We have been examining the errors in history and theology being promoted by Phil Vischer.  In his podcast on this issue, he was joined by Skye Jethani, Christian Taylor, and Jason Rugg.  We will continue to examine their claims here.

Phil: William Jennings Bryan believed talking about literal six-day creation was a straw-man argument to make fundamentalists look dumb.  Uh, he said that the opponents of fundamentalist Christianity accused (and this is a quote) “accused fundamentalists of believing such things just as they accuse orthodox Christians of denying the roundness of the earth and the law of gravitation.”[1]

Lisle: Bryan’s error in reasoning here is the fallacy of false analogy.  This is the error of making an argument from analogy between two things that are not truly alike at all.  In this case, the claim is made that a belief in a young earth is like believing in a flat earth, or rejecting the law of gravitation.  But in reality, they are quite different.  Age cannot be determined by scientific observations and measurements unless the creation of the object in question was observed.  But the roundness of the earth and the law of gravitation can be demonstrated by observations and experimentation in the present.  Furthermore, the same Bible that teaches that God created in six days also teaches that the earth is round (e.g. Job 26:10; Isaiah 40:22).  So the affirmation of a young earth is truly like the affirmation of a round earth insomuch as both are Scriptural positions.  So, in reality, denying young earth creation would be like denying a round earth, in that both deny what the Scriptures affirm.

By the way, it is true that Bryan rejected the biblical timescale.  What Phil failed to mention is how Bryan’s compromise on creation undermined his testimony and credibility, and ultimately bolstered opposition to the Christian worldview.  In the Scopes Monkey Trial, Bryan attempted to defend biblical creation.  But when he denied the biblical timescale, his credibility was severely undercut.  The hypocrisy of asking others to believe in a literal Genesis when he himself clearly did not accept all of it was obvious.  Although Bryan “won” the case from a legal perspective, he lost in terms of public opinion.  His theology was internally inconsistent; his compromise in Genesis cost him credibility.  “Although Bryan had won the case, he had been publicly humiliated and his fundamentalist beliefs had been disgraced.”[2] 

Phil seems to be attempting the fallacy of appeal to authority.  He is citing examples of Christians who did not (at least at some points in their life) accept the biblical timescale, as evidence that the Bible doesn’t actually teach this.  But that is absurd.  If Phil could cite a hundred examples of professing Christians who denied that the Bible teaches that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire, that would not change the fact that the Bible teaches that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire. 

I’m not interested in what people claim the Bible says.  I’m interested in what the Bible says!  God will not judge us by people’s opinions of what the Bible states, but rather by what the Bible actually states. We are to live by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4), not by people’s opinions of what God really meant to say.  And there is no doubt that the Bible teaches that God created in six consecutive days, each bounded by one morning and one evening, and that there were less than 80 generations between Adam and the incarnation of Christ.

Christian: But, those things sound contradictory: that they can be against evolution and yet hold those beliefs [in an old earth].[3]

Lisle: They are not exactly contradictory.  An unbeliever might reject Darwinian evolution, and yet still believe in an old earth.  But there is indeed a devastating inconsistency when professing Christians claim to embrace biblical creation but reject the biblical timescale, since the biblical timescale is an aspect of biblical creation.  The same Bible that teaches that God created the first man from the dust of the earth, and the first woman from his side, also teaches that God created in six days.  It is inconsistent for Christians to insist that we should believe in an historical Genesis, while at the same time rejecting some aspects of that history. 

Phil: So, today, I don’t know how many Christians would agree with this, but a huge percentage of conservative Christians would say, um, to be against evolution is to believe the earth is young.[4]

Lisle: I challenge Phil to back up that claim because I am not aware of anyone that would affirm that “to be against evolution is to believe the earth is young.”  Those are two different issues.  There are many people who are against evolution and yet deny the biblical timescale.  Of course, we should reject evolution and also embrace the biblical timescale.  But they are not the same thing.  And I’m not aware of anyone that would argue that a mere rejection of evolution (by itself) logically requires a young earth. 

In fact, there are people who reject evolution and don’t believe the Bible at all.  What we would actually say is that the Bible teaches both a “young” earth and also supernatural creation, and therefore we should believe both.  We should reject both neo-Darwinian evolution and also deep time since both are contrary to Scripture.  But they are different issues.  And people sometimes accept what the Bible says about one while rejecting what it says about the other. 

It may be that Phil has committed the logical fallacy called the commutation of conditionals.  One could argue (cogently) that if the earth is “young”, then neo-Darwinian evolution is refuted since it requires vast ages in order to be even remotely plausible.  But the converse is not true.  Namely, refuting neo-Darwinian evolution does not – by itself – prove that the earth is young. 

Phil: And they’re like part and parcel.  They’re the same package.  You need to believe in a young earth and you need to believe that creation didn’t [sic] happen.  That is a fairly recent belief.

Lisle: False.  Throughout church history Christians believed in a “young” earth and supernatural creation because both are aspects of biblical inerrancy.  We’ve already demonstrated that.  The founding fathers of the church taught that it was important to believe all that the Lord has said.  In Matthew 4:4, Jesus said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”  That necessarily includes the details of Genesis 1.

Phil: James Barr wrote in the fundamentalist essay in 1910 “Science and Christian Faith.”  And He believed, uh this is a quote from James Barr, “’Evolution’ is coming to be recognized as but a new name for ‘creation,’ only that the creative power now works from within instead of, as in the old conception in an external,plastic fashion.”[5] 

Lisle: So many errors.  First, this quote comes from James Orr, not James Barr.  Second, Phil is cherry picking.  Most of the authors of the Fundamentals who touched on creation adamantly disagreed with Orr.  Phillip Mauro wrote in The Fundamentals the following: “It is useless to pretend that Darwin’s theory might be true, and the Bible nevertheless entitled to respect. The Lord Jesus said to a learned man of His day, ‘If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?’ (John 3:12). If the Bible does not give us a truthful account of the events of the six days recorded in its first chapter, it is not to be trusted as to any of its statements.” [emphasis added][6]  Professor J.J. Reeve also writes in The Fundamentals as follows: “The Bible and their hypothesis are irreconcilable….  For this reason they deny all historicity to Genesis 1-11, the stories of Creation, the Fall, the Flood, etc. No theory of naturalistic evolution can possibly admit the truth of these chapters.” [emphasis added][7]

Third, notice that James Orr again refers to the natural reading of Genesis as the “older conception.”  This stands in contrast to the newer conceptions of deep time and theistic evolution.  This again contradicts Phil’s narrative that supernatural creation in six days is somehow a “recent” position.

Fourth, the only issue that ultimately matters is not what people claim the Bible says, but what the Bible actually says.  The text itself is clear that God created in six days, with human beings created on day 6, and that there are only 76 generations from Adam to Christ.  This eliminates any pretense of billions of years.

By the way, James Barr also rejected the literal history of Genesis (and biblical inerrancy in general), but he honestly admitted that this had nothing to do with exegesis.  Barr wrote, “Probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1–11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that: (A) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience, (B) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story, (C) Noah’s flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark.”[8]  So, there is no doubt about the meaning of text.

Phil: [Henry Morris and John Whitcomb write] a book that’s published in 1961 called The Genesis Flood. And this is the book that creates modern creationism.”[9] 

Lisle: A belief in biblical creation is hardly modern; it has been the primary position of the church throughout its history.  It would be more accurate to say that the Morris and Whitcomb book contributed to the Church’s return to an exegetical reading of Genesis.  The book promotes a natural reading of Genesis in which God really did create heaven and earth and all that is within them in the space of six days, and that there was a global flood roughly 1656 years after creation.  Again, these ideas are not “modern.”  The only thing that could be considered “new” or “modern” in The Genesis Flood is the overwhelming geological evidence for a global flood that had been accumulated in the last few centuries.  The scientific evidence certainly confirms biblical creation, but the church had held to biblical creation long before such evidence had been discovered.

Phil: [Morris then did] something very interesting, which hadn’t really been done before, which was to say, “If you are rejecting a literal six-day creation, you’re rejecting the authority of the Bible.”

Lisle: Actually, that had been done before.  It was even done in The Fundamentals that Phil continues to misrepresent.  Phillip Mauro, in The Fundamentals, states, “If the Bible does not give us a truthful account of the events of the six days recorded in its first chapter, it is not to be trusted as to any of its statements.”[10],[11]  J.J. Reeve also argues (in The Fundamentals) that the literal history of Genesis is necessary if the Bible is the authoritative Word of God.  He states, “Falsehood will not do God’s will; only truth can do that. Is there nothing in the story of creation, of the fall, the flood, the call and promise to Abraham, the life of Jacob and Joseph and the great work of Moses? If all these things are not true to fact or to life, then God has been an arch-deceiver….” [emphasis added][12]

Is a person really embracing the authority of the Bible if he says, “I believe in the authority of the Bible, but it doesn’t even remotely mean what it says?”  Morris and Whitcomb were correct.  If you reject a literal six-day creation, you are rejecting the authority of the Bible.  Why?  Because that’s what the Bible states!  (Exodus 20:11).  Phil seems to disagree with this.  But let’s apply the same reasoning to a more significant issue: the Gospel. 

Would Phil agree with the following statement?  “If you are rejecting the literal Gospel, you’re rejecting the authority of the Bible.”  Are we allowed to interpret the Gospel as a non-literal metaphor?  Would we still be embracing the authority of God’s Word if we did so?  The same Bible that teaches that God created the universe in six days (each defined as bound by one morning and one evening) also teaches that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead.  It will not do to say, “I believe the Bible.  I just don’t believe that Jesus literally rose from the dead.  That’s just your interpretation.”  No.  Embracing biblical authority means that we interpret the Scriptures exegetically, which includes embracing the literal history of the historical narrative sections, such as Genesis and the Gospels.

Phil: [Morris claimed] rejecting the authority of the Bible… is why the world is going mad.  So, uh, Morris starts linking evolution, belief in evolution, with abortion, euthanasia, uh, pornography, uh, you know, atheism.  So almost every, I mean crime, linking a belief in evolution with rising, exploding crime in the 1960s.  All of the evils of society are now linked to the rejection of the authority of the Bible, and the rejection of the authority of the Bible is what happens when you say, “the world wasn’t created 6000 years ago.”

Lisle: Although Phil seems to disagree, Morris and Whitcomb were exactly right.  None of the evils Phil listed would occur if people obeyed the Bible.  Not one.  Every problem we see in society can be traced back to a broken biblical law.  Therefore, as a society increasingly rejects the authority of the Bible (beginning in Genesis), these problems will inevitably increase.  Although a belief in evolution (and deep time) is not the cause of these sins, people do use evolution as a way to seemingly justify their sin. 

Why not abort a baby if humans are just evolved animals?  We euthanize cats, why not euthanize people?  In a biblical creationist worldview, murder is morally wrong because human beings are made in the image of God.  But that only make sense if Genesis is literally true (Genesis 1:26-27).  In an evolutionary worldview, people have no special status among the other organisms.  If people are cosmic accidents, why not commit a crime if you can get away with it?  It is in Genesis we learn that God is the Creator and that He holds us accountable for our actions. 

I also note that Phil misrepresents biblical creationists by placing undue emphases on the world being created “6000 years ago.”  It wasn’t exactly 6000 years ago anyway, and the issue is not with the precise number, but rather with our willingness to interpret the Bible exegetically and to accept what it says.  When people say, “The Bible is wrong about the timescale of creation,” they are indeed rejecting biblical authority.  Nor will it do for them to say, “Genesis doesn’t really mean what it says,” because this too is a rejection of biblical authority.  We are then hardly surprised when such people go on to reject God’s commandments.

If God didn’t get the details right in the first chapter of His Book, why would people be inclined to obey the commandments that come later?  After all, those commandments only make sense in light of the literal history recorded in Genesis.  If we cannot trust the Bible in matters of history, why trust its message of salvation?  As Jesus put it, “If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12)

Phil: And now, as of the mid 1960s, the age of the earth becomes a culture war issue, not just a theological issue.[13] 

Lisle: It is amazing to me that Phil still doesn’t get it.  The age of the earth is not the issue in and of itself.  Biblical authority is the issue.  Deep time and evolution are not compatible with the text of Genesis, and consequently stem from a rejection of biblical authority.  If the Bible cannot be trusted in its opening chapters, what rational person would accept it as the inerrant Word of God?

Show me a person who defends abortion and argues for “gay marriage,” and I can just about guarantee that person rejects a natural reading of Genesis.  Why?  Because if Genesis is literal history then human beings are made in God’s image, and are not disposable (Genesis 1:26-27).  If Genesis is literal history then marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman before God (Genesis 2:23-24). 

Theology matters!  Phil may denigrate Morris and Whitcomb for pointing this out.  But it is true.  Christian theology cannot be justified in a theistic evolution worldview.  Christian theology stems from the literal history recorded in the Bible, beginning in Genesis 1:1.

Phil: Henry Morris goes on to found the Creation Research Society in 1963, which becomes what is today the Creation Research Institute.[14]

Lisle: No, the Creation Research Society was founded in 1963 by ten Christians (Henry Morris was one of them), and headed by Walter E. Lammerts.  It did not become the “Creation Research Institute” or anything else, and remains the Creation Research Society to this day.  To my knowledge, there is no “Creation Research Institute.”  Perhaps Phil meant the “Institute for Creation Research” (ICR), but that is a separate organization.  ICR was founded by Henry Morris in 1972, and has always been independent from the Creation Research Society.

Skye: And from what I’ve read about fundamentalisms in general is the real psychological draw of fundamentalisms is that it simplifies a complicated world.  It takes a chaotic reality and makes it really, really simple for you to understand so you can turn off part of your brain and feel in control again.[15]

Lisle: The irony of that claim is that it is far more descriptive of evolution and deep time.  When we consider those people who believe in evolution or deep time, why do the vast majority of them accept such concepts?  Is it because they have carefully investigated the evidence for themselves?  Have they rigorously perused the technical literature on both sides of the issue?  Of course not.  Very few evolutionists do that.  Most of them believe in evolution and deep time simply because it is what they have been taught.  They have switched off part of their brain, and simply accepted the majority opinion on the topic, unencumbered by rational thought.  It’s easier and simpler to just go with the flow.

Skye:  I mean, the fact that it’s called Answers in Genesis is brilliant, because the simple answer is: if people would just take Genesis 1 and 2 literally, all of these problems that you are seeing would be solved.[16]

Lisle: What a straw-man fallacy!  I’m not aware of anyone that claims that all problems in the world would be solved if people took Genesis 1 and 2 literally.  Rather, all the problems in the world would be solved if everyone repented of sin and obeyed the Bible perfectly.  But that will never even begin to happen if people continue to reject the Bible in its first two chapters.  It should be obvious that people will not be inclined to obey a book that they think is fiction!  Moreover, all major Christian doctrines can only be rationally justified if Genesis is literal history.  Problems like “gay marriage” will never go away if people think that the foundation of marriage in Genesis 1-2 is fiction.  Abortion will never go away if people think that human beings are just evolved animals, and not created in God’s image as taught in Genesis 1:26-27. 

Thus, contrary to Skye’s misrepresentation, our actual position is that biblical authority is the key to beginning to solve the world’s problems.  Correct theology does not automatically solve every problem because people can fail to live up to their theology.  But correct theology is a necessary first step.  People will not even consider giving up abortion or sexual sins if their worldview does not consider such things as morally wrong.  Thus, accepting what the Bible says in its opening chapters is a necessary first step to accepting and obeying all that the Bible teaches. 

Phil: Yeah, and what’s interesting is the real battle in the 1920s (nineteen teens, 1920s) was over biblical inerrancy.[17]

Lisle: If the Bible is wrong about the timescale and method of creation, then how could it possibly be inerrant? 

Skye?: But even that’s interesting because their stand on inerrancy did not mean taking Genesis 1 literally.[18] 

Lisle: That is demonstrably false.  The majority of authors of The Fundamentals who touched on Genesis argued that it should be taken as literal history, because this is an aspect of inerrancy.[19]  Dr. James Gray writes (in The Fundamentals), “The inspiration of scripture includes the whole and every part of it….  Does not the doctrine of sin need for its starting point the record of the fall?  …  Thus without going further, we may say, with Dr. DeWitt of Princeton, that it is impossible to secure the religious infallibility of the Bible—which is all the objector regards as necessary—if we exclude Bible history from the sphere of its inspiration.  But if we include Bible history at all, we must include the whole of it, for who is competent to separate its parts?”[20]

William Caven agrees, stating, “When Christ makes reference to Old Testament narratives and records, He accepts them as authentic, as historically true. He does not give or suggest in any case a mythical or allegorical interpretation. The accounts of the creation, of the flood, of the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, as well as many incidents and events of later occurrence, are taken as authentic.”[21]  Phillip Mauro states, “If the Bible does not give us a truthful account of the events of the six days recorded in its first chapter, it is not to be trusted as to any of its statements.”[22]

Skye:  They understood that Genesis 1 was poetry.[23] 

Lisle: We have already seen in the above citations that Skye’s claim is false.  And you will notice that Skye gave absolutely no evidence to support his claim.  That is because it is unsupportable.  Most of the authors of The Fundamentals defended Genesis as literal history, not poetry.  And there is a good reason for this.  Genesis is written in the Hebrew style of historical narrative – the same style as the accounts recorded in Exodus, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles.  It is not written in the Hebrew poetic style which characterizes books like the Psalms and Proverbs.

Hebrew poetry is quite different from English poetry.  In English, poetry tends to focus more on rhyme and meter.  But that is not the case in Hebrew.  Rather, Hebrew poetry is characterized by parallelism.  Parallelism is the literary device of having two or more statements that go together; and this is done in one of two ways.  In synonymous parallelism, we read a statement along with another statement that conveys the same basic idea using different words.  For example, Psalm 19:1 states, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”  Do you see how the two statements express the same basic idea but in different words?  The word ‘heavens’ in the first statement is a synonym for ‘expanse’ in the second statement.[24]

The other variety is called antithetical parallelism.  This is when the second statement conveys the flipside or alternative of the first.  One example would be Proverbs 1:7 which states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”  The first statement conveys the benefit of fearing God and the knowledge the follows.  The second statement conveys the foolishness of failing to fear God, and the ignorance that follows.

Parallelism is the key distinguishing feature of Hebrew poetry.  If you don’t have any parallelism in an extended passage of Scripture, then it isn’t poetry.  And if you examine Genesis chapter 1, you will find no evidence of parallelism.  It is therefore not poetry.

There are other ways that we can know with certainty that Genesis is written as literal history.  One way is the form of Hebrew verbs used to describe the events.  Namely, historical narrative sections of Scripture rely heavily upon a very common construction called a waw-consecutive.[25]  This occurs when the word “and” is followed by a verb (in the original Hebrew word order – which is not always the same as in an English translation).   One example is in Genesis 1:3a where the text reads, “And said God, ‘Let there be light.’”  Since the word ‘said’ is a verb, and since it follows the word “And,” this is a waw-consecutive.  Of course, this method requires going back to the Hebrew text, since English translations often change the word order (“And God said”) in order for the text to sound more natural.

In Genesis chapter 1, every verse after verse 2 begins with a waw-consecutive.  This indicates that the text is recording a sequence of literal, historical events, and is not poetic.  Hebrew poetry might have an occasional waw-consecutive; but it never has an extended sequence of waw-consecutives.  Therefore, there can be no doubt that Genesis is recording the literal, historical events that took place when God created the heavens and the earth.

We’ll do one more segment on this topic, dealing with the unbiblical theology that follows from a rejection of the literal history of Genesis.

[1] Podcast 26:07

[2] https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/monkey-trial-begins

[3] Podcast 26:54

[4] Podcast 27:10

[5] Podcast 28:24

[6] Mauro, P., The Fundamentals, Vol 5, chapter 1 p. 27

[7] Reeve, J.J., The Fundamentals, Vol. 3, Chapter 6, p. 105

[8] Barr, J., in a letter to David C.C. Watson, 23 April 1984

[9] Podcast 29:26

[10] Mauro, P., The Fundamentals, Vol 5, chapter 1 p. 27

[11] Note that Mauro himself was not necessarily defending a young earth.  But he correctly equated rejection of the six days of creation with a rejection of God’s Word – something Phil claimed didn’t happen until Morris and Whitcomb published the Genesis Flood in 1961.

[12] Reeve, J.J., The Fundamentals, Vol. 3, Chapter 6, p. 105

[13] Podcast 30:53

[14] Podcast 31:03

[15] Podcast 35:13

[16] Podcast 35:44

[17] Podcast 36:26

[18] Podcast 36:49

[19] I will grant that they were not fully consistent in taking Genesis literally.  The concept of deep time was so ingrained in academia in the early 20th century, that most Christian scholars accepted it.  Nonetheless, many rejected evolution because it was contrary to the literal history recorded in Genesis.

[20] Gray, J, The Fundamentals, Vol. 3, Chapter 1, p. 12-13

[21] Caven, W., The Fundamentals, Vol. 4, Chapter 11, p .50

[22] Mauro, P., The Fundamentals, Vol 5, chapter 1 p. 27

[23] Podcast 36:58

[24] Sometimes parallelism occurs in more than two parts.  For example, Psalm 1:1 uses a three-fold form of synonymous parallelism. 

[25] ‘Waw’ is pronounced like ‘vav.’