Rev. David Rives — Stretching the Heavens

As if it knew we needed something challenging to think about for the weekend, the Drool-o-tron™ alerted us with its sirens and flashing lights. The blinking letters of its wall display said WorldNetDaily (WND). The Drool-o-tron™ had found the latest video by the brilliant and articulate leader of David Rives Ministries.

Our computer was locked onto this headline at WND: Did God ‘stretch out the heavens’ to create universe? A most provocative question!

The actual title of the rev’s video is “Stretching the Heavens” He begins by telling us that Isaiah 40:22 says that God stretches out the heavens. He doesn’t recite the full passage, but here it is (King James version, of course):

It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:

The rev skips over numerous problems in that passage. We discussed one of them in ICR: The Biblical Shape of the Earth, where we said:

[We looked] into Strong’s Concordance for the King James version, searching for the word “circle” [chuwg] (Strong’s 02329) — which isn’t a sphere, by the way — it’s a disk. We also searched for “sphere” — and found nothing. So we made a word search for “ball” [duwr] (Strong’s 01754) and found several verses that use the word for “ball” — two of which are in Isaiah, the same book as the “circle of the earth” passage. The author of Isaiah had both words at his disposal, but he didn’t use “ball” in that “circle of the earth” passage — he used the word for disk. Case closed.

But the rev isn’t interested in the fact that the bible is a flat-Earth book. He’s talking here about the heavens. But he also ignores the stuff about spreading the havens out like a curtain or a tent. He’s focused only on “stretching.” He says that reference to stretching the heavens was mysterious until the early 1900s, when astronomers observed that the universe is indeed expanding. Wowie — the bible was right all along!

But he speaks disparagingly about the Big Bang theory, claiming that extrapolating the expansion backwards to an “arbitrary” date of 14 billion years ago makes no sense. He says it was God who stretched the fabric of space.

The rev is casually dressed for this one. He’s not even wearing a necktie. But it doesn’t matter what he wears, he’s the cutest rev you’ve ever seen! This video runs less than three minutes, including the commercial at the end. Go ahead, click over to WND and learn something about cosmology. There’s no better authority than the rev!

As we always do with the rev’s videos, we dedicate the comments section for your use as an Intellectual Free Fire Zone. You know the rules. Okay, the comments are open. Go for it!

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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19 responses to “Rev. David Rives — Stretching the Heavens

  1. I’d just suggest that you speak of the authors of Isaiah. It is generally recognized that there are at least two authors. As usual, Wikipedia explains the possibilities, in “Book of Isaiah”.

  2. I am no longer stunned, or even mildly surprised anymore, by any of the following examples of hypocrisy regularly unleashed by organized religions:
    Justification of bigotry in its myriad forms (go forth and multiply this!);
    Sanitizing of the most revolting behavior by their rank and file members of the cloth;
    Paranoid and self-aggrandizing efforts to insinuate themselves into the political process (in western democracies), or outright theocratic, fascist control over every aspect of public and private life (take your pick of a number of Islamic governments);
    Unblinking hypocrisy with respect to frothing condemnation of the very acts that same clergy member or politician later is found to be doing, illegal or not.

    As I’ve said these things now hardly merit the raise of an eyebrow. I, at least, have come to expect them. Every instance is just more evidence that the cancer is not us, but religion. And we should expect more and more people to fall ill until we get rid of the cancer once and for all.

    That said, there is still ONE thing that makes my jaw drop. You all might find this pointless or unworthy of discussion, much less consternation. But please hear me out. At some point in the Rives video that CR posted above, Davy oozes out the idea that, while he may not disagree with the notion of the expanding universe, he can’t possibly go with the “arbitrary date of 14 billion years ago,” and then trots out the annoyingly tired “dome thing from nothing” trope that theists of all stripes have misunderstood and misrepresented for decades. But here’s the “Say what??” moment: he expresses allegedly critical skepticism about scientific claims concerning the origin of the universe (no observable evidence!), but then IN THE SAME BREATH, seamlessly starts the “divine word of god” blather without blinking an eye. I was both impressed and horrified. He didn’t even flinch–no self-awareness or Existential rumblings shall knock our Davy off the righteous path!

    Why does this bother me? Because Rives’ video is just a granola, warm, fuzzy version of the distraction or dissimulation from the same uncrossable epistemological chasm that the more “charismatic” and violent evangelists and fundamentalists address with far more vile and aggressive means. For example, when Joyce Meyer tells people that god says to stop using reason so you will be less confused, it’s obvious what that holy heifer is doing, and the St. Peter style method with which she’s doing it. But Rives is so gul-durned…CUTE, you almost wanna pat him on the head, give him a freshly baked cookie (we’ll get crazy–no milk this time, but don’t tell your mommy I said it was okay!), and put him back in right field where he can’t get hurt.

    But in being so milquetoast, he’s dangerous in a different way. He’s far more polished at sounding like he’s giving science a fair shake, like he’s adequately representing the alternative perspective. I used to work with someone like this–it was infuriating and terrifying that the person in question was permitted to teach science (no science degree, at a christian school, of course). She tried to “argue” (her idea of argumentation was to say repeatedly “you’re wrong,” “no it doesn’t,” “yes it does,” and then get quiet and huffy) that all science assumes there is an order to the universe, and then tries to find evidence to support that tacit assumption (she didn’t use the phrase “tacit assumption,” just so you know. Don’t give her that much credit). So, I said, the entire scientific project, from the 1700s onward, is one big exercise in cherry picking, while your faith is the unerring truth, regardless of… (insert familiar list of irreconcilable, crushingly stupid truth claims common to most of the devout). Rives creates an avenue for far more “legitimated” misrepresentations of science. He’s a user-friendly theocrat, and that damn well bothers me quite a bit.

  3. I have to comment on that “arbitrary” age of the universe.
    Are we supposed to think that there was a meeting of the bosses of science to pick that arbitrary age?
    There was a conservative block, who said that all that we had to go for was enough years so that the theists couldn’t accept it. Theists being those who held out 6000 years. So the conservatives said that we just have to make it, let’s say, 200 million years. That’s safely different from the Bible.
    And there was a liberal bloc, who wanted it to be eternal.
    Somehow or other, they decided on a compromise of 14 billion years. And everybody knows that they whatever measurements they take, they have to make sure that they say 14 billion years. Everybody knows that the measurements really have nothing to do with the age of the universe (or, worse, that they really point to 6000 years).

  4. I don’t care what Isaiah said, I ain’t no kin to no grasshopper.

  5. michaelfugate

    And it’s poetry if it doesn’t match what I want the truth to be.

  6. michaelfugate

    Thanks SC for fixing my error – what would we do without the Curmudgeonly hand to correct our many failings?

  7. michaelfugate asks: “what would we do without the Curmudgeonly hand to correct our many failings?”

    I think you’d be able to survive. Somehow.

  8. Charles Deetz ;)

    @TomS Great theory of arbitrary start-of-the-world date selection process … now if the creationists were just as smart to get their story straight from all their factions.

  9. Dave Luckett

    I find it very difficult to believe that the Rev ever studied biblical Hebrew at any depth. No more have I; but I can use an interlinear translation and chase down other instances of the same word or expression, and thus come at an understanding of the issues. I very much doubt that the Rev has ever done more than read whatever translation he favors, and that only as a “proof text”, that is, a few words that say what he wants.

    The Hebrew word translated “circle” at Isaiah 40:22, as in “the circle of the Earth”, means “the rim of a disk”, It does not mean “ball” or “sphere”, which is expressed by a quite different word. The same word is used of the horizon – definitely the rim of a disk – at Proverbs 8:27. So the writer of Isaiah is quite clearly saying that he thinks of the Earth as a disk.

    As to the verb translated “stretch out”: The Isaiah 40:22 usage is the ONLY place in the Old Testament where this verb occurs as a verb. But a closely cognate usage is where an adjectival form is used 9 times, where the adjective means “outstretched”, and it is always used of an arm or hand. In this sense, it doesn’t mean “expanded”, as in the expanded singularity. It means “unfolded, lifted up, moved outwards”. That this is the meaning of the writer of Isaiah is confirmed by his application of the verb to the material of a tent. He is not saying that the Universe expanded. He is saying that God unfolds the Heavens like a tent over his head. That is, he thinks of the sky above him as a sort of roof. He even says that God sits on this roof.

    This is the understanding of virtually everyone five or six centuries BCE. The only exception would be the Chaldean astronomer-priests, who were almost certainly aware that the Earth was a sphere, from observing eclipses. They, however, had a vested interest in keeping their knowledge to themselves. The Greeks – of whom the writer of Isaiah probably knew nothing, and cared less – had begun to speculate on the curvature of the Earth, from watching ships, but Eratosthenes and his measurement of the circumference of the Earth still lay centuries in the future.

    That is, the writer of Isaiah knew what you’d expect someone who was literate to know, in his place and time. And no more.

  10. IFFZ: Florida crocodiles: Man-eating Nile beasts confirmed in swamps:

    It is not known for certain how they reached the US. “They didn’t swim from Africa,” said University of Florida herpetologist Kenneth Krysko.

    No one seems to be proposing the crocs rafted over–which is a pity, as Klinghoffer would have fun with that.

    As it is, he may like to offer this up as more ‘evidence’ of special creation? Or maybe Yahweh is about to visit on Florida some of the horrors he visited on Egypt during the bondage of the Israelities?

  11. @Dave Luckett
    A few comments on the chronology.
    As far as when the Greek world began to think of the Earth as a sphere. The first name associated with that is Pythagoras, of the 6th century BCE. Definitely Aristotle, of the 4th century, knew that the Earth is round like a ball. He refers to some unnamed mathematicians who estimated the size of the sphere. Eratosthenes was of the 3rd century.
    The prophet Isaiah is dated to the 8th century, but the Book of Isaiah is generally recognized to have parts (including the 40th chapter, which includes the text in mention) dating from the 6th century.
    I am not suggesting that this is anything more than a coincidence.

  12. Dave Luckett

    Pythagoras noted that the moon was a sphere, and argued that the Earth was the same – but in the sixth century BCE, that was speculation. Aristotle, in the fourth, made the arguments from ships disappearing below the horizon and from the shadows seen in an eclipse. That was, by common consensus, at least a hundred years after the later writer of Isaiah, who certainly would have been little interested in the works of pagans, even had they been available to him.

    The point is, the writers of Isaiah demonstrate the knowledge that might have been expected of men of their time and place. They thought of the earth as a disc floating in and surrounded by an endless sea, with a solid, divinely maintained dome overhead. Had they been close observers of the sky, or even mariners, they might have come to a different understanding. But they weren’t. They were polemicists and holy men whose aim was to extol the powers and virtues of their god. The attempts to credit them with accurate knowledge and to ascribe this knowledge to divine revelation are simply fraudulent.

  13. “then IN THE SAME BREATH”
    Better get used to it, ChrisC. Something can only come from nothing when an immaterial entity speaks the words “Let there be …..”

    “But Rives is so gul-durned…CUTE”
    Sexy. Our dear SC is afraid to admit it, but that’s the schtick of the Good Rev: teens are in love with him (the girls) or are envious of him (the boys). He’s the evangelical version of Justin Bieber (the version several years ago) and the Beatles (many years ago).

    “that damn well bothers me quite a bit.”
    It very well should.

  14. Question for Rives: If God stretched out the heavens like a tent, then why is he still stretching it? When is he going to finish? What’s his problem?

    Snark aside, Rives is just flat wrong in making his comparison. The authors of Isaiah were clearly writing about a human-time-scale stretching of the heavens, akin to unfolding a tent.

    By comparison, in the real universe, we have two time scales. Firstly, the possible cosmic inflation which Rives mentions, which per wikipedia “… lasted from 10−36 seconds after the Big Bang to sometime between 10−33 and 10−32 seconds.” In other words, an inconceivably short period of time, equivalent to “instantly” in any human perspective. So, clearly not “stretching” as meant by the writers of Isaiah.

    Secondly, we have the expansion which has occurred since inflation, an expansion that is not perceivable on human timescales. The writers of Isaiah were highly unlikely to be referring to a process of unfolding a tent taking billions of years. In fact, the elements of the tent (galaxies) which have “stretched” away from us due to the expansion of the universe are not perceivable to the naked eye. Only Andromeda can be seen directly, and it is approaching us.

    The heavens the writers referred to are the heavens they could see. With the exception of Andromeda, the visible heavens consist of objects within our galaxy or orbiting our galaxy, and almost all of the individual stars we can see are within a 1,000 light year bubble around the earth. Making a correlation between the expansion of the universe and stretching the visible “heavens” over the earth is one that even God would not make.

    The writers also had the perspective of an earth separate from the heavens, so that the heavens could actually be unfolded like a tent around the earth. Surely Rives is aware that the earth is itself part of the “heavens?”

    So, Rev. Rives, tell us again how scientifically accurate the bible is?

  15. TomS asks: “Are we supposed to think that there was a meeting of the bosses of science to pick that arbitrary age?”
    According the the Good Rev, yes. That’s how those folks look at it. See, I remember vividly that around 1980 the estimation was 10 – 20 billion of years. Obviously 13,7 billion is a “compromise” (please also remember that creacrap always is ambiguous).

    DaveL is a skeptic: “I find it very difficult to believe that the Rev ever studied biblical Hebrew at any depth.”
    What difference would it make? A creacrapper studying means “cherrypicking those (made up) facts that confirm my predetermined views”.

  16. @mnbo
    I remember a friend of mine telling me that scientists think that nothing can go faster than light “because Einstein said so”. My friend didn’t seem to consider that the scientists had good reasons. Or that Einstein became famous because of the value of what he said, rather than that what he said was valued because of the fame of Einstein.
    @Dave Luckett
    I think that we agree. I just wanted to make it clear that the Greeks knew about the shape of the Earth at least a century before Erastothenes. And that the Book of Isaiah has a complicated history. BTW, Aristotle also mentioned the fact that one sees more stars as one travels toward the south. The shape of the Earth has practical consequences.
    I did say that the timing was just a matter or coincidence. But is it possible that the Babylonian astronomers had heard of Pythagoras’ speculations?

  17. Dave Luckett

    I don’t think they needed to,TomS. They were certainly aware of the shape of the Earth before 600 BCE, from the fact that they accurately predicted total eclipses of the moon no matter at what angle to the horizon the moon would be. That has to imply the knowledge that the Earth was round no matter the angle you looked at it. It had to be a sphere, or something very close to one.

    Aristotle made that argument, too, where Pythagoras got no further than noting that the moon was apparently spherical. Aristotle also thought that the Earth was not very large; but the first attempt to measure its size from actual data was Eratosthenes, and he got it fairly right.

    All of which was unknown to the writers of Isaiah, both or all of them. Modern attempts to put words in their mouths are simply dishonest; their practitioners are ignorant or fraudulent or both.

  18. There are those who say that the 8th century prophet Isaiah wrote about the spherical shape in Isaiah 40, before the Greeks knew about it. As you pointed out, that is not a well-supported reading of the text. (And I agree with you.) But if the Babylonians knew about that, and the Israelites heard about that during their captivity in the 6th century, it would not be impossible for the author of Isaiah 40 to know that. He didn’t write about it, but it would not be an anachronism.

  19. @TomS: “But is it possible that the Babylonian astronomers had heard of Pythagoras’ speculations?”
    Possible, but there is no evidence as far as I know. The consensus is that the Babylonian became astronomers because they wanted to reveal the intentions of their gods. Now I’m an amateur, but it seems to me that this

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/earth/boe/boe10.htm

    has too little in common with Greek cosmologies to assume influence.

    @DaveL complains: “Modern attempts to put words in their mouths are simply dishonest”
    and hence to be expected from creationists.