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Augustine’s Six Day “Denial” (Part II): “Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” – Romans 3:3 Geneva Bible

Wednesday, August 8, 2012, 19:51
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Augustine’s Six Day “Denial” (Part II)

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“Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?”

Romans 3:3 Geneva Bible

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. . . some things were done before the world was created, yea from eternity. The persons of Trinity were, as it were, confederated in a design, and a covenant of redemption. In this covenant the Father had appointed the Son, and the Son had undertaken the work; and all things to be accomplished in the world were stipulated and agreed. There were things done at the creation of the world, in order to that work; for the world itself seems to have been created in order to it.

-Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), History of Redemption [1]

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Bultmannian Thinking?

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Bultmannian thinking has invaded the modern evangelical mind, as though it really does not matter whether Jesus rose from the dead on the third day (which was the first day of the calendar week [2] ). The important thing, according to this manner of thinking, is the existential reality that the disciples believed that he did! [3] On this basis, historicity becomes irrelevant and the exegetical task is to distinguish the psychological mindset of the biblical writers from the “Jewish myth” in which it is thought to be embedded!

While opposing the Pharisees’s hypocritical sabbath observance, Jesus and the apostles affirmed the literal truth of the events described in Genesis, chapters 1-11. [4] We cannot logically affirm the authority of Jesus and the apostles, therefore, and proceed to “demythologize” their words, as though there were a need for it. [5] To insist that the six day creation account (not to mention the institution of marriage between a man and woman, the primal principle of male headship, or the Genesis flood) is not myth or fable, however, is not to overlook the fact that Jewish myths do exist and, like any other myth, should be regarded (or discarded) as such. [6] Nor is it to overlook the fact that old covenant festivals are obsolete “now that the [7] faith has come.” [8] Old covenant festivals, however, are not to be confused with Jewish myths. But the creation account is neither in the category of myth nor of Jewish festivals rendered obsolete by Christ’s coming.

In his controversial book The Fourth Day, Howard Van Till paid tribute to C. S. Lewis’ concept of “myth.” [9] Though he acknowledged that astronomical dating hinges on geological dating, [10] Van Till caricatured the Institute for Creation Research in the following statement:

What its proponents call “scientific special creationism” is a theologically empty concept that does not deserve to be associated with the religiously rich doctrine of creation. The biblical concept of creation as a dynamic covenantal relationship to the faithful Creator ought never to be replaced by the notion of a magical act of instantaneous inception performed by an unspecified magician. [11]

Van Till’s statement reflects the fallacy of the excluded middle, as though the covenant and a literal understanding of Genesis 1 were mutually exclusive. Whereas miracles in Moses’ Exodus account are clearly differentiated from the works of Pharaoh’s magicians, [12] Van Till effectually characterized the Creator’s works of “instantaneous inception” as “magic” thereby mimicking the ancient heretic Celsus who attributed Jesus’ miracles to “magical powers” imbibed during his sojourn in Egypt. [13]

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How shall we then affirm the six day creation?

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We affirm the six day creation on the basis of the good faith of God who entrusted his oracles, the divinely inspired documents of the Old and New Testaments, to his people. [14] Accordingly, in his comments on Genesis 1:5, John Calvin closes the door to any conceivable hint of disingenuous communication with men on God’s part that might be suggested by anything short of an actual six day creation.

Here the error of those is manifestly refuted, who maintain that the world was made in a moment. For it is too violent a cavil to contend that Moses distributes the work which God perfected at once into six days, for the mere purpose of conveying instruction. Let us rather conclude that God himself took the space of six days, for the purpose of accommodating his works to the capacity of men. We slightingly pass over the infinite glory of God, which here shines forth; whence arises this but from our excessive dullness in considering his greatness? In the meantime, the vanity of our minds carries us away elsewhere. For the correction of this fault, God applied the most suitable remedy when he distributed the creation of the world into successive portions, that he might fix our attention, and compel us, as if he had laid his hand upon us, to pause and to reflect. [15]

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Epilogue

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Behind a telescope, Christians no less than non-Christians, observe a universe so immense that distances are measured in light years. The distance involved in one light year would be the product of 186,000 miles x sixty seconds x sixty minutes x twenty-four hours x 365 days–a figure that boggles the mind when considering God’s speaking a universe into existence within the space of six days. [16] Aristotle, whose biological classification system is still the classroom standard, postulated the existence of the Supreme Being upon the basis of the intelligent [17] design he observed in the chicken egg and other particulars of the universe. Christians humbly appreciate scientific contributions made on the basis of common grace which God has bestowed upon all human beings.

To be sure, one’s concept or calculation of time is relative to his position with respect to the earth’s rotation. [18] Similarly, one’s concept or calculation of time is radically altered when his mind and heart are impacted by the motions of God’s grace and the weight of His glory! [19] It is all a matter of one’s position and perspective relative to the Creator which is established by the Word of God operating in one’s soul. [20] Conversely, the exchanging of the truth about God for a lie– worshipping the creation rather than the Creator pervades modern efforts to define and defend “rights” contrary to nature [21] and prompts erudite gentlemen to prop them up by pointing to Augustine’s alleged pre-Darwinian denial of a six-day creation!

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Endnotes

[1]. Works, 1:26-27

[2]. John 20:1, 19

[3]. George Eldon Ladd, The New Testament and Criticism, pp. 46, 185

[4]. Matt. 19:4; 24:37-39; 2 Cor. 4:6; Ephes. 5:29-31; 1 Tim. 2:13-14; Heb. 4:9-10; 2 Pet. 2:5; 3:5-6

[5]. Matt. 5:17-20; Mark 2:23-28; Col. 2:16-17; 2 Peter 1:16f.

[6]. Titus 1:14

[7]. Note the presence of the definite article before the Greek pistis in Galatians 3:25.

[8]. Gal. 3:25; 4:9-10

[9]. Van Till, p. 16

[10]. Ibid., p. 140 The geological implications of the Genesis Flood are critical to the thinking of the Institute ofCreation Research founded by Dr. Henry M. Morris, former Professor of Hydraulic Engineering and Chairman of the Department of Civil Engineering at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, and whose academic and professional credentials are far too extensive for a mere footnote.

[11]. Ibid., p. 241

[12]. Num. 7:8-12

[13]. Roland H. Bainton, Early Christianity, 113

[14]. Psalm 147:19-20; Rom. 3:2

[15]. Commentary on Genesis, Chapter 1, verse 5.

[16]. Job 38:4; 42:1-3

[17]. Aristotle coined the Greek word enteleche from which our English word “intelligent” is derived. For an excellent primer on Aristotle see Mortimer J. Adler’s Aristotle for Everybody: Difficult Thought Made Easy.

[18]. To demonstrate this thesis, scientists Hafele and Keating of Washington University and the U.S. Naval Observatory sent four cesium-beam clocks around the world on commercial airliners and discovered that the flying clocks lost time relative to the cesium-based clocks at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington D.C., and did so in proportion to the effects of motion plus gravity. Shroeder, Gerald L., Ph.D., Genesis and the Big Bang, pp. 46-47. See also Schroeder’s footnote 12 on p. 55.

[19]. John 1:14-17; 2 Cor. 4:17-18; 1 Pet. 1:8

[20]. 1 Pet. 1:20-25; 2 Cor. 5:13-17

[21]. Rom. 1:24-27

 

About the Writer
David Clark Brand is a retired pastor and educator with missionary experience in Korea and Arizona. He and his wife reside in Ohio. They have four grown children and six grandchildren. With a B.A. in the Liberal Arts, an M. Div., and a Th.M. in Church History, Dave continues to enjoy study and writing. One of his books, a contextual study of the life and thought of Jonathan Edwards, was published by the American Academy of Religion via Scholars Press in Atlanta.

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