Welcoming John Bauer

Continuing the discussion from Why is the de novo creation of Adam and Eve important?:

Nice to meet you. Your blog is really interesting: https://rethinkingcreation.blogspot.com/.

Tell us about yourself?

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Thank you

Thank you for the warm welcome, and also for driving a bit of traffic to my blog. I’m just a blue-collar layman who is a late convert to Christianity and member of a small Baptist church, so keep that in mind as you read my blog. While I have an abiding interest in issues related to the intersection of faith and science, and some highly developed and strong opinions, I am not an expert in anything—other than my job, which is unrelated to these issues.

As for telling you all about myself, I’m just going to copy-and-paste from the “About” page at my blog, since I had already taken the time to write it once:

About me

My name is John Bauer and I’m an evangelical Christian with a biblical world-view shaped by a Reformed covenant theology and a firm commitment to the supreme authority of Scripture as the enscripturated Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and life. A husband and father, I am a middle-aged blue-collar professional who is a skeptic, writer, and artist (photography and drawing). I passionately study theology and science and have a deep love of books, nature documentaries, and environmental stewardship.

For the first six years of my Christian faith, I was an enthusiastic young-earth creationist who vigorously opposed evolution and its naturalistic dogma. However, the strength and consistency of the evidence from astronomy and physics eventually convinced me that the universe had to be several billion years old, and the cumulative case from equally compelling evidence led me to accept that the age of the earth was far greater than I had been told. (I was still firmly opposed to evolution, however, though my zeal had been tempered by the exposure of my ignorance.)

But this left me confused about the narrative of creation in Genesis and how to understand it, for the days of creation are clearly not vast ages of time but ordinary 24-hour periods. That conviction prevented me from ever accepting the Day–Age view (the days of creation were vast ages), nor could I accept the Gap view (inserting billions of years between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2). In all my studies, neither interpretation enjoyed the strength of the Calendar Day view, which I’ve always retained.

For the next five years I suspended any pursuit of those issues for the sake of advanced theological study (personally, not academically), exploring the fundamentals of Reformed theology, starting with the five solas and the doctrines of grace but then focusing on covenant theology. It should be made clear that I do not belong to a confessionally Reformed community of faith—I am a long-time member of a local Baptist church—yet my biblical world-view is significantly influenced by the doctrinal convictions of Old Princeton and Westminster Theological Seminary (neither of which I have ever attended).

It was not until about 2010 that I revisited the issue of origins and what to make of Genesis 1, as a result of a book recommendation from Amazon. My view began to consolidate the theological work of Gregory K. Beale and the exegetical analyses of John H. Walton, with some non-trivial influence from J. Richard Middleton and others. I am still in the process of developing a theology that is systematic but most of the legwork has already been accomplished by such esteemed scholars as Vos, Berkhof, Murray, Warfield, Barth, Kuyper, Van Til, and others.


Welcome John.

Interesting you have to do all this work to make sense of the supposed words of God.

Why do we have to rely on so many other people’s interpretations and ways of making sense of scripture? You’d think God’s own supposed words would just make sense to everyone on their own. This whole idea that we have to rely on fallible middle-men to spend decades studying and researching and interpreting the meanings of scriptures, which were supposedly dictated by God Himself and intended for literally all people who will ever live, just seems rather off to me.

The middle man shouldn’t be necessary. It should be of zero interest what Berkhof, or Warfield, or Van Til, or whoever else, had to say about what it means or is to be understood. Exegesis should be a field with zero employment prospects. It should be immediately obvious to anyone without a single exception who peers into the Bible, what it intends to say. That’s what one would expect from the writings of an omnipotent, omniscient deity who created us and can read our minds.


I don’t expect God to be easily understood. Why do you?

Probably for the same reasons it’s more fun to watch sports in a crowd. It is more fun, connects us to a larger community, and and others can fill us in on important details that we may have missed.

Well, none of them are necessary for understanding scripture per se. They are necessary for understanding how different parts of the Church are thinking about Scripturex

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I expect clarity from mere humans writing on the same topics, but at least in their case I have a good excuse when they fail.

The Bible is supposed to be written for humanity, detailing rules for how to govern how we treat each other, what we should think about ourselves and our role on Earth. It’s not the kind of topic a morally good and rational person would be deliberately callous and unclear about.

It seems to me that if you want to be understood, you are going to make an effort to be clear. And if you think the topic is important to get right, all the more reason to make an effort to be clear.

Given how much time you’re all spending on trying to understand what you believe to be the word of God, you too must think there’s something important to be understood in those writings, and that it’s important to get it right. Otherwise your behavior simply doesn’t make rational sense.

If God is being deliberately unclear on matters of great importance, so much so that it has historically resulted in conflict and wars, then it seems to me God isn’t a good God, but instead a malicious one, in which case nobody should be paying His writings any attention.

Presumably God could be the most competent writer imaginable if he desired to be. God is by definition omnipotent. If God wants to be understood, God will be understood. So if there’s ambiguity in God’s writings, either God does not want to be understood(in which case why even bother?), or it was not written by God. That last part makes complete sense of all the unclarity.

It seems to me it has inspired just as much fractionation and tribalism, as it has spurred people to come together to try and understand what it means. Perhaps if people could agree on what it meant, it would be easier to band together around it?

You seem to be stating this contrary to demonstrable fact. People have a hard time making sense of it, and for that reason go to their various authorities who have dedicated their lives to researching and interpreting scriptures.


@Rumraket I do not mean this question dissmisivally at all, but to better understand where you are coming from.

You’ve brought this up several times. Does it come up because we are really puzzling to you and you want to understand? Or is it because you think this is a strong and legitimate argument against trusting Scripture as I do? Perhaps it is some of both?

It seems these are two very different reasons for pressing the question. I do not know which reason is yours. Help me out?

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I understand and I don’t take it to be dismissive. I have nothing against anyone seeking clarity or wondering about why I do what I do.

It is a sort of mix of two similar things at the same time, in that I am genuinely perplexed that you do not see it the same way I do. And I’m curious as to what is going to be your reaction when I explain how I see it.

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Thanks. Let me think about it and give you a more careful explanation sometime, hopefully soon.

Thank you, sir.

I am relatively confident that God’s words made sense, more or less, to those who originally received it. However, speaking only for myself at this point, the reason why I have to rely on all these other people in order to make sense of Scripture is that I cannot read, speak, or even understand ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, or first-century koine Greek. While my English translation of the Bible is more or less clear about redemptive history and God’s salvation of his people, one needs to keep in mind that it is an English translation. In other words, countless middle-men have spent decades researching, studying, and interpreting what the biblical texts say and mean in order to communicate that in English, so that I may benefit from what God has to say to his people without having to learn ancient languages and locate the precious, vulnerable manuscripts in order to read them (never mind the enormous expenses and daunting permissions that would involve).

And I am led to understand that translating is not an easy task. For example, among other reasons, apparently the Greek language has the capacity for a level of richness and depth that the English language simply cannot match. And that is to say nothing of the challenges faced by trying to bridge the huge gap between a first-century Palestinian culture and cognitive environment and those of the twenty-first century West. That is, it’s not just the words that have to be translated. Translating the Greek word for “beauty” into its English equivalent also requires setting aside our modern categories and taking seriously what beautiful meant to them. There is an enormous amount of scholarship and work involved that far exceeds the time or economic resources I have at my disposal. This is why, in addition to the work of translating, there is such great value in commentaries, dictionaries, and encyclopedias. What God had to say to those people back then needs to make sense to us today, and that takes work. So I am incredibly grateful for these dedicated middle-men. Again, I’m just a blue-collar layman. I don’t have the time or resources to do what these men do. Their service is extraordinary and immeasurably appreciated.


First of all, I don’t think Scripture is unclear on the basics of Christian doctrine. The vast majority of self-identified Christians agree on the Nicene Creed, for example. There is a surprisingly large amount of doctrinal agreement in other areas too. When I moved from Indonesia to Massachusetts for college, I was always confident that I could easily find a local church whose beliefs were very close to my previous church’s in Indonesia. And I was right.

Secondly, the fact that there have been sectarian wars of religion cannot be blamed primarily on the lack of clarity of Scripture. There have also been plenty of wars between nations that should in theory believe in the same type of Christianity. Religious wars are almost always also fueled by many other factors than just doctrinal disagreements.

Thirdly, there’s also the element of human free will, and with it human stubbornness and sin. Many people have refused to abandon clearly errant interpretations of Scripture because of selfishness, personal ego, ulterior motives, or other invalid reasons. We are not purely rational creatures and are influenced by emotions and fickle circumstances.

Maybe God wants to be understood by some, but not all.

Maybe (more likely) it is impossible for God to be understood in the way that he wants by simply reading text like reading a manual.

Maybe the point isn’t only to be understood in a propositional manner, but also in a personal way that can only be done via deep mediation and reflection upon Scripture. In fact, Scripture is sometimes more interesting because of its lack of precision and detail in some places.

Maybe being understood is not even the point. After all, many non-religious people understand the basics of the Christian gospel quite well, yet they don’t believe. Does their understanding count for anything in the eyes of God?

I think a major difference between your viewpoint and mine is that you try really hard to get God to fit within your pre-conceived notions of what he should be doing. But why do we think our limited minds are capable of even rationally conceiving what God’s intentions are? After all, this is God we’re talking about. Not just a super-powerful old man in the sky, or a lesser deity that has squabbles with other deities like Zeus and Apollo, but the Creator God, the First Cause of the entire universe, the Prime Mover, the One who is Being itself and sustains all other things in existence. God is a being very unlike other things, including us. This is why for myself, I keep an open mind on what God wants and how God accomplishes it. I endeavor to have a posture of worship and submission, instead of trying to evaluate or test God.