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“Theology made me reject creation”

Published: 10 October 2020 (GMT+10)

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 Cosner 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

Readers’ comments

Soma Y.
From what i have seen it seems that for regular people who are unaware, the main source of these problems regarding the authority of the Bible in current times comes from the website wikipedia because it is dominated by liberal naturalistic propaganda, and this can confuse both Christians and everyone else as well, because every time a regular person that has not yet passed the existential crisis stage (soul, the afterlife etc) and searches for something regarding religion on the internet, wikipedia is usually the first result that appears, and even though people know that it is not a reliable source that does not stop the problems that it brings. Wikipedia basically presents the entire Old Testament as forgeries and altered copies from texts of other nations and almost none of the people that it contains are considered historical, while the entire New Testament is presented as late pseudepigraphical by anonymous authors that exaggerated the life of the "historical Jesus".

A recent example of this confusion that i have seen is the mobile anime application Arknights which features an organization named "Tower of Babel" that has similar storyline with the actual tower but when people see the name there and search it up they see wikipedia labeling it as myth and it confuses everyone. Although i am glad that many people started defending its historicity in Arknights.

It is true that darwinism is also a core problem but most regular people at school around the world neither pay attention nor do they remember the things that they hear in biology and the other lessons, it is after that from the internet (mainly wikipedia) where they get misinformed with the naturalistic nonsense. By default everyone takes God and creation for granted since it is innate part of human nature.
This person's friend is truly Mr. Straw Man.
Dan B.
Very good response Lita, thanks again. Another "Word of God" citation would be Jesus' rebuke to the Pharisees: "Thus you make the word of God of none effect by your tradition", referring there to the Fifth Commandment. Meanwhile the correspondent's friend fails to consider that modern-day old-earth geological beliefs are themselves a manifest instance of confirmation bias, in terms of being passed down several generations (cue the Pharisees again) from professor to student, and when traced back to source originate in a time when their advocates were not only of course very clever, but also very, very ignorant compared to us in 2020. Present-day knowledge of the solar system has in fact rendered old-earth geology completely unviable. In general, confirmation bias is much more likely to be present in a majority/consensus opinion than in a dissident one.
David G.
One of the great challenges of thinking about God is how the infinite eternal God can be in communion with his finite creature, bound by time and space. The creation account shows that God is present and active in the world of his creatures by his word (showing that his word precedes all that we know and experience in the creation). Indeed, the very act of creating in sequence of our 'days' demonstrates this. The only theology that would overturn this is a theology where God is not reliably available for our worship (the way we are in communion with him). That is a theology that relegates the sequence of days to story-land, but still hopes it tells us something by not telling us what is! This is the type of theology that follows Genesis 3:8, a theology that hides us from God.
Grahame G.
It is an excellent point to say that trusting God's word is trusting God. If we can't trust what God says, how can we say we trust God?

And it's also an excellent point to say that "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." And this is true for everyone who rejects biblical creationism. If they do think through it (which requires submission to God's grace), you inevitably come to the same conclusion as CMI and numerous other creationists.

And then we get accused of pride and thinking we are the only ones who are right. No, God is the only One who is right. We are just doing our best to agree with Him. Which is the opposite of pride.
R R.
As usual, this is a very good response countering the "scholarly" advice he got. Today, it is often the case that going to an academic for advice makes as much sense as going to a communist/socialist for basic human rights, liberty, and proper government...

I sometimes wonder what the Holy Spirit is or isn't doing with people, given that so many of them want nothing to do with God or even listen to anything we might have to say... we're clearly seeing the results of that in today's society :/

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