RE: Review of the GAE: The Question of Tasmania and Realism in Science and Scripture

Continuing the discussion from Jay Johnson's Review of the GAE: The Question of Tasmania and Realism in Science and Scripture:

For some reason I’m unable to reply to any of the posts in the original thread, or make a new post there (none of the reply buttons appears, and the quote function doesn’t work). Please merge this post with that thread if it’s still intended to be open.


For some people (such as myself), those things aren’t dogma, they are statements for which evidence must be provided, and they are positions which can and must be changed if the evidence changes or is insufficient. But regardless, my point stands. Dogma objects to truth seeking.

I agree with Jay that prioritizing dogma is the opposite of truth seeking, and that Christians should be truth seekers. Once we declare “We believe X and we will now go forth and attempt to justify our claim in X”, we are doing apologetics. We are certainly not doing science. If we decide we can put Adam anywhere we want in history, in order to accommodate our dogma, we are doing apologetics, and we are not seeking truth.

For me, exegesis must be an exercise in truth seeking. First the facts, then the exegesis. First the facts, then the doctrine. Not “Here’s what I’ve decided to believe, now I’ll select some of the facts and try to make up a story which defends what I’ve decided to believe while just leaving out the other facts”.


OK, I understand your position, but please understand that some people have different commitments. For some people, several things - the Nicene Creed, or the Westminster Confession, to take some examples - are considered settled truths. This is why they are called dogma - they are considered part of the cumulative wisdom of the church in interpreting Scripture and living out Christianity. They are not negotiable because it is their conviction that being a Christian involves doing more than just personally reading Scripture and weighing how to read it in a way that comports with the “evidence” (whatever that means) - being a Christian means also believing certain things that the church has believed (or thought to have believed) for millennia. For these people the connection to history and tradition is an integral part of their faith. Thus, certain dogma (such as Jesus’ divinity, to take a common example) are practically no different than “facts”.

I get that this might seem backwards, stupid, harmful, unreasonable, unenlightened, stubborn, close-minded, or whatever adjective you prefer. But lot of even very educated, very informed Christians just think in this way (including some who accept evolution and mainstream science), and would regard your motto of “facts, then exegesis” as hubristic and unhistorical.

To take an example, you say that “For me, exegesis must be an exercise in truth seeking.” Do you regard Scripture and empirical science as equally authoritative ways of seeking truth? Are they really “two equal books”, or is one to be interpreted in subjection to the other?


I do understand all that. It’s not some secret mystery revealed only to the initiated. I have lived with people like that all my life. I grew up in a community in which many people think that way. I thought that way myself until my late teens. I am completely familiar with that way of thinking.

They’re all appropriate in various ways, in different contexts. The damage this way of thinking has caused is incalculable. We do not tolerate it in other religions, especially Islam, so giving it a pass in Christianity is clearly special pleading.

Yes I totally understand the mentality of people who deplore the idea that exegesis should be based on facts. I’ve lived most of my life among them, and experienced all the joys their company can provide.

They are equally authoritative ways of seeking different truths. Thus.

“Revelation does not give a scientific cosmology. That lies outside its province.”

Robert Roberts, “The Bible True;”, The Christadelphian 13, no. 142 (Birmingham: Christadelphian Magazine & Publishing Association, 1876), 156.

“Revelation does not enter into the mysteries of molecular physics, or the development of the life-germ, or the way in which it operates on material organisms. All these it relegates to science, whose function it is to investigate them.”

Robert Roberts, “The Bible True;”, The Christadelphian 13, no. 142 (Birmingham: Christadelphian Magazine & Publishing Association, 1876), 156.

They are two equal books which address different subjects. Each speaks on a topic which the other does not address, and they speak in harmony, thus.

NATURE makes no false impressions, and just so the Bible.”

W.D. Jardine “The Bible as a Law of Life and Immortality”, The Ambassador of the Coming Age 1, no. 6 (Birmingham: Christadelphian Magazine & Publishing Association, 1864), 93.

“The inconsistency spoken of between nature and scripture, arises not from antagonism, but from the misinterpretations of both. It is man’s interpretation of the one set against man’s interpretations of the other. It is not nature versus scripture, but false science against true theology, or false theology against scientific fact.”

W.D. Jardine “The Bible as a Law of Life and Immortality”, The Ambassador of the Coming Age 1, no. 6 (Birmingham: Christadelphian Magazine & Publishing Association, 1864), 93.

“Some scientific men, we believe, view the Scriptures through the distorted medium of “confessions of faith” and doubt them, and theologians view science and call it false, because it does not take to their turn-pike road.”

W.D. Jardine “The Bible as a Law of Life and Immortality”, The Ambassador of the Coming Age 1, no. 6 (Birmingham: Christadelphian Magazine & Publishing Association, 1864), 93.

This is the traditional, historical Christian view of the Two Books, and I shouldn’t need to drag out Augustine and all the other perfectly orthodox Christian commentators who said the same.

In my own community the Two Books has also been the historical approach, from our inception.

“The Advocate: For the Testimony of God as it is Written in the Books of Nature and Revelation CONDUCTED BY JOHN THOMAS, M.D. The invisible attributes of God, even his eternal power and divinity, since the creation of the world, are very evident; being known by his works.—PAUL. All scripture given by divine inspiration, is profitable for doctrine, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect—completely fitted for every good work.—PAUL.”

John Thomas, The Advocate , volume 4, title page (1837).

“THE ADVOCATE will, therefore, exercise himself to the best of his ability and judgment, in setting forth the manifold wisdom of God as inscribed on the brilliant pages of those two interesting volumes.”

John Thomas, The Advocate , volume 3, (1835-1836).

“February 1st, God and the two books He has written.—(Brother Booth, of Crewe).”

Robert Roberts, “Intelligence”, The Christadelphian 17, no. 190 (Birmingham: Christadelphian Magazine & Publishing Association, 1880), 191.

“Brother J. J. Andrew, in an interesting address, showed the similarity of instruction conveyed in God’s two books, the Bible and Nature;”

Robert Roberts, “Intelligence”, The Christadelphian 25, no 291 (Birmingham: Christadelphian Magazine & Publishing Association, 1888), 573.

The Bible.—“The book of God, like the book of nature, is full of wonders, and contains such an endless variety of matter as may well engage the study and attention of our whole lives. It is like a rich landscape, beautifully varied with woods and hills, meadows and rivers.”—Bickersteth’s Scripture Help.”

Robert Roberts, “Biblical Miscellanea”, The Christadelphian 25, no. 289 (Birmingham: Christadelphian Magazine & Publishing Association, 1888), 430.

“If we cannot possibly get time to study the book of nature in the short space of time allotted in this life, we shall be able when invested with an immortal nature to soar and to dive into what is both mysterious and unattainable now. But if we can make a start now it will add to our pleasure in the present condition. We shall find the object of our love and adoration is at the bottom of all.”

W.H., “Good Company”, The Christadelphian 27, no. 311 (Birmingham: Christadelphian Magazine & Publishing Association, 1890), 187.

“We conceive that it is impossible for the word of God as written in the book of Nature, and God’s word written in Holy Scripture, to contradict one another, however much they may appear to differ.”

Charles Curwen Walker, “Genesis. Chapter I. – The Second Day: The Firmament”, The Christadelphian 554, no. 47 (Birmingham: Christadelphian Magazine & Publishing Association, 1910), 359.

“Yet these are but a few outstanding passages in the amazing story nature has written for the seeker after the truth of the geological story of coal. Those who are able to understand the sermons that the great Author has written in the rocks, and to translate the books that He has compiled in the running brooks, find the wonderful story of earth history told in twelve great chapters representing as many eras of geological time.”

W. Minnerly, “The Creation of Coal”, The Christadelphian 58, no. 679 (Birmingham: Christadelphian Magazine & Publishing Association, 1921), 14.

“This should not surprise us, for we find the same thing in the book of Nature. There is a severity in her laws which reflects the characteristic of the God of the Bible.”

Len Richardson, “Fundamental Doctrines. The Goodness and Severity of God”, The Christadelphian 115, no. 1367 (Birmingham: Christadelphian Magazine & Publishing Association, 1978), 166.

“Today, science is reluctant to acknowledge its immense debt to the Bible and to those men who, having read God’s written Word, turned in humble wonder to contemplate God’s other book—the book of nature.”

John Morris, “Science and the Disciple. 2- “To seek out wisdom, and the reason of things””, The Christadelphian 126, no. 1496 (Birmingham: Christadelphian Magazine & Publishing Association, 1989), 64.

Consequently, it is no surprise to find that pre-Adamism was accepted by our community in its earliest days.

‘That the earth had a history anterior to the six days’ work, is certain, from both scripture and nature. Geology proves the existence of forms of life long before the Mosaic creation ; and the Bible tacitly affirms a pre-Adamite order of things,"

John Thomas, ‘Were There Human Beings Before Adam?’, The Ambassador of the Coming Age, (48. 5.172), 1868.

Neither was the human the first rational race on its surface , if we are to attach the same sense to the words addressed to Adam as they possessed when addressed to Noah. “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish (fill again) the earth.” There may have been a previous race, swept away after the manner of the flood , the catastrophe leaving the earth in the state in which the six days’ work found it.’

Robert Roberts, ‘A Brush with Modern Scepticism’, The Christadelphian (10.106.163), 1873.

‘From this point of view therefore the geologist is free from coming into collision with scripture. He may come to discover traces of a race of beings similar to man, but not of Adam’s posterity , but whether he does or not, there is another point of view from which we have an approach to certainty, that a race of beings similar to man did exist prior to Adam and a constitution of things likewise similar to what now obtains, and all this we have from scripture itself .’

Jardine, ‘The Bible as a Law of Life and Immortality’, The Ambassador of the Coming Age (2.8.127), 1865.

“Among the alluvial deposits of this age (either recent or post-pliocene) are found the remains of man for the first time. These remains belong to a drift age. Was that drift age the Noahic deluge or a previous and longer and more overwhelming deluge? If the former, then the remains belong to those of the Adamic race. If the latter, then they do not. It is, however, possible that they belong to a pre-Adamic race in part, and to the Adamic race in part;”

L.B. Welch, “Knowledge.- No., 12 Geology”, The Christadelphian 28, no. 329 (Birmingham: Christadelphian Magazine & Publishing Association, 1891), 416.

Note that the “pre-Adamic race” considered in those quotes is supposed to have perished entirely in some catastrophe, leaving no descendants. This is not GAE by any description.

I am not claiming it is GAE by any description. My community has always steadfastly rejected evolution, with very few exceptions, and never gone near anything like GAE. I’m pretty sure you can tell the difference between pre-Adamism and GAE by now, so you should be able to understand that when people say “pre-Adamism” they are not saying “GAE”. I could have put up quotations from members of our community who believed in a continuity of pre-Adamic humans who were never wiped out and who co-mingled with Adam’s family, but I chose not to in order to avoid confusion

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So do you regard your community as also part of that group of people who are stubbornly backward, unenlightened, and believe in damaging beliefs, as you said?

I regard various people in my community as stubbornly backward (mainly the YECs), or unenlightened (which isn’t a crime, it’s just that many of them have never been told the truth), or holding damaging beliefs (mainly the YECs). I don’t believe everyone in my community matches any of those descriptions, and I believe few people in my community match all of them. But I don’t spare my community from criticism. In fact my community has a long tradition of self-criticism which is one of our strengths.

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