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What Do They Believe- Prosperity Gospel

What is the Prosperity Doctrine?

The Prosperity Doctrine (also known as the health and wealth gospel, or the prosperity gospel) is nothing but the Word-Faith/Positive Confession movement... applied to finances.

It is the doctrinal belief subscribed to by millions of Christians, centered around the idea that although Christians should keep one eye on Heaven, the good news is that God doesn't want His people to wait until then to inherit His blessings. God, who loves His followers, doesn't want those followers to be broke. He wants believers to wear the best clothing, drive the best cars, and have the best of everything in this life, provided they claim these blessing for themselves through positive confessions of faith and the 'sowing of seeds' (tithes and offerings).

'Positive and Negative Confession' Since, according to this view, what a person says determines what he will receive and what he will become, great significance is attached to the spoken word which, if repeated often enough, will produce enough faith to procure the desired blessing.

On the other hand, the believer who acknowledges the negative is guilty of a self-fulfilling prophecy. In other words he will be sick only if he confesses he is sick, and will be poor if he confesses he is poor. Prosperity teachers instruct believers to start confessing that they already have whatever it is that they want, even though it has not yet become a reality. If a person wants money, he is to confess that he has money even if he is yet poor as the proverbial church mouse. If he wants healing he has to confess that he is already healed even though he may yet be unable to get out of his wheelchair.

Although Prosperity theology is most commonly found in Charismatic and Pentecostal churches, it is certainly not confined to any denomination, but has wormed it's way, to one extent or another, into a huge number of evangelical churches. Very few of these churches actually seem to have the word prosperity in their Statements of Faith or Mission Statements, however material gain is a key part of their doctrine and they spend an inordinate amount of time talking about it.

While it is understandable that money is of much importance to governments (a whole other topic), the reason to exist for corporations and a major concern to secular society at large, the fact that the accumulation of it is the core doctrine of so many evangelical churches is a cause for great concern. That Christians are being taught that the poor among us are poor because they lack faith, that poverty is of the devil or, even worse, giving you last dollar to a fast talking ‘tele-evangelist’ will guarantee getting 100 fold back.

Certainly this doctrine has much going for it in the realm of marketability. Who doesn't want, at the very least, a life free of problems and ill health. Financial freedom, prosperity, health and success can seem very enticing indeed. And, what better way could there possibly be to get all these wonderful things we want than by evoking the power of the Living God to obtain them. How easy it is to fall into the age-old trap of seeking to satisfy our own lusts using ‘Biblical’ precepts and finding ways to prove that, in fact, God supports our desires.

Origins of The Prosperity Gospel

In the words of journalist Hanna Rosin

Many of the terms and concepts used by prosperity preachers today date back to Oral Roberts, a poor farmer's son turned Pentecostal preacher... In the late 1940s, Roberts claimed his Bible flipped open to the Third Epistle of John, verse 2: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health. Even as thy soul prospereth.” Soon Roberts developed his famous concept of seed faith, still popular today. If people would donate money to his ministry, a “seed” offered to God, he’d say, then God would multiply it a hundredfold. Eventually, Roberts retreated into a life that revolved around private jets and country clubs. [3]

Oral Roberts was soon followed by a parade of slick, silver-tongued, ostentatious preachers on Christian television, not the least of whom were Jimmy Swaggart and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. However, like most or all heresies, it went underground for a while. Then spurred on by by a host of wolves on TBN, and books such as Joel Osteen's Your Best Life Now (reputed to have sold some four million copies), the movement rapidly made its way from "out in left field" into more conservative mainstream churches and denominations.

 
 

What Do They Believe—Progressive Christianity

Progressive Christianity is an open, intelligent and collaborative approach to the Christian tradition and the life and teachings of Jesus that create pathways into an authentic and relevant religious experience.

 Do you find more grace in the search for meaning than in absolute certainty, in the questions rather than in the answers?

    Do you have religious interests and longings but cannot accept the beliefs and dogmas you associate with Christianity?

    Are you repelled by claims that Christianity is the “only way”?

    Do you find solace, meaning, or connection to the teachings and the path of Jesus of Nazareth?

Organized religion does not have to be irrelevant, ineffectual, or repressive…

ProgressiveChristianity.org provides guiding ideas, networking opportunities, and resources for progressive churches, organizations, small groups, and individuals that long to craft a spiritual life connected to the way of Jesus.

We promote an understanding of Christian practice and teaching that leads to a greater concern for the way people treat each other than for the way people express their beliefs, the acceptance of all people, and a respect for other religious traditions.

We affirm the variety and depth of human experience and the richness of each persons’ search for meaning, and we encourage the use of sound scholarship, critical inquiry, and all intellectual powers to understand the presence of God in human life.

We are opposed to any exclusive dogma that limits the search for truth and free inquiry, and we encourage work that eases the pain, suffering and degradation inherent in many of the structures of society, as well as work that keeps central to the Christian life fair, open, peaceful, and loving treatment of all human beings.

http://progressivechristianity.org/about-us/

The Beliefs of Progressive Christians

by Laura Gee, Demand Media

Progressive Christian beliefs focus on Christ's love.

Progressive Christianity is a huge umbrella term under which people with different beliefs about the seemingly supernatural aspects of biblical teachings can gather. In general, though, most progressive Christians agree about the central importance of Christ's message of love and acceptance.

Progressive Christians

Progressive Christianity is not a denomination and has no formal organization. Instead, progressive Christianity is a way of describing Christians of all backgrounds who share relatively progressive or liberal political beliefs, and feel that these beliefs are informed by their understanding of Christianity. While some denominations, such as Episcopalian, Presbyterian and Lutheran might be considered more progressive than others, there are also progressive Christians in almost every denomination, including Catholic and Baptist.

Teachings of Jesus

Progressive Christians focus on the teachings of Jesus and try to inspire others by following his example. One Bible passage they often refer to is Luke 22:36-40, in which Jesus says that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, and the second most important is to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Progressive Christians tend to believe that Jesus' message to love unconditionally was his most important.

Miracles and the Afterlife

Progressive Christian beliefs regarding the parts of the Bible that might seem supernatural are widely divergent. For example, there is no consensus among progressive Christians as to whether the creation story, virgin birth and resurrection are literally true. Progressive Christians are more likely to interpret the Bible metaphorically than are other groups, but this is not universal.

Some progressive Christians believe that the whole Bible, including miraculous stories, is literally true but must be interpreted in a modern context in terms of practice and which biblical teachings are emphasized more. Of course, there are also many people whose viewpoints fall between these two extremes.

Emergent Christianity

Emergent Christianity is one growing interdenominational movement within progressive Christianity, which is occurring at the intersection of Christian thought and postmodern philosophy. The beliefs of Emergent Christians also focus on following the example of Jesus. The primary belief that sets Emergent Christianity apart from other forms is that each person's beliefs and relationship with God, the Bible and Christian tradition are equally valid. They prefer to avoid formal hierarchy and official statements of belief, instead focusing on communication and the living and changing community of believers.

Social Responsibility

Regardless of their beliefs about the literal truth of Bible stories or the ideal organization of Christian structures, progressive Christians unite around certain perspectives on social issues. Love, tolerance and an open mind toward people of all religions and lifestyles are some of the most common themes. Another is the importance of working toward peace, social justice and assistance to the poor and oppressed. Finally, environmental stewardship of the Earth as God's creation is considered extremely important.

 
 

What They Believe—Progressive Creationists

Progressive Creation: An Overview

by Dale Tooley

Introduction

Most people, sometimes even Christians, will be aware of only three alternative views used to explain the existence of the natural world in which we live and the seemingly infinite universe beyond. However, a fourth, and increasingly accepted alternative explanation has been called "progressive creation" or the day-age interpretation.

Creation

First there are the young earth creationists, who are often seen as putting strong emphasis on God having created everything instantly and out of nothing all in the matter of six days, some 6000 years ago. Genesis chapters one and two must be taken "as read" in a very concrete way, without pictorial input, and are held to be historically and scientifically correct when read in this way. So according to this view about six to ten thousand years ago God spoke everything into being in six solar days and then rested on the seventh twenty-four hour period.1 Often there is no recognition of the fact that many Christians, calling themselves creationists, do not hold to the Genesis account of creation quite so concretely.

Natural Forces Only

In sharp contradiction to the above are the Secular Evolutionists who see the whole of existence as purely material with "matter" as eternally existent and all life coming into being by accident over many millions of years. A big problem they have is that modern science verifies the Big Bang theory. That is, that the universe is exploding and can be traced back to a single point. If the universe has a beginning, it must have a beginner! A question that that can be asked of the secular evolutionist is : "How can you go back forever without accepting a supernatural concept"?

Science historian Frederick Burnham commented that for scientists, "Belief in God is more respectable today than at any time in the last hundred years". ("Science & Religion are discovering Commonality in Big Bang theory." Los Angeles Times, 2 May 1992).

Of course, it is accepted that there are "natural forces" at work. These natural forces provided a home for the millions of species of the earth who evolved by the "natural selection" from those most fit to survive in their environment.

It should be pointed out that it actually takes an enormous leap of faith to believe that these hundreds of very finely tuned natural forces themselves exist by blind chance and there is no process of "evolution" that can account for the incredible fine tuning of them to make life possible. Evolution has to do with life forms and is more accurately described as "Blind Chance Evolution" (i.e., the ideas in Richard Dawkins book The Blind Watchmaker and is frustrated by two contradictory assertions: life comes only from life; and life originally rose from the inorganic).

A third view rejects the blind chance element of evolution, contending instead that a higher intelligence engineered the first forms of matter and the first life form, or forms, and arranged for natural forces He/She or "It" put in place initially to evolve upwardly. Along with the creationist positions the theistic evolutionist can see in the physics of the universe harmony, consistency, pervading beauty and elegance of design. It's interesting that when you see science fiction programs on film or television nobody can come up with anything more beautiful than earth scenes or the human form! Unearthly forms are always ugly, never beautiful, to our eyes at least.

In the theistic evolutionist's view natural selection and the transmutation of species are seen as the tooling used to bring about higher and higher life forms. Here, usually, God does not supernaturally intervene at any point, although convictions do differ widely and it would be quite wrong to say that all who believe in "evolution" deny the intervention of the miraculous.

Both creationists and theistic evolutionists are often mocked as believing in "the God of the gaps" but the opposite of this is "no God of the gaps". The facts are that there are gaps, everywhere ,which science cannot fill with purely natural explanation. By leaving God out of the equation "naturalism" is constantly stretched to find answers. Some will claim that science is closing the gaps where Christians put God as the only explanation. But while some gaps are closing bigger and wider ones are opening up elsewhere, especially in the finely tuned aspects of the universe and the intricacies of cell formation so the gap-filling exercise is never ending.

Pantheism, the view that God and nature are one, shares much in this viewpoint but denies, or greatly downgrades, the idea of a personal God.

Somewhere between

A fourth view, which I am surprised many Christians still do not know by name, but which without considering the mechanics, many instinctively believe, is called progressive creationism. It is fair to say it lies in between theistic evolution and young earth creationism, drawing some points from both but always insisting on the input of an Intelligent Designer. It agrees with the former in believing that there was a much longer time frame than six twenty-four hour periods and holds that each new life form was not, necessarily, created out of nothing, or out of previously non-living material. Or at least that the "template" of previously existing life is used again - with adjustments. It agrees with the latter, not only in affirming the verbal inspiration of the Bible, but that God was present at every stage of the creation of life and that every new life form was a deliberate and miraculous act of God.

It is unfortunate that Progressive Creation, or Old Earth Creation, as it is sometimes known , is often tagged from the left and the right with the word "compromise" - given its "shameful or disreputable concession" meaning. But of course this has the built in bias that the truth lies in one of two or more extreme positions. We do not believe this to be the case here.

The word "evolution" is often so emotionally charged among Christians that its mere mention is upsetting. However in its ordinary usage it simply means "change in respect to time" whether short or long. To some Christians its definition is restricted to a narrow biological one implying natural processes that gave rise to all the different species. Christians need to learn to react less aggressively to a mere mention of the word.

The Progressive Creationist accepts the flood story (properly understood) as truth and not myth. He accepts all the fundamentals of conventional, mainstream theology, including the creation of man as a totally unique being, capable of spiritual communication with God, his fall into sin and the redemption provided by the Second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ. I have yet to find a Progressive Creationist who does not take an historical Church view in his approach to Scripture

http://www.godandscience.org/youngearth/progressive.html

Progressive Creationism

by John C. Whitcomb, Ph.D.

Did God use vast ages of time, even millions and billions of years, to bring the universe and the world to its present form? Many Christians have adopted this view during the past two centuries in order to bring the Bible into harmony with the consensus of contemporary scientific opinion.1

"Progressive creationists," such as Drs. Hugh Ross and Robert Newman, profess faith in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, and reject more radical views such as theistic evolutionism (e.g., Dr. Howard Van Till), but nevertheless believe also in the timetable of Big Bang cosmology. They believe that millions of years separated the (miraculous) appearance of the various kinds of living things.2

The efforts of most secular scientists to explain the ultimate origin of the universe in terms of purely natural processes, however, suffer from severe limitations. No one except God was there when the universe began, and thus no human being could have observed the nature, the sequence, or the duration of the original events. That is why scientists differ so profoundly from each other on this vital issue.3

Four thousand years ago, God said to Job: "I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding" (Job 38:3-4). The stupendous impact of that question continues to the present hour.

One of the truly amazing things about the Bible is that it agrees with itself! Even though God used forty human authors over two thousand years, and even though highly complex topics are dealt with, there are no contradictions! Job and Moses, the earliest Bible writers, are supplemented, not contradicted, by the last writer, John. That is because the Spirit of God "moved" them to record what was beyond their own finite limitations (II Peter 1:21; cf., I Peter 1:11).

The intricate details of Genesis 1-2 are sufficient in themselves to negate the theory of Progressive Creationism. This discussion must await a future article. However, our purpose at this time is to demonstrate that stretching the days of creation to millions of years to accommodate secular theories becomes even more absurd when we allow the entire Bible to shed its essential light upon the first chapter of Genesis.

For example, it was through the mere spoken word of the pre-incarnate Christ, "the Word" (John 1:1,3; 1:14), that "All things were made." But how, actually, were the heavens and the earth created through the Second Person of the Triune Godhead? What method did He use, and how long did He take to do the work of creation? Here is the amazing answer: "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth . . . For He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast" (Psalm 33:6,9). Note carefully that God did not create a tiny speck of energy from which the stars and planets gradually formed through billions of years as the Big Bang theory requires. Instead, "the heavens . . . [even] all the host of them" (Genesis 2:1) came into existence instantly.

Progressive Creationism is rendered impossible by this statement. The second book of the Old Testament confirms what the first book says about the duration of creation events: "in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is" (Exodus 20:11; cf., 31:17). No Israelite, hearing these words, could have understood them as allowing for long periods of time. They knew that the six days in Genesis were literal days, because each of them was identified by a numerical adjective (one day . . . second day . . . etc.), and each of them was locked into the "evening . . . morning" formula which refers to a 24-hour period. This includes the seventh-day Sabbath, which all Jews understand to be a literal day.

A major problem with "Progressive Creationism" is its insistence that animals (and even pre-Adamic "men") died long before Adam sinned. Thus, the strong Biblical connection between sin and death is broken. The reason why "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" and is in "the bondage of corruption" is because it "was made subject to vanity, not willingly [i.e., because of some inherited design defect], but by reason of Him [God] who hath subjected" the creation to the curse at the time of Adam's rebellion (Romans 8:20-22).

Thus, there could have been no death in the animal kingdom before the Fall and the curse. Progressive Creationism collapses under the weight of Romans 8. In this connection, it is highly important to understand the nature of the Kingdom which Christ offered to Israel, and which He will establish at His Second Coming.

 In many ways, it will be a restoration of the pre-Fall earth. During the Kingdom age, which our Lord taught us to pray for (Matthew 6:10), "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, . . . and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. . . . [and] they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain [=kingdom; cf., Isaiah 2:2]: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:6-9).

All threats from the animal kingdom will end, for God “will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land: and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods” (Ezekiel 34:25; cf., Hosea 2:18; Isaiah 35:9). This Kingdom will be a time of “restitution [apokatastasis—“restoration,” cf., Matthew 17:11; Acts 1:6] of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21).

 
 
 

What They Believe- Theistic Evolutionists

Theistic Evolution is the old earth creationist belief that God used the process of evolution to create life on earth.  The modern scientific understanding of biological evolution is considered to be compatible with the Bible.

There are varying degrees of theistic evolution.  Many theistic evolutionists believe that God set in motion the laws of nature that led to evolution, but He did not take an active role in guiding the evolutionary process.  He merely let nature take its course.  Others believe that God actively guided the evolutionary process (this is also known as Evolutionary Creationism).

From a theological perspective, there is nothing in the Bible that would prohibit belief in evolution.  In fact, the Bible even implies that God used evolution.  Concerning Day 3 of creation, Genesis 1:11-13 says:

And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.  12And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.  13And the evening and the morning were the third day.

As you can see, God told the earth to bring forth vegetation, and in verse 12, the earth brought it forth.  It is the earth, with its laws of nature that God instituted, that did the work.  The same is true for the animal creation on Days Five and Six

20And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life... (Day Five)

24And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. (Day Six)

In each case, the Bible implies that the earth was doing the work.  To theistic evolutionists, this is proof that God created through the use of evolution.

To properly understand theistic evolution, we should examine several topics.

Allegory

The creation stories of Genesis is generally thought by theistic evolutionists to be allegorical in nature.  This is to say that the creation account should be understood to be symbolic.  For example, many TE's do not believe that Adam was a literal person, but rather the story of Adam represents the early beginnings of mankind in general.  Theistic Evolutionist Carl Drews states,

Genesis 2:7 states "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." The Hebrew word for "man" used here is "Adam" (with a long 'a' in the second syllable). According to my Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, "this noun usually refers to mankind in the collective sense (Gen 1:26, 27). It is also a proper noun, Adam, the first man whom God created (Gen 2:20). 'Adam' is translated 'persons' in Numbers 31:28, 30, 35, 40." So from the very beginning we have a hint that Adam represents all mankind, not just single individual.1

The allegorical understanding of Genesis is in contrast to the literal understanding of Genesis.  Many old earth creationists, and all young earth creationists, believe Adam was a real, individual man.

The main difference between these two boils down to this.  When God was finished with creation, he imparted mankind with an eternal soul.  Man could now choose for himself to follow God or not.  With a literal view, God imparted this eternal soul to two people, Adam and Eve, and the rest of mankind descended from them.  With the allegorical view, when God was finished with mankind's creation, there were probably thousands of humans on the planet who would have instantly received an eternal soul.

A belief in theistic evolution means a choice between allegory and literal.  Although many TE's believe the creation story is allegory, it is also possible for TE's to take a literal approach, and some do so.

Scientific Accuracy

Many who believe in theistic evolution do not believe that Genesis is a scientifically accurate account,  since it was written in a pre-scientific age and originally intended for religious instruction; as such, seemingly chronological aspects of the creation accounts should be thought of in terms of a literary framework.  The framework interpretation means that the days of creation are not consecutive days, but rather represent specific events of the creation week.  This means the days overlap one another.  For example, plants are described as being created on Day 3, and animals on Days 5 & 6.  The fossil record shows new plants and animals appearing together, so these events (Days) overlap each other.

The main complaint is that the order of creation, including the creation of light, is considered out of order, and thus it is not scientifically accurate.  In our opinion, Genesis can be considered scientifically accurate, even with evolution.  This problem is solved if you have the proper frame of reference.  The creation account is written from the perspective of a person standing on the surface of the earth.  From this perspective, observation of the events described in Genesis are indeed in the correct order.

Although theistic evolutionists vary in their positions, from conservative to liberal, there is no reason why a theistic evolutionist cannot be conservative, believing in an inerrant Bible.

http://www.oldearth.org/theistic_evolution.htm

Theistic Evolution

An Essay

(C) Copyright 2000 by Carl Drews

I believe that the Bible never requires me to bear false witness about God's creation.

Next to these great beliefs, a biological theory seems pretty unimportant. That impression is correct. Do I "Believe in Evolution" like I believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Absolutely not! I accept the Theory of Evolution like I use the Quadratic Formula; they are both useful for a certain class of problems that I sometimes have to solve. I certainly do not place my eternal life and soul in the care of a scientific theory or a mathematical formula. I am no atheist. I place my entire being in the hands of God Almighty through his Son, Jesus Christ.

I reject the idea that evolution and Christianity are always and must be in opposition to each other. I reject the notion that if the scientific theory of evolution is true, then Christianity must be false. I reject the idea that people who accept evolution must be atheists. I reject the idea that the scientific theory of evolution fundamentally denies the idea of God the Creator. I reject the idea that evolution and Christian faith are inevitably in conflict with each other and cannot be reconciled.

The Age of the Earth

There are too many scientific disciplines that state that the earth is more than 10,000 years old. Astronomy, genetics, linguistics, geology, plate tectonics, and archeology all say it is a lot older. The probable figure is about 4 billion years for planet Earth, and roughly 3 billion for life itself. We base our conclusions on appearances and scientific observations. The weight of evidence from all these disciplines is too much for me to dismiss. I do not find at all credible the assertions that the earth is only 10,000 years old and all the natural processes occurred within that time. (Bishop Ussher calculated 6,000 years old, and the Flood at 2348 BC.)

One often reads the statement that "evolution says the earth is billions of years old." This statement is incorrect. Astronomy and geology say that the earth is billions of years old. Evolution draws on these disciplines for an estimate of the time in which the evolutionary processes can work. This point is important in order to realize the breadth of the quarrel about the age of the earth. If you assert that the earth is only 10,000 years old, you are disputing far more areas of the natural sciences than just a portion of biology.

Some young-earth creationists assert that the earth is 10,000 years old, and others assert that the earth is 6,000 years old. That's a big difference: 4,000 years, or 67%. Bishop Ussher's chronology, derived from the Bible, clearly states that the earth is 6,000 years old. Extending the age to 10,000 years conveniently places the date of Creation and the Flood beyond the oldest trees, and beyond the pyramids and dynasties of ancient Egypt. I have heard the following accusation from young-earth creationists: You are interpreting the Bible in the light of science; you should be interpreting science in the light of the Bible. (I have not heard a Bible verse to back up that charge.) 10,000 years is not what Bishop Ussher said. What is the reason for changing his number? Creationists who claim 10,000 years, unless they do so for purely Biblical reasons, should hear that same accusation ringing in their ears at least once.

The Whole-Earth Flood

There is not enough water to cover the entire earth, including the top of Mt. Everest (29, 028 feet above sea level). If the ice caps on Greenland and Antarctica were to melt, it would raise sea levels only a few hundred feet (see calculation). If every cloud worldwide were to rain out all its water, it would still raise the sea levels only another inch. Genesis reports that the "fountains of the deep" spewed forth more water. Until geologists find evidence of these fountains, or discover the underground aquifers that hold 6 miles deep of water worldwide, I cannot honestly accept the idea of a non-miraculous worldwide flood. When evidence for fountains is discovered, I'll be happy to take a look at it.

Calculation: Maximum estimate for raising of ocean levels from melting ice caps.

Greenland and Antarctica contain 97% of the world's glacial ice. The area of Greenland is 840,000 square miles (source: Rand McNally Illustrated Atlas of the World, 1989). The area of Antarctica is 5,400,000 square miles. Since we want a maximum estimate, let's assume that both of those places are solid ice right down to the waterline. The mean elevation of Greenland is 7,000 feet, so Greenland contains 5.88E+9 square-mile-feet of water (like acre-feet). The mean elevation of Antarctica is 6,000 feet, so Antarctica contains 3.24E+10 square-mile-feet of water. So the total amount of glacial ice is 3.828E+10 square-mile-feet.

Let's further assume that the melting water is used only to raise the levels of the major oceans and seas, that the rising sea level does not spill over onto the land (we are estimating the maximum rise). The area of the oceans and seas is 139,100,000 square miles. So if we divide the square-mile-feet of ice by the square miles of the oceans, we obtain (3.828E+10 / 1.391E+8):

275 feet

Compared to glacial ice, the amount of water in clouds around the world is only a trace amount. "If all of this [water] vapor were to suddenly condense and fall as rain, it would be enough to cover the entire globe with 2.5 centimeters, or 1 inch of water." (from Meteorology Today, by C. Donald Ahrens, 2000, Sixth Edition, Chapter 5, pp. 108-109.) So we are left with the same figure of 275 feet.

Most creationists are aware of the huge disparity between this figure and the height of Mt. Everest. They propose various mechanisms during the Flood year to address the problem (vapor canopy, extremely catastrophic plate tectonics, underground aquifers). I do not find these theories credible on Biblical or scientific grounds.

Old Earth, Local Flood

There is a body of Christian thought that agrees with me, and it is sometimes termed "Old Earth, Local Flood." One can find this thinking on the World Wide Web. There are many committed Christians who believe that creation took longer than 6 24-hour days, or that the whole-world flood reported was the entire known world at that time (Mesopotamia, the Mediterranean or the Black Sea basins).

There are many committed Christians who believe that Genesis and evolution are compatible. It angers me when Christian speakers mock "Theistic Evolution" on non-scriptural and non-scientific grounds. I believe that mockery is sin; because it creates contempt in the hearts of Christians instead of love for those whom Christ came to save, and it produces sharp resistance in the hearts of non-believers if they ever hear about it. It bothers me that self-described "fundamentalist" Christians seem to have no knowledge that there are Christians out there who accept evolution. (For what it's worth, Pope John Paul II has stated that evolution is a theory that is worth serious consideration.). It bothers me to hear someone assume that all "evolutionists" must be atheists.

Genesis

So what of the first 11 chapters of Genesis (before Abraham)? Either all these scientific disciplines are wrong, or we're reading and interpreting our Bible wrong. As Christians we do not permit the Bible to lie, but we do permit it to be non-literal. Examples:

1. Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches" to His disciples (John 15:5). I believe that Jesus literally said those words, but I don't believe that His words there are to be taken literally. Nobody claims that Jesus physically became a plant.

2. In Luke 10:30 Jesus does not quite say that the parable of the Good Samaritan never actually happened, but Christians are comfortable with assuming that it is a parable and not a historical event. The command of this parable is absolutely true for us, just as it was for the people in Jesus' time! Much of Revelation is non-literal, but this does not make it any less true.

3. When Jesus was born and presented at the temple, Mary received an unsettling prophecy from Simeon that is recorded in Luke 2:35: "A sword shall pierce your soul, for this child shall be rejected by many in Israel, and this to their undoing." It is commonly accepted that this was not a literal sword, but the anguish that Mary would feel upon seeing her first-born son crucified.

4. In Exodus, the Lord God hardened Pharaoh's heart, or allowed him to harden it himself. By my count, the phrase "hardened his heart" occurs 12 times in the narration: 7:13,22; 8:15,19,32; 9:12,34,35; 10:20,27; 11:10; and 14:8. The Hebrew word for "heart" there is Lev, and according to Spiros Zodhiates in The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible (1991), "Often this word and its correlate, levav, means the physical heart, the blood-pumping organ. However, it is more commonly used for the totality of man's inner or immaterial nature." (page 1624). The Hebrew word for "hardened" there is Chazaq, and it means "to be bound fast, be attached, to make firm . . . a word frequently used to describe battle scenes . . . used in describing Pharaoh's heart . . . term was also frequently used for construction." (Zodhiates, page 1611). Although Rameses II may have died of hardening of the arteries or a heart attack, that's not what these verses are telling us. Zodhiates notes that "This [non-literal] usage has passed into common English with expressions such as: 'heart and soul' " (page 1624).

5. The beautiful opening narration of John's Gospel reads as follows:

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. 6There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. (NIV)

These words have some literal meaning: Jesus Christ has been part of the Trinity since the beginning of time. But the Word here is not literally the Bible, lest we conclude that the Bible always existed physically. The light is not literal photons, but the spiritual light of salvation to all mankind.

Many words, phrases, and stories in the Bible are obviously non-literal. Some cases are not so obvious. But it is a mistake to insist that certain portions of Genesis must be taken literally because it supports someone's viewpoint. It incorrectly projects our Western data-centric mindset onto the Hebrew way of thinking. There are fundamentalist Christians who insist that the Apostle Paul's "thorn in the flesh" (2 Corinthians 12:7) must be interpreted non-literally (they contend that this passage refers to a person who was harrassing Paul, not a physical ailment). The Bible uses non-literal metaphors and illustrations to reveal the ways of God because our language and experience cannot fully express His divine nature.

The slippery slope here is the danger of stating that too much of the Bible is non-literal, including the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Fundamentalist Christians will claim that if you say that the first part of Genesis is non-literal, then you'll say that the entire Bible is non-literal (like the proverbial camel's nose poking in under the edge of the tent). That's wrong. It is a logical mistake to assert that if you take a position in one direction you will inevitably go all the way to that extreme; it's called the "All-or-Nothing Fallacy". As an example of extremism: You are permitted and even encouraged by the Bible to discipline your children, but if you beat them you will go to jail (as you should). The extreme position is wrong, but the moderate position is okay.

I believe that everyone interprets the Bible, whether they claim to or not. Every time you make an interpretation, your salvation is at stake. So be very careful. Be guided by prayer, other Scripture, and the Holy Spirit. Notice that Paul rejects the non-literal Resurrection of Jesus Christ in 1 Corinthians 15: 12-20.

The Possibilities of Genesis

1. Perhaps the days stated in the Genesis 1 account are not 6 24-hour days. Scripture tells us that God's days are not our days (2 Peter 3:8 "with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day" and Psalm 90:4 "A thousand years are to You like a yesterday which has passed"). The full context of these two verses is the great sweep of time from creation until the judgment day. Perhaps the days are not strictly sequential, although the order matches up pretty well with the theory of evolution. The account of Cain's wife in Genesis 4:17 cannot be strictly sequential and literal. There is also the difficulty in reconciling Genesis 1 with the second creation account in Genesis 2, where man is created first and the animals afterwards (Genesis 2:18-20).

This possibility is often called the "Day-Age Theory." A common criticism of the day-age theory is that the order of days/ages does not match up with evolutionary theory. The answer to this criticism is that if Genesis 2:18-20 is apparently free to change the order of creation for animals and man from Genesis 1:24-27, why should we conclude that the order of creation days is strictly sequential and non-overlapping? If I were permitted to change the Bible (and I'm not), the only switch I would make would be to swap days 3 and 4. The Biblical order matches up well enough for me. One suggestion for the sun and moon appearing late in the sequence (from physicist and Christian Pastor Carl Johnson at A Christ Walk Church in Kingsbury, Indiana) is that the early atmosphere was very cloudy, much like the planet Venus is today.

Hebrews 11:3 contains some support for the Day-Age view of creation. Verse 3 in the King James Version reads as follows: "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." Although this chapter is primarily about faith, we can glean some other details. The Greek word used here for "worlds" is "Ai�n", which brings to mind our English word "eon." Spiros Zodhiates says that "Ai�n; age, refers to an age or time, in contrast to k�smos (2889), referring to people or space." "Ai�nes, ages, in Hebrews 11:3 refers to the great occurrences which took place in the universe." (Zodhiates, page 1684) With this in mind, a better translation of Hebrews 11:3 might be: "Through faith we understand that the ages were framed by the word of God". The word "made" here in Greek is "G�nomai", and this word means "to be made or created from nothing (John 1:3, 10; Heb 11:3)" (Zodhiates, page 1700). Hebrews 11:3 refers to the great acts of creation described in Genesis 1-2, not to the human ages described in Genesis 4 onward. Thanks to reader Joe Grace for bringing Hebrews 11:3 to my attention.

Some people suggest that the "second creation" of animals in Genesis 2 refers to God creating one more animal of each kind in the Garden of Eden, so that Adam could name them as they paraded by. This is a valid theory; however, the Bible doesn't say that. Here is Genesis 2:18-20 in the King James Version: "18 And the Lord God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him.' 19 And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them; and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. 20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found a help meet for him." The Genesis text does not say "one more animal" or "another animal of each kind." So this viewpoint is just a theory. We wonder why God didn't simply bring in a few animals from outside the Garden for Adam to look at. Furthermore, if the "one more animal" interpretation of Genesis 2 is correct we would have to conclude that Adam himself is one more human, since humans were already created in Genesis 1.

(Note: The New International Version reads as follows for Genesis 2:18-20: "18 The Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.' 19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found." The NIV's use of the phrase "had formed" in verse 19 seems to allude to the earlier creation in Genesis 1, and perhaps God is merely bringing the existing animals before Adam. However, in verse 18 God declares "I will make...". This declaration indicates that God is about to create something, not just import existing animals.)

Genetic and linguistic studies (from 1987) have produced a theory that all humans living now are descended from a woman who lived in sub-Saharan Africa about 300,000 years ago (keywords: mitochondrial DNA). Of course the woman was immediately dubbed "Eve" by the popular media. Lest we conclude that this is truly Eve of the Bible, the scientists hastened to point out that they think there were other people living at that time, too (the other lines of descent either ended or combined into Eve's line). If this theory helps people to think more realistically about Genesis 1-5, I see no harm in discussing it as a possibility. I see tremendous potential for harm in placing our Faith in it, if the theory is ever discredited.

2. Perhaps God created the earth to look older. Adam certainly looked like a 25-year-old man in Genesis, even though he had just been created. Did God create the earth looking older to fool us or to tempt us? Absolutely not! He created the earth in accordance with his own natural laws, so that the natural laws make sense when projected backward past creation, just like Adam's body. The record of the past gives us clues to the future. Christians have always viewed creation as a divine miracle. Would anyone be bothered if someone claimed that the trees in the Garden of Eden had rings in their trunks? Why can't God create mountains with sedimentary layers in them? Why can't God create fossils in those layers? Is He not God Almighty?