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Journey from the Center of a Young Earth, Part 2: Faith and Reason

By Guest Writer - May 24, 2019
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By Kenny Rhodes

In my previous article, I argued that God as the Creator of reality is responsible for the basic components of our common existence. Our interactions with reality lead us to know the nature of truth. Also, as a necessary component, God has given us reason in order to govern and safeguard our acquisition of knowledge. As such, reason is a vital tool in understanding God’s Word and works.

On my journey out of the center of young-earth creationism, the interrelated issues of epistemology (how we know what we know), reason (principle of reason1), faith (principle of faith2), truth, and reality profoundly changed my understanding, especially in regard to the big picture of the nature of God. Reason, in proper balance with faith,3 can never be regarded merely as “man’s reason,”4 because it is a participation in that which is of God,5 and that which reveals God. Reason is a foundational and key aspect of general and special revelation. It is a property of the divine intellect and a core component of how we know. Thankfully, I would learn more about how to know on my journey.

God’s Simplicity

As I continued on my trek to a better understanding of creation, tools such as reason and reality, divine simplicity, and analogy helped me overcome obstacles. At one point along the way, seemingly out of nowhere, an avalanche of insight cascaded into my mind. One such thought related to the nature of God. Scripture describes God as being all-powerful, all-knowing, everlasting, infinite, eternal, etc., but it does not define those terms for us. Hence, philosophy was the place to understand what these terms mean and how to understand them together in reference to God’s nature. When we seek to understand statements like “God is Spirit,” “God is light,” “God is life,” or “God is love” we are left to human reason and the nature of reality in order to discover what those predicates mean and how they apply to the divine essence. When God reveals that his name is “I AM,” again, it is reason and reality that tell us the profound implications of that term. As a result of such investigation, I found that reason is a necessary part of faith in the sense that it is there to help us understand Scripture.

What came into view for me was the doctrine of divine simplicity and the necessity of analogical predication (affirmations about God by analogy; for example, likeness instead of sameness) in reference to God. The doctrine of divine simplicity had tremendous implications for me in understanding the rest of Christian doctrine, and the necessity of analogical predication had implications within the text of Genesis 1.

Genesis 1 uses the phrase, “And God said. . . ” ten times in reference to God’s creative command. How should this phrase be understood? Does God have vocal cords where air is forced over them and sound waves are produced that then propagate through the air? The answer is no, but how do we know and why do we know this is correct? The Bible does speak of God having “ears,” “eyes,” and “arms.” So, why not a mouth and vocal cords? How do we know that statements like these are simply anthropomorphisms (figurative language), but that statements like “God is Spirit” are not figurative?

We arrive at these conclusions by way of reason and reality in correlation with the doctrine of divine simplicity. God’s divine simplicity necessitates that he cannot be corporeal because a body is subject to change and motion but God is pure being and pure act with no potency at all. Therefore, he does not have a body and such statements as God having ears, eyes, and arms must be figurative.

Creation Implications

Now, adding the principle of analogical predication, what does it suggest to us concerning the time frame of creation and especially the word “day”? I maintain that using the word “day” in reference to God does not have a one-to-one correlation with the word “day” in reference to human beings, in the same way that the word “good” would not have a univocal (having one meaning only) application to God and man. Further, in reference to the Sabbath, we know that God is not subject to tiring and needing rest. Therefore, here again we do not see a univocal application of a Sabbath rest for God and man. Also, in Isaiah 55:8–9, we are told that God’s ways are not like ours. Therefore, I would suggest that God’s ways and God’s days are not like man’s ways or man’s days.

We find further confirmation by the theological fact that God is outside of time. Thus, speaking of a 24-hour day in reference to God’s creative acts would simply be nonsense, in the same way that asking what happened before the beginning of time would collapse into a noncognitive statement.

Moreover, upon further examination of the text, of the word “day,” and of the nature of God, it becomes apparent that the purpose of the creation narrative is simply to communicate a pattern to humankind by way of analogy. The creation days themselves are composed of a work/rest cycle. The term “evening” terminates the daylight work period and initiates the rest period. The term “morning” would signal the end of the rest cycle and begin the next work cycle. A further look into Scripture vets out the fact that this work/rest cycle applies to days, weeks, years, and prophetic years. Therefore, the “days” in Genesis 1, which seem to be the main focus of disagreement, are clear in their linguistic function. The word “day” is an analogical term for work and rest.

Arrival at My Destination

My journey out of the center of a young earth was long, eventful, and definitely worth the trip. I have now made it part of my ministry to help others find their way to better understanding of creation’s timing. I have worked through all of the important issues and concerns that will be brought up by young-earth creationists, and I believe there are thoughtful answers that honor the normal, literal interpretation of Scripture. My adoption of the old-earth view as represented by Reasons to Believe has only reinforced my conviction of a literal interpretation of the biblical text. May we all seek the best tools of Christian thought available to us as we proceed on any trek to more fully know our Creator.

Endnotes
  1. Principle of Reason (PR): This is the “why” of something—why “this” or “that” should be believed or trusted. For example, why should I trust American Airlines (literally with my life) in boarding a 747 in order to fly from San Francisco to Hawaii and back. The answer is that there are many lines of evidence from the engineers, mechanics, pilots, etc. that demonstrate that it is reasonable to believe that I will be safely delivered to my destination.
  2. Principle of Faith (PF): This is the “what” of something—“what” or “who” is believed and the content or object of belief. For example, I can trust “what” my wife tells me because I know “that” and “why” she is trustworthy. The principles of reason gives us the evidence of “why” something is trustworthy. The principles of faith gives us the “what” or “who” to trust, and “why” (PR) because it is trustworthy.
  3. See “Faith and Reason” in Kenny Rhodes, The One Who Is: The Doctrine and Existence of God (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2015), 32–34.
  4. This is the go-to phrase used by the president of the world’s largest young-earth creationist (YEC) ministry, and it is invoked in order to bring suspicion to and invalidate any position that is contrary to that ministry’s interpretation of Scripture and the YEC paradigm.
  5. As Aquinas affirmed: “The light of natural reason itself is a participation of the divine light; as likewise we are said to see and judge of sensible things in the sun, that is, by the sun’s light.” Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Complete English ed. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), I q.12 a.11 ad.3.

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