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A potentially hard topic
Genesis 1
Bringing God’s Word into a perennial topic of debate
#Word
#God
Published March 18th, 2021
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The hot topic!
Genesis 1:1
ESV
Whatever we may say about this issue, GOD is in all, and over all
Isaiah 55:8-9
ESV
God has ways greater than man
Genesis 1:5
ESV
Genesis 1:17-19
ESV
A beautiful design...but perhaps different than what we think
Genesis 1:12
ESV
Genesis 1:21
ESV
Ephesians 4:11-12
ESV
The Variety in the World
Genesis 1:26-28
ESV
Glory given to man
Conclusion
Main Point Summary : God progressively and purposefully guided the Creation of the world, which climaxes with Creation of Humanity, after which God rests.
Notes on the arc and verse 1:1
notes
The hot topic!
Often times, there is a healthy debate today amongst Christians as to which English Bible is the best. The ESV? NIV? KJV? A more literal translation, accurate to the original? Or something that modern people can understand? I think this is healthy, and we can benefit from a wide variety of options and translations However, there is another issue, having floated around for more than a hundred years, of which the talk I think is less healthy: the debate over evolution. Some say that evolution flatly contradicts the Bible. Others say that a God-directed evolution is possible ("theistic evolution"). Some Christians claim it to be a very big deal; others Christians say, "not so much." As we see, sometimes, the talk has become very heated! And often, distinctions over evolution as being a theologically-loaded stand(as in "evolution if accepted means that God has no hand in creation!") vs. merely being a scientific-biological process by which the Earth at large has changed (without either denying or affirming God's hand in it) have not been made clear, which can lead to confusion, when terms are not defined clearly. So, let us examine both sides of the issue, but above all, let us make sure that Scripture guides our discussion. Let's look at Genesis 1 (often a central text in this area of debate ) and see how Scripture can help us to get a better and bigger perspective on the issue, even if it doesn’t result in a clear “yes/no answer” to the problem. **One preliminary note**: I am by no means up-to date with all the data as to the scientific accuracy or inaccuracy of evolution as a biological process. The science needs to be examined (as it has been by many on both sides) in other articles, not this one. This article will focus primarily on how the Bible itself can inform a proper general framework for this issue, but not on specific points of science (which I would not be qualified to talk about anyway!). Also, this article will not primarily be about only finding the main point of Genesis 1 itself (although that is vitally important for exegesis and for doing arcs and phrases). Though the focus in this article will be on Genesis 1, I will also bring in other Scriptures that often show a totally different side of the truth, in order to be able to address the topic of this article in a broader light.
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Genesis 1:1 ESV
OT
Genesis 1:1
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Genesis The Creation of the World 1 1 In the a beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Whatever we may say about this issue, GOD is in all, and over all
Whatever side we may are on in the question of evolution right now, we must first come to grips with the very first verse of the Bible. The fourth word of verse 1...GOD! Whatever you say about this topic, about whether man could be descendant of apes, or if that is totally unbecoming of a true vessel of God (humans made in his image), either way you think about it, GOD is at the centre of all. He must bel HE decides all, HE directs all. HE plans creation and of course salvation (so it cannot merely be a “random” occurrence or mutation). But, though this seems then to say, then, that “evolution then is impossible!”, we need to wait just a moment before we say that. For if the Scripture above is true, then the following Scripture is ALSO true, which makes an equally vital statement about God.
Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV
Isaiah 55:8-9
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord . 9 p For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
God has ways greater than man
So we switch now to the other side. Who is to say that evolution as a natural process itself is wrong, just because it doesn't sound "lovely" or "beautiful?" That is, again, that if Genesis 1:1 is obviously true, so too are these verses from Isaiah. We may want the sun to revolve around the earth (because, it is true, that Earth IS a vitally important planet in God's plan), and yet people were shown the science about how the solar system actually works, roughly 500 years ago, through Copernicus' discoveries. So then, could it not be POSSIBLE (not saying that is it true, but possibly true) that God, the Creator God, could use any process, any method he wants? If, for example, God allows Christians today to benefit from the fruit of unbelievers’ technological advances and labour (see iPads, countless highly useful websites and apps, and various other electronic breakthroughs ), could he not also use a natural process like evolution, all for his own purposes? Do not get me wrong: I am not advancing evolution in this article. I myself am not sure yet of its scientific accuracy, or either its lack of such accuracy. I am merely saying that, perhaps, just perhaps, we need to widen our possibilities as to what God is able to do, in line with the truth of Isaiah Chapter 55 (which in a broader context references a totally gracious upcoming covenant, which, we, in Christ all joyously accept, though this plan of salvation is definitely not "our thoughts!). So, let’s now return back to Genesis 1.
Genesis 1:5 ESV
Genesis 1:5
5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
Genesis 1:17-19 ESV
Genesis 1:17-19
17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to l rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
A beautiful design...but perhaps different than what we think
If you look at my arc at the end of this article, notice this pattern: there is a progression from Days 1-3, and then another parallel progression from Day 4-6, so creating a beautiful and astonishing symmetry. On day 1, God creates the space for Light; on Day 4 he creates objects of Light ( sun and moon) to fill them. On Day 2, he creates the water and sky; in Day 5, he fills them with swimming things and flying things (fish and birds). Then, Day 3 has the land space; Day 6 likewise fills that land with animals and humans. It is though God creates the vessels (Days 1-3), and then fills each appropriate and matching vessel later (Days 4-6). And then, Day 7 is the Capstone, the rest. There is progression, but also proportion. There is design, balance, and symmetry. These are all qualities musicians and artists desire in abundance. So then: whatever we might say about the topic of evolution, we must not forget ever, ever, that God is a BEAUTIFUL God, and that he is a DESIGNING God. We can never deny this. MERE randomness or mutation(if that is how they explain evolution) can never be the guiding principle. There is an incredible Unity here in Genesis 1, and in all creation, and in the Whole Bible itself. And yet... let’s once more move over to the other side, with an analogy from art and painting, and then tie it to Scripture: Everyone likely knows Rembrandt, the great Dutch painter of 400 years ago. You may even know the story of how he came to faith in Christ in his later years, after experiencing death and hardship. But, in terms of talking about his actual painting style, his early years were the ones where his paintings were very precise and accurate. Every feature of the eyes, every aspect of the nose or cheek on his portraits were rendered with great and accurate, even minute detail. However, as you may also know, the second half of his artistic life was different: it was now becoming full of much more “random” brushstrokes, looser and more abstract techniques, things against the grain, even of that of Dutch art which prized detail and accuracy. It was not the “normal” approach to painting, the one that had been orthodox for the previous few centuries prior. And yet, these later paintings were still great paintings. They still capture the essence of the person, as he had done before earlier on, but there are more sudden, rich changes with the brush, some might even call it quite messy (and also, many people marvel at these "random" brushstrokes and say, "how did he do that??"). But even so, however random it seems, Rembrandt himself was ALWAYS in control of the final painting, he always knew what he was doing, with the big picture and design always in view. Some of his late paintings are in fact deemed the most beautiful, which many people line up to see. What’s the point of this example? It is this: perhaps , in the wisdom of God, God might have chosen to use a “messier” process like evolution, to bring about his purposes of beautiful design. I am not necessarily saying that this is or was the case, but I am saying that it COULD be the case. For example, in terms of Scripture, think about how “messy” Romans 9-11 might seem, as a plan. Paul in 9:6 starts by hinting at the seeming incongruity of what is going on (God's word has NOT failed to the Jews? Really??) , and develops it further in Chapters 10 and 11: God chooses Israel in the Old Testament, but then they themselves have rejected the one who came to save them (John 1:11) . As a result, because of their unbelief, God then decides to bring in the “dirty” Gentiles, and then, after that, is somehow going to make the Israelites jealous (the strange "partial hardening" of 11:25), and THEN (only then) will he bring the Israelites in again near the end? Sounds like a very messy plan to me, and confused me when I first read Romans 11 very much! Almost like a late Rembrandt painting, almost random and undecipherable in parts, when these 3 chapters are only given a surface reading. But God always knows what he is doing! He is in control. But his methods may not be the methods we ourselves choose. And so, as we see, Paul praises God in Romans 11:34-36 for this messy yet beautiful design by God of the salvation of humanity. It could be possible then, for evolution (though of course Romans 9-11 and Genesis 1-2 are addressing different things, we can see a parallel). Even the history of all redemption, from the OT to the end in Revelation, could be seen as "messy" with just one surface reading. But it is all carefully designed by our Maker. And, coming back to Genesis 1, one other reason for God's beautiful design possibly being executed by "messy means" could come in how we define the word “day” from Genesis 1. As you know, different Christians take the meaning of this word differently. Some take it as a literal 24 hour day, others take it as an “era”, while others take it more as “one literary unit.” My arc below could be read of as “6 literary units.” What this means, in light of the above discussion, is that though the GENERAL principle of God being a beautiful designer will hold whichever interpretation we may take on this word “day”, the specific meaning is not given by Genesis 1 alone. Perhaps it was never meant to be so specific. Likewise, though God in general designed all creatures (man included) beautifully, it can be argued that the specific MEANS of such design are not necessarily specified precisely in the first chapters of Genesis.
Genesis 1:12 ESV
Genesis 1:12
12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Genesis 1:21 ESV
Genesis 1:21
21 So m God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Ephesians 4:11-12 ESV
NT
Ephesians 4:11-12
11 And m he gave the n apostles, the prophets, the o evangelists, the p shepherds 1 and teachers, 2 12 q to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for r building up s the body of Christ,
The Variety in the World
The phrase “according to its (their) kind” comes up many times in this chapter. There are a variety of different groups and divisions, between plant life, and animal life. There are a variety of “seeds” (both literal and figurative) planted in Genesis 1, that will all blossom in due time. Some will bear fruit in a shorter time, and others will take a longer time to bloom. In Ephesians 4, likewise, we see this same kind of beautiful variety within the church. Not everyone has the same gift, though each person does have his gift. 1 Corinthians 12 shows this same principle at work. There is a wonderful variety in the world, and in the church. But when we bring them all together, holding the Unity of the Spirit, when we work together in the church, with humility, it is like a harmonious orchestra all sounding a rich music altogether. The natural world is like that too! Unity and variety co-existing! But, as I have argued a number of times before: who is to say what the exact process of how these seeds blossom is? Certain seeds may take months to bloom, while others a few years, others hundreds of years, and others thousands, or even more. Even salvation in Christ itself took many years to go from “seed” ( say beginning in Genesis 3) to “fruit” (his death and resurrection). But, we often say that Scripture as a whole is “progressive” revelation. Could not “evolving” revelation also be an appropriate synonym? Meaning, we don’t know the exact means of how God brought everything to fulfillment in the Scripture. So too, could it be in the natural world. All the classes of animals, vegetation, sea creatures, and humans themselves are a separate "kind" as appointed by God. But how these kinds work themselves out is not always fully specified. Even all specific classes of spiritual gifts are not all listed in Ephesians 4 or 1 Corinthians 12 (though the "main" ones are). Aoplying our discussion of the word “day” from above to the phrase “according to its kind” in verse 12 and 21, one can therefore say that though the General design of GOD directing the various kinds of plants and animals can never be denied, the SPECIFIC mechanism by which that design is executed (whether it be evolution, or not evolution ), is not defined, at least from Genesis 1 only. Again, perhaps Genesis 1 was never intended to be so specific. Again, as I have said, this is not to suggest that evolution as a process is true. But even if it is true, it would need to conform to the variety God has implanted into this world. Even if evolution were true, it must, absolutely must fit in with the principles of Beautiful Divine Design so clearly evident in Genesis 1. Lastly, let’s wrap up this discussion by looking at the climax of this great chapter, that is, human beings themselves.
Genesis 1:26-28 ESV
Genesis 1:26-28
26 Then God said, o “Let us make man 1 in our image, p after our likeness. And q let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; r male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, s “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Glory given to man
Whatever the proponents for evolution as a process (non-Christians and Christians) might say, they cannot ignore Genesis 1:26-28. Man was made in his glorious image, and given dominion and all authority. Redeemed in Christ, this authority increases! So, whatever we might say about how our physical bodies were or were not made, let it never neglect the fact that we were made for relationship with the living God, and given dominion over this earth, to care for it and its people, in love. If one were to say that a bodily vessel derived from "ape ancestry" is not "made in His glorious image", then we should also say that the outer vessel and the inner content (the soul and spirit of a man) shouldn't be confused. In any case, God has made us in His image. Evolution does not touch in this at all, nor is it intended to.
Conclusion
So, coming to the end of this article, I come to no definite conclusion as to whether evolution is true or not. If it is not true, then so be it. If it is true, then it must of course be in line with all of God’s purposes and design as we have discussed as seen here in Genesis 1 and in the rest of Scripture. We must always reject an evolution that is separate from God. That, by very definition, is impossible! But even if it is true as a process , it is only ever merely one means that God uses to design His world ( if people feel they couldn’t bear being related even remotely to an ape, because an ape is "below them" that’s because they want everything to just fit their own mould of thinking. But God cannot be placed into some box. He never was, and never will be. God is free to use any means that he chooses, just as an artist is free to use or not use any one color that is on his palette. So, for these who say things must be done by God in a certain way, we could also answer then that a baby being born in a lowly manger, or a King being crucified on a despicable cross does not fit the normal human way of thinking either, do they? But these “messy” things (as discussed above) have brought about our own salvation, and we don't complain about these things, right?) In any case, whatever issue we may face, it is good to face them and to think through them, but also always to let our thinking be be guided by the great principles that God's word lays before us.
Main Point Summary : God progressively and purposefully guided the Creation of the world, which climaxes with Creation of Humanity, after which God rests.
editing
Genesis 1:1-2:2
In the a beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
The earth was b without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
series
temporal
And God said, c “Let there be light,” and there was light.
And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
progression
And God said, d “Let there be an expanse 1 in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”
And God made 1 the expanse and e separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were f above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. 1 And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
actionresult
And God said, g “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, 1 and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
And God said, h “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants 1 yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for i signs and for j seasons, 1 and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.”
And it was so. And God k made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to l rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds 1 fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So m God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind.
And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, n “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
ideaexplanation
And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, o “Let us make man 1 in our image, p after our likeness.
And q let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him;
r male and female he created them.
And God blessed them.
And God said to them, s “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. t You shall have them for food.
And u to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
actionmanner
v And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and w all the host of them. And x on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.
inference
discourse
Notes on the arc and verse 1:1
My arc is a bit looser than I normally would do. Normally I would divide up each proposition, but because I did a whole chapter, I only divided up at important sections, though a few sections have more detail than others. Also, for the verse 1-2, and verse 3 to the end of 2:1 Inference large connection, I base this on my Pastor's explanation of the Hebrew of 1:1, rather than the ESV translation, that instead it is better translated as having a temporal conjunction inserted in verse 1, as in, "In the beginning, WHEN God created the heavens and earth, the earth was without form..." so that 1:3 is the action that God did at that time (I do not know Hebrew, but I trust his excellent knowledge of the grammar here, and that informs how I arced the bigger relationships here).
Comments
Daniel Morris
One last thing that came to mind, thinking not only about your feedback but also how to frame this assignment, or article better: I could focus in on the literary design (as a progression, but not a random progression at all, as seen from the arc I did ) and what that shows us with regards to the structure and purpose of Genesis 1 (I briefly touched on this in the article, but only 1 paragraph. It was not the main part). If the writer of Genesis has this design (the design of the text) in mind, then that is one thing to bring to the foreground, absolutely. By definition an issue like evolution gets pushed way back to the background. 

In other words, what is the nature and purpose of Genesis 1 (a focus of a new article). Just looking at the design if this single chapter, the writer of Genesis 1 is going for something FAR bigger than ONLY to explain how God created them world (evolution, no evolution etc are then just missing what the writer is trying to show).


This could be a better way to frame an article, and focus more on the arc that I made. 
Daniel Morris
Brent, thanks very much for all your comments, they are helpful to me.

About my article lacking a main point, you are absolutely right. Normally, (of course!) I would always tie everything directly as possible to the main point of the text as much as possible. The only reason I wrote the article for this way, is because the assignment instructions said, “you only need to include the arc or phrase if you want to (optional).” However, the first point in the instructions said of course “include a main point summary.” So it’s hard to know how tied to the main point my article should be. Again, this is not how I would ever structure a whole message or sermon. I  treated (this was my assumption) this article perhaps a bit like a blog post perhaps, definitely with “a number of thoughts” as opposed to a central thesis.

What you sense though is correct: this was done “during” my study, because I am myself rather unsure as to evolution as correct or not. 
All I was trying to do was give a few general framework points that must be true, even before you start the discussion (even before one starts talking about how “immediate” the process of God creating, or not creating was)


I think also that it might also be possible that evolution (whether it is true or not) might be tied into which view of Creation one takes (6 days, 6 ages, age of the earth etc.). Perhaps this is true. I would still say that Genesis 1-2, only when looked at themselves, don’t teach which one is true outright, but that would be for another time.


My view of 1:27, and Chapter 2(like 2:7) are more in terms of Genesis 1 being about COVENANT rather than teaching a direct process. It is possible to talk about “unconditional covenant of blessing (Chapter 1)” and “conditional covenant based on obedience” (Chapter 2)So absolutely, all the blessings, all the distinction between man and animals are of course true. WE are very special in God’s sight over against animals, but I still don’t see how 1:27 couldn’t teach that evolution couldn’t be a “potential” method used by God. I would never argue the specialness of man is negated. Even 2:7 can’t be negated in terms of how special man is. 
However, I think that this could not be covered in one single assignment article either! But, as I said in the article, I am not “pro-evolution” at all. I just don’t think Scripture makes a direct comment on it (my reading). I personally think Genesis 1-2 has WAY more important things to talk about than something than evolution, and that was why I wrote the article (but you are right that the article it is not so refined. In the future I would make a more refined one)

What you say about evolution cannot be supported from Scripture alone: absolutely true. I just think it was not even on the mind of the writers of Scripture. They are considered much more with things like covenant, blessing, sin, rather than whether evolution is true or not! 

Again, I think I might have misunderstood the parameters of the assignment. I did not treat it as a sermon, yes. So, this might bring about the difference between a “topical article” and a direct exposition of the text.

And lastly, I wasn’t sure in the assignment instructions how important it was to tie in the main point of Genesis 1 to the article itself (from the assignment page). 

So, let me know if you can address that!

Thanks!
 


Brent Karding
About including the arc, as I read the instructions, it isn't optional to make an arc or a Main Point Summary, but it is optional to include them in your Published Page. But your article should still reflect your Main Point Summary, whether I can read it in the arc or not. Does that help? Every article needs to have a main point, a thesis, even when not based on an arc or a phrase. Even a topical article.

I also agree that the Bible has many other important things to talk about, and I like how you tried to get at the main point of the chapter, talking about covenant and sin and so on. It's hard to say everything in brief comments, but I did appreciate that!
Daniel Morris
Yes, this clarifies things. Thank you.
Brent Karding
When you say that Genesis 1 itself doesn't demonstrate whether or not God used an age-long process to create the world, that's only partially true, I'd argue. You make many good points about this, but I'd argue that 1:27 couldn't be true as stated if evolution were true. 

1:27 presents the creation of man as immediate: God made them, separate from the animals, and blessed them. But if evolution is true, then human beings are the result of a lengthy process of evolution, coming from amoeba to ape to mankind - even if this process was guided by God. God didn't directly create human beings, according to evolution. And he certainly didn't create two, male and female (the specifics are in Genesis 2, of course, which you didn't cover), because man was a result of an evolutionary process, and so there would have been far more than just two people when God blessed them. (Genesis 2 is even clearer that evolution, as commonly taught, is incompatible with Scripture: God made one person out of dust, and formed the woman from his rib; but then they couldn't have evolved gradually, and there couldn't have been just two of them.)

I'd also add that you could never get the idea of evolution, as commonly taught, from Scripture - it can only be read back into Scripture as a possibility. But Genesis 1:27, and Genesis 2, make it clear that evolution can't be squeezed into Scripture - too many contradictions.

But all that said, I appreciated your wrestling with the issue carefully, using only Genesis 1.
Brent Karding
Your points pushing back against some perspectives of creationism, like the messiness of evolution and so on, are helpful. This is a good way to write.
Brent Karding
I would encourage you to refine the form of your article. Your article lacked a clear thesis and a clear structure. You make many helpful observations, and I'll touch on this in another comment, but on reading it, I never felt like I now understood the big picture of Genesis 1 - the main point. 

Perhaps this is because you wrote this article during your study, instead of after? It reads like somebody studying the passage and talking about their study while they're doing it, instead of giving the results of the study. It feels more like running notes than an organized article with a thesis that is proved.

Does that make sense?
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.