Re: YEC Destroying Faith

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Sun Apr 18 2004 - 15:14:35 EDT

Glenn Morton wrote:
> > > And if we allow God to use a false science to get across a true
> > > theology, how can we be sure he isn't using a false
> > theology as well?
> > Because the purpose of scripture is to tell us the
> > truth about God & God's
> > relationship with the world (the classical definition of
> > theology) rather than about a scientific understanding of the
> > world. Cf. Jn.20:31.
> But George, that is tautological. The Bible's purpose is to tell us the
> truth about God and therefore it tells us the truth about God and what
> its purpose is.

        In my attempt to answer briefly I didn't put this very well. My point is not
that the Bible is theologically true because it's theologically true. It is rather that
the purpose of the Bible is theological, so that one might expect that the author would
be more concerned with its theological than with its scientific truth. I.e., one cannot
conclude (as you do) that the use of obsolete cosmology compromises its theological

> > The Bible does not "teach evolution." It teaches
> > mediated creation of life,
> > & this is important because it opens the possibility of
> > understanding creation in
> > evolutionary terms, but the picture in Genesis 1 is of the
> > land directly bringing forth
> > plants & animals. There is nothing at all about one species
> > being descended from
> > another.
> My only point is that by accepting a mediated origin of life, one
> clearly opens the possibility for evolution. Given that I know of few
> other options than miraculous instantaneous creation or evolution, I
> feel the way the Bible phrases things indicates evolution. I know you
> disagree on this and have stated your objections before.

        This seems obvious to you because you're a westerner of ~2000 trained in
science. To somebody of biblical times the earth & waters bringing forth life by no
means implied evolution. A number of the fathers understood Gen.1 as teaching mediated
creation but most seem to have understood it as meaning that plants &c sprang out of the
ground when God said "Let there be." E.g., Chrysostom says:

        "What is meant by 'And it became so'? He (Moses) says that the Lord commanded,
and at once (N.B.!) the earth, arousing the pains of labour which belong to its nature
prepared itself for the shooting forth of plants" 'And the earth,' says he (Moses),
'produced pasture grass, etc.'" (Unfortunately C's homilies on the Hexaemeron aren't in
The Post-Nicene Fathers. I'm quoting from Messenger.)

        Or Ambrose on Day 5: "The order comes, and immediately (!) the waters hasten to
accomplish the prescribed births ..."

        Gregory of Nyssa comes close to an evolutionary description of humanity but he
doesn't claim to get it directly from Genesis.

        The general picture is more like the animals rising out of the ground in the
creation story in one of the Narnia books (I forget which one now. The Magician's
Nephew?) than of any lengthy process. Or for a picture from antiquity, think of the
warriors coming out of the ground as Jason sowed the dragon's teeth.
> >
> > Genesis 1 does not state what we see today as a correct
> > picture of cosmological
> > development, even in simple terms. It has no big bang, no
> > formation of elements in
> > stars, no formation of the earth from a solar nebula, and no
> > descent with modification.
> As I have said, one doesn't have to have a college textbook to state
> truth in a simple fashion. But what a divinely inspired document should
> do is state truth.

        So now it's not just that it doesn't have to be Misner, Thorne & Wheeler, it
doesn't even have to be The Little Golden Book of Science. God could easily have given
elementary statements of the phenomena I mentioned above, but he didn't.

        But it's most telling that you omit, & do not respond to, my reference the
aspects of Gen. 1 which, if interpreted as scientific descriptions, are just wrong -
i.e., the sun being formed after the earth & land plants before marine animals.

> > Both Thomson's & Rutherford's theories can't both be
> > true because they are
> > claims of the same type - i.e., theories about a particular
> > aspect of physics. But two
> > different types of texts about the same thing can both be
> > true.
> But I would hardly think that the Hindu scriptures are about the same
> thing that the Judeo-Christian scriptures are about. They are like
> Thomson's and Rutherford's theories.

> Again I refer to the
> > example of the historian Benjamin Thomas's description of
> > Lincoln's assassination &
> > Whitman's poem about its significance. They are both true,
> > but if you try to read the
> > poem as an historical description you get serious
> > contradictions, & Thomas's account
> > doesn't convey the affect of Lincoln's death very well.
> But this example doesn't fit as far as I am concerned. The different
> religions have different conceptions of God and thus they are mutually
> exclusive. How is one to determine who is right if one can't look at
> nature and what the document says about nature as a hint to truth.

        How did the Hindu scriptures get in here? The comparison I am drawing is
between a modern scientific description of cosmology & evolution (corresponding roughly
to Thomas's account) and the Genesis accounts of creation (corresponding roughly to
Whitman's.) (Sigh. No, I don't mean that Genesis is "just poetry," or that it's only
about feelings, &c. I am simply saying that there are different types of literature, &
that one may be true in terms of the criteria that apply to that type but not if jusdged
by a foreign standard.)

        I think I asked the direct question earlier. Do you think that Whitman's poem
about Lincoln's death is false?


> > & by the same token one has to say that the theories of
> > Kepler, Newton, &
> > Maxwell are false. & when we find effects of quantum
> > gravity, we'll have to say that
> > general relativity is false. It doesn't matter that all
> > those theories correctly
> > explained phenomena that their predecessaors hadn't &
> > predicted new ones. They're just
> > false.
> On this we agree. They are false. But when looking at two religions, you
> are looking at two theories of God. All theories of God can't be true
> at the same time. Which brings me back to the issue of natural truth as
> an arbitor.

        No, we don't agree. General relativity is not false to the same degree that
Aristotelian physics is because it's a better approximation to reality.

        The criterion of "natural truth" as an arbiter is highly questionable. To begin
with, Judaism has the same degree of "natural truth" as Christianity (since texts in the
New Testament that deal with creation don't add any "natural truth" to Genesis). For
that matter, Islam accepts the Genesis creation accounts, so if "natural truth" is the
criterion maybe Muslims are right.

        & worse than that, how do we deal with some recently invented religion that has
access to modern science and can give much more detailed & accurate "natural truth" than
the Bible does? (I have in mind things like Haeckel's "new monistic religion" or the
"Church of Einstein" that Corey Powell promotes in his silly recent book _God in the


George L. Murphy
Received on Sun Apr 18 15:17:05 2004

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