Reply to Hill Roberts' "Floods, Science and Religion..."
Daniel H. King, Sr.
Editor's Note: This article by Dan King is a review of Hill Roberts article appearing elsewhere in this issue. You can read Hill Roberts article by clicking here.
In spite of the fact that brother Hill Roberts has declared repeatedly that he will not discuss these matters with those of us who wrote and signed the Open Letter, he has recently posted another response on his web site to what has been written regarding his positions, and by this writer in particular. It appears that he will discuss them, but only on his terms, when and where he determines. Since we could not get him openly to debate these issues, we are happy to receive this response and have another opportunity to, in this limited sense at least, answer his quibbles and reply to the additional points he has made.
Hill divides his response into five sections and offers comments on these five separate topics. Since these are the only points he wishes to address at this time, we shall limit ourselves to the same five areas of discussion. At the end, we shall add a few concluding thoughts and questions regarding this controversy and Florida College.
Brother Roberts begins his remarks on this subject with a surprising affirmation. He says,
No, brother Roberts, I do not believe there has been any misunderstanding of this. In our review of your writings regarding Flood Geology in Genesis and the Time Thing, we quoted your own words as follows,
When Hill speaks of a "worldwide" or "global" flood in the Genesis account, and proclaims that he believes in such, he means that in a different way than most of us understand the terminology. He goes on to say in Floods, Science and Religion... that, "Based on study of textural (sic) analyses by men more skilled at it than I, it seems there is some textural (sic) 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 (sic) scholars" (p. 1).
Attempting to extricate himself from this self-imposed, biblical conundrum, due to his own loose thinking and writing, brother Hill only digs a deeper hole in which to bury himself. He quotes Archer, Harris, Walke, Blocher and Sailhammer as all being in support of this notion. "No one will accuse Sailhammer of accommodating science, or modernism, since he rejects science as a textural (sic) informant" (p. 1). I disagree! Sailhammer is accommodating both science and modernism! Of course he denies that this is what he is doing, just as Hill denies he has a great deal in common with theistic evolutionists. Brother Roberts has not been misunderstood. He has been understood perfectly. These men he quotes are all in support of a local flood, not a universal or global flood in the sense in which the Bible speaks of it. Hill is playing word games with us. He sees the flood of Noah's time as being of no more geological importance than the 1993 floods of the upper Mississippi river valley. Believe it who may!
The Bible says the flood of Noah's time covered the mountains (Genesis 7:19, 20), and continued to cover them completely for about nine months (Genesis 8:5). At least thirty times in the account of Genesis 6-9 the text uses some indicator of the universality of this flood ("all flesh," "every living thing," "all the high hills under the whole heaven," etc.). The worldwide character of the deluge is also assumed in later parts of Scripture (cf.. Psa. 104:6; 1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 2:5; 3:5, 6) and in the words of Christ himself (Matt. 24:37-39). The primary purpose of the Flood was to destroy all living things (Gen. 6:7, 13; 8:21; 9:11, 15). What would have been the purpose of an ark and the collecting of all living things if it were not a flood which was worldwide? The birds and animals of the earth would have survived a local or regional deluge anyway, even if we were to consider, as brother Roberts does, that the sons of men were limited to a single land mass and regional area.
Brother Roberts may consider men who assert that the Flood of Noah's day was a regional inundation to be "conservative Old Testament textural (sic) scholars," but that is not a view which we share. Hill is a very confused man. In one sentence he says, "Never again has the globe been totally inundated...," then a few sentences later he writes, "On the other hand, if it was a miraculously initiated local flood, it certainly left no global evidence for science to consider..." It is clear what he believes, but it is also clear that he does not wish to be perceived as believing it! Why is brother Roberts so intent upon seeing to it that his readers become convinced that there is absolutely no evidence of the Flood of Noah's time in the crust of the earth? Why is he such an enemy of catastrophism and such a friend and adherent of uniformitarianism? Because he understands that catastrophism is an alternative to his view of the days of creation and of the extreme antiquity of the earth. Why is he so friendly and open toward those who hold tenaciously to the "local flood" theory? Why is he unwilling openly to condemn their heresies for what they are? For the exact same reason. Flood geology is an arch enemy of historical geology. Catastrophism is an arch enemy of uniformitarianism. He despises Flood geology and catastrophism because they offer an alternative to his "old earth" approach to the Old Testament. "Local flood" theorists, on the other hand, agree with his approach.
If one is able to view a large percentage of the layering of the earth's crust as having been deposited during the great Flood at the time of the patriarch Noah, then Hill's "candy stick" is effectively taken away from him. He has no basis for arguing the processes of theistic evolution which brought about the development of the earth into the form which it presently has taken, and for the multiplicity of life-forms which have come to exist upon the earth. If Noah's Flood was just like a seasonal inundation, except that its extent was much larger and its results more catastrophic, then there would have been little evidence of it left in the earth's crust, and the only way to view those layers which are so prominently present globally, would have to be in terms of uniformitarianism. That, of course, is his answer. In his own words, "Sediments build and entrap seasonal records of the passage of time, lots of time."
On the other hand, it is amazing to this writer that someone can be so enthralled with modern scientism as to take the view that the events of Genesis 6-9 made absolutely no lasting impression upon the crust of the earth. Gentle reader, please consider what Hill is asking us to believe about these fantastic catastrophes. The Bible tells us that torrential rains, which continued for 40 days and nights (Genesis 7:12), and in lesser intensity for 110 more days which involved an atmospheric source entirely different from the grossly inadequate vapor content of the present atmosphere (cf. Gen. 1:6-8 "waters above the firmament"), with the simultaneous "breaking-up" of "all the fountains of the great deep" (Gen. 7:11), undoubtedly involving volcanic and tectonic upheavals of the earth's crust and subterranean waters which continued for 150 days (Gen. 7:24; 8:2, 3)--all conspired under divine command to destroy "the world that then was." As the apostle Peter said, "The world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished" (2 Pet. 3:6). Not only man, according to Genesis and Peter, but "the world" was destroyed by the Flood (cf. especially Gen. 6:13; 9:11).
How can one suggest that such a series of events occurred on the earth's surface, and that it was "a mere hiccup"? Would there be a "significant effect" which might be expected if all living creatures upon the earth died at once? What would that effect be? Would that be a "mere hiccup"? Many historical geologists today argue that some catastrophic phenomenon, possibly a giant meteorite on a collision course with earth, destroyed the dinosaur population in a single event. We are told that this happening had a tremendous effect upon the geological features of the earth's crust. Fossil evidence is everywhere! But the Flood of Noah, which is said to have destroyed all life on earth, was a "mere hiccup"! We should not, brother Roberts says, expect any evidence whatever for this catastrophic event in the crust of the earth!
Gentle reader, the Bible says the world before the Flood and that after the Flood were very different places. They were so different, in fact, that conceptually it is utilized by Peter as illustrative of the final destruction of this physical earth and the creation of the "new heavens and new earth" (2 Pet. 3:7, 13). But brother Roberts argues that it was "a mere hiccup" and that "I do not expect to find any global deposits in evidence of the global flood of Noah." Well, I suppose that it could be argued that "expectation is everything." Brother Roberts therefore finds what he expects to find. Not surprisingly, however, many others do not find what brother Roberts finds.
As he concludes his discussion of the flood, he cannot help but return to one of his favorite topics, namely his view of the "natural revelation." "Nature is that record," he says. "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..." (p. 2). He does not delineate here what he is supposing from his reading of this natural revelation, but elsewhere he tells us it is the age of the earth and the history of its development. Hill has not moved one iota. He considers the reading of "natural history" by modern scientists as a "faithful and true witness" on a par with the written Word of God. Moreover, he considers the reading of this revelation by modern scientists much more reliable than the reading of Scripture, for the latter is far more susceptible to interpretation by subjective men. Brethren, this view is exceedingly dangerous. If it is allowed to propagate among us, as it has already in the writings of Shane Scott also, then the interpretations of science will become more and more the authoritative word which judges true religion. It is much later than you think!
In his treatment of this issue, brother Hill is inclined to connect those of us who signed the Open Letter with "the flat earth" crowd. He speaks of us as "the very ones who attempt to show how modernistic it is to use science in apologetics" (p. 3). Our brother knows better than this. We have absolutely no problem with the use of true science in apologetics. We have used it many times ourselves. That is not our problem with Hill Roberts. Our difficulty with his approach is that he permits current scientific theories to assume the level of eternal fact, then reinterprets Scripture so that it coincides with these theories. He accepts the present scientific theory of interpretation of the geological features in the earth's crust, forces it upon the text of Genesis 1 in his writings and teachings, then calls the rest of us "fools" for resisting his efforts.
Next, he returns to reiterate his theories about natural revelation, which so very obviously permeate his entire system of biblical understanding. For him Romans 1:19-20 testifies that nature is a "natural witness for God," particularly regarding his "existence, nature, and power." About this we can agree. "Do not disparage or minimize the import of His Word concerning the apologetic purpose of nature. Use it!" he says. Since we are fully in agreement with this thesis, we have no need to reply to his admonition. However, it would be good to review briefly the difference between what we understand Romans 1:19-20 to acknowledge, and what brother Roberts reads into it.
In this important text, Paul tells us that certain "invisible things" of God are clearly seen, "from the creation of the world." "The things that are made," he further says, aid us in our understanding of his "eternal power and Godhead (or 'divinity')." Paul tells us therefore that two things are known especially from the created universe. First, there is God's "eternal power." One observes the majesty, order and complexity of the created universe and clearly understands the obvious without further help, namely, that a Power far beyond anything in our own experience must have been the source of this marvelous Creation. Second, there is God's "divinity" (theiotes): "This denotes every thing comprehended in the idea of God; namely, his unity, incorporeity, immutability, knowledge, wisdom, justice, & c. all which, together with God's eternal power, the apostle affirms, every intelligent person may understand by the things that are made" (James Macknight, Macknight on the Epistles 58).
The reader may take note of the fact that the apostle does not encourage us to read from the Creation any more than this. This is the effective limit of what the text says. To attempt to read more into the passage than this is to surpass its limits and add to the Word of God. Brother Roberts, on the other hand, infers from this text that the readings of geologists from the earth's crust about the age and development of earth history are somehow equivalent to Scripture itself. This is not even a thirty-second cousin to what Paul says in Romans 1:19-20! We certainly agree that there are no real conflicts between true science and the truth of the Word of God, but conflicts with changing scientific theories are inevitable, and when this happens we must not put ourselves into the unenviable situation of denying what the text of Holy Scripture says in order to force a correlation with the present state of scientific inquiry. This is precisely what we allege that brother Roberts is attempting to do. The reader will have to judge for himself whether our allegations are accurate.
With regard to the "kinds" of the original creation, Hill suggests he is being misrepresented when it is suggested that he "argues that evolution occurs within four very broad groupings." He avers that "I have never argued such a thing." Now, let it be understood that we would not want to misrepresent brother Roberts in any way. That is not our intention, nor our desire. Brother Roberts has considerable ability and does a masterful job in refuting the general theory of evolution. I consider him to be an erring brother in Christ, whom I would love to be able to restore to faithfulness. Misrepresentation would not help to accomplish that task.
Have we actually misrepresented him? In fact, we cited his very words on this point:
Brother Hill is the one who wrote the words "This appears to be the way kinds is used in Genesis--for very broad groupings." Our point was to say that brother Roberts views the "kinds" much more loosely than the Hebrew text allows, placing the emphasis upon variations which have developed (evolved) after the original creation days. He persists by saying that "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" (p. 5). Actually, this is precisely what we understood him to mean, so this is not where our difference lies. The issue and the area wherein we differ, is whether God only created "very broad groupings"and left the rest to the evolutionary process over vast ages of time. We care not whether he limits that to four, six, eight, or ten broad groupings. We have a problem with the "very broad groupings" per se, not the specific number of them. Theistic evolutionists tend to view the "kinds" of Genesis much more broadly than those of us who reject this approach to origins, and this places Hill squarely in their camp.
The question of "fixity of species" which he raises on this point is a straw man. We understand that speciation occurs, illustrated by cases of canine interbreeding. Once again, that is not the issue. The issue is whether God only created "very broad groupings" and left the rest to the evolutionary process over vast ages of time. This is what Hill teaches, and that is what we were alluding to.
As a footnote to Hill's most recent remarks, let me say as kindly as I may, that our brother has confused the terminology of the creation account. He cites Strong's (04480) min, which is the rather ordinary Hebrew preposition "from" in the place of Strong's (04327) miyn, which that volume defines as "from an unused root meaning "to portion out"; a sort, i.e. species: --kind". These two words are similar in Hebrew, but they are completely different words. Genesis does not utilize the preposition min to describe this particular aspect of the creation account, but the noun miyn, which is Strong's (04327). As a Hebrew scholar and biblical exegete, brother Roberts leaves a great deal to be desired. Strong's concordance is one of the most elementary resources available to Bible students. If he cannot be trusted to "get it right" with a numbering system available which traces the original terminology from the biblical text to the precise location in the Hebrew or Greek lexicon in the back of the book, then how can we expect him properly to define and explain the biblical terminology of creation? If he cannot follow this simple numbering system in Strongs, are we to trust him on numbering the time sequence in Genesis?
Hill concludes his "corrective" on our representation of his views of the days of creation with the line, "So here I repeat again for added significance: I believe the six yom's (sic, i.e. yamim) of Genesis 1 refer to calendar days" (p. 5). Yes, of course he does--except that they are (in his view) each separated by millions or even billions of years! It is Hill's artificial separations between the days to which we have repeatedly alluded and objected. Brother Roberts knows this. But he conveniently ignores the fact that each "evening and morning" in the Bible is followed immediately and consecutively, without any division of time intervening, by another day with its own "evening and morning." Of course that represents a "headache" to his view. Brother Roberts is not being misrepresented on this. Hill is playing "word games" with us once again.
I must say that our brother has chosen a perfect word with which to describe, not our view of miracles, but his own. "Bizarre" is a most appropriate descriptive. In critiquing brother Tim Haile's discussion of miracles, he has this to say:
Divine miracles have never attempted to thwart the necessity of human effort. But, on the matter of dividing the Red Sea, Moses instructed the people: "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still" (Ex. 14:13, 14, NIV). God opened the Red Sea instantaneously with a strong east wind. God kept the Sea open all night long by that same wind. The Israelites stood still as it opened. They stood still as it closed upon the Egyptian army, destroying it completely. Yes, they were expected to propel themselves across the chasm to the other side under their own physical power. And they did so.
This does not, however, give any credence whatever, nor logical support, to the view espoused by Hill Roberts, to wit, that God created our world and all of its inhabitants in six literal days which were separated by millions of years between them, and during those vast interim periods he utilized an evolutionary process of uniformitarian change to bring the inanimate world to its present form and the animate creation to its present diversity and variety. That, my friends, is theistic evolution. And it is not taught in the Bible. All of the sophistry in the world about the miracles of the Bible will not accommodate it to the Genesis account of the Creation.
We again appeal to brother Roberts to renounce these false theories and once again "speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where it is silent." Just teach what the Bible teaches, and leave off this speculative theorizing. As king David said in the long ago, "I hate vain thoughts, but thy law do I love" (Ps. 119:113).
I wonder if brethren Colly Caldwell and Ferrell Jenkins are in agreement with Hill Robert's latest rebuttal of my article. If they are not, it would certainly be comforting to hear them say so. Is there anything at all he has written which makes them uncomfortable, or which they find unpalatable? Many brethren have noticed that Ferrell has listed Hill's response to our Open Letter on his web site, along with that of Tom Couchman, but has not listed my response to Hill, or the answers to Tom Couchman provided by Maurice Barnett or Dudley Ross Spears (he does offer a couple of links with a warning that if the reader accesses them he will be taken away from Bible World). I would be happy to have him publish my materials, and am sure that Maurice and Dudley would be also.
May we assume from the fact that he has had no desire to do so that Ferrell agrees with Hill's argumentation? Does he agree with the thinking and arguments of Tom Couchman? Is that what we ought to conclude from his publication of Couchman's essay? Does he embrace Tom Couchman's "unity in diversity" and gospel-doctrine distinction, along with Tom's obvious agreement with Hill Roberts' views? Or, does he see how far out Hill has gone? By offering the reader the opportunity to "reject," does he think that he has provided a sufficient disclaimer? He certainly has not raised his pen to renounce Hill's or Tom's positions (in fact, he has given them a prominent place on his web site), while he has taken the time to give those of us who have spoken out against Hill's teachings "both barrels" because we have dared at the same time to question an action by the Bible department and administration of Florida College.
Note that brother Shane Scott is in perfect agreement with Hill on the topic of miracles. He has attacked our Letter on the identical basis. Is Shane willing to go along with Hill on the rest of these matters? Shane has not spoken out against any of Hill's doctrinal excesses either. We know that they have some things in common, but how much, or how little? He has taken the time to speak out against those of us who wrote the Open Letter. We have attempted to get him to divorce himself from Hill's theories, but he has failed to speak to this issue thus far.
Surely there are people on the Bible faculty at Florida College who reject these theories put forward by Hill Roberts. Surely there are some who consider it to be doctrinal error. Have we reached a point where we cannot any longer call false doctrine by its proper name? Will any of them ever openly address the question and come out publicly against Hill's views? Up until this time there has been nothing in print from any of them renouncing his views as error, just a lot of open-ended statements that most everyone can agree to, and the posting of Hill Roberts' and Tom Couchman's material on the head of the Bible department's web site. What conclusions are we left to draw from this?
By the time this article appears in print, a new school year will have begun at Florida College. What has changed at the school since this controversy began? Those who taught the error remain identified with the school. The articles teaching the error remain posted on their web sites. Tolerance for such false teaching apparently persists. Parents, you must ask yourselves, are you comfortable sending your children into an environment where false doctrine about the Creation is tolerated?
email this author at email@example.com
Return to Watchman Front Page