Creationist Wisdom #742: Unbelief Is Dangerous

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in an unnamed newspaper at the Sauk Valley website from Sterling, Illinois. It’s titled Science does not disagree with the Bible, and they have a comments section.

Because the writer isn’t a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name. His first name is Ralph. Excerpts from his letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

After starting with a bible quote about the Resurrection, he says:

I assume Mr. Welty and Mr. Bauer are willing to risk that is an absurd, primitive story.

Ralph doesn’t link to what Welty and Bauer wrote, but we found an earlier letter which is undoubtedly part of what got him agitated enough to respond: Literal belief in Bible is ‘dangerous’. Then he says:

I can’t help but wonder what they don’t understand about more evidence for the resurrection of Christ than any event of ancient history.

What? Oh, he has an authoritative reference — a book by Josh McDowell. Ralph continues:

Science does not disagree with the Bible, but it is true that many scientists disagree with the Bible, the same as factory workers and others who are willing to risk it is an absurd, primitive story.

We have no idea why Ralph mentioned factory workers along with scientists, but let’s read on:

Thousands of fully qualified scientists, representing every field of science, studied the scientific evidence and were convinced the biblical record of Earth history is precisely correct.

Don’t laugh, dear reader. Ralph has an impressive reference for that claim — Defender’s Study Bible (Amazon link) by Henry Morris, founder of the Institute Institute for Creation Research. Here’s another excerpt:

I suggest unbelief is dangerous, not belief. Today the views of God’s word have not switched. There have always been those who understand it is true, and those who reject.

Ralph is among those who understand The Truth. Here’s more

Either God created everything, or in the beginning, nothing became something and exploded. All logic and laws of science predict if you have nothing, nothing will happen.

Very impressive argument! Here comes another:

Evolutionists won’t find the missing links because there are no links connecting kinds of creatures in the fossil record. Variation is observed only within kinds; zero evolution from one kind to another.

Ralph references something by ol’ Hambo as support for that statement. And now we come to the end:

We don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see how unscientific is the theory of evolution.

Verily, Ralph is no rocket scientist. But he writes a great letter!

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13 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #742: Unbelief Is Dangerous

  1. Either God created everything, or in the beginning, nothing became something and exploded.
    There are other possibilities:
    a)God created the Big Bang. Or, perhaps God created the Cambrian Explosion, if that is what explosion you are talking about, for the Big Bang was not an explosion.
    b)There was no beginning. The universe existed from all time, which is infinite, or which is not in linear time (perhaps in a cycle), or which is finite and linear with no beginning (no time before the Big Bang, no state of nothing.)

  2. Ralph wonders why some people don’t “… understand about more evidence for the resurrection of Christ than any event of ancient history.” Could it be because no on at the time of the alleged event was astonished enough to be bothered recording their astonishment? As with many of the supposed historical events in the bible, apparently no one noticed at the time, and for most of them there’s clear evidence they didn’t happen.

  3. @abeastwood
    As far as I can tell, people making this argument are pointing to the Bible statements that say lots of people saw such-and-such. I don’t know how to draw attention that such a statement recorded long after the fact without details of who said what and when is not very strong evidence.

  4. Evolution Theory does not disagree with the Bible either (it says exactly zilch about any Holy Book), so I’m not sure (OK, OK, I’m a bit dishonest here) what Ralph’s problem is with this particular branch of science.

  5. I suggest unbelief is dangerous, not belief.

    Of course unbelief is dangerous, dangerous to a belief system that is dependent on the subjugation of young children in their formative years to fill their ranks. Not surprisingly, it was the same strategy the Nazis used. In light of logic and reason religions have no foundation in reality other than the wistful wishes of an impermanent creature seeking permanency.

  6. Dave Luckett

    There are indeed many words written in ancient times about the life and acts of Jesus, and there are few persons attested by more. Ancient sources are dreadfully patchy, incomplete, and unreliable. There is no contemporary source extant for, say, Alexander the Great, and the ancient sources we have are at best fragmentary until the great biography written by Arrian in the first century CE – four hundred years later. Socrates is known only from the work of Plato, a generation later, plus a few scattered references. Julius Caesar. Cicero and Marcus Aurelius can actually be interrogated from their own writings, as (later) can Augustine and Gregory the Great, but they are very much the exception among historically significant individuals. Mostly our knowledge descends from one or a very few accounts, almost never contemporary, and almost never neutral or even judicious.

    So it isn’t surprising that we have no absolutely contemporary records of the wondrous doings and resurrection of Jesus. Nothing absolutely contemporary from Judea survives at all, and what we have is very partisan. There’s Flavius Josephus, late in the first century, referring to Jesus and his brother James in two separate sentences, one of them mangled by some Christian copyist in the early fourth century, in two separate books of his “Antiquities of the Jews”. Josephus does state – and the words seem to be his own – that Jesus performed many “paradoxon”, a word that could mean “miracle” but is more normally translated “wonder”.

    The Gospels began to be written about 65 CE – a generation after Jesus. The letters of Paul are from a few years earlier – the first of them may go back to the forties – but Paul provides no biographical details about Jesus at all. He asserts the resurrection, and says that there were many eyewitnesses still extant in his day – but, tellingly, does not state that he has actually interrogated any of them. But then, Paul was very vain of his own revelation, said to be direct from Jesus himself, and would not have implied that it owed anything to human witness.

    So If we are to reject the resurrection and the miracles out of hand, it should not be merely because the sources are poor. All ancient sources are poor, and many events are accepted as historical on worse evidence. If they are to be rejected, then – a perfectly reasonable reaction – it shouldn’t be because they are poorly recorded, but because they are claims of miracles.

    Are they to be accepted, then, on the grounds that the sources that attest them are more voluminous than those for, say, Alexander? Of course not, and this is the error – a particularly foolish one – made by Ralph. He does not seem to understand that it really doesn’t matter how many words survive if they are all of the same dubious quality and provenance.

    On the other hand, rejecting the accounts because they are sparse or poor, and that no others survive, is to remove the argument to the nature of ancient sources. It really isn’t surprising that the extant sources are few, or not contemporary, when nothing survives that is fully contemporary. But their account of the miracles and resurrection of Jesus may be rejected on the far better grounds of their obvious mythologizing and embroidery of the events, and ultimately, simply because their statements assert miracles – extraordinary events for which extraordinary evidence is required; and this is not extraordinary evidence.

  7. Michael Fugate

    It is a bit like the fossil record…

  8. About Socrates, we have the contemporary references in the plays of Aristophanes – not very reliable beyond the testimony to his reality – and also somewhat later in the writings of Xenophon as well as Plato.
    As far as Jesus, there is only one author which has a claim to be an eyewitness – Matthew – but that claim is rather tenuous. Most modern scholars believe that whoever the author was, he was relying on other sources.
    Let me make this clear: I am not denying the existence of Jesus, nor even about the reliability of the Gospels. I am only questioning the claim that there is more evidence for the resurrection of Christ than any event of ancient history.
    There is archeological evidence, as well as contemporary writings, about some events of Roman history. The Bible itself mentions the Roman Empire.

  9. John has a claim to be a witness, too, TomS, although many have pointed to the oddly equivocal terms of that claim, given at 21:24, the second-last verse. It is true that most scholars consider that Gospel’s polished Greek and sophisticated theology to be unlikely to be the product of John the Apostle, who is described in Acts 4:13 as an uneducated layman. The consensus is that the Gospel was composed by John’s own disciples from anecdotes he had told – but that there is eyewitness material in it. It is urged that its completely divergent account of the events in the Garden that Sunday morning is an example of that – why would there be such an account, if it did not originate in personal recollection? There is also its account of the Last Supper, which gives a far more satisfying explanation for why Judas was simply allowed to leave without further remark.

  10. Agreed. That was a mistake.

  11. Dave Luckett

    In fact, I find the claim that Matthew contains actual eyewitness testimony more dubious. That Gospel contains no ascription at all, does embroider both the nativity story and the account of the Resurrection even more than the other source(s), is even more prone to miracles and seeking OT precedent, and consists mostly of discourses by Jesus, probably originating in lists of his sayings, possibly in Aramaic. There is also the odd little remark by Papias, writing before 120 CE, that “Matthew ordered the words in the Hebrew language (?) and everyone translated (or interpreted) it as best they could”. If that were correct, it would imply that Matthew’s gospel as we have it today – in Greek – is not the original. But translating Papias, whose writings exist only in fragments, is difficult. He might not have meant Hebrew language, but something more like usage or style.

    Still the Gospel seems far too versed in rabbinical readings of the Old Testament to be the product of a tax-gatherer. Overall, the general opinion is that if it had been by one of the original disciples, or even a credible eyewitness, it would have said so.

  12. The gospel of Matthew is an expanded retelling based on Mark, which scholars normally hold to be the oldest gospel. If Matthew had been an eyewitness, why would he have to import the entire narrative framework and often even the exact words (with some stylistic improvement) from an earlier writer? Of course, the “Gospel of Matthew” is quite anonymous and never claims to be written by the publican mentioned in the text.

  13. @HKF
    Of course there are explanations why Matthew, the eyewitness, would borrow the words of Mark, the non-eyewitness. He wanted to attest to the reliability of the account of Mark. I’m not going to go into that sort of thing, it’s not interesting. But there is the issue of if the words of the gospels were given by God why it makes any difference who was the human agent who
    produced the manuscript. Given your last sentence, we have to deal with the fact that “this is an eyewitness account” is an addition to the words of the Bible.
    And it is a red herring to the claim of the letter-writer that there is more evidence for the resurrection of Christ than any event of ancient history.
    More evidence than that there was a Roman emperor Augustus?