Creation Science and the Trustworthiness of God

The Adult Bible Study Guide continues to move chronologically through the major stories in the book of Genesis. Often the themes focus on boosting personal faith and return to the central question about the trustworthiness of God. That was also a focus for George McCready Price, the early 20th century Seventh-day Adventist creation scientist. In the talk below, Ronald L. Numbers discusses Price’s biography as well as the larger fundamentalist creationist movement. Numbers draws on his research in the magisterial The Creationists.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11793
2 Likes

Yes, the modern view held by Fundamentalists - that the world is young, Genesis is literal-factual history, and Ussher’s Chronology is historical, is itself young.

I prefer the Roman Catholic church’s stance on the subject:


From that page:
"Catholics are at liberty to believe that creation took a few days or a much longer period, according to how they see the evidence, and subject to any future judgment of the Church (Pius XII’s 1950 encyclical Humani Generis 36–37). They need not be hostile to modern cosmology.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Many scientific studies . . . have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life forms, and the appearance of man. These studies invite us to even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator” (CCC 283).”


It seems they’ve been burned so many times fighting scientists on matters of science over the centuries (and inevitably losing) that they’ve finally learned to stay in their own wheelhouse.

If only the Adventist church would grow up a little and do the same.

6 Likes

Yes, Tim, but Galileo’s famous quote: “ The Bible shows the way to go to heaven, not the way the heavens go” reminds us that it took a while for the Catholic Church to recognize and respect the separate domains of religion and science as well. :slight_smile:

2 Likes

Our problem is that the commandment about the Sabbath says, “For in six days the Lord (Jehovah) made the heavens, the earth and all that is in them.”

Did God lie about It? We can deny the basis for our existence, or follow the commandment as it is written. The church has decided to do the latter, and differ with the science. For some reason that has not stifled our growth. It is interesting that most of those who have considered the sabbath do not reject for scientific freons, but for the inconvenience of it.

2 Likes

Yes, it did. And their history provides an easy-to-follow template for every other church.

It’s an easy to understand rule:

  • If you’re not a scientist and you argue with a scientist or a scientific community on a topic in their area of science, using your interpretation of the bible to support your argument, then you will lose.

I love what Augustine wrote 1,800 years ago in the early 400’s, around the time the New Testament canon was being worked out. He wrote these passages in his major work :“The Literal Meaning of Genesis”, the title meaning not “Genesis Should be Taken Literally”, but “The Real Meaning of The Genesis Account”.

He was correct then, and even more correct now:


“In matters that are obscure and far beyond our vision, even in such as we may find treated in Holy Scripture, different interpretations are sometimes possible without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such a case we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search for truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it. That would be to battle not for the teaching of Holy Scripture but for our own, wishing its teaching to conform to ours, whereas we ought to wish ours to conform to that of Sacred Scripture.”
- St. Augustine, The Literal Meaning of Genesis, Book 1:37, AD 401-415.


"Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel [non-Christian] to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics [creation and natural history]; and we should all take means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.

"The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books [the bible], how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?

“Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon the Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.
- St. Augustine, The Literal Meaning of Genesis, Book 1:39, AD 401-415.

4 Likes

Do you mean the Exodus 20 commandments? If so, biblical scholars indicate that part of the commandment, referencing the first creation story, was added later by the redactor to help tie the stories together. So, that’s something.

The Sabbath is never mentioned in the bible until the Exodus story. There is not one reference to it in Genesis.

The much more likely reason the sabbath was given is found in the final rendition of the commandments in Deuteronomy 5, where it says:


The Ten Commandments

"Moses summoned all Israel and said:

"Yahweh our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our ancestors that Yahweh made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. Yahweh spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between Yahweh and you to declare to you the word of Yahweh, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:

“I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as Yahweh your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to Yahweh your God. [Keeping it holy is defined as:] On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. [The reason for the Sabbath is defined as:] Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that Yahweh your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore Yahweh your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”


5 Likes

What is a lie ?

If God told his chosen people something in a way they could understand ? That is a lie ?

Does the dear brother, retirend professor of some high voltagew electricity, share the general characteristics with those who ask by speaking ofg a tank of water, high up there, pipes of differen size - - and therewith explaining Voltage, Amperes, power, energy - -

Does he lie ??,

3 Likes

Simple answer: They won’t believe.

And according to Occam’s Razor, which says that the least complicated answer is probably best, they shouldn’t.

If the errancy of the Bible were limited to “misstatements” of scientific and historical facts which an omniscient god would not have made under any circumstance that would be one thing.

But on the most critical questions of theology, metaphysics and ontology-topics for which it is purported to be the ultimate resource-the Bible leaves it’s readers as lost as the Israeli’s supposedly were under the leadership of Moses and Yahweh!!!

So the simple and most prudent position to adopt in the face of all the absolutist assertions proffered by those who claim to accept any scripture as the being the authoritative response to basic questions such as original sin, resurrection of the dead, eternal life, everlasting damnation, etc., is to adopt the essentially dubious attitude of Sporting Life from Porgy and Bess who sang “It Ain’t Necessarily So”.

2 Likes

@NY_G_PA2

I don’t take issue with anything you wrote in that last post.

I think the point Augustine was trying to make, as a church leader and as an apologist, was that misuse of the scripture will weaken the church. Misuse including 1) holding to one understanding when there are other likely better understandings, 2) using the bible to support a type of argument/position it wasn’t intended to support, and 3) doing so from a position of ignorance - ignorance displayed both in the position taken and in the meaning of various biblical texts.

I find it fun to compare that sort of sophisticated and nuanced thinking with Evangelicals, including especially the SDA church, because what they’re doing is exactly what Augustine was warning Christians not to do.

“Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon the Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.

IMO that sums up the GC rather nicely. Nearly every assertion they make is wrong and they have no idea what they’re talking about - even when it comes to scripture and doctrine, and much less for anything remotely close to science. But that doesn’t stop them from having a strong opinion and insist on inflicting it on church members.

I’m still a member, but only because I’m too lazy and unmotivated to get my name taken off the books.

3 Likes

Ever notice how those who are most ignorant have the strongest opinions and certainty thereof?

6 Likes

Is that something? The Pentatuch has been sliced and diced as many see fit, even a multicolor edition was made to show the JEPD verses and redactors.

How might one go about assessing the claim you have made, that the Creation reference was added? Usually the fact that there is a difference shows that the copiers found it that way to begin with. In the words, a difficult reading is more sure than one that is easy, you know, redacted to make it fit better. So, I sense that the two Laws existed at the same time, and were different from the beginning.

But mine is just thinking, on the matter like your scholar’s idea of a redactor. There is no proof. The JEPD idea has undergone many revision, (redactions?), and some reject it outright. So, choose your scholar and follow him, but past performance is no guarantee future results…

Do not try to confuse an analogy with a statement of fact. God said he did it in 6 days. Everyone knows what a day is, and it is not a long period of time, especially when God asked us to observe a day, the Sabbath as a memorial for the six days of creation. The relationship was clear.

You may believe in evolution and an old earth, but then, you believe that God was not being truthful in the fourth commandment, he ws fudging. I don’t see how you can see it any other way. .

2 Likes

Bart, you express some pretty strong opinions on occasion. Do you put yourself in the most ignorant category?? Just asking.

1 Like

This is the essential issue with literalism and the advocates of inerrancy in a nutshell.

Ironically however, when god orders violations of his “don’t kill” commandment or Jesus supposedly says he’ll be back “soon” but then doesn’t show up or 2,000 years and counting, the definition of terms becomes all squishy and conveniently relative.

:rofl:

3 Likes

There are informed and uninformed opinions. Imagine a discussion between an epidemiologist and a tribal shaman concerning the cause and treatment for malaria. They will both have strong opinions, but one is so ignorant that he doesn’t even have a clue of that which he doesn’t know and is dead certain that what he does “know” is absolute truth.

Yes, I have strong opinions on biblical studies and Christian origins, but they are informed by years of study. It is not always easy to have discussions with those who have only approached the subject within the fundamentalist box; they don’t even have a clue what they don’t know.

On the other hand, if I expressed strong opinions on quantum physics, I would be in that category of expounding on that on which I am uninformed. I am completely ignorant in those fields which I haven’t studied.

On matters of historical claims, there is a methodology for determining probabilities, with varying levels of certainty possible. Most are comfortable with that approach EXCEPT for fundy’s who exempt their holy books from that methodology. Critical analysis of religious history and documents and a presupposed special status for a particular stream of history and its writings are incompatible.

1 Like

An intersting observation. Liberals view the words of God as a bit “squishy” while the conservatives take a sterner view.

But if God is squishy with the truth, why even believe in him at all? Do you give your fellow creatures such leeway? Are there any reasons to believe what he says? If he is a lier himself, certainly rejecting him and his word would be the epitome of reason.

I don’t see the liberal’s reason to cling to any semblance of belief at all, if they see God as a liar, and it is OK with them, he is just a bit squishy with the truth.

One of the reasons I remain an Adventist is the 2300 days, showing that God foresaw the delay. But that does not explain the “Soon” problem. But of course no one can explain everything.

I wish you a blessed Sabbath

2 Likes

I believe you would put me in the “fundy” category, and I would not object. But I have a certain knowledge of he situation, though perhaps not so deeply studied as yours. And I don’t mind reading the various views of he scholars who use the methodology you describe.

But you take a very radical view of things, as I have noted before, going beyond what most reasonable scholars do. Luke still being worked in 150 AD? Not even a mediating view, and the discussion in previous threads shows that the “fundy” view has st least some merit, not being created from whole cloth.

God does not remove all doubt. And if you major in doubt, there are plenty of places to apply it. I cannot answer every objection, but no body can.

I read an interesting piece on evolution recently. The scientist who wrote said something to this effect. “We do not know how life originated, and have no evidence that it arose spontaneously from the elements, but we assume that it happened that way.”

This man has faith. belief without evidence. Would you criticize him like you do the “fundy’s”.?

2 Likes

Hello everyone, I cant find it now. But some one stated, (probably brother Bart) that the days of Gen. 1 are obviously 24 hour days. That really is not the case.
This is the [a]history of the heavens and the earth when they were created , in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

And again, “in the day you eat thereof you shall die,” are clear examples of day as long period.

In fact, long before age of the earth debates , many First Century Jewish scholars and the early Christian church scholars interpreted the creation days as longer than a simple 24 hour day. These include Philo and Josephus, while Christian fathers include Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Hippolytus (through writings of Ambrose), Clement, Origen, Lactantius, Victorinus, Methodius, Augustine, Eusebius, Basil, and Ambrose acknowledged the likelihood that the creation days were longer than 24 hours.

1 Like

The arguments based on the numbers of scholars who agree on certain aspects of knowledge is perhaps useful in the hard sciences. Historical studies are more open to interpretation. The discussion of scholars in Biblical studies is in a completely different category. The vast majority of Biblical scholars are employed by schools which require signed statements of faith or adherence to particular creeds. Most people who go into those fields do so because of prior belief. There is therefore a prior conclusion in place for Biblical scholars which biases the perspective. However, historians who specialize in classical history and apply standard methodologies to Biblical studies, Judaism, Christian origins, and comparative religions are not constrained by traditions which are improbable or are better explained by different approaches. That which you call radical is only a matter of perspective. As to the dating of Acts, the Biblical scholars of the WESTAR seminars recognize the likelihood of second century authorship based on sources and the presence of second century concerns written anachronistically back into a first century context. The only cap on a date for such a document is a clear and reliable attestation to it. For Acts, that reaches to ca the beginning of the third century. Was it written as an anti-Marcionite document? That would certainly explain the different view of Paul than that which is evident in his own writings. Was it heavily redacted after the first edition? Certainly yes. There are two families of Acts text, one 8% longer than the other. Which was first? We cannot know the answer to that, but the fact of that divergence indicates that the copyists felt free to either add or delete material as they wished. The text was an instrument of purpose, not of providing an accurate history.

Evolution is a scientifically observed fact. The theory of evolution is explanation for how it works. It is a mistake to equate the evolution of life with the study of the emergence of life. The former is factual. The latter is hypothetical. Four billion years ago, there was no life on earth. By 3 billion years ago, there was life, and it began evolving. How did that occur? What was the mechanism? We don’t know…yet. Perhaps we never will. The assertion that goddidit is not a useful explanation; it simply puts a lid on scientific examination. Again, the open question of how life emerged does not impact the fact of evolution nor the explanatory theory of its operation.

3 Likes

Postulating the possibility that a deity is a liar is a bit of a non-starter. As far as I am aware, no god(s) have produced any written documents. People produced those documents. Were they ignorant or dishonest?

On October 22, 1844, the sun came up as it always seems to do. Later, it set. A group of fanatics expected something momentous to happen on that day. It didn’t. Most admitted error. A few couldn’t face the failure and reinterpreted. Yet, that day 178 years ago came and went and nothing happened. Yup…that’s as good a reason to continue to believe it as any other… Now the 200th anniversary of a non-event is in sight. At what point does one call it a day?

2 Likes

Arent you aware that we just have to assume God superior to Time and Place ? For Him there is a day like onethousand years and onethousand years ike a day ? See it clear when looking at the space : Where is God ? In service this morning we all prayed to him, believing He listens to our prayers - what , far behind the xx galaxy ? - Where our prayers should be heard somewhen after incredible very long times ?

Humbly let us accept that - also this very morning - we enterd the most holy through the curtain to meet Him on the throne of grace !