Why Omphalism (Mature Earth Creationism) isn’t an immoral doctrine.


Wedding at Cana

Wedding at Cana - by Bret Arnett via Flickr

I was discussing Genesis on Linked-In‘s Christian Professionals Worldwide Group, although I have stopped it and left the Group as some of my posts which had taken time to prepare were deleted without prior warning by the Moderators, which is not the way I care to engage in debate.

That is absolutely no reflection on the Brother who wrote privately to me with a discussion about Answers In Genesis. When I wrote the big piece below it would not pass through the Linked In private message limit, so I decided to place it here so as to share the thoughts here with my dear readers as well as be able to answer this Brother in full. I will call him Brother in Arizona unless he asks me to identify him. He’s not obliged to as he came in private correspondence, and in order to share the good discussion his note provoked, I will at least keep him anonymous unless he should choose otherwise, in which case I can always edit it and identify him if he prefers it.

The first note this Brother sent was

Hello David, it’s ******  here!

Thought I’d reply personally and privately on your previous post.

Sorry, but I couldn’t disagree with you any more on the subject of Ken Ham and his organizations.  I believe he has a heart for God, but also believe he is guilty of bending the evidence to fit his theories.  Frankly, I think he does more harm than good to the rational defence of Christianity.  We’ve met; he registers high on my “kook meter.”

But, then again, I might register high on your kook scale, too!

Blessings to you,

(Brother in Arizona)

I wrote the following non-commital reply:

The evidence is the same for us and for the evolutionists, it is all down to interpretation.

Either you believe one interpretation, or the other. Simple as that.

His response was then a bit more detailed as to what bothers him about Ken Ham’s approach

Right you are, Davey!

Part of what I don’t appreciate about Ham’s approach in explaining the apparent age of the universe is his assertion that God created a “mature” universe, just like he created a mature Adam & Eve.  Seems to me that it’s accusing God of fooling us; giving the apparence of an old earth when it’s really young.  Why would He do that?  Isn’t it more likely that we misunderstood the scriptures?  We might also misunderstand the science, but there are many different disciplines, all agreeing on an old earth & universe.

As Christians, I think we fall right into our enemy’s plan when we spend so much time arguing on what six days means.  Instead, I believe we should unite and call attention to all the problems with evolution.  As more becomes known about biochemistry, Darwin’s ideas become increasingly suspect.  The Darwinists are a secular religion, and they’re on the run.  They’ve been spinning the evidence lately in creative ways, in order to support their theories.  Which is exactly what I think Ken Ham does.

I have no problem believing in an ancient earth/universe; where “time” was not so important as the phases of creation.  God created each species distinctly; they have adapted over time, but not changed from one species to another.  The tide of scientific evidence increasingly is suggesting Intelligent Design and ancient earth.  Always believed in the former, but was surprised when I reconsidered the latter.

Really glad our salvation hangs on none of this!  And grateful that we can reason with one another.  We may not persuade the other, but the discussion brings more clarity to both views.  A radio-mentor of mine likes to say, “I prefer clarity to agreement.”

Blessings to you, Davey, and may God continue to bless us both with more clarity!

Well, as you can imagine, this well-written and cogent message was worth a far more expansive response than my initial one, and so here is the long reply – which Linked-In’s system couldn’t take, and then I brought it here. At that point I also redacted it slightly for the blog readership, hence references to this blog inside it, which were put in at the end.

Dear Brother,

The objection that you have to the mature Earth approach is exactly that which most of the Christian community had to Philip Henry Gosse’s Omphalism when he first expounded it. In the end Gosse became ostracised – even from his own family – for proposing a God who “deceives” us with fossils, etc. They all said that a God who would hide Himself as implicit in Omphalism or Gosseism, as they put it, was immoral, despite the fact that Scripture itself warns that God sends “strong delusion” that peopl should love and believe a lie. He also hardens the heart of Pharaoh and of others, or blinds their eyes. It is in His sovereignty – He is Potter, we the clay. many people don’t like the idea of that and see themselves as Potter (or Weasley, or Grainger, depending on taste) and God they see as the clay, to be moulded as suits their philosophical fancy.

Personally, I think P. H. Gosse had it basically right and Ham has it basically right, and I’d like to tell you why.

When God made the world already old and put an already mature man and woman in it (he didn’t make them as babies) even having navels although they were not born (omphalos means ‘navel’ hence the term ‘omphalism’ for a world created as if it had been there a long time before), they both knew very well that they were made from the dust. They themselves had no childhood memories, they had language implanted and didn’t remember learning the words from their parents as we do and they were aware that there had been no-one but them at the beginning, they had spoken with God personally.

They lived for 900 plus years and will have told their story to hundreds of thousands of people – their children, grandchildren and great great great great great great grandchildren – all the people who lived then. And nevertheless people ignored God because they hadn’t seen him for themselves. Faith is ordained to come by hearing, and not by sight, and salvation is by faith – so God made it right from the beginning that men and women could come to faith by hearing or could choose to reinterpret what they saw around them in a different way.

After God destroyed the earth by a Flood and personally spoke to Moses afterwards and said “go forth and multiply”, his sons and their families knew without the need for faith from hearing (they had had their chance to be faithful prior to the Flood and had already passed that test) that God had acted in an almighty intervening way, and certainly was who he said he was. But within about 6 or 7 generations you have people already largely ignoring what they heard passed down about that from generation to generation and would have been going “Flood? what Flood? it’s impossible! They must have simply had a local Flood and exaggerated it”.

You can see where this is going; the same story at Babel where everyone alive experiences the breaking of language. The same at Peleg with the splitting of the continents, the same with the people of Israel at the parting of the Red Sea, the pillar of fire and smoke and the manna in the wilderness. It happens again and again in the Bible. God intervenes and everyone knows – without the need for Faith that comes by hearing, that He is who He says He is. But afterwards those who didn’t see it with their own eyes are supposed to believe what they have heard, without seeing.

In order for them to have the ability to accept God in Faith there has to be a credible alternative. If there is nothing that makes any kind of sense but to believe in God then the only way to test people’s faith is to put them through trials, as we see in Job. But God is merciful and gentle, and instead of putting humanity through such trials as Job had on the basis of every person, He makes the test for most of the people who have ever lived (the vast majority of which are in the post-Darwinian period and who have to choose between a secular and a God-centred world view when the ‘scientific’ consensus is supporting a secular view) in that faith in God as Creator is not obvious. It becomes quite a leap of faith to believe in what God tells us in His word about Creation when we are bombarded with apparently clever people bringing what looks like evidence that the universe could have made itself impersonally.

God has hidden Himself from plain sight so that He can address the hearts of men and women and call them to Christ by faith, the faith that comes by hearing and the word of God as it says. The billions of years that it would have taken a world like this to evolve without almighty Divine agency (which actually are not enough, if you look at what is actually involved in the process of abiogenesis the chances of which happening alone are vanishingly small and the world is not big enough, nor even the universe, and ten times the time they think there was since the Big Bang – which regularly gets revised anyway – for the mathematics that are invoved just to get the necessary group of proteins together to produce the simplest viable life and get the chain of evolution started), those years are only notional. God tells us that He did it for us, and therefore there was really no need to hang around for all that time. God was able to make the light from stars millions of light years away hit the maturely created Earth and at the same time the star itself may already have had its supernova, but the light from that is still on its way. God made it this way and pretty much tells us that’s how he did it. And He will do it again for the new heavens and earth, and we won’t have to wait around for billions of years for that to appear either, although when it does appear it will be perfect and mature.

I agree with you that Creationism is not a Doctrine critical for salvation, but if someone rejects the idea of God’s intervening might in Creation, why would they not have the same doubts about God’s intervening might for the Resurrection world, the new heavens and earth? And if we don’t have the Resurrection, we are, as Paul says, of ‘all men most miserable’. That’s why I worry for non-Creationist Christians. I don’t want them to discover one day that they lack the faith to carry on, and give up in depression and misery. Which does in fact happen. I’m certainly not judging them. I would believe the same if God had not kindly opened my undeserving and unworthy eyes to His full power and creative glory.

Eyewitnesses of God’s miracles passed it to those in their family and friends, but it was rejected against the alternative that sight offered and men preferred to believe, but God
has always given us alternatives. We have been put here to believe, most especially in Christ, but in Him as both Redeemer and Creator. First God is interested in whether we will come to Him in Faith about what He has handed down to us by hearing (which includes reading) rather than the empirical “evidence” of sight, and experiment. And once we have faith, then God will test that Faith. People get trials for their faith on an almost daily basis, but thanks to the prevalence of the theory of evolution, some of these trials merely involve enduring the mockery of the world, although the Theory of Evolution inspired both Nazism and Communism, which have offered Christians far more serious trials.

Creationism is very often not served by some of the people who propound it, but AiG is, in my view, one of the better ones out there. That’s why I have their RSS feed continually on the side bar of this blog, and I pray that God blesses that and that these meagre efforts of mine might point some people there to have their preconceptions about the Origin challenged.

I want to leave you with one image – the place were Jesus shows us exactly how He did it. The wedding at Cana. That was Jesus first miracle in His earthly ministry, and so naturally we could even almost expect it to be a reflection of His initial work in creating the earth. When he turns the water into wine at Cana he doesn’t make new wine – he makes mature, vintage wine, which the guests then accuse the bridegroom of leaving the best till last when everyone knows that you put the best wine on the table first so that it can be appreciated while the guests are still fresh. You put the non-mature wines out afterwards, when the guests are, well if not tipsy then at least sated and their taste buds are less fussy. Such received wisdom existed  at the time, as we see from the account in the economy of words that are used there. But the detail has much meaning – we are being shown that when Jesus for His first miracle, His Creation-reflecting miracle, changed water into wine He produced mature wine and not new wine. He who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

God bless,

Davey

Should anyone be remotely interested there is a lot of newsgroup material from talk.origins group in which I talk about Omphalism and my own take on it, which I called “Omphalism-Lite”. The idea of Omphalism-Lite ties into my views on memory and its importance and centrality to language and thought, and therefore Omphalism Lite posits that God did not place as mature in this world anything involving human memory, including collective memories such as cultural artefacts.

Fossils I said may largely have resulted from the two large scale events, namely the Flood and the Dividing of Continents. First I thought that these were parts of one event and later on I started to think that the Flood and the Dividing of Continents were in different times. These days I don’t really have a problem with the fossils even being an “omphalos” under Omphalism Lite, because they are not a human cultural memory but a geological memory, which is perfectly entitled to reflect notional time.

In any event, if my take on the subject has interested you, googling on “Omphalism Lite” should give you more.

About David J. James

52 year old accountant who loves languages, literature, history, religion, politics, internet, vlogging and blogging and lively written discussion. Conservative Christian, married to an angel, we have three kids, and live in Warsaw, Poland. I can help you with company set-up, bookkeeping, payroll, tax, audit and due diligence all over Poland and the region.

Posted on 24/07/2011, in Answers to your questions, Blog only, Creation v Evolution, Default or Miscellaneous, Religion and Philosophy, With Another Person and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I don’t want to go into all the details of biochemistry and genetics. So I try to make it as short as possible.

    Panspermia is no theory which I favour, so I will jump over this point. You are right that nobody saw RNA appear in a single experiment replicating the primordial soup.
    However the group of John Sutherland of the University of Manchester was able to synthesize nucleotides from cyanide, acetylene and formaldehyde.
    These nucleotides can assemble to oligonucleotides catalyzed by clay minerals, as the group of Jim Ferris showed already in the 1990s.
    Additionally you don’t need any proteins to replicate RNA, as there are ribozymes (catalytic RNA molecules), which are able to catalyze their own synthesis. It is possible, that these ribozymes played an important role in the beginning of life.
    The first “cells” maybe just were primitive lipid vesicles containing these self replicating RNA. These vesicles can grow, when they merge with new lipids, and finally break down to smaller vesicles containing RNA.
    I could continue with the theories about the transition from ribo-organisms to a protein-encoded system, but I think this will not help to move us forward in the discussion. Maybe just to get this right: The smallest known genomes have between 220 (viroids) and 3000 base pairs (bacteriophage MS2) and not 5 billion. Even the smallest known bacteria genome has “just” 159 kilobases.

    Like you said, we are just scratching the surface. I would never say that we have proven that the origin of life was possible without any creator. One shouldn’t forget, that not even 60 years have passed since Miller did his famous experiment and Watson and Crick presented the first DNA model. Nobody can already expect a complete theory about the origin of life without any gaps. As for the origin of the universe. I’m very skeptical, if humanity ever will find a answer to that question. But the alternative in my opinion is not to believe in a higher power.

    I have to admit, that a higher power, creator or god never has played a role in my thinking. As I was born in East Germany nobody in my family is religious or knows anything about the bible. So for me a god has always been something surreal as witches, wizards or Santa Claus. The first contact I had with religion was the “Evangelische Religion” class in school in the 10. grade (I and most other pupils, except two Christians, just choose it because we could get there good grades easily), but what I learned there didn’t convince me at all.

    Like

  2. “just to get the necessary group of proteins together to produce the simplest viable life and get the chain of evolution started”

    We still don’t know very much about the first steps in the arise of life or on which ways abiogenesis took place. But what we know for sure is, that evolution surely didn’t start with proteins or the first organisms, So to calculate the chances for the formation of an whole organism from peptides, nucleic acids, lipids ect. is just a waste of time (but of course a popular mathematic example by creationists)..

    Maybe you should have a look at the RNA world hypothesis.and it’s associated hypothesis. Of course as an Christian, these hypothesis will not convince you (I never would try to do that). I just want to show you, that the chance that abiogenesis happened is much higher than you might think.

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    • I understand a little bit of this and I have discussed it before now with people on talk.origins and other places. Basically it’s a theory that has to exist as in its absence abiogenesis to a cellular life form, even the simplest, is dead in the water.

      Scientists have known that for sometime, which is why even Nobel Laureates have favoured the sci-fi idea of Panspermia. If you are going to say that it was inevitable that organic compounds would once in a while turn into self-replicating, message bearing genes that survive in the absence of even the other proteins that it is telling what to do, and one day it had to happen, inevitably that the cell membrane and the other organelles necessary for life as we know it simply had to happen and once those 5 billion genetic letters happened to line up, then there was just no stopping it from that point, then all you are doing is pushing the question of creation one stage down – who created the atoms in such a way so that they would work that way in carbon based compounds? You may as well accept Panspermia, which pushes the creation one stage away from Earth and say it all happened elsewhere.

      Panspermia pushes the question of who created life into another planet or even solar system, RNA World Theory pushes the question back down into smaller molecules and then inevitably down into sub atomic particles if you want to follow that particular yellow brick road to its conclusion. Either way, they are based on a lot of faith as nobody has seen valid RNA appear in the experiments done to date replicating primordial soup, let alone surviving without a membrane long enough to become a viable life form, and if only a virus, which as well we are nowhere near, then on what could that virus have been a phage? And the step up from a simple ribonucleic acid strand to a gene that can manipulate complex amino acids well enough to make a cell membrane, plasma and any organelles is so huge that even if we had this it would be like the walk to the nearest bus-stop with the circumnavigation of the globe still before us to do. Likewise Panspermia is based on faith as we haven’t ever seen extremophiles which can exist in space.

      RNA world theorists like Cech would be more convincing if they could find actual RNA life forms growing anywhere on earth independently from DNA life forms. Or even produce one in a laboratory. I am not holding my breath.

      So basically Panspermia on the one hand and RNA-World on the other are two attempts by people who want to posit life appearing on earth with no Creator to get around the massive quantum probability drive leap required in abiogenesis. Both serve only to deflect by one degree where the question of creation lies. You may say Christianity does the same, as we do not (or should not) even attempt to answer the question “who created God” but at least with Christianity we are taking on faith something that is meant to be taken on faith, and not taking something on faith but claiming we have proven it scientifically.

      In any event these things are well beyond human comprehension. We may scratch the surface, but only eternity will be enough to enable us to plumb the depths. So if there is no such thing as an eternity to be experienced by us, then even the discussion about it becomes absurd and ironic.

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      • I don’t want to go into all the details of biochemistry and genetics. So I try to make it as short as possible.

        Panspermia is no theory which I favour, so I will jump over this point. You are right that nobody saw RNA appear in a single experiment replicating the primordial soup.
        However the group of John Sutherland of the University of Manchester was able to synthesize nucleotides from cyanide, acetylene and formaldehyde.
        These nucleotides can assemble to oligonucleotides catalyzed by clay minerals, as the group of Jim Ferris showed already in the 1990s.
        Additionally you don’t need any proteins to replicate RNA, as there are ribozymes (catalytic RNA molecules), which are able to catalyze their own synthesis. It is possible, that these ribozymes played an important role in the beginning of life.
        The first “cells” maybe just were primitive lipid vesicles containing these self replicating RNA. These vesicles can grow, when they merge with new lipids, and finally break down to smaller vesicles containing RNA.
        I could continue with the theories about the transition from ribo-organisms to a protein-encoded system, but I think this will not help to move us forward in the discussion. Maybe just to get this right: The smallest known genomes have between 220 (viroids) and 3000 base pairs (bacteriophage MS2) and not 5 billion. Even the smallest known bacteria genome has “just” 159 kilobases.

        Like you said, we are just scratching the surface. I would never say that we have proven that the origin of life was possible without any creator. One shouldn’t forget, that not even 60 years have passed since Miller did his famous experiment and Watson and Crick presented the first DNA model. Nobody can already expect a complete theory about the origin of life without any gaps. As for the origin of the universe. I’m very skeptical, if humanity ever will find a answer to that question. But the alternative in my opinion is not to believe in a higher power.

        I have to admit, that a higher power, creator or god never played a role in my thinking. As I was born in East Germany nobody in my family is religious or knows anything about the bible. So for me a god was always something surreal as witches, wizards or Santa Claus. The first contact I had with religion was the “Evangelische Religion” class in school in the 10. grade (I and most other pupils, except two Christians, just choose it because we could get there good grades easily), but what I learned there didn’t convince me at all.

        Like

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