You are hereBeyond Creation Science: How Preterism Refutes a Global Flood and Impacts the Genesis Debate – Part 1
Beyond Creation Science: How Preterism Refutes a Global Flood and Impacts the Genesis Debate – Part 1
by Timothy P. Martin
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of responses to Beyond Creation Science since its release in 2001. I received feedback from preterists around the United States and even a few from outside the United States. What continues to amaze me is how few negative responses there have been compared to the many favorable reviews. Many who read that little book had never thought of the preterist implications regarding Creation Science ideology. A few said they saw these same implications years ago. The overwhelming majority who responded found my original presentation, why preterism and Creation Science are incompatible, convincing. For that I praise God. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of responses to Beyond Creation Science since its release in 2001. I received feedback from preterists around the United States and even a few from outside the United States. What continues to amaze me is how few negative responses there have been compared to the many favorable reviews. Many who read that little book had never thought of the preterist implications regarding Creation Science ideology. A few said they saw these same implications years ago. The overwhelming majority who responded found my original presentation, why preterism and Creation Science are incompatible, convincing. For that I praise God. The issue of young-earth creationism for many conservative Christians remains an emotional issue. I was expecting a stiff headwind of opposition from preterists who generally come from the same conservative Christian background which is the bastion of Creation Science ideology. So far, this expected opposition has not materialized. The few negative responses I have received from preterists have been uniformly lacking in their interaction with the main elements of my thesis. Some relied on the “scientific evidence” of a young earth as proof my thesis is in error. Others dismissed the presentation as common liberal skepticism and unbelief – no refutation necessary. To date, no preterist dedicated to young-earth creationism has attempted to deal with the substantive issues or main thrust of my thesis in print. Maybe there are fewer preterists dedicated to the Creation Science paradigm than I thought.
Those who read the first edition of Beyond Creation Science will remember it as a narrow project limited to a critical examination of the global flood doctrine. As a result of this limitation, there was one recurring theme in much of the feedback I received. Over and over again, I was asked that same question so many preterists struggle with in various ways: what now? Where does a refutation of a global flood and Creation Science ideology leave us in the wider Bible-Science and Creation-Evolution debate? Part two of this new edition is dedicated to exploring that question.
I have avoided strong conclusions because the modern biblical origins debate is a 500 – pound gorilla. Those who approach it without respect in some closed-minded, overconfident manner will likely be thumped back into reality sooner or later. Yet, I do believe the theological advance of biblical-redemptive understanding we call preterism has much to offer the discussion about biblical cosmogony.
There are a few people I would like to thank for their help in this project. I thank my wife who puts up with my erratic study and writing habits. I thank my children who give me the excuse I need to escape with them on long wilderness treks. I thank Steve Wagner, a fellow elder in congregational ministry, in whose walk-in closet this project began. I also thank Bo Stuart, another fellow elder in congregational ministry, who is not too sure about my thesis. His input has kept me honest. I also thank all the members of Covenant Community Church, Whitehall, Montana, who have signed their lives into the bonds of Christian covenant living. I also thank Jeff Vaughn for his insightful suggestions and his family for their help in proofreading. I also thank Marcus Booker whose conversations with me are more stimulating than he realizes. I pray God will use this project to further His eternal kingdom in whatever way He sees fit. To God be the glory!
A Necessary Introduction to Beyond Creation Science
There are few issues among conservative Christians surrounded by greater controversy than the proper understanding of Genesis. Today, many Christians with a high view of Scripture give their full attention to Genesis. This is not just a modern phenomenon. Augustine focused on Genesis when he developed many of the seed ideas we today call “Historic Christian Theology.” No one suggests he explained every detail properly, but he was right about one thing. The book of Genesis is at the heart of Christianity. Without a proper understanding of Genesis, the biblical revelation of salvation in Jesus Christ is in jeopardy. A proper understanding of the Bible begins in the book of Genesis. Mistakes made here will inevitably ripple across the rest of the Bible.
This is why the controversy over Genesis is important. On the surface it appears the historic battle lines are drawn. Very little has changed for at least a couple centuries. There is a long history in Church tradition supporting different interpretations of Genesis. Think of the debate over the “days” of Genesis. Those who understand them to be literal, 24-hour days follow the lead of Ambrose and the Puritans. Those who deny a 24-hour interpretation follow Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus, Augustine and the Dutch Reformed. Add to these historic views the fight between Fundamentalism and Modernism in the 20th century and the contemporary stage is set. The various debates over Genesis roll on with flaming rhetoric: old earth vs. young earth, figurative vs. narrative, allegory vs. literal, local flood vs. global flood.
While many Christians spend tremendous effort furthering their own side, few examine the roots of the disagreements. Only rarely does anyone ask if the assumptions which support the continuing debates are, in fact, the right assumptions. Have we asked the right questions? Do we understand the fundamental character of the debate? Is the matter really as simple as those who reject the Bible versus those who believe the Bible? That is how many view the origins debate surrounding Genesis. This work attempts to reach the core of the debate at one particular point: the flood as recorded in Genesis.
The Creation Science movement blossomed in the 20th century as a response to the wide acceptance of naturalistic evolution as well as popular old earth creationist perspectives that many deemed as unholy compromise with Darwinism. Practically speaking, the entire Creation Science movement rests on the belief the flood was a global event. Creation Scientists claim this is the direct and unambiguous teaching of the Bible. All geological, anthropological, astronomical and biological data is explained through this axiom. Many conservative, Bible-believing Christians have made this a point of absolute orthodoxy. They see belief in a global flood specifically and the Creation Science paradigm generally as a pillar of the Christian Faith in the modern world. I must admit that this was my belief at one time as well. However, my view changed after embracing covenant thinking which led me to understand New Testament prophecy from a general preterist viewpoint.
I hope to introduce you to a new perspective on the Genesis flood debate, an approach which offers tremendous potential to move the wider Bible-Science debate beyond the entrenched lines of the stalemated conflict we witness today. The following pages are offered as an introduction, not as the last word. What follows is an investigation, not a dogmatic conclusion. Though I am convinced the case is sound, I am also painfully aware of just how many proposals related to Genesis have been born in the last two hundred years with high expectations only to be buried later in unmarked graves in the backwoods of history. Their numbers are great. That sobering historical reality should foster care, temperance, balance, objectivity, and most of all, humility, among all who have an interest in this controversy, regardless of their own position. I offer the following with all humility in light of the messy past. At the same time, I offer it with hopeful confidence that a paradigm shift we can scarcely imagine today awaits us in the future of the Genesis origins debate. The truth will win out in the end: in God’s providence, it always does.
This book is a critique of the main Creation Science presupposition from the perspective of covenant eschatology or what is known broadly as preterism. I hope to demonstrate a methodological, theological and historical correlation between the rise of Creation Science ideology and the prevalence of dispensational theology in America during the 20th century. I hope to convince those who have already abandoned dispensational futurist eschatology in favor of preterism (regardless of any particular brand) of the need to completely re-examine the Creation Science paradigm. As preterism grows to eclipse dispensational futurism in American Christianity, I believe this re-examination will lead naturally to the wholesale abandonment of Creation Science ideas.
This critique of the Creation Science movement is a call to consistency. My argument is simple. It is time for those committed to a general preterist understanding of Matthew 24, 2 Peter 3, and Revelation to think through the logical implications of their beliefs as they relate to the rest of the Bible.
1. For an excellent overview of the current state of this debate and how it relates to the wider Bible-Science debate see David G. Hagopian, ed., The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation (Mission Viejo: Crux Press, 2001).
To be continued…
Copyright 2005 by Timothy P. Martin. All rights reserved. Reprinted by Permission
[This book will be available through the Planetpreterist bookstore.]