Some Reflections on the Bible

BibleThumbby Timothy Lane
Kevin Williamson’s recent article on Genesis and evolution inspired a number of responses from me, but I wanted to go into this subject with more detail. The problem he cites comes from reading the Bible literally and treating it as inerrant.

I once came across a series of verses in 2 Kings which should put paid to any notions of inerrancy. (I will use the Revised Standard Version, which is handy to my laptop, as a source here.) In 14:23, it says, “In the fifiteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash began to reign in Samaria, and he reigned for forty-one years.” It discusses his reign further, then concludes in 14:29, “And Jeroboam slept with his fathers, the kings of Israel, and Zechariah his son reigned in his place.”

It then discusses the next king in Judah in 15:1, “In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Azariah the son of Amaziah, king of Judah, began to reign.” Finally, after discussing Azariah’s reign, in 15:8 it says, “In the thirty-eighth year of Azariah king of Judah Zechariah the son of Jeroboam reigned in Samaria six months.” As can be easily computed 27 + 38 is much greater than 41, so clearly there’s some sort of error here (unless you want to rework your system of arithmetic drastically).

That brings us to Genesis 1, and the creation of Earth and all its living creatures. If you look at the chapter not as a literal reading but as some sort of approximation (after all, God in explaining the origins to Abraham or Moses or whoever could hardly have explained micro-organisms to him), it turns out to be (depending on the interpretation) surprisingly accurate (probably more so than any other culture’s creation story).

It starts, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This is a fine description of the Big Bang, in which all matter was created (including the matter that would eventually – though partly after some conversions from hydrogen to other elements in solar furnaces – become Earth). Our own solar system would not have existed yet (“The earth was without form and void”).

In the second day, “And God said, ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ He then created the firmament (called Heaven) separating the waters above and below. This strange phrasing can be considered a description of the creation of our solar system and Earth.

Then, on the third day, God created dry land (Earth) and waters (Seas), after which “God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth.” This is more problematic, since only micro-organisms would have existed at this stage. But at some point these would have included photosynthetic cyanobacteria and later algae, which can reasonably be called plants. (When I was in school, in fact, all bacteria were grouped in the kingdom of plants.) Apparently even in medieval times there were Jews who accepted that this “day” only saw the earliest plants, not all different kinds.

The fourth day saw the creation of the Sun and Moon (and stars), which again requires some interpretation that apparently already existed in medieval times. Obviously, the Sun came to exist on the second “day”, but it may not have been visible as a specific body yet (though some light had to get through to enable photosynthesis to start). It’s a reasonable notion that only after the conversion of the atmosphere to one based on oxygen (which was begun by cyanobacteria) was the sky completely clear. (The Moon is less of a problem, since it may well have appeared later anyway.) Another interpetation I’ve seen is that this could have represented the development of actual eyes, but this seems a more doubtful explanation given that animals hadn’t yet come into existence.

On the fifth day God created aquatic life (including “sea monsters”) and birds. Since no land creatures yet existed, we have a problem, but there may well have been flying insects that still operated at least partly aquatically. The land creatures – both the “creeping things” and “the beasts of the earth” – came into existence on the sixth day, which concluded with the creation of the first human. This isn’t a bad sequence overall (sea creatures definitely appeared before land creatures), though it isn’t perfect.

Another point to make about Genesis is that “Adam and Eve” need not have been the very first humans (after all, Clarence Darrow did have a good point in questioning William Jennings Bryan about where Cain got his wife). They could simply have been the first to develop a transcendant relationship with God, which one could argue as being the point at which humans went from being very specialized animals to something rather different.

My final point concerns the matter of the possible divinity of Jesus Christ, and primarily doesn’t involve the Bible itself. Jesus was really the Son of God, or he was a charlatan of some sort. It’s hard to imagine that his closest disciples would have been unaware of which. One can imagine that a bunch of ordinary fishermen and such might have followed a charismatic leader in hope of some improvement in their situation. But when that didn’t happen, and in fact his followers often faced persecution that could be escaped by denying him, why didn’t they? To be sure, it isn’t clear that his closest followers (the ones likeliest to know if he were divine or fake) actually faced that choice – in the end, they may have been too well known as his disciples for such a denial to be credible to the authorities.

But if they did, what does that say? And even if they didn’t, why would they have continued to push a religion that no longer offered them any prospect of wealth or power (remember, the common Jewish vision of the Messiah was probably more of a Jewish Alexander the Great than a suffering prophet) if they didn’t have good reason to believe Jesus was the real thing?

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40 Responses to Some Reflections on the Bible

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I’m pretty sure that this is the article by Kevin Williamson that you’re referring to: Texas Texts.

    One thing I feel very sure of is that you can’t argue your way to God nor can science be of any help. Arguably our metaphysical knowledge has been forwarded not one jot by the entire history of science. All it has done is to reveal the amazing nature of nature.

    Those who put their faith in nature are called atheists or pagans. They have decided that because we can’t concretely argue more, or measure more (as with science), then there is no more.

    On the other side of the street, those who don’t have a Kindergarten-grade metaphysical view and understand (if only tentatively) the richness of reality can over-reach in the opposite direction, attributing to God so much that our beliefs really do become things we must defend in order that they can hold up.

    Clearly the answer is not to believe nothing or to believe everything. But one must believe something.

    As for the whole Texas schoolbook thing, the government schools are now probably beyond repair. I would just pull my kids out and give them a proper education. Either you want your kid to learn something or you allow them to be indoctrinated into Leftism. Those are the choices.

    It’s nice to think that there are people in Texas or elsewhere who push back against the Left, but it’s a losing battle. The institutions themselves are not based on knowledge but on employment. And a statist-based theology (Leftism) is going to be enormously difficult to ever push out of that calcified system.

  2. Terri King says:

    One of the reasons many of us of the faith balk at the term “inerrant” is because we have no original manuscripts, and what we have is translations passed down through literally thousands of years. What many of us (much to the chagrin of the loyal inerrantists) believe is that the message of God is what is perfect and without flaw.

    Part of the problem with people’s names and dates is that family names were used rather than personal names in many places. Also many people in one family had the very same name. It can get dicey trying to figure that all out.

    This is part of the minutiae that brings about skepticism, disbelief, and all out word wars of the faith. The point of scripture isn’t the minutiae, it is the overwhelming and overarching “story” God has given us to show us His plan.

    You wouldn’t believe the angry and horrible comments made by those who absolutely believe we must say the Bible is “inerrant” directed toward those who believe it is the message that is “inerrant.” That message being…God is the creator, we are the sinners, God made a way for forgiveness of sin and to be at one with Him again, He gave us a Messiah, and it is by faith in that Messiah and His sacrifice that we are saved.

    That might be an oversimplification, but honestly, do we think that the peasants of Jesus’ time were scholars who could/would dissect this all out? I think not. They were a people of faith, and that is as it should be.


    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I do believe we have our first inerrant post here at StubbornThings. Well said, Terri.

      I’m in no way taking sides. In fact, I don’t want to. I think inherent (not inerrant) to the idea of the Ultimate is that there are many sides or facets to this jewel.

      Timothy has highlighted the factual component (quite appropriate to this site), for any religion without facts would be just a fictional story.

      I have tired to intersect in my post above the idea of proportionality. Whatever the truth may be, it’s bigger than we are. To attempt to have it all is to tend toward fundamentalism. But there is a truth out there. And to deny it all is to make the mistake of atheistic fundamentalism.

      My own case for god — or, more specifically, the liturgy — is an odd one but one that makes some sense to me.

      I’ve done a bit of computer programming in my time. And, trust me, anyone can do it. If you can speak a language, you can program a computer. This is because some of the “higher level” computer languages are very close to human languages, in my case, English.

      There are graphic languages (Logo, Pilot) in which you can sometimes say something as plain as “Move the ball 10 steps forward” and you’ll see the dot on the screen move ten places. This is called a “high level” computer language.

      At the very lowest end of the programming spectrum is microcode. It’s the hardware-level instructions (or language) that prime or “give enough brains to” the various components of a computer system such as the CPU, the hard drive, etc., so that they can start up and function (and thus hand themselves over to computer languages of a slightly higher level where then more practical work can be done).

      Those who program a computer for purposes of making commercial software never have to see or even know about this code. This microcode sets up an environment that sort of works on its own. The software programmer doesn’t have to interface with it any more than someone baking a cake in an oven has to interface with the mechanisms behind the buttons and dials. You just turn the dial to 450 degrees and that’s it.

      The next level up from the microcode is “machine language.” This is code that is one byte at a time that consists of numbers. Whereas in a very high-level language you could have a noun such as “ball” which would describe an object, in machine language you’re instead dealing with numbers being fed to the processor one at a time. Maybe a thousand, or a million, of those instructions would be used if one wanted to describe a ball.

      It’s as if instead of turning the dial on the oven to 450 degrees you had to specify every minute action or detail. Which dial? Where is it? What color is it? Turn it in which direction? Which oven? What is an oven? What are we turning up, temperature or something else? With machine language, although there is a layer of abstraction underneath it (the microcode), both are so relatively primitive that the differences are barely worth mentioning.

      But at some point you can work yourself all the way up the food chain of programming abstraction that you can work with a word processor and a keyboard (as I am doing now) and it’s all perfectly straightforward, intuitive, and easy. Maybe someday we can just “think” our words onto a computer screen. But until that day comes, this is damn simple and quite powerful and the highest level of abstraction that we commonly have. If had to write this post by using machine language, it could take hours . . . assuming I had studied the code for the specific processor and knew that language.

      So then let me tie this all back to god. I see Christianity as a level of abstraction above the microcode of God Almighty himself. That in no way means that Christianity isn’t 100% true. Abstraction is about how one interfaces with the Ultimate Truth. In the case of computers, the “ultimate truth” is ones and zeros. In the case of God, well, I can’t really say that I know.

      But I do think I take more of a mystical approach. It’s my “layer of abstraction.” In this case, I wouldn’t say it’s a higher or lower language. Just a different one. Nor is it a gnostic one. I mean that I find more in the idea of “Be still and know that I am God” than in more affirmative ways. It might be what our good friend, John, might call the apophatic rather than the cataphatic.

      But certainly the level of abstraction is still subject to “garbage in, garbage out” as they say in computer lingo. And they say the same thing in Christianity, “By their fruit you will know them.” That’s another way of saying, whatever interface you have with the Ultimate, simply sitting there at the keyboard banging away at the keys (being in the midst of the abstraction or paradigm) in no way is the final word. What are you typing? What is your fruit?

      • Terri King says:

        There’s a lot to be said for being still and knowing. If you notice in scripture the one main thing those who interact with God the most seem to do is exactly that. They, including Jesus, be still, they separate themselves at times in the quiet and “be” with God. They pray, they talk, they listen.

        And the “garbage in, garbage out” idea is definitely true when it comes to how one proceeds in the faith. Scripture, as we all know, can be twisted to fit almost any mold…if taken out of context. Garbage in. The end result gives us groups like The Westboro Baptist Church group….garbage out.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Most of that silence, Terri, I must admit, comes in the form of “Be still and know that I am not god.”

          Look at the kookiness of people who think they are the specially anointed, such as Obama. And in my humble opinion, a true Vicar of Christ would never accept the role of pope with all the wealth, funny hats, and pomp-and-circumstance.

          And I know people for whom God is like an algebraic equation. They turn Him round and round in their minds, or think He can be captured, possibly even controlled, with the right devotion and rituals.

          And for many people, God is a want, a desire, and/or a psychological projection. I think Mr. Kung’s words are wise regarding the centrality of faith. We are indeed talking about things we can’t be sure of. If our desires overcome us, God can become little more than our earthly wants and needs.

          That faith, if it is a good one (and not, say, a fascist-like faith as in Islam), should bring out the best in people. What we’re really talking about, or should be talking about, is an overall affirmative assertion that life is good (despite the hardships), God is good, and in that oft-quoted phrase by our mutual friend, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” (Julian of Norwich).

          That’s what I think faith is about. And then maybe faith ripens into something else wherein one is not asking God for favors but to instead favor God with one’s acceptance.

          This is something atheists haven’t accepted. Theirs is often a patchwork of grievances, disappointments, and pains. And we all have those. But the question becomes, will we make them central to our lives or see the glass as half full and perhaps extending to the sky?

          • Kung Fu Zu says:

            Why is faith important in the Christian context? Because it shows trust in God. Faith is an expression of trust. It shows a person is willing to risk something on basis of his belief in God. It is proof of commitment.

            As a result of faith and belief resultant from faith, a person is putting himself in the hands of God, so to speak. He is taking it on “faith” that God does love him. That God has a plan. That living a Christian life is the right way to live.

            I am putting it poorly, but if we all simply “knew” God existed, what would our emotional and spiritual investment be? Very little I suspect. It would be yes sir no sir three bags full sir. I think there would be little questioning of belief and introspection. Both of which are good, in my opinion.

            But acting on faith, brings about real spiritual and emotional investment. We are not guaranteed anything, but we trust that God exists and that God’s plan is truly the right plan and all will be well, in the end.

            When I hear someone accuse religious people of having no proof of their beliefs and merely acting on faith, what I am hearing is simply someone who has little or no idea or concept of belief and the religious experience.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              I am putting it poorly, but if we all simply “knew” God existed, what would our emotional and spiritual investment be? Very little I suspect. It would be yes sir no sir three bags full sir. I think there would be little questioning of belief and introspection. Both of which are good, in my opinion.

              Great point.

            • Terri King says:

              Really enjoyed that! I completely agree with what you said about acting on faith requiring a real investment, spiritual and emotional.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      My point was twofold: First, to show that inerrancy creates a problem (which you agree). Second, to point out that there are some interesting arguments for the Bible as the Real Thing. One can imagine God telling Abraham or Moses the basic story of creation, which someone later wrote down as what became Genesis 1. If no other creation story is as close to accurate as Genesis, then one has to consider that possibility given how many specific incidents are included. And similarly, the matter of why Christianity took off, led by people who had to know whether or not Jesus was a charlatan and who also knew what their fates in this world were likely to be if they continued, is very relevant. Of course, I’m writing here as someone whose favorite apostle would be Thomas the Doubter. He required evidence to believe; so do I. But evidence can take many forms.

      • Terri King says:

        I really like this:

        He required evidence to believe; so do I. But evidence can take many forms.

        Absolutely! And I think God even thinks that because of some things He’s passed on to us in scripture. He speaks of nature being evidence of Him, and I can see that. Well..I do see it everyday being out in the country among the animals and the fields. But there are many other things that touch that place in us made for searching and finding. Or at least I think so.

  3. faba calculo says:

    In your attempt to (sort of) reconcile science and the first chapter of Genesis, you left out any mention of the talking snake.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      That wasn’t in the first chapter, which ends with the creation of humans and giving them dominion over all other living things.

    • LibertyMark says:

      What, God can make a snake but He can’t make one that talks?

      • faba calculo says:

        I’m sure that God could do anything. But if you’re trying to (at least sort of) reconcile science with the first part of Genesis, appealing to miracles doesn’t really help.

        • Libertymark says:

          Hmmm, trying to reconcile fallible science with an infallible God…sounds like a bit of a fools errand. No? Or is it a Hobson’s Choice? Or Morton’s Fork? LOL

          Maybe it’s the old conundrum, can God make a rock so big he cannot move it?

          All silliness aside (on my part), can the current state of science “reconcile” with the Genesis account? Clearly no. But then again, we’re still trying to “reconcile” anthropogenic global warming with 15 years of global cooling!

          You can “believe” in science. You can “believe” in the Bible. Both require a suspension of disbelief. IMHO

          • Kung Fu Zu says:

            What I noticed is no one has mentioned faith in this discussion. From a Christian perspective, what good is it to believe in something if you have proof. The merit is in faith i.e. trust.

            Believing that the sun is going to rise in the East has no particular merit in it.

            • faba calculo says:

              Merely knowing that God exists would only improve our ability to have faith in him. I mean, doesn’t knowing that one’s spouse exists help to have faith in them?

              • Kung Fu Zu says:

                “Merely knowing that God exists would only improve our ability to have faith in him. I mean, doesn’t knowing that one’s spouse exists help to have faith in them?”

                The point is one cannot “know” God exists. One can rationalize all sorts of things regarding proof, but a Christian must eventually make a leap of faith as regards the divinity of Christ and the existence of God.

                Your “wife” comparison is specious. You do not have to have faith to believe she exists. You know she does exist on a material plane. Any “faith” you may have in her is completely different from the “faith” one may have that God exists.

              • LibertyMark says:

                Knowing that your spouse exists vs. having faith that your spouse exists? Cognito ergo sum? LOL! Now I’m lost! If I doubt my spouse exists, does that assure her existence? If I doubt that God exists, does that assure HIS existence?

                I don’t mean to mock your analogy. But! I know God exists; you know your spouse exists. Now prove to ME your spouse exists. Isn’t that the nut of it?

              • faba calculo says:

                “The point is one cannot “know” God exists. ”

                Well, that wasn’t the point I was responding to, above. There, you wrote “what good is it to believe in something if you have proof.”. To that, I respond that not needing faith to know that someone exists doesn’t remove the need to have faith in them to keep their promises. That, in my experience, is what we mean when we talk about having faith in someone.

                “a Christian must eventually make a leap of faith as regards the divinity of Christ and the existence of God.”

                That, actually, is my biggest problem with any religion that combines the requirement for believing by faith with the threat of eternal, conscious, torment for not believing.

                Note: the above should not be taken as me asserting that ALL who call themselves Christians believe in eternal, conscious torment for non-believers. I’m just say that, if the shoe fits…

              • faba calculo says:

                “Knowing that your spouse exists vs. having faith that your spouse exists? Cognito ergo sum? LOL! Now I’m lost!”

                I meant that, even if you know your spouse EXISTS, there’s still the issue of will they do what they promise, and so there’s still a role for faith.

                Sorry for the confusion.

          • faba calculo says:

            Except the approach of the author of the article is explicitly one of non-inerrancy, so the perfection of God is beside the point. Thus, the errors (or, if one prefers, the imprecisions) of the first chapter of Genesis are human errors, which is exactly what the errors in science are.

            • LibertyMark says:

              Yes, I get that. See comment further down in comment queue.

              If there is an omnipotent God, would He in an imprecise way communicate to his creation (Man)? I’m not talking typos in the text, I’m talking substantive matters such as the creation of Woman from the rib of Man? It just seems irrational to me, unless you are a Deist, to believe (have “faith”, to use Mr. Fu Zu’s word) that that same God would imprecisely communicate (precisely fail) to get His message to all if us.

              • faba calculo says:

                Hell, I’d throw in the typos as well. I mean, if you’re a perfect God, and you’re going to the trouble (0r lack thereof) to give a perfect revelation, wouldn’t it make sense that He’d act to ensure that it’s recording, subsequent recopying, translation, and maybe even honest effort at interpretation be perfect as well?

                Then again, if one is all-powerful, why stop even there? Why drop a book off and jet? In fact, why have a book at all? Why not just, you know, talk to people when they ask?

  4. LibertyMark says:

    I have this discussion regularly with a friend who cannot get over his “belief” that the science of evolution is “settled”, and there for the Creation story in Genesis must – MUST! – be an allegory. “Settled science” is an oxymoron, but I digress…

    It usually starts when I give him grief about being a Catholic, and therefore with no real authoritative rationale for his religion other than Pope Frank or equivalent and 20 centuries of tradition. (Forgive that shot at Catholicism, I can’t help myself. Catholicism is such a great yet under-exploited religion. Ya’all have that get-out-of-jail-free card called “Confession”, yet whenever I ask a Catholic the last time they went to Confession, invariably it’s in the neighborhood of 20 years ago. LOL!) He then starts in on the Garden of Eden and allegories and non-literal days.

    Is the Bible the Word of God? Is it the literal Word of God? Is it a figurative Word of God? Infallibility, inerrancy, inaccuracy, all the never-ending debate usually promulgated by those who chose not to believe in God or want to humanize God and or otherwise sophistrate (is that a word?) their way out of any responsibility to address the great black void that is left to those who have no hope of afterlife.

    For me, it comes down to one simple question on the Bible: if you believe there is a God, the God of the Jews and the Christians, do you think (not believe, think) that He could not infallibly, accurately, and inerrantly communicate to you what His message to you is? Said another way, if you have an objective, rational reason to think there is an omnipotent God the Creator, then clearly you can understand the Bible to be the objective, rational means of communication from that God to you.

  5. LibertyMark says:

    For those who care here is a rational, deductive dissertation on the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Worth the read if you are at all curious about any evidence (or lack thereof) on what happened to the body of Jesus after the Crucifixion.

    Who Move the Stone, by Frank Morison

  6. Timothy Lane says:

    It occurs to me that there’s an additional point I can make about the Genesis story, though it’s linguistic rather than scientific and involves Genesis 2. The famous garden is located in a region called Eden (which the revisionist historian David Rohl identifies as the reason around Tabriz, an area from which 4 rivers — including the Tigris and Euphrates as well as 2 others that can be matched to the Biblical description — flow). The word “paradise” comes from a word (I think it was ancient Persian, but we get it by way of the Greeks, so I can’t be sure) that means “garden” or “park”.

    • faba calculo says:

      Does it matter how close it is to the Tigris or Euphrates? I mean, between then and now, if the whole world was flooded, what we know as the Tigris and Euphrates aren’t very likely to be the rivers that existed then, are they? It’s more like naming York, PA. York. It’s the York people emigrated away from, it’s just named after it.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Well, that depends on what the flood was. One popular notion is that the flood stories of the Levant and nearby Europe result from the actual flooding of the Black Sea from the Mediterranean. But a recent book by Nick Thom suggests that there was global flooding (though some areas — such as the area around Damascus and many other highlands — escaped it) caused by various physical effects that resulted from the recession from the last Ice Age. He cites flood legends from all over the world, and even looks at similar patterns to the stories.
        I want to review his books sometime, but first I need to get a friend who majored in physics in college to look at it and comment on whether or not the science is valid.

        • faba calculo says:

          It would seem to me that a flood from melting glaciers (or, likely, even of raising water levels in the Black Sea) would neither require a boat nor a gathering of wild animals to escape, but rather a decent pair of shoes and a walking stick.

          I could see how such an event could lead to the development of the myth of Noah’s flood, but, lacking so many key elements (the boat, the animals, the death of all other or even most other humans), it’d be hard to call that even a basis for the story.

  7. faba calculo says:

    I’d actually like to take a moment and throw in a bit of a defense for inerrancy, as least vis a vis Timothy Lane’s counter-example from II Kings.

    For me, I can’t see this as a contradiction because it all takes place too close together. I mean, couldn’t the author of II Kings count? If what is written there was in the original, then it’s fair to guess that it seemed correct to the author. Maybe the earlier date refers to when the king in question became a co-regent with his father, while the latter date was when his father died, leaving him sole regent. I mean, take the even more stark contrast, from (ironically enough) II Timothy:

    11 Here is a trustworthy saying:
    If we died with him,
    we will also live with him;

    12 if we endure,
    we will also reign with him.
    If we disown him,
    he will also disown us;

    13 if we are faithless,
    he remains faithful,
    for he cannot disown himself.

    OK, to me, that’s about as untrustworthy statement as any could be, as verses 12 and 13 contradict each other. But I can’t see this as a true contradiction, because I don’t think that anyone would say contradictory things so close to each other. Where these said by separate authors, it’s be a lot easier to call it a contradiction. But this close, or even as close as the quotes from II Kings, I just can’t see it.

    Also, it should be point that, to make II Kings into a contradiction, all that is needed is one poorly-copied number.

    That should be taken to mean that I don’t think that there are contradictions in the Bible. Paul’s predestination vs. Peter’s free-will approach to salvation, I think, qualifies. Also, James’ focus on works vs. Paul’s exclusive emphasis on faith also, very likely, is also one. But, for me, II Kings fails the test.

    faba calculo

    P.S. I’m sure that Timothy could, also, have come up with other examples that would have met this test, so I’m not disagreeing with him or his approach here, so much as disputing a single example.

  8. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    That we live in a fallen world is self-evident. Why this is so you could say is the very point of Christianity.

    But why is it fallen? I’ve never bought into the idea that it was just because of sin, or even primarily so. This world throws a lot of crap at you even if you’re just standing on the sidelines minding your own business.

    For the atheist, the answer is easy: There is no god. For the believer the answers are a little more difficult.

    Certainly human sin plays a large part. People are just flat-out crazy, especially these days. Those with eyes with which to see see our own culture coming apart. They see the threads of society being pulled apart one by one as what was evil yesterday is called good today.

    Dennis Prager says that people today are “nice” but not good. I couldn’t agree more. That said, why does God create a universe with the built-in need for a do-over? Because that’s exactly what we have with the paradigm of Jesus the Redeemer. We all get a do-over. In fact, it’s readily believed and admitted that there is no way to live a sinless life. There’s no way of avoiding the need for a do-over.

    That’s quite an astounding and harsh reality. God creates a universe in which Hitler is not just possible but probable, and lots of his type. The more I witness what our Leftist/Progressive culture does to make people fat, stupid, and shallow (and tattooed!), the more I both wonder at the Divine and wonder at the Divine.

    That is, we seem to be a bad seed, and one wonders how the very fabric of the universe would fashion this reality so readily if it’s made by a good God. By the same token, being surrounded by insanity makes me long for the Divine perfection. Just knowing that there is, or could be, a place or a thing beyond our petty corruption is a reviving thought. It’s knowing that even though you’re standing knee-deep in shit that there exists such a rare and fine element as the diamond.

    Whether the Christian God is real or not, I don’t know. But I do know that mankind needs that kind of ennobling influence. We are molded into the stupidest, shallowest, most corrupted sort of fellows on this steady diet of Oprah, MS-NBC, the mainstream of popular culture, and just the corrupt politics of our day.

    We need the light of that Shining City on the Hill. We are lost without it. Anyone who thinks mere “secular” is enough to guide human lives to anything more than living in the gutter is cracked.

    • faba calculo says:

      On the issue of why humanity can be so messed up, I once heard someone put forth the idea that humans are messed up and out of harmony with the planet because, alone of all creation, humans are destined to leave and go to the stars.

      OK, this little bit of brilliance I got from a comic book. But I still like it.

  9. Pokey Possum says:

    Faba, You’ve inspired me to burst into song!
    all together now…

    “This world is not my home
    I’m just a-passing through
    My treasure and my hopes are all beyond the blue
    Where many Christian children
    have gone on before
    And I can’t feel at home in this world any more

    Oh Lord (you know)
    I have no friend like You
    If Heaven’s not my home, Oh Lord, what will I do
    The angels beckon me
    from Heaven’s open door
    And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore”

    This feeling of being a sojourner in this world, rather than causing me to feel “out of harmony with the planet”, cultivates in me a confidence in my Heavenly home.

  10. faba calculo says:

    After giving it some thought, Timothy, I think things are far worse for Genesis 1 (or, perhaps, for science) than your article lets on.

    0) Before the first day, verses 1 and 2:
    “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

    Right away we have problems. I’m not sure what “formless and empty” is supposed to mean for the Earth, but, whatever it means, it’s not stopping there from being water on it.

    (1) First day, verses 3-5:
    3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
    4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.
    5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

    More problems, or, rather, a continuation of the one above: Earth appears to exist from the get-go, and now it’s rotating. I mean, how else do you get a day-night cycle? This also helps to explain why this is the first day/age, rather than the before-the-first-day stuff above: no light and no rotating Earth.

    I suppose you could posit that God had some other way of creating cycles of light and darkness, but, given that this is the description to Moses (or whoever) of how things came to be, plus the fact that the light is being called “day” and the darkness is being called “night”, by far the simplest interpretation here is that this is the start of Earth’s standard day-night cycle, which we now know mean the start of the rotation of the planet.

    (2) Second day, verses 6-8:
    6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so.
    8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

    To me, this sounds nothing like the creation of the solar system. It sounds a lot more like an explanation of why it rains.

    (3) The third day, verses 9-13:
    9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so.
    10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.
    11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so.
    12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
    13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

    Here’s where things really start to unravel. First, only now do we have dry land. Before it appears to have all been water (which, as seen in the day zero stuff, was already there). Problem: in current science, the dry land was there first, and the oceans came later (possibly via comet bombardment). Second, we’re not just talking cyanobacteria and algae here: we’re talking trees with fruit that have seeds. That means we’re talking about 400 mya (million years ago). Problem: by that time, fish (and even the proto-Amphibians appear to have been around for 100 million years.

    (4) The fourth day
    14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years,
    15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.
    17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth,
    18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good.
    19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

    This day is problematic for both of us. If day 2 isn’t the creation of the solar system, it sounds like this really is the creation of the sun and the moon, which makes one wonder what good a rotating Earth did before this. It’s also impossible to square this with fruit trees existing, as they require sunlight. Finally, this timing is completely screwed up relative to everything else that’s already happened. Creationists I know claim that “to make” (as happens here) something and “to create” (as happened in day 0) it, with the former meaning merely to reshape, which the latter means to create from nothing. Of course, God also “made” the sky on day two, so would this mean that it also was merely being reshaped, having existed previously in some other form?

    Frankly, the whole thing looks like a mess.

    (5) the fifth day: verses 20-23
    20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.”
    21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
    22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.”
    23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

    Here, as you indicated in your article, we have a problem if “birds” here means what we think of it as meaning, as birds were created much later than fish, and even later than mammals, which, of course, isn’t supposed to happen until the sixth day. I was dubious of your efforts to portray flying insects as birds until I read about the gigantism of some of the early fire flies. Of course, this leaves God never saying anything about where what we think of birds as having been created, which seems like kind of an oversight. But even the whole insects interpretation doesn’t really save you, because flying insects came in around the same time as seeds, which, as we’ve already seen, is stuff that happened on the third day, not the fifth.

    (6) The sixth day flows OK, all the problems having happened earlier. But I’d like to add something about this whole day-age thing. The Bible doesn’t just say “this is what happened on the first day”, “and this was the second”, etc. It specifically mentions that there was an evening and a morning in each case. I mean, I just don’t see how the Bible could make it any clearer that these are literal days. And, if that’s not enough, keep in mind the reason given for working six days and resting one (see Exodus 20:8-11):

    8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
    9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
    10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.
    11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

    If, as the day-age theory seems to suggest, there are no literal days being described in Genesis 1, then it’s hard to see why God locks so hard onto humans only working six days and resting on the seventh, or how He worked for six days rather than five or seven. I mean, you could combine or split out those days in other ways fairly easily. Sure, He’s God, and if he split them out into six, there’s not a lot of point arguing, but everything falls into place much better if you see the days as literal.

    I’ll certainly grant you that the creation account in Genesis 1 sounds less fanciful that other creation accounts, which tend to involve things like a giant cow that existed from the dawn of time clicking a place in the ice for the salt, causing that spot to warm up, thereby creating the first god (Norse mythology). But even the least fanciful error is still an error.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Much depends on translation (yours clearly is different from mine) as well as interpretation. Thus, I see the Earth on the first day as not yet in existence (“without form and void”), and I’m not sure that “the waters” necessarily means the same thing it would to us. (How would Yahweh explain gases and plasmas to an ancient Hebrew?) Apparently there were medieval Jews (though different ones) who argued that the plants on the third day weren’t necessarily all plants, and that the appearance of the Sun and Moon on the fourth day could have meant merely that they became visible, not that they were created then. I’m not trying to make the literal reading of Genesis scientifically valid, merely arguing that it may be much closer to accurate than other creation stories.
      I would imagine Yahweh explaining creation to Abraham or Moses as best he could given the limited knowledge available at the time, and then being written down later on.
      As for the six days and then a day of rest, remember that Yahweh ultimately also provided for sabbatical years as well, so the idea that there were generally 6 stages of creation and then a period of rest from his labors remains a reasonable interpretation.

      • Terri King says:

        Yeah I’m not adamant about a literal 6 day creation…6 stages seems more plausible to me and a lot of others. And as you commented on, try explaining all that to plain old folks who don’t have a written word.

        All of this was related orally in ways that the listeners could best relate to, and we have a hard time understanding that at times because we’re so used to reading and learning rather than hearing, seeing, and learning as the ancients had to. We often tend to think of this in our current, modern learning situation.

  11. ronlsb says:

    Sorry, Timothy, but it’s not so easy to denigrate the story of creation in Genesis 1 without causing unsurmountable problems. You’d like to believe Adam and Eve were not the “literal” first humans, but simply descendants of whatever evolved before them. The problem with this is it makes Jesus a liar, for he clearly believed and taught that Adam was indeed the first man. Is He confused about this or what? If so, we don’t have a Savior, but a charlatan who’s fooled a lot of people over the last few two thousand years. If it means standing with your view of evolution or Christ’s firm statements about the historicity of Adam, I think I’ll stand with Christ.

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