One Book, One Dogma

A medieval bulgarian bibleTwo articles in the January Acts & Facts edition argue a similar point. According to them, the young Earth creationist approach of biblical literalism is superior to world-views influenced by observation of the actual universe. The articles aim their attacks primarily at fellow Christians who don’t take the YEC position, but take slightly different angles.

The first is by Jason Lisle, and is called The Two-Book Fallacy. It begins:

The founder of the scientific method, Francis Bacon, taught that God has written two books: the Scriptures and the book of creation (or nature). Today, many professing Christians affirm this view. After all, the Scriptures teach that God’s attributes are clearly seen in nature (Romans 1:20). So we can learn about God through both Scripture and science—the systematic study of nature.

Dr Lisle could be described as a hyper-literalist, or less charitably as a smart aleck. If you were ever to slip up in a conversation with him and referred to what “the evidence tells us,” he would be quick to point out that you’re committing a logical fallacy as the evidence can’t “tell” us anything. Everyone knows what an ad hominem is – I wonder if there’s a named fallacy about attacking figures of speech instead of the argument, and if there isn’t whether we could name it after him. Something along the lines of the ‘Gish gallop,’ maybe?

At any rate, given this hyperliteralism it should come as no surprise that the following is included in his argument:

The two-book view is actually a fallacy. The reason is simple: Nature is not a book. It is not something that is comprised of statements in human language. It is not something that a person can literally read or interpret in the same way that we interpret a sentence. This isn’t to say that people cannot learn anything from nature. But it is not a book or record that contains propositional truth.

I don’t know all that much about the two book idea, but I do wonder if Lisle’s view is as far opposed to it as he seems to think. After all, he does at least concede that you can learn things from a study of nature. And then there is the slight matter of how even his own supposedly literalist position involeves using science to interpret the bible. Lisle claims:

The two-book view has been used to justify all sorts of unbiblical teaching. For example, some people say that the book of nature clearly reveals that all life has evolved from a common ancestor. Thus, we must take Genesis as a metaphor. Others deny evolution but insist that the book of nature teaches that the earth is billions of years old. Therefore, we must interpret the days of Genesis as long ages, not ordinary days.

But consider some of the little things, rather than jumping straight to the matter of genesis as a whole. For example there’s Isaiah 40:22, which says (NIV):

He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.

The verse refers to the “circle of the earth” – as opposed to an oblate spheroid, or any other 3D object – but even Lisle wouldn’t claim that this literally means that the Earth is flat. But we consider the verse to be metaphorical because we know that the Earth isn’t flat from scientific evidence, not directly from the bible. What is scientifically feasible must come into the equation, at least at some level. Only Lisle doesn’t wish to admit this as it would invite criticism of certain non-scientific views he holds sacred. Also, cults:

Interpreting the Bible in light of some other “book of God” is a distinguishing characteristic of cults.

Oddly enough, this article is listed as January’s only “Research” article, presumably on the basis that Lisle wrote it. I wonder how long it will take for the bio-origins project to get its act together enough to start posting updates again.

The second article is by Jake Hebert, and is titled The Ever-Changing Big Bang Story – you may have seen it over at the Sensuous Curmudgeon not all that long ago. Most of his post is actually one of his usual attacks on the Big Bang and inflationary theory, but there’s more to it than that.

His point is that you shouldn’t factor science into your beliefs about “origins,” because science is always changing and abandoning what was previously thought. He says that like it’s a bad thing, too, which is the funniest aspect of the article.

Aside from the issue that an adapting theory is a healthy one (at least compared to stale dogma, long left behind by science), once again Hebert’s attacks are hypocritical. He concludes his article by saying:

Instead of trusting the changing, fallible stories of sinful men who were not present at creation, how much better it is to trust the written record of the One who knows all things, who never lies, and who was there—creating.

The trouble is that the bible doesn’t provide enough information to be a useful “written record” for our purposes. Go compare a young Earth creationist description of the biblical flood with what Genesis actually says on the matter. Their models would make wonderful examples of “the changing, fallible stories of sinful men who were not present at creation” even if they happened to be true. From the more fanciful elements like the water canopy to the fundamental dogma of the flood’s catastrophic nature, huge chunks are simply extra-biblical and (more importantly) made up. The motivation for doing so, ironically enough, is to explain science and the world around us.

Of late the ICR has preferred to attack the beliefs of fellow Christians who just don’t believe in young Earth creationism, more so than atheists like myself or even the dreaded “new agers.” But their arguments can just as easily be applied to their own beliefs.

10 thoughts on “One Book, One Dogma

  1. I gotta say I’m impressed that you don’t have burn-out yet from doing this for … 19 months so far? 24? Something like that?

    • A little over 19 so far. I honestly don’t know how I’ve managed it, but I have been asking myself that question since it was only the one month. I think I’m addicted to insanity.

  2. Lisle pretends to treat even the most casual conversation as if he were engaged in an exercise in formal logic. He is actually a most ill-mannered individual whose aim is trip up and belittle any and all who disagree with him. ‘Reification’ is the technical name for the logical fallacy ‘the evidence says’. But call him out on ‘the Bible teaches’ and his answer is that this is shorthand for ‘the Bible is the product of an intelligent mind and that mind teaches through the written word that…’
    His logic follows the presuppositional apologetics of Cornelius van Til, Greg Bahnsen, Rushdoony, Schaeffer and Frame. The basic premise is that knowledge is only possible at all because there is God. Any other explanation is irrational If there is a god who is the ground of all knowledge and even the ability to know, then that god must be capable of communicating propositional truth. The Bible, when read according their interpretation is the only proposition wholly consistent with that god and is therefore Propositional Truth. Because the Bible is Propositional Truth, then there is a god who is the exact same God described in the Bible.
    It is of course a circular argument but according to this application of logic a circular argument is not necessarily an invalid one,
    But you are right. Lisle is a smart alec.

  3. I am impressed AND GRATEFUL that you haven’t burned-out, you do this with impressive thoughtfulness and depth and I hope you hang in there for a lifetimes (in other venues and forums and respecting other challenges to empirical science and reason if not this venue and focus)!

  4. I’ve only skimmed, as I am busy rebutting Facebook lies about me by YEC Bob Sorensen at his ‘The Question Evolution Project’ (on the British Centre for Science Education community forum, which Bob shuns). But AiG – where Lisle was until recently based – also seem mainly to be targeting ‘compromiser’ ie non-YEC Christians these days.


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