Open Letter

Floods, Science and Religion, Kinds, Evening and Morning – Sustained

Hill Roberts
(c) 2000, Hill Roberts, Permission granted to publish whole and without alteration.

 


Editor's Note: This article by Hill Roberts continues the discussion generated by the Open Letter found elsewhere in this issue. Please return to the front page of Watchman by clicking here, to find other articles written by Hill Roberts and those who have reviewed him and his teaching. In this issue, brother Daniel H. King, Sr. reviews this article. You can read brother King's article by clicking here.


A.   Concerning the Flood:

I believe in a worldwide flood. I believe it was global. However, for physical reasons, I do not expect to find any global deposits in evidence of the global flood of Noah. There has been misunderstanding of this. In a recent public virtual-forum I wrote:

Based on study of textural analyses by men more skilled at it than I, it seems there is some textural uncertainty as to the geographic scope of that flood of the land. If the flood was limited to mankind’s region, that is wholly acceptable to some conservative Old Testament textural scholars. For example, Gleason Archer, co-author of the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament with R. Laid Harris and Walke. See his Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. John Sailhammer in Genesis Unbound makes a strong textural case for a limited understanding of the word erets in Genesis. No one will accuse Sailhammer of accommodating science, or modernism, since he rejects science as a textural informant. Ditto for Henri Blocher, author of the commentary In the Beginning. In any case such a flood has never been repeated. Never again has the globe been totally inundated, and never again has all mankind been killed by a flood. I believe the flood occurred on exactly the same basis I believe Jesus turned water to wine: the testimony of the Bible. I do not believe science speaks to that issue, other than to confirm the miraculous nature of such events. On the one hand, a global flood was a miracle both coming and going, for neither can happen solely by natural process, and as such it is not necessary for one to conclude such a miracle left any enduring physical evidence (see note 2) – other miracles did not. On the other hand if it was a miraculously initiated local flood, it certainly left no global evidence for science to consider, and probably any local remains would be hard to label specifically as from that particular flood. Either way the Bible speaks to the fact of the flood of Noah. Science cannot address the occurrence of that miracle any more than it can confirm turning water-to-wine by miracle. That is the nature of such miracles, else they wouldn’t have served the intended purpose in the lives of the people who experienced and witnessed them.

Now some will ask, "Why not the same for creation?" Good question. Here’s why. Creation is not like the water-to-wine and flood miracles. No one was there for it. This was not a miracle performed for the benefit of people who witnessed it – obviously. It was a miracle for those who couldn’t observe it – i.e., all of mankind, beginning with Adam. Yet creation is used repeatedly in Scripture as an evidence to men even today for God’s existence, nature, and power, as observed in Romans 1:19-20, Psalms 19 and elsewhere. In Romans it is clear that this natural witness for God is entirely independent from any written law. It is available to all men everywhere and over all time, and is overwhelming, thus all men are without excuse. Therefore the result of the creation miracle must be of a type that does leave an enduring physical record of the miracle for man to be able to "read" that revelation. Miracles like water-to-wine do not leave such records. Creation did. Nature is that record. It is faithful and true, since it is provided by God intentionally to be an evidence of Himself. All of nature is a part of that witness. Natural history is a faithful and true witness. Today, the means by which we read that revelation are more precise and hence maybe more illuminating than in days gone by, but the message is the same now as when the Psalmist gave it 3000 years ago: "Their line has gone out through all the earth."

B.   Concerning Roles of Religion and Science:

I am thankful anytime ignorance and uncertainty about God’s revelation are removed, regardless of what discipline provides the information. God has provided many blessings to enable us to better understand His Word in a time and space far distant from the events of the days of the Book. History gives the means to place Scripture in context. The critical historical method has been the mainstay of Biblical understanding for the past century. Most preachers are informed by it, even if they do not realize it. Yet I do not hear hue and cry against the historians among us because they seek to use their tools to better understand scripture or illuminate its precepts. Nor do I know how to separate history from science. Science gave us the evidence of the existence of the Hittite nation. (Note the irony in that this very evidence from the science of archeology concerning the Hittites is cited by the very ones who attempt to show how modernistic it is to use science in apologetics.) Likewise archeology gives us the overwhelming manuscript evidence for the Bible and the science of text criticism sorts out the variant readings. Science gives us the means to read the ancient languages. Galileo provided a view of the heliocentric solar system that paved the way for theologians to re-evaluate certain misinterpreted passages of scripture, such as Psalms 96:10. Science gives us the means to date Old Testament events such as the fall of Samaria in 722/721 BC (based on a lunar eclipse recorded in the Assyrian Eponym Canon concerning their conquests). Science recently discovered physical evidence of the beginning of the universe, should anyone doubt the remarkable affirmation of Genesis 1:1. Science gives one the means to combat atheistic evolution, even as naturalism tries to sell us that Kiplingesque "just so" story as science. Science gives a means to implement Romans 1:19-20 with the modern skeptic, if one were to attempt to teach any. I am amazed to discover some think it is weakness to use the evidence in nature to attempt to reach a skeptic with the message that God exists and the Bible is His reliable Word, so that the gospel therein can demonstrate its power of salvation to the skeptic.

Some have misrepresented my approach by claiming I say, "&ldots; the bible is so subjective as to leave us floundering for dependable information." The Bible is not at all unreliable. The Bible leaves no one floundering and it is not "subject." It is an object. Any subjectivism is in the eye of the beholder. The word of God thoroughly furnishes a man unto all good works. There is nothing undependable about the inspired Scriptures, nor about His creation.

It has been popular since Phillip Gosse first suggested it in Omphalos (1857) to argue that creation nullifies any time-record of itself, while leaving the observable evidence of nature intact. [This was two years before Origin of Species, so his proposal was not related to defeating Dawinism.] Gosse’s argument is a wholly philosophical argument unsupported by either scripture or physical evidence. Even if it is true, though certainly unprovable, creation cannot nullify the time record of natural history after creation was completed. Nature records substantial evidence of ancient prehistoric events which followed creation. Physical time records are not artifacts of initial functionality. Time is an artifact of the sequence of cause and effect, which necessarily follows creation – the first physical effect of the transcendent Cause. If one starts shaving away at inconvenient parts of the record of nature as inherently unreliable, and instead maintain that, from its inception, nature is only a record of illusory appearances, you will find that there is no place to stop shaving that dog until one reaches the tip of its gnostic tail. Such an approach certainly does not make one a full-blown gnostic, but gnosticism is the philosophical heritage of the "apparent but not real" approach. The justified ire a Christian feels when the Bible is assailed as unreliable in order to dismiss inconvenient parts, is the same ire a Christian should feel when God’s natural revelation is dismissed as unreliable explicitly because of its Divine source. To me, such dismissal borders on blasphemy. God’s revelation is not now, never was, and never will be unreliable. None of it is unreliable.

Just as I am thankful to those who have dedicated themselves to helping us learn how to read and understand the written revelation, I am thankful to those who have dedicated themselves to helping us learn how to read and understand God’s natural revelation in all its glory. Both reveal God, as Scripture and preachers have been proclaiming for millennia. When there are misunderstandings in religion concerning the Word, or in science concerning the World, or even conflicts between Word and World, such merely reflects man’s error of interpretation, not the reliability of God’s revelation. We should encourage further study to resolve such ignorance, rather than promoting our continued cognitive dissonance. Religion and science can, have, and will continue to have conflicts born of human ignorance. Both share instances of monumental blunders, but Nature and the Word cannot conflict if God is the author of both, as I believe He is. Demonstrating that premise for the skeptic is one of the primary objectives of Christian Evidences. It would be hard to do that without digging as deeply into the natural revelation as have the skeptics who challenge our premise that the Creator exists, and that the Bible is His Word. The evangelistic challenge presented us by the rational skeptic is to show in love and humility that the Word is just as reliable as the World they already trust absolutely. With that stumbling block removed, hearing the Word can bring to bear on them the full power of the gospel unto salvation for all who believe. That is the spiritual gift to them from the Creator of that World they first trusted. God said it is so in Romans 1. Do not disparage or minimize the import of His Word concerning the apologetic purpose of nature. Use it!

C.  Concerning Kinds:

It has been misrepresented that "Hill argues that evolution occurs within four very broad groupings." I have never argued such a thing. Here is the full context from Genesis and the Time Thing on the matter of kinds and "fixity of the species" (an eighteenth century concept now known to be incorrect within the confines of sub-specific speciation such as occurs in dogs, leading to an inability to naturally interbred to produce viable offspring).

The Pauline groupings are offered merely as exemplary of the notion of created kinds, not that these are all the created kinds (miyn) there are. As I frequently note in my lectures, it’s a creation forest, not an evolutionary tree. Four trees doth not a forest make. The example merely illustrates that the Bible view of taxonomy is a broader sorting of flesh types than the modern taxonomic designation of species. Strong’s (04480) defines miyn as "properly, a part of; hence (prepositionally), from or out of in many senses (as follows):--above, after, among, at, because of, by (reason of), from (among), in, neither, nor, (out) of, over, since, then, through, whether, with." Miyn is not the scientific concept of species.

D.  Concerning "Evening and Morning":

I find the expression "evening and morning" most convincing of the view that the sixfold yom’s of Genesis 1 are to be understood as ordinary calendar days. That is my view, therefore it could not possibly be a "headache" for my view – as some claim – since it is the basis of my view. All the questions I raised in Genesis and the Time Thing concerning this connective and repetitive expression are the same ones found in innumerable reputable commentary on the Genesis text concerning the meaning of this phrase and the parallel structure of Genesis 1. Is the phrase therefore meaningless for its six-fold repetition? No, repetition increases the significance. Have I said it was "meaningless repetition"? No, others have misrepresented me in that. So here I repeat again for added significance: I believe the six yom’s of Genesis 1 refer to calendar days.

E.   A Bizarre View of Miracles – Sustained:

This clearly shows the fallacy of the position that all miracles happen instantaneously, since miracles indeed may proceed over some period of time after Divine initiation. Such is similar to my understanding of how the creation miracles might have transpired due to God’s direct pronouncement and initiation on each day, and then was continued by His sustenance however God desired. God could have instantaneously "poofed" the Israelites to the other side of the sea, but He chose to let them walk through it by natural means for hours, while He miraculously provided the path as the Egyptians closed. Miracle and natural were twined together, without in any way minimizing the fact of the miracle. Such served only to magnify the demonstrated power, as it does yet today throughout the whole of creation. God spoke, it happened. The proof is in the pudding – all nature sings it out.

By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of the things which are visible.
Hebrews 11:3

[The Son] upholds all things by the word of His power.
Hebrews 1:3

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Notes:
1.   Deluvial: bearing indicators of a flood deposition, such as clastic conglomerate.

2.  A flood of a few months duration would not be expected to leave significant enduring global evidence, regardless of its depth, area or swiftness. To wit, the oceans cover 71% of the earth’s surface, cover the highest mountains even today, have very fast currents and experience frequent localized landslides, but there is no worldwide deposition going on at the ocean floor dumping an average of one mile thickness of sediment in a few months time. Nor could a three mile depth of water (average ocean depth) ever produce up to seven miles of sediment thickness from one event, as is found in some locales. Even three miles of water above the oceans (total of six miles of water) could not produce seven miles thickness of sediment anywhere. Nor is there a source of an average one mile thickness of sedimentary detritus at any one time on the continents. Even falling water cuts rock very slowly, especially basalt and granite. The fastest of flood waters make very little new material from solid rock, but rather simply redistributes surface materials already fragmented due to the long term effects of weathering. The average depth of such a soil horizon is a few feet, which is not nearly enough material to have formed all the sediments that must be attributed to the flood by the flood geology approach. Additionally, the majority of a flood’s sediment must always be deposited at the lowest point of the runoff. However, the deepest sediments are found not in the oceans, but on the highest of land masses. A single flood produces a delta of sediment that graduates from heaviest objects on the bottom to finest particulates on the top with a downstream spread as the water velocity slows. Instead we find the actual strata are nothing like that overall, only locally. A global flood would leave a worldwide delta. None exists. Therefore the global flood did not recede by natural process. A single flood would not produce the distribution of fossils as it is found in the sedimentary rock. Instead, the strata record an ongoing, ubiquitous, slow average deposition rate for sediments, which accumulates as a result of time, not extent. Therefore I do not think the miraculous global flood left a physical record of itself, since its recession was obviously not accomplished by the natural processes appealed to by flood speculators. A global flood was a miracle, beginning to end. God did leave us a reminder of the occurrence of that miracle, but it’s the rainbow, not rocks and fossils. We don’t need flood geology to believe in Noah’s flood. We do need time to understand stratification as it is actually recorded in the rocks and fossils. Neither threatens the other.


email this author at hill.roberts@stg.srs.com

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