Why I came to peace with science

Dear Ken:
I am enjoying our exchange very much and appreciate the civility of our conversation, which is on an often hostile topic that generates ad hominem attacks. I believe we are successfully exploring representative positions rather than simply having a contest to see who can out-argue the other.
Let me start with your most interesting question: You ask me how I can be “absolutely certain” when I say “I don’t believe we have absolute certainty anywhere….” I think I am obligated to say here that I am not “absolutely certain” about this! What I would say, rather, is that there is no evidence that humans have access to any absolute sources of truth. And absolute truth is such an extraordinary and even dangerous claim that we should have some compelling motivation before we assume we have it in our grasp.


But I don’t understand why we need absolute sources of truth. Every day we make countless decisions, large and small, on the basis of probabilities. We choose doctors for surgery, we buy cars, we propose marriage, we decide what charities to support. We make all these decisions, some quite significant, on the basis of probable knowledge. And, when the probability is high, we can make decisions with confidence.
Why, when it comes to origins, do you need an absolute certainty that you don’t need or find anywhere else in your life?
I am puzzled by your comment: “The only way we can be absolutely certain about anything is if we have a basis in an absolute authority–which is what the Bible claims for itself.”
I don’t see how you can say this. I will set aside the obvious circularity in accepting a claim that the Bible makes about itself. Instead, I will point out that the Bible does not even make such a claim about itself. New Testament references to the “Scriptures” are referring to the Old Testament and often just a portion of the Old Testament. And even then the comments–“Scripture is God-Breathed” or “Holy men of old wrote as they were moved by the spirit”–are not claims of absolute truth in matters of science. Scripture can be inspired and still be written within the worldview of the biblical authors. If Genesis emerges from a culture where everyone believed there was a dome in the sky, what is the problem with a creation story that tells us that God put that dome in the sky? Would not every generation, in affirming that God was creator, mention things in their world that they thought were real? How does this undermine the affirmation of God as creator?
What, exactly, is the role of the authors of the Bible? It looks like you have dismissed them as irrelevant secretaries. Can Paul’s worldview enter into his letters? Can the Psalmist’s cosmology show in a Psalm? Or does God prevent the Psalmist from making references to the worldview of his culture, since those ideas will someday be replaced?
More importantly though, is the way you obtain this absolute authority. You simply announce that the 66 books of the protestant Bible are absolute! And then–like magic–you have an absolute foundation. But this seems like a very human move to me, motivated by the desire to eliminate the uncertainty that is a part of life.
And finally, we have the thorny problem of interpretation. You are quick to dismiss this problem, claiming that you don’t really interpret the Bible–you just read it. But I have to keep coming back to the very, very different meanings that faithful Christians have gotten from the Bible. Galileo’s critics tried to read the Bible faithfully. What could be more natural than to read the story of the Joshua’s long day as the sun stopping in the sky? It requires interpretation to claim that the language is “observational” rather than scientific. And why is it that this interpretative approach was adopted only after everyone was forced to accept that the sun does not move? Martin Luther, featured prominently in AIG’s Creation Museum, was convinced that the Vatican was the “Great Whore of Babylon” mentioned in Revelation, and he expected apocalyptic judgment. But what Christian would claim this today?
If God had intended the Bible to be an absolute source of truth, it seems odd that it is so easy to misunderstand. You seem trapped in a “presentist” mode of interpretation where your current understanding is the only legitimate one. But people past and present, just like you, with identical beliefs about the nature of the Bible, find conflicting claims in its often difficult and confusing passages.
For my final comment on the implausibility of treating the Bible as absolute truth in all areas, I would ask you what this verse (I Corinthians 15:29) means: “Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead?” This seems like an odd verse to me, and I have a hard time imagining that there is some “natural” reading of this that will yield an “absolute” propositional truth. My guess is that the staff of AIG, if placed in separate rooms with this verse, would all come up with different interpretations of this. Correct me if I am wrong.
Throughout your responses, I detect a consistent “all or none” approach to these issues. For example, you state that I claim “we cannot understand the Bible unless we first understand God’s revelation in nature.” But this is not what I claim. I claim that there are some passages in the Bible–like the story of Joshua’s long day–that were misunderstood until after they were illuminated by science. I think of truth as something in the clouds on top of a tall mountain. We make our way up this mountain along various paths, occasionally finding a new path that works better for a while and then returning to our original path. Sometimes we must walk two paths at once.
I disagree that we must decide which path is better–the Bible or Science. They both have value for the Christian and we should trust them both. But we must let each of them speak in their own domain. When your children were ill, you looked to medical science to cure them. I am sure you also prayed for them–what parent doesn’t?–but your primary “solution” to those endless ear infections was medical science. But when you wanted to teach your children about Jesus, you used the Bible. Imagine if medical science was based entirely on the Bible and we had learned nothing beyond the homey wisdom in the Old Testament! There would be so much suffering in the world and plagues would rampage without ceasing. And our children would have never ending earaches.
I cannot see the Bible as propositional truth, as you do. I am not sure what this could even mean. To me the Bible seems like a collection of narratives–The Story of God, as my friend Mike Lodahl titled his book. Propositions are lifeless and non-relational–the opposite of the Bible, which seems like a grand adventure.
You offer an example of how I might relate science and the Bible. Just as I would suggest that science helps us interpret some passages of Scripture, that same Scripture offers insights of interest to science. The deep rationality of the natural world and the astonishing ability of our minds to penetrate that rationality are mysteries not dispelled by scientific investigation. I agree with you that, in some sense, science is “borrowing from the Christian worldview” when they take these things for granted. Scientists can certainly just assume these truths and go on their merry way without reflection. But many scientists seek a deeper understanding of the world and are drawn to religion as they seek this deeper understanding. John Polkinghorne calls this “Cross-traffic,” a term I like very much.
Most scientists, as scientists, are not interested in such questions however, so this is something of a moot point. And I am not suggesting that we “take the majority opinion of secular scientists as our ultimate authority” in matters of faith, as you rightly caution. Science is not equipped to assess miracles like the resurrection of Christ, for example. The resurrection, of course, cannot be explained by natural science since it is by definition, supernatural. Ditto for eternal life and other mysteries of the faith that transcend human understanding and experience.
In your “all or none” approach to authority you seem to want to oversimplify the world so we always know where the trump cards are. You seem to think that, unless they are all held by the Bible, then we must concede everything to science. But this is not the world that God created. Life is messy and negotiating the many sources of truth in the world is a part of what makes life interesting.
You tell me that I have an “inconsistency” in my worldview. This is very generous of you, considering that I have countless inconsistencies in my worldview. For me, the miracle is that the world is even marginally intelligible, all things considered. The world is filled with inconsistency. Love generates pain and bliss. Quantum Mechanics contradicts General Relativity. Children are both glorious and terrible. Taxes are both good and bad. The world is not a tidy place.
But, in this messy world we discover things. We discover that dead people don’t come back to life, which makes the resurrection a miracle. And, since you have asked me about this specifically, I would point out that the Christian doctrine is not that Jesus came back to life, but rather that God raised Jesus from the dead. The resurrection is thus an act of God and thus outside the purview of science.
I would like to close this third and final post with an explanation for why I am motivated to engage this topic in the first place. I think science is a wonderful gift that God has given us–a fascinating world to be explored by our curious minds. And it grieves me that so many evangelicals are energized to oppose science, rather than embrace it. There is evidence for common ancestry in our genes and almost all scientists accept this. You are being unfair to honest scientists when you say “Only if we already knew that all organisms are biologically related would it make sense to use similarities in traits or DNA sequences as a measure of their relatedness.” This is just plain false. Science is not, as you repeatedly claim, a circular exercise where assumptions and starting points determine outcomes. The picture of the world that we have today came across the threshold of science kicking and screaming, vigorously opposed by the scientific community. The Copernican Revolution, to take the first major example, was deeply disturbing. John Donne expressed this angst in these memorable lines, written in the year the King James Version appeared:


And new philosophy casts all in doubt
The element of Fire is quite put out
The sun is lost,
and th’ earth
And no man’s wit
Can well direct him where to look for it.

Similarly, nobody wanted quantum mechanics; it was just too creepy. The Big Bang was a pejorative label mockingly attached by Fred Hoyle to a theory that he despised for being so supernatural-looking. Evolution was disturbing and unsettling to Darwin and his generation. Darwin, as I discuss at length in Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution (take a peek inside the book here), started his career as a Christian, with a biblical worldview. He did not board the Beagle looking to rationalize his unbelief, as so many have unfairly claimed. Over and over again, the great breakthroughs of science arrive as unwelcome guests, not the rationalization of prejudices. That such foreign ideas can take root in unwelcome soil and eventually grow to health speaks of the integrity of the scientific enterprise.
I wish that Christians could “come to peace with science,” to paraphrase my friend Darrell Falk’s book on evolution. So much energy is expended fighting the wrong battle, trying to undermine science instead of understanding it as the creative work of God.
Thanks, Ken, for this stimulating dialog and for forcing me to think harder about how I make sense of all this.
All the best,
Karl Giberson

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posted October 24, 2008 at 6:24 pm

Wow..I was very dissapointed with this post. So much misunderstanding, so much fallacious arguing, so much asking already long answered questions, and so much (for some reason) seemingly blaming infallible God for fallible man doing what they do best and misrepresenting Scripture. I found it very startling that Dr. Giberson does not find the Bible to claim itself to be infallible, what with the whole God can not lie, knowns all things, and breathed the Scriptures into man and thus the Bible can not be wrong (fallible). I must say this was a grevous dissapointement. Well written and easy to understand, but with all due respect, poorly researched and defended.
I now do not fully grasp where Dr. Giberson stands on the fallability of Scripture.

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posted October 24, 2008 at 6:47 pm

Yes very disappointing indeed. Dr. Giberson is equating science and evolution as if they are one and the same. So if a young-earth creationist says “I don’t believe in molecules to man evolution.” Dr. Giberson will counter “Oh so you creationists don’t believe in science?! What? You’ve never taken your child to the medical doctor to treat an earache?”

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posted October 24, 2008 at 7:45 pm

His “Bible isn’t proposition, it’s narrative” line of thought is making Dr. Giberson sound like Brian McClaren or Rob Bell.

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Vern Crisler

posted October 24, 2008 at 7:49 pm

Karl, I believe you missed Ken’s point. He asked you how you could be certain that there’s no absolute certainty anywhere, given that your statement seemed absolutely certain. You responded by saying there was “no evidence that humans have access to any absolute sources of truth.” Call this statement S. Given that S is stated as if it were an absolute truth, S is a counterinstance to S. So your claims are self-referentially inconsistent. Vern

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Kevin Butterfield

posted October 24, 2008 at 8:16 pm

I agree wth the above two posts. Giberson’s counter-position that says believing the Bible to be infallible means we cannot have understanding about how to interpret the world while we, at the same time, are believing in the infallibility of Scriptures seems unguided. Even if both sides could conclude that Genesis does not follow a literal mode throughout, but sometimes becomes figurative (for man’s sake) it seems that the reiteration in Leviticus that God created all things in six days and rested on the seventh would be a case-closer.

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posted October 24, 2008 at 9:05 pm

Karl, You are being unfair to an honest scientist when you say “This is just plain false.” You may disagree as you obviously do so strongly. But I believe that the evidence is strongly in favour of the idea that everyone has their axe to grind.

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Stefan Morin

posted October 24, 2008 at 9:56 pm

If man has no access to absolute truth, then how can we be certain that Christ is the way? The Bible really is an all-or-nothing piece. Of you can’t trust even the smallest part of it, why would you put your faith in any of it? To say that the Bible isn’t a source of absolute truth is to undermine the whole of Christianity.

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posted October 24, 2008 at 10:51 pm

There’s no point trying to get through to morons who have no interest in reality. Why is this even being discussed with any seriousness? Ignore them.

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posted October 24, 2008 at 10:56 pm

Hey Vern, you like playing games? How about this: There is no absolute certainty because nothing can be demonstrated to be absolutely certain, including this statement.
Solve your problem? If you want to believe nonsense go ahead. Have fun with that.

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posted October 25, 2008 at 12:02 am

Greetings all,
I completely agree with Stefan. If there are pieces of the bible that cannot be trusted to be accurate (taken in context with literary style being considered), then why should we trust any of it? People are smart enough to figure this out.
I do agree with Karl on one thing: the issue is not science vs. the bible. This is because science helps us CONFIRM the literal six day creation and ~six thousand year old world, as well as confirm the global flood recorded in Genesis. With all due respect and love, I don’t understand why followers of Christ resist the history in the Bible concerning the six day creation when there are so many resources out there today helping us understand that the world around us confirms it.
Science is simply a pawn in the battle of worldviews. It seems obvious that Mr. Ham is taking the Word of God as his authority before doing his science while Mr. Giberson is taking the secular myth of evolution as his absolute authority before doing his science. Since two mutually exclusive hypotheses (evolution and special creation) cannot both be true (logically speaking), it stands to reason that only one will stand the test of time. It’s obvious to me which one will. As Paul stated to the Romans, “Let God be true, and every man a liar.”

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posted October 25, 2008 at 12:19 am

Josh, I could not have said it better myself, nor do I think Mr. Ham could. Well, maybe a bit. Lol But it still stands that I am impressed. It would be awsome to acquire your email or facebook or something so we can talk about this more in private, as to avoid the unavoidable onslaught of rejection from many others here. If you think this would be possible, visit the above post and drop me a line. I’m hoping we can share sources and allow “iron to sharpen iron” as Solomon put it. God bless

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Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D.

posted October 25, 2008 at 12:53 am

This is the crux of the matter: the evolution defender Giberson is a theological liberal rather like Spong. Gresham Machen pointed out over 80 years ago in “Christianity and Liberalism” that theological liberalism wasn’t just a branch of Christianity, but a totally different religion.
Giberson’s straw man attacks against inerrancy were long ago dealt with by the classic “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy” (URL above), e.g.:
Article IV.
WE AFFIRM that God who made mankind in His image has used language as a means of revelation.
WE DENY that human language is so limited by our creatureliness that it is rendered inadequate as a vehicle for divine revelation. We further deny that the corruption of human culture and language through sin has thwarted God’s work of inspiration.

Article VII.
WE AFFIRM that inspiration was the work in which God by His Spirit, through human writers, gave us His Word. The origin of Scripture is divine. The mode of divine inspiration remains largely a mystery to us.
WE DENY that inspiration can be reduced to human insight, or to heightened states of consciousness of any kind.
Article VIII.
WE AFFIRM that God in His work of inspiration utilized the distinctive personalities and literary styles of the writers whom He had chosen and prepared.
WE DENY that God, in causing these writers to use the very words that He chose, overrode their personalities.
Article IX.
WE AFFIRM that inspiration, though not conferring omniscience, guaranteed true and trustworthy utterance on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write.
WE DENY that the finitude or fallenness of these writers, by necessity or otherwise, introduced distortion or falsehood into God’s Word.
It’s also notable that Giberson uses propositions to promote his postmodernist denial of the value of propositional truth, e.g. “Propositions are lifeless and non-relational” is itself a proposition!

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posted October 25, 2008 at 10:07 am

Time to give up Dr. Giberson. It was a nice try, but if someone plucks out their eyes they’re never going to see the light. And that we have a lot of blind, willfully ignorant people supporting the fundamentalist view on origins is pretty evident from the almost childlike 19th century mentality we see in many of these comments. They’re happy with their games, charades, and parlor tricks, anything to avoid having to see the big picture. Just let them be.

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posted October 25, 2008 at 10:26 am

The debate was going well untill this post. Giberson – why are you trying so hard to make this a battle of “Science vs Bible”? Clearly you are trying to give the impression – just by using the word “science” – that your arguments are intellectually superior. Evolutionists use that tactic all the time when they run out of intelligent and usefull things to bring into the discussion. You just plain ran out. In addition, you have also demonstrated that you have indeed replaced Christianity with “Science” as your religion.

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Harold Hawkins

posted October 25, 2008 at 1:40 pm

Karl Giberson said “Science is not equipped to assess miracles like the resurrection of Christ, for example.”
Scince is not eqipped to assess any singularity.
Science also is not equpped to assess one time events like the origin of the universe. It is not reproduceable.
Science also is not equippped to assess things that are no longer happenning like life from non life.
Science has come up with no mechanism for the generation of the vast amounts of information stored in DNA.

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Vern Crisler

posted October 25, 2008 at 3:13 pm

Rich, your claim call it R, “There is no absolute certainty because nothing can be demonstrated to be absolutely certain, including this statement.”
It follows from this that Q, “R cannot be certain because it cannot be demonstrated.”
But it also follows from this that Q is certain, which contradicts R. Thus, you have not escaped the incoherency of your claim.

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posted October 25, 2008 at 5:04 pm

All well-intentioned attempts to reconcile ancient biblical and modern scientific cosmology are an exercise in futility. If the scientists of half a millennium ago were alchemists, why should we imagine that Israelites more than two and one-half millennia ago cared one whit about modern science?
For the sake of the discussion, let us assume that modern scientific theory coincides perfectly with what God has always known to be true. If he had revealed these truths to the pre-scientific biblical authors, would they have made any sense to either these authors or their readers? To assume that God communicated a message that was meaningless to every generation until our own is the height of arrogance.
The Bible did not secretly encode scientific truth in the Bible, which has only recently discovered across hundreds of years of trial and error–hypotheses and experimentation, not through special revelation.
It seems more than coincidental that no one before the advent of modern science ever attempted to explain the Bible’s statements on creation in terms of today’s prevailing views.
Those who claim to “find” their science in the Bible are actually only unwittingly (or dishonestly) importing their modern assumptions and conclusions into the ancient text. Such modern ideas, allegedly “discovered” in the Bible, would have made no sense whatsoever to the ancient biblical authors or their first readers.
If this was their real, albeit hidden, meaning, are we to imagine that God withheld the true meaning until our privileged day, when (we arrogantly imagine) we now know the last word on everything.
Do attempts to validate the truth of the Bible by appeal to its alleged hidden scientific accuracy actually do a service to the Bible or to God?
Have we learned nothing from the errors of the Medieval Church, which felt compelled to defend the prevailing worldview as the timelessly true biblical and Christian view, despite newly discovered evidence? Was it really the biblical evidence or the Church’s dogma that compelled it to defend the Ptolemaic model of the universe and reject as heresy the Copernican model?
A theory’s ability to explain all then-known evidence about the solar system from the point of view of an earth-bound observer without the advantage of the telescope obviously did not make it a fact. Galileo and space-exploration demonstrated that the Ptolemaic and other early cosmic models depended on inadequate evidence.
What’s to make us think we now have all the evidence? Why risk making dogmatic claims about what the Bible teaches about the method of creation that future discoveries may well prove mistaken?
Newton’s 17th century theories were rightly recognized as an improvement over Kepler’s. But what if a scientist during the not-so-long-ago era when I took high-school physics had attempted to make a case for Newtonian physics as the biblical view? Would we now be compelled to dismiss the evidence supporting Einstein’s theories as unchristian and contrary to the teaching of the Bible? Will new evidence emerge to make Einstein’s views obsolete?
Deductive approaches to biblical interpretation can be used to prove virtually anything. That is, if we know in advance what we want to prove and are willing to select and shuffle verses arbitrarily and ignore their historical and literary contexts, we can make the Bible say whatever we please. Only a disciplined approach that is historically sensitive and appropriately self-critical can lead to persuasive results.
Biblical interpreters, professional or amateur, must take care lest their conclusions tell more about their assumptions and prejudices than about the Bible.

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Kevin Butterfield

posted October 25, 2008 at 8:48 pm

Leroy, you are a crafty writer, but I caught you way up at the beginning of your post. You think that only currently, and apparently through Science, that the modern Creationist scientist is revealing unknown things from the Creation account? Things that were not known when, say, Moses himself read Genesis? The scriptures in antiquity are the same as now. We may comport more details and have our computer models, but the knowledge of a six day creation where God created all things is the same knowledge then as is now. You wrote, “To assume that God communicated a message that was meaningless to every generation until our own is the height of arrogance.”. This is some of such crafty writing I mention, and it contains your accusation of arrogance. Nobody has assumed such a thing. Not even yourself. It is a straw-man tactic.

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David West & Rose West (Rogers)

posted October 25, 2008 at 10:13 pm

Dear Karl,
Even though we disagree on this subject, we would like to thank you for your respectful postings during this debate. We hope that you will consider doing more of these with Ken and others in the future.
My wife Rose (formerly Rose Rogers, Ed’s sister) and her family know you from ENC in Quincy, MA. Rose sends her best.
Although we are young earth creationists, we hope you will check out our website. Again, thank you for providing us this venue.
May God bless you!

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Rich #1

posted October 26, 2008 at 8:08 pm

Tom doesnt seem to understand that the axe he is grinding comes from his own disire to support his own fundimental point of veiw

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Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D.

posted October 27, 2008 at 4:29 am

Darrell Falk’s book, recommended by Giberson, is full of nonsense. Alex Williams’ review inthe Journal of Creation (URL above) points out:

Falk writes as if he is breaking new ground, but it has all been said before. On the one occasion that he does address two critiques of his position (p. 199), he does it as if in response to spoken comments from his students, not from any published literature that he has read. He quotes three young-earth creationist (YEC) authors (Morris, Gish and Whitcomb) but only to make points in his own arguments, and at no stage does he attempt to address published YEC critiques of compromise positions, including his own. He thus presumes to contribute a complementary view of creation to the YEC position without having researched the subject!

to the objection that his views put death before sin, Falk answers Romans 5:12 and 1 Cor. 15:22 by saying it was only man who died, and then only spiritually. By this logic, the resurrection of the Last Adam would also have to be spiritual, rather than the bodily one that left the tomb empty—and the only sort of ‘resurrection’ that would be meaningful to a Jew.

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David Edward Oliver

posted October 28, 2008 at 10:23 am

I can sympathize with a fundamentalist because it is very comforting to have an absolute authority in ones life. But ultimately it is in fact your interpertations of the Bible that become the absolute authority rather than the Bible itself. Does the Bible say what it means or means what I say? I was raised in a Baptist church and went to a baptist school. I even went to a Christian college. But I admit I feel away from the faith; but I am recently begun exploring my faith some more and trying to figure out what is real. I admit I find the Bible to be a great book because of its history and influence on Western Civilization. I also find the teachings of Jesus Christ to be of great value to me seeing it is the ethics of Christ which seem to motivate me for the most part. But I admit I have my own beliefs which are based mostly on my upbringing and genetic predispositions. So what else can I say but live long and prosper!

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Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D.

posted October 29, 2008 at 1:04 am

In Refuting Compromise I write:
**Is biblical interpretation infallible, and does it matter?**
Some would dismiss the superiority of Scripture over ‘science’ by asserting that while God’s Word is infallible, human interpretations are not. From this, they assert that it’s not God’s Word vs man’s fallible interpretations of nature, but man’s fallible interpretation of the Bible vs man’s fallible interpretation of nature. More colloquially, they might say of a young-earth creationist analysis of Scripture, ‘That’s just your interpretation.’
This is fallacious reasoning and borders on postmodernism, where objective truth is denied. One does not need to be an infallible interpreter to be able to interpret the meanings of most passages accurately, any more than one needs to be an infallible mathematician to know that 1+1=2. The accuracy of interpretation of Scripture is determined by how it matches the intended meaning of the author. This is determined by rules of grammar and historical and literary context. Those who wish to deny a particular interpretation of Genesis need to find a basis in the biblical text from the application of these rules; an appeal to general human fallibility is simply not sufficient.
It’s also worth noting that such post-modernist claims are self-refuting. When a post-modernist writes ‘it is impossible to know 100% how to correctly interpret a piece of writing’, he certainly intends that people correctly interpret this particular piece of his own writing. But he has no basis for objecting when an opponent throws his post-modernism back at him and decides to ‘interpret’ that statement as meaning, ‘A piece of writing has an objective meaning which is usually possible to interpret correctly.’
RC still available from CMI (URL above, actually an AiG article, even) although AiG has expunged it despite 2004 being “Operation: Refuting Compromise”. Ken Ham wrote “AiG has something really challenging in store for 2004!” in Answers Update–US
January 2004:
“We will be releasing the most comprehensive book ever written to combat the compromise teaching of ‘progressive creation’ (a position that allows for billions of years, big bang, local Flood, death and disease before sin, etc.) that has permeated much of the church, Christian colleges and seminaries. This will be offered at extra-special subsidized prices to enable many thousands of copies to be distributed to churches, colleges, etc.”

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Dick Fischer

posted October 29, 2008 at 6:01 pm

The dichotomy of science and religion has garnered many advocates on both sides, but science and religion are like two legs of a stool, not capable of standing upright without at least one more leg. In this case the third leg is history and history properly applied serves to adjudicate between Bible/science conflicts. One example of this is the Tower of Babel chapter beginning with Genesis 11:1 which reads: “The whole earth was one of language and one speech.”
The King James translators arrived at Genesis 11 thinking that the population of the entire world was concentrated at Shinar after the flood and spoke one common language. Had they known the corresponding history of the ancient Near East which only surfaced in the last 160 years, they could have selected words more accommodating to the facts as we know them today. Hebrew ‘erets was translated “earth,” although in the next verse the same word is rendered as the “land” of Shinar. If the Hebrew ‘erets had been rendered “land” and saphah was translated literally as “lip” rather than the broader word “language,” we would read the text as follows: “And the whole land was of one lip and one speech.”
Shinar was the Hebrew word for Sumer where the Sumerians lived and the Sumerians we know spoke a completely unrelated language. So it is unlikely that the writer intended to convy that everyone in the world spoke one common language when there were at least two languages spoken right there. So the common interpretation that Babel was the place where different languages transpired is based upon a bad translation.
What the verse would have conveyed had it been properly translated is that there was one topic of conversation going on at the time, they were of one lip, and it concerned the building of the zigurrats in Mesopotamia during that period of time of which the Tower of Babel was one of many.

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Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D.

posted October 30, 2008 at 2:04 am

Large scale function for ‘endogenous retroviruses’
by Shaun Doyle
Journal of Creation 22(3):16, 2008
URL above

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Ray Martinez

posted December 23, 2008 at 8:29 pm

I just clicked on the link provided by Giberson connecting us to his book about Darwin. I read for a few minutes. I find it utterly amazing how evolutionists can lie so blatantly about Charles Darwin.
Giberson states that Darwin was a devoutly religious man well into middle age (“Saving Darwin” pages 19,20; claim was, of course, unsupported; but Giberson did quote-mine Darwin’s Autobiography egregiously). This is, of course, completely false. Darwin was not religious or a Christian after the Beagle voyage ended in 1836. Darwin became a Materialist in 1837-1838, that is, in the two immediate years after his return from the voyage when he was in his late 20s. We know these things by Darwin’s own admission: private Notebooks M and N on Materialism. Darwin refers to himself as a Materialist.
We also know that during this same time period (1837-1838) he renounced the Bible and Christianity (Autobiography, pages 85-87; see footnote by his son Francis dating the commentary to the two years, 1837-1838). Most importantly, during the same two year period, he conceived his transmutation theory (Autobiography page 124).
Therefore, in 1837-1838, Darwin became apostate, converted to Materialism, and developed a evolution theory propelled by material agency (God absent from reality). Giberson is a brazen liar. Darwin was a closet Atheist from 1837-1838 onwards. Evolutionists like Giberson must lie about Darwin because it is almost utterly inexplicable as to how “Christian” evolutionists can accept a life origins theory built on pro-Atheism presuppositions (= Materialism). This fact makes “Christian” evolutionists fools and buffoons, accepting the same origins theory as Richard Dawkins, justifying the quotes marks around Christian. Giberson is a double agent; posing as a Christian, attempting to deceive naive Christians into accepting Darwinism. Evolution is built on Atheism ideology, that is, the idea that God is not involved in reality (= Materialism). If Giberson is not a double agent then he is demonstrably confused since real Christians do not accept pro-Atheism presuppositions (Materialism) concerning reality.
Ray Martinez

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Philip Bitar

posted January 26, 2009 at 5:06 pm

I have shown that both theism and atheism are rational. As a result, no scientific theory, including the theory of evolution, is relevant to the debate of theism vs. atheism. The debate is a useless battling of windmills.
I explain this insight in a comment that I posted today under the blogalogue debate between Michael Novak and Heather MacDonald on the topic “To Believe in God or Not?”, subtopic “How Do We Tell A True Act of God From A False One?”
More generally, I explain the insight in a comprehensive theory of human life that I recently published and that I introduce at

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Ted Davis

posted April 17, 2009 at 11:17 am

Ray Martinez accuses Giberson of “lying” concerning Darwin’s religious faith, but frankly the actual evidence is not as Martinez describes it. Darwin’s religious beliefs have been studied by several very careful historians, in scholarly articles and in books. There is no complete agreement about some details, just as there is no complete agreement among historians about some details in the lives of many other people from the past — evidence is sometimes ambiguous or even lacking entirely. However, most historians who have looked carefully at this would agree with the following points.
(1) Darwin was a Christian while he was on the HMS Beagle.
(2) He gave up believing in Christianity, according to his own testimony years later, at the age of forty — that is, around 1849, ten years before he published On the Origin of Species but several years after (not before) he had written two early versions of the ideas in that book. One of those versions, from 1844, is quite lengthy (more than 200 hand written pages).
(3) The events that led him to abandon Christianity were the deaths of his father (a so-called “freethinker” who did not believe in Christ) in 1848 and his 10-year old daughter Annie, who died over the Easter holiday in 1851. He could not accept that his father was damned to hell, and he could not believe in a God who would allow his daughter to suffer as she did. It was the circumstances of life, not evolution, that brought this about.
Mr. Martinez gave some evidence for his interpretation, but this is an instance in which those who have considered *all* of the evidence have drawn a very different conclusion. For a very readable overview by a genuine Darwin expert, James Moore (who co-wrote one of the standard biographies of Darwin), I recommend the chapter devoted to the myth “That Evolution Destroyed Darwin’s Faith in Christianity,” in the new book edited by Ronald Numbers, “Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion” (Harvard University Press, 2009).
I am not a Darwin expert myself, Mr. Martinez, but I know many Darwin experts (including Moore), and as an historian of science I’ve studied Darwin more than most people. I find the tone of your comments for Giberson completely inappropriate, as well as unjustified in terms of content. I am not accusing you of “lying,” since I assume you are not well versed in this topic. But you should not be accusing others of that sin out of your own ignorance.

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Ray Martinez

posted April 18, 2009 at 4:16 pm

Ted Davis: (1) Darwin was a Christian while he was on the HMS Beagle.
Ray Martinez: Agreed.
Ted Davis: 2) He gave up believing in Christianity, according to his own testimony years later, at the age of forty — that is, around 1849, ten years before he published On the Origin of Species but several years after (not before) he had written two early versions of the ideas in that book. One of those versions, from 1844, is quite lengthy (more than 200 hand written pages).
Ray Martinez: False.
Darwin tells us in his Autobiography as to *when* he abandoned Christianity: the two years 1837 and 1838 (Autobio:85-87). Darwinists evade and misrepresent his admission because they want him to be a Christian during the formulation of his theory. The same source tells us that his theory was “clearly conceived” by 1839 (Autobio:124). Notebooks M and N have Darwin admitting that he converted to Materialism during the same time period (1838-1839). Mr. Davis has evaded these facts.
Darwin never said he forsook Christianity around 1849. This is when he gave up researching its factual claims.
Ted Davis: (3) The events that led him to abandon Christianity were the deaths of his father (a so-called “freethinker” who did not believe in Christ) in 1848 and his 10-year old daughter Annie, who died over the Easter holiday in 1851. He could not accept that his father was damned to hell, and he could not believe in a God who would allow his daughter to suffer as she did. It was the circumstances of life, not evolution, that brought this about.
Ray Martinez: False.
Darwinists ASSERT the death of Annie to have cause him to become apostate. We have no statement from Darwin saying as much. Darwinists repeat the assertion because they want the death of a child to be the cause of his apostasy and not evolution. Again, Darwin’s own unambiguous statements in his Autobiography and Notebooks M and N tell us that he became an Atheist-materialist by 1839—-the exact same time his theory was “clearly conceived.”
Ted Davis: Mr. Martinez gave some evidence for his interpretation, but….
Ray Martinez: ….evidence which Mr. Davis has ignored and evaded.
Ted Davis: ….but this is an instance in which those who have considered *all* of the evidence have drawn a very different conclusion.
Ray Martinez: “Those” (= Darwinists). Again, I have provided a motive as to why Darwinists misrepresent as to *when* Darwin became an apostate. Some Darwinists, like Harvard Professor Ernst Mayr, are objective and honest:
Ernst Mayr:
“It is apparent that Darwin lost his faith in the years 1836-39, much of it clearly prior to the reading of Malthus. In order not to hurt the feelings of his friends and of his wife, Darwin often used deistic language in his publications, but much in his Notebooks indicates that by this time he had become a ‘materialist’ (more or less = atheist)” (American Scientist; May, 1977:323).
Ted Davis: I am not a Darwin expert myself….
Ray Martinez: Quite objective of you to admit. I have expertise concerning Charles Darwin. I am currently writing a large paper refuting Darwinism.
Ted Davis: I find the tone of your comments for Giberson completely inappropriate, as well as unjustified in terms of content. I am not accusing you of “lying,” since I assume you are not well versed in this topic. But you should not be accusing others of that sin out of your own ignorance.
Ray Martinez: Mr. Giberson straight out lied when he said Darwin was religious, if not a Christian, most of his life. Giberson quote mined Autobiography—egregiously—-and conveniently omitted Darwin’s damning admissions. This is completely dishonest. You have every reason and motive to stand with me against Giberson, that is, persons who lie. For it is they who stain the honest Darwinists like Ernst Mayr and Richard Dawkins.
For the record: Ken Ham is a vicious liar or deluded moron too.
Ray Martinez, Old Earth-Young Biosphere Creationist-species immutabilist, Paleyan Designist, British Natural Theologian.

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Ray Martinez

posted April 18, 2009 at 5:10 pm

Karl Giberson: “I wish that Christians could ‘come to peace with science,’ to paraphrase my friend Darrell Falk’s book on evolution. So much energy is expended fighting the wrong battle, trying to undermine science instead of understanding it as the creative work of God.”
Ray Martinez: The whole point of evolution says Theos (= invisible Designer) is not involved with biological production—-that unintelligent natural or material forces produce life. This is why Darwinists/evolutionists argue tooth and nail against the concept of design as existing in nature. This is why all Atheists are Darwinists.
Is Karl Giberson incredibly ignorant or a brazen liar?
Of course we recognize Karl Giberson as being a brazen liar, attempting to trick naive Christians into accepting the same biological origin theory that all Atheists accept.
101 FACTS:
If God is involved with biological production this is called Creationism or Intelligent design.
If God is NOT involved with biological production this is called Darwinism (evolution), Naturalism or Materialism.
The concept of “creation” and the concept of “evolution” (since 1859) are antithetic in nature: the former accepts supernatural or Intelligent agency to account for life; the latter accepts unguided-undirected material forces to account for life. Both are postulated under the scientific assumption that the other does not exist.
Karl Giberson (= “Christian”) is playing the role of a double agent, attempting to misrepresent the basic differences and objective claims of each theory so evolution is not viewed to be what it is: pro-Atheism.
Ray Martinez

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Rusty T.

posted February 18, 2010 at 9:36 pm

There’s one thing I think we can all agree on.
The more we learn, the more we realize how much we don’t know.
God Bless

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posted July 8, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Why hasn’t faith been dealt with in these intellectual discussions?
Woe to the one who hardens his heart to the Lord Jesus.
Remember…..if I’m wrong, I’ve lost nothing. If you are wrong, you have lost everything.

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Pingback: Nazarene Professor’s New Book Slams Biblical Creationists | Around the World with Ken Ham

Ken Ham

posted October 4, 2011 at 5:08 pm

This past week our ministry’s library received a copy of the new book The Anointed,1 authored by Drs. Karl Giberson and Randall Stephens and published by a division of Harvard University Press. Dr. Stephens teaches history at Eastern Nazarene College; Dr. Giberson is a former science professor at the same college.

We noticed right away that Answers in Genesis and president Ken Ham were featured prominently in the book. However, based on the fact that Dr. Giberson (a theistic evolutionist) has been a frequent critic of AiG, we realized we would probably not be treated in a flattering way. We can accept such prominence in the book as something of a badge of honor. After all, the authors recognized AiG as going against the grain of the secular academic establishment while we stand on the authority and trustworthiness of God’s Word from the very first verse (as opposed to word of finite, fallible man).
The Anointed

In fact, the first chapter of The Anointed is devoted to Answers in Genesis. Throughout their book, Giberson and Stephens took swipes at AiG as well as other ministries and Christian leaders. In our modern “academic” world, the authors deemed us to be intellectually unrespectable and an embarrassment to Christianity. Multiple Christians were called “amateurs,” and other derogatory words pepper the book.

The authors argued that when Bible-believing Christians engage the culture in controversial areas like creation vs. evolution, believers should trust a highly educated PhD theistic evolutionist and evangelical like Dr. Francis Collins over someone like Ham (who has the Australian equivalent of a master’s degree).

What follows is a summary of the many problems with this highly pretentious book.
Outright Factual Errors

This is a book that attempts to be a scholarly look at “unscholarly” Christian leaders of prominence in America. It is, after all, published by the prestigious Harvard Press. Yet we were surprised to find several mistakes in the introduction and first chapter alone—plus a generally snide tone that is unbecoming of a scholarly work. For example, the authors gave the wrong month for our Creation Museum’s opening (p. 11); they mistakenly claimed that Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, is a young-earth creationist (p. 19); the year given for the first “Back to Genesis” seminar is incorrect (p. 41); and the name of our daily radio program is incorrect (p. 11).

Also, we found many exaggerated misrepresentations in The Anointed, including the claim that the late Dr. Henry Morris of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), the founder of the modern creationist movement, supposedly drew significant inspiration from a “mentor,” George McCready Price (p. 23). This is simply incorrect and was most likely regurgitated from the book The Creationists by historian Dr. Ronald Numbers. In addition, the authors asserted that Bryan College in Tennessee is “a leader in the young-earth creationist movement” (p. 213). In reality, it is not committed to the young-earth position at all—many of Bryan’s professors reject it outright.
A Major Logical Fallacy

In the beginning of the chapter on AiG, the authors commit the logical fallacy of reification.2 In the opening passage, the authors declared that people driving to the Creation Museum are probably oblivious to the “successive layers of rock [that] tell the tale of life in the Ordovician era: one species giving way to another” and that “motorists … have little interest in the story told by the rocks outside their car windows” (pp. 21–22).

They stated that the very rocks outside our Creation Museum bear testimony against what is taught inside the museum. But rocks, of course, don’t have the capacity to “tell a story.” Their formation must be interpreted by people. The rocks don’t have stickers on them that speak for their age or how they were formed, nor do we observe in the rocks a sea-floor environment with creatures living and dying. There is only one empirical conclusion we can make with certainty from observing the fossils in these rock layers—this is where the once-living marine creatures are now buried on the continent.

Dismissing the Two Kinds of Science

In the opening passage and then again later in chapter one of The Anointed, the authors failed to differentiate between historical science (like a possible interpretation of rocks, which were formed without human observation) and observational science in the present.3 Furthermore, as Ken Ham shared with The Anointed co-author Giberson in a 2008 online debate, the researchers’ biases and presuppositions about the unobservable past influence their interpretation of the evidence in the present. Ken wrote the following:

It is crucial to understand the nature of starting points when interpreting the evidence around us–which is why our Creation Museum starts with a “starting points” exhibit. We all have biases–both creationists and evolutionists–so we in no way wish to denigrate scientists for having biases.

When it comes to science in the present (science “proper” – empirical, testable, repeatable observation and experimentation), there is actually little disagreement between creationists and evolutionists. However, when it comes to reconstructing past events, our different starting points will cause us to interpret the same evidence differently. After all, creationists and evolutionists have a different view of history–even a different philosophy of what is possible in the past.

The creationist embraces the history and the catastrophic effects of Noah’s Flood, whereas evolutionists largely dismiss the Flood as a global event, and embrace the philosophy of uniformitarianism (to varying degrees) instead. Our different worldviews cause us to interpret the same evidence differently.4

Does Evolution Really Cause Social Ills?

The authors also asserted that ICR and AiG argue that evolution is “responsible for much of what’s wrong with the world” (p. 36). Answers in Genesis has never stated or implied this. We have both—in countless articles and even in the 2008 online debate between Ham and Dr. Giberson—declared instead that the teaching of evolution has caused many to doubt or disbelieve the Bible.

Thus, the more we see people not believing the Bible, the more we will witness morality being seen as relative, and thus people can justify all sorts of moral ills. For example, if a person wants to be a racist, evolution can be (and has been) used to justify racist beliefs or even fuel racism. But evolution does not cause racism. Sin is the cause of racism.

In alarmist ways, the authors often resorted to hyperbole as they attacked the credibility of several Christian leaders in an effort to turn them into societal boogeymen. They call several small creation ministries “large” (p. 33) when they are not at all. The authors even described AiG as a “media empire” (p. 45) and then a “juggernaut” (p. 59). However, our annual budget is dwarfed by even the smallest cable TV networks. For example, our yearly revenue is a mere 1/60th of the cable network Home & Garden Television (HGTV), which is hardly a media empire compared to the big TV networks.

The authors of The Anointed also fatuously claimed that creationist groups have access to considerable funding to proclaim their biblical authority messages. However, when put into perspective and compared to the billions of dollars in revenue received annually by public schools, science museums, and public television across America (which proclaim the anti-biblical message of evolution and millions of years), the creationist funding is the proverbial drop in a media financial bucket.
Credentials Lacking

The authors brought up the tired charge that creationist groups like AiG and its leaders not only lack credentials but are “at war with science” (p. 11). Again, much of this stems from not differentiating between historical science and observational science. We uphold and applaud science. Ken Ham wrote the following in his 2008 online debate with co-author Giberson:

I love science. In fact, AiG employs a number of scientists (and works with others), all of which obtained their doctorates from secular institutions. Across the hall from me, for example, is Dr. David Menton, who earned a PhD in biology from an Ivy League school (Brown University).

As we both know, the etymology of the word “science” has the basic meaning of “knowledge.” Today, when the word “science” is used, we are usually referring to observational science.

Science is a wonderful tool that God has given us. But because science is imperfect, and changing, and because different scientists disagree on what the evidence really means, science cannot serve as an ultimate, infallible standard.5

Are the Authors Out of Their League Themselves?

The Anointed authors extolled Darwin as the most famous scientist of the 19th century (p. 43), but we must note that Darwin did not have the much-vaunted doctorate set as the gold standard for academic respectability. Interestingly, Giberson pointed out that a medical degree is only “marginally relevant” (p. 56) to the field of evolution. Yet as someone who holds a PhD in physics, which we would argue is largely irrelevant to the field of evolution, Dr. Giberson felt confident that his assertions about evolutionary biology and geology are valid.

We must point out that six of the full-time Answers in Genesis faculty members have doctorate degrees in their fields, including genetics, astrophysics, geology, biology, the history of science, and medicine. This fact is conveniently omitted in a book that pretends to question the scholarship of our staff. And apparently for the authors, Ken Ham’s 35-plus years of research, writing, and speaking on apologetics don’t quite measure up to the knowledge level of a student leaving a university with a PhD in science.
Ken Ham in the Crosshairs

As the authors frequently singled out the AiG president for criticism, they demean him with terms like a “pied piper” (p. 45) of the seemingly uneducated masses of Christians. His views, the book argues, have “transported [him] into a scientific Land of Oz” (p. 59). Ken is said to have a “pandering anti-intellectual presentation style in his talks and writings” (p. 45). Furthermore, the authors bizarrely contend that the last time Ken “brushed up against science” was during the Cold War (p. 58).

Ken has surrounded himself with PhD colleagues for the past 25 years, as well as doing his own extensive research and writings. When he and another creationist debated two evolutionists over ten years ago at Harvard, Ken acquitted himself quite well. At least The Anointed authors managed to muster the word “affable” (p. 45) to describe Ken, though he was also called “stern” (p. 11) earlier in the book—so which is it?

The authors’ shining example of a Christian scholar who runs counter to the supposedly unscholarly Ken Ham is evolutionist Dr. Francis Collins, who is the only alternative for “the educated wing of the evangelical world” (p. 51).

If Drs. Giberson and Stephens are wrong in both small things (like incorrect dates) and large matters (falsely accusing ICR and AiG of blaming evolution for many social ills, implying they lack credentialed staff, etc.), then the book’s very premise that “amateur” evangelicals are to be taken as untrustworthy is called into question. The book’s manifest poor scholarship casts a revelatory spotlight on the authors’ own failings and biases concerning biblical Christianity.

As we expose the poor scholarship of a book that appears under the Harvard banner and is meant to be taken as a scholarly work, we will mention another irony. While Giberson and his historian co-author (acknowledged as an expert in American Pentecostalism6) reviled ministries like Answers in Genesis for speaking on topics for which they are not credentialed, the two authors themselves frequently dwelt on topics for which they were not academically trained to address in their doctoral programs.

These include theology, political science, psychology, and sociology. Furthermore, as we indicated earlier, Giberson is trained as a physicist, yet he felt qualified to critique AiG in areas far outside his specialty, such as biology and geology. All this raises the question, if the authors are not academically trained in these areas, who decided to anoint them to critique evangelicals who hold views different from their own?

As Christians, our authority rests with the clear teachings of the Bible, starting with its very first book. The authors have made their belief clear that science trumps Scripture. “Many educated evangelicals, informed by biblical scholarship, have thus concluded that the Genesis story of Creation is simply not literal history” (p. 49). They added that “the modern scholarly approach to Genesis transforms the story into a myth in the best sense of the word—a story with a powerful meaning that may or may not be tenuously rooted in history” (p. 49). What the authors failed to recognize is that the Bible’s history in Genesis is foundationally important to the gospel. Even some atheists realize this connection, as seen in this quote from the anti-Christmas campaign of the American Atheists organization.

No Adam and Eve means no need for a savior. It also means that the Bible cannot be trusted as a source of unambiguous, literal truth. It is completely unreliable, because it all begins with a myth, and builds on that as a basis. No Fall of Man means no need for atonement and no need for a redeemer.7

If Genesis is merely a myth, then it nullifies the purpose of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and as the apostle Paul wrote, “”If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty”” (1 Corinthians 15:14). This is why the issue of biblical authority is so vital to Christianity. It’s not just about Genesis; it’s about the person and work of Jesus Christ.

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