Re: YEC and interpretations (was: Re: asa-digest V1 #3214)

From: Peter Ruest (
Date: Fri Mar 21 2003 - 00:49:49 EST

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    allenroy wrote:
    > Peter Ruest wrote:
    > >I am in the middle of such a discussion with a young-earth creationist
    > >(who has published a book-long theological defense of the young-earth
    > >creationist postulate).
    > >
    > >The crucial point he doesn't seem to check is that there is a close
    > >parallel between the theological treatment of the Bible and the
    > >scientific treatment of nature (or creation). We have two "books" of
    > >God, his Word (in the Bible), and his work (in creation). The biblical
    > >text (originals) is data, and the creation is data. But theology is
    > >interpretation, and science is interpretation. Data are given - they
    > >are, in a sense, God's truth, which is absolutely reliable (although we
    > >are not able to see all of it directly, both with the biblical originals
    > >and with the realities of creation). We cannot change the data, we can
    > >at most falsify or obscure it. But any interpretation, be it of biblical
    > >texts or of observations in nature, are the work of fallible humans. Its
    > >reliability has certain probabilities, which range from 0 to somewhere
    > >below 100%. Any interpretations must be subject to revision if
    > >necessary. Any pitting of "the Bible" against "science" is therefore a
    > >confusion of categories, and therefore mistaken.
    > >
    > I and most YECs that I know would pretty much agree with this. Except
    > that we have supernatural help in understanding (or interpreting) the
    > Bible in the form of the promised "Comforter" who Jesus sent to"lead us
    > into all truth." As long as we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us, then
    > we can arrive at what God means for us to understand from the Bible.
    > With that in mind, that is why one should never open the Bible unless
    > we first ask God the Spirit to guide and lead our thoughts.

    This criterion doesn't distinguish between YEC and other christians.
    > As for interpreting the data from the natural world, the difference
    > between the typical YEC and Evolutionists of all types, is the
    > foundational assumptions within which scientific study is done. YECs
    > typically start with the stated Biblical points of a creation of the
    > Biosphere within a week of 7 planet rotations some 6000 +/- years ago
    > and a global cataclysm (typically called Creationism).

    A particular interpretation of the Bible doesn't constitute a good
    scientific axiom.

    > The typical
    > Evolutionist starts with Ontological Naturalism (or its heir
    > Methodological Naturalism).

    This is not true for theistic evolutionists and other types of
    christians who accept evolution as a scientific theory.

    > The scientific method can be done equally
    > well within either viewpoint. When dealing with the here and now, both
    > philosophies provide equivalent results. It is when dealing with the
    > past that the interpretations of scientific data within the paradigms
    > diverge.

    Your philosophical dualism is mistaken, see above. On the scientific
    side, there is no fundamental difference between past and present such
    as you claim.

    > The real issue is not that one or the other side does not
    > understand science or is unable to do proper science. Rather, the real
    > issue, the real conflict, is found in the foundational assumptions. Can
    > Creationism and Ontological Naturalism be harmonized or are they
    > incompatible. Can Creationism and Methodological Naturalism be
    > harmonized or are they also incompatible. The typical YEC believe that
    > the philosophical differences between Creationism and Naturalism (of
    > either form) are completely incompatible. I believe that the typical
    > Theistic Evolutionists (and others of similar beliefs) believe that
    > Creationism and Natrualism can be harmonized.

    This is correct for methodological naturalism and non-YEC creationism,
    but not ontological naturalism or YEC.

    > One can read about such
    > attempts at harmonizing on many web pages provided by many members of
    > this group. The YECs point out however, that ALL such harmonizing
    > involves starting with Naturalism (either form) and interpreting the
    > Bible within it.

    This is not true for all. Your claim is offensive to non-YEC christians.

    > Some might argue that Methodological Naturalism is an
    > attempt to harmonize Ontological Naturalism through Biblical eyes.
    > However, most YECs will argue that it modifing Ontological Naturalism
    > inot Methodological Naturlaism doesn't go far enough and besides that,
    > it is completely unnecessary to use any form of Naturalism. All the
    > necessary assumptions requried to conduct the scientific method are
    > found within Creationism.

    This is patently untrue for YEC. It may be true if you equate
    "creationism" with a biblical worldview not fixed on YEC.
    > >There is no "literal interpretation" of the Bible which would be immune
    > >from human fallibility. I believe we have to take the (original)
    > >biblical text "literally", in the sense of respecting the way the divine
    > >Author led the human authors to formulate and later copyists to transmit
    > >it: we must not change any of it. But we cannot evade interpreting it -
    > >any reading of it automatically is an interpretation, which has to be
    > >evaluated. So I would not discuss whether Gen.1-11 has to be taken
    > >"literally" or not. The question is how these words are meant to be
    > >interpreted. And this cannot be other than "theory-laden", just as with
    > >scientific interpretations. There is no priority of the interpretations
    > >of one type of data (biblical text) over those of another type of data
    > >(creation). There only is priority of God's data (in the Bible and in
    > >creation) over its interpretation (in both domains).
    > >
    > In the discussion on "literal" inerpretation of the Bible, many YECs
    > find that the term "literal" has been interpreted by critics and skeptic
    > to mean that every single word of the Bible is to be taken absolutly
    > literal. This is not how most YECs use the term "literal." (but I'm
    > sure you can find some who do.)

    Above, I have tried to define what I mean by a proper way of taking the
    Bible "literally", but it certainly isn't the YEC way, and from the way
    you use the word it seems you haven't understood my definition.

    > Because the inaccurate definition used
    > by the critics is so pervasive in society now, many YECs are now
    > beginning to use the term "straight forward reading" rather than
    > "literal reading," to describe the common sense method they use to read
    > the Bible. Just as we all have learned to communicate, read and write
    > using an assortmen of obvious literary methods, the same approach is
    > applied to the Bible. It is recognized that the Bible is written in
    > obvious literary structures such as prose, poety, prophetic symbolisms,
    > metaphores, idoms, etc. It doesn't take a rocket scientist or
    > theologian with advanced degrees to get the obvious messages from the Bible.

    Distinguishing literary genres does help to find the proper meaning of a
    text, but "straightforward reading" doesn't protect you from needing a
    way to interpret it. You are right that any person with an open mind
    towards God can get the obvious (practical theological) message of the
    Bible, but not anyone may be able to judge the age of the earth, which
    is not explicitely given in the Bible.
    > I have found that when reading Genesis 1:11 nearly everyone agrees that
    > if it is read in a straight forward manner then the interpretation of
    > the texts would likely be very similar to the typical YEC
    > interpretation.

    You seem to have discussed this primarily in YEC circles.

    > However, when faced with the interpretation of natural
    > world through Ontological or Methodological Naturalism which simply does
    > not fit the straight forward interpretation of Genesis, that one must
    > make some difficult choices.

    Just forget about ontological naturalism when interpreting Genesis, but
    accept methodological naturalism as the method of science when
    interpreting scientific observations. Yes, there may be difficult
    choices when trying to harmonize the two interpretations, but that's a
    different problem, not the one you are considering.

    > Can one "intellectually" throw out the
    > "Science" of Methodological Naturalism? Does one have to make "Faith"
    > decision and shut your eyes to 'science?' I believe that there is
    > another option, do you science within the philosophical foundation of
    > Creationism rather than any form of Naturalism.
    > Allen

    You really should consider what I tried to present in my last post.


    Dr. Peter Ruest, CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern, Switzerland
    <> - Biochemistry - Creation and evolution
    "..the work which God created to evolve it" (Genesis 2:3)

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