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Was there Death Before the Fall? Interview with Krista Bontrager

When teaching on the age of the universe, I usually take a neutral approach. In my opinion, the profound reality that God created the universe is more important than when God created it. And when I start presenting evidence for an ancient universe, I almost always receive the exact same questions.

If the earth is old, then wouldn’t that mean there was death before the fall? How does this idea reconcile with Genesis 1:31 which says, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” How can millions of years of animal death be called very good? It also seems to contradict with Romans 8:12 where Paul writes, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”

These are great questions that warrant a response from anyone holding to an old earth. Helping us to think about the topic this week is Krista Bontrager. This is her second week on the show. Last week, she discussed whether the biblical flood was local or global. Krista is a theologian, the Director of the Scholar Community at Reasons to Believe, and an instructor at the Reasons Institute. Krista is also the author of the small-group study The Bigger Picture on Creation and coauthor of the booklet Psalm 104: In Wisdom You Made Them All.

Do you still have questions? Comment below!

You can follow the Coffeehouse Questions Podcast and have it automatically downloaded to your device by subscribing on iTunes. If you don’t have iTunes, find the podcast and follow on SoundCloud or search “Coffeehouse Questions with Ryan Pauly” on your Android podcast player. Finally, if you’d rather stick to the radio, you can listen to the show on 100.1 KGBA every Saturday night from 9-9:30 PT.

Like the Facebook page or follow on Instagram to interact with Ryan and his guests on future shows. Your questions and comments help to make the show more interactive. So, send in those questions at contact@coffeehousequestions.com, FacebookTwitterInstagram, or by text at (714) 989-6927 (Google Voice number for texts only).

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Was the Biblical Flood Local or Global? Interview with Krista Bontrager

It seems that believing in a global flood is one of the most agreed upon beliefs in Christianity. This makes sense because the Bible seems to be clear that the flood was global in Genesis 7:17–24.

[17] The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. [18] The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. [19] And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. [20] The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. [21] And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. [22] Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. [23] He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. [24] And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days. (ESV)

Even though this verse seems clear, there are some really smart Christians who think the flood was local. They believe that the waters were universal in destruction but not global in scope. This is the view that is presented in the podcast. My goal is not to convince you all of one position or another but to help you see that there are two possible interpretations.

Joining me to discuss this issue is Krista Bontrager. She is a theologian, the Director of the Scholar Community at Reasons to Believe, and an instructor at the Reasons Institute. Krista is also the author of the small-group study The Bigger Picture on Creation and coauthor of the booklet Psalm 104: In Wisdom You Made Them All.

I hope you enjoy our discussion and come away with a fresh perspective on this topic.

Do you still have questions? Comment below!

You can follow the Coffeehouse Questions Podcast and have it automatically downloaded to your device by subscribing on iTunes. If you don’t have iTunes, find the podcast and follow on SoundCloud or search “Coffeehouse Questions with Ryan Pauly” on your Android podcast player. Finally, if you’d rather stick to the radio, you can listen to the show on 100.1 KGBA every Saturday night from 9-9:30 PT.

Like the Facebook page or follow on Instagram to interact with Ryan and his guests on future shows. Your questions and comments help to make the show more interactive. So, send in those questions at contact@coffeehousequestions.com, FacebookTwitterInstagram, or by text at (714) 989-6927 (Google Voice number for texts only).

A Tactical Approach to Evolution (video)

A few months back, I was invited to a very unique church group. Though I have never seen a church host a group meeting like this one, after leaving I realized that it is probably something every church should have. And if your church won’t create one, consider starting it up at someone’s house.

The group is called Persuade and is hosted every week by Orange County Church in Tustin, CA. This church has a speaker each week (usually a church member) discuss an important or controversial issue. Before I was invited to discuss on creation vs. evolution, they had already covered the kalam, the resurrection, the argument from contingency, and abortion. At the end of every talk, which is about 30 minutes, the audience is encouraged to ask questions and raise objections. In fact, the goal is to stump the speaker.

I was told that they normally spend at least an hour with the questions and objections. They turned out to be serious when they followed up my talk with an hour and fifteen minutes of questions and objections. You could say that the audience was very prepared with questions they had either researched or encountered in personal conversations.

As someone who travels to train churches and students to defend the Christian faith, this was so encouraging. This group had such a yearning to know and defend the truth. They took 1 Peter 3:15 seriously in their desire to always be ready to give a defense for the hope that they have. It was a wonderful privilege to join Persuade that evening and help believers think critically about creation and evolution. I hope that you too are encouraged by the video below to start something like this with fellow believers.

What questions or objections do you have on the topic of creation and evolution? Comment below!

If you are interested in having me speak at your church, camp, or youth group, click on the Endorsements & Speaking page and email me at contact@coffeehousequestions.com. You can select a topic from the list or suggest your own. I am happy to help in any way I can. God bless!

2018 Imperial Valley Apologetics Conference Recap

I had the great privilege of speaking at the 2018 Imperial Valley Apologetics Conference this past weekend in El Centro, CA. I feel bad that it came at the expense of my friend, Tim Barnet, getting sick. But when he asked me to cover for him, I was happy that my Saturday was open.

During the day-long conference, I gave three talks and had a Q&A session. My talks included: Does God exist? Are science and faith compatible? Is the New Testament reliable? IMG_4497

Thank you to Calvary Chapel Bible College El Centro and everyone in attendance. You all are doing an incredible work, and you made it a very special day. And thank you to the visual team for putting together this short recap video from my first talk on the existence of God. You guys were amazing!

If you are interested in having me speak at your church, camp, or youth group, click on the Endorsements & Speaking page and email me at contact@coffeehousequestions.com. You can select a topic from the list or suggest your own. I am happy to help in any way I can. God bless!

Are Genesis 1 and 2 contradictory creation accounts?

I remember the first time a Christian told me that Genesis 1 and 2 were contradictory. He seemed to say it as if it didn’t matter. It was like saying, “There are contradictions in Scripture, but don’t worry about it and just have faith.” This, I believe, is a huge problem. It seems to limit God’s omnipotence or His goodness. It becomes difficult to explain how God, the author of Scripture, would contradict himself. Does God error?

I agree that there are apparent contradictions in Scripture, but just like other apparent contradictions, they are cleared up when understood correctly. Christians can’t avoid this issue in Genesis 1 and 2 by saying they don’t contradict. Instead, we have to give reasons why.

What is the apparent contradiction?

It has often been said that Genesis 1 and 2 provide contradictory accounts of when man was created in relation to other created things. Genesis 1:26 puts the creation of man on the 6th day after all plants (day 3) and animals (days 5 and 6). Genesis 2:5-7 seems to say that man was created before the plants and animals. So the question becomes, were Adam and Eve created near the beginning or end of creation?

In order to answer this question, we must understand the context of Genesis 1 and 2. We understand this need for context in our lives every day. For example, “The lions destroyed the dolphins,” appears crazy on the surface. Why did the lions go into the ocean? Why didn’t the dolphins simply swim away? It then becomes very clear when you realize the person talking is on the sports channel and is covering a recent football game. The context in which the person is talking or writing makes all the difference.

So, we must look at the context and perspective of Genesis 2 in order to see if it contradicts the timeline in Genesis 1. With this understanding, we are able to see that there is a change of perspective. Dr. Hugh Ross, an astronomer and President of Reasons to Believe, explains the change in perspective from Genesis 1 and 2 in his book, Navigating Genesis. He writes,

“While Genesis 1 focuses almost entirely on the physical creation–what God made or made happen and in what order, Genesis 2 begins to elaborate on the why, or purpose, of creation. The Genesis 1 storyteller describes the unfolding scene of the six creation days from a vantage point somewhere just above Earth’s surface, but below the clouds, as God prepared a suitable habitat for humanity. Genesis 2 zooms in on a small portion of Earth’s surface (Eden) and what occurred from the vantage point of one human being (the first human) in that locale, walking and awakening to the sights and sounds all around” (p. 95).

Genesis 2 is no longer talking about the whole globe. Realizing the setting allows us to understand what is meant by the different descriptions. Just like the report about the lions and dolphins. Once you realize the context, we are no longer talking about the ocean but about football. Genesis 1 offers the big picture timeline and Genesis 2 focuses on what happened during the 6th day of creation in the garden. Dr. Ross continues,

“Genesis 1 presents the major physical creation events in a time-ordered sequence… In Genesis 2 God introduces the first humans to their setting, first to the misty land itself, then to the plants, then to the higher animals and, finally, to each other. That is, God sequentially lays out humanity’s authority over and responsibility to manage different components of His earthly creation but offers only a highly condensed, non-sequential summary of His physical creation activity. No contradiction can be inferred legitimately from differences between these two versions of the creation story” (p. 95-96).

Genesis 2 never says that man was created before plants or animals. The garden in Eden was planted after man was created, but this doesn’t mean that the whole globe was void of plants. We then see in Genesis 2:19 that “the Lord had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them.” The language here is that God “had formed” the animals and then brought them to the man. Again, this is consistent with what we see in Genesis 1.

Conclusion

Understanding the context and change of perspective allows us to read these two accounts in harmony. They are not both offering a big picture timeline of the creation event. Instead, they are each describing a different aspect of creation. This apparent contradiction becomes clear when understood in this new way, and Genesis 1 and 2 become complementary creation accounts.

What are other apparent contradictions that you have a difficult time with? Comment below!

What is the evidence for evolution in the fossil record?

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My “fun read” since the semester is over.

“Evolution gives us the true account of our origins, replacing the myths that satisfied us for thousands of years. Some find this deeply frightening, others ineffably thrilling… But it is more than just a good theory, or even a beautiful one. It also happens to be true.” These are just two statements from the introduction of Dr. Jerry Coyne‘s book, Why Evolution Is True. If the title of the book wasn’t clear enough, the introduction makes his position even clearer. In fact, his book is also an attack against creationism and anyone who believes that it should be taught in schools along with evolution. Coyne says, “Why teach a discredited, religiously based theory, even one widely believed, alongside a theory so obviously true?” So, is creationism discredited? Can it stand up against a theory so obviously true like evolution?

When I teach on evolution, I always make sure to emphasize the three Columbo questions from Greg Koukl‘s book, Tactics. It is always good to respond with questions instead of statements if someone comes up to you and says, “Evolution is a fact. Do you believe in it?” After this question you could say…

  1. What do you mean by evolution? Are they defending change over time, micro-evolution, or Darwinian evolution (macro-evolution)? Make sure you are both discussing the same definition of evolution.
  2. How did they come to that conclusion? What evidence do they have to support their view of evolution?
  3. Have you considered…? This is when we can answer their question by presenting another option that agrees with the evidence. The goal is to get them to think rather than simply stating facts that can be dismissed.

When I go through these questions with students, especially the second question, they almost always respond by saying that fossils are evidence for evolution. What is the evidence for evolution in the fossil record? This is the first question Dr. Coyne addresses in his book after defining evolution in the first chapter, and for this reason, it will be the first topic we discuss. Dr. Coyne says,

There are several types [of evidence]. First, the big evolutionary picture: a scan through the entire sequence of rock strata should show early life to be quite simple, with more complex species appearing only after some time. Moreover, the youngest fossils we find should be those that are most similar to living species (Why Evolution Is True, p. 25).

Second, when we find transitional forms, they occur in the fossil record precisely where they should (p. 53).

Finally, evolutionary change, even of a major sort, nearly always involves remodeling the old into the new (p. 54).

Dr. Coyne gives many examples to support his first piece of evidence that species move from simple to complex. He covers fossilized evolution and speciation, the “missing links,” evolution of fish to amphibians, the origin of birds, and the evolution of whales. Each example starts with an ancient species and shows a gradual evolution to what we have today. And when you begin to be overwhelmed by the amount of evidence, Coyne says, “If at this point you’re feeling overwhelmed with fossils, be consoled that I’ve omitted hundred of others that also show evolution” (p. 51). With hundreds examples proving evolution to be a fact, why am I not an evolutionist?

Why I’m not convinced

Dr. Coyne has given many examples of similar fossils that appear to be evolving slowly, but this doesn’t frighten me. Showing similar fossils moving from simple to complex does not prove that evolution is true. Within an atheistic or naturalistic framework I can see why this makes sense. It seems to line up so perfectly and is the only option. However, naturalism isn’t the only framework in which to understand the evidence. The Christian worldview presents another possibility; God created each of those species. Even Dr. Coyne admits that, “It is easier to document evolution in the fossil record than to understand what caused it” (p. 31). We see fossils that appear to be so similar, but we cannot know, from fossils alone, what caused them to be so similar. This still leaves two options on the table.

Have you considered that the fossil record could be the result of a common creator?

Fossils are always used to prove evolution, but couldn’t they be explained by both a common creator or a common ancestor? Dr. Coyne gives two answers as to why the common creator option doesn’t make sense. First, “No theory of special creation, or any theory other than evolution, can explain these patterns” (p. 29). This really confused me, and I was upset to see that this statement came without explanation at the end of the section. Why can’t special creation account for the simple to complex patterns we see? Why couldn’t God create different kinds of animals with similar body forms? If natural selection acting on random genetic mutations (a mindless process), can produce those results, why couldn’t an intelligent creator?

Second, Dr. Coyne says, “There is no reason why a celestial designer, fashioning organisms from scratch like an architect designs buildings, should make new species by remodeling the features of existing ones. Each species could be constructed from the ground up” (p. 54). It is true that God could construct each species from the ground up, but why would he have to do that? Genesis 1:25-26 tells us that God made the beasts of the earth, and then made man in His image. The Hebrew word meaning “to make” in these verses can describe the creation of a new form from preexisting materials. This is confirmed in that Genesis 2:7 tells us, “God formed the man of dust from the ground.” So, even though God could have created each animal kind completely different, it doesn’t appear that He did it this way. Similar bone structures and DNA show that God used similar “blueprints” when creating animals and humans in their present form. Evolution isn’t the only explanation for similar structures.

Special creation does explain the patterns we see in the fossil record. It explains the “transitional fossils,” the “missing links,” and the origin of life. Therefore, I am convinced that fossils don’t only point to evolution but can also be explained by creation. The creation account in Genesis 1-2 should not be thrown out as a religiously based and discredited theory.

What do you think? Why do you hold to creation or evolution? Leave your comments below and check back later as we dive into other issues on this topic!

 

Are Old Earth creationists ignorant of their faith?

Back in May I wrote a blog discussing the 10 points of agreement between the Old Earth and Young Earth positions. The blog was not designed or written in order to argue for one position or the other. The goal was to show that both positions hold to essential beliefs that line up with the Bible.

Even though I didn’t not argue for Old Earth creationism, I received comments critiquing that view. The comments seemed to suggest that I hold to Old Earth creationism and then began to show why I don’t have a consistent faith. After a few short responses to the comments, I decided not to respond anymore. I felt like the reader was not trying to understand my position, but instead, he was trying to prove me wrong even though I never took a side.

Since I think this is such an important issue I decided to respond on the podcast. We have to understand the difference between essential Christian doctrines that determine a person’s salvation and other beliefs that we can disagree on. Believing that Jesus rose from the dead and forgave our sins is much more important than our view of the age of the earth.

Listen here for my full comments as I go through the reader’s response and offer my thoughts.

What do you think of my response? Do you have further questions about the age of the earth, death before the fall, or a global or local flood? I will be talking about these in a future podcast, so please comment below!

You can follow the Coffeehouse Questions Podcast and have it automatically downloaded to your device by subscribing on iTunes. You  can also find it and follow on SoundCloud or search “Coffeehouse Questions with Ryan Pauly” on your Android podcast player.

Listen to the Coffeehouse Questions radio show on Active Reliance Radio every Wednesday from 4:30-5 PM PT.

Like the Facebook page, watch live, and interact with Ryan by asking questions and commenting. You can also see who will be future podcast guests on the Facebook page and send in your questions to be asked on the show! Send in your questions on FacebookTwitter, or by text at (714) 989-6927 (Google Voice number for texts only).

10 Creation Essentials: Old Earth or Young Earth?

It is easy to get into debates on the age of the earth. Old Earth creationists (OEC) will say that the universe is about 13.7 billion years old, and that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old. A Young Earth creationist (YEC) believes that God created everything in six consecutive 24-hour days about 6,000-10,000 years ago.

I frequently hear OEC critique YEC for not being scientific. They sometimes completely ignore scientific discoveries in order to keep their YE perspective. But also, YEC criticize OEC for compromising scripture. It is said that only YEC preserve biblical authority. It is also believed by some that if you accept an old universe then you also accept darwinian evolution. For that reason, we should stick to YEC. What about death before the fall? What about radiometric dating? There seem to be so many objections and points of disagreement between the two sides.

Instead of looking at the details of each of those objections in this post, I want to look at common ground. I think the common points are often ignored or overlooked because we just want to find something to argue about. My school doesn’t take a position on this issue and so I have to refer students to their pastors on this question and other debated topics. For that reason, I tend to look more at the common ground as I present both sides in my class and let students make up their mind. So, what are the points of agreement?

  1. God is the source of all things – physical and non-physical.
  2. God created the universe out of nothing.
  3. God is both transcendent and immanent.
  4. God is eternal and stands outside of matter and time.
  5. Time and matter have a beginning.
  6. God created the universe to be a theater for His glory.
  7. Christians should worship the Creator, not the creation.
  8. God takes delight in what He has made.
  9. Adam and Eve were created in the image of God.
  10. Theories that deny God as Creator are incompatible with Scripture.

I wanted to keep this post short but also show you the amount of agreement between the two sides. Both OEC and YEC believe that God is the creator of all things, there was no pre-existing material, Adam and Eve were historical figures, and Darwinian evolution doesn’t account for advanced life (Each species was created in its present form). This can remain a friendly debate and we can have fun talking about it, but don’t forget that both sides believe in the same God who created all things and will one day restore us into right relationship with him.

What do you think about these common points? Do you think this is a salvific issue? Leave your comments below.

I have responded to the comments below in my podcast here.

*These 10 points were taken from a lecture by Krista Bontrager. This lecture was part of the Creation and the Bible course through the Reasons Institute.

Evangelism and the Big Bang with Dr. Jeff Zweerink

Dr. Jeff Zweerink, an astrophysicist and research scholar at Reasons to Believe, joined me to talk about what Christians need to know about Big Bang cosmology. It was interesting that he was able to show how the Big Bang can be useful when it comes to Evangelism. Listen and see how he connected the two!

You can find last week’s interview on the integration of science and faith here.

What are your thoughts on the Big Bang? Make sure to leave a comment below!

Are you a student who is interested in studying science in college? Or may you’re a parent who has a student who is interested in science. If so, you should check out this promo for The Lab, where their goal is to equip students for careers in different scientific disciplines.

You can follow the Coffeehouse Questions Podcast and have it automatically downloaded to your device by subscribing on iTunes. If you don’t have iTunes, find the podcast and follow on SoundCloud or search “Coffeehouse Questions with Ryan Pauly” on your Android podcast player. Finally, if you’d rather stick to the radio, you can listen to the show on 100.1 KGBA every Saturday night from 9-9:30 PT.

Like the Facebook page or follow on Instagram to interact with Ryan and his guests on future shows. Your questions and comments help to make the show more interactive. So, send in those questions at contact@coffeehousequestions.com, FacebookTwitterInstagram, or by text at (714) 989-6927 (Google Voice number for texts only).

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