egypt, I have chosen no city from any tribe of Israel in which to build a house, that My name might be there, nor did I choose any man to be a ruler over My people Israel. 2 Chronicles 6:5
Moreover You gave them kingdoms and nations, And divided them into districts. So they took possession of the land [‘erets] of Sihon, The land [‘erets] of the king of Heshbon, And the land [‘erets] of Og king of Bashan. Nehemiah 9:22
And the earth [‘erets] brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:12
that all the peoples of the earth [‘erets] may know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever." Joshua 4:24
You, who have shown me great and severe troubles, Shall revive me again, And bring me up again from the depths of the earth [‘erets]. Psalms 71:20
I hope this discussion has given you some new things to consider when you read the Bible. We will be applying them in detail as we start looking at some specific Old Testament passages. As always, please feel free to comment.


  3. Excerpted by Tom from “Knowing Scripture” by R.C. Sproul
  4. Galileo Galilei

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Two Revelations

God has chosen to reveal Himself to me (and you too)! Isn't that just really COOL? There are two main ways He does this, one is through His creation and the other is through His Word. These two types of revelations are often referred to as His "General Revelation" - Creation, and His "Special Revelation" - the Bible. This sounds pretty neat, but what does it really mean? Here is a discussion of each type of revelation:

General Revelation

General Revelation is called "general" because it is available to everyone and is enough to leave every person without an excuse regarding the existence of God. Theologian Louis Berkhof defined it this way: "General revelation is rooted in creation, is addressed to man as man, and more particularly to human reason, and finds its purpose [when we realize that God is the creator], to know God and thus enjoy communion with Him."1 I think this is very encouraging on a personal level - to remember that the reason God created everything was to have fellowship and communion with us.

Here are some verses that express these same truths.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19: 1-4a
Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy. Acts 14:17
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:18-20
All of these verses seem to be saying that God wants us to observe what He has made to learn more about Him. I also think it is a desire that God has put into us to want to study and learn more about the world around us. It is fascinating, humbling, and FUN!

Special Revelation

Special Revelation is generally considered to be the Bible, although a more broad definition might be "a disclosure of God's truth through means other than through man's reason."2 This would include, either now or in the past, "physical appearances of God, dreams, visions, the written Word of God, and most importantly—Jesus Christ."3

Here are some Scriptures that express this truth.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. Hebrews 1:1-2
For you Truth Project fans, Del Tacket has a nice discussion of these definitions as well. He calls special revelation "Primary Truth" and general revelation "Secondary Truth." He makes the important point that God's Word must be the bottom line for Truth. The special revelation helps us understand what we observe in the general revelation. He reminds us of The Law of Non-contradiction which states that if two things are true they cannot contradict each other. If there is an apparent contradiction we must make sure we have interpreted Primary Truth correctly, we must make sure we have understood Secondary Truth correctly, and we must realize that any observation in Secondary Truth has to be consistent with Primary Truth.

To see this discussion go here: The Truth Project : Class Question: General Revelation

As we journey in search of Truth we will be exploring both of these revelations, seeking to understand each correctly. Only then can we know God to the fullest!


  1. Report of the Creation Study Committee - Section III #9
  2. Special revelation
  3. What is general revelation and special revelation?
  4. Louis Berkhof
  5. General revelation

Friday, February 19, 2010

What Is Truth

So, I suppose if I'm going to call my blog One Mama Seeks Truth, the first thing I should do is to define truth. The idea to start here came from The Truth Project (TTP) that I have been participating in for the past number of months. The idea of truth seems kind of simple and straight forward on the surface, but in our culture it really is not so simple. Take a look at this snippet from TTP asking people to define truth. Apparently it is not so easy! What is your definition of truth?

The 1828 Websters (politically incorrect) dictionary defines it this way: Conformity to fact or reality; exact accordance with that which is, or has been, or shall be...we rely upon the truth of the Scriptural prophecies."

I was pleasantly surprised with the definitions at as well, which include:
  1. the true or actual state of a matter.
  2. conformity with fact or reality.
  3. a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like.
So, for my purposes I'm going to define truth as that which conforms to fact or reality.

Jesus said "I am the Way, the Truth, and The Life..." John 14:6. Why did Jesus come to the earth? in John 18:37 he says "In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth." and finally from John 8:32: "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." These are just three of the many times Jesus mentioned truth. It sure seems that it is important! I want to ask another question here: if truth will set me free, then what is it that takes me captive? There are two things that pop into my mind on this. The first is lies (the opposite of truth) and the second is sin. From TTP: "every sin that ensnares us can be traced back to belief in a lie." or as Romans 1:25 says "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised."

I want to be able to understand truth so that I can be set free from the lies of the world, the flesh and the Devil. I want to know what is really real. I want to know God better everyday so I can worship Him more fully. And finally, to paraphrase something I read yesterday: I want to be able to communicate "truth [so] that unbelievers will become convinced that [I] really have it."

I look forward to having you join me on my search!