New Testament Questions Galore From a Wide Range of Christian and Non-Christian Biblical Scholars

New Testament Questions

Christians are tireless debunkers of each othersʼ interpretations of the Bible (perhaps because many of them still believe the stakes are infinitely high, and they fear one unorthodox interpretation can lead to another down a slippery slope toward damnation. But see this rival interpretation of the so-called “slippery slope” argument according to more moderate Christian scholars.

Without enumerating each controversy between Christians let me point out a series of books by different Christian publishers that feature points and counterpoints, usually by conservative Christian theologians, who canʼt agree on how to understand points and practices related to Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, and even disagree on what type of “authority” the Bible constitutes (click here for a sampling of such books).

Thanks to the internet, questions of biblical interpretation flow without ceasing. Aged scholars, eager young seminarians, and born again newbies are commenting on blogs, engaging in online forums and Facebook discussions, commenting on books at, tweeting, contributing to carnivals like the “Biblical Studies Carnival” (google it by name, since it appears at different blogs run by biblical scholars each month), and older but prestigious newsgroups like XTalk: Historical Jesus & Christian Origins.

There are biblical scholars of all stripes who run their own “biblioblogs” (Biblical Studies Blogs), along with a list of the top 50 such blogs.

Books and articles on biblical studies have never been easier to seek and obtain (at the very least one can read abstracts and portions of books online and request the item at your local library via document delivery).

Summaries of the latest articles in biblical studies journals, summaries of the latest theses in biblical studies, summaries of the latest biblical studies books published by scholarly presses can be perused in the latest editions of New Testament Abstracts, a tri-annual publication that sums up the contents of current articles and books. (There is also a sister publication called Old Testament Abstracts.) Plenty of interesting and challenging pieces are listed among those abstracts.

For those who enjoy listening to free NT scholarship in mp3 format there are some podcasts I suggest. The questions raised by the following scholars are well worth pondering. (Iʼve heard them all, great stuff)

  1. Mark Goodacre at Duke, NTPod
    also available for download at iTunesU
    (iTunesU features lectures from scholars at Oxford, Harvard, Stanford, etc.)

  2. Dale Allison, The Historical Jesus and the Theological Christ

    Dale also wrote The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus, one of his shortest most accessible works that sums up many questions raised by historical Jesus scholars.

  3. David Sanchez, The Apocalyptic Worldview of Mark

  4. Philip A.Harland, Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean

  5. Audio/Video Courses Packed With NT Questions

    (if you canʼt afford such courses try obtaining them via interlibrary loan at your local library—they are worth a listen!)

  6. Bart Ehrmanʼs Courses

  7. Luke Timothy Johnson;s Courses

    See especially his course on Jesus and the Gospels.

  8. Dale Martin at Yale, Introduction to the New Testament: History and Literature
    also available for download at iTunesU

    Dale Martin debated conservative Evangelical scholar/apologist, Michael Licona, and Dale raised some obvious knotty questions. ( serves as a clearing house for conservative Evangelical apologetics on the web, plenty to listen to there, as I have done, though you soon discover that apologists like Habermas, Keener, McGrew, Blomberg, and many others, were either raised Christian or converted in their teens, and they seem less interested in asking questions than supplying answers to fellow Christians with doubts, including themselves. But why not continue to ask questions, especially since the questions are obvious as pointed out by scholars at the sites I am sharing? And I donʼt think Martin, Goodacre, Allison or Sanchez are atheists, but they raise some interesting questions for their conservative brethren and recognize that “proving Gospel history” or even proving the physical resurrection of Jesus is far from being a slam dunk. And the theological questions are even more varied and slippery than the historical ones.)

    I had heard Dale Martin via his free NT lectures at itunesU, so it was refreshing to see him debate Licona. After you listen to Daleʼs questions regarding the NTʼs resurrection stories you might want to read my post, A Carnival of Questions for Resurrection Apologists, which was posted before I had listened to the debate, though my questions mirror many of Daleʼs points.

  9. Historical Commentary On The Gospel Of Mark is free and online, and is a passage by passage commentary of the entire Gospel of Mark, incorporating many questions and observations from an array of more secular-minded biblical scholars.

  10. Robert M. Price, The Human Bible, a podcast (an introduction to basic scholarly distinctions and observations concerning the Bible, 35 programs thus far) or, The Human Bible Archive.

    Beyond Born Again, a semi-autobiographical account of how and why Price came to question Evangelical apologetic arguments.

    The Bible Geek, a podcast (over 300 episodes) or Bible Geek.

    You can search for particular topics discussed in past shows by using the Firefox search engine and visiting which summarizes topics covered per show. Other search engines might not be able to call up that particular page.

    10 Things Everyone Should Know About the Bible (with guest Robert M. Price), The Humanist Hour #111.

    Price is also the author of these intriguing works.

Gospel Trajectories

Later Gospel stories appear to depend on earlier ones, starting with Mark (with new urban myths/tall tales arising about Jesus and added to each freshly written Gospel after such tales reached those authors in the Greek speaking world). Some of the most obvious Gospel trajectories (developments in the story from Mark, Matthew, Luke and finally John) are noted in this brief article: The point is that many Evangelicals, including Evangelical apologists now accept Markan priority, but that priority can be extended by trajectory arguments, which establish a sequence of story development in the completed versions of each Gospel. There is even a Judas Trajectory,

Which Jesus: Examining Differences in the Gospel Narratives

  • AUDIO, free on itunes Episode 78 (see also Episodes 131 & 132, “Cross-Examining the Four Witnesses Part 1 and Part 2”)


(The least respectful to Christianity of all the above podcasts, no verbal holds barred—but the podcasters take into account some of the same mainstream scholarly material covered by the scholars above. Not your average atheist criticism of the Gospels, but neither as detailed as the scholarship and sources mentioned above)

D. F. Strauss, author of The Life of Jesus Critically Examined

Introduced the 19th century public to a host of questions that biblical scholars were pondering. He included in his work responses to various apologetic arguments made at that time (which mirror to some degree replies made by some apologists today).

I made use of some of Straussʼ points when I composed this piece on the question, Did the Historical Jesus Speak About the Necessity of Being “Born Again?”. Questions raised by Bart Ehrman and David Friedrich Strauss.

The Life of Jesus Critically Examined, 4th edition, by D.F. Strauss

Examples of Later Additions to Scripture, Including Pauline Interpolations

There are some things even an Evangelical apologist canʼt help but notice and hence needs to try and explain away, like the endings that later Christians added to Mark (of which there are more than one, and even those appear in variant forms in different early texts).

Speaking of adding to Scripture, there is also evidence that Paulʼs letters feature interpolated material (1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). See this fascinating discussion and link to a slide show. These are basic questions raised by Pauline scholars, and arranged well by Richard Carrier. Worth pondering, along with William O. Walkerʼs arguments concerning additional interpolations in Paulʼs letters.

Furthermore, the Gospels, Matthew and Luke, Differ Most From Each Other in exactly those places where the ostensibly earliest Gospel, Mark, was silent, i.e., in their tales of Jesusʼ infancy and post-resurrection appearances (where Mark was silent, so neither Matthew nor Luke could maintain their closeness to one another by following Mark in those areas, hence they diverge the most from each other in exactly in those places).

Gospel Improbabilities

Richard Carrier, VIDEO, Why the Gospels Are Myth: The Evidence of Genre and Content

Interesting stuff.

The Non-Liberation of Women Under Christianity

Women's Lib

The rise of womenʼs rights worldwide owes much to unconventional women of each generation who pushed the limits of what was considered “acceptable female behavior.” (See my references at the very end for examples)

Dr. Amy Jill-Levine—Professor at Vanderbilt in the Graduate Dept. of Religion, is one of the best-known New Testament scholars in the U.S., co-editor with Dale C. Allison Jr. and John Dominic Crossan of The Historical Jesus in Context (Princeton Readings in Religions) (Princeton University Press; New Ed. Oct., 2006). Levineʼs numerous publications address Christian Origins, Jewish-Christian Relations, and Sexuality, Gender, and the Bible. She is also the author of Women Like This: New Perspectives on Jewish Women in the Greco-Roman World. Her essay, “Jesus was no Feminist” used to be online, but you can find a copy here, broken into several sections due to the word limits of each comment.

Also see Salty Wives, Spirited Mothers, and Savvy Widows: Capable Women of Purpose and Persistence in Lukeʼs Gospel by F. Scott Spencer (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012)

As stated in the above work, “However much he [Jesus] might have been ahead of his time, he did not jump two millennia on gender equality. He called God ‘Father,’ and twelve men to be his apostles and future judges of Israel; he rarely initiated contacts with women and never explicitly called women to follow him; and, however much he might have laid the groundwork for an inclusive, servant-driven community, it was insufficient to keep his followers from furthering patriarchal, hierarchical, and ‘kyriarchal’ ecclesiastical structures in his name.”

Christians are still in damage control, trying to explain away or sugar coat some of the things Paul said about women (some scholars simply admit that the Pastoral Epistles were pseudepigraphical, so that what they say about women is not truly Pauline if inspired at all). And thereʼs Jesusʼ choice of twelve men to follow him and judge the tribes of Israel, along with the focus on God as Father, when “God” is more mysterious than that, an infinite Being of no gender.

Let me add some passages I find amusing:

Moses warned Israelite men to “come not at their wives” before “meeting the Lord.” (Exodus 19:15,17)

Jesus said, “Some have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat. 19:12)

Paul taught: “It is good for a man not to touch a woman [sexually]… Are you loosed from a wife? seek not a wife… The time is short: it remains that they that have wives be as though they had none.” (1 Cor. 7)

“These [men] are they that were not defiled with women; for they are virgins.” (Revelation 14: 2-4)

The Bibleʼs heroes could have multiple wives and concubines.

See D. Marty Lasley [a Southern Baptist], “Keeping Women In Servitude: Why Southern Baptists Resurrected The Hermeneutics Of Slavery” (2000) —- On June 10, 1998, the SBConvention, for the first time, amended the 1963 Southern Baptist statement of faith known as the Baptist Faith And Message, adding a brand new section (XVIII) entitled the “Family Amendment” that states in part, “A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him [spiritually], has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation [in the societal realm].” Southern Baptists believe their amendment concerning the necessity of wifely “submission” and the wifeʼs duty to “respect, serve and help” her husband, is what the Holy Scriptures demand. But Southern Baptist slaveowners once believed the same thing regarding the “submission” of slaves and the slaveʼs duty to “respect, serve and help” their masters.

While in the OT female slaves remained their masterʼs property “for ever.”

The “giving away of the bride” ritual in religious marriage ceremonies resembles a transferance of ownership of property. Note the expression, “Who gives this woman to this man?” The woman is the property of her father, which he passes to another man.

The Bible instructs men to take a proactive approach to their problem with paternity — the possibility that their putative children are not their genetic offspring — by murdering brides who do not bleed on first penetration, by murdering prospective wives who are not virgins, by torturing and murdering wives who are suspected of adultery, and by murdering women who have committed adultery. Although some non-Western cultures also sanctify these practices, in other cultures women have traditionally been “very free and at liberty in doing what they please with themselves” (Barbosa 1500:105-6). It follows that the Bibleʼs dark legacy is not a requirement of human nature. See “Chastity And Fidelity: Biblical Roots Of The Short Leash On Women” by John Hartung.

Thomas Aquinas compared women to being monstrous accidents of birth. “As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active power of the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of a woman comes from defect in the active power…” Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Q92, art. 1, Reply Obj. 1

“And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.” Ecclesiastes 7:26

St. Augustine wrote to a friend: “What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman… I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.” And in Book XV of The City of God, “The evil spirits often are said to have appeared with women, lusted after them and consummated intercourse with them.”

Martin Luther (1483 to 1546): “If they [women] become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth, thatʼs why they are there.”

The Biblical Position On…Womenʼd Roles written by John MacArthur Jr., Christian speaker, evangelist (1988). Worth a read…

Such quotations from Christians could be multiplied.

“The various Christian churches fought tooth and nail against the advancement of women, opposing everything from womenʼs right to speak in public, to the use of anesthesia in childbirth…and womanʼs suffrage. Today the most organized and formidable opponent of womenʼs social, economic and sexual rights remains organized religion. Religionists defeated the Equal Rights Amendment. Religious fanatics and bullies are currently engaged in an outright war of terrorism and harassment against women who have abortions and the medical staff which serves them.”

Dr. Uta Ranke-Heinemann (Uta Johanna Ingrid Heinemann)—Author of Eunichs For The Kingdom Of Heaven: Women, Sexuality, And The Catholic Church; and, Putting Away Childish Things. She was the first ever female Catholic theologian for the world, but was stripped of her departmental chair and license to preach because she questioned doctrinal beliefs.

Karen Armstrong—Author of The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out Of Darkness; former nun; and author of the bestseller, A History Of God.

Dr. Daphne Hampson—Author of After Christianity (2nd Rev edition, 2003); and, Christian Contradictions: The Structures Of Lutheran And Catholic Thought (Cambridge University Press; New Ed edition (2004); former Anglican theologian.

Carlene Cross—Author of Fleeing Fundamentalism: A Ministerʼs Wife Examines Faith (2006). Publisherʼs Weekly writes: “After indoctrination at a Bible college, Cross finds herself in a marriage from hell. Her husband, a popular young pastor [and rising star of the Religious Right], uses religion to mask the alternate reality he has created, a netherworld that will potentially destroy not only his career but the entire familyʼs safety and sanity… Her heartfelt condemnation of public hypocrisy couldnʼt be more timely. In her ex-husbandʼs own self-indicting words: “Isnʼt it ironic, a guy condemning sinful society and completely without a conscience himself?” (Ms. Cross is also a former student of Christian apologist, Gary Habermas, who now teaches at Liberty University.)

“Mommy, Does God Hate Women?”—This simple yet profoundly insightful question was posed by my neighborʼs six-year-old daughter, Jillian. It was inspired by her twelve-year-old sister Sarahʼs recent emergence into womanhood, i.e. the onset of her first menses. Rather than try to put a positive spin on this life-changing and often traumatic event in a young womanʼs life, their mother—an Evangelical Christian—explained to the girls that this was the curse the great Jehovah put upon Eve for her disobedience in the Garden of Eden.

Women and the Vatican

Excerpt from John Cornwell, The Pontiff in Winter: Triumph and Conflict in the Reign of John Paul II

Laywomen, who might have exerted a civilizing influence, were present in the Vatican in pitifully small numbers. The contemptuous way in which they were treated revealed the misogynist culture that prevailed. A former secretary, now living in Switzerland, reported that she was treated more like a slave than a human being and that she was literally locked in her office each day by her boss, a distinguished Dominican priest-theologian, and had to knock to be allowed to go to the bathroom.

Another told me that after she was appointed personal assistant to an archbishop, officials were in the habit of opening the door to her office and staring at her in sullen silence. When she went to the Vatican cafeteria, male bureaucrats would move away if she sat close to them.

Excerpt from “The People Of Opus Dei,” April 15, 2006

Opus Dei requires a deep commitment - especially for members called numeraries. They live and work in Opus Dei centers like their headquarters in New York.

“I would say the 20 years I was in Opus Dei was up and down. Very up and very down,” says a woman who goes by “Jane.”

Jane asked CBS News to hide her identity. She joined Opus Dei right out of High School, working as a live-in cook and housekeeper at Opus Dei centers across the country. She says she handed almost every cent she earned back to the group.

“The striving for perfection it becomes very all consuming to the point where common sense just doesnʼt come into play. And I donʼt think that was a good thing,” says Jane.

Jane claims to have become so occupied with her work and prayer schedule that she went three years without speaking to her parents. A year ago they hired a cult-deprogrammer to convince her to quit. Now sheʼs pulling herself together in the Ozark Mountains.

“When you are in Opus Dei, you are afraid to leave because you think that you are going to hell for not doing godʼs will,” she says.

Women Without Superstition : No Gods - No Masters by Annie Laurie Gaylor (Editor)

The story of how female heretics, agnostics, and atheists influenced the womenʼs movement. 51 feminists, from Mary Wollstonecraft to Katha Pollitt and Barbara Ehrenreich, shows how the leaders of the womenʼs-liberation movement have long understood the crucial importance of breaking with the Bible. “The book made me think—hard—about why I support an institution that has, historically, such an atrocious record of abuses against women. In sparkling displays of logic, freethinking women snip patriarchal theology into ribbons. The lives of these women are absolutely exhilarating.”

Includes excerpts of: Mary Wollstonecraft, Anne Royall, Frances Wright, Harriet Martineau, Lydia Maria Child, Ernestine L. Rose, Margaret Fuller, Emma Martin, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy N. Colman, George Eliot, Susan B. Anthony, Ella E. Gibson, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Lois Waisbrooker, Elmina D. Slenker, Lillie Devereux Blake, Ouida, Marilla Ricker, Annie Besant, Susan H. Wixon, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Helen Gardener, Ellen Battelle Dietrick, Josephine K. Henry, Etta Semple, Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Voltairine de Cleyre, Emma Goldman, Zona Gale, Margaret Sanger, Marian Sherman, Dora Russell, Meridel Le Sueur, Margaret Knight, Barbara Smoker, Queen Silver, Vashti McCollum, Ruth Hurmence Green, Catherine Fahringer, Anne Nicol Gaylor, Meg Bowman, Barbara G. Walker, Sherry Matulis, Kay Nolte Smith, Sonia Johnson, Barbara Ehrenreich, Katha Pollitt, Taslima Nasrin. Also includes biographical sketches of 39 additional freethinking women such as Ayn Rand, George Sand, Lucy Parsons, Florence Nightingale, and Jane Addams. Also featuring an exclusive Elizabeth Cady Stanton Reader.

Doubt: A History by Jennifer Hecht

Hecht is especially engaging when she describes the great women skeptics of history, starting with Hypatia, torn to pieces by a Christian mob in 415 A.D. There was Margaret of Navarre, the sensitive but hard-headed Emily Dickinson, and the fearless Margaret Sanger. Hecht is charmed by the 19th-century American atheist lecturer and anarchist Voltairine de Cleyre (1866-1912). Voltairineʼs father named her after his favorite skeptic but sent her to a Catholic boarding school. This did not dampen her spirit: She became such a rabble-rousing advocate for labor and womenʼs rights that she was the subject of a biography by the socialist Emma Goldman.

The Biblical Position on Women. Hate from a Christian

Note: The following text is a reprint of the non-copyrighted booklet titled, “THE BIBLICAL POSITION ON…WOMENʼS ROLES” written by John MacArthur Jr.

Womenʼs Roles

The feminist movement of the twentieth century has assaulted traditional Christian values for women, and the result has been a revolution in our country. Whereas women traditionally fulfilled support roles and gained their greatest joy and sense of accomplishment from being wives and mothers, today many have abandoned their homes for the higher-paying and supposedly more prestigious jobs of the work force outside the home. Traditional sexual morality has given way to promiscuity with women often in the role of aggressor. Gentle, quiet women have become self-assertive and hostile, boldly demanding their “rights.” Divorce is rampant, with women frequently initiating separation and divorces.

As if the secular feminist movement does not generate enough confusion for women today, there has arisen a fast-growing group who refer to themselves as “biblical feminists.” This movement, which includes both men and women of varying theological perspectives, espouses most of the causes of the secular movement while seeking to find their justification in Scripture.

What Does the Bible Say?

As Christians, our desire is to examine the Scripture as carefully as possible in order to know Godʼs will and obey it. We believe in the authority and inerrancy of the Word of God and are confident that it has a clear message for women today. Only the Bible can offer a final solution to the chaos and confusion with which modern women are confronted.

The Old Testament and Women

In the creation account of Genesis 1 we find Godʼs first word on the subject of men and women (verse 27)—they were both equally created in the image of God. Neither received more of the image of God than the other. So the Bible begins with the equality of the sexes. As persons, as human beings, as spiritual beings, standing before God, men and women are absolutely equal.

Despite this equality, there is in Genesis 2 a more detailed account of the creation of the two humans which show some differences in their God-given responsibilities. God did not create the man and woman spontaneously at the same time, but rather He created Adam first and Eve later for the specific purpose of being a helper to Adam. Though Eve was Adamʼs equal, she was given a role to fulfill in submitting to him. While the word “helper” carries very positive connotations, even being used of God Himself as the helper of Israel (Deut. 33:7, Ps. 33:20), it still describes one in a relationship of service to another.

When craftily tempted in the Garden of Eden, Eve, rather than seeking Adamʼs counsel or leadership, took the lead herself, eating of the forbidden fruit and then leading her husband into sin (Gen. 3:6). Because Adam and Eve sinned in disobedience to the command of God, there followed certain consequences for them and also for the serpent (Gen. 3:14-19). For the woman, God pronounced a curse which included multiplied pain in childbirth and tension in the authority- submission relationship of the husband and wife. Genesis 3:16 says the womanʼs “desire” will be for her husband but he shall “rule” over her. In Genesis 4:7 the author uses the same word “desire” to mean “excessive control over.” Thus, the curse in Genesis 3:16 refers to a new desire on the part of the woman to exercise control over her husband—but he will in fact rule or exert authority over her. The result down through history has been an ongoing struggle between the sexes—with women seeking control and men ruling instead, often harshly. Before the fall and the curse there was true harmony in the husband-wife relationship, but through the curse a new element of tension and dissension entered into the marriage relationship.

It is significant to note that the responsibility of wives to submit to their husbands was part of Godʼs plan even before the curse. Feminists often dispute this, viewing submission as something which came in through the curse and which should be eliminated through the cross of Jesus Christ (just as we seek to relieve the pain of childbirth through drugs and breathing techniques, and as we seek to ease the toil of the field through modern technology, even including air-conditioned tractors). But since a careful reading of Genesis 2:18-25 shows that God created the woman to support her husband an be a suitable companion to him, we do not erase womanʼs submission in marriage through the cross but rather we add harmony to the relationship.

Thus, the Bible begins by establishing both the equality of men and women and also the support role of the wife. Many other Old Testament passages support these two themes of equality and submission for women (i.e., Ex. 21:15,17,28-31;Num. 6:2; 5:19,20,29; 30:1-16).

Women were active in the religious life of Israel throughout the Old Testament, but generally they were not leaders—with a few exceptions. Women like Deborah (Jud. 4), however, clearly were the exception and not the rule. In fact, Isaiah 3:12 in its context of Godʼs judgment on unbelieving and disobedient Israel indicates that God allowed weak leaders, either masculine women or effeminate men, to rule as a part of His judgment on the sinning nation.

Jesus and Women

When we begin to look at women in the New Testament, the first thing we observe is how Jesus spent time with women and apparently enjoyed their companionship—in stark contrast to other men of His day. In the midst of the Greek, Roman and Jewish cultures, which viewed women almost on the level with possessions, Jesus showed love and respect for women.

Though Jewish rabbis did not teach women, Jesus not only included women in His audiences but used illustrations and images in His teaching which would be familiar to them (Matt. 13:33, 22:1-2; 24:41; Lk. 15:8-10). He also specifically applied His teachings to women (Matt. 10:34f).

While the Jewish Talmud said it was better to burn the Torah than teach it to a woman, Jesus taught women freely. To the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn. 4), He revealed that He was the Messiah. With her He also discussed such important topics as eternal life and the nature of true worship. Jesus never took the position that women, by their very nature, could not understand spiritual or theological truth. He also taught Mary and, when admonished by Martha, pointed out the priority of learning spiritual truth even over “womanly” responsibilities like serving guests in oneʼs home (Lk. 10:38-42).

Though men in Jesusʼ day normally would not allow women to count change into their hands for fear of physical contact, Jesus touched women to heal them and allowed women to touch Him (Lk. 13:10f; Mk. 5:25f). Jesus even allowed a small group of women to travel with Him and His disciples (Lk. 8:1-3)—“an unprecedented happening in the history of that time,” said one commentator.

After His resurrection, Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene and sent her to announce His resurrection to the disciples (Jn. 20:1-18). Jesus did this despite the fact that women were not allowed to be witnesses in Jewish courts because they were all believed to be liars.

In Jesusʼ treatment of women we see how He raised their station in life and how He showed them compassion and respect in a way that they had never known before. But Jesus still did not exalt women to a place of leadership over men. None of the Twelve he selected were women. Even at the cross where most of the men had fled and the women remained faithful, Jesus did not dismiss His male disciples and replace them with women. And Jesus made a radical break with His culture in so many ways that surely He would have done it in this way also if it had been Godʼs will. Jesus, in His treatment of women, demonstrated their equality and worth as persons, but He did not promote them to positions of leadership over men.

The Epistles and Women

In the Epistles we discover the same two principles side by side—both equality and submission for women. Galatians 3:28 points us to the equality, indicating that the way of salvation is the same for both men and women and that they are members of equal standing in the body of Christ. It does not, however, eradicate all differences in responsibilities for men and women since this passage does not cover every aspect of Godʼs design for male and female and since Paul makes clear distinctions in other passages he wrote.

The passages which instruct us about spiritual gifts also make no distinctions according to sex. And most Scriptural exhortations to Christian growth and behavior are directed to men and women alike (i.e., I Pet. 2:1-3; Heb. 4:16; 6:1; Eph. 5:18; Gal. 5:16; Phil. 2:1-5).

However, throughout the New Testament and alongside these passages on equality are also passages which make distinctions between what God desires of men and what He desires of women, especially within marriage and within the church.

The Family

While Christian marriage is to involve mutual love and submission between two believers (Eph. 5:21), the New Testament, in four separate passages, expressly gives to the wives the responsibility to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18; I Pet. 3:1; Ti. 2:5). This is the voluntary submission of one equal to another out of love for God and a desire to follow His design in His Word. It is never pictured as groveling or in any way diminishing the wifeʼs worth as a person, but rather the husband is called upon to love his wife sacrificially as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25).

The biblical picture is of a union filled with love and harmony where both partners are submitting to one another, where both lovingly sacrifice for the best interest of the other and where the husband is the leader in a relationship of two equals.

While husbands and fathers have been given primary responsibility for the leadership of their families including their children (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21; I Tim. 3:4-5), wives and mothers are urged to be “workers at home” (Ti. 2:5), meaning managers of households. Their home and their children are to be their priority—in contrast to the feminist emphasis today on careers and jobs for women outside the home.

The biblical pattern for raising and instructing children in Godʼs truths was established in Deuteronomy 6 where children are to be taught by parents “when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” Parents are responsible for the spiritual education of their children, and mothers who work full-time outside their homes usually lack the quality time to instruct their children adequately. Nor can the responsibility for this instruction simply be transferred to someone else. While feminists emphasize that women should seek their own self-fulfillment at all costs, the Bible urges Christian women to be humble, to sacrifice their own needs to meet the needs of others, to do what is best for their children, trusting that God will meet their needs in the process.

The Church

From the very beginning of the Christian church women fulfilled a vital role (Acts 1:12-14; 9:36-42; 16:13-15; 17:1-4, 10-12; 18:1-2, 18, 24-28; Rom. 16; I Cor. 16:19; II Tim. 1:5; 4:19). Women played an important role in the church from earliest days but not a leading role. The incarnation was in a Man, the apostles were all men, the chief missionary activity was done by men, the writing of the New Testament was the work of men (though some feminists would have us believe Priscilla wrote the Book of Hebrews), and generally leadership in the churches was entrusted to men. Still, women had a prominence and dignity in the early propagation and expansion of the gospel that they did not have in Judaism or the heathen world.

While the Apostle Paul respected women and worked side by side with them for the furtherance of the gospel (Rom. 16; Phil. 4:3), he appointed no women elders or pastors. In his epistles, as he wrote instructions to the churches, he urged that men were to be the leaders and that women were not to teach or exercise authority over men (I Tim 2:12).

The ministry of women is essential to the body of Christ, but the New Testament gives no basis for women becoming pastors or elders. While women are spiritual equals with men, they are excluded from leadership over men in the church. The New Testament finds no conflict here though twentieth century feminists insist that these principles contradict one another.

The Apostle Paul is completely consistent with Jesus in regard to women. Paul had a high regard for women and shared his labors for the gospel with many of them. But, like Jesus, he never appointed them to positions of authority over men in the home or the church. As active as women were in the early church, nowhere did Paul ordain them as elders.

Where The Feminists Go Wrong!

If more Christians understood the methods of feminist thinking and what kind of biblical interpretation they must do in order to arrive at their conclusions, they would likely be more hesitant to accept the feminist position. To understand the feminist interpretation process, we begin by examining their view of Galatians 3:28 and how their interpretation of that verse affects their interpretation of the rest of the New Testament.

Feminist View OF GALATIANS 3:28 - The foundation for all feminist interpretation of the New Testament is Galatians 3:28—“Their is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Feminists interpret this verse to refer to an equality which is both theological, regarding men and womenʼs standing before God, and also social, regarding all of their relationships in day-to-day living. If men and women are equal before God, feminists say, then there can be no differences within their roles and responsibilities in society. Feminists therefore use this verse as the basis for the elimination of all role distinctions between men and women in Christianity. They then interpret all other New Testament verses on women in light of the feminist understanding of Galatians 3:28, thus demanding that no other verse be allowed to teach role distinctions for men and women.

Problem With Feminist View Of Galatians 3:28 - Feminists fail to interpret Galatians 3:28 in its proper context. The verse concerns the subject of justification and the believerʼs relationship to the Abrahamic covenant. Paul was not seeking to establish social equality in the relationships he mentioned. Rather, he was showing that all, regardless of their standing in society, may participate by faith in the inheritance of Abraham to be sons of God. He was teaching the fundamental equality of both men and women in their standing before God. Even the feminists emphasize that this is a theological passage rather than one dealing with practical matters.

Equality of being before God does not require the elimination of all role distinctions in society. Equality of being does not rule out authority and submission in relationships. We could point to many examples of relationships in which there is equality and yet a difference in roles involving authority and submission—the Trinity, the President and U. S. citizens, parents and children, employers and employees, Elders and church members.

The theology of Galatians 3:28 will result in certain social implications, but they will be the ones given in the Bible. Where authority and submission are discussed in relationships in the New Testament, instructions are given for how those relationships may be regulated so that they function in Christian love and harmony and not with abuse. The Bible does not eliminate authority but cautions that authority should be exercised in a way that honors Christ. Those in authority (husbands, Elders, parents, employers) are instructed to use their authority in a godly way. And also, those who are to submit to these authorities (wives, church members, children, employees) are instructed to submit to authority in a godly way.

Because feminists want to rule out the submission of wives to husbands and of women to male leadership in the church on the basis of Galatians 3:28, they face a serious problem in biblical interpretation when they come to the Pauline passages which explicitly teach the submission of wives to husbands and women to the male leadership in the church. Beginning with their interpretation of Galatians 3:28 that all role distinctions must be abolished in the name of equality, they seek to interpret these other Pauline passages (Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18; I Pet. 3:1; Ti. 2:5; I Tim 2:11-15; I Cor. 11:1-16; I Cor. 14:34-35) in light of that questionable interpretation of Galatians 3:28. Feminists of various persuasions have come up with four different ways of handling this biblical material in order to reach conclusions favorable to the Feminist Viewpoint:

  • Feminist View #1 - The New Testament passages which teach the submission of women were not really written by Paul but were added by scribes, and thus are not part of the inspired Word of God.

  • Problem With View #1 - This position reveals a low view of the inspiration of Scripture. According to this view, some of the Bible was inspired by God and some was not. Therefore, the Christian, rather than submitting to Scripture, must function as the judge of Scripture—always making decisions about what is inspired and what is not inspired. Both II Timothy 3:16 and II Peter 1:20-21 indicate that God inspired all Scripture, that he was overseeing the process of the writing of Scripture in such a way that the end product is His Word, not the product of human authors. Thus, the Christian views all of the Bible as Godʼs inspired Word and does not set himself as judge of the Bible.

  • Feminist View #2 - The New Testament passages which teach the submission of women were written by Paul, but he was wrong. Those who hold this view believe Paul was too much influenced by his rabbinical background and that in his writing of Scripture he had not reached a full understanding of how the gospel related to relationships between men and women. Thus, he was mistaken in some of the passages he wrote.

  • Problem With View #2 - This position is also based on a low view of the inspiration of Scripture. In this view, too, the Christian must become the judge of Scripture to determine for himself what is correct and what is incorrect. This view assumes that twentieth century man has a better understanding of Godʼs truth than did the Apostle Paul writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Again, II Timothy 3:16 and II Peter 1:20-21 indicate that God worked in and through the writers of Scripture in such a way that the end product was Godʼs perfect Word and not a conglomeration of truth and error put together by human authors.

  • Feminist View #3 - The New Testament teaches the submission of women, but the teachings are no longer applicable in the twentieth century. According to this view, Paul was teaching the world view of his own culture in the first century, but our twentieth century culture is more enlightened about the equality of men and women, so the teaching no longer applies. Or sometimes it is said that writers of the New Testament knew that the ideal was to abolish all gender-based roles but feared to hinder the gospel if they broke so radically with their own culture. Thus, these Pauline passages are relegated to temporary cultural truth rather than universal truth for all cultures and all times.

  • Problem With View #3 - The foundation for Paulʼs teaching on the role or responsibilities of women is never the culture of his own day but rather the purpose of womanʼs creation and the womanʼs failure in the fall as Paul points out in I Corinthians 11:1-9 and I Timothy 2:8-15. Adam was created first, and Eve was later created as a helper for him rather than their being created simultaneously and independent of each other. Eve was deceived and led her husband into sin rather than submitting to his leadership. If the reason for the womanʼs submission is related to the creation and the fall, than it is not something which can change from year to year and culture to culture. Rather, it is a universal principle.

Some feminists say that there was no submission for the woman in creation but only as a result of the fall, that Genesis 3:16 was the beginning of authority and submission. But Genesis 2:18-25 teaches a submissive role for Eve in relationship to Adam, and Paul interprets it that way in the New Testament. Thus, the cross does not rid us of authority and submission, but it brings harmony to authority and submission relationships.

  • Feminist View #4 - The New Testament, if rightly understood, has never taught the submission of women. If the literary context, the historical context and the theological context were carefully studied, Paul would be clearly seen to be egalitarian, and thus the New Testament teaches that women may fulfill any responsibilities in the marriage and the church that men may fulfill. Thus, “headship” means only “source” and never “leader” or “authority.” “Be subject” means only “relate yourselves to” or “respond to” or “adjust yourselves to” and never “submit to.”

  • Problem With View #4 - In these last two views the confusion among the various feminist representives comes to the surface. Both groups read these same passages, and some say they teach submission and others say they do not. Greek lexicons include “authority” as one of the meanings for “head” and “submit” as one of the meanings for “be subject” so that only prejudicial interpretation could limit these words to pro-feminist definitions. This last view is so unconvincing that other feminists even reject it.

Feminist Gymnastics

If one wants to arrive at pro-feminist conclusions, there are a limited number of ways to interpret the biblical context in order to reach such a position. These four are the alternatives which feminists have devised thus far.

Each alternative has serious flaws which cause the Christian, in the process of feminist interpretation, to sacrifice either a high view of inspiration of Scripture or else to use a false hermeneutic, or principle for interpreting Scripture. Either is too high a price to pay. All of these exegetical gymnastics become necessary just to force the Pauline passages to harmonize with the feminist interpretation of Galatians 3:28. If Galatians 3:28 were interpreted correctly in context to refer to the fundamental standing of men and women before God, and if the feminists did not totally reject any concept of authority and submission, harmony of all the biblical material on the subject would be rather simple.

How Women Glorify God

Men and women stand as equals before God, both bearing the image of God Himself. Yet, without making one inferior to the other. God calls upon both men and women to fulfill roles and responsibilities designed specially for them in certain situations. In fulfilling those God-given roles taught in the New Testament, women are not limited. They are reaching their fullest potential because they are following the plan of their own Creator and Designer. Only in obedience to Him and in His design will women truly be able, in the fullest sense, to give glory to God (I Cor. 10:31).

Note: This file was written by John MacArthur Jr., of Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California. It originally was presented as non-copyrighted material in a booklet titled, “The Biblical Position on Womanʼs Roles.” Bible Bulletin Board is deeply grateful for the ministry of Grace Community Church and the truth which it has presented over the years. My own Christian walk has been greatly helped by John MacArthur and the Word of Grace Ministry. For information about the radio and tape ministries of Grace Community Church and John MacArthur, write:

Word Of Grace Communications
P.O. Box 4000
Panorama City, CA 91412
Voice 1-800-55-GRACE

Bible Bulletin Board
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Modem 317-452-1535
January 1, 1988

The Discovery Institute Endorses a Literal Adam and Eve, And It's Easy to See Why Once You “Follow the Money”

Discovery Institute Endorses a Literal Adam and Eve

The pro-Intelligent Design book, Science and Human Origins, Endorses a Literal Adam and Eve.

Including responses from ID advocates

“Darwinist hero of the hour”: the ID crowd sort of respond

Intelligent Designʼs leading institution published a book advocating a literal “Adam and Eve”

Gauger argues that there are five major haplotypes but only three of the haplotypes are “ancient.” Since up to four haplotypes could be inherited from two people, this leaves the door open for a bottleneck involving a single pair of humans. But even if we accept all parts of her argument up to here, the IDist book is not internally consistent, because Gauger does not dispute mainstream opinion that the last two major haplotypes out of the five arose five 4 to 6 million years ago. But this means that all five haplotypes arose in pre-humans, since Luskin in his chapter denies that true humans existed 4 to 6 million years ago (he says that true humans began with H. erectus, 1.8 million yrs ago). Therefore 4 million years ago when the last of the HLA-DR haplotypes originated, our closest relatives were still non-humans, i.e., Australopithecines. So ALL FIVE major haplotypes of HLA-DR pre-date human-ness by the IDistsʼ own admissions, which looks like added evidence of a continuity between Australopithecines and later hominids including modern day humans. Also, if Adam and Eve with their five major halotypes arose over 1.8 million years ago they were non-human.

IDʼist authors in the book criticize fields in which they lack expertise. A lawyer challenges the worldʼs palaeoanthropologists and geneticists. Should he be trying to take them all on at once? Accusations that the entire field of palaeoanthropology is driven by personal disputes and that Francis Collins is a bad Christian are simply not compelling reading in a book that is putatively about scientific argument. In reality the overwhelming majority of scientists in each of the fields addressed in this book share a broad consensus that is at odds with what the authors claim. And, despite the breathless accusations of a Darwinian conspiracy, mainstream scientists are a diverse bunch. Like Francis Collins and Francisco Ayala, who are both singled out in this book, many are themselves Christian yet accept the balance of evidence for our evolutionary past.

The problem for IDʼist like Luskin is that there is a progression in the fossil record between us and early Homo. There is no evidence of a major discontinuity at the point where humans are most likely to have acquired our truly modern humanness… A paper by Schultz, Nelson and Dunbar elegantly summarizes the evidence for cognitive evolution, showing a series of changes that culminate in the emergence of modern human language within the last 100,000 years. Brain size/cranial evolution over more than 3 million years also shows a progression from the cranium sizes of ancient apes and hominids to more modern species of homo.

The thrust of the ID book is to claim human exceptionalism, disprove our common descent with apes, and search for a real-life Adam and Eve. None of this is part of a program to genuinely investigate the world. This is particularly clear because the authors are happy to create doubt about what they call Darwinism, rather than create positive cases for an alternative to it.


I have heard quite a few people now asking for an honest and frank discussion between, for example, Casey Luskin and Behe on common descent. If they were undertaking a real scientific program, there would be no need for people to request it - open comment and debate are a normal part of science, and it seems to me that common descent under ID should be a non-trivial matter for such discussion.
—Paul McBride July 14, 2012

Michael Behe told us his hypothesis a few years ago. We both took part in a week-long lecture series on the intelligent design debate at Hillsdale College. After Michael Beheʼs lecture, some of us pressed him to explain exactly how “irreducibly complex” mechanisms arose—mechanisms that cannot, according to Behe, be explained as products of evolution by natural selection. He repeatedly refused to answer. But after a long night of drinking he finally answered: “A puff of smoke!” A physicist in the group asked, Do you mean a suspension of the laws of physics? Yes, Behe answered. Not very persuasive as a scientific answer.
—RBH July 9, 2012

Reminds me of what Berlinski wrote: “Before the Cambrian era, a brief 600 million years ago, very little is inscribed in the fossil record; but then, signaled by what I imagine as a spectral puff of smoke and a deafening ta-da!, an astonishing number of novel biological structures come into creation, and they come into creation at once.— [Berlinski, “The Deniable Darwin” (June 1996), Commentary magazine.]

Berlinski added to Beheʼs explanation by adding the word “Ta da.”

The Discovery Institute Produced A Book That Advocates a Literal “Adam and Eve”, and Continues to Leave the Door Wide Open to Young-Earth Creationism Because Thatʼs Where the Majority of their Money Comes From


Stephen Meyer tutored Howard Ahmanson, Jr. son in science and was asked by Ahmanson, “What could you do if you had some financial backing?” In the 1970s multimillionaire Howard Ahmanson became a Calvinist and joined Rushdoonyʼs Christian Reconstructionist movement. Ahmanson served as a board member of Rushdoonyʼs Chalcedon Foundation for approximately 15 years before resigning in 1996. Ahmanson said he had left the Chalcedon board and “does not embrace all of Rushdoonyʼs teachings” which include young-earth creationism, biblical inerrancy, abandoning the Constitution and placing the US directly under “Biblical law” — including state punishment for religious offenses such as blasphemy or violating the Sabbath, and the use of Biblical forms of punishment such as stoning.

The same year Ahmanson lost interest in working with Chalcedon he seems to have gained interest in supporting “intelligent design.” In 1996 a representative of Ahmanson promised $750,000 over three years to fund the Instituteʼs Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture which went on to form the motive force behind the intelligent design movement. By far the biggest backers of the intelligent design efforts continue to be the Ahmansons, who have provided 35 percent of the science centerʼs $9.3 million since its inception and now underwrite A quarter of its $1.3 million annual operations. Mr. Ahmanson sits on Discoveryʼs board. In 2002 some politicians returned money given them by Ahmanson after learning how far right his views were, so Ahmanson opened himself up to some interviews, but could not bring himself to repudiate his former Chalcedonian views, stating for instance, “I think what upsets people is that Rushdoony seemed to think - and Iʼm not sure about this - that a godly society would stone people. I no longer consider that essential. It would still be a little hard to say that if one stumbled on a country that was doing that, that it is inherently immoral, to stone people for these things.”

The Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture also recʼd a founding grant of $450,000 from the conservative Maclellan Foundation (Calvinist, reconstructionist, dominionist, and most probably YECʼs) “We give for religious purposes,” said Thomas H. McCallie III, executive director of the Maclellan Foundation. “This is not about science, and Darwin wasnʼt about science. Darwin was about a metaphysical view of the world.”

The Discovery Institute supports more than one issue or project and has gained support from some secular groups like the Verizon Foundation and the Gates Foundation, which gave $1 million in 2000 and pledged $9.35 million over 10 years in 2003. But Greg Shaw, a grant maker at the Gates Foundation, said the money was “exclusive to the Cascadia project” on regional transportation which has nothing to do with the Discovery Instituteʼs views on “intelligent design.”

But the Discovery Instituteʼs science branch has cost it the support of the Bullitt Foundation, which gave $10,000 in 2001 for transportation related projects, as well as cost it the support of the John Templeton Foundation in Pennsylvania which supports “new insights between theology and science,” but found the DI to be less focused on interacting with modern science and scientists and more interested in public persuasion. Denis Hayes, director of the Bullitt Foundation, described Discovery in an e-mail message as “the institutional love child of Ayn Rand and Jerry Falwell,” saying, “I can think of no circumstances in which the Bullitt Foundation would fund anything at Discovery today.” Charles L. Harper Jr., the senior vice president of the Templeton Foundation, said he had rejected the instituteʼs entreaties since providing $75,000 in 1999 for a conference in which intelligent design proponents confronted critics. “Theyʼre political - that for us is problematic,” Mr. Harper said. While the DI has “always claimed to be focused on the science,” he added, “what I see is much more focused on public policy, on public persuasion, on educational advocacy and so forth.”

Not surprisingly, the Discovery Institute defended the right of Bryan College trustees to fire any professors who question or doubt that “Adam and Eve” were directly created.

And the DI book, Science and Human Origins, seems to have been composed in order to argue that we all descended from a literal first couple, “Adam and Eve,” starting with chapter 1 in which Ann Gauger introduces human evolution in the context of Christians losing faith in a literal Adam and Eve, lamenting Christians who accept the scientific evidence for evolution.

Meanwhile, Phil Johnson dedicated his book “Defeating Darwinism” to “Howard and Roberta” —Ahmanson and his wife. I donʼt know if Ahmnson had a direct hand in funding the publication of Johnsonʼs book, but it is not impossible, since his fellow Reconstructionist guru, Rushdooney, helped fund the publication of Henry Morrisʼs first book, The Genesis Flood, that advocates young-earth creationism. Johnson has also admitted that his distaste for evolutionary biology is based on religious convictions.

Johnson, adds, “I have consistently said that I take no position on the age of the earth, and that I regard the issue as not ripe for debate yet… When developments make it appropriate for me to clarify or adjust my position, I will not hesitate to do so.”

One wonders just what developments could possibly make Johnson make up his mind about the age of the Earth. Is he holding out for some new and improved radiometric dating technique? Waiting for new ice core results? I doubt it. Heʼs probably referring to political, not scientific, developments. The scientific case for an old Earth is overwhelming. But Johnsonʼs “Big Tent” strategy requires him to do the exact opposite of what he pretentiously claims to be doing, which is following the evidence wherever it leads. Instead, he simply sweeps the evidence for something as firmly supported as the age of the earth under the rug in favor of far more nebulous topics like the precise means by which this or that feature evolved or not.

Many D.I. members are like Johnson, saying “it doesnʼt matter how old or how young the earth is,” so it doesnʼt matter whether animals popped into existence whole a couple thousand years ago, or whether they share a common ancestry billions of years in the making. I guess astronomers, geologists, physicists, and biologists have no idea how old the earth is, or whether organisms are related via common ancestry. But if one was to arrange the following scientific propositions based on how relatively secure each proposition is, the worldʼs scientists would agree that an old age of the earth and cosmos is most secure, common ancestry second, and the question of the precise mechanisms that lay behind each evolutionary change, third. But the DI is funded by many who would like to challenge all three propositions but realize that the third is the only one in which they can currently hope to muddy the waters.

The ID movement is more extreme than say, “fine-tuners,” who see the view the “design” as front-loaded at the Big Bang (via six cosmological constants), and view everything that as naturally unfolding since then.

The Discovery Institute is naturally hesitant to reveal its creationist and extremist roots.

Look up the CVs of its members. We already discussed Ahmanson, who now says, as of 2014, “I am not a young-earth creationist,” though I bet he once was if he was ever on the board of the Chalcedon Foundation. I wonder when and why he changed his mind, or even if he did really change it and is claiming he is old-earth to add a bit more luster to the Institute he founded? And I wonder what he might say if asked about Adam and Eve?

Stephen C. Meyerʼs info on the DI site does not include Meyerʼs time at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Instead they only mention Meyer working at Whitworth, which they say Meyer left in 2002 to work full time on DI related projects.

But in Meyerʼs CV it says says that he surrendered his tenured (!) position at Whitworth in 2002 so he could work from 2002-2005 at a creationist Christian college whose “Guiding Principles,” include, “All those who become associated with Palm Beach Atlantic as trustees, officers, members of the faculty or of the staff, must believe in the divine inspiration of the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments; that man was directly created by God;…”

Dembski worked for a young-earth creationist Southern Baptist Theological Seminary from 2005-2013, where YECʼism is de rigeur, and Dembskiʼs boss forced him to restate his views on the age of the earth the the Flood of Noah to make them more amenable to the universityʼs views.

Dembski now works full time for DI.

Paul Nelson is a young-earth creationist, and Jonathan Wells, like Johnson, wonʼt say how old the earth is. For instance at the Kansas Evolution Hearings, Wells was asked,

Q. Doctor Wells, do you have a personal opinion as to how old the earth is?

A. I think the earth is probably four-and-a-half billion or so years old. But Iʼll tell you this, I used to— I would have said, a few years ago, Iʼm convinced itʼs four-and-a-half billion years old. But the truth is I have not looked at the evidence. And I have become increasingly suspicious of the evidence that is presented to me and thatʼs why at this point I would say probably itʼs four-and-a-half billion years old, but I havenʼt looked at the evidence.

The Unification Church of which Wells is a member has a website that says, “Scientists calculate the age of the earth to be some thousand million years,” or one billion years old, (reference) but on a different page they say, “The age of the earth is calculated to be several billion years.”

The pretension that these IDʼists support, that the age of the earth isnʼt really an issue, ignores the fact that it is, because one broad definition of evolution is change over time, and species change and spread out over time, leaving many of those offshoot species to die out in the process, such countless deaths are the price paid until some branch of a species spreads into places where it flourishes or where it can survive with some degree of greater stability and adaptability than before.

The DI reminds me of the Christian Coalitionʼs advice to all their “stealth” candidates try and pass “under the radar” but never telling people they are Evangelical Christians who believe in creationism and that the Lord is coming soon, or never let on that they are Calvinist supporters of biblical law, nor let on how extreme their personal opinions might be on a range of issues.

Expanding Rainbow of Evangelical Christian Options For Interpreting the Bible Makes It Increasingly Difficult to “Tell the Difference Between Liberal and Evangelical Christian Scholars”

Options For Interpreting the Bible

However, the other side of that debate would phrase the question differently. They would say, Itʼs growing more difficult to tell the difference between conservative Evangelical and mainstream biblical scholarship, adding that they think Evangelicalism needs to come to grips with the wider world of biblical scholarship and all the questions that arise necessarily from studying the text and history deeply.

Hereʼs whatʼs happening. Some evangelical scholars now argue that the Sermon on the Mount didnʼt happen literally as written. They say that people collected Jesusʼ sayings and put them together into the Sermon on the Mount. They say the geneologies of Matthew and Luke are fiction. They say the visit of the magi is fiction. They say the negative portrayal of the Pharisees in the Gospels is not accurate. But these same scholars also sign statements saying the Bible is without “error,” adding that it is without “error” based on its intended meaning, just as their more conservative brethren likewise assert. The debate involves oneʼs interpretation of a textʼs “intended” meaning, for itʼs day and age as well as for Godʼs purposes of teaching necessary truth.

The past generation of Evangelical biblical scholars, including those of the highest calibre, have been repeating that what we have in the Gospels are the surviving traces of Jesusʼ life. So we need to apply criteria to see which parts of the Gospels may have happened historically. They admit that all we have is a scale of probability on any given passage.

Robert Gundry. Says that the author of the Gospel of Matthew presents Peter as an apostate who lost his salvation. Gundryʼs lecture can be viewed here. Gundry was expelled from the Evangelical Theological Society for arguing that the author of the Gospel of Matthew used a Jewish literary genre called midrash that embroiders historical events with nonhistorical ones.

Michael Bird. Says Gundry should be reinstated to the Evangelical Theological Society. The reason is because increasing numbers of ETS members have grown more comfortable with modern biblical criticism.

Craig Blomberg. Agrees with Gundry saying we should allow that kind of interpretation. Blomberg says we shouldnʼt see the story of Jesus telling Peter to find the coin in the fishes mouth as historical. Also says we should accept Gundry back, that his method of biblical interpretation is perfectly legitimate, that his view of three Isaiahʼs is fine, and that a Pauline imitator wrote books instead of Paul.

William Lane Craig. Says he doesnʼt know what to think about the “raising of the many saints” passage in the Gospel of Matthew, but that it could be taken as apocalyptic symbolism. When asked his opinion on whether there were guards at the tomb, Lane says he canʼt think of anybody who would defend whether there were really guards at the tombs. Craig also admits he “does not know” how to interpret the Bibleʼs opening chapter: “I think that you can see from this survey of various biblical interpretations of Genesis 1 that there is quite a wide range of interpretations of Genesis 1 that have been defended by Bible believing Evangelical scholars. It is not the case that we are ‘boxed in’ to just one interpretation that is valid and sound for anyone who is a Bible believing Christian. Thereʼs quite a wide range of interpretations of Genesis 1. And you might say, well, which of these interpretations is the best? If any, which one would you endorse? And here I have to give my candid view, I donʼt know. I have been studying and reading on this subject a long time and Iʼm still uncertain as to what is the best view, so I donʼt have a sort of hard and fast opinion on this, but I think thatʼs alright. I think that the Christian can be open-minded with respect to various interpretations of biblical passages, and doesnʼt need to pigeon-hole everybody into one acceptable interpretation.” Source: William Lane Craig, Defenders podcast, series 2, “Section 9, ‘Creation and Evolution,’” Part 12

“When it says that Adam was created out of the dust of the earth, if this is a figurative narrative that could well describe human hominid forms, the material stuff out of which these are made. I donʼt think that itʼs clear, unless you take this in a very literal way, I donʼt think itʼs clear that even human evolution would be incompatible with biblical theism.” SOURCE: William Lane Craig, Defenders podcast, series 2, “Section 9, ‘Creation and Evolution,’” Part 13
Source: Creation vs. Evolution Series

For more on this topic, keep tuned to this conservative Christian website as well as looking up the works of the above mentioned scholars to understand their points of view.

The Cosmos as Mystery. Intelligent Design? What does a wider study of nature reveal? How much jury-rigging or tinkering might I.D.ists be willing to admit was part of the "design?"

Missing Link

The is like a Catholic theologian who starts out by agreeing with the agnostic that the cosmos is mysterious, but in the next breath tries to convince the agnostic that the cosmos revolves around the “holy mysteries” of one particular interpretation of one particular divine revelation. To the that revelation is “Intelligent Design” which solves all cosmic mysteries in one fell swoop.

But the cosmos remains a mystery, both chaotic and complex, as both the new science of chaos theory, and the new science of complexity theory, have demonstrated.

And we are far from having examined the cosmos beyond earth to see whether it might contain simple forms of replicating molecules perhaps at the core of comets (where water may remain liquid for long periods of time), or on moons in our solar system (those with liquid water), or outside our solar system. The cosmos is like a tremendous laboratory running an experiment involving far with more variables (and far more varying concentrations of molecules under different conditions) than can be found in a merely human laboratory, and it has run for billions of year and has enough energy to run for billions more. Perhaps the Designer is a Tinkerer? But in that case how would we be able to tell the difference between a tinkering Designer and a cosmos that “peoples?” (makes people like an ocean makes waves). Maybe we donʼt come into the cosmos at birth, but come out of it?

I.D.ists claim that the only options are “design” or “chance,” without defining either word very clearly.

What do I.D.ists mean by “design?” How much “design” was involved in a multi-billion year process that brought the first self-replicating chemicals and then cells to life? The earth held nothing but single celled organisms for a couple billion years, before the first multi-cellular organisms ever arose. And what kind of design leaves behind so much death right from the beginning, and so many extinct species, so many cousin-species on evolutionary-like bushes that kept dying off, often the whole bush died off, and long before the first upright primate species ever began to appear. Do I.D.ists believe humanity was “designed” in the sense of being “aimed at” from the beginning, and that evolution has hit its peak with humanity, and our present species has nowhere else to go from here either naturally or artificially? But what about other species? Maybe we can raise some of them to sentience, or even raise silicon-based life forms to sentience, and they may exceed our knowledge (or our compassion) some day? And we may be gone, perhaps we will be gone before we know it, and some other sentient species will arise later, maybe not as sentient as us, maybe more so but involving a different type of societal organization? The cosmos has billions of years yet to shine. Thereʼs stellar nurseries where countless stars are still forming, and new planets are forming around such new young stars.

What processes of “design” in particular have I.D.ists proposed? Is the Designer constantly tweaking DNA oh so invisibly, having a sip of tea, then tweaking it some more? Is the Designer popping whole new species into existence, head to toe, every ten thousand years, and still doing so, even after humans have invented cell phone cameras, but keeping it a secret by always doing it out of sight? Why does the Designer favor insects when it comes to designing new species? Is He trying to tell us something by the fact that different species of beetles number in the hundreds of thousands, and that mites, those tiny parasites, are the commonest known multi-cellular species of all, with perhaps a million species of mite on the earth? Does the Designer ever have to watch out for his little darlings once he has tweaked their DNA, keeping predators and natural disasters (and natural mutagenic chemicals and events in the cell, or radiation and cosmic rays from without the cell) from ruining his proposed plans of having such newly tweaked DNA passed to the next generation? If the Designer is watching out for his freshly tweaked darlings, then why mass extinction events? Is that the Designer shaking his Etch-I-Sketch?

Is the common idea of “design” for the average simply anything what “works?”—from the human brain to the malarial parasite to earthquakes. Yes, earthquakes. One prominent Christian apologist named Dinesh, explained in Christianity Today that earthquakes were a consequence of plate tectonics and plate tectonics are necessary in order to bring important minerals to the surface for life to continue, as if he knew for certain that an infinite Designer could not have designed things differently (except for that Designerʼs promise to design a new heavens and earth, and new heavenly bodies, lacking the horrendously frightening and deadly events found here and now, so I guess Dinesh believes God CAN come up with better designs).

But not everything that “works” was built in a day, so what is “design,” really? The human species is currently the most advanced at being able to observe and replicate nature. We are like replicating mechanisms (DNA is also, so I guess “replication” is in our genes, to use a pun, and maybe it even lay in the heart of the cosmosʼ genes judging by some hypotheses regarding this mysterious cosmos). Humans spot similarities/patterns in nature and can replicate them.

Therefore, replication is something essential for life that takes place on both a molecular level and also inside the human brain-mind. But even when we replicate things in nature it takes us time and failures until we reach success. We are tinkerers. We didnʼt go from mud huts to the Empire State Building in a day. Neither did nature. Many structures the human mind tries to replicate have flaws and we suffer failures. As observant as he was, Leonardo da Vinci did not produce a human powered flying machine in his lifetime (regardless of what you see in movies or TV). The Wright brothers did not get off the ground in one go, and their successful flight only lasted seconds. Probably the same result was true the first time a feathered bipedal dinosaur glided through the air, it probably only lasted seconds, meanwhile other dinosaurs were evolving in other directions, and they became extinct. The birds survived, so they are the dinosaurʼs greatest success story, while the vast majority of dinosaur species are now dust. Neither were the earliest known birds in the fossil record well designed for flight. They still had long bony tails that create drag, solid bones rather than lighter hollow ones; and they had unfused finger bones which makes flight less manageable, not more so, especially over longer distance; and they had a triangle-shaped thick skull like those found on reptiles not the smoother skull with thinner bone found in more recent species; and they had teeth, and a small breast bone, not the body-length keel bone of modern day birds to which are attached thick arm flapping muscles, but instead a relatively smaller keel bone in the middle of their chests to which only much smaller muscles could have been attached, allowing them less powerful flight strokes. And all of the earliest known fossil birds were “designed” with similar deficiencies and all are extinct today.

So we see from the fossil record that whatever design there is in nature it works in a tinkering sort of way (even feathers were not necessarily designed for flight, but have been found on a variety of dinosaurs, and it is doubtful that all of them were the direct ancestors of birds). Some I.D.ists infer that perhaps molecular machines inside the cells arose overnight, arranged altogether in irreducible fashion, without any stages of tinkering in between, without trial and error. But looking at the macroscopic world of nature one wonders how they could believe that is so. Birds did not come about overnight in irreducible fashion. They started out on the ground and seem to be jury-rigged together.

Having looked at the idea of “design,” letʼs look at the idea of “chance.” I.D.ists often sneer at the word “chance.”

But what do scientists mean by chance? “Chance” to a scientist often means that no one has yet found a way to detect, measure or calculate all the different things that can and do happen naturally, due to their great multiplicity, unmanageable size, or speed, so in many cases we know neither all the possibilities inherent in nature, nor even the general probabilities. That doesnʼt mean such things cannot happen. No one has proven much either way about what cosmoses can or canʼt “do,” same for replicating molecules.

Take the famous X-ray experiments done on fruit flies in the 60s, bombarding their gonads with heroic doses of mutation-causing X-rays. That told us as much about evolution as shooting fruit flies with buckshot. The poor critters turned out monstrous. If we wanted to do an experiment illustrating evolution weʼd have to keep the mutation level nearer to normal and keep putting each new generation of fruit flies in different environments of slightly differing grades over a long period of time with lots of varieties of food to eat and choose from. Then watch to see how they evolve.

Something like that happened in Hawaiʼi, since that chain of islands began to rise from the sea about 8 million years ago, and the environments on those islands ranges from windswept beaches to green lush valleys to lofty mountainsides. About 500 species of fruit flies are found only on the Hawaiian islands (about 25% of all fruit fly species worldwide!) And concerning the evolution of new fruit fly genera, rather than simply new species…

Reading a book on Drosophilia, I discovered the answer to the question of why no new genera of fruit flies have evolved in Hawaiʼi despite the hundreds of species. It is due simply to the classification approach used by Drosophilia workers. The Hawaiʼian lineage is apparently descended from within the genus Drosophilia, as presently defined. Based on cladistic terminology, one genus should not give rise to another genus. Rather than reclassifying the 2000 or so “Drosophilia” into multiple genera, fruit fly workers use a variety of subgenera and informal terms to group them. In fact, genus names have been proposed for some of the Hawaiʼian lineages. [Dr. David Campbell, Biology Department, Saint Maryʼs College of Maryland]

And in answer to the question, “How to test that all Hawaiian fruit flies descended from one common ancestral population that began with a founder event,” the answer is to “Select many characters of Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian fruit flies, and use them to develop a phylogeny, using some related fly as an outgroup.” Such characters include the fact that Hawaiian fruit flies are larger and more brightly colored compared with the rest of the fruit flies on earth, and have even evolved a type of “song” that the mainland fruit flies never evolved, which means that some new morphologies and behaviors peculiar to certain species of fruit flies have evolved on the Hawaiʼian islands.

Ecologists believe Hawaiʼi has so many kinds of fruit flies because the islands were isolated for millions of years and when the first fruit flies arrived, they were able to evolve so many different types because there were few rival species of flies present, and there were also a wide variety of environments left open for them to occupy. When people first arrived at the Hawaiʼian islands centuries ago they also found that there were thousands of unique species of birds, plants, and other life forms on the islands. While it is the fruit flies that are the best known, other insect groups have also diversified. Hawaiʼi boasts the worldʼs only known carnivorous caterpillar (that feasts on, you guessed it, fruit flies, probably because such flies were the commonest most plentiful food flitting around the branches next to them), the happy face spider and a host of fascinating endemic arthropods, many of which are brilliantly illustrated in the book,

  • Hawaiʼian Insects and Their Kin” by Francis Howarth and William Mull.
  • Lush, and also in the book, “Remains of a Rainbow; Rare Plants and Animals of Hawaiʼi” by David Liittschwager and Susan Middleton, published by National Geographic.
  • See also “Hawaiian Natural History, Ecology, and Evolution” by Alan Ziegler, published by University of Hawaii Press which traces the natural history of the Hawaiʼian Archipelago, as well as plant and animal evolution, flightless birds and their fossil sites.

Sadly, people have over time brought many new species with them to the islands, and the competition is driving most of the native species into extinction. Even the unique Hawaiian fruit flies are disappearing, replaced by flies from other parts of the world. The curse of what are known as invasive species is now worldwide. Surely the Designer must know what happens when species are no longer separated by long distances and they meet and compete on each otherʼs turf? It seems a waste to design so many species that get along with one another in say the Mediterranean Sea, and then some invasive species of algae from another continent on earth gets spilled into the Mediterranean, and starts to out grow all the other plant life there, endangering or even destroying whole ecosystems, loads of other species going down one after the other due to a spill of algae. I guess the Designer couldnʼt do anything about that. Or wonʼt. Not even after having spent so much time and effort carefully picking which tiny bits of each animalʼs genomes to edit for millions of years. Those species, all gone overnight, due to some other species he designed that could out compete it. I guess the Designer likes the spectator sport.

Also, the Designer may edit genes just right, but if he does, he doesnʼt clean up after himself, leaving behind loads of retroviral DNA inside the cell, thatʼs viral DNA that some virus inserted there. Thatʼs what happens when a mosquito injects a virus, or a virus is picked up by a scrape or cough or other random contact. The virus begins to inject itself into that animalʼs cells, sometimes it injects into the germ cells of that animals and the viral genes get carried along inside that animals for many generations. Not much use to the animal, though some cells have found uses for retroviral DNA, not all of it, but some uses have been noted. Fascinating how even a chance encounter with DNA from a virus can be used by the cell in some instances. That sounds suspiciously like evolution, trial and error so to speak, jury-rigged design, a Designer who tinkers round.

Speaking of a common question put forth by anti-evolutionists, one often hears it said that dogs are still dogs, we have St. Bernards, Chihuahuas, Great Danes, poodles, and hundreds of other breeds of dogs. But they are still dogs.

To which one might reply, “Then what were the ‘dog-bear’ looking fossils of the Miocene? Dogs or bears? And why canʼt creationists or I.D.ists agree on which side of the human/ape line these fossils lay on?”

How I.D. Survives, and Why the Theory of Evolution Does Too. (With Some Degree of “Natural Selection”)

Once you have a self-replicating molecule… thatʼs where the fun begins in the living world, because the cosmos keeps moving and changing, shuffling and reshuffling, living and dying. Furthermore, once you get to the point of a self-replicating molecule (even when that molecule is DNA and lay within the largest most complex of eukarotic cells) that DNA is copied Imperfectly, which helps explains why thereʼs so many different forms of living things.

One thing that helps keeps the I.D. movement afloat is that we canʼt examine the earliest living organisms and see how much trial and error they went through, how many stages and diversifications, extinctions and dead ends took place over the Billions of years on earth when only single celled organisms exited, i.e., before the first multi-cellular species began to arise. But if we had access to a basic outline of the changes in “internal cellular architecture” of major groups of single-celled organisms during those billions of years, most evolutionists bet it would resemble the record we have for the bodily architecture of major groups of macroscopic animals as seen in the fossil record, i.e., with plenty of trial and error, different stages and diversification events, dead ends, etc., which led To Present Day Internal Cellular Architecture.

Evolutionists suggest that we may one day discover some simple replicating chemicals or simple cellular organisms to study in different regions of our solar system or outside it. No laboratory is larger than the cosmos when it comes to all the possible combinations that can take place with various atoms and molecules, minerals and energies mixing over billions of years in other places in the cosmos.

And if we ever develop quantum computers and place inside them the total information of genomes and cellular architecture of every known living species of microorganism on the planet, such computers might be able to reverse engineer the most likely pathways of how life evolved, and even give us a glimpse into what the most likely earliest successful replicators (the ones leading to all of our present day surviving single celled ancestors) looked like.

There are scientists who study complexity, evolutionary algorithms and such, who want to figure out how things work, which is the first step, before proceeding to discover all the analogues of each cellular process throughout cousin species in nature. The final step is to try and discover how such processes might be related over the billions of years of individual organismic death and species extinctions, dead-ends galore.

“Codes” in nature are shorthand for a feedback loop system based on survival of that particular arrangement of atoms and molecules that make more of themselves, or donʼt. If they do, you wind up with a “code,” which is the system itself that can make more of itself. Right now it looks like natural attraction of atoms for atoms and molecules for molecules is what built the most basic of self-replicating molecules. Is there evidence of a “code” in some platonic realm that externally directs such natural attractions between atoms? We have proven in endless experiments that such and such atoms or molecules mixed together will form this and that as expected. And we know of other self-replicating molecules besides RNA and DNA. In fact lone RNA strands will replicate themselves in test tubes to form more RNA strands if the basic building blocks chemicals of RNA are present along with a little of the common mineral like zinc to speed up the process. And if you add a tiny bit of arsenic, that destroys RNA, it will break down many of the strands. But if you add the Surviving Strands of RNA to another test tube and let them reproduce more RNA strands (they never reproduce exactly the same way, thereʼs always a little difference in the way they put themselves together), adding a bit more arsenic, and repeat the process of saving the surviving strands of RNA, and allow them to make new strands in a new test tube, you will wind up with RNA strands that are increasingly more resistant to being broken down by ever larger quantities of arsenic. I guess thereʼs something to natural selection after all.

Further Reading