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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

Related Media

Helpful Resources

Evidence for Creation
by Tom DeRosa
US $6.00
Soft Cover
Christianity for Skeptics
by Drs Steve Kumar, Jonathan D Sarfati
US $17.00
Soft Cover
How Did We Get Our Bible?
by Lita Cosner, Gary Bates
US $3.50
Soft Cover

Readers’ comments

Richard L.
To finish my submission of 5 days ago, the 1 Thess. 5:21 "But test all things; hold fast the good" dual command leads us to be able to stay faithful--at a propositional apologetics level--to scripture, and to also be faithful to intellectual honesty. Obeying this dual command not only helps our spirituality and discipleship obedience; it also requires us to be intellectually honest, pro-knowledge, and rigorous academically and in scientific methodology. When new evidence seems to go against the bible, we transparently acknowledge the challenge. But--in faith that God proves true--we keep investigating, confident that final evidence will affirm the Bible. In other words, we don't 'tune out' apparently discordant data, while holding to a statement of faith.

Please contrast that to the other side. Occasionally, atheist honesty exists, such as L Sprague de Camp's "The Great Monkey Trial", critiquing his side's faults, in the Scopes Trial. But, more often: atheist Richard Lewontin's quote about the 'need' to avoid scientific evidence pointing to a supernature, even if the cost is notions that are or involve "patent absurdity", "unsubstantiated", and "counter-intuitive". He is clearly pre-determining investigative outcomes. against honest investigation. Yet, no widespread condemnation of him by fellow atheists. Or Dr. Scott Todd's rejection of intelligent design, as unscientific, even if "all the evidence" points there. Like failure by atheists to self-condemn, even though science is centrally about following the natural evidence. They, not us, are the ones doing anti-integrity filtering, within their faith system.

The above dual command allows us to do better. It allows CMI's statement of faith to exist and be practiced, within integrity.
Abe M.
I think I'm in the right spot for commenting. I see all this talk about evidence, and the question that comes to mind is "what about honesty"? Does scripture tell us that the moral absolute of honesty (telling the truth) is ONLY truthful AFTER 'evidence' has substantiated honest claims? If I'm the only witness to a murder (other than the murderer and Jesus), and I testify to this factual reality as it happened, to the best of my ability (plain honesty), wouldn't Jesus honor this honesty (morality, lying is immoral) even though the honest claims I make where only evidenced (witnessed) by myself, and not others? Let's say my honest claims are dismissed by a judge because they aren't evidence to others necessary to convict the murderer, what then does this say about honesty (telling the truth)? =).
Grahame G.
Indeed. Presuppositions. We all have them. We admit ours. Our opponents don't. They are hypocrites but mostly unaware they are being hypocritical. They are not honest or self-aware.
Richard L.
A helpful verse to start is 1 Thess. 5:21, "But test all things, hold fast the good." The context, re 5:20, is New-Covenant prophecy... and any other truth claim from outside the Bible. The test is for finding authenticity, getting beyond surface appearance, going all the way down in due diligence. (God is not afraid of what we will dig up; ergo He and the Bible are true--all categories.) We are commanded not to mentally flinch away. All creationist organizations have this ethos: We must always act intellectually honestly. A confidence: when we dig down deep enough, we find that science agrees with the bible. If it still doesn't seem to do so, we have overlooked (wrong) presuppositions not yet identified. The core hard facts agree with the bible.

For example, star count appears to be straightforward, without speculation. A max of 3000 stars per sky hemisphere, according to Greek philosophers. But the Bible says that Abraham's descendants will effectively be impossible to count: like sand grains, dust grains, and stars. The telescope is invented. Now we estimate close to a trillion billion stars. Overlooked and wrong subtle assumption filter: no signal-intensity threshold for conscious awareness of signal. Now clarified. The bible was right all along. Science had to catch up.

For example, end of the 1800s, anti-bible archeologists claim bible has mythological elements because its mention of Hittites has no support from the ruins or ancient documents. Since 1907, Hittite ruins have been identified, and we know a lot about them. Archeology has caught up to the bible, in this area.

New discoveries may increase or introduce bible-interpretation challenges. We keep digging, honestly and transparently, confident that evidence will swing back to endorsing the bible.
James H.
Good response. If the critics were to read the statement a little more closely, they would see that it is not evidence that CMI throws out, it is the interpretation that is thrown out where that interpretation contradicts scripture, and rightly so. Scripture is the firm foundation of our faith. If we were to build our faith on something else, we would soon find that it had shifted out from under us, leaving us without foundation.
R R.
If that statement/commitment is, apparently, so easily misunderstood by some people, wouldn't it make sense to rephrase/clarify it so that doesn't happen - or at least the chances are reduced?

Yes, the meaning has been clarified in articles, but it would be more effective if the statement itself gets the clarification.

As an analogy, when I write or review code, if I notice that people have been writing too many comments to "clarify" their code, I just request that they refactor the code itself instead of continually allowing more unnecessary comments, as the presence of unnecessary comments is itself evidence of the lack of clarity.

If CMI has had to clarify and explain this statement, then it's likely that a similar approach is needed.
Dan M.
The secularists now accept that there were six major floods in earth's history that formed the geological megasequence's where in the past it was strict uniformitarianism, (no unique events). In my belief, (biblical) if they would just group all those floods into one event and lose the millions of years, they might see that the bible explains what we see perfectly, (as we imperfectly understand it). Secularists are in fact moving more towards the bible in this thinking but just won't fully commit because they don't like the ramifications of a creator God. It doesn't mesh with their preferred presuppositions of the past because biblical and secular models don't mix. Listen up, Hugh Ross! The bible just plainly makes sense of the immoral state of man, (no morality without God) as well as the catastrophic topographical state of the planet and the fossil record. The bible identifies with my spirit as well as my intellect contrary to what the secularist say and no amount of bullying will change that. We all have preferred suppositions individually and that is why we have poll-taking organizations. As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD! (Jos 24:15).
Jim M.
I think that the attitude to which R. A. alludes is actually rampant in secular science, particularly in the areas of evolution and cosmology.

Take for example the exchange recounted by Dr. Mary Schweitzer between herself and a reviewer of her paper on her initial discovery of soft biological tissue in a dinosaur bone,

‘I had one reviewer tell me that he didn’t care what the data said, he knew that what I was finding wasn’t possible,’ says Schweitzer. ‘I wrote back and said, “Well, what data would convince you?” And he said, “None.”’

The reviewer was committed to throwing out evidence that was contrary to his presupposition that dinosaur fossils we’re all older than 65 million years—which means that there could be no soft biological tissue in them—because that is what the evolutionary “bible’ asserts.

Or these words of Neil deGrasse Tyson: “We know the [gas] cloud wants to collapse under its own weight to make one or more stars. But rotation as well as turbulent motion within the cloud work against that fate. So, too, does the ordinary gas pressure you learned about in high-school chemistry class. Galactic magnetic fields also fight collapse: … The scary part is that if none of us knew in advance that stars exist, front-line research would offer plenty of convincing reasons for why stars could never form.”

In this case, he is not throwing out the evidence of the stars but, instead, all the evidence that says stars “could never form” in the manner required by the big bang because of his presupposition that the big bang is the correct history of the universe.
David R.
It seems to me that you are saying: We do not throw out evidence, but we do throw out interpretations of the evidence which contradict scripture.
Keaton Halley
Yes and no. We use Scripture as a guide to truth, but this doesn't mean we never engage with contrary points of view. So we reject those alternative interpretations, but it doesn't mean we are thoughtlessly dismissive of them. We just look to see if there's a better interpretation all things considered.
Bill P.
I am old & a Y.E.C. Never doubted that your site believes The Gospel of Jesus Christ & that "The Book" known as the Bible is "The Word of God". It's historical, 25% to 30% is prophetic, it's doctrinal, & yes poetic when it comes to GOD expressing His love for Israel, it's people, & gentiles of all nations who come to faith in "The Holy One of Israel.
I'm in my late 60's now & have been reading The Bible for over 40 yrs. I've discovered during these yrs. It takes time to learn of His Ways. After all as it is written: "a new Babe in The Faith" can only handle the milk of The Word & as they mature in "The Faith" God begins to reveal "The meat of His Word.
I've learned these truths: The writers of these books were truly moved by God's Holy Spirit, & the most important thing of ALL is that from beginning to end God's Word points to the most important subject in Scripture, & that subject is JESUS CHRIST.
Not only have I studied & meditated on God's word I've also studied (from the Biblical point of view) subjects like geology, biology, some chemistry & astronomy. I tried studying those subjects from the world's view for almost 20 yrs. in my youth & I've always had a deep seeded doubt of what I was being taught. (In those yrs. I received my education in Catholic schools, & those were the days you Did Not question what you were taught, if you know what I mean.
The Bible is a unique book. There is no other (I hate to use this word) religious book like it in the world. God Himself came down to earth to our fallen level (as The Unique Son of God) to fulfill Scripture w/the intent to redeem us & to clearly explain what His Word said about ALL things. What also makes this book unique is that HE tells us "The End" from the beginning.
Give honor & praise to Him who lives forever.
Norman P.
The darkness of unbelief is the default state of the mind of fallen man. In the modern rationalistic world, this means unbelief needs its own faith-construct for the unknowable, which is constantly being falsified and adjusted. Such hypotheses act as a rickety fence upon which to hang observed facts, and can satisfy credulity for a time, just as idols did in the past (namely, worship of the creation). But when, after all, biblical revelation is found not to deny the observable evidence, we are set free to worship the One to whom worship is due. Mercy and salvation ensue, along with righteousness, peace and joy; and the earth is blessed (Psalm 85:9-11).
Philip P.
Good reply to a good question. Thanks Keaton.

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