Genesis and Geology in Paradox: Ben Clausen’s Response to Chapter 6 in “Where Are We Headed” by William G. Johnsson

Ben Clausen frequently referred to the idea of “paradox” in his July 29 response to Chapter 6 in Where Are We Headed? Adventism After San Antonio at the Roy Branson Legacy Sabbath School (RBLSS) in Loma Linda, California. The title of this chapter is “Adventists and Creation: Jubilation or Confrontation.”

Johnsson served as the Editor of the Adventist Review for many years after doing so at Spicer Adventist University in India and Andrews University in the United States. A specialist in the study of the New Testament, especially the “Letter to the Hebrews,” he has published many books and articles.

Clausen works at the Geoscience Research Institute in Loma Linda, California. Although the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists operates both it and Loma Linda University, which is just across the street, they are organizationally separate.

According to its website, the GRI “conducts research with the dual purposes of adding to scientific knowledge and improving our understanding of the relationship of the physical world and the biblical account of origins.” Clausen’s professional life embodies these different purposes.

As a specialist in granite, he is “adding to scientific knowledge” with the serious geological research he is doing on his own and with scholars on other campuses. This is resulting in an impressive number of articles in scientific journals as well as papers and posters at national and international conferences.

The concept of “paradox” is one of his current contributions to “improving our understanding of the relationship of the physical world and the biblical account of origins.” This is the one he emphasized on July 29.

Clausen said that he avows both the biblical stories about creation, as Adventists typically interpret them, and the geological data, as secular scientists usually interpret them, even though as of yet he knows of no “comprehensive model” which integrates them. Instead of choosing one or the other, or jettisoning both of them, he avers both of them as a “paradox.”

I can think of at least five ways that people use the word “paradox” in such conversations. One says that groups sometimes do things that don’t fit with what they believe, as when a denomination which announces that Jesus is coming soon builds institutions that are designed to last a long time. Another says that, as in the image that looks like a duck in one glance and a rabbit in another one, what we see depends upon how we look at things. A third says that science and religion are so different that assessing the claims of either of them by the convictions of the other makes as much sense as scoring baseball points with basketball rules. A fourth says that we flourish because every yin has a yang, every truth an error, every beauty an ugliness and, presumably, every creation story an evolutionary one. The fifth says that we have not yet discovered another truth which integrates the seemingly contradictory ones in a single coherent unity. The fifth is the meaning that Clausen seemed to have had in mind.

People will vary in how helpful they find inserting this concept into the discussion. A snap decision either way might not be best. I recommend watching the video and thinking about it. Again: Always think for yourself; never think by yourself!

The Roy Branson Legacy Sabbath School thanks Adventist Forum, which Branson helped establish, and Spectrum, which he once edited, for this opportunity to share our sessions with others.

For more information, please visit

WATCH: Ben Clausen on Chapter 6 in "Where Are We Headed? Adventism After San Antonio" by William G. Johnsson

See also: William G. Johnsson Explains Why He Wrote Where Are We Headed? Adventism after San Antonio, The Professors Valentine Expand Upon Chapter 1 in "Where Are We Headed? Adventism After San Antonio", Laura Alipoon Highlights Adventist Diversity in Chapter 2 of “Where Are We Headed? Adventism After San Antonio”,Calvin Thomsen’s Discussion of Chapter 3 in “Where Are We Headed? Adventism after San Antonio” Assails Neo-Calvinism, Carla Gober-Park Expands “the Main Thing” in Chapter 4 of “Where Are We Headed?” by William G. Johnsson, andLeo Ranzolin’s Response to Chapter 5 in “Where Are We Headed?” Poses Three Questions and Cites One Poet

Dr. David Larson is Professor of Religion at Loma Linda University.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I have utmost respect for an SDA scientist who concedes that the evidence is complex, the interpretations are contradictory, and there is no simple conclusion to the matter. Our faith needs to be based on a personal relationship with Jesus, not dust in the wind.


This is one of the issues the church is going to split over, the others being WO and acceptance of homosexuality. If you don’t fully accept the Biblical position on origins you will eventually be shaken out. You cannot avow both the Biblical story of creation and geological data AS SECULAR SCIENTISTS USUALLY INTERPRET THEM because they are mutually contradictory.


just a thought, has anyone watched ‘creation in the 21st century’ on TBN, i know it’s a ‘religous right’ channel but as Christians, are we not to seek truth where it is found?

Implied in the 28 Fundamental Beliefs…

Pre-San Antonio 2015–Adventist interpretations of Genesis 1 create paradox to the real world.

Post San Antonio 2015–The Adventist interpretation alone is right…paradox is heresy


I have enjoyed watching some of the video presentations offered by presenters at this year’s GC and NAD Faith and Science Conference. The invited guest Kurt Wise affirms that radiometric dating is good science. The science of radiometric dating is so reliable that he is forced to speculate and believe that God must have changed the laws of physics during the Flood. I am amazed that such a stark admission was voiced during the Conference.


I have a lot of respect for Ben Clausen. But, I wonder if this “living with paradox” approach is presenting the wrong idea to non-scientists, especially church administrators. Do they have an unrealistic expectation about the likelihood of science reversing its well-established positions and coming around to a short chronology creationist understanding? At what point does “living with paradox” become “living with falseness”? Are our church leaders being shielded–essentially enabled to bury their heads in the sand on this issue? Do they never feel pressure to modify their biblical interpretation?


And so once again it boils down to where one places their faith: in the conclusion of fallible (and often very biased–“we cannot allow a divine foot in the door”) scientists, or God’s infallible word. Since God’s word has not and cannot fail, and the “consensus” of scientists is notoriously unreliable, I’ll stick with Scripture. Just because we don’t have all the answers to the many questions that arise about origins, doesn’t mean the Bible is unreliable.

The Bible was not written to satisfy our curiosity; it was written so that mankind could find the way to salvation. But man will never find the truth if he begins to dissect the Word and deny the truth of what it says. If I cannot rely on Genesis, neither can I rely on Matthew, Mark, Luke, et. al. Man does not have the wisdom to decide which parts of Scripture are inspired and which are not. The only solution is to accept it for what it is: an interconnected whole, inspired by the omniscient Holy Spirit.


What do you mean pointing to that show?.. Not sure I understand your point…

Adventists can have varying views on each of these three issues. There is not one basket of “deplorables” who see these three things exactly alike.


One must respect Dr Claussen, who does not duck-and-cover but freely admits that the scientific data does not accommodate itself to the short chronology of Genesis. If modern Adventist geologists several decades ago acknowledged that the geological column is real and valid, Dr Claussen is one of the first to go on public record to affirm that radiometric dating is also valid and should not be opposed by Adventists for its results. This is a revolutionary step! He richly deserves the admiration he receives from insiders and outsiders, and his advice to avoid “harmonizing too quickly” needs to be heeded by many Creationists.

As I listen to his presentations, I wished there was a comparable variety and depth to the theological and interpretive options. Dr Claussen’s readings of Genesis seem unaware of the cultural conditions of their creation. If it is important to analyze and explore the histories of granitic compositions, or the continuities and discontinuities of the Grand Canvon, then where is the corresponding curiosity about the deeper dimensions of the biblical text?

Here is my analysis and response:

  1. I was encouraged to hear him say, “I think Genesis One is correct, I think Genesis Two is correct, the other creating stories in the Bible are correct . . . These are all representations of what God did within different contexts . . . within different cultures . . . we have such a small picture of God . . . who is much bigger than we can imagine.” (I have condensed his comments.) The paradox certainly lessens if we open to the idea that the biblical materials are accommodations in divine revelation. As Herold Weiss has shown in his excellent book Creation in Scripture, the Bible’s creation stories (at least half a dozen discrete kinds) are framed within various ancient cosmologies reflecting differing sociological and ethical senses.

What if Genesis One is the accommodation of God to the cultural condition of the Israelites? It is hardly a stretch to extend Dr Claussen’s own stated principle here and acknowledge that modern science is one of these “contexts”. If BOTH Genesis and science are divine accommodations to context–Two Books of revelation, as the old adage states it–then we have gone a long way toward resolving a large paradox.

  1. Am I hearing correctly that Dr Claussen’s God is one of “total control” right down to the level of quarks (his words). What does he mean by this? In my view, this theology is too rigid to allow decent dialogue between the sciences and theology. His words seem like throw-away phrases in the video, but they seem to reflect the limited view of God he avers, which runs into problems if we want to consider the role of chance, contingency, change, etc. play in the cosmos. He wants us to humbly consider a much larger God, but a larger God who is still in “total control” does not get us very far.

Evolutionary creation does not seem to be a possibility he even considers. I hope he is in dialogue with contemporary “open” and “process” theologians such as Rick Rice and Fritz Guy who can point toward a different way of relating the divine, natural and human worlds.


The Bible, as is, is ourpresent link to the stories of “the ages”.From time to time ancient texts have been unearthed which, for example, add more material for our contemplation, should we desire to broaden our understandings of several Biblical matters, including the Genesis 1 version of the creation of life on earth.(cf the Assyrian collection in the British Museum , for example). But there is a decision to make here. In Genesis 1 the creation acts of God clearly suggests that “he” is a supernatural entity, whereas in the first books of the Christian Testament we are told that God had a son with a human virgin, which of course means that God and humans are of the same species. Since we KNOW that we humans are not supernatural we can then conclude that “god” is not supernatural either , and so this lenbds credence to the opinion that “God” is a SUPER SCIENTIST and we should then examine The Genesis creation stories as scientific creationism and not neccessarily the rersult of supernaturalism. This suggests that a creation week belief where ALL life on earth was made in 144 hours cannot stand, nor can a young earth perspective stand either. Furthermore the King James Translation Committee appointed by the King and headed by Dr Bancroft, made several glaring mistakes , some of which have misled millions of Bible Readers during the past four centuries. For example the use of the word GOD in Genesis 1 was due to their monotheistic belief and not to translation scholarship. They recovered in Gen 1:26 however. The Hebrew indicates ELOHIM as everyone knows nowadays , which is a plural term. Life on earth wass made by DNA manipulation and also not in 24 hours time spans. Even the Jehovah Witnesses have given up that claim a decade , or so, ago. What we should be concerned about is to understand HOW we were made. Lets say the brain had three major layers. Neurologist Paul McLean dubs the basic layer the Reptillian Complex. This is what he thought was where the defensive. acquisitive instincts existed and could be instantly activated to become aggressive leading to murders, wars, conquest of other humans to acquire their ossessions, their children , their women, their property, their labour and so on. These actions are called “sin” , and knowing this the Elohim who made us gave us religion and commandments to guide our actions away from wily nily expressiion of these instincts which , in this time when the atom has been split so to speak, and OF COURSE the brain stem has made use of this resource to urge neocortex tocreate weapons of mass destruction, humans are just one step away from WW3. Already natural products vendors are offering seale containers filled with dried , nutrient-dense food to enable people to survive underground shoulkd matters come to that.

Despite living in this information age where all our questions are answered with the click of a computer key, we are still compartmentalizing our world. We label and file everything perhaps because we don’t have the intellectual or emotional capacity to deal with all of it all at once. We have accomplished scientists who know nothing about how to read and understand the Bible; and we have theologians who understand science on a junior high level - you can’t be proficient in everything.

The problem is that when a renowned science person comments about theology, the world listens; and when a theologian interprets science, others believe that - all based on incomplete information. We need to be willing to learn and think for ourselves.


I only have to travel fifteen minutes from my homes to know that geology and the Genesis time line from creation, are at odds and are incompatible.

Fifteen minutes from one of my homes is a huge limestone cliff.
Descending four hundred steps inside the cliff, one enters an enormous cavern with stalactites and stalagmites.

The cave guide explains that the stalactites ( those formations hanging from the cavern’s roof ) only grow one centimeter every century. I do the mental math as I view a forty foot long stalactite and know that the six thousand year time line from creation to the present does not jibe with visual evidence.

My other home is near a volcanic lava field, dated from an eruption that occurred in the late 1700’s. The black rock is so impervious/impenetrable that home owners on the other side of the lava field have had to run water pipes on top of the lava-- several centuries after the eruption it is still too hard to lay the pipes underground.

How many millennia/centuries before this solid lava breaks down to fine soil capable of growing plants/seeds? But volcanic islands are covered with vegetation growing in soil that was originally rock hard lava.

These simple observations in my neighborhoods show me that the six thousand year "young earth creation " is a myth/mirage/fantasy.


Perhaps, more than just the story of “The Rich Man and Lazarus” in the Bible are actually allegories. That should not detract from the concepts of what the stories are trying to teach. Keeping the seventh day Sabbath should follow naturally as a follower of Christ. I don’t understand how the actual age of rocks on our earth can detract from the need to follow Christ who claimed to be “Lord of the Sabbath”. Perhaps, Adventists have strayed too far from focusing only on the life and teachings of Christ as recorded in the Bible as the supreme interpreter of God’s will for humankind. Perhaps, Adventists should reconsider that Christ said His return would be at a time known only to God, and finally abandon repeating Millerite mistakes of the past. It is past time for all Christians to focus on complying with Christ’s instructions found in the last half of Matt. 25 and thus make a positive contribution to the desperate needs of people all around us. If we don’t, Christ warns in Matt. 25, He will say on Judgement Day “Depart from me… I never knew you”.

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Claiming to believe both poles of the Paradox; i.e., the traditional SDA interpretation of Genesis and the scientists’ understanding of historical geology is like saying that one believes in both the heliocentric and geocentric model of the solar system.