More from Calvin the Short-Earther

More from Calvin:

Therein time was first marked so that by a continuing succession of years believers might arrive at the primal source of the human race and of all things. This knowledge is especially useful not only to resist the monstrous fables that formerly were in vogue in Egypt and in other regions of the earth, but also that, once the beginning of the universe is known, God’s eternity may shine forth more clearly, and we may be more rapt in wonder at it. And indeed, that impious scoff ought not to move us: that it is a wonder how it did not enter God’s mind sooner to found heaven and earth, but that he idly permitted an immeasurable time to pass away, since he could have made it very many millenniums earlier, albeit the duration of the world, now declining to its ultimate end, has not yet attained six thousand years. For it is neither lawful nor expedient for us to inquire why God delayed so long, because if the human mind strives to penetrate thus far, it will fail a hundred times on the way. And it would not even be useful for us to know what God himself, to test our moderation of faith, on purpose willed to be hidden. When a certain shameless fellow mockingly asked a pious old man what God had done before the creation of the world, the latter aptly countered that he had been building hell for the curious.
…Elsewhere [Augustine] wisely warns that it is no less wrong to raise questions concerning immeasurable stretches of time than of space. Indeed, however widely the circuit of the heavens extends, it still has some limit. Now if anyone should expostulate with God that the void exceeds the heavens a hundredfold, would not this impudence be detestable to all the godly? Into such madness leap those who carp at God’s idleness because he did not in accord with their judgment establish the universe innumerable ages before. To gratify their curiosity, they strive to go forth outside the world. As if in the vast circle of heaven and earth enough things do not present themselves to engross all our senses with their incomprehensible brightness! As if within six thousand years God has not shown evidences enough on which to exercise our minds in earnest meditation! Therefore let us willingly remain enclosed within these bounds to which God has willed to confine us, and as it were, to pen up our minds that they may not, through their very freedom to wander, go astray.

What confuses me is that Calvin seems to grant the premise that “God delayed so long” — we just shouldn’t be inquiring into why.  I wonder if he would appreciate an understanding that God did not “idly permit an immeasurable time to pass away”, but was quite busy with the work of Creation for “very many milleniums.”  Or that indeed that the “void” of space “exceeds the heavens” of our atmosphere (or even solar system!) “a hundredfold” and much more.

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Galileo and Duality

BooksOne new thing I learned from Galileo’s Daughter was the extent of Galileo’s good faith efforts to submit to Rome.  After the edict of 1616 against Copernican heliocentrism, Galileo bent over backwards to clear the manuscript of his Dialogues for publication — with both the head Office of the Inquisitor in Rome, and his local Inquisitor in Florence.

Another thing I learned was that (by the face value of his words, at least) Galileo’s intention in publishing the Dialogues was not to overturn geocentrism in favor of heliocentrism, but to show the world that Italians and Catholics were not toothless hick fundies: Continue reading

Galileo and Weather

BooksOn my recent trip, I was able to read on the plane a lot of Galileo’s Daughter — a fascinating account of his whole kerfuffle with the catholic church, framed by correspondence from his daughter (who he had placed in a nunnery, because she was illegitimate and he didn’t believe she was fit for marriage).

At the center of said kerfuffle was his argumentation for a Copernican worldview.  One of the big questions in that debate was, if the Earth is spinning, why does it seem so stationary?  How can anything drop straight down?  How can birds navigate? Why isn’t there crazy wind all the time?  Galileo had good answers to all of these questions, but I wondered why there was no mention of the fact that wind does prevail in the same direction almost all of the time? Does it really?

Calvin the Conformist

In the last post, we saw Calvin asserting a 6-day view of creation, in reaction to an Augustinian, instantaneous view of creation. Note however, that Calvin’s analysis included absolutely no consideration of evidence from natural revelation (nor did the view Calvin was criticizing). (This is not at all surprising, since in Calvin’s time, science had not yet progressed to the level that it could witness the Gen 1 prophetic revelation of God’s creation acts.) So let’s see what happens when Calvin does have some scientific evidence to reconcile with the Biblical text.

Apparently in Calvin’s time there were some who believed in the “plain” reading of Gen 1:16; i.e. God’s labeling of the “greater” and “lesser” lights meant that, in terms of physical size, the sun was the largest, next the moon, and all the planets and stars “lesser” yet. These literalists found themselves in conflict with astronomers, who claimed in particular that the “star of Saturn” (Beale notes that, biblically, the 5 visible planets are lumped with the sun and moon as the 7 great lights of the heavens) is larger than the moon.

What’s a Calvin to do?

Creation as ycehporP

As will happen in any discussion of creation, the question of whether is intended to be read literally (“plainly“) recently came up. Also not surprising, OEC was subjected to “guilt by association” with denial of the resurrection. In thinking about how to express the difference between and (and how a common hermeneutic can allow one to be read figuratively, and yet require the other to be read literally/historically), a distinction happened upon me, which I will briefly lay out here. It is quite simple, so I’m certain it can’t be original to me, but I don’t have the time to chase down all the various sources that have (half-consciously) coalesced into this view. So here we go:

What’s the difference between reading the Bible literally when it speaks of creation, vs. the Fall, the Resurrection, the Virgin Birth, the Exodus, the Flood, Balaam’s talking ass, etc? The difference is witnesses.

Can I get a witness!

Young (Earth) Creationist

A recent conversation with #1 inspired me to resume my recent series of posts on creation. It went something like this:

“Dad, are you a long-earth believer?”

“What do you mean?”

“Mommy told me that you believe that God made the earth in millions of years.”

“Yep. How about you?”

“I’m a short-earth believer; I believe that God made the earth in one day. That’s what the Bible says, isn’t it?”

And so the rubber meets the road, as it were, for my doctrine of creation. What do I do about the fact that I believe my 7-year-old is in error? By which I mean, for how many days should I keep him locked in his room with the collected works of Hugh Ross and Meredith Kline before I bring him before the elders to be stoned for incorrigibility?

Just kidding.

Chesterton on Evolution

Blogorrhea has been dormant for a little while, so I thought I’d paste a few interesting quotes. I’ve been reading Chesterton lately. For a few years now, I have had Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man sitting on my to-read shelf. The Everlasting Man is broken into two sections, each founded on its own “striking fact”. In section one, about man, Chesterton recasts all of all of human history in light of the startling fact of humanity. And section two is about Christ: “those who say that Christ stands side by side with other myths, and his religion side by side with similar religions, are only repeating a very stale formula contradicted by a very striking fact”; namely, the fact of the Resurrection. Chapter 1 (“The Man in the Cave”), is bookended by two astute quotes about “evolution”.

There is something slow and soothing and gradual about the word [evolution] and even about the idea. As a matter of fact it is not, touching these primary things, a very practical word or a very profitable idea. Nobody can imagine how nothing could turn into something. Nobody can get an inch nearer to it by explaining how something could turn into something else. It is really far more logical to start by saying ‘In the beginning God created heaven and earth’ even if you only mean ‘In the beginning some unthinkable power began some unthinkable process.’ For God is by its nature a name of mystery, and nobody ever supposed that man could imagine how a world was created any more than he could create one. But evolution really is mistaken for explanation. It has the fatal quality of leaving on many minds the impression that they do understand it and everything else; just as many of them live under a sort of illusion that they have read the Origin of Species.

Chesterton spends the rest of the chapter describing eloquently how cave paintings demonstrate that man is distinct from beast in having a mind. And coming back to evolution, he concludes:

Now as a matter of fact, there is a not a shadow of evidence that this thing [the human mind] was evolved at all. There is not a particle of proof that this transition came slowly or even that it came naturally. In a strictly scientific sense we simply know nothing whatever about how it grew, or whether it grew, or what it is. There may be a broken trail of stones and bones faintly suggesting the development of the human body. There is nothing even faintly suggesting such a development of this human mind. It was not and it was; we know not in what instant or in what infinity of years. Something happened; and it has all the appearance of a transaction outside time. It has therefore nothing to do with history in the ordinary sense. The historian must take it or something like it for granted; it is not his business as a historian to explain it. But if he cannot explain it as a historian, he will not explain it as a biologist.

After I finished ch 1 of Everlasting Man, I got an email telling me that Orthodoxy is now available in .mp3! Providentially, I am currently experiencing a shortage of podcasts, so this is filling my commute all week. Chapter 3, “The Suicide of Thought,” has the thesis, “There is a thought that stops thought. That is the only thought that ought to be stopped. That is the ultimate evil against which all religious authority was aimed.” Chesterton asserts that Evolution (in a strong form; materialistic, naturalistic, atheistic) is just such a thought:

Evolution is a good example of that modern intelligence which, if it destroys anything, destroys itself. Evolution is either an innocent scientific description of how certain earthly things came about; or, if it is anything more than this, it is an attack upon thought itself. If evolution destroys anything, it does not destroy religion but rationalism. If evolution simply means that a positive thing called an ape turned very slowly into a positive thing called a man, then it is stingless for the most orthodox; for a personal God might just as well do things slowly as quickly, especially if, like the Christian God, he were outside time. But if it means anything more, it means that there is no such thing as an ape to change, and no such thing as a man for him to change into. It means that there is no such thing as a thing. At best, there is only one thing, and that is a flux of everything and anything. This is an attack not upon the faith, but upon the mind; you cannot think if there are no things to think about. You cannot think if you are not separate from the subject of thought. Descartes said, “I think; therefore I am.” The philosophic evolutionist reverses and negatives the epigram. He says, “I am not; therefore I cannot think.”

In other words, the presuppositions of the naturalist don’t account for (or allow!) personhood, nor meaningfulness.

[UPDATE] Now that I have finished listening to all of Orthodoxy, I offer one more quote about evolution. From ch. 7, Chesterton is discussing how Christianity puts man in a proper relationship with nature, but Darwinism tends either to bestial amorality (“insanely cruel”) or PETA (“insanely sentimental”):

Darwinism can be used to back up two mad moralities, but it cannot be used to back up a single sane one. The kinship and competition of all living creatures can be used as a reason for being insanely cruel or insanely sentimental; but not for a healthy love of animals. On the evolutionary basis you may be inhumane, or you may be absurdly humane; but you cannot be human. That you and a tiger are one may be a reason for being tender to a tiger. Or it may be a reason for being as cruel as the tiger. It is one way to train the tiger to imitate you, it is a shorter way to imitate the tiger. But in neither case does evolution tell you how to treat a tiger reasonably, that is, to admire his stripes while avoiding his claws.

If you want to treat a tiger reasonably, you must go back to the garden of Eden. For the obstinate reminder continued to recur: only the supernatural has taken a sane view of Nature. The essence of all pantheism, evolutionism, and modern cosmic religion is really in this proposition: that Nature is our mother. Unfortunately, if you regard Nature as a mother, you discover that she is a step-mother. The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister.