BioLogos Debate: Invoking Augustine
Updated: Jun 27, 2020
Previously, I shared Part 3 of 7 of my online debate with BioLogos and one of their supporters, LA. In the last part of LA’s comment (click here to see LA’s full comment in an earlier post), he made a claim regarding Augustine of Hippo who is widely known as a church father. Augustine was a North African theologian who lived 300+ years after Jesus. LA tried to justify an unnatural interpretation of Genesis by invoking Augustine’s unorthodox interpretation of the days of creation. Here is the general argument: if Augustine can interpret the days of creation as metaphorical, then modern-day Christians have free reign to do the same, and then "interpret" the Genesis text by squeezing billions of years into it. As I had asked earlier in the debate, who has been around for billions of years to observe billions of years? Only the God of the Bible existed in the very beginning (Gen 1:1), and He told us how He created in six days (Gen. 1, Exod. 20:11). He gave us genealogies that essentially provide a “birth certificate” of the heavens and the earth.[i] The genealogies inform us that the heavens and the earth are only thousands of years old, not billions.
Below is Part 4 of 7 of the BioLogos Debate.
“There were many Church Fathers including St. Augustine (5th cent.) who did not accept Genesis as as literal account, but as a metaphorical account of Creation.”
Augustine believed that God created everything instantly as opposed to creating over the course of six days. There is a strong case that his misunderstanding stemmed from his use of the Latin Bible and lack of understanding of Hebrew language (see page 36 in Terry, and Thane H. Ury, 2008. Coming to Grips With Genesis. Green Forest, AR: Master Books.). Moreover, invoking Augustine does not help the Old Earth case, because in his time, he believed that the Earth was less than 6,000 years old. Here are two quotes from Augustine:
“They are deceived, too, by those highly mendacious documents which profess to give the history of many thousand years, though, reckoning by the sacred writings, we find that not 6,000 years have yet passed.” --Augustine, The City of God 12.10, in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1, vol. 2, as quoted in Mortenson, Terry, and Thane H. Ury, 2008. Coming to Grips With Genesis. Green Forest, AR: Master Books.
“As to those who are always asking why man was not created during these countless ages of the infinitely extended past, and came into being so lately that, according to Scripture, less than 6,000 years have elapsed since he began to be....” --Augustine, The City of God 12.12, in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1, vol. 2, as quoted in Mortenson, Terry, and Thane H. Ury, 2008. Coming to Grips With Genesis. Green Forest, AR: Master Books.
“I find it astounding that in the 21st century there are those who insist that Genesis is a literal an historical account.”
Why? Because of the “scientific consensus”? Again, that would be an appeal to authority and majority logical fallacy. And the fact that we live in the 21st Century is irrelevant. Even when the majority of people reject God's Word, that does not make it less true. As it is written: “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”—Isaiah 40:8
I hope and pray that you will take some time to consider this while using God’s Word as your starting point and ultimate authority.
That is certainly my hope and prayer for LA and any other BioLogos supporters who might have been reading that thread. I did not hear back from LA. However, the official BioLogos Facebook page administrator rejoined the debate after this, and attempted to answer my three original questions. I will share that part of the debate over the next three posts.
[i] To learn more about the biblical genealogies, I recommend the following: https://answersingenesis.org/bible-timeline/genealogy/