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Al Mohler: Bait and Switch Anti-Intellectualism

January 7, 2011

This quote from Al Mohler has been making the rounds on the internet:

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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As I have stated repeatedly, I accept without hesitation the fact that the world indeed looks old. Armed with naturalistic assumptions, I would almost assuredly come to the same conclusions as BioLogos and the evolutionary establishment, or I would at least find evolutionary arguments credible. But the most basic issue is, and has always been, that of worldview and basic presuppositions. The entire intellectual enterprise of evolution is based on naturalistic assumptions, and I do not share those presuppositions. Indeed, the entire enterprise of Christianity is based on supernaturalistic, rather than merely naturalistic, assumptions. There is absolutely no reason that a Christian theologian should accept the uniformitarian assumptions of evolution. In fact, given a plain reading of Scripture, there is every reason that Christians should reject a uniformitarian presupposition. The Bible itself offers a very different understanding of natural phenomena, with explanations that should be compelling to believers. In sum, there is every reason for Christians to view the appearance of the cosmos as graphic evidence of the ravages of sin and the catastrophic nature of God’s judgment upon sin.

There are several problems with Al’s statement, but let me point out a couple quickly that jump out to me.

The dichotomy of “natural presuppositions” vs “supernaturalistic presuppositions” does not occur in the vacuum of a creation vs evolution debate (though Al really, really wishes it were so because it would make his argument ‘valid’; however…). The reason scientists have “natural presuppositions” is because we are surrounded, everywhere, all of the time, with the results of “natural presuppositions.” Now here is the important part:

The results of these “natural presuppositions” are the results of methodological naturalism

In simple terms this is what that means: When Al Mohler gives a lecture he does not suppose that he talks into a mic, then a miracle occurs, and louder sound suddenly comes from the speakers. He does not get on a plane and pray for angels to carry it, and then a miracle occurs, and he finds himself in another city (ditto for his car). I’m sure if a family member was gravely ill he would go to the hospital, etc. He fully operates in a world built on methodological naturalism and fully trusts it.

We are surrounded by endless mountains of the advancements of methodological naturalism and the scientific process. These ‘presuppositions’ simply seek natural explanations for how our world works in a way that is testable, repeatable, verifiable, which have explanatory power, and gives us good and adequate knowledge to understand and operate in our world. We test and probe and try and re-test, and ultimately this has lead to great advancements in the human condition. We understand the role of germs in diseases and how to combat those. We get that the world is not flat and that the earth goes around the sun rather than the opposite (Sorry Qoholet!).

But this is the sneaky and deceiving rhetoric of the Mohler bait and switch: he is not talking about methodological naturalism but philosophical naturalism.

And he wants to present it in a way that people will think they are the same thing. But the obvious problem? They’re not. This is also rhetorically enforced by the idea that the word theory in science really means hunch. So evolutionists and scientists have a ‘hunch’ built on ‘philosophical natural assumptions’ that is really a ‘worldview’,  a philosophy, not built on any sort of methodological scientific process, and that ‘philosophical presupposition’ is what evolution really is. There are no facts, there is no science, just an anti-God and anti-Bible philosophy.

But that’s not true, and I think instinctively, if not obviously, Mohler knows this, that’s why he has to truck out the uniformitarian argument which basically states that just because the world looks old, we can ignore any scientific process, tests, or facts for a ‘plain’ (tendentious) reading of Scripture. That’s right, regardless of any methodological evidence or process Mohler is suggesting that a ‘thinking’ person can ignore those as a presupposition. Mohler could of just as easily stated his case, “Facts? Facts? We don’t need no stinkin’ facts! We have a plain reading of Scripture! Facts? Ha!”

Mohler fundamentally misrepresents the issue because, well, a) he commits logical fallacies in his argument, but b) as I pointed out the above presuppositions do not occur in an “origins vacuum,” and philosophical and methodological naturalism are very, very different things.

As opposed to Al “I am not a scientist, and I don’t understand it, so I’ll make this a hypothetical philosophical debate” Mohler and his old arguments in big words that misrepresent the issue, I thought the words of an actual scientist might also be a good corrective. What’s more, this scientist is a creationist, but Todd C. Wood is a trained scientist. And as such, he recognizes that the scientific (that is: methodological) basis of evolution is strong:

Evolution is not a theory in crisis. It is not teetering on the verge of collapse. It has not failed as a scientific explanation. There is evidence for evolution, gobs and gobs of it. It is not just speculation or a faith choice or an assumption or a religion. It is a productive framework for lots of biological research, and it has amazing explanatory power. There is no conspiracy to hide the truth about the failure of evolution. There has really been no failure of evolution as a scientific theory. It works, and it works well.

32 Comments leave one →
  1. January 7, 2011 7:32 am

    It makes me very sad that Mohler is viewed in such high esteem by young evangelicals. I mean, when did the “plain reading of Scripture” approach become remotely acceptable again? Scripture is not some bare fact-book that we look up answers in. Mohler of all people should know that. It reinforces my claim that Mohler is nothing more than the new face of an old fundamentalism. This distrust of science, this rhetorical sloppiness, this disrespectful treatment of Scripture–all of these are classic trademarks of fundamentalism, and it’s not at all healthy for the Church.

  2. Chris E permalink
    January 7, 2011 7:58 am

    “When Al Mohler gives a lecture he does not suppose that he talks into a mic, then a miracle occurs, and louder sound suddenly comes from the speakers. He does not get on a plane and pray for angels to carry it, and then a miracle occurs, and he finds himself in another city ”

    I’m sure that there are some charismatics who explain a whole bunch of phenomena in just this way – hence why some things are either down to the Holy Spirit (when done in their churches) or the devil (when seen in other religions or replicated by some psychologist in an experiment). I also suspect Al Mohler is not a million miles away from this line of thinking himself – see the earlier article of his on yoga

    • January 7, 2011 10:21 am

      I’m not convinced that there are too many Charismatics who would do that. In fact they are often not polarizing the discussion between supernatural over natural worldviews, rather they just see the natural worldview as unnecessary. This is a difference between fundamentalists and Pentecostal/Charismatics.

      I am reading a bit of modern Pentecostal thought in prep for a course I’m teaching next semester and there is a growing number of advocates on bringing in a supernatural worldview as a balance (not as an alternative) to a natural worldview. It is quite interesting actually.

    • Chris E permalink
      January 7, 2011 10:27 am

      “In fact they are often not polarizing the discussion between supernatural over natural worldviews, rather they just see the natural worldview as unnecessary. ”

      I assumed that’s what I was getting at – they wouldn’t see a natural explanation but would see a spiritual cause – either holy or diabolical.

    • January 7, 2011 11:07 am

      My point is that they wouldn’t not see a natural one either – in fact supernatural and natural are blended without clear lines of demarcation. Hence they wouldn’t bifurcate them like this Al guy does in the video.

  3. atimetorend permalink
    January 7, 2011 9:08 am

    When Al Mohler gives a lecture he does not suppose that he talks into a mic, then a miracle occurs…

    Although there isn’t anything in the bible which specifically (and literally) says that when you talk into a mic, a miracle occurs, with no naturally observable process taking place. I’ll have to read over your post more carefully, to understand what you are saying about philosophical natural assumptions.

    Thanks for posting on this, I have hoping to find something written with more philosophical explanation.

  4. January 8, 2011 12:53 am

    “Gobs and gobs” is scientific? Teeheehee. The quote at the end of the post is opinion. The assertion is emphatic, yet supported only by the assertion itself. The Dr. Woods (I’m guessing he’s a Dr) quote offers no more power of explanation than Dr. Mohler. I am no fan of Albert Mohler (I frequently disagree with him), but this critique offered here misses the mark imho. The point I take away from reading this excerpt from Mohler is that scientists approach their work with certain presuppositions. The hair your splitting seems to me a red herring. Empirical science can examine some specific thing assuming that thing is a fixed target designed to be a certain way or it can examine that thing as a moving target resulting from and subject to chance. The view taken is founded on presupposition, which is effectively the same thing as a worldview. Creationists and evolutionists have different worldviews. No secret there. They approach their craft with differing presuppositions. No shock there either. Empirical science is not at stake. Its a method, not a conclusion. Data is information. A conclusion is the view or understanding of the information. Presuppositions, applied to data, yield corresponding conclusions. If we are all honest here, the tail wags the dog no matter what dog it is. The same is true whether you start and end a Creationist or start and end an Evolutionist (or pick whatever other label you like).

  5. January 8, 2011 1:40 am

    The only way I can make sense of Mohler is by reference to a super strict unreflecting biblicism. He clothes this language in philosophical presuppositions, but really it comes down to his inerrancy. He wants to take the Bible “literally”, with his “plain reading”, which forces him to deny science. There’s nothing deep going on here. As he says himself, he takes science seriously in a lot of cases. The only cases he doesn’t, are where he thinks the Bible is under threat. Utterly primitive and shallow stuff.

    • January 8, 2011 3:46 am

      //He wants to take the Bible “literally”, with his “plain reading”, which forces him to deny science.//

      You’re assuming a plain reading of Genesis denies science. This is an opinion, a belief.

      //As he says himself, he takes science seriously in a lot of cases. The only cases he doesn’t, are where he thinks the Bible is under threat.//

      Again, an interpretation. Those are not his words.

      I really hate being put in the position of defending Dr Mohler, but you really should be intellectually honest here.

      • January 8, 2011 3:57 am

        The “literal” reading of Genesis promoted by creationists, Mohler among them, most certainly clashes head on with science. It pretty much denies it all. For example, ch. 1 says that there was day and night before the sun was created. And, obviously, all living creatures evolved over billions of years and were not specially created in a couple of days. And so on.
        There are, of course, ways of reading Genesis that take its genre and context otherwise seriously, and they don’t clash with science. That’s the reading I myself hold to, just to be clear.
        Well, yes, it’s an interpretation. That’s why I said that this was the only way I can make sense of what Mohler says. He talks about materialist presuppositions, but doesn’t go into any depth with them. What he talks about, on the other hand, is how evolution contradicts a certain fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible. That’s what’s at stake. The Bible, not philosophical presuppositions.

        • January 8, 2011 4:34 am

          Then we agree to disagree You are clear in stating your beliefs. I appreciate that.

          Just to be equally clear, you would label me among those Creationists – earth before sun, life created suddenly as distinct kinds, planetary flood and all. But your probably guessed that already. Also, for the record, I am of the opinion empirical science supports (or more correctly – fails to falsify) the plain reading of scriptural revelation.

          • January 8, 2011 4:43 am

            Yeah, thought so. At least we know where we have each other. 🙂

            • January 8, 2011 4:48 am

              Thanks. Yes, I’d rather be clear than be in agreement. I enjoy a healthy and honest discussion. I learn a great deal from such discussions. These kinds of topics tend to generate a great deal of vitriol, but such a response is completely unnecessary, especially among Christians who simply have different understandings.

  6. January 8, 2011 9:14 am

    You can’t have it both ways. Either the cosmos and the natural world is orderly, trustworthy, presenting us with searchable truths and revealing the glory, power, and nature of God, or it is unreliable, capricious, filled with misleading evidence, meaningless, and bent upon confusing and deceiving us. Mohler wants to take humankind backward a few thousand years.

  7. January 8, 2011 9:29 am

    Mr. Ponder,

    “I am of the opinion empirical science supports (or more correctly – fails to falsify) the plain reading of scriptural revelation.”

    I’m curious. What do you mean by the “plain reading of scriptural revelation”? I learn from the plain reading of scriptural revelation that the earth is fixed on foundations, that God stretched out a dome-like canopy to separate the waters above from the waters below, and that the sun, moon, and stars all traverse this dome. Of course, Moses was trained by the Egyptians who shared this mistaken view of the cosmos. Nothing is more plain … unless your definition of “plain reading” has a lot of flex and give.

  8. January 8, 2011 11:30 am

    “Also, for the record, I am of the opinion empirical science supports (or more correctly – fails to falsify) the plain reading of scriptural revelation.”

    I am going to guess that this ‘opinion’ is not based on empirical science because precisely and exactly what empirical science and methodological naturalism does is falsify the biblical stories scientifically.

    How old is the universe? How big? How long does it take for us to observe light from distant stars that are traveling to us at the speed of light? By empirical methods the only answer is billions of years. This is not an ‘opinion’ or a ‘philosophy’ but the consensus view based on empirical evidence and methodology.

    How about a global flood? There is not enough water in the system for all of the world to be flooded, especially high enough to cover all of the mountains. This is not an ‘opinion’ or a ‘philosophy’ but the consensus view based on empirical evidence and methodology. The argument, yeah, but the rakia is the same as “and then a miracle happens’. It is not empirically based. The Hebrew cosmology in the HB is equivalent to that of its neighbors. It is based on what could be surmised by ancient thinking, superstition, and observation (earth bound with little means of devising the truth empirically).

    The biggest problem is that you make the fundamental issue of genre confusion. You think ancient bronze age persons were writing modern science, this is false identification which leads to your faulty conclusions.

    Stop reading philosophical apologetics, which really don’t interact with science but make statements such as “there is no evidence…” which of course allows one to ignore the evidence, and “There is proof of Genesis’ scientific veracity…” but of course offers no empirical proof, and pick up some scientific textbooks on methodology, biology, geology, and astronomy, and then, once you have considered the scientific process and the evidence, and the actual arguments that exist, come back and interact with this post.

  9. January 8, 2011 10:32 pm

    @Cliff – In your first comment you sounded like a Creationist up until that last sentence. 😉

    In your second comment you asked about what I meant by a plain reading then used a few examples to make it appear that a plain reading is silly. I rather like the word plain because plain does necessarily equal literal. As Mr Agathos points out, there is some issue with genre confusion. The bible contains several writing styles ranging from poetic rhetoric to simple historical facts. In most cases context is fairly obvious. Of course the human writers who recorded the revelations they were given did so in the language available to them at the time. They didn’t have nice white lab coats or letters after their last names – most had no last names as far as I know. Scripture is not a science book, unless of course you hold that the word “science” literally means “knowledge” and no more. But I digress. Since this is a quiet evening for me I’ll take a few minutes and make an effort to address some of the specifics you brought up…

    The precise phrase “earth is fixed on foundations” is not in scripture that I can find, however there are more than a dozen references to the foundation(s) of the earth. About half refer to bedrock, having to do with earthquakes or similar. A few deal with original creation, as I think you were getting at. The concept here appears to be that the planet was put together whole and complete, with a consistent design and structure. The earth is fairly round with what seems to be a fairly consistent structure of inner core to crust layers. The interior of our planet does not appear to trade places with other layers. I’d say its foundations are therefore pretty well fixed, even though that exact phrase isn’t found in scripture. I don’t see why fixed foundations is a problem for theology or evolutionary theory.

    Next: “that God stretched out a dome-like canopy to separate the waters above from the waters below”. Our planet is a sphere. From anywhere you stand on its surface, the sky does appear to be a dome stretching from horizon to horizon. Many Creationists who hold to the “canopy theory” love this verse. Personally, I prefer the theories of Dr. Russell Humphreys on this topic. Either way, there is a layer of water vapor, not to mention clouds that carry water, in the skies above as well as water in the oceans below – and there is a layer or dome of air between them. I don’t think that’s a problem for even a purely atheistic evolutionist to agree with.

    And “and that the sun, moon, and stars all traverse this dome”. Once again, from the perspective anyone from Adam (or Lucy) down to my 2 year old niece can look up into the heavens and see they appear to traverse the dome of the sky. Do they actually move around the earth? Its a matter of perspective. In the absolute sense, no. But relative to the human observer, yes. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Of course the sun never “goes down” if your the astrophysicist considering the absolute relationship from some “fixed” point in space (fixed here is still relative to somewhere).

    If you’re trying to make the bible into a science book then you’re trying to make it into something that it is not. The point is not to read it as a science book. Even so, it purports itself to contain divine revelation. Either that revelation is true or it is not. I know there are many Christians who take most other parts of scripture at face value, from the virgin birth to the resurrection, yet do not accept the creation account at face value. I did not come here to have that debate, only to point out that there is error in the arguments made in the post.

    • January 8, 2011 10:50 pm

      Correction to second sentence of second paragraph: because plain does NOT necessarily equal literal

    • January 8, 2011 11:25 pm

      I am familiar with the theories of Dr. Humphreys. He is one of the few young earth creationists for whom I have respect. He recognizes the incontrovertible evidences for an ancient universe, takes the problem of starlight seriously, and has devised an elaborate, though somewhat convoluted scheme, borrowing upon principles of accepted cosmology and relativity, and belabored with fanciful mathematics, which serves his purpose of reconciling a literal reading of Genesis with the known facts of science. Nevertheless, his brand of young earth is at least plausible. What I find amazing is all the so-called young earth scientists who for decades insisted that all the “real” evidence pointed to a very young cosmos who now flock to the new savior of the young earth, Dr, Humphreys. Please excuse the tone of ridicule … but I find it nearly impossible to resist. Do you see why? For years I listened to Gish and Morris and Ham and Chittock et. al. feed me their orchestrated mantra that there is no real evidence for a billions-of-years-old universe, that starlight is a divine gimmick, and that the cosmos is surely six to ten thousand years old and no more. Then when Humphreys (who knows better than to dismiss the copious volumes of physical evidence for an ancient universe) comes along with a theory that rescues their premises by fixing the very problem those others spent years denying even existed, they come running to hail his new, scientific sounding solution! Do you see the irony? It is a clear demonstration of the farcical nature of young earth “science.” Do you agree? Because if you are in Humphrey’s camp, I assume you would agree. And if you do understand and agree with Humphreys, your stock goes up in my book, because you are a young earth creationist who at least acknowledges a very old universe.

      As for the ancient near eastern cosmology of the Old Testament, I wonder … have you ever really studied ANE cosmology? Have you ever noticed the remarkable similarities between the Sumerian and Egyptian cosmologies and cosmogonies and the epic descriptions in Genesis 1? You are correct that these cosmologies are all derived from how things appeared to ancient man. No quarrel there. But that sidesteps the point. Up until (and sadly, for two hundred years following) Galileo this cosmological scheme was considered axiomatic by most Bible believers, and Copernicanism was fiercely opposed by the church on the grounds that the “plain reading of the Scriptures” teach us that the earth does not move, that the stars, sun and moon traverse the firmament canopy, and these understandings had non-negotiable theological significance. It is easy for you and I to dismiss the “plain reading of the Scriptures” which for millennia assured the people of faith of geocentricity. Yet you hold that Genesis 1 must be taken at face value (despite its blatant contradictions with Genesis two, and despite the many early church fathers who understood its literary genre as mythic poetry … which seems obvious enough to me.) Is it possible that we should take a step back and reconsider the “plain reading of Scriptures”, as the believers of three and four hundred years ago finally acquiesced to do?

      • January 9, 2011 12:19 am

        At the risk of offending the site owner I will briefly respond here then again no more.

        Thank you. I appreciate the generous response. I came across Humphreys several years ago, well before getting familiar with Ham. I read Morris & Witcomb’s Genesis Flood nearly 30 years ago. It was the first book that lent support to taking Genesis 1 seriously as a historical piece. It also led me to begin several years of questioning what I was taught in high school and the popular media. I found AiG about 3 or 4 years ago. I think I read Humphrey’s book a bit before that. I absolutely think that starlight is the biggest scientific problem for a young earth. And, to date, I think Dr. Humphreys has offered the best theories to explain what we observe within the framework of the Creationist origins model. I will also admit that in reading some of Ham’s work in the last few years he has offered little indirect and as far as I know almost no direct support for Humphrey’s theories. He does so to his own discredit. I have yet to find a man who is perfect though, aside from Jesus Christ, so I don’t expect Ham or Humphreys or Morris to get it right all the time. I certainly don’t expect Mohler to get it right – LOL.

  10. January 8, 2011 10:49 pm

    @Agathos —

    //I am going to guess that this ‘opinion’ is not based on empirical science because precisely and exactly what empirical science and methodological naturalism does is falsify the biblical stories scientifically.//

    On the contrary. Though I’ll be honest and tell you I accept divine revelation as such and through that lens I interpret what I see. The difference between myself and the typical evolutionist is that I admit it.

    Regarding the size and age of the universe, this post is hardly the place to get into the physics and that’s not why I commented here to begin with. But I do not believe the universe has to be billions of years old for galactic clusters to be billions of light-years away. As for the flood and the amount of water on the surface of our planet, the problem is not the amount water but the height of mountains. Our mountains today are not as they were before the flood. Even if you hold to Lyell’s uniformitarian views you’ll probably have heard of Pangaea and you’ll probably know that tectonic plate motion raises and lowers mountains over time. In concert with evolutionary theory, old earthers believe mountains rose slowly over a long time whereas Creationists hold they rose very quickly over a short time during the flood catastrophe. This is only a theory, but then so is uniformitarianism.

    Finally, you’ll be happy to know I do not view the bible as a science book – unless of course you use the most basic definition of science as knowledge. Please refer to my comment above to cliff for more on this subject. I view it as revelation.

    //pick up some scientific textbooks on methodology, biology, geology, and astronomy, and then, once you have considered the scientific process and the evidence, and the actual arguments that exist, come back and interact with this post.//

    Now you’re not being nice. In fact, you’re being vitriolic. Because my opinion differs from your own I’m not welcome here? Well, you’re the author of the post so I will do as you ask, unsub, and leave in you in peace. It is unfortunate you are unwilling to have a respectful dialog with someone who simply disagrees. Had I read this part first I would not have replied at all, but I felt that since I’d replied earlier and you chose to reply back it was only polite that I continue the dialog. My apologies if I’ve offended you.

    • January 9, 2011 9:44 am

      Lance Ponder,

      A) You have a cool name. Kind of like when Homer becomes ‘Max Power’ on the Simpsons. But that aside…

      B) In a bit or irony you are committing the same error that this post is about. You keep trying to switch the argument and make it about philosophy, interpretation, or hypotheses (I’m fairly certain you misunderstand scientifically the difference between hypothesis and theory-look them up, and then re-read your second ‘argument’ above). Of course rhetorically you have to do this and it is the oldest AiG trick in the book. Let me help you out a bit. You wrote,

      “In concert with evolutionary theory, old earthers believe mountains rose slowly over a long time whereas Creationists hold they rose very quickly over a short time during the flood catastrophe. This is only a theory…”

      Lance actually those are hypotheses, they do not become theories until they are extensively tested (this is the process of methodological naturalism) when these hypotheses are extensively tested then scientists can draw conclusions about which one is more likely to account for the data in a repeatable and sustainable manner.

      This is a good example of why you should stop reading philosophical, misinformed, tendentious, polemical, misunderstandings of science like AiG, and pick up a real science book so you can understand the fundamental difference between such simple things as theory and hypothesis. Maybe look at a real geological study and survey, and then make a statement about how mountains developed. At the hypothetical level a titan could have crapped them out of the sky. That “theory” would be as valid as they arose quickly at the speculative level. However, it would not survive any rigorous methodological study.

      C) It would probably also help your understanding and argumentation if you also investigated the difference between belief and knowledge. They are different things and it is a logical fallacy when you try to make them coterminous in an argument.

      D) You are welcome to come here whenever you want. What I am suggesting however is that in this particular instance you completely misunderstand the argument, Genesis, and science, and might want to more broadly educate yourself before tilting at windmills.

      • January 11, 2011 4:50 pm

        a) Thanks. I loved that episode.

        b) I would say much the same of BioLogos as you say of AiG.

        c) Thanks. I’ll try to be careful.

        d) Thanks again. I don’t think so, but I appreciate your interest in setting me right.

  11. January 9, 2011 3:42 pm

    “At the hypothetical level a titan could have crapped them out of the sky.”

  12. January 11, 2011 7:04 am

    I have to say that the eventual understanding of a formulation along the lines of “creation was the end, and evolution one of many means to that end” certainly relieved me of a great deal of cognitive dissonance that developed as I grew up in teh SBC while being extremely left-brained. But I have a practical question.

    Evangelical apologetics requires a literal Adam in a literal Eden eating a literal apple (banana?) from a literal Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. There is no room for allegory there. Conversely, a naturalistic explanation of origins supplies no obvious impetus for the entry of sin into the world. In my mind, it puts one into the unenviable (not to mention heretical) position of suggesting that sin was part of the original plan, put there by God for the express purpose of tripping us up; this flies in the face of our understanding of the nature and character of God.

    Am I missing something here? How does one reconcile a naturalistic description of the universe with man’s need for salvation by a good and loving God? As I’m sure my history of comments in this venue demonstrate, I’m no rhetorician. I lack the language to present an apologetic synthesis of a natural universe and a universal need for Christ (endless repetitions of “because the Bible says so” tend to generate blank, slack-jawed drooling. In me, too).

    And to anyone who attempts to answer me, please: Use small words and speak (write) deliberately; I’m an engineer. 😉

    • January 11, 2011 7:51 am

      Just a follow-on thought:

      Does the bible itself, or any book therein, actually make claim to inerrency, especially the clearly allegorical and fantastic texts like Genesis and Revelation? I’m no bible scholar, but I don’t remember any such claim.

      I seem to remember a passage by one of the Mosi, or perhaps an OT prophet, instructing the Hebrews to build a structure (and I may be off by an order of magnitude) that was 10 cubits or reeds across and 30 cubits or reeds around. Do the YEC crowd suggest that [pi] was an even 3 at the time?

      • January 11, 2011 6:07 pm

        As a YEC, though I don’t claim to speak for all of us, I don’t think pi has ever been a subject of debate, nor do I think it was ever anything other than what it is now – though rounding is always nice when you can get away with it. 😉

        As to what the bible says about itself…

        Nu 23:19 (God is not a man that He would lie)
        Dt 18:22 (Testing prophecy for truth)
        2 Sam 7:28 (God’s words are true)
        2 Sam 22:31 (God’s character and words are true)
        Ps 18:30 (God’s words prove true)
        Ps 119 (the whole Psalm exalts the Torah – the books of Moses – as good, true, and right)
        Jn 10:35 (scripture cannot be broken)
        2 Tim 3:16 (All scripture (OT) is God breathed)
        Rev 21:5 (John claims the visions he write are true)

        There’s plenty more, but this should suffice as a sampling.

        • January 11, 2011 10:06 pm

          Which is to say, in answer to Brian’s specific question, No. The Bible stops far short of claiming inerrancy.

    • January 11, 2011 10:14 am


      Why don’t you try this site. They have a wealth of material and persons much smarter than I trying to engage these actual questions.

      And a review of a book you might find interesting Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution by Denis O. Lamoureux

    • January 11, 2011 5:35 pm

      Brian, great questions. I’m sure the site author would give you completely different answers, and in fact already has, so I’ll try to give you a little support from the “other” side. You mention the need for a literal reading of Genesis to explain the origin of sin and death compared with the naturalistic origins offering no viable explanation for sin. This does make sense until you start paying attention to those who argue that science only supports an old earth and evolution. One or the other is true. Mixing them creates a whole list of problem for science as well as religion. Biologos does make a valiant effort at finding this middle ground. The site author promotes their position. I remain unconvinced. I too have an engineering background (electronics and physics), so I appreciate your interest in sensible solutions. The apostle Paul made reasoned arguments and in fact demanded faith based on reason. I personally reject blind faith in YEC just as I reject blind faith in evolution or any of the intermediate positions. This led me on a search for several years for a “reasoned faith.” In the end I am now a committed YEC person. The philosophical, biological, and geological issues were easy to resolve in favor of a young earth. Astronomy was the longest hold-out. Most of the Creationist explanations for distant starlight are unconvincing. It was only after reading the work of a particular physicist, Dr Russell Humphreys, that I found a believable explanation for distant starlight in a young universe. Of course by the time I reached this point all I really wanted was a plausible explanation – I openly admit this much.

      There’s a real theological problem with allegorizing Adam and Eve and Genesis 1-11. The problem is sin and death. Is sin the cause of death? If evolution is true (even theistic evolution), then death came before sin. If death came before sin, sin isn’t the cause of death. If sin isn’t the cause of death then what did Jesus accomplish? BioLogos does offer a solution, but requires something other than a “plain reading” of Genesis (and several other passages). To me it is a question of authority. The way I see it, either Genesis is a revelation from God (and as such it must be true if the character of God revealed throughout scripture is to be believed) or it is a human invention. If Genesis is a revelation from God, it is authoritative. It could be in poetic form (though it isn’t written that way), but even biblical poetry isn’t dismissed as purely allegory. The alternative is to take evolutionary theory as authoritative. The scientific method is limited to examining nature in the present. The tests we setup and the conclusions we draw are filtered by the presuppositions we hold. This is true whether we believe in evolution or biblical creation. Which do you accept as authoritative – revelation (Genesis) or human reasoning (Evolution)? Beyond that, is compromise possible or logical? If you want an answer I suggest you investigate carefully the various ideas that are out there and decide for yourself. I would encourage you to make yourself aware of Biologos as well as AiG. Be as objective as possible. Look for supporting facts and logical conclusions. Each group makes convincing arguments – look through those to what makes sense. In the end it comes down to what you choose to believe and no one can make that choice for you – unless you let them.

  13. February 19, 2011 5:08 am

    Oops… I made the mistake of thinking the author of this blog was a Christian, until I read this post and his comments on it. Sorry about that!

    • February 20, 2011 9:01 pm

      Christians also can have good reasons to stand against Dr Mohler on this one. I did. Read my post on this if you’re interested:

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