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“Theology made me reject creation”

Published: 10 October 2020 (GMT+10)
bible

A reader sent in a comment from a friend, asking for help in responding to him. We are not publishing the original comment because the author did not submit it to us giving us permission to use it, but we are posting the response from Lita Sanders in hopes that it will be useful for people responding to similar arguments.

Dear C.,

We see a lot of ‘former creationists’ like your classmate who, when younger, seemed very knowledgeable about creation arguments. However, when you scratch the surface, they are just parroting what they have been taught and don’t have the ability to think through these issues for themselves. This is a normal stage of learning and there is nothing wrong with it in that context, but if this does not mature into an understanding and an ability to apply the thinking to new questions or arguments that arise, the result can be a lot like your friend’s comment. Your friend now seems to know a lot of ‘facts’ that refute his former belief, but it is just another set of parroted arguments he doesn’t really have an in-depth understanding of.

Your friend says that biblical creation “assumes a post-Enlightenment intellectual sensibility that can be rightly applied to a pre-Enlightenment mythology”. OK, but what does he mean by that? Does he mean it is only post-Enlightenment that we are concerned with facts and objective truth? Were no pre-Enlightenment people concerned with these things? Did they not have the concept that some things were true and some were not? The problem with making that ‘pre- vs post-Enlightenment’ distinction is that it is absolute nonsense for anyone with any historical awareness. Try reading Bede or Josephus or Luke seriously, then try to argue that they weren’t concerned with whether the events they recorded actually happened in history. Bede clearly believed that Alban was an actual chieftain who was converted then martyred. Josephus believed that the Maccabean revolt really happened in history just as he recorded. And Luke believed that Jesus bodily rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. You can argue they were wrong, that they were misguided, but you cannot argue that they were unconcerned with the reality of the events they were recording. Luke, specifically, is an amazing historian who cited many overlapping chronological and geographic details. This ‘pre-Enlightenment’ historian was concerned enough with how facts interrelate that he told us the name of a ship (Acts 28:11) and the proper titles for the specific rulers of specific types of Roman political entities (Acts 16:20. 17:6, etc.). In Luke 3:1–3, he dates the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry to the fifteenth year of Tiberius, when Pilate was governor of a province called Judea, and a man named Herod held the title of tetrarch, of Galilee. At the same time, Herod’s brother Philip was tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis, Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, and Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests in Jerusalem. Just a few verses later Luke introduces the lineage of Jesus, all the way back to Adam.

But not everything in the Bible is straightforward history. For example, there is poetry, which communicates truth in poetic language. This requires another layer of interpretation. There are fables and parables, which are fictitious stories with a moral or spiritual lesson. There is allegory, which uses historical people, places, or things to stand in for spiritual things. So how do we tell when something means to be straightforward history?

Every language has its own way of communicating literal vs. non-literal communication, and the plain interpretation is the one that makes the most sense taking into account the conventions of the language. If I say, “it’s raining cats and dogs”, you wouldn’t look outside expecting to see medium-sized mammals falling from the sky, because you would recognize that as a figure of speech. You can tell a figurative statement in English from a literal statement in English because you’re fluent in English.

Hebrew also is able to differentiate between figurative and literal language, and Genesis has all the marks of historical narrative, a genre that intends to communicate factual events in plain language. See Genesis is history and the articles linked there for more details about why Genesis is history.

Your friend also stated that “It creates a false dichotomy that says, “The text is 100% true”” and some error does not affect the overall trustworthiness of the text. Your friend says this is symptomatic of placing one’s faith in the Bible and not in God. But as we’ve pointed out before, you can’t say you trust in God and not believe His Word. It would be one thing if God had said, “My Word is mostly reliable except when I allowed Moses or Paul to slip up a bit on certain details like the timescale of creation”, but over and over again the Bible claims that God’s Word is entirely true and trustworthy.

Your friend says that nothing and no one but Jesus is called the “Word of God”, and that at best Scripture could be called the words of God. A simple Bible word search reveals this to be a false as well as facile statement. See John 10:35 for Jesus Himself calling Scripture the Word of God, and Ephesians 6:17 for Paul calling Scripture the Word of God. There are 274 instances of “word/s of the Lord” in the Bible, 260 of them being in the Old Testament. I encourage him to do a more in-depth study of these verses, as it is edifying and encouraging to see the absolute trust Scripture insists the Word of God deserves. And it might be a cautionary note to your friend to see what Scripture has to say about those who fail to trust the Word of God.

It is also false, as he claims, that no one attempted a biblical chronology before the middle ages in Europe. Josephus and Demetrius the Chronographer, Eusebius, Augustine, and many others attempted to create a chronology of the world based on the Bible.

As for the contentions that the geological data indicate an old earth and that confirmation bias is the only reason one would conclude otherwise, obviously we disagree. And the contention that starlight travel time is a problem for biblical creation, we have answered those, and we also reject the idea that God created starlight in transit, so his assertion that this is the only viable solution is patently wrong.

Your friend may find peace in asking primarily what the Bible tells him about God, but one thing the Bible tells us is that we have a God who acts in time, space, and history. The Bible doesn’t claim the events it describes took place “long ago, in a fairytale land far away” that is inaccessible to our investigations. Rather, the Bible boldly claims that God acted in the context of people and places we can historically investigate.

Helpful Resources

How Did We Get Our Bible?
by Lita Cosner, Gary Bates
US $3.50
Soft Cover
Christianity for Skeptics
by Drs Steve Kumar, Jonathan D Sarfati
US $17.00
Soft Cover