Posted by jlwile on March 21, 2011
The Southeast Homeschool Convention is now over, and I am back home. It was an excellent convention, as I have come to expect from the organization that arranged it. There were well over 2,000 families in attendance, and the talks I gave were incredibly well attended. I signed lots of students’ books (something I truly love to do) and met all sorts of impressive homeschooled students and homeschooling parents. I also posed for lots of pictures with students, which is something else I love to do.
I wanted to address two questions I got at this conference: one dealing with homeschooling at the high school level, and one dealing with theology.
During my talk ‘Teaching’ High School at Home, a parent asked about AP and/or CLEP tests – the tests that are often used by students to get college credits without actually taking college courses. The parent wanted to know if it is a good idea to take such tests, and if so, does it matter whether one uses AP or CLEP? The first thing I told the parent is that AP or CLEP exams are always a good idea, if you can afford the fee ($87 for the AP and $122 for the CLEP). If the student does poorly, which is rare among homeschooled students, you can simply not report the results to anyone. However, if the student does well, it strengthens your high school transcript. If you can list “Chemistry” on the student’s transcript and note that the student got a “4″ on the AP (the second highest grade possible), it will go a long way towards convincing the evaluator that the student had an excellent chemistry course.
Now you need to realize that AP and CLEP tests are college-level tests, so your high school course in the subject needs to be very rigorous if the student is to have any hope of passing. I wouldn’t waste my money on an AP or CLEP test unless the student had a serious course in the subject. This brings me to the difference between the AP and the CLEP: Both test whether or not you know a subject at the college level, but the CLEP is an easier test. Thus, it is easier to get a good grade on the CLEP than it is to get a good grade on the AP. Why not just take the CLEP, then? Because since the CLEP is easier, it is not highly regarded by some colleges. There are many colleges that will give a student credit for a good score on the AP, but they won’t give the student credit for a good score on the CLEP. Thus, if you want to use the CLEP to get some college credit without taking the college classes, you need to make sure the college you are interested in accepts the CLEP.
The more important question, however, is should you use CLEP tests to get college credit without taking the college course? In my opinion, you should do so only if the course is unrelated to the student’s major. If so, it is an inexpensive way to get the annoying “distribution” credits that most colleges require for graduation, and as a bonus, you don’t have to sit through the annoying course. However, if the course is related to your major, I do not recommend testing out of it. No matter how good your high school course was, you will most likely learn more (or at least learn it better) if you take the college course. In addition, since the first few courses in a major tend to lay down important fundamentals, you should make sure you are a master at their material! If you had a great high school course, that just means it will be an easy “A,” and who couldn’t use that in the first couple of years of college?
The other interesting question I got was theological, and it was probably inspired by what I posted previously about Ken Ham. In my talk on the science that you find in the Bible, I discussed Matthew Maury, a naval officer who read Psalm 8:6-8:
You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.
Since Maury believed (as I do) that every word in the Bible is important, he decided that this verse meant there are actual paths in the seas. Because of this, he discovered many of the prevailing currents in the oceans, and that revolutionized world travel at the time.
A person in the audience asked me how I can be so detailed in my interpretation of Psalm 8:8 but not in Genesis 1. If I believe “path” means “path” in Psalm 8:8, why can’t I categorically state that “day” means “24-hour day” in Genesis 1?
I first made it clear that I do believe that the days in Genesis 1 were 24-hour days. However, I recognize (as theologians have since the earliest times in Christendom) that the case is far from ironclad. As a result, while I believe that they are 24-hour days, I am not about to claim that anyone who disagrees with me on that point has a poor view of Scripture.
To answer his question, however, I made it clear that “path” doesn’t really mean “path” in Psalm 8:8. It means “prevailing current.” However, it is clear what the word is meant to imply, since we have a lot of context for such an idea. We are all familiar (at least through the benefit of books) with the oceans and the fact that fish are found in them. We understand that they swim to get from point “A” to point “B,” and we understand that paths connect point “A” to point “B.” Thus, through context, it is very clear that the paths mentioned in Psalm 8:8 have something to do with getting from one point to the other in the sea.
Now move to Genesis 1. Here God is describing a one-time event that will never happen again. The only people around to witness the event came along right near the end. As a result, we have very little context for the event. In addition, what context we do have is a bit muddled. For example, Genesis 1 continues to repeat “there was evening and there was morning” to close out the account of each day. How do we recognize evening and morning? We use the sun. However, the sun was not created until day 4. Thus, the thing that we constantly use to determine evening and morning does not exist for the first three evenings and mornings!
Does that mean the days are not 24-hour days? Of course not! We know that morning turns into evening not because of the motion of the sun, but because of the rotation of the earth. As a result, if there were some other source of light that was acting roughly like a point source of light during the first three days, you could still have evening and morning as usual. However, the very fact that what we typically use to mark evening and morning didn’t exist for the first three evenings and mornings should at least give a person pause. In fact, it caused St. Augustine to write this in the early 400s AD:
“But at least we know that it [the Genesis day] is different from the ordinary day with which we are familiar; and we are attempting to discover its true nature.” (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis, 5:2)
There are other textual cues to indicate that these days might not be 24-hour days. For example, if you read the account of day 3, a straightforward reading indicates that it would take more than a 24-hour day for everything reported to actually happen. The account seems to say that plants emerged and bore fruit that had seeds. However, the fruiting process takes a lot more than 24 hours, and if we assume that the seeds and fruits were formed the normal way, then the plants had to flower and transfer pollen as well. That takes a long time. Now I personally think that God probably sped things up to make that all happen, but the point is that a straightforward reading does not indicate this. As a result, once again, it gives a person pause.
Please understand that I am not arguing that the days in Genesis were not 24-hour days. I think there are many more textual cues to indicate that they were (evening and morning, ordinals, definite articles for two of the days, etc.), and I think there are other parts of the Bible (such as Exodus 20:11) that add to those cues. My point, however, is that the text is simply not ironclad on this, and you don’t need evolution or “millions of years” to see that. Augustine, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and many other great Christian theologians did not need evolution or “millions of years” to force them to interpret the days as something other than 24-hour days. They just needed the text.
Thus, while I think the text (on balance) indicates the Genesis days were 24-hour days, the case is far from ironclad. As a result, I am not willing to say that those who see the Genesis days as something other than 24-hour days are absolutely wrong. I think they are wrong, but I am not certain they are wrong.
I was talking to a representative of Answers in Genesis about this, and he seemed flabbergasted that I do not agree with people who see the days of Genesis as something other than 24-hour days, but I fiercely defend them. He said something like, “If you think it’s bunk, why are you defending it?” That’s the point. I think it is wrong, but I do not think it is bunk. C. S. Lewis doesn’t come up with bunk. Norman Geisler doesn’t come up with bunk. Gleason Archer doesn’t come up with bunk. William Lane Craig doesn’t come up with bunk. These people are not “compromisers.” They are devout scholars who love the Word, and they have some good arguments to support their case. I am not convinced by their arguments, and I think mine are better. However, given that they each have forgotten more Biblical knowledge than I will ever learn, I will at least use them to temper my view with a bit of humility.