Creationist Wisdom #781: No Compromises

Today’s second letter-to-the-editor appears in the Wisconsin State Journal of Madison, Wisconsin, the state capital. It’s s titled Trust God’s word over fallible scientists, and the newspaper has no comments feature.

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!

Any Christian who professes to believe Jesus Christ is their lord and savior should be very careful about thinking it is possible to insert the evolutionary faith in a 4.6-billion-year universe into God’s authoritative word, as columnist Chris Rickert did in his June 11 column, Room in Christianity for 4.6B-year-old Earth.

Ralph is outraged. He says:

The evolutionary account of the origins of the universe and mankind is an anti-God, metaphysical philosophy that has nothing to do with the Bible.

Jeepers, he’s right — that science stuff isn’t in the bible! After that he tells us:

In fact, Bible-believing Christians were primarily responsible for beginning and nurturing observational science, and many Christian scientists today continue to conduct scientific research in all areas while believing in a “young” earth and a six-day creation.

That’s debatable — see Did Science Originate with Creationists? Anyway, Ralph continues:

As a Christian, however, the ultimate example of Biblical belief must come from Jesus Christ himself. He clearly believed in Genesis as a factual, historical narrative meant to be understood and believed as it was written.

Jesus quoted scripture, but he didn’t discuss science. Let’s read on:

If a Christian truly believes Jesus is who he says he is, then how can they not believe his word is authoritative and true?

How? It’s not difficult. Ralph should re-read that column by Chris Rickert. He should also take a look at the National Center for Science Education’s list of Statements from Religious Organizations that support evolution. And now we come to the end:

It really boils down to trusting in God’s word or in the fallible philosophies of prideful human beings. There really is no middle ground.

So there you are, dear reader. According to Ralph, you can’t have it both ways. So whatcha gonna do?

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

29 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #781: No Compromises

  1. Wisconsin Ralph doesn’t even know the difference between Earth and the Universe. Earth is 4.55 billion years old. The Universe is about 13.8 billion years old.

  2. Dave Luckett

    Me, I love how people who refer to the Bible as a source for their arguments almost invariably put in stuff that isn’t there:

    “He (Jesus) clearly believed in Genesis as a factual, historical narrative meant to be understood and believed as it was written.”

    No, mate. I realise that you think that Genesis must be read literally, but there’s nothing to say that Jesus did. He is recorded to have twice referred to events in Genesis stories, both times to illustrate a moral principle, which is exactly the same use as he made of his own parables. There are no words anywhere that indicate that Jesus believed these events to be literal fact. He was using a story to make a point.

    The really hilarious aspect to this is that in one of those two instances, recorded at Matthew 19:2-9, the moral principle that Jesus is using the Genesis story to illustrate is that divorce is immoral on any other grounds than the unchastity of the wife: “A man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery,” said Jesus, an idea almost totally ignored by most “fundamentalists”. Any congregation of them will contain remarried divorced people, and nobody says boo about their adultery.

    So we have the risible spectacle of whole demographics of Christians like Ralph insisting that Jesus said things he didn’t say while ignoring things he did.

  3. @Dave Luckett
    You are bringing up a point that bothers me, but I haven’t been able to articulate it.
    Here is my poor attempt. I am trying to work this out.

    There are no words anywhere that indicate that Jesus believed these events to be literal fact.
    You are (as I understand you) pointing out that is begging the question: That is trying to say that Jesus is quoting the Bible literally because Jesus would only quote the Bible literally and that is proof that we should also read the Bible literally. Yet there is no independent evidence that Jesus wanted to read the Bible literally in his use of the quotation. You are (as I understand you) pointing out that it is plausible that the Jesus is not taking the quotation literally … Jesus cites a parable in much the same way, and it is obvious that he does not insist upon the literal, historical fact of the parable. (We do have cases where Paul quotes the Bible and sometimes adds that he is not reading it literally. And Paul also quotes non-scriptural sources.)

    There is no reason to believe that Jesus believed these words to be a literal description of a fact, unless one has a prior belief that literal reading is preferred.

  4. TomS & Dave…How could jesus read the buyBull in any fashion as it did not yet exist!?!? At best he could have repeated stories he heard from the other preachers. And there is a growing opinion that even if real jesus was not literate!

  5. L.Long asks:

    How could jesus read the buyBull in any fashion as it did not yet exist!?!?

    Genesis is thought to have been composed sometime in the 5th to 4th centuries BCE; so no problem.

    Whether or not Yeshua the carpenter from Naareth was literate, he would certainly have been familiar with the contents of the Old Testament from the religious leaders of his community.

  6. In fact, Bible-believing Christians were primarily responsible for beginning and nurturing observational science, and many Christian scientists today continue to conduct scientific research in all areas while believing in a “young” earth and a six-day creation.

    Here comes Ralph, a fundamentalist Don Quixote riding the spavined old nag of “observational science” (versus, of course, “historical science,” which is not to be trusted unless it can be waterboarded into confessing something fundies can claim supports their views).

    It’s a flat-out certainty that the “scientists” he refers to don’t do honest research in such fields as anthropology, archaeology, paleontology (for which there’s really no room at all in the fundie mindset) or even geology, at least where such things as the formation of natural features like the Grand Canyon are concerned. Those who claim to be doing such work are either fools (if they believe what they’re peddling) or whores (if they don’t, and are only in business to rook the rubes for money).

  7. techreseller

    What I am going to do? Is this a trick question? Bible, most of it composed well over 2000 years ago, big chunk about 1600 years ago. Science updated multiple times a day. Let’s see. Hmmm. I am going with science.

  8. L. Long, the evidence for the illiteracy of Jesus is really skimpy – he quotes some pretty obscure bits of prophecy, and does so with the kind of understanding that doesn’t really match someone who’s only heard it said.

  9. The basic sources that Jesus was literate are John 8:6-8 and Luke 4:16-22. Those aren’t unimpeachable sources, of course, but neither are they implausible. And there’s quite a range of possibilities in the term used for Jesus’ occupation, some of which suggest a high level of education: see the Wikipedia article on tekton.

  10. “he quotes some pretty obscure bits of prophecy”
    Assumed those quotes were not inserted by the authors of the Gospels. In other words: we simply don’t know.
    And matter much it does not.

  11. Richard Bond

    Re: various contributors:

    How is a discussion about the literacy of Jesus relevant, when there is no objective evidence that such a person even existed?

  12. Richard Bond asks

    How is a discussion about the literacy of Jesus relevant, when there is no objective evidence that such a person even existed?

    Actually, historicity of Jesus is a different discussion altogether; personally, I don’t think that’s as interesting as the fact that, even if there was indisputable evidence the man did indeed exist, all that we more certainly know is that he was not precisely as depicted in the apostolic writings.

    The man may or may not have existed, but a portrait claiming to be of such a man most certainly does exist, and as the foundation of one of the world’s larger religions, most certainly has had a profound impact on the course of our history. And I think what’s being kicked around here a bit is some consideration about that portrait, and that is relevant to the impact that portrait has had on our history. It’s only secondary to consider (if one wishes, though personally I think it a fruitless question) whether or not the portrait is based on a real person–and if so, how accurate it is of that real person. But even if the portrait is a total confabulation, it merits study because of its influence, IMHO. And to what degree, and how, the narrated Jesus of the New Testament was conversant with the writings of the Jewish prophets is a matter worthy of investigation. But YMMV, of course.

  13. Short form of above post: Schliemann found the ‘real’ Troy, so there was indeed some basis for the Homeric epics, but very little of the archaeology of the site of Troy tells us much about the Iliad, nor detracts from our appreciation of that most magnificent epic!

  14. mnbo, well, certainly, yes, and it’s actually pretty well beyond a shadow of a doubt that there were changes made, or there are misquotes. I mean, there are parallel accounts of several different events and while they are similar, Jesus’ words aren’t at all a perfect match, and there are whole new sections that show up a hundred years later than the first manuscripts.
    Almost as though people two thousand years had an entirely different goal in mind than people of today when it came to writing down information about historical people and events or something, but THAT’s just crazy talk.
    As a Christian, I believe there was a historical Jesus.
    As a reasonable human being, I believe that the Jesus in the Bible is a character based on that historical Jesus.

  15. What did people of 2000 years ago in the culture of the Bible think about the Bible? I recommend this book:
    James L. Kugel
    The Bible As It Was
    Belknap Press Harvard U Press, 1997
    ISBN 0-674-06940-4
    It presents very many examples of how the people of the culture in which the Bible was created treated the Bible.

  16. Richard Bond

    Megalonyx: did you not notice the careful stipulation of “objective”?

  17. “How is a discussion about the literacy of Jesus relevant, when there is no objective evidence that such a person even existed?”
    How is your question relevant if it’s build on a wrong assumption?

  18. @Dweller: “As a Christian, I believe there was a historical Jesus.
    As a reasonable human being, I believe that the Jesus in the Bible is a character based on that historical Jesus.”
    Nothing controversial here (and I’m a 7 on the scale of Dawkins). But then you’ll also be aware that it’s notoriously hard to figure out what Jesus actually said and did and what was attributed to him by the four authors of the Gospels.

  19. “did you not notice the careful stipulation of “objective”?
    I did. And I also noticed that you gave the word the same meaning and used it in the same way as creationists do – like for instance “objective evidence for transitional fossils”.
    Thank you for making this explicitly clear. I appreciate that.

  20. “It really boils down to trusting in God’s word or in the fallible philosophies of prideful human beings. There really is no middle ground.”
    Ok. I’m game. Who wrote the Bible?

  21. @och will:
    Where does God’s word say that there is a barrier to micro-evolution which makes macro-evolution impossible? Where does God’s word say that the Deluge carved the Grand Canyon?

  22. According to the biblical fables, even Jesus was a flat earther:
    Matthew 4:8 “Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them.”
    etc.

  23. Dave Luckett

    TomS: “You are (as I understand you) pointing out that it is plausible that the Jesus is not taking the quotation literally.”

    Exactly so, but I am also applying a principle of exegesis: that one is entitled to examine the unstated but necessary implications of a passage, but NOT to insert unnecessary ones. It is NOT a necessary implication that Jesus took the Genesis stories literally. He was referring to them as authoritative, certainly – and that IS a necessary implication of his citing them – but as authoritative illustrations of moral principle, not as literal history.

    For a fully rigorous definition of the word “objective”, there is no such thing as an objective historical source, and that goes in spades for ancient sources.

  24. @Dave Luckett:
    Thank you.
    I was hoping that someone would direct me in formulating something presentable, and this does indeed.

  25. Richard Bond asks

    Megalonyx: did you not notice the careful stipulation of “objective”?

    Sure I noticed — and, as others have already pointed out — regard that term as virtually content-free here.

    What — for a different example — constitutes “objective” evidence for the existence of Socrates? As opposed, that is, to some other sort of evidence; “subjective” evidence, perhaps (whatever that might be)?

    I don’t doubt that Socrates existed, but neither do I doubt that our principal source for believing that (the writings of Plato) are somehow “objective” (as I think you mean the term); the Socrates of the Platonic dialogues is a sock puppet for Plato’s own system of philosophy (and his reactionary political theory, but that is by the by). To what degree Plato’s Socrates and the ‘real’ Socrates resemble one another is unknowable.

    But does our absence of evidence (“objective” or otherwise) about the ‘real’ Socrates somehow render discussion about the philosophy Plato attributes to the character in his dialogues called Socrates somehow irrelevant? Of course not. And I think it is the same case in discussing, as earlier in this thread, the attributed knowledge and abilities of the character called Jesus in the apostolic writings.

    This isn’t a big or profound point — but I don’t understand your objection. Sorry.

  26. Ralph:
    “In fact, Bible-believing Christians were primarily responsible for beginning and nurturing observational science…”

    For instance, those great Christians such as Eratosthenes, Archimedes…

  27. Understood: The Curmudgeon’s blog is about science, not religion. And yet we are arguing about what Jesus may or may not have intended, etc. I don’t mean to belittle anyone’s religious convictions, but some of the arguments remind me of overheard conversations among middle school youths concerning the creatures and the rules of “Dungeons & Dragons”. (Granted, the Bible is immensely influential in today’s world. But who is to say that the same may not be said of D&D two thousand years from now?)

  28. Dave Luckett

    SC’s masthead byline reads: “Conserving the Enlightenment values of reason, liberty, science, and free enterprise.” The blog would therefore appear to be about reason, among other things. The rational criticism of literary and historical sources is an exercise in reasoning. It appears to me, then, to be a perfectly canonical use of the space.