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Friday, 13 June 2008

Review of "The Gap Fact" by Michael Pearl

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In his book entitled Eight Kingdoms, Michael Pearl included a whole section on what he calls The Gap Fact. I haven't read the book, but Mike was so kind as to excerpt that section on his website, usually available via clicking on the post title above (UPDATE: Alas, like most old links, it has gone dead. But I have gotten a hold of the book itself, which turned out to vary slightly from the version quoted here).

Without coming out and naming any of them, Mike really takes Creation Scientists to task for rejecting what they call The Gap Theory. But Michael Pearl's "Gap Fact" is a rather different animal than the Ruin-Reconstruction Theory of Thomas Chalmers and C. I. Scofield. The Ruin-Reconstruction Theory starts with the latest geological speculation about the earth's history, and then goes to the Bible to try to find a place to fit it in. Michael Pearl's Gap Theory, however, starts and ends with the King James Bible, without any more regard for what the old-age geologists may think than for the latest theories of Scientific Creationism.

Well, to a point. Mike opens his excerpt with the startling statement, "Modern secular scientists believe that the earth and universe are millions of years old. We who know and believe the Bible reject that claim outright." But having rejected millions of years as having been way too long (actually, that isn't nearly long enough; geologists now maintain that the earth and universe are several billions of years old), he goes on to say, "After many centuries or millennium the earth, created “to be inhabited forever” (Isa. 45:17-18), was renewed with man, a creature of less statue than its original custodians (Heb. 2:7)."

Leaving aside the two misspelled words, this sentence begs the question of the length of the Gap between the first two verses of Genesis. How could its duration in years be expressed so vaguely as hundreds or thousands, but to the unquestioned exclusion of millions? For that matter, where does he come from with the idea that the Gap must have lasted for centuries--or even a decade? He seems to be unsure of how far to trust the geologists while rejecting both their claims, and those of the Young Earth Creationists (YECs), as to the true age of the earth.

But regardless of his own vague theories as to its duration, Mike makes what first appears to be a pretty good case for its existence. I won't go into all the details here, since the link is usually available, but I will interact with some of the points he brings up.

1) History of the Gap Fact

"Furthermore, well before Darwin came along, and before backslidden Christians sought to make time for evolution, Bible believers knew and proclaimed that the earth existed before the six days of Genesis. One example will suffice. Everyone is familiar with 5th century Augustine. He wrote in his Confessions that which was commonly believed in his day." (He goes on to quote from book 12:VIII:8)

This is a valid point, but it is helpful to his thesis only because Augustine quotes from a Latin version of a Greek recension of a Hebrew edition of the book of Genesis. Had Augustine been able to read Hebrew, it would have erased the heaven/heavens distinction which forms a major pillar in Michael Pearl's Gap Theory. In fact, Mike goes on to say, without any documentation whatsoever, "The Jews of old recognized this obvious truth, that the earth was created sometime before Gen 1:3. They had no reason to be biased one way or the other. They just believed the Hebrew text as it read and therefore believed in a “gap”." Somebody had to make this up, because it simply isn't true. One wonders if Mike even realises, as enamoured as he is with the King James Version, that in Genesis the majority Hebrew text consistently has "heavens" and the Greek "heaven," with the KJV not consistent in following either.

Mike makes a big deal out of the recent origin of the anti-gap (YEC) theory. He writes, "When I open up a commentary, unless it was written in the last twenty five years, I know that it is going to assume the reality of a gap. I went through the ones in my library and all but one recognized the gap. They are: The Bible Knowledge Commentary; A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory; The Wycliffe Bible Commentary; Jamieson, Fausset and Brown; and Bible Believer’s Commentary. None of them sought to insert evolution into the gap. . ."

But here he misses the whole point of the Ruin-Reconstruction Theory. It is not to insert evolution into the gap, but the long ages that evolution requires. Gap theorists roundly reject evolution while wholeheartedly accepting billions of years. This is just one of the inconsistencies that YEC's point out about it--not whether or not it is based on a clear understanding of Genesis 1:1-2.

2) Geological evidence for the Gap Fact

It appears that Mike is as ignorant of geology as he is of Hebrew. He states, "The evidence for the historical position of a gap is much more extensive scripturally and does not resort to extra Biblical arguments to support its position. We don’t point to the age of rocks or the time it takes for sand to form, etc. We know that regardless of when the earth was created or how old it is, it had to have been created with the appearance of age, just as was Adam. The trees God created had growth rings and rocks contained fossils."

Here Mike confuses growth rings and fossils with indications of age. Growth rings are merely indications of cyclic dormancy, and fossils are indications of underwater burial. Neither of these necessarily have anything to do with age, and it seems ludicrous to so matter-of-factly attribute them to God's creative activity. It is much more likely that God directly created sand so that the plants would have something other than solid rock, layered or otherwise, into which to sink their roots!

One point that is well put is that the second day of creation is obviously referring to God operating on previously existing material. But even here Mike's language trips him up, when he refers to the "days of creation." Elsewhere he makes a major distinction between "creating" which he only sees occurring on days five and six, and "making" which he sees as occurring on all six days. But he never calls them "the days of making!"

Well, perhaps I am being too general in ascribing the act of 'making' to the first day. Mike never clarified whether God 'made' light, or 'created' it. But he elsewhere claims (based on Job 28:7) that the stars were part of the original day-zero creation. How stars could exist without any light to shine forth from them, he never explains. True, it would be downright handy to have stars billions of light-years away not having to be only 6000 years old. But he's already rejected millions of years, so this helps his case not a whit.

3) Linguistic Evidence for the Gap Fact

Now as Mike gets into the original languages of Scripture, he obviously leaves behind the familiar and launches out into the wild and wonderful world of dogmatic speculation. Now, I'm no scholar of the biblical languages, and I haven't put enough study into this topic to give as accurate a picture as possible of the situation, but it took me no time at all to find his theory full of holes at this level.

For instance, he confidently states:
"There are two different words used in regard to God’s creative words—created and made. These two English words correspond exactly to two Hebrew words (also two Greek words and two Latin words in the Greek and Latin translations)."

This is not totally bogus, as there actually are two different Hebrew words that correspond to two words each in Greek, Latin, and English. However, this is far from being an accurate description of the case in Genesis. While the KJV follows fairly closely to the Latin in translating bara/creavit as 'create' and asha/fecit as 'make,' there simply is no such correspondence in the Greek words epoihsen and egeneto. Epoihsen is almost always used to translate both words, and egeneto only appears in parallel, as an an alternate translation of bara! And even in the Hebrew, both bara and asha are used of creating man in God's image, which Michael Pearl tries to split up into creation of man's soul (bara) and his body (asha)--a point he takes pains not to bring out.

4) Divine Inspiration for the Gap Fact

My final point shows the danger of basing a doctrine on the idiosyncrasies of the King James Version. Speaking of the anti-gap theory, Mike writes,
"If God made the heaven and the earth in six days, as the two passages above declare, then the passage in Gen 1:1-2 that says “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” could not be other than part of the six days, not some event prior to it as the gap proponents claim. Their argument would be entirely valid and irrefutable if the passages rendered the word heaven in the plural as it does elsewhere, and if it said created instead of made. But the Holy Spirit rendered heaven singular, indicating that only one of three heavens was created in Gen 1:1. "

Actually, this is saying too much. Because the Hebrew of Genesis One already does say 'heavens', and saying 'created' rather than 'made' would not destroy the meaning. The anti-gap argument does not stand or fall on the Bible version used to support it.

But Micheal Pearl's Gap Theory does.

Need I say more?

9 comments:

  1. You should, instead of spending the time to dispute the matter that you admitted to not studying, study it according the King James Bible, and then read eight kingdoms!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I usually allow each reader to post at least one comment, no matter how illogical. But, of course, I reserve the right to reply.

    This was not Michael Pearl himself replying, but obviously one of his fans, because it echoes statements he himself has made.

    "Anonymous" (hereafter referred to as "Mainer") has made several suggestions:

    1. I should not spend time disputing Michael Pearl
    2. I should first study Michael Pearl's theology according to the King James Bible (a tautology itself)
    3. I should read "Eight Kingdoms"
    4. After having done the above, I will agree with Michael Pearl on the subject of creation chronology.

    It is a common fallacy that people like me are arguing from ignorance. Actually, I have pretty much done what Mainer suggested:

    1. First, I spent over 20 years studying the King James Bible, especially its creation chronology.
    2. Then, I studied the section of "Eight Kingdoms" which relates to creation chronology.

    But instead of finding myself in agreement with Michael Pearl, I instead found more and more with which to disagree. I am confident that this would continue to be the case should I read the rest of "Eight Kingdoms," but I welcome the chance to do so anyway.

    Meanwhile, I commend Mainer for spending so much time studying my measured response to Michael Pearl's doctrine of the Gap Fact.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Gabriel Halsmer6/09/2009 03:02:00 pm

    Sorry for not reading Michael Pearl's book first, but let me see if I follow; are both he and you in agreement that there is a gap between Gn 1:1 and 1:2?

    Our church was recently studying these passages, and it seems clear to us that scripture describes whole cities on earth before man was around. And that there was a rebellion and God had to wipe all of that out ("And the earth BECAME without form, and void") and start over with man, in a literal six-day renewing of the earth.

    I know that people like DL Moody and RA Torrey believed this. Even St. Thomas Aquinas made comments to this effect. I didn't realize Augustine and the early church believed in a gap also. Interesting.

    You know, we kept starring at those scriptures and something dawned on us: What do you get when you have a water-filled planet and no light? (btw, the light is obviously referring to the sun)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I don't really care to take the time to go into my own opinions about a gap between the first two verses of Genesis. Other scholars have written extensively on this subject, and I have nothing original to offer.

    The point is that I do have serious problems with the way Michael Pearl solves the question of the gap, and these have been explained above in adequate detail.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "why make billions when you can make millions?"

    Seriously though, Mike does not neccisarily belive that the gap is not millions or billions of years old. The point was that Bible believers don't give a hoot about what the Modern secular scientists have to say.
    When he said the gap was centuries or whatever the point was a long time. centuries, millions, billions, blah blah blah, who gives a dang, sorry were not all as smart as you.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have now read the pertinent chapter in Mike's book, and, oddly, it's different than the article still found at the end of the link I gave. Either he edited it for the most recent printing, or changed it when he 'excerpted' it for his website. This review stands as I made it, based on the linked article. Maybe later I'll write a review of the book itself, but for this chapter I don't expect the thrust of my review to differ any.

    ReplyDelete
  7. good response, respectful and to the point. I have been listening to some of Pearls stuff from a friend, I read the gap fact and I believe he is a gifted teacher(I appreciated his sermon on "blood" in the Bible) but I do not want to emulate him in his study methods or his disdain for the church at large. Also, I often do my own word studies in a similar way that he does, looking up occurrences of Hebrew or Greek words in my Bible software, but nobody should be confused into thinking this is equal to ancient language scholarship, as he seems to think it is. As a tidbit, I was listening to his series on Romans and he made a very big deal about 1:18 being "holding" the truth in unrighteousness instead of suppressing it as every other translation uses. Again, Michael thinks that this is because of faulty new theology, and only KJV is strong enough to translate it right. Well I checked out the Tyndale translation 1526(I think) and here it is " withholde ye trueth in vnrightewesnes" against Pearls theology, an pre-KJV. Hope that wasn't too much of a bunny trail but I see the exact same pattern as what you pointed out. God Bless Michael and I know he is being used of God, however I want emulate men who will make me like this 2 Tim 2:24 "And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.

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  8. Thanks, Matt. In modern spelling, Tyndale would read "withhold the truth in unrighteousness."

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  9. It is unfortunate in the world today that so many self proclaimed chrisitians elevate them selves to level of of being omnisceint.

    The bible is very clear on all of the major doctrines that are so polluted today. Christ weeps over the ignorance of mankind who chooses to believe himself and other foolish men instead of his in fallible word as expounded in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.

    Michael Pearl needs prayer, he speaks as though he is the supreme authority. The statements he makes as fact in his GAP brochure are those of a man drunk with his own pride and self prescribed rightouesness.

    God warns us in Rev 22: 18-19 about adding & subtracting from his Word.

    Simple miss quotes in his brochure "and the truth will set you free" have huge implications on how the christian world has fallen into a state of turmoil and despair. No longer do men look for correction as called out in the scriptures but justification of their erroneous ways.

    God used pharoah, Baalim, The Donkey, and to his glory Judas Iscariot...We must not loose sight of the fact that God can use anyone and anything to and for his Glory but when one is caught in this vain deciet and is leading many astray by false doctrine who will stand up and rebuke him? A brother goes to brother, a group of three, then the church and then excommunication. These statutes of God are given yet no longer followed.

    God grant us repentance and strength that we may do your will and stand against those who harm so many by their self exaltation.

    My prayers for you and those saints seeking God and his will.

    "not everyone that saith to me , LORD, LORD, will enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my FATHER which is in heaven"

    ReplyDelete

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