The Age of the Earth and the Age of the Argument

My friend Paul is hilarious.

He is the guy that can post a random status and instantly get close to 100 likes in the first hour. He is no celebrity, so in my eyes that is mighty impressive. He is the social butterfly with the charisma to attract a room. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love him. One of my favorite things that Paul does (and I promise I haven’t gotten sick of it yet) is when he says that everything is based on a true story. Last week a few of us were talking about going to see the opening show for Guardians of the Galaxy, and then Paul chimes in: “I hear that’s based on a true story.”

The joke is funny, because everyone knows the movie with talking raccoons, personified plants, and outer space awesomeness is anything but non-fiction. Everyone who hears the joke knows this, because they have a firm grasp not only of reality but also of movie genres. One can look at a movie preview and get a feel of where it is at in the spectrum of real and wonder. And even more so than that, people can even watch movies based on true stories and see where there is added drama to make the movie more entertaining – otherwise it would be a documentary. Understanding this doesn’t take away from the historicity of the event. Understanding this is to understand the purpose of the product – whether it is to inform, persuade, or entertain the viewer.

I think this is where the controversy lies with Michael Gungor and the comments he made about his view of the “literal” interpretation of the Old Testament – specifically in reference to Creation and a historical Adam and Eve. Many people read the bible as though it were meant to be historic by our standards, as though the earth can be dated through genealogies, and as though the text was INTENDED to be scientific. The people who hold these opinions strongly and don’t understand why others might think differently do so because they either don’t understand biblical genres or the purpose of biblical texts. I’m not saying that all people who claim to believe in a young earth do so out of ignorance. What I’m saying is that they are being ignorant if they think there isn’t a rational reason to think otherwise.

In Gungor’s response to the recent criticism, he even makes reference that at least some of the biblical authors believed the earth was flat and stood on pillars. Not every passage in the Bible is intended to be taken literally. Many prophecies and psalms and texts use imagery to convey truths in a way that is more engaging. Using anthropomorphic language to describe the attributes of God doesn’t mean that God actually has a physical form, but it is relating God to man in a way that he understands. Does this take away from the legitimacy of the text? No. Does this mean the text isn’t inspired? Not at all. What it does mean is that God’s intention wasn’t to be scientific, and then, like now, God speaks to people in ways that they understand. I don’t understand why Gungor is getting all this heat for telling people they shouldn’t be so quick to judge others. And I commend him for coming out and saying what he believed. I’m sure he knew there would be some backlash. He, like many silent evangelicals, knows that there is a price to sticking by your convictions – especially if you’re in the minority.

Being in the minority and standing by convictions never stopped others from holding the same beliefs that Gungor holds. St. Augustine of Hippo seemed in the middle in terms of the age of the earth. At least to him it wasn’t something that deemed someone a heretic. And there are other early church fathers who hold the same beliefs. There are even more credible people in recent years that hold to a similar belief as Gungor – one being CS Lewis. Lewis was very skeptical of the historicity of the Old Testament and believed that the Creation story wasn’t intended to be taken literally. He even ventured to say that other Old Testament passages such as Job, Esther, and possibly even Jonah were mythologies and stories of fiction. We don’t burn Lewis’ books. We don’t call him a heretic. Because Lewis was a writer, he looked at the Bible as literature and knew that different stories from different time periods of different genres were meant to be read different ways. And most importantly, Lewis’ view of the Old Testament didn’t affect his view of the New Testament. He believed that the Gospels were inspired, and he believed in the resurrection.

Even my own denomination, the Assemblies of God, doesn’t hold to a literal 6-Day young earth interpretation of the Creation account. I’m glad my denomination understands that this isn’t a hill to die on. Even in the past several years, the A/G has invited its members to conferences surrounding “faith and science.” The Assemblies used to hold firmly to a literal 6-Day Creation, but now they just have three truths they hold on to: 1) God is the Creator, 2) He created the universe ex nihilo, and 3) Humanity is the apex of creation. Whether or not one wants to believe God created the earth millions of years ago or several thousand years ago is only secondary to these three points.

If you look at the Creation account in Genesis compared to the creation accounts in other Ancient Near Eastern cultures, you’ll notice something – that they are VERY similar. Maybe the Creation account was meant as a response to other beliefs on the world’s formation. While some people believed that the universe was birthed from both good and evil, the bible says that God’s intention was for creation to be good from the get go. It wasn’t evil that had corrupted creation, it was man that corrupted creation by succumbing to evil. While other cultures worshiped the sun, God made light on day one but didn’t create the sun until day four – the sun ultimately points to the splendor of God and not the splendor of itself.

What ultimately points to the splendor of God? For Christians, I don’t think it matters whether God created the universe in six days or several billions years – the importance is that God is the Creator of it all. While the scientific naturalist is a slave to his theories in order to explain away a deity, Christians know that God is still miraculous whether that miracle is done in a short amount of time or a long amount of time. Jesus’ resurrection would’ve still been miraculous if Jesus resurrected on day two instead of day three. We don’t take away from the Bible or God’s miraculous power by believing in an old earth instead of a young earth. There is much more that I would like to say. This is one short article, but I know there are countless books written on this subject. Luckily for me, there are many people more qualified than me who have talked about this matter. I just wanted to write a short challenge to think outside the box. Where do you stand, and why do you stand there on the issue?

Noah: A Review

It was difficult going into a movie without bias or prejudice. I now understand why jurors in a courtroom shouldn’t have prior knowledge of the case they will be sitting through and making assessments on – their prior experience has clouded what they may think of the case. “Noah” is no different – among conservative evangelicals and many others, Noah stands on trial. For the sake of those wanting to watch the film, I’ll save any spoilers for the end of the article (and let you know when I start to spoil things). For additional input, I loved what Brett McCracken had to say for Converge and this article that was posted by RELEVANT.

NOAH

I give Noah a solid C.

While many of us cringe to see our favorite books or novels be made into films, Aronofsky already made his viewers skeptics by picking a biblical narrative. Most other bible stories have chapters or even whole books they can go off of, while the Noah account only has several chapters at best (in which Noah only speak three verses!). Anyone wanting to make a movie out of Noah has to fill in all the gaps somehow. This is where I can see most people getting upset with the film. Aronofsky doesn’t take anything away from the Noah narrative, but what he adds may make people angry.

Here’s what I liked. I liked how human Noah was. I liked how tragic the movie was, yet how merciful God was. I liked how God was a central character to the film. I liked how the movie used a story from the past and made it resonate with people of today. I definitely wasn’t angry throughout the whole film. I left feeling challenged at some points, with slight disappointment towards some of the film’s artistic executions.

First, I want to tackle some misconceptions. Those who say God is not in the movie have no clue what they are talking about. God is a central character in the film, only being referenced to as “The Creator” – a move that makes sense with how close Noah is to the Creation Story. God is seen as the one who made the earth. He is also the merciful God who is sparing Noah and the judging God that is condemning mankind.

Another misconception is that this is an environmentalist film. While taking care of God’s creation is an important issue in the movie, it is as big of an issue in the movie as it is in the biblical account. God has called mankind to be stewards of His creation, and they are being wasteful. This is something I think Aronofsky plays well with. Cain is the one who started the first civilization. Being wasteful and wrecking the environment is just a physical representation of how evil mankind has gotten. You won’t feel like mankind is bad because they hate the environment. You’ll feel like they are evil all over even to how they treat God’s creation.

Within the first several minutes of the film, you get the sense that this world isn’t quite like the world we live in today. When watching it, I couldn’t help but have a feeling like I was in a place similar to Middle Earth, and fortunately many others agree. With Noah being only ten generations since the Garden, earth before the flood has almost a mystical and whimsical sense to it. Many of the characters even have shaman-like powers verging on witchery. Is this what prophets used to be like? Creation before the Flood seems to still have a lot of the residue left from when God was in the Garden of Eden. But does making the earth seem like a mythical place take away from the main plot? I think there are some places where Aronofsky succeeds and some places where he fails. I think it was Aronofsky’s intention to have the audience feel like they were between worlds. He was nearly successful with it.

What I loved the most about the movie was how dark and real it was as far as the situation at hand. Here you have a man whose family are the only people to survive their own prehistoric apocalypse. Building the ark isn’t something that was filled with bliss and happiness. Throughout the film, Noah wrestles with his obedience to God and struggles to understand what God is trying to tell him. Noah, like the biblical Noah, was a man, and after the flood you see Noah having to live with the choices he has made up to this point. After seeing all of mankind destroyed, the first thing Noah does is drink away his pain. Noah is someone who I think anyone can relate to, and I applaud Aronofsky for that. Whether or not you think a prophet should be relatable is your opinion, but Noah is a man who struggles with his choices, misunderstands the full message of God’s commands, and is fallible.

Okay, so how was the film as far as just being a work of art?

It definitely wasn’t perfect. It was choppy and busy. The plot was very complex and everything hit a climax at one point of the film. In my opinion, it was a train wreck that ended up being turned into a piece of art. The points leading to the climax were catastrophic. But I thought the resolution was masterful. It was a movie with a brilliant development and a brilliant conclusion.

The cinematography was weird. I felt like many times the artistic dimension of the film was a bit forced. If anyone has seen a film by Terrence Malick, I feel like Aronofsky was going for an artistic feel much like one of his films. I just feel like Aronofsky failed to capitalize on it. In the end, the piecing of the film didn’t seem natural. I wasn’t swept into the dreams and visions and stories. There were places in the film where the CGI was brilliant and beautiful then there were other places where it was terrible. The post-production was very inconsistent, but that could be because they spent so much time trying to please their target audience. I also thought the acting was a bit over-the-top. If you see this as a Hamlet-esque film (like McCracken described it), then maybe this is okay. There were moments when the actors were brilliant, then there would be monologues that seemed again, forced. I thought it was just boarder-line cheesy at times – reaching for the audience to feel emotions by over-selling them on the screen.

Like I said before, I think the biggest problem people will have will be with what Aronofsky added. I don’t think most of it is objectively wrong, but for subjective reasons, I didn’t like much of it.

SPOILERS ahead.

Glenn Beck’s biggest problem with the movie seemed to be Aronofsky’s interpretation of “The Watchers” or Nephilim (Gen 6:1-4). In the bible, in simplest terms, these are fallen angels. While most people have their own ideas of what angels look like (that are equally inaccurate in the biblical sense), Aronofsky has these fallen angels being molded in the form of Rock Men. They almost reminded me of Tree Beard from LOTR. I haven’t yet decided if I didn’t like them because I thought they were too mythological or that I thought they just looked stupid from bad CGI, but I didn’t like them. I try to think though of something better that Aronofsky could’ve done – maybe Giants or just glorified human beings – but I don’t know if anything would make The Watchers cool. I don’t know if the story would be better without them. Before you get angry with this, remember that the bible also has tales of Leviathan and other creatures we try to write away or create explanations for. This is just one man’s explanation, and I just wasn’t a fan of it. By the time the Flood came, God had mercy on the Watchers and welcomed them back into heaven. This part was probably one of the most unsettling parts of the film for me. I’m sure it will leave you wondering too why God would have mercy on them and not on all of mankind. Thinking about their role in the film is dizzying.

There is also a brief glimpse of evolution in the film. If you aren’t looking for it though, you probably won’t notice it. While on the ark, Noah takes time to tell his family again the story of Creation. While going through the days of Creation, you see each animal group evolve into the next. What I applaud Aronofsky for is not showing that happen to mankind. Mankind still held a special place in the movie. Adam and Eve were wrapped in light. They were still set apart. This may unsettle some, but for me it wasn’t a big deal. Mankind was still set apart. Not only so, but the evolution montage was beautifully done and only filled about one or two minutes of the nearly two and a half hour film.

The movie is filled with Noah wrestling with his obedience to God and not wanting to be merciful at all to mankind. At the end of the film, I thought Aronofsky showed God’s mercy beautifully as Noah makes a decision to spare his family from the destruction of God. Throughout the film Noah thinks that humans will no longer take part in God’s creation. He assumes that if God wants to kill off all of mankind, then he and his family would be the last of them, dying off once Noah’s youngest son passes away. Noah comes across as a lunatic for a good hour of the movie as he tries to understand the task God wants him to fulfill, and he struggles to take it to its bitter end. At the end of the film, God is seen as a Being who either allows mankind the freedom to choose his destiny or a Being who knew Noah’s choice from the beginning (thus giving him the task to begin with). Only a bible scholar will notice the tightrope walked for this part of the film. This will definitely put a bitter taste in the mouth of anyone looking at the narrative through Sunday School eyes. But it causes Noah’s humanity stand out. Noah isn’t God in this movie as much as any of mankind is. The reason for Noah’s survival isn’t necessarily his goodness but God’s mercy.

This film definitely isn’t perfect. It definitely isn’t a Christian film. This is about the God of the Old Testament, so there is no need to mention Christ. It definitely could be toxic to anyone wanting to use it to further bash God or Christians. But when the movie ends, I don’t know of a person who wouldn’t want to pick up their bible as soon as they get home.

The Pipe. The Symptoms. The Significance.

Warren’s persona lingers on in the stereotype of the men of his age. The generation that lived amidst the Great War – the Second World War – was a group of people who worked hard and were tough to the core. Warren wasn’t any different. He was a man’s man. He drank beer, worked hard, and loved to smoke his pipe. He would even watch John Wayne. After a long day on the job, Warren would come home, sit in his recliner, and light his pipe. He was the image and prototype of the American Dream.

Shortly after the War, it was finally proven the health risks of tobacco smoke. But that didn’t stop Warren from enjoying his daily fix. The days melted together over the fabric of the next decade, as Warren would go to work, come home to his family, and have a smoke. Though the lung cancer was inevitable, it still caught Warren by surprise. The following weeks would be tough for him. How would he tell his family? What would he do for treatment? What changes would he have to make in his life? He felt as though his life was already over.

In the simplest terms, what is Warren’s story about? It isn’t about how smoking is bad. Though it can be easily surmised from the story, the story is about something else. It is about the affects of Warren’s smoking. It is about his cancer.

In the beginning of existence there was nothing. This is the start of God’s story. God brought material where there was an abyss. He brought order where there was chaos as he shaped the planets and stars amidst the mass of dark matter. Before there was even a sun the light of the Lord’s presence illuminated in the darkness of space. From the inorganic material throughout the universe he created, God molded together organic material, and there was life. And like a master painter finishing his most-anticipated work, God takes a step back and with delight He looks at the universe, the world, and His creation, and he sees that it is good. The whole story of creation crescendos into the apex of when God creates a man named Adam.

Adam and Eve were the focus of God’s creation. They were made in His image. They were carriers of God’s glory. They held the presence of God and the glory of God, but they were physical beings. Because of this, they were special and made stewards over the rest of the created order.

But Adam and Eve didn’t obey the one command that God gave them. Through temptation and their own desires, they chose to eat from the tree that held the knowledge of good and evil. They lost God’s glory that was given to them in their creation. In Romans 3, it says that we all sin and fall short of God’s glory. What Paul is saying is that we are all sinners, and, like Adam, we have lost God’s glory. Through Adam’s disobedience, death was brought into the world.

This is how Adam’s act of disobedience affects us. Think of it this way. Right now America is at a pivotal place. The President is urging us to go to war against Syria. People are getting persecuted in the Middle East, and there is great dispute as to whether we should get involved or not. If the government decides to go to war, all of the American people are “in war” with Syria, whether they agree with the decision or not. In the same way, we might not like the choice that Adam made. We might wish that it all went down a different way. But we are all fallen because of the action of Adam.

Paul spends a great deal of time talking about Adam and the outcome of his action. In Romans 5:12-21, Paul compares and contrasts Adam with Christ. In verse 14, Paul says specifically that Adam is the prototype, or model, or pattern that points to Christ. Adam is a prototype in that he is a figure from the beginning of time pointing to a figure at the end of time. Christ isn’t just an afterthought of God’s plan. Jesus wasn’t a plan B, but his coming into the world has been planned since the earth’s conception. And here, Paul spends considerable time looking at Adam and Christ.

Both Adam and Jesus were men who, in themselves, changed the course of the world with a single action. Adam had one act of disobedience. He ate the apple, and through his action the whole world now experiences sin and death. Christ had one act of obedience. He died the sinner’s death of crucifixion, and through his death and resurrection the whole world can now experience grace and eternal life. Adam might be the prototype of mankind, but Christ is the perfection of it.

Just how the focus of Warren’s story isn’t that smoking is bad, the story of Adam isn’t focused on his sin. The story of Adam is focused on the affect of his sin – death. Death was Adam’s cancer, and the world is dying to the cancer the same way Warren’s diagnosis is killing him.

Warren would be crazy to think that him quitting his pipe would cure his disease. If he just tried to stop the coughing or the wheezing, he wouldn’t be curing the disease, he would be only pointing out his symptoms. In the same way, the Law in the Old Testament is like trying to cure lung cancer by not smoking anymore. The Law is merely pointing out the symptoms of someone who deserves spiritual and physical death.

But what if there was a cure that was offered for that cancer? What if someone created a cure for lung cancer and offered it to everyone? What would that mean for Warren? If Warren’s lungs get cured, he wouldn’t have the symptoms of cancer anymore. He wouldn’t have spots on his lungs, and he wouldn’t cough the same way he did when the cancer was present. And he would be crazy to start smoking again.

Christ is the response to the cancer we know as death. Where the Law points out the symptoms of a sinful life that leads to this death, Christ offers the solution and the cure, which is the defeat of death. In Romans 5, death is personified. It is a villain. And Christ defeats death with his resurrection.

Here is the big point. Adam’s one act of disobedience led to many people experiencing death. But, despite the fact that ALL of mankind was disobedient, Christ chose to die for them. The whole world was at fault, but God chose to be graceful. This is why Christ’s action is so significant. This is why he is the perfection of the prototype.