Our conversation today comes from Bret, who has some concerns about parallax, the speed of light, and has criticized me for believing that God created in six literal days. Bret seems to have been heavily influenced by the teachings of Hugh Ross, and asks how there could have been ordinary days before the sun was created. I enjoyed our dialogue, and hope that you will too!
Bret: I wanted to make a comment to you about your public teaching. The speed of light has been scientifically measured and the formula accepted my most academics.
> Dr. Lisle: Correction – the round-trip speed of light in vacuum has been scientifically measured. The one-way speed is conventional.
Bret: Using that formula we know that it takes more than 5000 years for star light to reach the centre of the Galaxy.
> Dr. Lisle: No. That is a one-way trip, and so the duration depends on the one-way speed of light which is conventional. All we can say objectively is that it would take light ~50,000 years to go to the galactic center and return. But the time for one leg of the journey can be as little as zero.
Bret: We know this since we can measure the distance using parallax trig.
> Dr. Lisle: No. The parallax method doesn’t work on stars nearly that far out for any ground based telescope. Such distances are theoretically attainable by the Gaia spacecraft but are not yet published. There are other methods to estimate such distances, but not stellar parallax.
Bret: There is nothing in the Bible that insists that the earth is 6000 years old but it is your theological construction that precludes this as being necessary.
> Dr. Lisle: Incorrect. The Bible states that God created in six days (Exodus 20:11), that Adam was made on the sixth day (Genesis 1:26-31), and that Christ was born around 4000 years after Adam (e.g. Genesis 5:1-32, 11:10-26, 12:4, 15:13, 1 Kings 6:1, 11:42, 14:21, … Daniel 9:24-26). That doesn’t require any “theological construction.” It only requires the ability to read and to add numbers.
Bret: You assume that the Bible is linear and straight forward but it is a complex document that we are only beginning to understand.
> Dr. Lisle: First, the Bible says it is straightforward (Proverbs 8:8-9) and understandable (Ephesians 3:4) and that we should not be led astray from its simplicity (2 Corinthians 11:3). God is not the author of confusion as you seem to think (1 Corinthians 14:33). Second, if you are only “beginning to understand” the Bible, then how can you be so sure that my understanding of it is faulty?
Bret: for example why do you feel Genesis is less complex than Revelation and we still do not understand all that is written there.
> Dr. Lisle: Less complex? Not necessarily. But Genesis requires less knowledge of the Bible to understand for reasons that should be obvious. (1) Genesis comes first, and therefore cannot require any prerequisite reading to grasp its meaning; conversely Revelation comes last and is based on the previous 65 books. Over 2/3 of the verses in Revelation are quotes or references to previous verses in Scripture; you cannot understand Revelation without a very good knowledge of the Bible. (2) Genre: Genesis is written in historical narrative form which is very easy and straightforward, whereas prophecy is almost always written in synonymous or antithetical parallelism indicative of Hebrew poetic form. And while Hebrew poetic form isn’t hard to interpret, English-speaking students unfamiliar with Hebrew often have some difficulty at first. Revelation is based on Old Testament prophecy and requires knowledge of such to interpret most of its symbolism (e.g. Revelation 17:7, Daniel 7:7). (3) Revelation isn’t particularly hard to interpret, if you have a thorough knowledge of the other 65 books – but most people don’t. Genesis is far easier for the uneducated.
Bret: Your assumption is binary about Genesis. If Y is true than X must follow but science show’s it is not binary and you must take this into accord.
> Dr. Lisle: “If X then Y” is not binary. Rather, it is a form of reasoning called “logic.” Logic is very helpful if you want to believe things that are true. As for science, first of all, science is predicated upon the literal history of Genesis. God created the universe with order and patterns to be discovered; God created the human mind with the capacity to reason logically; God upholds creation in a consistent way (Genesis 8:22). If these biblical claims were not true, there would be no rational reason to suspect that the methods of science are reliable. Second, science involves things that are testable and repeatable in the present. It is well-suited for answering certain truth claims, such as the normal way that God upholds His creation. But it cannot effectively analyze historical events or miraculous ones (yet, creation was both). Third, it is completely inappropriate (and logically absurd) to attempt to use science to tell you how to interpret Scripture. As shown previously, science is predicated on the literal history in Genesis. But also it would lead to absurdity; you would have to reinterpret the virgin birth, the water-into-wine, and the resurrection of Christ (to name a few) because these cannot be repeated scientifically.
Bret: Hugh Ross and other Christian astronomers are very smart people but for some reason you dismiss them as fools when you refuse to consider their counsel and weigh it accordingly.
> Dr. Lisle: Just the opposite. I have not dismissed Ross; in fact, I have thoroughly examined his claims found them to be erroneous. You can watch my public debates against Ross on YouTube. And for a very thorough analysis of his teachings, see my book Understanding Genesis which dedicates three chapters to refuting Ross’s blunders. Further, my book has been peer-reviewed approvingly by Bible Scholars including Dr. Jim Johnson and Dr. Ken Gentry. Indeed, it is Ross that simply dismisses what I have written and fails to seek wise counsel.
Bret: Dr. Lisle I see that in your reply you asserted that the Bible and especially Genesis is straightforward and easy to understand,…
Dr. Lisle: Again, the Bible itself says it is straightforward (Proverbs 8:8-9) and understandable (Ephesians 3:4) and that we should not be led astray from its simplicity (2 Corinthians 11:3). God is not the author of confusion as you seem to think (1 Corinthians 14:33).
Bret: …but as evidence that it is not, there are many books on Genesis in the libraries and I believe that many certainly differ from one another in interpretation, …
> Dr. Lisle: This is not evidence that the text is unclear; rather, it is evidence that men really do not want to believe the text. It is our sin nature to think that we know better than God, and therefore we think in our arrogance, “God can’t really mean what He says because we know that isn’t true.” But, believe it or not, God really does know how to write a book. And since God is not the author of confusion, it stands to reason that His writings to us will be understandable, not convoluted.
Bret:…this means it is complex unless you assume these men are all stupid…
> Dr. Lisle: That’s a bifurcation fallacy. No, it simply means that men are strongly motivated to not believe the text as written. Men are well-practiced in the mental gymnastics it takes to twist Scripture into interpretations that are contrary to its clear meaning so that they can continue in their unbiblical beliefs. This is not new. The Pharisees did it. They had their traditions just as we have ours, and they were masterful at re-interpreting the text to match their beliefs. Take a look at how Jesus responds to them in Matthew 15:1-9. Note that He did not say “Well, I can certainly see how you would draw that conclusion since the text is so unclear.”
Bret: Sir, I have taken many courses on the Bible books and Genesis and I am still learning, (Have you taken any, and have you learned anything or do you know it all?)..you seem to think there is nothing to complex about Genesis, …
> Dr. Lisle: I didn’t say that. You need to read my previous response more carefully. Rather, the main-and-plain teachings are so clear that even a child can understand them. Creation in 6-days is not hard to understand. The problem is people do not want to believe it.
Bret: All I can rely [sic] reply is that if I were to follow your logic we should throw out all the commentaries.
> Dr. Lisle: That is not logical; it is a pendulum swing. There is some value in (some) commentaries. But they must not be used to override the clear teaching of the biblical text. Many modern commentaries attempt to interpret the text contrary to the author’s intention in order to accommodate modern (secular) opinions and traditions, such as evolution or deep time. Those are not helpful except as examples of what not to do. But older commentaries written by godly men who actually understood hermeneutics can be very helpful. Note, however, that even these can be wrong at points. The book you really should be studying most is the Bible.
Bret: Dr. Lisle you used rhetoric, theology and logic intermixed with astronomy in your attempt to rebuff my position and defend a 6000 year old earth, Okay, so your entrenched and are using everything you’ve got, …
> Dr. Lisle: Actually, it sounds to me like you are pretty entrenched. In any case, since biblical theology, logic, and astronomy all confirm the biblical timescale, I am curious why you so strongly desire to deviate from the clear text of Scripture? Many people get intimidated and think that the secular scientists must be right about origins, and so we must adjust our interpretation of the text. That is the reason for the different “interpretations” you mentioned above. They are not due to textual or exegetic considerations. Be honest: no one reading Genesis objectively would come away thinking, “Wow! This book clearly teaches that God progressively evolved the universe over the span of 13.8 billion years!” There is no hint of that. And the Scriptures specifically and explicitly teach the contrary. Why not consider that God actually just means what He says? Would that be so bad?
Bret: But what it shows me most is that you are dogmatic and will never concede any point, …
> Dr. Lisle: I’m not going to put a question mark where God has put a period, if that’s what you mean. That would not be faithful to my Lord. In any case, it is the Bible that is so dogmatic on the issue; I’m just a messenger. It is the Scriptures that explicitly and dogmatically state, “In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them” (Exodus 20:11). If you don’t like the dogmatism with which God describes the creation of His universe, take it up with Him.
Bret: …as you say Hugh Ross’s claims are erroneous, Why not instead say…
> Dr. Lisle: because Ross’s claims are erroneous. They are utterly ridiculous and unbiblical. (See my book Understanding Genesis). It would be unfaithful to God for me to call Ross’s teachings anything less. The Bible calls us to cast down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5) – not to simply say, “Well, that’s not my personal opinion, but let’s all just get along.”
Bret: “The Wonders of God like Creation are more amazing than you can understand, that although you personally believe in a 6000 year old earth, that if you are wrong then God is still God.”
> Dr. Lisle: There are two reasons why that response would be unbiblical for a mature Christian. First, the Bible does infallibly provide sufficient information for us to know (approximately) how long ago God created. The Bible does explicitly give the timescale of creation, so it would be arrogant for me to think that God only might be right about this. Think about it: would it be biblical to answer other clear biblical issues that way? Would it be appropriate to say, “I personally believe that Christ literally rose from the dead, but I could be wrong, and that’s okay because God is still God”?
Second, if God lacks the ability to clearly communicate in His Word, then how do I really know anything about Him? If a text as clear as “in six days” really means “over billions of years” then how do I know “by this gospel you are saved” doesn’t really mean “by works of the flesh you are saved”?
> Dr. Lisle: However, I will grant that your hypothetical answer might be appropriate for a new believer who has not yet studied the issue. But as we grow in Christ, our knowledge of such basic and clear teachings of Scripture should not be so unsettled.
Bret: This is a more humble position…
> Dr. Lisle: On the contrary, true humility would be to accept what God has said in His Word, even when it is not popular. As Martin Luther put it, “But, if you cannot understand how this could have been done in six days, then grant the Holy Spirit the honor of being more learned than you are.”
Bret: …but you picked this hill to battle on but many are wondering why?
> Dr. Lisle: It is the clear teaching of Scripture. How could I as a Christ-follower deny or minimize what my Lord has explicitly stated?
Bret: PS-That was a cheap shot that the 6000 year stance was merely based on the ability to read and count numbers, …
> Dr. Lisle: No, because the 6000 years is indeed based on the ability to read and add positive integers. I know because I have done it myself. It does not require any advanced “theological construction” as you had suggested. On the contrary, it takes a very convoluted and non-exegetical theological construction to attempt to read billions of years into the Bible.
Bret: you know very well that the “six days” in Genesis has been subject to an intense scholastic debate among christian and other academics including Hugh Ross.
> Dr. Lisle: I am well aware that many Christians do not want to believe that God created in six days, and have sought out many devices in an attempt to rationalize a non-exegetic reading of the text in order to accommodate the secular belief in billions of years. But you seem to be unaware that all these have been shown to be hermeneutically fallacious. The context of Genesis 1 does not permit the poetic, non-literal use of “yom” because God defines “yom” as when it is “light” out in verse 5, and as being bounded by evening and morning. This constrains the meaning to an ordinary (earth-rotation) day. Furthermore, the plural form of “days” (yamim) used in Exodus 20:11 is never used to mean anything other than ordinary days. From a scholarly perspective, there is no doubt that the author of Genesis meant to indicate that God created in six literal days.
Bret: It makes little difference wether [sic] you ignore the whole debate or not.
> Dr. Lisle: With all respect, it seems like you are the one who has ignored the whole debate. I have debated the topic of the age of the earth on multiple occasions, and have written two books on the issue. My latest one, Understanding Genesis, is a very thorough analysis of the issue; it carefully examines and debunks Ross’s claims, and demonstrates beyond any rational doubt that the text of Genesis really does mean what it says. Have you read this book?
Bret: Perhaps Hugh can not read or count? Give me a break?
> Dr. Lisle: Ross can count and therefore knows that a straightforward reading of Scripture gives an age of 6000 years. But he rejects this – not for exegetical reasons – but because he believes in the big bang and billions of years. No one believes in billions of years for biblical, exegetical reasons.
Bret: Okay, lets reason together for a moment.
What do you mean when you say a temporary light source? Are you assuming that this passage means some source of light was stationary or affixed in space and substituted for the sun enabling 1/2 the earth hemisphere to be lit up during a 12 hour period? The definition of a day as you argue in your latter comment.
> Dr. Lisle: Yes, that’s what the Bible teaches. Genesis 1:3-5 states, “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.” On the fourth day, God created the sun (the greater light) for the purpose of providing light on the earth and dividing the day from the night (Genesis 1:14-19), something that God was doing for the first three days by this original created light.
Bret: It sounds like you are theorizing a pre-sun, sun and this inferring God did not create our first sun on the fourth day as you are conjecturing, but he only created a replacement sun, not sure why he would do that, do you?
> Dr. Lisle: There may or may not have been a physical source for the light for the first three days. It’s possible there was. Poole speculates that the original light source was like the fire that led the Israelites through the wilderness, and that this light was collected and condensed into the sun on day 4. Possible. On the other hand, God may have created the light itself (with no physical source) streaming in from space, illuminating half the earth, for the first three days. I prefer the latter option to a physical pre-sun, but since the text doesn’t give us any more information, we cannot know.
Bret: Why was it a three day sun? Why not just empower and keep the first one going? Have you added to the plain reading of Scripture here and changed the fourth days meaning?
> Dr. Lisle: Be careful. Adding to the text would be to say, “I don’t understand why God would do it the way the text says. So I’m going to interpret the text the way I think God should have done it.” But that approach is unbiblical. If the text says that God made light before the sun (and it does say this), then God made light before the sun. Period. The Bible teaches that there was light for three days before the sun, and that God created the sun for the purpose of giving light upon the earth and to divide the day from the night: things that God had been doing for the first three days, perhaps by supernaturally created light.
You are certainly free to ask why God didn’t continue to use the original light from days 1-3, but God is under no obligation to answer your question. God does not answer to you and need not explain His reasons for what He does (Romans 9:20). If He says He made light before the sun, then that settles the matter. You are not free to reinterpret those sections of Scripture that fail to match your intuition about what you think God should have done.
That being said, it does make sense that God did it this way. Many ancient cultures worshiped the sun as the primary source of life. Perhaps to show that it isn’t, God didn’t create it first. He Himself provided light and heat for the first three days; He brought about plants on day three before the sun. God thereby shows that He is the primary source of life. The sun is merely a created object that serves God’s purpose. Moreover, God knew of course that people would develop counterfeit creation stories, from the Greek myths to our modern big bang. He may have deliberately created in a way contrary to these ideas so that His people would not be misled by such myths if they know the Scriptures.
Bret: I want to know how your construction of this ‘pre-sun’ sun fits with the natural reading of Scripture? What authorities or commentators are you basing this work on, or is this your own thought?
> Dr. Lisle: That light existed before the sun is what the text says; light was made on day 1 (Genesis 1:3), but the sun was made on day 4 (Genesis 1:16,19). Therefore, the day side of earth was illuminated for the first three days – earth rotations as bound by evening and morning – but not by the sun. Yes, the main conservative commentaries agree (Gill, Calvin, Clarke, Poole, Trapp), but frankly the text itself is very clear. You are free to speculate about what that temporary light was, but the Bible doesn’t give us any more information.
Bret: I now have a fuller picture of your model. In summary you admit that before the fourth day there were no stars or moon, or sun and argue that the type of light written about in Genesis was a pre sun light in one area.
> Dr. Lisle: It’s not a model. It’s just what the text says.
Bret: You further argue that this the text maintains night and day flow every 24 hours on earth like our current set up.
> Dr. Lisle: That’s what a day is – a rotation of earth as bound by evening and morning; that is how God defines it in Genesis 1:5. On average, a day consists of about 12 hours of light followed by 12 hours of darkness. Jesus certainly thought so (John 1:9).
Bret: Now, I maintain first off that your 24 hour day claim for the first three days is certainly not based on science but this assertion could only be forwarded for the other days.
> Dr. Lisle: It’s based on Scripture, and the definition of an “hour.” An hour is one 24th of an earth rotation. And the earth was rotating from the start because there was evening and morning for the first day (Genesis 1:5) and every day thereafter (e.g. Genesis 1:8,13,19,23,31). And again, the sun has virtually nothing to do with the length of the day. The 24-hours are based on the rotation rate of earth. So it is illogical to think that the days were different before the sun, when the sun is not responsible for setting the length of the days. Hence, no one taking the text as written would conclude anything other than that God intended to communicate that He created the universe and everything within it in six literal days (Exodus 20:11).
Bret: I maintain that you cannot tell impartially at what speed the earth revolved during the first three days as the gravitational forces are not the same without a sun, moon etc. affecting it. If we are looking at it scientifically.
> Dr. Lisle: Scientifically, the gravitational forces of the sun and moon have nothing to do with the rotation rate of earth. The rotation rate is due to the conservation of angular momentum. It cannot be changed without applying an enormous external torque. And there is absolutely no biblical or scientific support for such a torque. So scientifically, it is impossible for the earth’s rotation rate to be substantially different 6000 years ago.
Bret: Since there is no science to establish your theory you cannot assume that modern rules apply to this ancient condition. Not logically.
> Dr. Lisle: You are committing the superfluous distinction fallacy. This is a hermeneutical error whereby the reader assumes a distinction that is textually unwarranted. For example, by your reasoning you could conclude that Adam had six arms and six legs. “After all,” you might say, “Adam did not come about by natural processes like people today – being born and growing to adulthood. He was supernaturally created. Therefore, we cannot assume he had two arms and two legs like people today. He may well have had six arms and six legs.” Wouldn’t that be absurd? Likewise, since the Bible uses the same word “day” for the first three days as for the next three, it is textually unwarranted to assume that the meaning suddenly changes. That would be eisegetical and anti-context. In fact, if words meant something different in Genesis 1 than they did in the rest of Scripture, then we would not be able to know anything whatsoever about creation, and God would have accomplished nothing in writing about it. Consider: if the words of Genesis mean something different than words elsewhere then the phrase “And God said, ‘let there be light’” might really mean “Giant moles began knitting sweaters.” Furthermore, in Exodus 20:11, God uses the plural form of “days” (yamim) for the creation week which never means anything other than ordinary, 24-hour, earth-rotation days.
Bret: You have no reason to assume this is a literal passage…
> Dr. Lisle: On the contrary, we have every reason to take the text as literal, and you have absolutely no reason whatsoever to take it as non-literal. None. The text is written in the standard Hebrew historical narrative format with frequent use of the waw-consecutive (occurs in every verse 3-31 in chapter 1). Long repeated use of the waw-consecutive never occurs in Hebrew poetic literature. Furthermore, there is absolutely no indication of synonymous or antithetical parallelism in Genesis 1 – none. And these are the key distinctive markers of Hebrew poetry, occurring throughout the Psalms and Proverbs, for example. Furthermore, whenever Jesus and the Apostles referenced Genesis, they always referred to it as literal history, as if they really believed it. Jesus quoted Genesis 1 and 2 as the historical foundation for marriage (Matthew 19:3-9). Indeed, there is not so much as a hint anywhere in Scripture that Genesis is anything but the true historical origin of the universe.
Bret: …using a post fourth day meaning of ‘day’.
> Dr. Lisle: The meaning of a word doesn’t change without notice in the middle of a passage, otherwise understanding any text would be impossible. For example, suppose we applied your reasoning to other words in Genesis 1. You might say, “you have no reason to assume that the trees mentioned in verse 11 are the same literal trees mentioned in verse 29. The ‘trees’ of verse 11 might actually be motorcycles, or snow monsters, or icosahedrons.” Wouldn’t that be absurd? God does know how to say what He means. It’s just that you don’t want to believe what He has said. Be honest.
Bret: Therefore you may certainly not exclude a figurative framework or hyperbolic meaning to this first thee [sic] days in the six day formula in text as you do with the other day’s and this is your unconfessed problem.
> Dr. Lisle: Grammatical historical context disallows a figurative or hyperbolic meaning for the first three days. So, if we are going to be exegetical, then we must take the text as written: that God created in six days, each defined as an earth-rotation consisting of a period of light and a period of darkness, bounded by evening and morning (Genesis 1:5). That’s what the text teaches. Exodus 20:11 confirms this, and is the explanation for why we have a seven-day week (Exodus 20:8-11). Notice that Exodus 20:11 does not say, “For God created heaven and earth in three long periods of time, followed by three days, and rested on the fourth. Therefore, you should work for three long periods of time and then three days, and rest on the fourth.” Rather it says that God created “in six days” followed by a day of rest, using the same word for “days” (yamim) that He uses in verse 8 for our work week.
Honestly, does your motivation for wanting to read long periods of time into the creation week come from a natural reading of the text of Scripture, or from a desire to make the Bible line up with what you already believe about the age of the universe? Reading into the text based on our preconceptions is a characteristic of our sinful, fallen, human nature. It’s easy to fall into that kind of trap, and this is a temptation for all Christians. But that’s not exegesis.
Bret: Yes the text speaks for itself but not in the literal manner you claim. To be clear did Jesus say he was the Bread of life that you must eat? Did he mean he was a loaf of Bread? No, just as Jesus is not literally a door made of wood that we must walk though. He is a type of door to salvation. It is figurative language to impart meaning but not literal. For this reason you are in error. Or am I looking at this all wrong?
> Dr. Lisle: That’s the “genre fallacy.” The Bible does use figures of speech at times. But that doesn’t give you license to interpret every section of Scripture as non-literal. To be exegetical (to read the text the way the author intended), we must look at the grammatical-historical context of the passage in question. When Jesus spoke in parables, context tells us that we are to interpret his teachings as such: parables are symbolic. They use a common, well-known, everyday experience or object (seeds, vineyards, a door, wheat, farming) to explain a spiritual principle. And it is generally obvious what the symbols mean. This is not the case with Genesis 1; the creation of the universe is not a common, everyday experience or object. Naturally, when Jesus explains one of His parables, we take that explanation as literal (e.g. Mark 4:13-20).
Historical narrative is literal. When the Israelites left Egypt, we don’t take that as merely a fictional, symbolic representation of some spiritual truth. That would be unfaithful to the text. No, they literally, historically left Egypt. If you would like to see the difference between literal historical narrative and non-literal poetic verse, compare Exodus 14 with Exodus 15. Chapter 14 is the historical account of the crossing of the Red Sea, whereas Exodus 15 records a poetic song that the Israelites sang to commemorate the event. Genesis 1-11 is written in the same style as Exodus 14.
Bret: PS Please rescind or prove your main point in light of what I just stated: you wrote “The context of Genesis 1 does not permit the poetic, non-literal use of “yom” because God defines “yom” as when it is “light” out in verse 5, and as being bounded by evening and morning. This constrains the meaning to an ordinary (earth-rotation) day.
> Dr. Lisle: Already proved. In summary: Genesis 1 does not permit the poetic, non-literal use of “yom” because Genesis 1 is not poetry as indicated by (1) the long sequence of waw-consecutive, (2) lacks the essential indicators of poetic usage; namely, there is no synonymous or antithetical parallelism. Proof that God defines day as when it is light out, as in an ordinary earth rotation bounded by evening and morning is found in Genesis 1:5: “And God called the light ‘day’ and the darkness He called ‘night’. And the evening and the morning were the first day.”
Bret: One final comment…I find it novel that you mention you do not use science to interpret scripture but actually you are using the science of hermeneutics, logic, history etc, …
> Dr. Lisle: This is a rather obvious equivocation fallacy on the word “science” which I have been consistently using in the traditional sense of the study of the natural world obtained by observation and experimentation (using the scientific method), and the body of knowledge obtained by this process. But here, you have switched to a different definition, namely a “skill, especially reflecting a precise application of facts or principles”, e.g. the science of cooking. Hermeneutics is a skill reflecting a precise application of facts or principles, and is a “science” in that sense, but is not science in the sense we have been discussing: the knowledge of the natural world obtained by the scientific method. Likewise, with logic. This should be obvious.
Bret: …even astronomy when it suits you.
> Dr. Lisle: No. I have not used astronomy to interpret the Scriptures; rather, I have used the Scriptures to interpret the Scriptures. You have been attempting to use your incorrect understanding of astronomy to interpret the Scriptures contrary to their meaning. I have used astronomy to correct your misunderstanding of astronomy. (From your previous messages, it seems like you think that the sun goes around the earth, and that’s what causes 24 hours, when in fact it is the earth that rotates. Otherwise, it makes no sense to think that the days were of different length before the creation of the sun.)
Bret: I think you are not really being introspective about your own process.
> Dr. Lisle: Actually, I have written a book on the topic of hermeneutics called Understanding Genesis. So clearly, I have spent some time cogitating on the topic. Have you read this book?
Bret: This would not be so bad but then you stamp it as “the literal reading” implying if not stating that people like Hugh Ross are stupid.
> Dr. Lisle: First, I never said or implied that Hugh Ross is stupid. He is very badly mistaken. But that doesn’t imply a lack of intelligence or even lack of knowledge. For example, Steven Hawking professes to be an atheist. He is very badly mistaken about this. Yet, he is still a brilliant physicist.
> Dr. Lisle: Second, “the literal reading” is necessarily the literal reading. “Literal” means that the words actually mean what they say – their ordinary usage as opposed to a figurative or metaphorical meaning. So, to interpret “day” literally means to take it as a day, just as to interpret “tree” literally is to take it to mean a tree. That’s what literal means. Not all of the Bible is strictly literal. But I maintain that Genesis is literal history, and therefore should be interpreted as such. And I have provided the hermeneutical reasons for this.
Bret: That’s the part that’s offensive, if you reflect on what I mean..
You stated that “Scientifically, the gravitational forces of the sun and moon have nothing to do with the rotation rate of earth. The rotation rate is due to the conservation of angular momentum.”
Did you make this up or are you quoting a physicist?
> Dr. Lisle: I am a physicist. Did you not read the “About Dr. Lisle” page?
Conservation of angular momentum is a well-established principle of physics. The sun and moon do not cause the earth to rotate. When an object in space is set in rotational motion, it will continue to have that motion unless acted upon by an external torque. This is the rotational equivalent of Newton’s first law. So the sun and moon are not necessary to cause the earth to rotate as you had supposed. It would have rotated perfectly well before the creation of the sun and moon.
Bret: I learned from NASA that the moon does have an effect on the conservation of angular momentum and the earth’s spin.
> Dr. Lisle: Respectfully, Bret, you are very confused. The sun and moon do not cause the earth to rotate at its constant speed of ~24 hours per day as you had supposed. Rather, conservation of angular momentum causes the earth to rotate at this speed. I’m guessing you read something about tidal interaction, and got confused. But tidal interaction isn’t going to help you in your desire to make the first three days of creation longer than the next three. I will elaborate.
If there are no external torques on a spinning sphere of constant size, it will spin indefinitely at the same speed without slowing or speeding up. Now, the moon does produce a slight torque on the earth by inducing tides. But the effect is infinitesimal: far too small to be noticeable to human beings over the course of history. It is also in the wrong direction to support your conjecture; namely the moon only serves to slow the earth (infinitesimally); it does not speed it up.
Apparently, you were wanting the first three days to be longer than normal days, so you can hold onto your (unbiblical) belief in deep time. So you want the creation of the moon to radically speed up earth’s rotation. But in fact, the moon can only slow earth’s rotation. And again, the effect is tiny. The earth’s rotation rate has been affected by tidal interaction with the moon by less than one second since its creation! I did a quick calculation of the effect, and found that the total cumulative effect of the moon’s torque on the earth over the course of time since creation amounts to a difference in rotation rate of only six tenths of a second! So, as I stated previously, the sun and moon really have no significant effect on the length of the days. Do you understand this now?
Bret: If the moon disappeared they mention there would not be a 24 hour day,…
> Dr. Lisle: No, that is not correct. If the moon disappeared right now, the day would continue to be exactly 24-hours. You seem to think that the moon is what keeps the earth rotating. It is not. An object in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. This is Newton’s first law of motion. God created the earth rotating from the beginning because there was evening and morning right from the first day.
Bret: …in addition if the earth was “tidal locked” with the “Sun Like” body you mentioned this would have affected the rotation once again, …
> Dr. Lisle: No. “Tidally locked” means that an object rotates at the same rate it revolves, thereby keeping the same face pointed toward the object it orbits. The earth is not tidally locked with the sun (or the pre-sun light that God created) and never has been. We know this because if it were tidally locked, it would be day permanently (by definition) and there could be no evening and morning. But the Bible says there was evening and morning the first day (Genesis 1:5), and every day thereafter. Thus, the earth was never tidally locked with its light source.
Bret: ….please comment on why you feel NASA is wrong or are you simply arguing about the conservation of angular momentum as if it occurs in a vacuum?
> Dr. Lisle: Neither. I don’t know what NASA source you have read, but I strongly suspect the error in understanding is on your part, not theirs. They know very well from the conservation of angular momentum that if the moon could be made to vanish right now, it would have no effect on earth’s rotation rate. None. The earth and moon are in a vacuum, by the way. And as I showed, the moon’s torque on the earth over history is negligible. So astronomy again confirms what the Bible teaches. God really does know what a day is and how to communicate this in writing. Why not let God be God and take the text as written?
Bret: PS- I am wondering why you are cheapening your arguments? You used cheap rhetoric again (even though I called you on this already) when you stated “leading [sic – ‘reading’] into the text based on our preconceptions is a characteristic of our sinful, fallen, human nature. It’s easy to fall into that kind of trap, and this is a temptation for all Christians. But that’s not exegesis.”
> Dr. Lisle: Why did you think my statement is “cheap rhetoric?” Is it not a fundamental truth of Scripture that human beings are sinful from conception (Psalm 51:5, 58:3, Genesis 8:21, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Isaiah 53:6, Jeremiah 17:9, Matthew 15:19)? Is it not a biblical teaching that human beings tend to neglect or distort God’s Word in favor of their own preferences (Mark 7:8-9, 7:13, Jeremiah 8:9, 2 Peter 3:16)? Is it not the case that Christ-followers continue to struggle with sin and lack of faith in this area (1 John 1:8, 1 Timothy 1:15, Luke 24:25)? As far as I can tell, what I stated was straight from Scripture. If so, how can you call it “cheap rhetoric?”
Furthermore, I showed how the meaning of Genesis 1 can be known by analyzing the text contextually – noting the genre of Genesis, noting that Jesus and the Apostles interpreted it as literal history, noting how God defines ‘day’ as the period of light as bound by evening and morning in Genesis 1:5. Remember? Do you have any logical argument against my conclusion? If not, then doesn’t your claim constitute… well… cheap rhetoric?
Bret: Once again you implied Hugh Ross is a sinner.
> Dr. Lisle: He is a sinner! So are you and I and everyone else who has ever lived – with the exception of Jesus Himself (Romans 3:23, Hebrews 4:15). When Jesus saves you, you don’t immediately become perfect and stop sinning. Christians continue to struggle with sin until glory, and that includes the sin of eisegesis. Let’s help each other to read God’s Word rightly and exegetically, rather than seeing how far we can distort God’s Word to accommodate modern secular opinions such as deep time or evolution.
Bret: This is the same fallacious manner in which you attempted to correct me about the speed of light…
> Dr. Lisle: What specific fallacy do you think I committed in my statements about the speed of light? Do you think I am factually mistaken in my statements about the speed of light? If so, which statement specifically do you find to be in error? And, do you have any actual evidence that I am in error, or is your claim here merely empty rhetoric?
Bret: …when you (For some reason) ignored published data on parallax geometry…
> Dr. Lisle: Bret, do you know what parallax is? Did you think that it is relevant to the speed of light somehow? Hint: it isn’t. I am very familiar with parallax, and would be happy to answer any question you might have about it. But so far you haven’t made a coherent point.
Bret: (As Hugh Ross pointe [sic] out also)…
> Dr. Lisle: Hugh Ross has made some embarrassingly wrong statements about parallax, thinking that the method has been used to measure distances to quasars! (http://creation.com/hugh-ross-lays-down-the-gauntlet) (It hasn’t.) So if you are learning from him, that may explain your confusion. In any case, parallax refers to the apparent shift in position of nearby objects relative to background objects as the point of view of the observer changes. This method can be used to geometrically measure the distances to nearby stars. It does not determine or measure the speed of light. Did you think it did?
Bret: …and further you also use evasive and convoluted language about the speed of light..as you said..”All we can say objectively is that it would take light 50,000 years to go to the galactic center and return. But the time for one leg of the journey can be as little as zero.”
> Dr. Lisle: How is that evasive since it directly responds to your claim? Recall that you had asserted without evidence that “we know that it takes more than 5000 years for star light to reach the centre of the Galaxy.” That of course is not true, (1) because no one has performed such an experiment, and (2) there is no way to objectively synchronize distant clocks by which to measure the one-way speed of light. I also provided you with a paper explaining this in great detail. Did you read the paper?
Moreover, how is it supposedly “convoluted?” My statement is a succinct summary of the conventionality thesis of special relativity. Einstein discussed on page 22 of his primer book on relativity the fact that the one-way speed of light is not a hypothesis about nature but a humanly stipulated convention. This is why we know that your claim cannot be correct. It may be a shame that the universe isn’t as simple as you would like it to be. But how is that my fault?
Bret: Perhaps then all science is useless?
> Dr. Lisle: That doesn’t even remotely follow logically. Some things in science can be measured, others cannot. That doesn’t make science impossible. It just means it has limitations.
Bret: Dr. Lisle, let me challenge you then! Let me recap the claim first and I will lay a challenge to you after.
I asserted it takes more than 5000 years for star light to reach the centre of the Galaxy.”
> Dr. Lisle: To be precise, you asserted that “Using that formula we know that it takes more than 5000 years for starlight to reach the center of the galaxy.” My main objection is to the “we know” part, rather than the specific number, because in fact physics does not allow us to objectively measure or know the travel duration of a light beam on a one-way trip, such as from earth to the galactic core. This is due to two physics principles called the relativity of simultaneity and the conventionality thesis. I’ll explain more below.
Bret: …and when you state that this is not true you are talking about the fact that it has never been actually measured. True, obvious, but it is a calculation, it is a calculation that you have heard similar and grandeur claims.
> Dr. Lisle: I have heard many grandiose claims, but that doesn’t make them true. The core of our galaxy lies at a distance of 26,000 light-years or 2.459×10^17 kilometers. Perhaps the claim you are repeating is that light would supposedly take 26,000 years (not 5000) to reach the core since the distance is 26,000 light-years. If so, then the claim (that this must be the case) is false because travel-times in relativity are (1) reference frame dependent (meaning they depend on the state of motion of the observer), and (2) depend on the chosen synchrony convention, which I will explain below.
> Albert Einstein discovered that space and time are far more interesting and counterintuitive than anyone expected, and that the passage of time is not universal. For example, an astronaut traveling at a high percentage of the speed of light could travel a distance of 100 light years from earth’s perspective, while he himself only experienced 2 years. At the speed of light, the flow of time halts completely. Therefore, from the light’s point of view, every trip is exactly instantaneous. So it takes no time at all for light to travel from here to the galactic core from light’s point of view.
> From earth’s point of view, the light travel time will depend upon the observer’s state of motion, and chosen synchrony convention. The latter is the method by which we choose to call two clocks “synchronized” when they are separated by a distance. One of the most common synchrony conventions is to assume that the one-way speed of light is the same in all directions, and then use this to adjust the time of distant clocks. Under that convention (and only under that convention) will it take the light 26,000 years to reach the galactic core. On the other hand, we are free to choose an anisotropic synchrony convention, in which the speed of inward-directed light is different from outward-directed light. This is permitted by relativity, and cannot be refuted by observation or experiment. It will be tempting to think that one convention is right and other wrong, but the physics discovered by Einstein places both conventions as equally legitimate. Under an anisotropic convention, the travel time to the galactic center can be anything from zero to 52,000 years. And there is no way to objectively know which is “right”, because synchrony conventions are stipulated, not measured.
Bret: So then, if you think it is fair game to ask (Since you challenge the authorities),…
> Dr. Lisle: To be clear, you are the one challenging the physics textbooks, not me. Einstein himself pointed out that the duration of a one-way journey of light “is in reality neither a supposition nor a hypothesis about the physical nature of light, but a stipulation which I can make of my own freewill in order to arrive at a definition of simultaneity.” [Relativity,15th edition, p. 22. Emphasis in the original]. In other words, the time it takes light to get from earth to the galactic core (as measured by earth clocks) is not objectively knowable, but is simply stipulated. The only thing that can be known from the mathematics is that a trip to the galactic core and back would take 52,000 years by earth’s clocks. Physics does not allow you to presume that the one-way duration must be half of this value.
>And yes, I think it is perfectly fair for you to ask the physics experts to justify their position. Of course, Einstein does this in his book, which I highly encourage you to read. It is written for laymen and requires no previous knowledge of physics.
Bret: …please give me your estimate? Sir, How long does it take for light to travel to the centre of the universe?
> Dr. Lisle: It depends on the chosen synchrony convention – and that’s my point. Physics allows the light travel time to the center of the galaxy (not the universe) to be anything between zero and 52,000 years. And of course, we have no way of knowing if light has ever traveled from nearby stars to the galactic core.
Bret: What formula do you use?
> Dr. Lisle: Equation 1-2 in John Winnie’s 1977 paper “Special Relativity without One-Way Velocity Assumptions: Part I.” Namely, t_2 = t_1 + ε(t_3 – t_1), where (0 < ε < 1). Here, t_1 is the time light is emitted from earth, t_2 is the time it arrives at the galactic core, t_3 is the time the light beam arrives back at earth if it were reflected from a mirror at the galactic core. Most people arbitrarily assume that epsilon = ½, but in reality, the physics of Einstein allows it to be anywhere between 0 and 1. That is why you cannot objectively know the travel time of a light beam on a one-way journey.
Bret: And Sir, why do you [think] God made it appear this way?
> Dr. Lisle: Do you mean, “why did God make the galaxy appear big?” If so, it is because the galaxy really is big. There is no doubt about that. But just because something is big doesn’t mean that it is old.
Bret: Also, Please defend why you accept assertions like “the Moon” has no effect on the earth’s spin when this has not been measured. Therefore How can you accept this notion Since you think calculations like the speed of light are not valid science having not been measured and should not be counted on?
> Dr. Lisle: Actually, we can indeed measure the force of the moon on the earth by measuring the heights of the tides. And we can measure the small torque that the moon induces on the earth’s rotation by measuring the distance that the moon recedes: currently about an inch and a half a year. To be clear, I don’t claim that all things knowable are measurable. Rather, I claim that we should have some logical reason behind our beliefs. So if there has been no measurement (of the one-way speed of light) and if there is also no theoretical basis for it (which there isn’t), then we shouldn’t claim that we know it.
Bret: PPS-wonderfull [sic] usage of argumentation like when when [sic] you infer other views from yours are fallen, sinful views”…
> Dr. Lisle: Nice bait-and-switch fallacy. It is when people deviate from Scripture that their views are sinful. When the Bible says, “X”, but people say “not-X”, that’s a problem. See how Jesus responded in Matthew 15 to the Pharisees and scribes who had substituted their opinions for the clear teaching of God’s Word. Don’t you think He is just as upset by people who do the same thing today?
Bret: …and you do this repeatedly in your weblogs, then change the argument here with me by saying we are all fallen..really? Thanks, for the Sunday School Answer.
> Dr. Lisle: What “change” in argument? My claim has consistently been that God’s Word is clear and understandable in its main teachings, that creation in six days is one of those clear teachings (Exodus 20:11), and therefore no one rejects six days for exegetical reasons. Our fallen nature is my answer to your question about why Christians disagree on texts that are clear and explicit – such as the six days of creation. You implied that the fault is in the text – that the text is unclear. I claim that the fault is in people – people are sinners. I further claim that the Bible itself refutes your claim (that it is unclear) explicitly and implicitly (Proverbs 8:8-9, Ephesians 3:4, 1 Corinthians 14:8, Deuteronomy 30:11), and confirms my claim that all people are sinners (Romans 3:23), and inclined to reject or distort God’s Word (Matthew 15:7-9). (And yes, you should have learned this in Sunday School. 😉 )
Bret: YOU instead should know exactly what I am talking about, ego, …
> Dr. Lisle: Doesn’t it take quite an ego to think that we know better than God? That even though God said He made everything in six days, our knowledge of the universe is just so far superior to God’s that we know that cannot be true, and are therefore in a position to correct His Word? Is our knowledge of the cosmos so perfect that it exceeds God’s ability to write what He means?
Bret: John Akenberg [sic] said clearly that the age of the universe argument is one that occurs inside the church by believers.
> Dr. Lisle: Sadly, that is actually true, though irrelevant. If a Christian argued that the Israelites actually wandered in the wilderness for 40 billion years instead of 40 years, that doesn’t mean he is not a Christian. But it does mean that he is mistaken. The fact that Christians can sometimes misinterpret Scripture does not legitimize their misinterpretation. That would be the naturalistic fallacy. If you care about your brothers in Christ who have departed from the truth of the Scriptures in one area, shouldn’t you graciously correct them?
Bret: But you know, if you really don’t know what I am getting at then, just watch Kent having argue with Hugh Ross on the Ankerberg show and you tell me if Kent was right in the choice of words he choose to Rip on Hugh? Was this Godly dictation or mistaken pietism?
> Dr. Lisle: I don’t believe I have seen that debate except perhaps for excerpts. But it seems to me that you may be confusing the truthfulness of a position with the behavior of one of its adherents, which is an ad hominem fallacy. That is fallacious because they are different issues. People with pleasant temperaments do not always have correct beliefs, and jerks don’t always have incorrect beliefs. In my career, I have met some atheists that I really like. That doesn’t prove that atheism is true, does it? All positions have their champions and their embarrassing advocates. To be logical, you need to distinguish between the content of an argument and its delivery.
Bret: It concerns me that the art of rhetoric can be so good that people convince others of things that are absurd…
> Dr. Lisle: Bingo! I agree wholeheartedly. Some people are so good at rhetoric, they have even convinced others that “For in six days the Lord created the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them” actually means “For over 13.8 billion years, the Lord gradually evolved the heavens and earth from a giant explosion.”
Bret: For my part, I promise I will think about what you have said here..and let you have the last word..
Thanks for your time!
Dr. Lisle: You are most welcome Bret. Thank you for posting, for asking questions, and interacting with me. I am sure some people have many of the same questions you have, and I think this conversation will be helpful to them.