Putting Words in God’s Mouth

On November 23, 2022, the Adventist Review published a commentary, written by Clifford Goldstein, titled “How Many Lies?” It begins with the question: “How many lies has God told us in the Bible?” It continues to try and demonstrate that evolution is false. No reference to science is found in the text. This is an apologetic using biblical sources alone. Throughout the piece there is a contrast made between what God is presumed to say and human understanding. For example, in paragraph 2 we find: “If evolution is true, our God lied to us . . .” In paragraph 5: “If this scenario . . . were true, then the Lord amplified the untruth . . . didn’t He?” In paragraph 9: “Could God lie to us . . .?” And the ending assertion (paragraph 12): “It all boils down to one question. What do we believe: God’s Word or humanity’s?”


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/12148
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The author asserts that “God is infallible” and states this is an incontrovertible fact. I wonder how they came to this conclusion? If fallible man had his fallibleness all over scripture, how do we know the parts man wrote about God being perfect are true? How can the author state that with such certainty? They provide no evidence or proof of His infallibility, no evidence from science or even reason or scriptures, it’s just stated as a truthful fact. Seems like this type of assertion contradicts the premise of the article.

Also, the author makes several points but one I found interesting is how we’re supposed to try and read genesis thru the eyes of those who wrote it and how they viewed the world. But if man is fallible, and what was written in the Bible can be just as fallible as man, how do we know that the way the genesis author/s viewed the world or creation was correct? I mean if they are just flawed humans then their view of creation is just as flawed as mine so what if they viewed it just as incorrectly as the “fundamentalist” of today? So if we see thru their eyes and discover they didn’t intend genesis literally, who cares? They could be wrong about that and maybe it should have been written literally.

I agree we should try and get as much background as we can about the original context etc. but in the end, believing God used imperfect people to convey truths beyond their limitations is essential for the Bible to have the power it pretends to have.

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This is a noble goal that simple cannot happen in a setting where dogmatic bumper stickers as mentioned in the article are given equal weight with evidence based research and critical analysis.

Until it comes to regard reasonable doubt and logical skepticism as some of the most valuable gifts of the Holy Spirit, as opposed to esteeming blind faith and simplistic belief above all other virtues, the philosophical footing of any organized religion cannot rise above the superstitious musings and baseless assumptions of its forebears.

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We are pretty fortunate that death came to earth through adam as without death bacteria would have smothered everything in a days or months as I recall, exponential growth adds up fast with no deaths. Sin and death may have different meanings to Cliff than it did to Paul. But that is a foundational text that Cliff uses in the article. As often happens if you begin with a false assumption the entire argument fails. One has to wonder what Cliff would say about Jesus where He says a seed goes in the ground and dies and then grows and produces 10 fold etc. A dead seed never grows. Being buried in dirt does not mean a seed dies. Did Jesus lie? I wonder what Cliff would say?
Edit, I looked it up and it is 7 days: "All good things must come to an end (otherwise bacteria would equal the mass of the Earth in 7 days!). Microbial Growth – General Microbiology

This is, perhaps, the core of what is wrong with biblical literalism - with thinking the bible is a literal/factual history book and also a science textbook.

It is only after deciding that the creation stories are literal, that the flood story is literal, and that the stories presented in the pentateuch (especially) are literal, and that God actually, literally, spoke the words He’s credited with in the bible, that you can even ask a question like, “Did God lie to us?” - regarding the supposed history and science presented in the bible compared to what appears to have actually transpired over the last 5 billion years.

If, instead, we treat the bible correctly, and treat the origin stories appropriately, as versions of the many origin stories circulating at the time the old-testament bible was assembled about 700 - 600 bce, we find not only relief from such problematic questions, but also we find that we don’t even ask them in the first place.

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An Adventist nod to science may take awhile. However,recently a very conservative blogger here acknowledged his belief that the stars were not created in the young earth creation week. (Oddly, he stated that he believed that our star,the sun, as well as the moon were created on the 4th day.) It would take a large leep for educated Adventists, especially in a Hubble and Webb telescope informed world, to continue to accept the Genesis account of the birth of stars. I feel sorry for Adventist teachers who would be required to agree or appear to agree with current Adventist creation dogma.

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Yes, we agree on something. Premises lacking evidential causality are arbitrary, neither true nor false. Lacking merit of any kind, it is as though nothing had been said at all.

As most theological dictionaries treat the “concept” of the Judeo Christian god, in the negative way, he is characterized as immaterial, invisible, incomprehensible, indefinable, and then go on to pretend to know all about his demands for us in minute detail. Where do they find the source for all this information? From the ancient stories told by mostly anonymous men, most of whom never divulged their sources or ever even claimed “inspiration”. And for all the writers of this kind of literature, the ones chosen for canonization and the ones chosen for rejection, the ones doing the choosing remain completely unknown to us, yet their decisions hold more power than the writers themselves since they decided which ones to elevate. Then the writings chosen for canonization were heavily edited by unknown scribes, until we finally got a collection of manuscripts dating mostly from the fourth century onward with significant differences. That stew is supposed to be the infallible word of Yahweh. One would think that an all powerful and all knowing being could find a better way to communicate.

Deeming this anthology to be an infallible and authoritative source of information, standing above any contrarian evidence, is just as arbitrary as is the author’s claim about Yahweh, as you pointed out.

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There is a corpus of SDA writings that argues that if evolution science is true then the Genesis account of creation is not true. This essay by Goldstein is a noteworthy addition to that body of work.

It is risky to argue the matter too much. For example, pointing out that belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus is no more scientifically tenable than belief in the Genesis account of creation may not further the apologetics endeavor but unwittingly encourage disbelief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Similarly, Goldstein’s pointing out that God is a liar if evolution science is true may unwittingly lead readers to believe that He is exactly that.

The discordance between Scripture and God’s Book of Nature makes God a liar irrespective of which one you choose to believe. Accordingly, the apologetics endeavor, such as it is and has been in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, struggles and often fails.

An understanding of hermeneutics can be helpful. Long before Ricoeur wrote about the hermeneutic of suspicion and long before Gadamer wrote that we have to choose between suspicion and trust in our dialogue with others, the hermeneutic of suspicion and the hermeneutic of trust were set in equipoise in Job’s statement that God will slay him but that he will trust in Him. According to my favorite SDA Hebrew scholar’s interpretation of this text, Job is saying: “I trust God and I don’t trust God.” God never informs Job what the reader knows. God hides as He reveals. Part of this is intentional and part of it is linguistic, the result of the lag, the disconnect, between thought and word. Accordingly, neither God nor anyone else ever “tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Our hermeneutic endeavor is to go beyond the words and discern what the writer or speaker is trying to say. And what he or she may be hiding.

We also know from hermeneutics that Scripture is a collection of speech acts. We can easily discern that God’s hallowing of the seventh day is a command to keep that day holy. We should also be able to grasp that the Genesis account of creation in its entirety is a speech act. And the story of Job, together with the story of Eve and the serpent, stresses that our duty, our imperative, irrespective of our understanding and non-understanding, is obedience.

The Bible deals with deep spiritual truths. Science deals with the physical world.
Jesus spoke in parables. But his disciples, Nicodemus and many others understood them literally. And remarkably, the common folk understood them as metaphors.

In Europe we have a deep tradtion for peaceful co-existence beween these two domains. Thus the two are seen as complementary, and not a threat to each other. Jesus repeatedly corrected his disciplines and the pharisees in their misunderstanding of the Kingdom of God. I would strongly suggest re-reading the Gospels, should there be any doubt about this.

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Watching the “new year” arrive in Sydney, Australia just now, (online) graphically illustrates the entire problem we’re trying to tackle. Flat earth knowledge interpreting a round earth. :wink:

BTW, has anyone looked up the word “day” in a concordance?

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It is certainly a New Year for us, even if you guys are “behind the times.”

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Yeah?

But SDA’s get to sleep in on “Saturdays”, at least according to those upside down clocks used by those living on the southern-i.e., wrong-half of the planet!

IOW, and to quote the old Chicago song, “Does anyone really know what time [or day] it is?”

:wink:

You guys walk upside down there (at least from our perspective. Amazing that you don’t fall off the earth… ) And from your perspective we walk upside down. Now obviously we can’t both be right, so one of us is a liar. The flat earth guys down have that problem!

Happy New Year.

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No wonder Des Ford got it right.

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Too long for me, I’m afraid. I’m pretty much done with the church - mostly over their collective rather-idiotic science denialism. They’re mostly not flat-earthers (probably), but they’re basically in the same ignorant group.

But their ignorance isn’t incidental. Instead, they are committed to it, determined not to change, to the point of foolishness.

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Imagine an SDA astronaut orbiting the earth. How many times per day would sabbath last? How many minutes would it last until the next start of the next day? Or would she observe GMT no matter how many sundowns would be observed? What confusion!

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Even worse for the first colonists on the moon:

Do “earth rises” and “earth sets” count?

:thinking:

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Thank you Rich Hannon for a well stated treatise. Clifford Goldstein drives me crazy with the stuff that goes into the Adult SS quarterly. Ad hominem or not, in my view, he has an excessively elevated opinion of his own theological deductions.

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The ss quarterly is little more than indoctrination propaganda. As Goldstein himself was described in this article, it doesn’t even seriously engage with any other disciplines or views. It trumpets its own myopic version of “the truth” without ever seriously addressing counter evidence.

Reminds me of Doug Bachelor debating Steven Gregg about the law and sabbath. Doug just trumpets his own and the denominational party line without seriously engaging with exegesis that gives a far different picture.

Frank

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If only the issue were so simple as Genesis. But it is much worse than that.

The NT is based on the old. And Genesis plays a large part, particularly the part about a perfect world created by God before sin entered and the result was death. I have argued this before. if death came before sin, then there is no hope for us, for death was part of God’s plan for us. If evolution is true, what really is sin, and when did it come to be that?

I have said that evolution destroys the theology of the NT. Some of you argued that you can believe in evolution and the Bible. But people can hold to contrary views without mental dissonance, and do it all the time. That proves nothing. Evolution destroys the theology of the NT

Paul says in Romans 5:12: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way, death came to all men…”. Well, did death enter through one man’s sin, or was it from the beginning, before men existed? If sin is not the culprit, rather God is because that is how the creature’s diversity was created, why blame man for death.

Hebrews 2:14: “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity, so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” if God used death to create, who is this devil who holds the power of death? John asserts in John 1 that Jesus is the Creator. Did he use death to do the creating? Then why does he talk of defeating death?

Do you guys and gals believe in a resurrection? Is there a heaven? Does Jesus save us from sin and death? These are not scientific ideas. Are they excluded?

If you are unable to discuss the theology, and say that science must be the final arbiter, then there is no discussion. But if God can alter the history of the world, then he could do any other thing as well.

Address the theology.

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