November 23, 2014

Pete Enns: The scientific consensus is not something to “have faith in”

jtot_genesis_cosmology

I like what Peter Enns wrote the other day. He points out that creationists badly miss the point when arguing against the scientific consensus about the evolutionary model. They frame the question as “Do you believe in science, or do you believe in the Bible?” as though they were equal options in the same epistemological universe. Not at all. Accepting the consensus of scientists on a matter like this is not giving them a position of “authority” equivalent to the “authority” of the Bible with regard to our faith.

Here is what Enns had to say:

A few days ago I posted the main bullet points for the lecture I gave at the Evangelical Theological Society on April 6. Some of the responses perpetuate common yet unconvincing lines of defense.

For example, I began my talk by saying that I accept the scientific consensus as a starting point when discussing the question of human origins.

A response I have heard–more times than I care to recall, and that I knew would likely come again even though I think I was super clear in my lecture–is, “Aha. See! If you start with science, of course you’re going to end up with evolution. And that’s your problem. You put too much faith in science instead of in the Bible.”

“Faith in science” suggests that one’s view of scientific matters is on the same sort of playing field as “faith in the Bible,” which then gives a sort of rhetorical oomph to the posed choice. But I don’t have ”faith in science.” I have made a conscious, intellectual decision to accept the overwhelming consensus of demonstrably knowledgable and trained scientists across the world and for several generations.

I have done this not by ignoring my faith, but by working out my faith. I am not ignoring the Bible and its “plain teachings,” but interpreting the Bible as responsibly as I know how.

As I see it, the real question isn’t, “Why do you choose science over God?” but, “On what basis do you think you have the right to dismiss the scientific consensus?”

* * *

Pete Enns clarifies the question well, and creationists who answer that question will typically say, “I dismiss the scientific consensus because I believe the Bible and what it says about how God created the world.” However, at that point, they have made a leap. When they say, “I believe the Bible,” they are really saying, “I have accepted a particular interpretation of what the Bible is, and what it teaches about origins.”

The issue therefore is not “believing the Bible” vs. “believing the scientific consensus,” but rather believing a particular conception of the Bible’s nature and a specific interpretation of what it teaches about science. Once that foundation has been laid, the creationists then give “the Bible” authority over what an overwhelming majority (Enns says 97%) of scientists in various fields have come to accept as the best explanation for the evidence gleaned from studying the natural world. In order for them to argue their position, they must conceive of the Bible as a textbook that speaks to science authoritatively and interpret those teachings in certain ways.

But the leap they take won’t stand scrutiny. I don’t tell creationists that I reject their interpretation of Genesis because I became convinced about evolution. Evolution is not my “authority,” and I do not interpret the Bible through its lens.

250px-God_the_GeometerNot at all. I have never even, in fact, seriously studied biology or the evolutionary model. I started with and continue to focus on the Bible itself.

I simply don’t think the Bible is to be understood and interpreted the way the creationists would have us accept it. It was not designed to be an “authority” with regard to scientific matters. It has little, if anything, to say about the natural scientific processes of the world because it was not written to address those matters.

Given when the Scriptures were written, edited, and compiled, how could it?

Given the Bible’s purpose as Israel’s story culminating in Jesus the Messiah, why would it?

To say that the Bible has anything to do with “science” as we know it requires a particular commitment to the Bible as a divinely inspired “instruction book” that is designed to give us a full-orbed “worldview” in which we find “answers” to all of life’s questions.

That may be the Bible we idealize. That is not the Bible we hold in our hands. Nor is it the Bible that will serve as an “authority” to compete against the “authority” of science. Scientific inquiry and the biblical message do not inhabit the same theoretical universe. They do not compete against one another, they do not speak to the same facts or realities. We need not feel that we must harmonize their teachings or somehow make them agree.

In saying this, I should also add that the scientific consensus does not support or give ammunition to those who would argue for a strictly naturalistic or atheistic view of life either. Those who hold such views should not appeal to scientific “authority” to undergird their metaphysical skepticism or unbelief. Science doesn’t give them “answers” about these things any more than it does to theists and Christians.

The more we focus on this completely bogus war between science and faith, the less energy we will have to give to actually living as people of faith.

Comments

  1. “I have made a conscious, intellectual decision to accept the overwhelming consensus of demonstrably knowledgable and trained scientists across the world and for several generations.”

    So he rejects the consensus on the possibility of bodily resurrection, of healing blindness with spit and mud, or of walking on water? Enns, according to his own epistemological assumptions, has no good reason to trust any part of the Word of God.

    This is absolutely right –> “[T]he scientific consensus does not support or give ammunition to those who would argue for a strictly naturalistic or atheistic view of life either. Those who hold such views should not appeal to scientific “authority” to undergird their metaphysical skepticism or unbelief. Science doesn’t give them “answers” about these things any more than it does to theists and Christians.”

    But if you are willing to accept the possibility of God, then why have any belief at all about the truth of the big bang or of evolution? Those theories assume no God. And if God exists and interacts with the world, we have no way to know whether our theories correspond to the truth, absent revelation or time travel to watch God do his creative work.

    In the end, if God exists, then our assumptions are only reliable insofar as they accord with what we know about God, and any other assumptions are without basis, given God’s incomplete revelation. Claiming the truth of evolution or whatever is like agreeing the matrix exists, and then making claims about life outside the matrix without having ever seen it. Only if God doesn’t exist, can we be strict materialists and agree that scientific claims give us reliable information about reailty.

    • But if you are willing to accept the possibility of God, then why have any belief at all about the truth of the big bang or of evolution? Those theories assume no God.

      Because the guy who first proposed the Big Bang was definitely not a Catholic priest, and many scientists of the time were definitely not uncomfortable with it because of the metaphyical implications of a universe suddenly exploding into being. Also, science explains how bacteria in the gut expel gas as waste, causing us to fart–and there is NO divine intervention whatsoever! Fart theory assumes entirely naturalistic methods, and leaves no room for God! I guess what I’m saying is that if you believe in farts, you’re basically an atheist.

      Only if God doesn’t exist, can we be strict materialists and agree that scientific claims give us reliable information about reailty.

      You have to be an atheist to think scientific claims give us reliable information about reality. He typed on his computer, after taking medication for his pollen allergies, and driving a vehicle (equipped with GPS, and a plug-in for his iPod) to work. Like an atheist.

      • Fart theory, lol…

        +1

        • Well you can’t PROVE they aren’t caused by rectal demons.

          (A concept invented by Landover Baptist Church–or so I thought, before I found out about those flatulent Romanian demons from the other thread.)

      • Michael,

        While you get bonus points for snarkiness, your Fart Theory analogy doesn’t hold up. The process of creating and expelling gas as waste from the digestive system can be observed and reproduced. The process of creating a universe via a Big Bang and life via Evolutionary theory cannot. Apples and oranges friend.

        That said, I do favor the Big Bang theory and Evolutionary theory for animal life. It is a beautiful story of a Creator who is extravagant to the point of wastefulness. It speaks of His love and power. However, 100 years from now if those theories have been replaced by new theories, people will still be farting.

        Boaz is correct to point out that we don’t need to take a hard stand on the specific process of the origin of all things beyond saying “In the beginning God created…”. Science’s view of origins has constantly changed as it progressed and it isn’t likely to stop now.

        • Right.

          My point is, from a strictly scientific perspective, if God exists, and created the world in 6 24 hour days as many Christians believe, how would it look different than our world? Science has no idea! It simply can’t answer questions about evidence of God’s acts. It assumes naturalism.

          Thus, the argument against 6 24 hour day periods is not science, it’s theology.

          • Also, I should say, the amount of time that passes during creation is not a question I think Genesis answers, so I don’t really care. I do care about understanding the basis for our beliefs, and about arguments sounding in science making unfounded claims about God. Scientists tend to be arrogant and close-minded about the philosophical underpinnings of their truth claims, and bully their opinions over non-empirical philosophies. Read some Thomas Nagel.

            I do think historical Adam is necessary conclusion of Scripture and to make sense of Christ’s work, however.

          • Here’s an atheist work I agree with: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0199919755

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            Boaz – it would most certainly not look like our current earth. Unless you agitate for an “apparent” age theory, which is an epistemological suicide, there would only be few fossils. There would be almost carbonate rocks, and very little coal or oil, if any. Glacial remnants, which are found all over, would not be there. There would no progression of fossils from earlier strata to the present, instead of which you would find a total jumble (dinosaurs with humans etc etc) for the little fossils that there would be. Human language and genetics would be much, much less diversified. The night sky would be quite dark, since only stars closer than 6000 light years would be visible. No other galaxies would be observed.

            Those are but a minute fraction of things that will be different.

            Since scientists are so narrow-minded, as well as bullies, I’d like you to give up on all the fruits of science. Fruit of the tainted tree and all that. BTW, except the louder ones (Dawkins etc.) how many ordinary hard-working scientists do you actually know? Geologists, chemists, physicists, biologists, botanists, evolutionary biologists, geochronologists, biochemists…..

          • Really, so God could not create fossils, coal, oil, glacial remnants, etc.? Or use unknown other methods of creation that would leave these remnants? He also apparently would be unable to control the speed of light, despite creating light. Ok, sure.

            Yes, I admit I hate science. I am a luddite who lives in a cave and eats bugs.

          • Wow.
            What a thought.
            God put fossils in the ground to deceive man. All the evidence we see is just one massive cover up for a 6000 year old earth.
            The universe is really a paper mache creation with no real integrity.

            Hmm, what would that say about its creator?

          • “God put fossils in the ground to deceive man.”

            We don’t know that, God hasn’t said anything about it. Again, these are theological arguments, not science.

        • Really, so God could not create fossils, coal, oil, glacial remnants, etc.? Or use unknown other methods of creation that would leave these remnants? He also apparently would be unable to control the speed of light, despite creating light. Ok, sure.

          What purpose would God have in fooling us all in such a way? Scripture attests that Creation reveals God to humanity. That means there’s a certain level trustworthiness we can have in our empirical observations. When you start going down the road of “apparent age” it just seems that it’s not very far-off from thinking that we’re just plopped into a Matrix-like world.

          • What was the apparent age of the wine Christ made at Cana? What was the apparent age of Adam and Eve? What purpose do we have in inquiring into God’s hidden things that he has not revealed?

            But the argument against old earth is not scientific. It’s theological, it relates to the nature of God.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            Boaz, contrary to the “magic box” idea people have of science, science is nothing more than the diligent application of reason to evidence. If you object to science, why don’t you object to your own ability to interpret, to understand Scripture?

            Your line of reasoning ends in extreme postmodernism.

            As to the apparent age argument – if your God makes a puzzle that fits toigether so well (physics, geology, biology, paleontology etc), yet the picture formed by the puzzle is entirely false/illusionary, your God, or rather god, is a trickster. You worship Loki.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            On a lighter note, here is where I get to quote one of favourite phrases: Last Thursdayism! (Not to be confused with that abominable heresy, Last Tuesdayism)

            :) :)

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            Boaz, as to the Cana thing: It was an easily discovered miracle. For your analogy to work you would need a narrative where Jesus did not only turn water into wine, but also created tracks for the delivery vehicle, a payment trail to the winemaker, and corresponding plucked vines. It is a miracle exists without antecedent.

    • I pity any person whose faith is so fragile that it cannot abide the truth that science and theology attempt to discover answers to different questions. Theology attempts to answer “why” and science attempts to answer “how.” As I told my confirmation students, the point of Genesis is that “In the beginning, God created…” To me, then, there is no conflict between science and theology.

      • Christiane says:

        faith does not cancel out reason . . . faith ‘goes beyond’ where reason takes us

        God is the God of the Natural World, of the Natural Law, and His Universe testifies to His existence,
        so we need to examine that Universe with all due respect for what we observe,
        as a ‘witness’ to the existence of Our God that can be discovered through our human reasoning . . .

        “”…methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God.
        The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.”
        from ‘Gaudium et Spes’, a pastoral letter.

        and:
        “Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth”.

        (from Gaudium et Spes)

        • I don’t think faith and reason are antithetical. I don’t “leap” from reason to faith. As I mentioned last week, I agree with Camus that such a leap is intellectual suicide.

          • HOWEVER! Turning the bible into a science book is not a bridge between faith and reason.

          • Christiane says:

            I’m on the side of those who respect science . . . take another look at the quotes from Gaudium et Spes
            and please know that I hold the Bible in much higher regard than to ever consider it ‘a science book’ which it was never meant to be.

            I was a science teacher by profession. My family include medical doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, and a child psychiatrist, all people of faith. We are a combination of Methodists and Roman Catholics in our family, and my physician brother has long taught an adult ‘Sunday School’ class in his Church. I myself taught in Catholic school (sixth, seventh, and eighth grade),

            In my family, among all that work in the sciences, I believe that we can affirm that the Bible is NOT ‘a science book’ as it is used in the way of some fundamentalist groups.

    • Michael Z says:

      I think you’re missing the point, boaz. If God did not intend the Bible to be read as a science textbook, then people who read it that way are in fact the ones guilty of misinterpreting scripture. And if the reason they read it that way is because of their own emotional need to be able to believe in the Bible as an “answer book,” then they are twisting and misusing Scripture to fit their own desires.

      If I insisted, say, on using the Biblical value of 3 for pi (2 Chr 4:2) instead of the value of 3.14159265358979… that mathematicians agree on, would that make me a better Bible scholar, more faithful to the original? Or would it just show that I had misinterpreted the intent of the text?

      Or if I read, “Tiger, tiger, burning bright / in the forest of the night…” and said, “Blake is saying that tigers are on fire, and anyone who doesn’t believe in leonine auto-immolation is calling Blake a liar,” would that make me a more faithful interpreter of the poem than someone who _realizes_ it’s meant to be poetry and interprets it as such?

      If the point of the 7-day creation story is that God created the physical world and called it “very good,” someone who gets so fixated on those being seven literal days that ignore the part about God’s delight in God’s creation and about the value and worth and beauty and goodness in God’s eyes of this physical world, is missing the entire point of the passage.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        If I insisted, say, on using the Biblical value of 3 for pi (2 Chr 4:2) instead of the value of 3.14159265358979… that mathematicians agree on, would that make me a better Bible scholar, more faithful to the original? Or would it just show that I had misinterpreted the intent of the text?

        I’d think you just rounded it off to the nearest whole number. (Which is where I figure the “Biblical value of pi” came from in the first place.)

      • Yes, that’s my point. Arguments about creationism are theological, not scientific. But Enns is making a scientific argument about 6 day creation based on science, which is absurd. If science is his sole reason for taking a theological belief in how God created the world, then he has no basis to believe in any miracle.

        • Enns is saying the Bible doesn’t claim to explain how the world was created. Certainly one can affirm that God spoke creation into existence without getting into the nitty gritty details of how that process worked.

          • No he’s not, he’s saying he starts with scientific assumptions:

            “I accept the scientific consensus as a staring point.” … “But I don’t have ”faith in science.” I have made a conscious, intellectual decision to accept the overwhelming consensus of demonstrably knowledgable and trained scientists across the world and for several generations.” … “[T]he real question isn’t, “Why do you choose science over God?” but, “On what basis do you think you have the right to dismiss the scientific consensus?””

            He starts with epistemological assumptions of a materialist refuses to discount it without empirical data. Doing so makes Christ a liar and negates the resurrection. (But all mainline liberal churches now seem to permit their pastors to disbelieve the resurrection, so it’s apparently not a concern.)

            If he said, I start with a view of Scripture as truth, but Genesis doesn’t purport to address creation, so I’m free to believe in evolution, which is the best scientific explanation, he’d be saying what you’re saying he says, and he would not be a materialist. But he clearly says he starts with materialist assumptions.

          • Evolution doesn’t automatically equal a materialist perspective. Perhaps you should talk to some actual scientists before you stereotype them all.

          • “If he said, I start with a view of Scripture as truth, but Genesis doesn’t purport to address creation, so I’m free to believe in evolution, which is the best scientific explanation, he’d be saying what you’re saying he says, and he would not be a materialist. But he clearly says he starts with materialist assumptions.”

            This is spot on.

            The problem isn’t evolution, the big bang, or speaking/not speaking to scientists. The problem is a theologian who clearly states that he starts out with materialistic assumptions. Maybe that isn’t what Enns means. Maybe the problem is that the section quoted above is an out-of-context snippet but I have to say that based on the quoted section in the post, I got that same impression as Boaz.

          • I don’t know — I thought Enns was saying just what you said you would approve!

          • “Evolution doesn’t automatically equal a materialist perspective.”

            YES! I am agreeing! It’s about starting assumptions.

            I’m saying, Enns is starting with a materialist perspective, and will reject 6 day creation unless it has empirical data. That standard requires a rejection of all miracles.

            A non-materialist Christian starts with Scripture, and accepts evolution only if it is compatible with Scripture. I think Chaplain Mike starts from this perspective, but Enns does not, (though I only read Enns when he gets posted here, so maybe this post is not indicative of his personal view).

            My own view is that I start with Scripture, and I think Genesis doesn’t address the time of creation so evolution could be fitted in. But I also think it’s reasonable to read Genesis as describing a 6 day creation. I’m not going to beat people up for either view, and I think the energy spent on this is stupid. I think we have no idea how God created the world, except that it occurred through his Word.

            My problem is that Enns does want to beat up 6 day creationists as anti-science dullards. Fine, but then he has to explain how his materialist assumptions, which form the basis for his ridicule, can make anything in Scripture true.

          • Making an assumption there that a materialist perspective related to creation has to automatically reject miracles. It absolutely does not because of the definition of miracles. So there is no rejecting of water to wine, no rejecting of walking on water, no rejection of the resurrection. You are assuming it has to.

            Prove creation was a miracle. We’d probably argue it wasn’t.

          • What Enns says is ” I accept the scientific consensus as a starting point when discussing the question of human origins”. That doesn’t mean he accepts the scientific consensus as a starting point for his entire worldview. And, actually, if you read Enns’ books, he believes that the Bible doesn’t actually give us information on human origins. That isn’t what Genesis is trying to do. Genesis is telling Israel’s origin story, not that of the entire human race (more or less).

            So I don’t see what is so controversial about that statement. Certainly if we were talking about something like mental illness, I do not believe most Christians would say that we should start with the same perspective as the Biblical authors. In their day, mental illness would have been attributed to demonic activity (which isn’t some I’d completely write off, btw). We would have a starting point that most mental illness is caused something chemical or neurological in the brain itself. It’s not rejecting Scripture or its authority by doing that. It’s just making sense of the information we have.

      • Or if I read, “Tiger, tiger, burning bright / in the forest of the night…” and said, “Blake is saying that tigers are on fire, and anyone who doesn’t believe in leonine auto-immolation is calling Blake a liar,” would that make me a more faithful interpreter of the poem than someone who _realizes_ it’s meant to be poetry and interprets it as such?

        Michael Z, it was a tyger, not a tiger, that was burning bright. Tygers are extinct, having self-immolated centuries ago. William Blake’s text, in the original document, is inerrant. Therefore there can be no doubt that Tygers burned, and no need to interpret the verse as poetry.

        Tigers, on the other hand, being more flame-retardant (or not as prone to self-immolation) survived as a species where tygers did not, thus demonstrating natural selection and proving that Darwin may have been on to something after all.

        I’m working both sides of the street here, proving both the bible and science, but I’m bored with the argument and felt I ought to say something. :-)

        • Perhaps “tyger” refers to the baramin. Or the Platonic form.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Or a gay tiger. A couple furries I used to know got a lot of mileage out of the mental image back in the Eighties:

            “Tiger, Tiger, Flaming Bright…”

        • EXCELLENT explanation, Ted! Sorry I missed the fun on this but was up to my (theological and rhetorical) hind end with similarly constituted alligators all of yesterday!!!

  2. Rob Grayson says:

    Mike, very well explained. Thank you.

  3. Completely with you on this, Chap. Mike. Science & religion/Bible are not mutually exclusive, rather they answer different questions. One explains, the other reveals. John Walton’s book on Genesis speaks to this very well. Also Jonathon Sacks’ book “The Great Partnership”.

    • I especially like Walton’s first paragraph in the first chapter of ‘The Lost World of Genesis One':

      ‘Our first proposition is that Genesis 1 is ancient cosomology. That is, it does not attempt to describe cosmology in modern terms or address modern questions. The Israelites received no revelation to update or modify their “scientific” understanding of the cosmos. They did not know stars were suns; they did not know that the earth was spherical and moving through space; they did not know that the sun was much further away than the moon, or even than the birds flying in the air. They believed that the sky was material (not vaporous), solid enough to support the residence of deity as well as to hold back waters. In these ways, and many others, they thought about the cosmos in much the same way that anyone in the ancient world thought, and not at all like anyone thinks today. And God did not think it important to revise their thinking.’

      Near the end of that chapter he writes: ‘Through the entire Bible, there is not a single instance in which God revealed to Israel a science beyond their own culture. No passage offers a scientific perspective that was not common to the Old World of antiquity.’

      While I find Walton’s book interesting, I am not convinced of his overall thesis. However, these statements are a very important (and accurate) starting point for any discussion of science and Scripture.

  4. Clay Crouch says:

    Shouldn’t the same argument be made for morals and ethics as well?

    • Don’t see the connection. Though I wouldn’t say the Bible is a “textbook” on morals and ethics, it is designed to bring us into a relationship with God in which he requires (and enables) certain moral and ethical behavior.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        CM — shouldn’t this also be tagged “Creation Wars”? See Boaz’s first comment in the thread, which recites a standard YEC thoughtstopper.

        And weren’t you the one with the theory that the paradigms of the Age of Reason and Industrial Revolution resulted in the Bible being viewed as a Spiritual Engineering Manual of Fact, Fact, Fact?

  5. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    They frame the question as “Do you believe in science, or do you believe in the Bible?”

    Given the context, shouldn’t that be spelled “BEE-LEEEEEEVE!!!!”?

    (As in — real incident — “Do You BEEEE-LEEEEEVE In Global Warming?????”)

  6. James the Mad says:

    I love ihe drawing at the beginning of this piece, since it represents the then-current beliefs about what the earth looked like. If the Bible was intended to be so clear on the subject, and so absolutely definitive, how did the ancient Hebrews come up with that?

  7. Some believe that a non-literal interpretation of Genesis is a dangerous, slippery slope bordering on heresy. As far as they are concerned, you might as well go ahead and deny the reality of sin…and therefore deny humanity’s need for a savior.

    This is, of course, absurd. What’s more absurd is the attempt at reconciling the “scientific” interpretation of Genesis with other scientific conclusions. For example, assuming the earth is only 6000 years old, how do you explain those stars and galaxies millions of light years away? If those stars and galaxies were only created 6000 years ago, we wouldn’t know of their existence as their photons of light would not yet have reached earth…that is if you believe in the speed of light.

    So I ask you…do you believe in the Bible or in the speed of light?

  8. Love the illustration at the top of the post. Good post, too.

    The place where I think it becomes a bit more tricky is when we move from talking about the Bible’s cosmology to the Bible’s anthropology. I’m not worried about Adam and Eve and the garden, but the fundamental theological claim that we draw (most Christians anyway) that there is something “broken” in humanity in need of restoration or salvation or wholeness — how every you like to phrase it.

    Here the “scientific” consensus is not nearly so clear, but you still have fairly robust scientific arguments that say human nature is not well reflected in Christian theology, which we claim is biblical.

    This is a much more fraught conversation for me.

  9. Marcus Johnson says:

    Isn’t “believing in the Bible” a form of idolatry? After all, the Bible is a narrative that we use to understand and explain who God is. It is inspired, but it is not God. I would rather believe in God, use the Bible, and accept valid, reliable scientific theories to explain testable phenomena.

    • Aidan Clevinger says:

      I take your point, but what would it look like to believe in God without believing in His words? You can’t see Him, don’t have direct access to Him, and don’t carry out real-time, audible conversations with Him. It seems to me that if you want to know God, you have to look for Him in the only place He’s promised you can find Him: i.e. in Scripture, and in the Sacraments.

      I give a +1 to your conclusion about scientific theories, though.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      First, explain what “believing in His words” means. If you mean that I have to accept the dominant interpretation of Scripture, or accept Scripture as a literal history, then no, I don’t have to believe in His words.

      If, however, you mean that I should accept that the Bible contains the most in-depth, transcendent image of who God is, and it is the source of comfort, truth, and joy in my life, then I’m totally on board with you.

      • Josh in FW says:

        Marcus, you make many good comments and ask a lot of good questions. Glad you’re here.

    • DaisyFlower says:

      How can turning to the Bible to test ideas and teachings, and so on, be considered idolatry when Apostle Paul himself commended the Bereans for comparing Paul’s teachings to the Old Testament to see if it lined up?

      • Daisy, it is the problem inherent in those Christians who are “bible-only” believers, and essentially “worship” the words and stories in the bible and not the God who inspired them. Remember that the bible itself was codified by the early Church fathers (ie, the Catholic Church) in light of oral history, tradition, and the Sacraments. It did not fall to earth from God’s Hands into those of King James.

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        1. The Acts narrative never stated that Paul ever commended the Bereans. The incident that you refer to appeared in the book of Acts (written by Luke, not Paul). Here’s that passage (Acts 17:11):

        Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

        The purpose of their referencing of Scripture was not to test scientific theory and state policy against Old Testament teaching, but to test whether or not the teachings that Paul gave actually originated from the Old Testament.

        2. The Bible becomes an idol when we use it to contain God, rather than explain who God is. When we feel threatened because a Scriptural narrative might not be a literal, historical-proven event, and conclude that we have to either trust in the literateness of the narrative, or question the existence of God, then we are using that narrative as a tool to contain God’s transcendence and omnipresence. That is idolatry–the making of graven images to affirm the existence of God.

  10. This is really a choice between battling Magisteria. Sorry to use so Catholic a word here, but human knowledge in a particular area does not exist without a Magisterium to collate, collect and defend the boundaries of orthodoxy in that field. What you believe about something is really a function of who you believe. Of course, nothing stops you from performing your own experiments or just reading the Book you have in your hand, but do you really want to add to the confusion?

    I still have problems with Bible vs evolution issues, but I explain it to myself thus; I have two sets of friends who hold themselves out to be experts on matters I know little about. Both have provided invaluable information when I have asked it of them. They don’t agree on everything, but I feel little compunction to choose between them.

    Maybe God is big enough for multiple epistemologies.

  11. Why am I not surprised Boaz was the first to comment on this.

    Good post, thanks Chaplain Mike!

  12. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Why am I not surprised Boaz was the first to comment on this.

    Because he’s usually the first Defender of the YEC Faith to jump in at the drop of a hat?

    Reminds me of Nedbrek, another YECer who used to alternate between IMonk and trolling Biologos.

    Or “Ben Bruin”, who almost single-handedly killed the God’s Creatures mailing list some years ago with never-ending Celebrity Deathmatches vs Charles Darwin.

    What is it about YEC that triggers this knee-jerk Fight Fight Fight reaction?

    • DaisyFlower says:

      HUG wrote, “What is it about YEC that triggers this knee-jerk Fight Fight Fight reaction?”

      I am a YEC and my experience has been different. It’s not a topic I care to fight about, not too much.

      I usually find YECs mocked and ridiculed for being stupid hillbillies or anti science or intolerant jerk weeds, even though that is not true of me.

      I had a Christian friend who was a believer in theistic evolution, and he always wanted to debate that issue with me (as well as a few others). I told him I did not care. He wouldn’t drop it.

      I can’t totally fault someone for having one or two topics they are more concerned about than others. I do the same thing. Some topics are of more concern to me than others.

      It’s not so much anti-YEC posts that I get upset about but the rudeness or ridicule I see directed at YEC adherents online in those posts. Which is not to say I am in agreement with how all other YECs behave etc, but usually, anti YEC posts are made to lump us all together as being mean or stoop wads.

      • Joseph (the original) says:

        DaisyFlower:

        there is a simplistic (not a negative connotation) beauty to the idea of God creating everything within the YEC parameters of time. since such a manner of celebrating ‘origins’ was written to the ‘Children of Israel’, it seems appropriate to record such an event(s) to those that were to accept the Creator concept with child-like faith. and really then, how would any attempt at trying to explain the nuances of scientific complexity to a child ever be successful? if a child can understand that, “Jesus loves me,” that is quite the incredible theological concept, is it not???

        it seems to me God has no requirement for ‘believing’ one way or the other on the ‘how’ He did it. from the account it seems He did work within an element of ‘time’ that the readers could identify with. why? since time is only implied as being part of this existence, why? now there is a topic scientists struggle with: time. and how we perceive it. and then there is the entire topic of self-awareness itself. wow. okay, now we understand why some topics/concepts are not thoroughly expanded on within the biblical text.

        there is a love+hate relationship with science that some Christians are either too casual about, or reticent about. it’s hard to ‘argue’ for YEC using ‘scientific’ concepts. sub-selecting those parts of scientific theory that bolster YEC/Old Earth Creation while choosing to ignore others. it is harder for the celebrity YEC only types (as in it is the only good/holy/biblical/healthy/acceptable/reliable, etc. belief system) to resort to scientific methods to support their YEC convictions when the very science they are using is being debunked on theological grounds. it can only be ‘good’ science if it fits a predetermined theological conclusion. the immense body of scientists, scientific study/research (peer reviewed), testing results, etc. accused of being faked, totally wrong, not dependable, etc. if not downright demonic or heretical. and instead of just leaving it there, the YEC only types will insist that any alternate theological viewpoint is not only, well, different, but downright heretical & subject to the fires of perdition if accepted by those that claim to be Christian! it’s not a matter of allowing latitude in what many consider a disputable matter, but it is the anti-science, anti-alternative viewpoint stance that is being promoted in the public arena of theological & scientific debate that becomes the chafing point for the non-YEC saints that are tired of such rhetoric.

        no one here that holds to an old earth viewpoint would dare chastize a child for not believing in the scientific method or explanation for our natural world. at least i hope not! i don’t think there is a deliberate effort at forcing children to accept scientific concepts way beyond their comprehension & then claiming they are silly, stupid hillbillies, anti-science, stubborn brats, etc. it is not so much the topics being considered & argued, but the unpleasant posturing that comes from claiming this one viewpoint ‘superior’ to all others & those that believe it are somehow more, well, ‘special’ in the eyes of God for believing it. their faith is a guarantee then that all other perspectives, be they religious, political, social, economic, scientific, etc. is now ‘in-line’ with the Great Divine Truth that sets all men (and women) apart from the double-minded, backslidden, disobedient, profane, etc. types still wanting to be part of the Christian club…

        {sigh}

        many dear saints hold to a YEC understanding of creation without ever making it THEE POINT on which any & all other theological notions hinge. it is not the Mount of Ararat they wish to die upon theologically/doctrinally. there are those though that want to make sure anybody with alternative viewpoints have been ‘deceived’ & have no basis to claim otherwise for a variety of reasons. but it is usually done as a way to prove others wrong & themselves right rather than looking at the science itself or the people that are actual scientists.

        i, however, do understand this one thing about all things both theological & scientific: a good dose of skepticism is healthy. i just don’t want to be accused of having a ‘demon of skepticism’ or a ‘demon of this or thatism’ for what i believe about the ways God could have put this universe & our existence together. i think that is what tires out those on both sides of the argument more than anything else…

    • I don’t believe in YEC. But I strongly reject materialism because it’s assumptions are absolutely incompatible with Christianity.

      • Joseph (the original) says:

        boaz: if by materialism you mean that is the only ‘reality’ that has no divine origin, then such a viewpoint is aethism, correct? no God, but we have this marvelous universe & our amazing existence by chance because it is the way it is. no divine element or spiritual essence apart from what can be empirically determined/measured?

        how does that become an issue then in the creation wars???

        God. no God. seems clear to me.

  13. Joseph (the original) says:

    wait a minute folks, boaz always presents well-thought out perspectives (arguments?) that have more substance than just knee-jerk reactions (that is a ‘knee-jerk’ response/criticism unfairly thrown up as defensive). heck, he does not attact anybody personally or rant+rail against the majority/trending opinions.

    boaz: up at the beginnin of thread you were using the miracle of Jesus turning the water into wine as an example of God’s power to create an item (wine) that is an actual natural process (scientifically appreciated), yet is that not problematic as a comparison of considering God creating an old-appearing (by scientific standards) universe, but doing it according to a current measurement cycle of 24 hour/day increments?

    what i mean is (i am not as skilled at formal argumentation or even mild repartee), there cannot really be ‘miracles’ if there is not first a standard set of ‘natural’ laws that must be violated (overruled) to be measured against. so, does the creation effort itself (ex nihilo) that resulted in the ‘fixed/stable’ natural laws we can measure & experiment with today constitute a ‘miracle’ if there were no ‘natural’ laws created/established in the first place? does creation itself represent something so unique that it even transcends what we understand as a miracle???

    and if God did create an aged universe with no natural laws to be measured against, did Jesus really perform a miracle then? or did He simply revert back to the precedent set in Genesis 1 where ‘what you see+experience’ is only intended to ‘look, feel, taste, etc.’ old(er)? okay, maybe i am not phrasing this correctly, but what do we know about this wine mentioned? did Jesus really pull the proverbial wool over the eyes of the wine steward+guests? wine only a few minutes old but of stellar quality? why should they be surprised then? i think i am missing something in this consideration…

    hmmm…

    • All I’m saying I guess is that it is a little wearisome to see posters like Boaz merely comment on single topics. It’s a kneejerk roll of the eyes weary reaction.

      Boaz, you got good things to say, and I thank you for that. It’s good to have pushback. Keep us all sharp.

      • Somebody has to defend rationalism against the horde of materialists.

        • (and then turn around and fight rationalists with Scripture ;) )

        • Again, evolution does not equal materialism, and Enns is not a materialist (I suspect if he were he would not be wasting his time writing theology). I think you doth protest too much. I, personally, have a hard time understanding why your panties are all in a wad over this. Sure, God can speak things into existence – He can do anything. But that’s not the point. If all of Creation is miraculous, than by definition, there can be no miracles. Everything would simply exist because it was a special act of creation by God. I simply do not see that nature works this way.

    • I would say you are thinking too hard about this. Christ showed “nature” or the “world” or physics or any kind of Law you want to offer, is subject to his Word. So when he says you are healed, it is true. Likewise, when he says, you are forgiven. Likewise when he says, this is my body. Likewise when God said, let there be light, whatever rules governed pre-creation conformed to his creative world.

      God’s Word is always creative.

  14. Chaplain Mike or mods –

    Could we maybe have a Liturgical Gangstas or theological/scripture wrestling type post focused on Romans 1:18 and similar, because so much with this discussion and others seems to rely on the idea that everyone knows the truth but is actively choosing to ignore or deny it.

  15. DaisyFlower says:

    Sorry for being off topic here, but I wanted to leave a comment under an old Feb 25 post (“I’m Speechless, How Do You Respond?”) – Eagle linked to it at another blog- but comments seem to be closed for that post.

    There was a comment by MacArthur where he said,
    “MacArthur: I think there are a lot of ways to approach that but if you just talk about a biblical thing, they are all in violation of a biblical command “to submit to the powers that be because they’re ordained of God [Re: evolution in the Middle East with protesters opposing authoritarian rule].”

    But aren’t there examples in the Bible where people did not follow God’s rules or government, and God either approved, or the text is silent on how God felt about it?

    Like, David and his men ate bread in the Temple, or something, and God seemed okay with that.

    Then in some other part of the Old Testament, the Pharaoh commanded the mid wives to kill all male Hebrew babies, they lied and told him, “Okay, sure thing,” but instead of killing the babies, they hid them and lied to the Pharaoh?

  16. DaisyFlower says:

    As to the original topic, which said in part:
    “I have accepted a particular interpretation of what the Bible is, and what it teaches about origins.”

    Christians who reject YEC and embrace Old Earth and theistic evolution do the same thing.

    The original post said: “I started with and continue to focus on the Bible itself.”

    Me too. And I’m a creationist / YEC, and I don’t agree with theistic evolution.

    OP: “I simply don’t think the Bible is to be understood and interpreted the way the creationists would have us accept it. It was not designed to be an “authority” with regard to scientific matters. It has little, if anything, to say about the natural scientific processes of the world because it was not written to address those matters.”

    I don’t think I’d disagree on that score, but folks who argue in favor of old earth age / theistic evolution read science into it or assume their scientific views/ beliefs don’t clash with what the Bible does say.

    It’s not like pro- theistic Christians / pro- Old Earth people are not given to falling into the same criticisms that are being tossed at Creationists that I’m seeing in the post.

    OP: “In saying this, I should also add that the scientific consensus does not support or give ammunition to those who would argue for a strictly naturalistic or atheistic view of life either. ”

    True, but many of them do this very thing any way, and some accuse YECs / Creationists of being ignorant red necks or of being “anti science.”

    • You are correct. YEC’s are not the only ones to make this mistake, they are merely the ones Enns is writing about here. I believe that any and every approach in this area that attempts to be “concordist” (harmonizing the Bible with scientific findings) is missing the mark.

  17. If it is a choice between believing science or believing the Bible, then why the need for scientific creationism? Something just doesn’t add up. I guess math doesn’t matter, either.

  18. Wow. When you guys are done, care to answer how many angels can rest on the head of a pin? To paraprase JPII, the Bible is a book about how to get to heaven, not how heaven was made.

    I think there are some poor starving people somewhere who might need our help.

    • Then go sell your computer and buy them some food.

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        Yup, TPD, that’s a real rebuttal. You could always suggest to txcon that this is an important dialogue to have about how we use and incorporate Scripture into church doctrine and daily practice, even if we don’t agree. But telling someone to sell their computer is a much more mature way of handling that.

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