Brief Review of “Hey Mom, What About Dinosaurs?”

I received this book from a source that I have since forgotten, and must apologize if someone passed it to me. The good news is that I finally read it. The author is Russell Husted, described on the cover as a university researcher and former teacher of evolutionary science. “He decided to test the original Hebrew Scriptures, treating the creation account as if [it] was a scientific theory. What he discovered revolutionized his faith (and his scientific thinking).”

Husted certainly learned some Hebrew, and translated from the original text of Genesis. He also used linguistic tools available for correlating the usage of Hebrew words in Genesis to their usage elsewhere in the Old Testament. His endeavor was intriguing from the start.

I had hoped that Husted would examine existing scientific evidence in light of the biblical text, allowing the natural meaning of Scripture to guide him, but was disappointed to find that this was not his method. Instead, he has strategically chosen from the possible meanings for the Hebrew words of the creation account, and has made certain hypotheses about the implications of those meanings, so that the account would mirror the hypothetical sequence of events posited by naturalistic science that has supposedly brought about the universe and the world we know today. In other words, the accepted sequence hypothesized by naturalistic science takes a somewhat higher priority for Husted than the natural meaning of the biblical creation account.

To be fair, Husted makes some interesting points about the meaning of certain vocabulary in the creation account, especially in view of the prevalent understanding of that vocabulary among English speakers. For example, where the NKJV in Genesis 1:11 uses the word “grass,” following the Authorized Version (KJV), Husted points out that a more precise rendering might refer instead to the microscopic flora much more prevalent across the face of the earth than what we usually call “grass.” In similar ways, he reconsiders what the most precise rendering would be for each item created, given the present-day conceptual model of the world around us. Some of his suggestions seem to have merit.

However, Husted’s agenda is to demonstrate to evolutionists that the biblical account of creation is not as far as they thought from their own beliefs. Coming from the other side of that conversation, I think that the Bible ought to be the starting point for Christians, rather than naturalistic theory.

While Husted’s work is appreciated, he also demonstrates that he is not an expert linguist, at least in biblical Hebrew. For example, much of his later reasoning depends heavily upon a distinction between the Hebrew word Adam (meaning the ground, and later the name of Adam) and the Hebrew word ha-adam. He supposes that this shows a distinction on God’s part between a sub-human creature like the Neanderthals, and the humanity of Adam and Eve. But really, the only difference between them is that the latter word has the Hebrew definite article attached to it, as in “man” vs.\ “the man.” I am not an expert Hebrew linguist either, but I know a definite article when I see one, even in transliteration (latin characters).

The reasoning of Husted’s presentation becomes quite forced toward the end, when he suggests that the description of Eve’s creation really means something quite different from the natural meaning of the text. Perhaps the meanings he attributes to the Hebrew words can be justified from Hebrew dictionaries, which simply list words without context, but multiple layers of context here point the reader toward the traditional understanding of Eve’s creation. Besides the context in Genesis chapters 1 and 2, we also must consider that readers of Hebrew much closer to the time it was written have agreed with the traditional understanding. The Hebrew words date to about 1450 BC, and may have been translated by Moses (with divine guidance) from an earlier language. For the Bible to have the authority it does, we must maintain that it was inspired and preserved by God so as to present clearly what He wishes us to know.

While I don’t question Husted’s sincerity as a Christian, it seems that his desire to make the biblical creation account palatable to his evolutionist colleagues has introduced a naturalistic presupposition that undermines the authority of divine revelation. If we can accept that God created all things, including Eve, with a power we would consider to be miraculous, then the only reason to conceive of such a convoluted alternative explanation for her creation is to align the Bible with naturalistic science, which denies the possibility of miracles as a basic premise. It may be an entertaining exercise, but the Bible is divine revelation about our origin, identity, and salvation. It’s dangerous to entertain the possibility of a higher authority, and much more dangerous to accept one.

As a result, I can’t recommend Husted’s book for Christians who are drawn to the question in the title: “Hey Mom, What about Dinosaurs?” It may be appropriate for exegetical and scientific discussion, but not for general consumption.

A Christian Living under Authority

My how time flies! We have projects at church, projects at home, and the continuing cycle of obligations like Synod Convention, which meets next week. As I wrap up preparations to fly out later today, I was musing a bit about the nature of law and the country we know as the United States of America.

For quite a while, I’ve been learning about the distinction between common law (or natural law) and the kind of law enacted by the fiat of a legislature or ruler. This distinction has come into sharper focus thanks to Richard Maybury’s books, like Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? and Whatever Happened to Justice?. I was provided with a collection of these books by members at one of my congregations, and have found them fascinatingly informative.

What I realized today is a corollary of the special uniqueness of the United States. It was founded upon the principles of individual liberty and limited government that proceed from common law as discovered over time in English history. (Not only English history, but that’s what affected the American colonies.) Every other nation was under a different kind of law, even if the particular laws were somehow voted into existence. Maybury calls the other kind “Roman” law, which is what practically everyone knows today. Common law is all but forgotten.

It was this basis in common law that produced the peculiar character of the Declaration of Independence, which was further enfleshed in the Constitution with its Bill of Rights. If someone were to ask, “What’s a Lutheran?” the best answer would be based upon the basic principles of Lutheranism, found in the 1580 Book of Concord. If someone were to ask, “What’s American?” the best answer would be based upon the basic principles of the United States of America, found in the Declaration and the Constitution. That’s common law.

Now, the corollary I mentioned comes from the peculiar identification of the American people as that which is sovereign in the United States. In other political systems, the monarch may be sovereign, or the legislature, or the judiciary, or some combination of them. In the United States, by definition, it is the people which are sovereign, so that the government (i.e. the executive, legslative, judiciary, or even the new bureaucratic arm) is not to be identified with the nation, and those who are in positions of government must always answer to the people.

The question often arises in the minds of Christians, “What if my government tries to force me to contradict my faith?” The answer is obvious when the contradiction is clear. But sometimes it is not. The corollary recognizes that the answer is different in a country constituted upon common law, in which the people are sovereign, than it would be in a country constituted upon fiat, “Roman” law.

If we consider the Constitution to be binding still, and that it still presents the principles of the Declaration, then an American Christian’s earthly obedience is not ultimately due to any part of the Federal or State government, nor even the government as a whole. Our Christian obedience is due to the people, according to the common law principles of the Constitution. Yes, we must still honor the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, but only insofar as they carry out the will of the true sovereignty in the United States, which is in the people.

But here’s the rub. The duty of an American to the people of the United States is actually weightier than the duty of the subject of a monarch. Yes, we are free people, but as the saying goes, “freedom is not free.” It’s encumbent upon every American, and owed to the sovereign power of the country (the people) to maintain the liberty in which the country was founded. Inasmuch as we have allowed encroachment to take place upon our liberty under the Constitution, we have been derelict in our duty as Americans, and have failed to perform the sacred duty that God has given to Christians toward our sovereign ruler.

Chew on that for a while. I intend to.