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Does CMI’s commitment to Scripture mean we throw out contrary evidence?

Bible
Published: 13 March 2021 (GMT+10)

Today’s feedback comes from R.A. from the U.S., who asks us to clarify a statement that appears on CMI’s webpage, What we believe. Skeptics may treat the statement as grounds for dismissing all of CMI’s claims as unreasonably biased, but this would be an illegitimate conclusion to draw. R.A.’s message (in green) is followed by a reply from Keaton Halley of CMI–US.

Hello! I am a fan of the site and believe in YEC [Young-Earth Creationism]. I talk with atheists and Darwinian believers all the time and when I mention creation.com I’ve been pointed to this part of your About section (below), what does this imply?

“Facts are always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information. By definition, therefore, no interpretation of facts in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record.”
I believe the scriptures too but this makes it sound like you throw out contrary evidence. Could you please elaborate for me and indirectly them? Thank you!

Hi R.A.,

That’s a fair question, but if the critics think our claim here means that we throw out contrary evidence, then I believe they have misunderstood our meaning. Let me answer this from a couple of different angles.

First, this text comes from CMI’s statement of doctrines and beliefs, to which CMI staff are required to adhere. Some might object to the very idea of having a doctrinal statement, believing that this entails individuals are not free to question or challenge these ideas, which are instead imposed top down by authorities. But a doctrinal statement actually just serves to maintain the integrity of the organization and its goals. People are not required to work for our ministry, and they should only do so if they thoughtfully consider CMI’s doctrinal statement and find themselves in agreement with it, not because they stop thinking and blindly accept CMI’s authority.

Furthermore, this works the same way for secular institutions. For example, whether or not the requirements are formalized in written documents, many organizations committed to evolution surely have similar requirements. How long would the National Center for Science Education tolerate a young-earth creationist in their ranks? They wouldn’t be welcome in the first place, because somebody who holds to biblical creation would be working at cross-purposes with that organization’s goals. So it is perfectly legitimate for organizations to require employees or even volunteers to agree to certain foundational positions. This does not mean people blindly follow the core commitments; it just means that if they reject them they can no longer work for the organization in good conscience.

Second, does the content of this statement itself mean that we operate with an unfairly-biased blind allegiance, and throw out contrary evidence? No. It just means that Scripture is one of our core commitments, and because we are convinced that it is the Word of God, then it can be used to evaluate other truth claims. We recognize that all people have core commitments or presuppositions, so we don’t start with some neutral kind of blank slate every time we encounter a new fact about the world or an argument for a particular worldview. We evaluate these things in terms of our pre-existing worldview and try to figure out how the evidence fits.

So it is important to recognize the unavoidable role of presuppositions, but it is also important not to make them so ultimate that one denies objective reality and claims that our choice of worldview is purely subjective and arbitrary. No, at CMI we do ultimately believe that objective reality shows that the Christian worldview is the correct one. But, often, the facts can be interpreted in different ways depending on one’s starting point. A person’s presupposition is a more fundamental commitment, and that’s what Scripture is for us. But that’s not to say that we arbitrarily choose Scripture and then force the evidence to line up with it. Rather, the evidence helps to confirm that our core commitment is the right one. If our worldview didn’t make sense of reality very well and too many facts didn’t fit, then hypothetically we could reevaluate our core commitment. But instead we find that a biblical worldview actually does make the best sense of reality whereas other core commitments do not, and so we continue to rely on the Bible when interpreting new facts that come to our attention.

I would recommend you read several articles that elaborate further on the roles of presuppositions, evidence, arguments, faith, and so forth. These include:

Faith and Facts

Using the Bible to prove the Bible? Are biblical creationists guilty of circular reasoning?

The ‘knockout punch’ syndrome

In Christ,
Keaton Halley

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