Retrospective on Garvey's Decade at The Hump

From @jongarvey:

I thought it would be worth spending a few posts looking back on what has turned out to be a fruitful “research programme” on scientific and biblical origins over the last ten years for me, to see what problems have been resolved, and which, if any, remain unanswered.

It was what I fielded about the biblical acceptability of an old earth view that got me “censored” in the original series of articles for a Christian magazine in 2008 (see previous column) that put me on to the science-faith trail.

My retrospective review of this aspect of the last ten years of my research is timely, it seems. For reviewing Joshua Swamidass’s Genealogical Adam and Eve YECs Robert Carter and John Sanford mention Josh’s citing of my book God’s Good Earth , in relation to the subject of death before the Fall.

In Britain, at least, a common position of many ordinary Evangelical Christians (until they start reading American books, anyway!) is, “I don’t see why God couldn’t have created through evolution.” The rub is that they usually have little idea of what evolutionary theory says: what they mean is that species might well change over long periods of times, under the creative direction of God, as an alternative to each being created de novo .

Anyone who reads The Hump regularly is well aware of the answer I found to the apparent scientific impossibility of an historical Adam and Eve. After all, that is the subject of the book of mine that came out last month, The Generations of Heaven and Earth .

One of the theological problems I had with an old earth a decade ago is less commonly remarked than some others: if mankind was created to rule and subdue the earth, as Genesis 1 teaches, how did it manage without him for over four billion years?

In my “quest” to sort out origins questions, this “old chestnut” problem was really a question of filling in details, rather than finding entirely new solutions, because I was already aware of work by exegetes arguing that Scripture allows for a regional Flood.

Sy Garte, in his excellent new book The Works of His Hands , mentions three intractable problems in science (because there seems no way they can arise through “materialistic natural causes”); and all three are origins questions.

Because it’s unfashionable to think about Satan in science-faith discussions (which goes along with the semi-deist viewpoint that reduces the whole of existence to “God” v “Nature”), the question of what the devil was doing before the Fall, in an old earth scenario, gets little attention.


So, @jongarvey what is resolve, and what is unanswered?

Josh, as I hinted in my first post in that series, I’m pretty happy that all the questions I could think of that seriously challenged biblical faith have now generally adequate answers, though of course there is always more to be understood.

For example, GAE takes the Eden story out of the scientific area, but doesn’t prove the veracity of the story. But it does place the question back where it belongs, in history and theology, and that’s just a question of interpretation.

But the recently discussed question of Nephilim remains open to all kinds of interpretation because we lack knowledge of the original cultural context of a highly compressed episode. But that’s fine - none of the likely interpretations seriously challenge faith.

Similarly, there is a myriad of questions about both evolutionary science itself, and its relationship to creation. But if (as I believe) genre recognition takes the pressure off the biblical “discrepancy,” and exploration of scientists’ unconscious metaphysical commitments, the nature of chance and so on break down the science-religion conflict, then those questions become non-threatening, as they should always have been, of course.

What I can’t speak to are the problems I don’t know that I don’t know - which is why I asked for contributions from the readers in that first episode!