Are All Biblical Stories Appropriate for Children?


(Spectrumbot) #1

Ellen G White (EGW) did not like fiction. Her aversion to the genre is why she counselled “total abstinence [the] only safety” (Ministry of Healing, p 446). For much of the church’s history, EGW’s statements about fiction have been the official guide to what church members should and should not read. In the following quotation, she compares fiction to warfare and employs military imagery in her call to root it out:

If the intellectual and moral tastes have been perverted by ever-wrought and exciting tales of fiction so that there is a disinclination to apply the mind, there is a battle to be fought to overcome the habit. A love for fictitious reading should be overcome at once. Rigid rules should be enforced to hold the mind in the proper channel. (Counsels to Teachers, Parents and Students, p 136)

Elsewhere she draws the net tighter about permissible fiction and concludes there is none:

Even fiction which contains no suggestion of impurity, and which may be intended to teach excellent principles, is harmful. It encourages the habit of hasty and superficial reading, merely for the story. Thus it tends to destroy the power of connected and vigorous thought, it unfits the soul to contemplate the great problems of duty and destiny. (Ministry of Healing, p 445)

In this view, there is no such thing as good fiction. Fiction in all its forms is a snare which ultimately debases the appetite and prevents it from appreciating the better good, which is the Bible. In her many statements on fiction, I have yet to find one where she casts it in a positive light. This could partly be generational; the word (fiction), as understood and used in EGW’s world, was mainly associated with the “imagination”, which was in turn linked to such words as “feigning”, “pretense” and “deceit” – all with negative connotations. Fictitious stories, especially novels, romances and dramas, invariably carried the conceptual burden of “made up.”

This may explain why she endorses John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, not as an imaginative work, which it is, but as allegory. In this, which might be viewed as a slight of hand, EGW is in good company. The story is told – probably apocryphal – that during the process of scriptural canonization, the bishops were deadlocked and ready to jettison Song of Solomon on the grounds of excessive eroticism. Just in the nick of time the book’s proponents advanced the idea that it was not the love story many assumed. Instead, it is an allegory – of God’s love for humans.

John Waller and Robert Dunn, two Adventist academics who have perhaps done the most work in this area, argue that there is a qualitative difference between the fiction of EGW’s time and serious contemporary fiction. But it is doubtful this argument would have swayed Mrs. White. After all, since she disapproved of Shakespeare, it is unlikely that Camus, Steinbeck or Toni Morrison would make a good impression.

The unbending principle for EGW could be that she saw the Bible as superior to all other literature. Consequently, it made little sense to expose formative minds to what was clearly inferior. But is the idea that the Bible surpasses all other imaginative literature – and therefore children should not be exposed to fiction – tenable? On the flip side, should we expose children to all stories in the Bible simply because they are in the Bible, and therefore are “profitable” for all, regardless of age?

My answer to both questions is no!

And in objecting, I contend that there is much more to the quality of what we read than whether it originates in the Bible or has a basis in fact. A story is not exemplary because the details recount an actual happening. Sometimes “true” stories tell appealing “lies” because they oversimplify. The converse is also true. Some stories, when told with prudent modifications (lies if you wish), deliver truth. The trick is to be careful not to confuse fact with truth.

One of the most impactful courses I took in graduate school was literature criticism, taught by the late John O. Waller. It was in this class that I learned the difference between a factual account that is “untruthful” and an altered factual narrative that tells the “truth”. Dr. Waller explained the difference by telling a hypothetical story.

A young boy returned from the grocery store with a new toy. After a quick interrogation by his mother, the boy confessed to stealing it. Alarmed, the mother reprimanded her son and took him back to the store to apologize and return the pilfered toy. He did, promising the shop owner he would never shoplift again. The store owner, impressed by the boy’s candor, accepted his apology and extended forgiveness. The owner then walked the boy to the bakery section and cut him a big slice of cake, for free.

In this story, all the events happened as narrated and therefore could be deemed a “true story”. But for Dr. Waller, this “true” story nevertheless was the embodiment of a “lie”. The flaw was that the writer, by including the end of this true narrative, informed us that the appreciative grocer gave the shoplifter a free slice of cake. And, by giving him cake, the owner risked creating the impression that, when we return a stolen item, we get rewarded. For Dr. Waller, a better and truer ending to this story would have the writer modifying the factual ending to have the shop owner assign the repentant boy a cleaning job as restitution.

With Dr. Waller’s example in mind, let’s turn our attention to the Bible and examine whether all Bible stories are good for young minds. Are there stories in the Bible we should protect our children from, just as we are admonished to shield them from fictitious literature? At least until their minds mature enough to understand and appreciate the need to suspend disbelief where appropriate?

I think there are such stories in the Bible. The following are three examples I would not read to or encourage children to read.

First is the world-wide flood story recounted in Genesis 6 through 9. The narrative tells of the Creator God’s frustration with his human creation because he “saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intent of the thought of his heart was only evil continuously” (Gen 6:5, NKJV). This continual evil was apparently not limited to humans alone. It seems that all of God’s creation was in on it. Therefore, with great sadness, God resolved to put an end to his living creation. He decided to “destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them” (Gen 6:6, NKJV). It is unclear whether God intended to start completely over before “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” and became the vehicle of God’s re-beginning. Regardless, God carried out his planned near obliteration, using the flood as his weapon. The resulting carnage and death is so stupendous, and on a scale so immense, that it is difficult even for adults to comprehend.

The reason I wouldn’t want this story read by children is not just the sheer size of the slaughter, though that is a consideration. Death, on this magnitude, even when occasioned by blind natural forces, can numb and cause adults to stoop and lower their shoulders. When children are exposed to such devastation, something can snap and give way. However, the primary reason is I fear they could become desensitized to death, or worse, normalize it, because God did it. Of course, there is also the inevitable uncomfortable follow-up questions that only children can ask – Why did so many have to die?

Why indeed, when one of the first things “righteous Noah” and his family did on touching dry ground again was plant a vineyard, get drunk, and resume the previous debauchery – as though they had not witnessed a deluge. What did the flood accomplish if wickedness never missed a beat?

A second story is God’s purported command to the Israelites, through his spokesperson Samuel, to exterminate an entire group of people. This account is in 1 Samuel 15. The Amalekites were doomed because they dared resist the invading army (they would later learn were God’s people) on its march to the Promised Land. The chilling command was “Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey” (1 Sam 15:3; ESV).

Maybe there is good reason that God chose to exact such merciless reprisal on children and infants. But, if a child read this and inquired why children their age deserved to be killed for their parents’ sins, I think any answers justifying such genocide would ring hollow and risk twisting right and wrong. Therefore, I’d rather that they don’t read this story until they come of age and can individually wrestle with God.

The last example is the story of the gang rape of the Levite’s concubine in Judges 19 (compare with Genesis 19). What can we say about this story that is redeeming? Even adults find it hard. I reflexively hurry along whenever I reread it. But, to appreciate the magnitude of the wrong done to this woman, we must engage our imagination. Then follows a nauseating sense of violation. So if adults wince with exposure to this story, what justification should we give for subjecting our young to it?

“Because it is in the Bible,” will not do.

Matthew Quartey is a transplanted Ghanaian who now lives in and calls the Adventist ghetto of Berrien Springs, Michigan, home.

Previous Spectrum columns by Matthew Quartey can be found at: http://spectrummagazine.org/authors/matthew-quartey.

Image Credit: Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

If you respond to this article, please:

Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8574

(Peter) #2

These are some reasons why I concluded at age 50+ that I can’t take the entire Bible literally and need to seek the purpose of a passage rather than trying to prove that it literally happened. I no longer feel a need to know/prove that Noah’s flood was literal, rather I seek the lessons in that account.

We don’t always know why such graphic/gruesome stories as discussed in this article are in the Bible. I’m not convinced that they were necessarily meant “for ALL time”, and that they may have had a purpose at some ancient time that is not relevant today. And this is why I have found Dr. Alden Thompson’s book, _Inspiration, so helpful - pointing out that not every word/passage in the Bible is relevant or applicable today.

Did God really direct that a “Bible” as we know it be compiled? (I’ve seen no evidence for that.) Did God really direct what passages were included? Or were some of these terrible stories included because well-meaning men thought they were relevant at some time?

And, OK, this is why I don’t believe that the Levitical laws are applicable today.

Hopefully we “people of the book” can learn to use the Bible more wisely rather than simplistically!


(Joselito Coo) #3

This is a classic example of how oral transmission of gospel narratives changed overtime depending on a particular community’s situation in life. Is there a “better and truer” way of ending the same story for Asian children?

With respect to Bible narratives, I would neither add nor subtract anything that’s already been written as part of what we regard as Scriptures. How about inter-testamental literature such as the Apocrypha? Is that off-limits? How would my own children and grandchildren feel if they were told there are some things Ellen White wrote they were not supposed to read?


#4

Peter, I understand what you are saying. But you do not need to be able to prove Noah’s flood to believe that it happened literally. Even though there are scientists and plenty of evidence pointing to the result that the flood is a fact of history. Can you prove Heaven? No, but I assure you that you believe there is such a place!

The Bible is not a book that is trying to make Christianity “look good”. It portrays facts that may even in some cases make Christianity look bad (depending on the person reading). The Bible is honest, because it’s the Word of God.

If all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and even looking at Paul’s letter, he wrote to Church’s guided by the holy Spirit. He said he was writing to all saints, those who believe on his word, even Christ said “…but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.” So I believe that is evidence God directed something to be compiled, because how would we be able to believe after Paul died?? But I digress.

Finally, not believing that the Levitical laws doesn’t apply today isn’t a matter of what we think makes sense, because the stories are old or terrible. It is because the Bible says so. This is another reason why we NEED a compiled book, because we would have no authority directing us to know this. And God knew this in His infinite wisdom.


(Matt) #5

I still remember taking part in a dramatic play as a child, probably at age 7-9, where I played the role of Isaac and my father played the roll of Abraham as we reenacted the binding of Isaac in front of the whole church on Sabbath morning. I remember watching my father as he became overwhelmed with emotion at even the thought of sacrificing his son to his god. I watched all of this and remember vividly the thoughts that went through my head as I genuinely wondered whether my father would actually be willing to kill me if he felt God instructed him to. It seemed to me that he certainly did not want to do so, that his conscience was strongly against such an unthinkable act, but that he at least wanted to be faithful and put his trust in god. It seemed to me that he didn’t know if he could do it, but if he had been in Abraham’s place, that he would at least ASPIRE to be willing to do the deed. As I watched him wrestle with it in real time during our reenactment, I did not know if my own father would be willing to ritually murder me or not. That is literally what I thought, and it was a terrifying moment for my perception of both my father and my god.

Theologians tell us it was only a test, and that of course God wouldn’t have actually required Abraham to ritually slaughter his own son. But hang on, if it’s a test, then what’s the point if not to find out how far Abraham would go? Abraham obeyed God instead of following the normal instinct of the human conscience which would rebel against such an act, and he PASSED the test. Those who say that he must have known God would provide an out are missing the point. If he really wouldn’t have gone through with the murder, then he would have failed the test. The test was set up so that Abraham would have to trust God blindly, even to the point of murdering his son. His absolute obedience, to the point of child sacrifice, pleased God.

Such stories are definitively not appropriate for children, and I wish we all would step back and think about the ethical ramifications of this and many other Biblical stories. To be clear, my father is a loving and wonderful man, and apart from those moments I can’t even imagine him causing me or anyone else intentional harm. And yet, that is what makes this observation even more frightening. Such ethical frameworks and beliefs motivated suicide bombers and the 9/11 attackers. Such a perspective can be used to rationalize literally any horrendous act.

When confronted with particularly troubling instances of God apparently requiring actions that conflict with our conscience and cause significant harm, Christians typically offer a standard defense. “We don’t understand this, and maybe it even seems wrong, but we’re commanded to do it and so we obey out of trust or belief in the authority. We can’t know, but God does.” On the surface this probably seems reasonable to many people. But think about it in the context of a moral framework. That defense essentially gives up on any ability for humans to determine right and wrong. It can be used to justify literally any act.

It’s always possible to postpone moral explanations into an indefinite future. We can give this defense to justify any atrocity, for instance the genocide of the Amalekites by the Israelites, something that was explicitly commanded by God. God could always have some greater purpose or morally sufficient reason in the future from a utilitarian point of view. But we are not God, and we cannot know what actions are justified and which are not. We must, as the Bible says, trust him completely. This leaves us in such a morally relativistic state that we literally cannot know right from wrong apart from the explicit commands of God. The command is the only metric. In fact, this means that what a Christian is really saying when they condemn something like the 9-11 attacks is not “this is wrong because it hurt people.” They’re saying, “This is wrong because they are worshiping the wrong god or misunderstanding his commands.” If God had actually commanded it, just like the warfare, genocides, and murders in the Old Testament, it would be right.

The Biblical ethical framework often seems to require obedience to a moral authority (god) rather than relying on our conscience, empathy, and the clear harm or help we can see resulting in the world from our actions. Ignoring what is in front of our eyes, ignoring our human empathy, ignoring our conscience, that is what God repeatedly requires in scripture. God’s commands can make it right to kill our children, or not, to kill gay men, or not, to kill our neighbors who have not lived up to his requirements, or not, to commit mass murders of infants, or not. And somehow those who look to the Bible for morality claim ethical superiority. Please.

Christians are often so used to the trite apologetics in defense of the actions of God that they do not realize how they sound. Before rationalizing or attempting to dismiss reprehensible commands in the Hebrew Bible try this thought experiment. Imagine an extremist imam who has just ordered a suicide bombing attack on a Christian school, put your words in his mouth, and listen. “God knew these children were too mired in a sinful society.” “They’re part of a completely immoral and unrepentant state, which threatens the people of God.” “The destruction of these children will ultimately be for the good.” “God is almighty and all-knowing, who are we to question his justice?” If it sounds hollow and immoral in that instance, it should when applied to all instances.

Please, try to read the Bible through the innocent eyes of the 7-year-old boy I once was, wondering if my father would be willing to murder me at God’s command or not. We can do better than the ancient Hebrews when it comes to morality. We ARE doing better. Let’s not pretend that these stories offer more than they do–the personal perspectives of many different people, filtered through many different times and cultures, all seeking god, just as we do today.


(Matt) #6

Who are these scientists and where is this evidence? I have done much, much investigation in this area and it seems to me that proponents of a world wide flood like to point out little inconsistencies or alleged problems with mainstream geology and then claim victory. In the fossil record we see evidence of many different ancient species, in many different ancient ecosystems (deserts, shallow seas, dense forests, swamps etc), layered on top of one another, and dated with multiple overlapping methods to many hundreds of millions of years. Where is the scientific model that explains the observable fossil record we see today, and is consistent with a worldwide flood? I have not found it.


#7

I am glad to be of help to you in your discovery of truth, Matt. Well, for starters you can view “The fossil record speaks” by Walter Veith. Watch “Is Genesis history” documentary on Netflix as well. These should enlighten and awaken you to evidence and proof in the fossil record for a worldwide flood. Interviews with scientists and scholars that agree with the biblical account.


(R Wresch, M D ) #8

In November of 1905 the “conscientious and enthusiastic” superintendent of the children’s section of the Brooklyn Public Library was distressed to learn that Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn were there available for children to read. Recognizing the “coarseness, deceitfulness and mischievous practices” of these fictional characters, she immediately protected the children by removing the offensive books.

Informed by another library official (Asa Don Dickinson) of her decision, the 70-year-old Mark Twain replied

21 FIFTH AVENUE,
November 21, 1905

DEAR SIR:

I am greatly troubled by what you say. I wrote Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn for adults exclusively, and it always distresses me when I find that boys and girls have been allowed access to them.

The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean; I know this by my own experience, and to this day I cherish an unappeasable bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted, but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old.

None can do that and ever draw a clean sweet breath again this side of the grave. Ask that young lady—she will tell you so.

Most honestly do I wish I could say a softening word or two in defence of Huck’s character, since you wish it, but really in my opinion it is no better than those of Solomon, David, Satan, and the rest of the sacred brotherhood.

If there is an unexpurgated [Bible] in the Children’s Department, won’t you please help that young woman remove Huck and Tom from that questionable companionship?

Sincerely yours,

(Signed, ‘S. L. Clemens’)

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200561h.html


(R Wresch, M D ) #9

Suppose that we had an opportunity for personal examination of the physical evidence? How about spending a week hiking and camping in one of the most geologically interesting parts of our nation? Suppose that we could do so with fellow Seventh-day Adventsts? Suppose that the group would be led by an Adventist pastor and an Adventist geologist?


(ROBIN VANDERMOLEN) #10

Let us be honest :
If the Old Tesstment were to be filmed, it would be R rated for violence and X rated for sex.

Even Noah’s flood, with images of innocent animals drowning (not a pretty picture ) would be loathsome to watch.

The Old Testament Yahweh is too similar to the Islamic Sharia Law Allah—-implacable, inexorable, ruthless, misogynist—not someone you would wish for a father /parental figure.

As for Paul with his exuberant endorsement of human trafficking,
—slaves obey your masters—his miserable misogyny —wives submit to your husbands, even if they beat you, —-and his horrific homophobia, —he is not a sympathetic figure.

One wonders about the ethics of those who decided what would be included in the current canon on scripture.

Most of us would have chosen differently.


(Matt) #11

You really think an ex Adventist wouldn’t be familiar with the church’s most notable conspiracy theorist? I’m familiar with Veith, but generally prefer to read my science in peer reviewed papers written by working scientists in that particular field. I find that YouTube and Netflix don’t have particularly rigorous standards for truth and accuracy, and it can be easy for folks with a little bit of perceived authority to foist whatever veiws they have on an audience looking for anything that agrees with them to prop up their beliefs. That said maybe I’ll return to a few of his videos because I genuinely would like to find the best flood model out there. I wasn’t actually aware that Veith had one. What I’ve seen from him tends to be a lot of misinterpreted stuff that confuses rapid deposition of mud and ash at places like Mt St Helens with other types of depositions. Perhaps I should forgive him for these mistakes since he’s a zoologist and author rather than a geologist. I’ll watch a few videos and let you know what I think if you’d like.

I don’t really want to start a long discussion, but when talking with young Earth creationists I always wonder what you think is actually going on in the scientific community. You realize, I’m sure, that there are literally almost no working geologists who believe the earth to be 6,000 years old, or in a worldwide flood. Why do you think that is? It seems to me that there are only four possibilities here, but let me know if I’ve missed something. Either:

  1. The overwhelming number of professional scientists across multiple disciplines and generations are incompetent.

-OR-

  1. The overwhelming number of professional scientists (many of whom are earnest Christians) across multiple disciplines and generations are part of a massive conspiracy to discredit a specific theological interpretation of Genesis.

-OR-

  1. A malevolent supernatural entity such as the devil is perpetuating a massive manipulation of either the minds of scientists or the physical evidence worldwide. If this is the case, we really do lose all ability to discern a shared reality, as literally everything we perceive could be false, or even created yesterday. In that case, I also fail to see how we could have any level of trust or confidence in a God which allowed such a reality. It would completely negate any rational ability of humans to make free choices or engage in moral development. All of reality would become meaningless and incomprehensible.

-OR-

  1. The scientists understand something which you do not.

(Matt) #12

Honestly that does sound fun, but it also costs money. Perhaps you can point me toward some published papers that outline their models, where they link geologic evidence to a coherent theory of the history of our world? That’s kind of what I’m looking for, and preferably they won’t be citing pastors.


#13

Okay, so you’re an ex Adventist with a bone to pick. I am interested in your third possibility, but what you are innocently forgetting is that our worldview dictates our interpretation of what’s around us. Evolution is a theory that scientist hold on to, because their worldview requires it. There is nothing being altered in nature originally, it is ONLY after man has handled it. How can 2 people see the same thing and describe it differently? The answer is worldview.

And please don’t judge a piece of information by its platform. Judge it by its evidence. We should know that by now, because there have been soo many “new” discoveries from scientists about this earth that totally discredits previous interpretations. Science WILL be ever changing, but Gods Word is the same yesterday, today and forever more, you know that. There are good evidence for a young earth. listen to some of Kent Hovind debates or talks.

And you’re right, this can be a long discussion, but the evidence is out there. A lot of what has been claimed by scientists or scholars the Bible spoke about centuries ago. Sanitation, diet, etc.
Scientist are not the only ones who can understand the world around us. Lets not get TOO caught up in what man says, though. “the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.”


(Harry Allen) #14

Thanks, @thenerdwithin.

You said:

In response:

I’m not clear on this.

When you say, the “[standard defense, ‘We don’t understand this, and maybe it even seems wrong, but we’re commanded to do it and so we obey out of trust or belief in the authority. We can’t know, but God does’] can be used to justify literally any act,” do you mean any action by God, or any action by human beings?

If you mean by human beings, what actions, or commands, would you urge, exist in such a context?

That is, what action are Christians “commanded to do” that “seems wrong,” “but we’re commanded to do it and so we obey out of trust or belief in the authority” of God?

For example, what action in the last two millennia fits such a description?

HA


(James Peterson) #15

Then say honest things.

That is foolishness. If that were true, then most children since Moses would have snapped long ago and none of us would have been here. But I suspect that the devil has sent out his emissaries among Christians to tie up the loose ends of the leaves atheists are selling for a covering. Instead “humble thyself” and listen to the word of the LORD.


Exodus 13:13-15
Every first offspring of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck; and every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come, saying, What is this? then you shall say to him, With a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. And it came about, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the LORD killed every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore, I sacrifice to the LORD the males, the first offspring of every womb, but every firstborn of my sons I redeem …


Parents were provided for children: for children to learn from them, for children to ask questions and listen and know and understand that good and evil surround them and therefore, where evil abounds, righteous judgment punishes the evil and redeems the good.

It is the responsibility of parents to create and thereafter ensure that the channel of communication with their children remains open. It is the responsibility of parents to encourage their children to read the Bible and allow for open and honest age-appropriate discussions. See Luke 2:41-52

But there are many who wallow in their feelings one for another, get married in a passion, discover themselves parents and are at a lost concerning their responsibility. They lament their lot in life, having to give up fame and fortune, career and money for the sake of “what?”.


Malachi 4:5-6
Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel. Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse."


///


(Thomas J Zwemer) #16

Don’t all sinners have access to a free piece of cake.? We call it Grace.


(Matt) #17

I’m primarily talking about events recorded in the Hebrew Bible that describe explicit commands from God to his people to do what I would call horribly immoral acts. The binding of Isaac, the genocide of the Amalekites, etc.

As for examples in the past 2,000 years, that kind of illustrates part of the problem. How do we know when a command is really from God? Christians claimed that the crusades were commanded by God. Some Muslims claimed the 9/11 attacks were commanded by God. I’m not sure how these instances are different from Samuel also claiming his God commanded the slaughter of the Amalekite children.

If we try to claim that some of these instances are righteous and others are not, what metric do we use to determine the right from the wrong? I don’t understand how a coherent system of ethics can be built around such apparently arbitrary and inscrutable commands. If murdering your child is wrong, except when god commands it, how is that a system of absolute ethics? It seems to me that morality for many Biblical authors is completely divorced from what harms, rather what is right is always what god commands. This leaves us with a form of utilitarian ethics where god, knowing the future, is claimed to always have morally justifiable reasons for apparently immoral commands such as genocide. But we are not god, we do not have access to the moral justifications for why genocide of childeren could possibly be for a greater good. This takes any moral decision out of human hands and makes accurate understanding of God’s commands vital. Yet how do you know the difference between a mentally disturbed mother who drowns her baby because she says God told her to, and the paragon of virtue that is Father Abraham? I don’t know how. That’s why we should have our own system of ethics based on the harm we see in the world that results from our actions. By such a standard the Yahweh of the Hebrew Bible appears to be a genocidal and capricious murderer.

I’m honestly not trying to troll here. This article brought back vivid and somewhat traumatic memories of my childhood, see my earlier post above. If anyone really cares about harming children, both now and in the ancient past, please give this some thought.


(Matt) #18

Yeah, if you’ve moved on to Hovind I doubt this discussion is going to be fruitful. If you care about truth I genuinely don’t understand why you’d look to someone like him as an authority on anything. He’s an ex-con high school teacher and a scam artist. Your instinct to look for actual evidence is great, but you also have to contrast and attempt to falsify the various interpretations or models of the evidence.

Yes we all have worldviews. Mine was probably much the same as yours for 27 years or so. It was only after I became willing to read perspectives I disagreed with, and try to put my preconceptions aside and look at the evidence honestly and fearlessly that I began to see the truth. It was not a truth I wanted to find. It was terrifying, and losing my faith is the hardest thing that’s ever happened to me. Honest seeking after truth is HARD. It’s hard to be skeptical of deeply held beliefs, and most of us never are.

The core of the method of science lies there. Scientists vigorously test their theories, looking for mistakes, and the greatest awards are given to those who show mistakes in established theories. Look up the history of the development of Big Bang cosmology for a good example of how this works. The consensus view of science in the early part of the 20th century was that the universe was past eternal, without a beginning. When cosmic expansion was discovered and seemed to imply a beginning to space and time, many atheist scientists dismissed the idea, at least in part because it didn’t fit their worldview. It looked a little too much like a “creation event.” But what happened? They tested it. Evidence continued to pile up (and still is on a yearly basis) showing that the universe really was expanding and did appear to have been in a hot dense state during very early time. And the scientists eventually accepted it! Even though it went against their worldview. That is the power of empiricism. That is why science will stumble toward truth over time, and self correct. We all have worldviews, but when we practice science we attempt to put them aside. What matters is the evidence, the theories we develop to explain that evidence, and the tests we perform to falsify our favorite theories.

Best of luck in your own quest.

P.S. Please give those four options some more thought. Maybe I’m missing an alternative, but if I’m not then I think it should be clear why people label young earth creationism a conspiracy theory. Do you really think the devil is altering the minds of Christian scientists, interfering with their free will, to make them believe in a false interpretation of the geologic evidence? Forget the fact that it would throw our reality out the window, how would that even work theologically? Or are they all lying and participating in a global conspiracy? Despite the fact that someone disproving evolution would be as easy as finding a fossil rabbit in the Devonian, and that would earn someone a nobel prize? Or do you think that all scientists are inept, and ex-con Kent Hovind is one of a few geniuses that has it correctly figured out? I just don’t understand how this can be consistently believed, especially by someone who “knows reason.”


(Michael Wortman) #19

But don’t forget that many scientists hold and value a different kind of faith. Read some of the non-science writings of Albert Einstein and Carl Sagan. Each acknowledges the value and human need for a spiritual dimension in their lives. Each were astounded by the vastness of the universe. Although they didn’t believe in a personal god and eternal life, they appreciated what Einstein referred to as “the eternity of life.”


(Matt) #20

Of course. Believing that empirical methods are the best way to come to knowledge about the world in no way means that humans don’t still have a need for meaning in our lives. Love, interpersonal relationships, personal values, awe and wonder at the universe and our place in it–these are all critically important to the human experience. And at a base level science cannot have anything to say about them. Value and meaning are personal and subjective. That’s why we have as many religions as we do human experiences. The history of our world is not subjective. Either the world is 6,000 years old or it isn’t. And as far as I know empiricism is the best way to discover which is the truth. That’s why I keep asking for evidence and rigorous models, and am skeptical of youtube evangelists and commercial field trips as avenues toward truth.