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Thursday, April 14, 2011

God or science? God or man?

I posted yesterday about Kathy Bryson's comment that (if I understood her correctly) she doesn't believe the Bible needs to be interpreted.

Now, maybe she meant, instead, to say something more along the lines of what TomH, who wrote a day after her, said: "It seems to me that the ongoing controversy is whether we should believe God, who is omniscient, or Science."

And Tom, I think, has plunked himself down right in the middle of the issue I attempted to address in my post on Science, theology, the Bible and rocks, where I quoted Dr. Clarence Menninga:
Many people try to set the Bible [or here, in this case, with TomH's comment, God] against science (or vice versa). But that is an inappropriate comparison. It is not the Bible [or God] against science. It is theology against science. The Bible provides the data on which theologians work, just as rocks provide the data on which scientists (geologists) work. Science--or geology--is an interpretation of data every bit as much as--and no less than--theology is an interpretation of data.
To put it graphically:

Primary Data Source or Focus of Study Tools of Study for a Devout Christian Produces an Interpretation Commonly Referred to as . . .
The Bible--Also often referred to as the Book of God's Word The inspiration and blessing of God upon, within and through philological and linguistic studies (especially grammar [morphology, syntax], semantics, discourse analysis, historical linguistics, sociolinguistics, and more), comparative language studies, history, the findings of archaeologists, and, again, a whole lot more. Theology
Physical Objects--Also often referred to as the Book of God's Works The inspiration and blessing of God upon, within and through direct observation of physical objects and phenomena, combined with corollary input from other sources. "Pure" sciences: Geology, Chemistry, Physics, etc. But also such mixed sciences as Historical Geology, Archaeology, and so forth.

Now. Immediately before Kathy's post, I made a comment about the difference between "theology (the [hopefully Holy Spirit-inspired, but still, man-made!] interpretation of Scripture) and the Bible (the fundamental data upon which theology is to be built)."

Moreover, I said,
Mr. Ham, I’m afraid, has rarely, if ever, acknowledged the distinction. And so he and AiG have had a long history of labeling as compromisers and apostates and unbiblical (or antibiblical) anyone and everyone who happens to disagree with their peculiar (man-made!) interpretation of Genesis 1-11. Such language, on those grounds alone, is unwarranted. (There may be–-as I am prone to believe, based on Anne’s and LeaAnn’s reviews of Enns’ work–-grounds in other areas for calling a person a compromiser or unbiblical or antibiblical. But not on the basis of the kinds of differences of interpretation of Genesis 1-11 we normally see.)

I believe it is now time for me to be more explicit in what I am talking about.

Consider the following comments.

Dr. John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research writes:
Can man, with a brain and reasoning powers distorted by the curse . . . accurately reconstruct the history of the universe? Should his historical reconstructions be put on a higher plane than Scripture? Or is man and his mind locked in the effects of the curse--a poor reflection of the once glorious "image of God"--now blinded by sin and the god of this world, seeing things through a glass darkly?"
Dr. Danny Faulkner, a regular technical commentator for Answers in Genesis, writes:
Scripture teaches that the creation is cursed (Gen. 3:17—19, Rom. 8:20—22), but Scripture itself is ‘God-breathed’ (2 Tim. 3:15—17). So how can a cursed creation interpreted by a fallible methodology of sinful humans determine how we interpret the perfect, unfallen Word of God?
And, then, of course, there is Ken Ham himself:
AiG’s main thrust is NOT ‘young Earth’ as such; our emphasis is on Biblical authority. Believing in a relatively ‘young Earth’ (i.e., only a few thousands of years old, which we accept) is a consequence of accepting the authority of the Word of God as an infallible revelation from our omniscient Creator. . . .

Let’s be honest. Take out your Bible and look through it. You can’t find any hint at all for millions or billions of years. . . .

[T]he reason [many well-known and respected Christian leaders] don’t believe God created in six literal days is because they are convinced from so-called ‘science’ that the world is billions of years old. In other words, they are admitting that they start outside the Bible to (re)interpret the Words of Scripture. . . .

[By contrast,] I understand that the Bible is a revelation from our infinite Creator, and it is self-authenticating and self-attesting. I must interpret Scripture with Scripture, not impose ideas from the outside! . . .

[A]s a ‘revelationist,’ I let God’s Word speak to me, with the words having meaning according to the context of the language they were written in. . . . I accept the plain words of Scripture in context. . . .

Question: Why would any Christian want to take man’s fallible dating methods and use them to impose an idea on the infallible Word of God? Christians who accept billions of years are in essence saying that man’s word is infallible, but God’s Word is fallible!

This is the crux of the issue. When Christians have agreed with the world that they can accept man’s fallible dating methods to interpret God’s Word, they have agreed with the world that the Bible can’t be trusted. They have essentially sent out the message that man, by himself, independent of revelation, can determine truth and impose this on God’s Word. Once this ‘door’ has been opened regarding Genesis, ultimately it can happen with the rest of the Bible.
[NOTE: Clearly, in context, Ham is specifically addressing the broad issue of the age of the Earth. But his comments lay out a program and methodology: He says he and his organization are committed to "interpret[ing] Scripture with Scripture" and "not impos[ing] ideas [upon Scripture] from the outside." Moreover, it seems clear, he is saying that anyone who attempts to utilize outside information to help interpret Scripture is "agree[ing] with the world that the Bible can’t be trusted. They have essentially sent out the message that man, by himself, independent of revelation, can determine truth and impose this on God’s Word."


That's the way I read him. And, in essence, that's the way I read Morris and Faulkner, too.]

All of these men seem to believe that sin has so clouded our (human) reasoning that we can't (or won't) get anything right.

Keep in mind that we interpret--we must interpret--the Bible every bit as much as we do the physical data commonly referenced by scientists. So if their comments reflect reality, then where do Morris, Faulkner and Ham leave us?

And, while we're at it: How well do these men follow their own advice?

I would like to start with an example that--for various reasons--comes from outside Genesis. Specifically, I want to turn to Joshua 10:12-13 ("Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: 'O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.' So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies. . . . The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day").

"Man's wisdom" or "God's Word": Heliocentrism and geokineticism . . . or the Earth at rest in the center of the universe?

According to the Bible itself, with no reference to any modern science, no references to man's fallen wisdom, but, rather, as strict "revelationists, [who] let God’s Word speak to [us], with the words having meaning according to the context of the language they were written in"; if we agree only to "accept the plain words of Scripture in context": How would we, how should we, how could we interpret Joshua 10:12-13? According to Joshua 10:12-13, what was moving and what was standing still?

Oh. And, of course, you may reference any other Scripture passages that may come to bear upon the subject. But please don't reference anything from outside the Bible. Please.

Honestly, from what I can make out, with my hands tied as I have just indicated, I see only one way to interpret the phenomena of Joshua 10:12-13. I can think of no passage of Scripture that suggests anything different from this: That the sun and moon were moving . . . until the LORD intervened and stopped them.

Can you? Any passage--either this one or any other?

Based on their own testimony--and I think, particularly, of Mr. Ham's words, where he says he will permit no data from "outside the Bible to (re)interpret the Words of Scripture. . . ."--it appears they should argue in behalf of a geocentric, geostationary universe.

But they don't. God's Word on its own, apparently, is not good enough on its own. Not for Faulkner and Ham. Not here.

If they are to believed in their strident criticism of those who seek alternative interpretations of Genesis 1-11 based on the evidence they see from outside sources, then, to use their own language against them, these men--Faulkner and Ham--uphold man’s unredeemed reason against God’s holy Word!

Dr. Faulkner has written an essay, published on the Answers in Genesis website, that seeks to argue in behalf of a geokinetic (moving Earth) and heliocentric (Sun-centered) universe. And if you read it with care, you will find he uses every means at his disposal to argue for such an interpretation except for direct quotations from Scripture itself.

Having established, to the best of his ability, that there is a logical reason to think there is room for the possibility that Scripture can be interpreted from a non-geocentric perspective, he then uses every non-Scripture-based argument he can muster to try to prove that anyone who argues for geocentrism is wrong.

By everything I can see, rather than looking at the "plain" meaning of the passage, Faulkner permits his preconceived notion (granted him by Copernicus and his followers) to seek anything but what is in the passage itself.

And the target of his article, Dr. Gerardus Bouw of The Biblical Astronomer (TBA; also known as the Association for Biblical Astronomy), responds,
There are those who would claim that the language used [in Joshua 10:13] is phenomenological, that it was not meant to convey the truth of the matter. They like to equate Joshua 10:13 with verses like Isaiah 55:12 where the trees are said to "clap their hands." The problem with that is that everyone since Adam can understand that Isaiah 55:12 is a literary device; but there is not a clue to tell those before Copernicus that Joshua 10:13 is not to be taken literally.

Buy into Answers in Genesis’ compromise with modern so-called “science,” Bouw writes, and you have bought into a lie, “[an] important, if not the most important, cause of the historical development of Bible criticism, now resulting in an increasingly anti-Christian world in which atheistic existentialism is preaching a life that is really meaningless.”

You want a compromise position? Look to Answers in Genesis!

Kathy said she is one of many who want to “take the Bible at its word.” If so, then, it appears she had better abandon the false, heretical, compromising, Bible-despising methods of Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis, who promote a “false ‘Christianity’ that glorifies man & the world’s wisdom & humanly imagined ’solutions’” to imagined “problems” with God’s holy Word, the Bible. [Please recognize that I have chosen my words carefully, here. I am using the same language against Mr. Ham that he uses to denigrate those with whom he disagrees.]

Tempted to waver in your commitment to the plain reading of Joshua 10? Then may I remind you of these Scriptures (quoted by Bouw): “To the law and to the testimony: if [you] speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in [you].” –Isaiah 8:20 Also, “Let God be true, and every man a liar.” –Romans 3:4

My guess: Few of those who read this post will want to side with Bouw against Faulkner and AiG when it comes to Joshua 10. No. We are perfectly comfortable interpreting Joshua 10:12-13 with the idea that it is written with "the language of appearances."

But/and that's why I mention Bouw's arguments. I think it is quite clear that Bouw has Scripture on his side: Scripture pure and simple. He is able to "take on" modern scientific arguments. But his perspective is pure Scripture. It is Ham and Faulkner who "retreat," as it were, to extra-biblical arguments.

But that brings us to the fundamental reason for writing this post: If such tactics are valid for Ham and Faulkner when it strikes their fancy to use them, then why are others of necessity precluded from using the same methods when they feel outside evidence pushes them to look for interpretations that don't arise directly from the text of Scripture itself? Moreover, why is it appropriate for Ham and Faulkner and friends to charge any- and everyone who uses this methodology--except themselves, of course!--with "compromise" and "heresy" and "biblioskeptical" perspectives?

Raqiya (“Firmament” in the KJV; “expanse” in some more modern translations

Genesis 1:6-8 (ESV) says,
And God said, "Let there be a [raqiya] in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." And God made the [raqiya] and separated the waters that were under the [raqiya] from the waters that were above the [raqiya]. And it was so. And God called the [raqiya] Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

What is this raqiya?

Is the raqiya a firm (solid; firmament!), double-surfaced extended surface--like a vault--that holds the waters above the earth up . . . so that we remain dry, here on the surface of the earth? That’s what virtually all Bible scholars from at least before Jesus was born till somewhere in the late 1500s believed (cf the Septuagint translation’s use of the Greek word stereoma as the translation for raqiya . . . not to mention Jerome’s use of the Latin firmamentum in his translation). --Or should we adopt the more modern--scientifically-motivated--perspective of those who suggest that the word merely refers to a non-solid expanse that separates the waters on earth from those above? . . .

Now, if I read and understood her comments correctly, it sounds as if Kathy could really care less what a person from Answers in Genesis--at least anyone with a manmade degree--might have to say on the subject of raqiya. But supposing she may have misspoken (or I misunderstood) and supposing, too, that others of my readers may like to hear what a spokesperson for Answers in Genesis (who holds a degree!) might have to say on the subject, I will offer a link to and summary of what James Patrick Holding has written.

Before I do, however, I'd be curious to know what perspective you think AiG might take. If it were to come down to a traditional reading of Genesis 1--a reading held without doubt for more than 1500 years--or a modern, scientifically-informed view, for which one do you think Answers in Genesis would advocate?

Hold onto your hat!

Strange as it may seem, AiG sides with modern science against the kind of view anyone who would look solely to Scripture would come up with. And, more astonishing yet, they use the same derogatory language they use elsewhere toward any- and everyone who dares to contradict them.

“It only depend[s] upon where one start[s],” writes James Patrick Holding. “[I]f one starts with the presumption of a solid sky, one will read into the text a solid sky. If one starts with a modern conception, the text, as we shall see, permits that as well.”


The "natural," "normal" intepretation of raqiya leads one to think of "solid sky." But "[i]f one starts with a modern conception, the text . . . permits that as well."

Wait a second! Where did this "modern conception" come from? The Scriptures? Or somewhere else?

Since on this issue, it seems, AiG wants permission to hold the “modern conception,” it appears they are happy to make that assumption. They make it eminently clear that on other matters--most especially the age of the earth and evolution--the "modern conception" is wrong. But on this one, the "modern conception," apparently, is correct. And if you think the King James and the ancient interpreters of Genesis 1 had it right when it comes to raqiya? Oh! You're “wav[ing] the white flag over inerrancy with [your] compromise”! Yes! "Compromise"! Again!

Wow! According to AiG, you're a "compromiser" if you try to interpret the majority of Genesis 1 with a view to the input of modern science, but you're also a "compromiser" if you do not "reinterpret" Genesis 1:6-8 or Joshua 10:12-13 according to modern conceptions. You're a compromiser if you use science to modify your interpretation of some passages, and you're a compromiser if you don't use science to modify your interpretation.

And the basis for making these decisions?

AiG, apparently, is always and only to be the arbiter of all truth when it comes to interpreting the Bible. Ours is not to reason why; ours is but to accept whatever they say. If it serves their purposes to claim Scripture alone as the basis for their beliefs--even if those beliefs fly in the face of everything we know from other sources: then so be it. On the other hand, if, to uphold the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture according to their standards, we need to start with “a modern [manmade] conception,” well, then, so be that! And a pox on anyone who dares to question their methodology.

Next time (Lord willing): The forbidden questions: "But what if we accept an ancient Earth? What if we accept evolution?" [I confess: These are, at root, two of the forbidden questions I have been unwilling and/or unable to let myself even think about . . . for reasons I expect, soon, to make clear.]

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