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.

Mankind. Masterpiece. Mesmerized.

Sometimes I do not have the greatest self-esteem in the world. As a task oriented person, if I fail at something I do, sometimes I feel as though I fail as a person. Though I know it is not supposed to be this way, and I try to change my oh-so ignorant ways, sometimes I nonetheless get into the rut of feeling worthless. I feel as though I am not good enough for God. I’m sure if you glance through the rest of my blogs you can tell that a lot of my posts deal with significance – the very thing that God is dealing with me. And though I know that grace is “getting what you don’t deserve,” I have trouble really feeling the grace of God sometimes.

With this I am reminded of the creation account in Genesis. Whether you believe in a literal six day creation, day age theory, the framework view, or another one of the myriad of exegetical interpretations, you have to admit that there is theological purpose behind what the writer pens. I was reading a book about the creation last semester for a class. One of the chapters I read talked about a theme that I never noticed before. As the author was talking about the “days” in the account, he pointed that all of these “days” had both a beginning and an ending… except for day seven. The day that God rested, he said, has never ended and that God is still at “rest” with His creation, waiting for the consummation of the age.

Why would God need to rest after “six days” of creating? It’s not like an all-powerful Being to get tired all of the sudden… what gives? Upon reading further the author explained that God wasn’t resting in the sense of being tired, but that He was resting in a sense of being “content” with His creation. He looked at this earth, the animals, and trees, with humans and all, and saw that “it was good.” This just reminds me of my own life.

I think of it in terms of art (every one who knows me says, “of course!”). When an artist invests his time into a piece, he works at it until it reaches its perfection. Hours of time are invested in the details of making sure every stroke is where it is needed to be. What might have started as a blank canvas ends as a masterpiece. The artist takes a step back, scratches his chin, and just soaks in the beauty of what he just created.

In the book of Ephesians, Paul spends the first half of the book reminding the Ephesian believers of who they are as children of God. Paul tells them who they were before they knew God, reminds them of what Christ did on their behalf, and boldly proclaims to them who they are now that they have accepted Christ as their savior. One of my favorite verses is in this section of the epistle. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Remember that you are God’s workmanship. That just as God spent time at the beginning of creation to perfectly shape and mold the crevices of the earth, he spent the same time molding and shaping you into the person you are. And though you are fallen now, as all man is, as a believer you show the workmanship of God through Christ. So don’t let anyone or anything in your life discourage you of that, because no matter what happens to you, God is always there ready to forgive you and receive you back into His loving arms.