Saturday, August 16, 2008

Response to Zebedee

Zebedee, a commenter on my Genesis Days post below, posted a polite critique.

He makes two points, both of which will be addressed in later lessons. Nevertheless I thought a short post devoted to Zebedee’s two points of contention would be in order.

Zebedee’s first point concerns the Hebrew word yöm which gets translated as day in Genesis and throughout the Old Testament. This word has several possible meanings including the daylight portion of a day, a literal 24 hour day, or an indeterminate period such as “in my great grandfather’s day.” The latter accommodates the translation as age or era. Many old earthers, of course, want to apply this definition, that of age, to the six yöms of the Genesis creation account.

That sets the stage for Zebedee’s first point:
The first [point] is the Hebrew term "yom" and its significance throughout scripture when combined with a numerical preceding it, or concluding it. Dr. Morris, and others, have concluded that when "day" is used in this context, such as "the first day", "one day" (depending on your translation), it always refers to a literal 24 hour period when used in the Bible.
I think this is an invalid criticism for two reasons.

The first, and rather strangely the lesser in importance, is that it is not strictly true. Zebedee is arguing that anytime yöm is used in an ordinal sense, it always refers to a literal day. But In Hosea, we read:
1“Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. (Hosea 6:1-2)
In verse 2, the word yöm (day) is used with an ordinal number—the third day. Yet the common interpretation of this passage is both as a Messianic prophesy and the expectation of a long, indeterminate period of affliction and suffering for Israel (e.g., see the commentaries by John Calvin and Matthew Henry).

The second response to the “ordinal usage” argument is based on opportunity. The argument simply carries no weight given that, in all the Old Testament, the only opportunity to use a phrase such as first era, second era, etc. is in Genesis One. It is not found elsewhere in the Old Testament because the need for it never arises. Yes, it is much, much more common to refer to ordinary days in an ordinal sense than ages, and so naturally that usage dominates. To give this point teeth, YECs must find an instance where age is used in an ordinal sense and then argue: see, when the writer really meant to use age in an ordinal sense, he used a different word than yöm.

Zebedee’s second point is:
While offering a positive, or seemingly acceptable view for a "scientific view", your article appears to offer a far less favorable view of the late Dr. Henry Morris, and Dr. John Morris' assertions (both of whom are highly esteemed amongst their peers).
Fair enough, but I want to emphasize on what basis I am most severely criticizing the Drs. Morris. It is not on the basis that they believe in a young earth. It is because they are too liberal. Not literal, but liberal. That is, they take too many liberties with scripture. In particular, they argue that any death before the fall would render Christ, the Son of God, the Creator of all things, powerless to redeem anyone. In the article I quoted in the previous post, John Morris writes:
The doctrine of salvation likewise falls, for if death preceded sin, then death is not the penalty for sin, and Christ's death on the cross—accomplished nothing.
(The essay from John Morris can be found in its entirety here.)

This amounts to arguing: If an elephant, (oops, my bad) crushed an ant before the fall, Christ in heaven would have had no recourse other than to say: Ruh roh, that whole redemption plan that was laid out among the three of us just went down the tubes. Bummer.

And that is an argument that has no basis in scripture. And yet Morris and others use it to cast aspersions and question the orthodoxy of those who do not accept a young earth view. That is legalism, the most insidious form of liberalism, and it is very unappetizing.

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