If the first talking snake had kept shtum, we wouldn't be here. Eve wouldn't have eaten the forbidden fruit. But she listened and was curious. So she fell into humanity, thank God. Good old snake, say I. I celebrate its independence of mind. Satan? Neh, that's a later interpretation. The snake was part of the divine purpose. God allowed it into the garden, aware of its linguistic abilities. He knew what would happen. Jesus commended dove-like innocence. AND the wisdom ... of the snake.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A little gem from Dr David Rosevear

"In Adam all die. So death was not present before Adam sinned, if the Scriptures mean anything at all. This rules out evolution with its death and struggle. This also rules out day-age compromise and gap theory compromise .... If there had been struggle, death and decay before Adam, how could a just Creator see that all was good? Theistic evolution and other compromises that allow for death before Adam are a libel against the character of the Almighty."

Creation Science - Confirming that the Bible is Right, by David Rosevear. 1991, New Wine Press.

David Rosevear is no ordinary creationist twerp. He’s the head of the Portsmouth-based Creation Science Movement which claims to be the oldest creationist body not only in Britain but the world. He’s a soft target, but it’s not like I’m picking on some psychotic moron off the internet and duffing up the poor guy as though he represents the entire movement - like dismissing Roman Catholicism lock stock and barrel because of a few fornicating Popes. Rosevear IS representative, one of creationism’s rentaquotes. Featured in yesterday’s Guardian giving his response to the Royal Society lecture (of which more later). What’s more he’s PhD, FRSC, so in terms of his science - respect due.

In terms of his theology, no respect due whatever. As you can see for yourself ...

Just how many absurdities are crammed into the above quotation? Well, for a start, Dr Rosevear doesn’t know what proof-texting is or why it’s a bad idea. The proposition he wants to defend is: not one single creature died before the Fall. This is an extreme view which not even all young-earthers hold - many would say that while Adam and Eve were created immortal, elsewhere in nature death was at the very least a possibility. Spiders spun their webs for flies, kestrels hunted for mice. Small insects got trodden on. Curiosity killed the occasional cat. Dr Rosevear will have none of this; in Eden’s brief age of innocence every creature was vegetarian - every spider, kestrel, lion, crocodile, pirana fish, Venus fly trap; and of course, every ssssssssnake. Even then, these non-predatory life-forms must have been careful not to completely devour a plant, because that would have entailed its death. They were presumably only allowed to nibble. (Though one might ask, if they were all immortal, why they needed to eat at all. Could not God miraculously preserve them without the need for nourishment?) Nothing could get accidentally squashed, drowned or impaled. Had a leaf fallen from a tree in Eden it wouldn’t have rotted, because that implies corruption, of which there was none until the Fall.

However, this is what Dr Rosevear believes, so he raids the Bible for support - it’s that way round. His proof texts are Romans 5.12 ("through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin") and 1 Corinthians 15 ("for since by man came death, by Man came also the resurrection of the dead.") In neither place is Paul remotely concerned with non-human mortality. The Romans passage is part of an extended argument about the pervasiveness of sin and its dire consequences; in 1 Corinthians he’s developing an idea about Christ as the undoer of Adam’s deed. Dr Rosevear however needs a text that allows him to say nothing died before the Fall, and these appear to suit his purpose.

Then he goes for broke. Not only is this a valid interpretation; no other reading can be considered. "If the scriptures mean anything at all" they have to submit to his view of them. Dr Rosevear is more aware than some creationists of what others think about the subjects on which he pronounces; but pronounce is all he ever seems to do. Constructing logical arguments is not his bag. He has read Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 and he has decided how they should be interpreted. The different varieties of old-earthers, many of whom would share Dr Rosevear’s basic fundamentalist world view, theistic evolutionists and even young-earthers who believe that only humans were immortal before the Fall, are deemed not to have read or thought about these texts.

Dr Rosevear assumes a knowledge of God’s character that few Christians I know would be bold enough to claim. Specifically, he knows that God does not use pain, death, struggle and chance to achieve his purposes; insofar as these are features of life now, they must therefore be consequences of the Fall. He asks, rhetorically, how a just creator could pronounce the world to be "good" if Eden remotely resembled the earth as it is now. I might ask, equally rhetorically, what sort of justice is implied by God’s decision to introduce unleash death, destruction, pain and cruelty - all previously unknown - across the entire natural order because two creatures exercised the free will He himself had given them, even putting temptation in their way and turning a blind eye to the presence of a Tempter: does not this seem just a tad disproportionate?

But it’s Dr Rosevear’s assumptions that we must examine. He thinks he knows what the earth looked like at the moment of its creation, and concludes that God, in calling it good, was sound in His judgement; which would not be the case had the earth failed to match Dr Rosevear’s picture of it. This appears to make God’s judgement dependent on Dr Rosevear’s approval; if there had been death before the Fall, Dr Rosevear would say this was not a good thing, and God would have been at fault had he declared otherwise.

I cannot help thinking that it is for God to endorse Dr Rosevear’s judgement rather than vice versa, but then I don’t have a Ph.D in chemistry. As for the suggestion that anyone who dissents from Dr Rosevear’s theology is libelling the Almighty, this sounds to me like a desperate manoeuvre to foreclose any argument; but it won’t wash because Dr Rosevear’s deity is not one I have the slightest wish to encounter and if I’d caught him hanging around at my ordination I’d have shown him the door.

My sarcasm has got the better of me and I’m sorry, well sort of. There may be more able creationist intepreters of Genesis than Dr Rosevear but this is a man with a fairly high profile leaving himself wide open to ridicule far more venomous than mine, and frankly deserving it. Which I think matters for two reasons: first, we are hearing suggestions that creationism should have some kind of place, however limited, on school examination syllabuses. I invite anyone who thinks that a good idea to consider Dr Rosevear’s book (still in print and commended on his organisation’s website) he being one of Britain’s leading creationist figures don’t forget, and ask if this is the quality of thinking they wish to have inflicted on their children.

Second, if there is one thing on which Dr Rosevear and I might agree, it is the need to put up a convincing case against the likes of Richard Dawkins, for whom evolution proves there’s no God; but if he imagines himself capable of this he’s even more seriously deluded than I thought. It IS unfair to judge a movement on one book, but this particular book damns itself by its very subtitle. It is no more the business of science to "prove" or "disprove" the Bible than it is to adjudicate between the merits of Philip Pullman (boo!) and C S Lewis (hooray!). Scientists are not cheerleaders and if Dr Rosevear thinks they are, perhaps I might change my mind about respecting him even as a scientist. Richard Dawkins needn’t worry about exposing the absurdities of creationism: Dr Rosevear has done it for him.


Blogger philmute said...

it's lucky evolution allows you to shed that there skin when it gets to hot and bothered.

10:32 pm  

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