The Great Debate on Science and the Bible – Program 6

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Ken Ham, Dr. Jason Lisle, Dr. Hugh Ross, Dr. Walter Kaiser, Jr.; ©2005
How Does Science Influence our Interpretation of the Bible?

Program 6: The Great Debate on Science and the Bible – How Does Science Influence our Interpretation of the Bible?


Today on The John Ankerberg Show, The Great Debate on Science and the Bible. My guests are Ken Ham and astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle of Answers in Genesis, debating astrophysicist Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe, and Dr. Walter Kaiser, distinguished professor of Old Testament and President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Today, has science proven through astronomy, modern physics, and geology, that the universe and the earth are billions of years old? If this is true, are Christians who teach that the universe is only 6,000 years old erecting a hindrance to those looking for a factual Christian faith? Or is the opposite true: that Christians who teach the days of Genesis are six long periods of time are really the one’s not interpreting the Bible literally?

These four men model how Christians who strongly disagree can discuss their different views with love and respect.

Join us for this important debate and hear both sides present their case.

Ankerberg: Welcome. We’re talking about the Bible and science, and one of the questions that all lay people have is, “Look, I don’t know a whole lot of science, and I know my Bible, and the fact is, how do I approach this topic?” And Dr. Kaiser, we were first of all asking last week, can we trust the record of nature? What does Scripture tell us about that? And then we understand that we’re coming back to a person’s view of what the word day means there. Would you tell us what your definition of the word day is there, because that’s going to influence what the scientists say? Then Ken’s got a comment here. So tell me, how did you get to a long period of time in Genesis 1 and 2?
Kaiser: John, I’ll spell it out as simply as I can. “Days” in Genesis are God-divided days, not sun-divided days. Sun doesn’t have an impact on the day until the fourth creative act of God. So we’ve got God-divided days. So I’ve got to give Him the opportunity to put into that word day what He needs to put into it. And this can only come as I gather all of the data of especially the Pentateuch, of the first five books, that Moses wrote under the inspiration of God.
Ankerberg: And, Ken, your view is?
Ham: Well, as we quoted in previous programs, I mean, the most respected lexicons that are widely used say that the word day in Genesis 1 means an ordinary day. And my point is that this is a revelation from God, and He is revealing to us a history when we weren’t there, and then He’s revealing to us what we need to know about who we are, where we came from, and the whole message of the Gospel and so on. And so “all Scripture is inspired by God,” [2 Tim. 3:16] from Genesis 1:1 to the end of Revelation. And therefore, because God communicates in a language, then that language,… words have meaning. And therefore, …
Ankerberg: I agree, but you would also agree that the lexicon that you’re quoting, for the word day, has different definitions.
Ham: But, John, that’s not even the point…
Ankerberg: Well, that is the point, because that’s the word.
Ham: No, it’s not! Because any word, any word, has two or more meanings, depending upon context. The point is, context determines meaning, and those lexicons say, in this context, when you have evening, morning and number…
Ankerberg: A lexicon is a dictionary, okay? After that you get a commentary in terms of how they think it should be interpreted. But I’m saying, if the word itself, from Scripture, has 12 hours, or 24 hours, or a long period of time, or Moses himself in Psalm 90 says it’s “like” a thousand years. [Psa. 90:4] It’s not exactly a thousand years, but it’s like it; it could be more. The fact is, if those definitions are possible, then my question is, how did you know that one of those lexical meanings is the meaning that we’ve got to use for Genesis 1?
Ham: It’s quite simple. Because you only have to look through how the word day is used in Genesis and then the rest of the Old Testament. And you know, Dr. Kaiser agrees, when day is used a preposition, be yom, it means “when”.
Ankerberg: Is that what you agree?
Kaiser: I used that as one of the arguments because it is said that in Genesis it is not used with a preposition. Indeed it is. In Genesis 2:4 it is used with a preposition.
Ham: Yes, but then it means “when”, correct?
Kaiser: No, it means “in the era”, …
Ham: Or time…
Kaiser: …or “in the period.” Yes.
Ham: Yes. Well, it’s translated “when” for some of the Scriptures. But “in the time” that God created.
Kaiser: Yes. Some of the same scholars you quote also used “when” for Genesis 1:1, “When God began to create the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void. Darkness was upon the face of the earth. And the Spirit of God was moving upon the face of the waters. Then God said….” [Gen. 1:1-2] You have half of the Bible translations, by Koehler, Baumgartner, and others, wanting to do a “when-then” kind of thing, again because the scholars are influenced by the Babylonian story, Enuma Elish, “When above, when the gods began to create…” So they used the Babylonian story and say that’s how the biblical story came, and they, too, try to use the “when-then.” But it’s only in Genesis 2:4 that it would be appropriate: in the time, in the period, when God had created all of these six events.
Ham: But, obviously, you know, the one thing that we have to understand is that we’re not saying the word day only has one meaning. But the major meaning of the word day is an ordinary day. It has a primary meaning…
Ankerberg: But the question is, major…
Ham: …and, context determines…
Ankerberg: But major means what, in the sense of, if we all agree we’ve got three different definitions? What we’re talking about is, if we called one of those definitions, all of them are Mr. X, and we’re letting the record of nature, which Scripture says gives us accurate information, the question is, can’t that information from God – God also gave us that information – can’t that help supply our information for Genesis 1?
Ham: John, if languages don’t have rules and conventions in regard to words and word usage and so on, we’d never communicate on anything. And this gets to be, you know, I mean…
Ankerberg:But aren’t you [Kaiser] saying that the rules allow that?
Kaiser: And the rules are, context is important. And I’m still trying to say that God worked on three separate works before He instituted our common usage. Our common usage was uncommon on Day 1, Day 2, Day 3. And Koehler-Baumgartner and Brown-Driver-Briggs notwithstanding, are not picking up that sensitive point that a person who is committed to creationism, and is committed to full inerrancy of Scripture, would pick up.
Ankerberg: Alright, let’s get the scientists in here. Hugh, does this make sense to you? And then, Jason, does this make sense to you, in terms of the word day here?
Ross: Well, this was debated at great length by the International Council of Biblical Inerrancy that was convened in the late 1970s and 1980s. And they wound up publishing several articles on how to integrate the record of nature with the words of the Bible. And they stated both came from God, both are reliable, and in particular they made this statement: “We affirm that since God is the author of all truth, all truths biblical and extra biblical are consistent and cohere. And the Bible speaks truth when it touches on matters pertaining to nature, history or anything else. We further affirm that in some cases, extra biblical data [which I believe is a reference to general revelation] have value for clarifying what Scripture teaches and for prompting correction of faulty interpretations.” Then they came up with a denial: “We deny that extra biblical views ever disprove the teaching of Scripture or hold priority over it.”
Ankerberg: Alright, now Answers in Genesis, you agreed with that statement, didn’t you?
Ham: Well, we, you know, if you read the…
Ankerberg: I thought you guys signed that. Did you sign that?
Ham: No, no.
Ankerberg: Did you agree to it?
Ham: No.
Ankerberg: Alright, do you agree to what the Council of Inerrancy came up with?
Lisle: Well, we certainly agree on the inerrancy of Scripture, that Scripture is inerrant. But we would say that it’s very clear that it teaches ordinary days, because of the syntagmatic relationship with evening and morning and so on. And, you know, I would want to clarify, too. God didn’t make days on the fourth day, He made the markers that mark days for our benefit. God, of course, doesn’t need time markers. God knows how to keep time. But for our benefit, He put the sun, the moon and the stars to be for lights on the earth. God was providing the light for the first three days. But they were ordinary days, because you have evening and morning, you see. The length of the day, by the way, is determined by earth’s rotation, primarily, so it has very little to do with the sun anyway. God just put the sun on the fourth day to be that permanent light-bearer.
Ankerberg: Alright, Hugh?
Ross: I mean, are you really saying that there was no sun or sun equivalent before the fourth day?
Lisle: I would say that there was light before the fourth day, because the Bible tells us that there was light on the first day, …
Ross: Of course.
Lisle: …but no, there was no sun.
Ross: And no gravity? No heat?
Lisle: Well, there would be,… I assume there would be heat, because…
Ross: … no spectral response?
Lisle: … because there would be a complete,… I’m assuming there would a complete spectrum there.
Ross: What about gravity?
Lisle: Well, there would be gravity on earth, of course.
Ross: No, I mean gravity exerted by the sun on the earth?
Lisle: I don’t know that there would be gravity exerted by the sun on the earth.
Ankerberg: Well, let me slow it down…
Ham: But what I think…
Ankerberg: Let me slow this down for the audience. Because if we say that the earth was in existence before we got to Day 4, and all of a sudden on Day 4, God dropped in the sun, moon and stars, if I understand what Hugh is saying, we would have a big problem with gravity. In other words, the whole thing would be blown apart.
Ross: Right.
Ham: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. We’re talking about an infinite Creator God here, who’s infinite in power. We’re talking about a God who, in Hezekiah’s day, the shadow went backwards. We’re talking about a God who in Joshua’s day, from man’s perspective looking at the sun, the sun and the moon stopped in the sky. We’re talking about a God who can do anything, who can create the universe, who sustains everything by the power of His word.…
Ankerberg: We all agree that God can do everything. The question is, …
Ham: An infinite Creator God can do anything He wants!
Ankerberg: What does the text say there? That’s the question?
Ham: The text says God made the heavens and the earth and He made light. And He made the sun, moon and stars on Day 4. That’s what the text says.
Ankerberg: Alright, let’s talk about that. Is that what the text says?
Ross: I don’t think that’s what the text says. I mean, there are 20 creation accounts in the Bible, and we have to look at all 20 to understand…
Ham: Hugh, when you look at the Psalms and Psalm 104 and Psalm 90, they’re poetic literature. Genesis 1 and the details in Genesis 2 are an account of cosmology. None of the others are given as an account of the history of the universe.
Ross: Are you actually saying that there are creation accounts elsewhere that contradict what’s in Genesis? I mean, don’t you agree that it’s consistent?
Ham: I’m saying the references to the creation account in Genesis elsewhere in the Bible are totally consistent with it, but they’re not creation accounts as a history.
Ankerberg: Alright, we’re talking about, does the record of nature testify truthfully about what God has done, and are there other passages in Scripture that accurately talk about what’s going on in Genesis 1? And, Hugh, you had a comment.
Ross: Yes, I did, but let me respond first to what Ken said about the sun. I do agree that God could have created a sun for the first three days, removed that sun and replaced it with a second sun…
Ham: Oh, it doesn’t even have to be a sun. He can do anything, right?
Ross: Well, it would have to be something with the same mass or the gravitational pull as the sun with the same light and the same heat.
Ham: We don’t know how God works all His supernatural powers. He can do anything, right?
Ross: Ken, listen. What I’m saying is that if God did something like that, it would leave a record. It would change the characteristics of the motions of the planets and the asteroids. When God performs a miracle, He doesn’t erase the evidence of that miracle. And when we astronomers look at the dynamics of the solar system, we see no evidence that God had done something for these …
Ham: When God healed people, there was no evidence left of their disease.
Ross: But the healing was there. We could see that they were healed.
Ham: Well, now it was brand new,…
Ross: Well, my only …
Ham: …so there’s no evidence of what happened in the past. If someone was to examine them without knowing what had happened, do you…
Ross: But in the case of the solar system, God would actually have to erase the evidence of what He’d done. He’d have to fool us into thinking He didn’t perform a miracle at all. When God performs a miracle, there’s clear evidence of that miracle. In the case of the solar system, there’s no record of that. There’s no evidence that that’s happened.
Ham: Well, when God performed miracles in raising people from the dead, if you weren’t there to see it, you’re just going to see a live person walking around.
Ross: But there were people there that did see it. I mean…
Ham: Oh, the witnesses …
Ross: …why would God fool the astronomers? I mean, you’re claiming He performed this miracle, but when we look at the evidence of the solar system, there’s no evidence of that miracle.
Ham: God is infinite in power, infinite in wisdom, infinite in knowledge…
Ross: I appreciate that.
Ham: He can do anything that He wants to do. And His ways are above our ways.
Ross: True.
Ham: We don’t have to understand what He does.
Ross: But it’s a God that can’t lie or deceive. I mean, what you’re proposing would force us to conclude that God has deceived us.
Ham: Not at all! We don’t know what He did to create the universe. We don’t know the particular things that were involved in that. Those things aren’t happening today, nor operating today. Isn’t that right, Jason?
Lisle: That’s right. I mean, God’s way of creating the universe is different than His way of upholding the universe. And we know that, because God ended His work of creation on the seventh day. So whatever God was doing on those first days of the creation week, He’s not doing it today. He’s doing something different.
Ankerberg: Alright, then let me ask you this, Jason, has God fooled the scientists by making the universe look old when in fact it’s young?
Lisle: Not at all. In fact, whenever I hear somebody say, well, the universe looks old, you know, that tells me more about their starting point than the evidence. Because I think the universe looks young. When you start with the right assumptions, I think it looks thousands of years old, which is actually very old, isn’t it? I mean, thousands of years is quite a piece. But, no, the universe doesn’t look old. You see…
Ankerberg: But does the astronomical community, I mean, by and large, agree with what you’re saying?
Lisle: Well, no, but then again, the astronomical community…
Ankerberg: Okay, but the fact is…
Lisle: … doesn’t agree with Jesus Christ being raised from the dead.
Ankerberg: … are all of their measurements wrong then?
Lisle: Their measurements, there’s nothing wrong with the measurements, it’s the interpretation of the data. See, we all have the same evidence, don’t we? We all have the same stars and galaxies, we all have the same universe. It’s how we interpret that data that’s different. And our interpretation is based on our starting points. And most secular astronomers, the vast majority of them, …
Ankerberg: If you didn’t have…
Lisle: …assume naturalism.
Ankerberg: If you didn’t have a biblical starting point, would you come to the same conclusion?
Lisle: You know, I don’t know if I would or not, to be honest with you; because the Bible is my starting point. I don’t apologize for that. It’s the Word of God.
Ankerberg: Alright, go the opposite way, if the Bible allows that, what does the record of nature also tell you about the Bible?
Ross: Well, I’d like to address this issue of assumptions. Because you’re right, it all is assumption-based. But in some cases, the assumptions are indisputable. For example, I’ve got a research paper just published in the Astrophysical Journal titled “Model Independent Determination of the Expansion and Acceleration Rates of the Universe.” And it’s making the point that we can measure the expansion history of the universe, and show that it’s 13.7 billion years old, based on only two indisputable assumptions. One assumption is that general relativity reliably describes the dynamics of massive bodies in the universe. The other is that the universe is very approximately flat in its geometry. Now, you’re an astronomer, I’m an astronomer. We all know astronomers. No astronomer denies that general relativity reliably describes the dynamics of the universe. It’s better proven than Newton’s Laws of Motion. Likewise, none of us can deny that the universe is spatially flat to within an order of magnitude. And therefore, we really do have the conclusion that the universe has been continuously expanding for about 14 billion years. It’s based on two assumptions, but the assumptions can’t be disputed.
Lisle: Well, there are some additional assumptions though, aren’t there?
Ross: No, it’s only two.
Lisle: And one assumption is… No, there’s one more.
Ross: That’s what it says in the paper. Just two.
Lisle: Well, that’s what he’s claiming, but there’s one more. And that one more is naturalism. It assumes…
Ross: No.
Lisle: …that God did not supernaturally create the universe; because if God supernaturally created the universe, He could have created it at any point, with any expansion rate, with any size.
Ross: Well, let me tell you a story. I went to Tokyo a number of years ago, and spoke at the National Observatory there. And all these Japanese astronomers were coming in to my talk. Now, this is a nation that’s 1.5% Christian. And yet, when I talked to the astronomers after my message, half of them said that they were Christians already, and half of the other half said they were studying the Bible to become Christians. So I said, “What was it that brought you to this position in a nation that’s 98.5% non-Christian?” And every one of them talked about the evidence for the Big Bang creation event, of how general relativity speaks of the beginning of space and time; and then the anthropic principle, how when we look at the universe, we see it has these exquisitely fine-tuned characteristics of design. So I don’t think it’s right to say that naturalism is driving them to these conclusions. There’s just way too many evangelical astronomers in the different nations of the world for us to draw that conclusion.
Lisle: Well, keep in mind, though, the origins of the Big Bang. I mean, this was not a theory developed by Christians for Christians, was it? I mean, most of these scientists that developed the Big Bang were secular astronomers competing with another secular model. It’s true that the Big Bang, at least some versions of the Big Bang, teach a beginning to the universe, and it’s true that the Bible teaches a beginning to the universe. But one point of agreement doesn’t mean that they are the same thing, does it. Because there are many points…
Ross: There are several points of agreement. The Bible also talks about a continuously expanding universe. That’s part of the Big Bang model. The Big Bang model talks about how the universe has constant physics. This, too, is in the Bible, that we live in a universe where God has fixed the laws that govern the universe. And it’s a universe that gets colder and colder as it gets older and older. And you’re a physicist; you know that if you’ve got constant physics, and the universe is continuously expanding, that’s a universe that gets colder and colder as it gets older and older. And we have direct measurements to show us that the universe at great distances is much hotter than the universe we see up close. We can actually measure the universe getting colder and colder as it goes from the creation event to the present day. And it gets colder and colder with exactly the values we would predict from the Big Bang creation model.
Ham: I think it’s important to understand that because we all have the same evidence, the same evidence is going to come up whatever model that you have. But there’s going to be different interpretations of that based upon your starting point. And I still maintain that philosophical naturalism is at the basis of these issues, Big Bang, old earth. I mean, old earth wasn’t even popularized until the 1700s, 1800s, which, unwittingly or not, or whether we recognize it or not, has caused many people to even doubt the Scriptures, or reinterpret the Scriptures. And even, you know, Dr. Kaiser, you said, you know, in regard to the age of the earth or things like that at the beginning, you said I’m not a theologian, leave it to the scientists. The very fact that we make such a statement, it means we’ve been influence to think that only scientists can talk about history and the beginning, when we have a witness who was there, who knows everything. This should be our starting place.
Ankerberg: Is that what you’re saying, Dr. Kaiser?
Kaiser: No. I really think there is general revelation. I think God holds us accountable to it. I think that ….
Ham: But general revelation is also fallen, isn’t it?
Kaiser: It’s what?
Ham: Fallen. It’s suffering from sin and the curse.
Kaiser: No more than the biblical interpreter. The biblical interpreter is fallen, too.
Ham: But the …
Kaiser: The theologian that handles it…
Ham: But the words of Scripture are not fallen, are they?
Kaiser: The words of Scripture are always true, because God gave them.
Ham: Okay.
Kaiser: And that’s why you really have to count, I’m sure as you do, that there is the fallen scientist, there is the fallen theologian. And the fallen theologian can begin with a theory also, and a presupposition. You’ve got to examine the assumptions of the theologian. Why does that theologian want to start that way? And what were the motivations that really began that?
Ham: And my assumption is that I’m going to take Scripture in a grammatical, historical way. In other words, I’m taking what is says, that it’s the Word of God, that’s what it claims, and I know there’s different sorts of literature, there’s history, poetry, I’m going to let it speak to me in the best of my ability, the best of my ability, let those words in their plain, ordinary sense, the obvious meaning, the plain sense, let them speak to me, knowing that I am a fallible interpreter. But I’m much more likely to get the truth there than I am to try and interpret a nonverbal, a nonverbal …
Kaiser: But, Ken, you and I both begin on that same way, so there must be something else. And indeed there is.
Ham: That’s right. There has to be something else driving it.
Kaiser: And it is that you began also with an assumption, “The word day must mean what I say that it does,” in spite of my gentle way, I hope, of trying to help you understand, there were three of these whatchamacallits before God made the one that is in your common understanding. I’ve said that repeatedly, and apparently you’re saying, “That’s not good enough for me. I see what you’re saying, and I don’t know how to refute it, and it does sound biblical, but it doesn’t go according to my basic presupposition.”
Ham: Well, …
Ankerberg: Alright, let’s hold it until next week and we’ll pick it up right there. Join us.

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