Professing Christians: ‘the Bible isn’t factual’
Answering religious critics who deny that Genesis gives reliable history
Published: 29 November 2014 (GMT+10)
In today’s feedback, Keaton Halley answers two complaints alleging that creationists misinterpret the Bible when we read Genesis as factual history. First, R. M. from the United States writes:
I write to you as a practicing Roman Catholic, Physicist, and Science Educator in a Catholic School. I find it very disheartening that the different denominations of Christianity are opposing each other so much. I also find it disheartening that you are propagating a false myth about Galileo’s issues with the Roman Catholic Church. I am also surprised that in your discussion about the Big Bang, that you did not discuss the fact that it was originally proposed by Monseigneur Lemaître, a Jesuit priest in the 1930s, and that he had to defend that theory against the scientists of his day (Hubble and Einstein).
As a Catholic, I believe that the Bible is inspired by God and that we only stand by the fact that the Religious truths are 100% true, and that the authors have the ability to get science and other facts as wrong (or else, how do you deal with the mustard seed or the Crab Nebula crisis). I believe that the Creator gave us the ability to reason and attempt to understand His work.
Keaton Halley, CMI–US responds:
Hi R. M.,
It seems we are coming from very different perspectives, so your attempt to establish common ground with your religious bona fides doesn’t carry as much weight with us as you might have hoped.
Frankly, I’m not sure why you’re complaining to us about disunity like it’s our fault when you wrote in to oppose what we stand for. We’re all for unity, but the way to achieve this is to be united in the truth, not error. Jesus prayed to the Father for his followers to be “one even as we are one” (John 17:22). In the same context, he said to the Father: “your word is truth” (John 17:17). But you have denied this, claiming that the Bible is both inspired by God and in error.
A little effort using our search engine would show that we have addressed your concerns with the mustard seed and the Crab Nebula (presuming you mean the light-travel-time difficulty). In reality, there is no way to separate the religious truths from the factual and historical ones, since many religious truths like Jesus’ resurrection happened in history. Also, Jesus said that it makes no sense to trust his testimony about “heavenly things” if one doubts his claims about “earthly things” (John 3:12). Plus, the New Testament authors frequently made theological arguments on the basis of historical events. See Genesis: Bible authors believed it to be history.
Unfortunately, you don’t say what you believe is false in our treatment of the Galileo affair, so I’ll bypass that comment.
As for Lemaître, we do in fact mention him in several of our articles. But he reasoned according to methodological naturalism, not the Bible. The fact that he defended his ideas against Hubble and Einstein does nothing to show that the Big Bang is compatible with Genesis. That would be like claiming neo-Darwinism is biblical since it has been defended against Lamarckian critics, advocates of Punctuated Equilibrium, or proponents of Self-Organization theory.
So, respectfully, we do not find your criticisms to be well founded. But we hope you will become more familiar with our website and other materials. If you write back, perhaps you could explain how you get around the points made in the article mentioned above: Genesis: Bible authors believed it to be history.
Also, C. M. from the United States writes:
Why do you confuse questioning the Bible with questioning an interpretation of the Bible that was discarded by Christians 200 years ago? Creationism is neither Biblical nor science—it is an outdated concept that was the consequence of poor scholarship that overlooked the fact that the western concept of history as an objective, factual discipline did not exist until nearly two millennia after the canonization of the Old Testament. Genesis 1–11 is not an objective, factual account of historic events.
Can you name even one living scientist who earned a Ph.D. or equivalent degree from a real college or university who believes in a young earth and who does not so believe BECAUSE of his religious beliefs rather than science?
Keaton Halley responds:
Hi C. M.,
If Genesis 1–11 is not giving us real history, why did all the New Testament authors treat it as such? See Genesis: Bible authors believed it to be history, The use of Genesis in the New Testament, and Jesus on the age of the earth. The NT authors knew perfectly well how to distinguish myths from real, historical events (2 Peter 1:16). But you have not explained why our interpretation is wrong, just asserted that it is.
The reasons creationists hold their convictions are complex, and do not fit your simplistic dichotomy between religion and science. Do you think that science is the only valid way of knowing anything? If so, what is the scientific evidence for that belief? But in reality, we believe creation to be true because it makes the most sense of all the facts. We don’t arbitrarily limit ourselves to naturalistic explanations even before considering the facts, as evolutionists do. See, for example, Amazing admission.
If you want to show that we are wrong, you will need to actually engage our arguments rather than trying to invalidate our beliefs by merely pointing out that they are religious in nature. After all, that form of argument commits the genetic fallacy.
I am still amazed, and not in a good way, that people who consider themselves to be committed christians are not over joyed to find out that there is an incredible amount of evidence to support the bible concerning the age of the earth and how we came to be here etc. You would think that they would be pleased to find out that God's word is true and can be trusted.
I can understand non christians going along with evolution because before I became a believer, just over 30 years ago, I accepted it because 1)I didn't believe in God 2) I had no contact with any bible believing christians 3) I never heard anything except evolution. Once I met Jesus everything changed, but for a long time I still never heard that there was evidence for creation, even though I believed the bible. I kept praying and trusting that the Lord would lead me in the right direction and of course, in His timing, He did. For the last few years I have read everything I can about creation science and I must say it has strengthened my faith no end. I particularly like CMI.
I do wonder if part of the problem with theistic evolutionists is that their 'God' is too small! Think bigger, think more. The only thing impossible for God is for Him to change His nature.
Also they obviously want to be 'accepted' by the scientific establishment and don't realise that they are shooting themselves in the foot. Isn't it strange that Darwin is acclaimed as a 'real' scientist when his only degree was in Theology and yet scientists with actual real scientific degrees from secular universities are not real scientists because they believe in creation! I suppose it's because it would be really worrying to think that these obviously highly intelligent people might have good reasons for believing as they do. God Bless
C.M.'s question could have been countered with another question: Can you name even one living scientist who earned a Ph.D. or equivalent degree from a real college or university who believes in an OLD earth and who does not so believe BECAUSE of his religious beliefs rather than science? The answer to both questions is no. And that's because everybody is religious in one way or another, and matters of origins are far more in the realm of faith than of real science. So human bias will ALWAYS play a role in someone's conclusions when it comes to the distant past.
Well said CMI on your answers. I'm surprised to know there are Christians that don't know that the Bible is God's word....as 2 Timothy 3:16....ALL scripture is breathed out by God..... After all, how can anyone believe that the Bible is God inspired, and all religious truths are 100% true at the same time say that the authors God picked to write His words down are not always right. I can't see God getting it wrong....everything I know about God in the Bible is 100% truthful. ...just look at creation!
I thoroughly enjoy your website and your unshaken faith in the Word of God. Nothing is more hypocritical than to say that the Bible is the Word of God and then quickly add that the Book of Genesis is not a factual account! If one aspect of the Word of God is to be treated as fairy tale, then how can any event in the Holy Bible be considered factual? Belief then becomes a matter of convenience. Either the Holy Bible is, indeed, the Word of God and is the whole truth, or it is not. I think a lot of Christians need to get this straight.
It's sad that people think that rejecting the literal view is rejecting the Bible. Insisting that the Creation account is literal is a recent phenomenon in Christianity, one that came about when people started making the arrogant assumption that the book of Genesis was written in their language and to their culture. Yes, you can find Christians down through history who believed that, but many also did not, and were nevertheless counted as orthodox. The ancient church set down what is necessary to believe about Creation: that God the Father, the Almighty, made it all, through Jesus. That's it.
Not taking it literally has nothing to do with scientism or "evolutionism" for many people. Nor does it have to do with not believing what others in the Bible say: it has to do with recognizing it as a story meant to drive home the glory of God, not to teach history or science. Yes, others cite it to make theological points -- but never scientific points! It is inerrant in the sense of the Greek for that term -- it always hits its target -- but makes no claim to accurately describe the universe. As Paul admonishes, we must not go beyond the text; claiming it is meant literally goes beyond the text, and so that is a doctrine which goes against the Apostle's teaching.
Roy, I asked you to substantiate your claims, but all you did was pile on more bald assertions. Where is your evidence for these claims?
Also, you are attacking a straw man since we do not say that Genesis is written in our language to our culture.
You do not seem very interested in actually understanding what we say or why we say it. And you have not explained why the NT authors cite the accuracy of the history in Genesis. The fact that they make theological points is irrelevant, since my argument was that those theological points are based upon taking the narrative in Genesis as history.
The Torah is Truth. It was commanded for Israel's Kings to have a personal copy of the Law of Moses. King David with his own copy: Psalm 16:8 I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. The Word of God is at the right hand of the Father awaiting His order to be sent to Earth for the resurrection of the righteous, and following Global Judgment of mankind, so that He may reign on a restored and cleansed Earth, destroying all rule and power--including the last enemy death! Then the Son hands the Kingdom back to the Father, so that all may be in Him.
Evolution produces bad fruit. It causes people to attack the Bible, calling it unscientific. The Bible is written as a plain, phenomenological language, and the concepts and history it teaches is the truth. With evolution, one can't defend God's character of having no death, disease, and suffering as part of his perfect creation. With evolution, one can't point out God's active part in creation, speaking and willing things into existence; instead life made itself, and only an illusion of design. Evolution glorifies the creature not the Creator. Who cares what the world consensus says. Empirical science supports the Creator, things don't add up under evolution. The timeline of evolution is simply incompatible every which way with the Bible. If something contradicts God's Word, reject it, because it is a lie. Lies destroy and are of the devil. Seek the glory of God not fallen and sinful mankind.
I am impressed with your answers. Well written and cohesive!!
Congratulations to Keaton Halley for a very commendable article. I, for one, thought the article was very well written. It is my opinion that anyone that believes that GOD cannot create, in six literal days, cannot possibly believe that one man, Jesus, could be the payment for the sins of all mankind. GOD's word is true from the beginning to the end. I am given to believe that Moses wrote the Genesis account and as such, it is also my belief that GOD would have told Moses that his account of creation was wrong, if indeed it had been. I believe, since GOD delivered the laws, the warnings, HIS demonstrations of Love and Mercy and his demonstrations of wrath for Moses to record for us learn, that everything that Moses wrote is true. Moses had daily contact with the living GOD. As GOD told Aaron," With Moses I speak face to face." Again the LORD told Miriam and Aaron in Numbers 12:8, I speak mouth to mouth with my servant Moses. Moses told us the truth as GOD gave Moses the truth to tell us. GOD then asked Miriam and Aaron why they were they not afraid to speak against HIS servant Moses. GOD HIMSELF tells us that Moses has spoken the truth about all that GOD has given him to tell us.
There is nothing in science that disagrees with the word of GOD. There are people that make mistakes in the name of science and there are people that flat out lie claiming that science has proven the Bible wrong. Upon closer examination of the "SCIENCE" that these people use, we find that science had nothing to do with the claims they made. The falling away of the church is well underway. The disbelievers of the so called christians prove it. To GOD be the Glory. Amen.
God, speaking to us through Scripture, tells us not to add to His words of take from His words. Speaking to us through both Scripture and the Creation, He lets us know that His historical account is true. As soon as we go beyond what God says, we are just making it up (which we all do sometimes). Speculating, reasoning based on assumptions or worldviews, and making up stories: these are the things that cause disunity. We do know that God created the Heaves, Earth, and seas, and everything in them in six days, man being created on the sixth day. And we know that there were approximately 4,000 years between Adam, the first man, and Christ.
As a Catholic, l can only say that the articles of CMI are worthy of praise and full of sound scholarship. God bless the creation stance, without which, the whole of scripture is made of little avail, and in evolution terms, valueless. The sharing of each others treasures are part of Christian unity.
Rejecting the Biblical account of creation unwittingly reveals a worldview based on scientism. Affirming scientism and at the same time calling yourself a Christian is being intellectually dishonest. You have to ignore, overlook and reinterpret so many clear Biblical revelations, teachings and affirmations that atheists smirk at the contradiction.
Dear Keaton Halley while I like your comment to R.M., I wonder why you didn't answer to his request about to show ONE name of a Ph.D physicist who believes in the historical aspect of Genesis. In one of few months ago answers to a similar questions the CMI Officer responded with a long list of Ph.Ds believers in Genesis 1-11. Thank you. Regards, Gennaro Cozzi
It was C. M. who asked that. Yes, it probably would have been good to include that too, but see my reply to Alan J. above to understand my rationale for answering as I did.
It's a pity Keaton didn't answer CM's question "Can you name even one living scientist who earned a Ph.D. or equivalent degree from a real college or university who believes in a young earth and who does not so believe BECAUSE of his religious beliefs rather than science?" - I trust this was just an oversight!
Actually, my 2nd and 3rd paragraphs are meant to address that. I could have just listed scientists who believe in creation or pointed C. M. to our creation scientists page. But C. M. presumably would have dismissed all these by saying that they believe for religious reasons. So my approach was to expose the fallacious assumptions behind his question—(a) that science is the only reliable key to knowledge and (b) that a belief is necessarily wrong if held for illegitimate reasons.
I was fortunate to do serious study of the Bible before I studied science seriously. From study of the Bible, I can say that your question itself is wrong as far as the first Creation account: it is written in a type of literature that didn't aim at being "factual", but was aimed at proclaiming a mighty work of a great king. The form of literature used thematic organization, not chronological, and when it spoke of chronology was not intended to be taken literally.
Making Genesis 1 literal sucks the joy and glory from the text. Totally apart from science, a wise Christian will not insist on a literal view because the Bible makes no claim to one. Instead, a wise Christian will learn what that type of literature meant back then, and thus draw the real power of the account. It's a sad, pale thing you make of the scripture by reading it as something it was never intended to be.
Roy, are we to accept this based on your authority? You haven't actually given arguments for your view, just asserted it. In the articles I linked to, we have exegeted various biblical texts and shown that the later biblical authors (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) viewed Genesis 1–11 as history. They even made theological points based on the chronology of Genesis. But you haven't interacted with our arguments at all.
C.M. from the United States asks "Can you name even one living scientist who earned a Ph.D. or equivalent degree from a real college or university who believes in a young earth and who does not so believe BECAUSE of his religious beliefs rather than science?"
Aren't there a number of CMI people who came to believe in Creation because the evolutionary storytelling just doesn't stack up to real scrutiny? Are there not others who began their path towards becoming Christians for the same reason? Don't most scientists who believe in Creation believe in it, not (just) because they believe in a literal reading of Genesis but, because the evidence fits the Creation model far better than the evolutionary storytelling?
And what is C.M.'s definition of a "real college or university"? One that promotes evolution wholeheartedly and shuts down any dissenting voices without any concern for encouraging real scientific discussion on the subject? As I have read somewhere on the Creation website previously; "In reality, the scientific evidence should have seen off evolution long ago, but something that is so foundational to the anti-God religion of naturalism is not open to scientific refutation."
I think Keaton missed a golden opportunity with the second feedback (though granted, CMI authors - quite possibly himself included - have made essentially this point in many articles) - he could have pointed-out how the critic contradicted himself in the space of a paragraph. First he says "creationism was discarded by Christians over 200 years ago" (not true, of course - it was LIBERALS who discarded it, Conservatives have never done so) and thereby essentially admits that it had been the historic position of the church up to that point, then complains that the scholarship "overlooked the fact that the western concept of history as an objective, factual discipline did not exist until nearly two millennia after the canonisation of the Old Testament"! Which one is it?
His second question is of course even more absurd - essentially, he's saying "name a single evolutionist who believes in a young earth"! And of course, also doing the usual trick of equating naturalistic ideas with "science" and supernaturalistic ones with "religion" - as Keaton pretty much points out. Amazing that these compromisers so often apparently struggle to think before they write.
Dear Keaton, As a Christian American living in South Australia, I truly can't thank you enough for the way you refuse to be led down 'rabbit holes' and refusing to take the bait of others who 'purportedly' want sincere dialogue on this matter and others. In my (yes, humble) opinion, I am so very encouraged when a Christian not ONLY knows his Bible... but, has the capacity to stand in and for Truth. Thank you.
In Him and His Truth & Love, Always...
Cynthia Lauren T.
Christian American gal living on South Australia's Outback Coast and VERY much appreciating these articles. They inspire.