Violin, I agree with nsr. But to respond more specifically to your comments:
It is perfectly possibly to analyse "how" without knowing "who" or "why". Imagine a kettle of boiling water - a scientist can explain what is happening to the water molecules, how the electricity passing through the element increases the energetic motion of the molecules until enough of them are energetic enough to break the weak hydrogen bonds that keep water in the liquid state for steam to start emerging from the spout - etc etc.
"Who" and "why" are that I've put the kettle on because I want a cup of tea. Totally different questions. You don't need to know "how" to enjoy the tea (although it is worth being thankful for the generations of scientists, engineers and technologists who have bred the tea variety, designed the electric kettle with its safety cut-out, smelted the aluminium to make the kettle, installed the national grid to my house, mined and processed the fossil fuels which generate the electricity to power my kettle, or the solar panels, worked out the equations which govern electromagnetism, devised the thermostat .....). The scientist doesn't need to know "who" or "why" is boiling water to understand the processes. The two explanations are complementary, not contradictory.
Your example is utterly baffling. I cannot see any logical relationship between understanding a kettle being boiled by you to make a cup of tea, and understanding God's work of creation. You imply that the events of creation are entirely understandable and explicable by scientists, on a purely non-supernatural basis, just as a boiling kettle can be understood to be constructed, and to operate, by certain physical, natural laws. Yet science pays no regard to the fact that creation was performed by the all-powerful, all-knowing God, employing his perfect wisdom to do so (as Proverbs 8:22-31, amongst other passages, shows clearly). Scripture says that creation involved God explicitly saying, making & doing, not merely watching as everything in effect made itself, without any particular activity on his part.
Why can you not see the vast gulf between these two concepts? Are human scientists, engineers and technologists able to make - from scratch, not by tinkering with something that already exists - even the smallest of the living things that are all around us, the simplest bacterium, yet a million times more complex in its inner workings than any humanly-constructed chemically-driven device? How and why then do they suppose that any such thing could ever arrive at such a form, through a process of evolution? This mode of thinking is absurd: Paley was entirely correct on this point.
Now of course, because you need to in this
context, you claim God was
involved with evolution; but on what basis? If we are supposed to accept the results of science, then we must leave God out also, precisely because evolutionary science denies any need for a creator. You simply cannot have it both ways.
The Bible's creation narratives are God's message to his people about the "who" and "why". Firstly, "Who?" - Yahweh, Israel's God, is declared to his people as, not just a local tribal god like those of the nations around them, nor yet a natural object to be worshipped like the Sun or stars, which are given their proper place as mere created objects. It answers various "Why?" questions as well - Why do we rest on the sabbath? Why do people get married? Why is life so hard? The language and genre is similar to the creation stories of the nations around them, but subtly altered - God's word speaking within the historical context (just as Jesus came to be God's word made flesh in a first century Jewish man, and used those same accounts to teach those around him how they should live, not a biology lesson...)
Since you're making the claim, please provide the evidence supporting your assertion that "the language and genre" of the Bible's creation narratives are "similar to the creation stories of the nations around" Israel, but "subtly altered". I simply don't believe it. The pagan creation stories I've come across have all sorts of weird and wonderful goings on, such as gods (plural) cutting each other into pieces to make various parts of the visible world. There is no similarity of the sort you mention, so far as I have ever seen; the differences are anything but "subtle"! Exactly which other "creation stories of the nations" are you actually referring to? I need to see them, in order to believe what you say.
Moreover you appear to have got Jesus very wrong. Yes he was a first century Jewish man, but he was greater in wisdom and understanding than any philosopher, scientist or engineer who has ever lived. Indeed he was and is the son of God, the son of the creator himself, who filled him with his spirit and with all knowledge, to teach not only those around him in his day, but all of us, right down to the 21st century. Certainly he was not teaching mere biology, but are you implying that we cannot really believe what he said about creation, quoting the early part of Genesis, that God made them male and female at the beginning? Of course evolutionary theory says that the two sexes were not present from the beginning, but first appeared more than a billion years after life on earth began. So it flatly denies Jesus' words. Given that, which are we to believe - Jesus, or the evolutionary biologist? We cannot believe both.
Anyway, while I appreciate your concern that my salvation might be in peril and that I am "in error, without excuse", I beg to differ.
I'm not sure you do appreciate it. But in any case I was not singling you out. The pronoun I used was "us", not "you". We all
equally - me just as much as you - need to hear the word of God and believe it, rather than being confused and deceived by the claims of the world around us, which are made in defiance of that word.
My concern is more for those growing up in our community today who are often told that they need to throw out all of modern evidence-based science to accept a particular literal interpretation of certain Bible passages in order to be real Christians. This seems particularly illogical when we spend so much of our preaching effort using scientific and archaeological discoveries to "prove the Bible true". To pose another version of the original question - At what point in pre-history do the archaeologists, anthropologists and palaeontologists stop being "liars and deceivers" and start being useful as "proofs" ? Is it only when they agree with what we have already decided must be true? That is not an honest way to use evidence.
I don't know where your words come from; who used the phrase "liars and deceivers", in relation to "archaeologists, anthropologists and palaeontologists"? I certainly have not done so. Please don't put words in my mouth.
That is not to say I accept everything those various "-ologists" say; they no doubt say what they think to be true, but that does not mean it always is true. We have good reasons to question the supposed reliability of modern scholarship and, by contrast, place our trust in the word of God. Let me give a specific example of that.
Over the past several years, I have done a considerable amount of research on the history of the city of Tyre, in relation to God's prophecy of judgements against it, and particularly its destruction as predicted in Ezekiel 26. In the process, I have found modern scholars, even those deemed to be authoritative on the topic, to be very confused, confusing and inconsistent in some of the statements they make, compared to older historical accounts that paid more attention to the scriptures, and treated them with greater respect, not merely as a source to be used in a very selective manner.
Modern scholarship cannot even get some basic geography right, with regard to Tyre. It is nowadays commonly claimed that the city called Tyre was always
sited on the island that Alexander "the Great" captured in 332 BC by constructing his famous "mole" or causeway. The scholars, bizarrely, appear to ignore the multiple classical accounts that clearly say the mole he made to cross the sea-channel was built out of the ruins of ancient Tyre
, thus proving that ancient Tyre was in fact on the mainland (and that this activity by Alexander's multi-national forces precisely fulfilled what Ezekiel had predicted). But even without reference to scripture, by going back to ancient sources - writings about Alexander and his activities by Arrian, Quintus Curtius Rufus, Diodorus of Sicily, &c, plus some even older ones (e.g. the El-Amarna letters) - and reading them carefully, a more consistent and logical account can be derived, which fits together both in itself and also with scripture. Indeed, when operating without the preconceptions on this point that most modern writers seem to labour under, it becomes straightforward to understand the history and geography of that city, in sufficient detail to show that God's word is perfectly true and his prophets accurate in their predictions, because they spoke that word directly from his mouth, not from their own imagination.
Are those various scholars who have written about Tyre "liars and deceivers"? No. I do not doubt that they believe what they have written on this subject. But nor do I believe some of the things they have written, because their assertions are simply inconsistent with that other evidence. Those scholars, on the question of ancient Tyre's location, are not deceivers; nonetheless I believe they have been deceived by the prevailing opinion among their peers about that question, and in turn absorbed that opinion and treated it as fact, lacking sufficient independence of mind and courage to question its validity. Such is often the way, on many matters, not only in the academic world, but in human activity much more generally.
All my lifetime I have been interested to read about scientific advances and improved understanding of how the world around us fits together. Very often it can immediately add new insights into the message of the bible, whether in archaeology revealing more about ancient societies, psychology revealing more about healthy relationships or our capacity for self-deceit, genetics revealing the distinctiveness of Jewish inheritance in the "Cohen" surname, astronomy revealing the unimaginable scale of the universe, or ultrasound scanning revealing how the baby is "knit together in its mother's womb". But sometimes the observations don't fit with our preconceived ideas. We can wait, and wait for newer discoveries to fit better, but eventually the weight of evidence in a certain direction should lead us humbly to admit that perhaps we were reading parts of the Bible in a way it was not intended.
You attempt to balance scripture against nature, as if the former may be outweighed by the latter. But unlike scripture, the natural world does not interpret itself for us, with reference to itself. Nature has no words in it that we can read directly(*). Apart from our creator's own words on the subject in the Bible (of which there are many), the only apparently authoritative words we can read in the world about nature are words that scientists have thought up, and written about
nature, based on their observations. Nature itself
does not give any words of that sort; instead, science constitutes man's interpretation
of what is seen in the natural world. But that interpretation process is neither self-evidently valid, nor self-supporting in the way scripture is. Rather, it is founded on the philosophical assumptions of the scientist. And the key problem is that today, the universal assumption in science is a purely naturalistic one: just as David said previously, science does not assume God. Even if he is allowed possibly to exist, the scientific method does not allow us to accept him as the creator, as a god who ever did
anything in relation to the state of the world. But God should
be assumed, because he tells us himself in no uncertain terms that he is
our creator, the one who made us out of dust. And therein lies the problem: because he was involved, was powerfully active in creation, when he is left out of the equations - as science requires us to leave him out - the answers we get are bound to be wrong.(*) Having said that nature has no words in it, I must also observe that DNA is the most amazing illustration of God's supreme power in design, and comes amazingly close to "words". It is a complex code, like written human language, with several different levels of coding and operation, which when "read" produces multiple physical effects, including the construction of proteins, out of which all living things are made. This part of God's natural creation thus prefigures the spiritual creation in Christ, namely how Jesus was God's word made flesh, and how we must use that same word to be transformed into spiritual creatures fitted for his kingdom.
Edited by Mark Taunton, 05 October 2012 - 08:01 AM.