Category Archives: flat earth

A history of Evangelicals and Science – part 3 of 12,

 

How have evangelicals interpreted the Bible in the light of science in the last 300 years?

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We now come to chapter 3;

Evangelicals, the Bible and Science

so open up;

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This chapter considers that question and shows how some insisted on taking everything literally and others following Calvin and Augustine did not see the bible as a scientific tome but accommodated to the date of its writing. 

Augsutine

The story is a bit of a mixed bag and partially carries on the divisions within the Reformation churches.

Major themes are biblical authority, inerrancy, accommodation, early Genesis and a flat earth.

Creationism and Calvinism in Britain

A basic Christian belief is that God is the Creator of all that is. It’s there in the first chapter of the Bible, and those churches which use creeds both the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds start by affirming God as creator.

calvin

There is frequently conflict among Christians over Creation, which comes out most strongly over the Theory of Evolution. Despite the popular view this is a major issue, apart from the Scopes Trial of 1925, there was little controversy until the 1960s when Young Earth Creationism came to the fore, first in the U.S.A. and then throughout the world. It was scarcely known in Britain before 1968. At the risk of over-simplifying Creationism has split the ever-growing evangelicals down the middle and is almost the default theological position for Evangelicals throughout the world.

In Britain theological colleges have not stressed the teaching of Young Earth Creationism, but some of the more evangelical ones are strongly sympathetic (including one Anglican college) and tend to default to YEC.  But now one college has nailed its colours to the mast. Many will see the newly founded and minute Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Newcastle as irrelevant. Being a watcher of all things evangelical and American I would disagree. It is an offshoot of the  Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary from South Carolina, which is highly influential among conservative America presbyterians and is strongly creationist. The Newcastle seminary is to serve English Presbyterians, a tiny group with similarities to some of the fissiparious Scottish Presbyterian churches which may have Free in their name!! I can’t follow the realtionship between them, but they are not the same as the main Kirk. I also note how creationism has infiltrated into those churches.  You can read their statement on creation here;  

https://presbyterianseminary.org.uk/about/statements-of-belief/?fbclid=IwAR3kkL7-xYecA7H9T3JxuypHnwDekytSu6lKD92uxf9nXk0VTT5i4jmOYo8

It doesn’t explicitly mention Creationism but its motive is clear, which is too teach only a theology which supports a 6 day 24 hour creation, as is expressed here;.

Accordingly, we believe that when God revealed his creation as ex nihilo and by the power of his word, and when he surrounded the six days of creation with such phrases as “the first day . . . the nth day” and “evening” and “morning”–all phrases which would have been understood in their normal sense by Hebrews in the second millennium BC–that God himself intended to convey that the work of his creation spanned six ordinary days, followed by a seventh and non-continuous day which also spanned 24 hours like the other six days.

This is what Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis has been appealing for over many years.

Were this confined just to a minute college in Newcastle I would not be moved to comment, but this is a widespread attitude among evangelicals and has spread to mainstream denominations including the Church of England, Methodist, Baptists and Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Not to mention the many in Northern Ireland!

So, first, I will consider the importance of the doctrine of creation to Christians (with the implication that this needs to be taught and preached in all churches) and, secondly, I will consider the WPTS statement on creation and where I consider it to be wrong.

The importance of Creation

There is no question on the importance of Creation, but there is great diversity on how Creation should be understood. For most christians the belief that God created out of nothing is vital, though some do question it. For most it is summed up by William Temple’s quasi-equations in his classic book Nature, Man and God

God – Creation = God

Creation – God = 0

 Or we may rhetorically ask the question;

Why is there something, rather than nothing.

  For this discussion I will take God as Creator as read as it is more about how Christians actually understand creation, and especially in relation to modern thought. Or I should ask whether one can consider Creation in a vacuum of theology alone and make no reference to modern (or ancient) thought, thus producing a consistent belief which relates only to the bible.

Important as it is, I will not consider the Christian’s responsibility to the environment or Creation Care  as it is often called. That is because of lack of space. Here the doctrine of creation moves to a vital ethical question as we need to learn how to treat creation properly and consider pressing issues of pollution, species loss, habitat loss, climate change etc. We need to get our doctrine of creation more or less right so we can deal with environmental issues. That includes knowing the age and history of the planet and the inter-relationship of living creatures. I am not a fan of either the Cornwall alliance or Friends of the Earth!! Here is a brief summary of a Christian’s attitude to the care of creation.

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2018/01/03/gods-creation-and-the-environment/

By insisting on creation in a mere week the WPTS simply rejects all of cosmology , geology and biology, although they avoid mentioning it , except for the odd aside “Even the secular confidence in earlier cosmologies is declining in some areas.” Rejecting so much science puts a stumbling block before people, Christian or not, who are quite liable to walk away and reject the Gospel.

It is clear that they have no grasp of the development of science over the 3 thousand years or the ancient adage “science is thinking God’s thoughts after him” . There is no awareness that the Bible reflects the thought forms of when that section was written. Thus Gen 1 and Isaiah 40 indicate a flat earth as they were written before the Greeks worked out the earth’s sphericity in about 500BC. Paul uses a scientifically wrong analogy on seeds in 1 Cor 15 vs 35. His argument is very clear today though if we are gardeners we’ll  chuckle at his wrong biology. Both Leviticus and Deuteronomy regard bats as birds. Wise readers of the Bible simply accept that the writers are using contemporary understandings, which have been superceeded. No big deal. Then of course Darwin was clueless about genes and genetics!

There needs to be an awareness that the Bible  is not scientific nor anti-scientific but pre-scientific. Hence we don’t accept its “science” to be correct as with the examples given above.  The whole principle of accommodation of scripture is simply ignored, despite the fact that one of the finest expositions of accommodation is by John Calvin both in the Institutes and his commentary of Genesis.

He who would learn astrology[i.e astronomy] and other recondite arts, let him go elsewhere.

All considering the doctrine of creation, whether believer or atheist, should memorise that bit of Calvin.

Now for some history.

If traditional dates for the writing of biblical books is correct most of the Old Testament predates any science, as with a flat earth. Who cares that in the magnificent Isaiah 40, verse 22 speaks of a flat earth.

The historical relation of science and Christianity can be muddled by those trying to claim the church opposed every new finding of science. Briefly they need to consider Augustine

Augsutine

and then the scientists of the Middle ages who were mostly priests. There is much written on this and on the whole it was a positive and constructive interplay of ideas. Books by Hannan, Grant andLindberg are very useful here, as is the recent work on Bishop Robert Grosseteste (d1253) expounded by Tom Mcleish and others.

WPTS should be so pleased that Protestants were far more supporting of Copernicanism than Catholics and under Cromwell clergy astronomers were supported like John Wilkins who married Cromwell’s sister, made master of trinity Cambridge, helped to found the Royal Society and became Bishop of Chester, succeeding Pearson, who accepted 4004 BC as the date of creation!

I think it would be fair to say the Westminster Divines both supported copernicanism and the foundation of the Royal Society. Before long in the 1680s some Fellows eg Edward Lhwyd and Rev John Ray were beginning to suggest Ussher rather underestimated the date of creation and soon many more did.

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By the end of the 18th century most educated Christian in Britain and elsewhere accepted those dreaded “millions of years” or else just hundreds of thousands as with de Luc. The Westminster Confession supporting Scots were in the forefront here, though in the early 19th century Anglican clergy were very active geologically. What is often overlooked is that by 1859, when Darwin published most clergy accepted deep geological time. (I cannot find one Anglican priest or minister of the Kirk who followed ~Ussher’s 4004BC date.)

As WPTS is presbyterian we need to note that in Scotland nearly all the clergy from the various Presbyterian Churches including the Free Presbyterians totally accepted geological time with relish. Notable were John Fleming , Thomas Chalmers and the wonderful Hugh Miller. They did not see a problem with the Westminster Confession as in chap 4 section 1

In the beginning it pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit 1 to create the world out of nothing in order to reveal the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and  goodness.2 He made everything in the world, visible and invisible, in the space of six days, and it was very good.

So I cannot see why WPTS and their fellow Presbyterians are so worried.

A major weakness in this statement is that it seems to see Scripture as timeless and not written according to the culture at the time of writing. As a result the statement is an echo chamber in a locked room with no windows. It may seem strong and coherent, but it does not relate to the world either today, human and non-human or the past. It ends up as irrelevant.

It makes no explicit reference to science except referring vaguely to a “secular cosmology” as something we should reject. And so students will be encourage to reject so much of modern science and fall prey to Young Earth Creationism.

 

Now for my comments on the Statement

(Statement in quotation form and my comments in standard form)

Statement on Creation

We the faculty of Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary wish to acknowledge publicly our view on creation so that the churches and individuals supporting the Seminary may know what to expect from classroom instruction and faculty writing. In so doing, we note the following as preliminaries:

  1. the issue of creation has long been considered a fundamental Christian belief, one that distinguishes Christianity from other religions;
  2. this particular doctrine has been subject to prolonged attack since the mid-19th century, but continues to be critical for orthodoxy;
  3. although the history of belief on this subject is clear, some fine and notable theologians from our communions have held differing views on this subject; and
  4. that as a Seminary we are obligated not to teach contrary to the Westminster Standards. The Westminster Standards may be changed by the church courts, but, in our view, the seminaries ought not to be teaching contrary to those Standards, so that when there are changes they will occur as a result of the church’s mature deliberation and not in a de facto manner.
  1. yes, I totally agree but Judaism and Islam have a very similar doctrine of Creation.
  2.   The rise of the Conflict Thesis of science and religion has not helped, but here I think they are driving at the general acceptance of evolution, which they wrongly see as attacking creation.
  3. Their view of the history is clear, but they take a very selective and inaccurate view. The fine theologians dissenting to a young earth are legion and from Scotland , Northern Ireland and the USA. The Princeton School were very wise on the science in creation. Charles Hodge and BB Warfield are worth studying today.
  4. But why didn’t those in the 19th century see the problem?

 

Thus, we offer our view on the subject of creation as a school that serves a number of Reformed denominations, especially the EPCEW, PCA and the OPC.

Note EPCEW is the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of England and Wales which has 30 churches. PCA and OPC are from the USA. On the surface they and this statement may seem insignificant but the issues raised and stance taken is significant in Britain

I hear they are in contact with Scottish Wee Frees, and many of their views are shared by the FIEC, Reformed Baptists and other evangelical groups. (Not to mention some Anglicans – say 5% of clergy and a retired Bishop)

  • We believe that God’s Word is not only inerrant, but that it is also clear to the learned and unlearned alike; thus, we affirm that when God reveals his mind–on creation or any other matter–he is quite capable of making his thoughts known in ordinary language that does not require extraordinary hermeneutical maneuvers for interpretation.

Inerrancy and geology/evolution was not a problem to the Princeton theologians BB Warfield and the Hodges! Inerrancy takes many forms and has long seen to be compatible with geological time and even evolution.

Inerrancy does not imply literalism of Genesis, despite this being a common misconception

I have to say that many parts of the bible are not clear and especially the Old Testament – even St Peter agrees with me!

See above about accommodation and Calvin’s attitudes!

The language and imagery of the bible is very variable and is open to misinterpretation .

  • Accordingly, we believe that when God revealed his creation as ex nihilo and by the power of his word, and when he surrounded the six days of creation with such phrases as “the first day . . . the nth day” and “evening” and “morning”–all phrases which would have been understood in their normal sense by Hebrews in the second millennium BC–that God himself intended to convey that the work of his creation spanned six ordinary days, followed by a seventh and non-continuous day which also spanned 24 hours like the other six days.

Yes creatio ex nihilo is fundamental. But it is difficult to see what creating by “the power of his word ” actually means. Ultimately God creating is  a mystery and we cannot get beyond physical explanations to the creative power of God behind what we can see..

“Power of his word”  is emotive and explains little. It is simply an affirmation of god’s power.

I have no issue with the days of Genesis being 24 hours but we need to consider what the chapter is telling is.  If we insist that creation must have taken no more than 24 hours then from chap1 vs 6-8 we must also insist the earth is flat with a firmament above us. You cannot have one without the other.

Ancient-Hebrew-view-of-universe

Calvin waxes strong on accommodation here.

I will leave the seventh day……………..

 

  • We believe that an accurate study of OT texts does not support the gap theory, the framework hypothesis, the analogical theory, or the day-age view. Indeed, we find the OT creation texts to be interpreted as normal days, and no passage demands that Genesis 1-2 be re-engineered to yield other interpretations. The long history of rabbinical commentary, the very dating of time by the Hebrew calendar, and orthodox Jewish thought so understands these texts to embrace only days of ordinary length.

Perhaps this is so as all attempts to tie Genesis into scientific findings fail at some point. However most made sense in many ways.

Gap Theory was a recasting of the old Chaos-restitution interpretation which was dominant from 1600 to the early 19th century and had roots in the early church – and was an odd rewrite of chaos restitution going back to early church when ideas of chaos from Heisiod were used to show how genesis has a universal application.

The Framework theory derived from Meredith Kline and allows more “flexibility”

The Day Age goes back centuries and became dominant in the 19th century but always suffered from an inability to harmonise days withe geological eras.

One may say that all were good tries but ultimately didn’t work

Far better is to see that Genesis is more a literary representation and not historical in any sense, except that God created in the past!!

  • The NT church and Scriptures offered no revisions of this view, and nowhere do those texts themselves advocate framework or day-age views. We certainly believe that if the wording of Genesis 1-2 required clarification or modification away from the normal meaning of the Hebrew terms, God would so indicate in the text itself, as well as in NT treatments of Genesis 1-2.

The NT only gives various references to a few verses and says nothing on insisting on a literal view.

 

  • The earliest post-canonical commentaries either advocated a 24-hour view of the days (e.g., Basil, Ambrose) or followed Augustine in a somewhat platonic scheme. Augustine’s view, however, was that creation occurred instantaneously, and he nowhere enunciated a day-age view or a framework hypothesis.

Yet almost all rejected the Flat Earth views of the Old Testament – due to overwhelming evidence.

There was no evidence for geological time!

  • Until the Protestant Reformation, only two views were propagated: (1) the Augustinian view (followed by Anselm and John Colet) and (2) the literal 24-hour view (espoused by Aquinas, Lombard, and others).

see previous comment

  • The magisterial Reformers (Luther, Calvin, Beza) adopted a uniform view, that of 24 hours, and overtly repudiated the Augustinian view.

During the 16th  century with the recovery of studying old literature – Renaissance – commentators from all churches tended to read the bible more literally than allegorically, so the 6/24 hr view was paramount.

However there was questioning, especially over astronomy.

Back to Calvin on accommodation, which bore fruit in later centuries.

  • Prior to the Westminster Assembly, the leading Puritans (Ainsworth, Ames, Perkins) and others repudiated the Augustinian view and taught a sequential, normal day view.

Without any geological evidence for deep time or even a little bit more time that was inevitable.

  • The Westminster Assembly divines either felt no need to comment on the length of days–so clearly was it established–or if they commented, they uniformly (either explicitly or implicitly) adopted the 24 hour view. With 60-80 divines normally attending sessions, at least 20 of the divines who did comment in other published writings indicate that they only understood the creation days to be 24-hour days (or ordinary days), and none have been found who espoused a contrary view. Specifically, there were no divines who wrote advocating a day-age view or a framework view. We continue to esteem them not only as confessional authors but also as faithful exegetes. We deny that certain scientific theories are so certain as to compel us to reinterpret Scripture on this matter.

In a sense only relevant to Presbyterians but the questions raised by geology from 1660s affected all churches, though many never got their knickers in a twist over it.

BUT, the evidence for an older earth was unearthed by many who were Christian. It was not a godless attack on Christianity.

  • Following the Westminster Assembly, the testimony of the American Reformed tradition (e.g., J. Edwards) followed the tradition of Ussher/Perkins/Ames/The Westminster Divines on this question. No debate about this subject arises until after 1800, as the winds of various European views began to circulate.

This is too closely focussed on the Presbyterian tradition with the Westminster Catechism. Edwards wrote little on science after the 1720s and made no comment on geological time. Further even his radical contemporary Benjamin Franklin accepted a young earth in mid 18th century. (This almanack was written by Franklin.)

1739almanac - Copy

In the wider church i.e other Protestant, Anglicans and Catholics, the topic of Genesis and time was frequently discussed from the 1660s with little controversey or sense that geology was undermining the bible

For more details see Genesis 1 & geological time from 1600-1850

  • By the mid-nineteenth century, certain leading Presbyterians (C. Hodge, A. A. Hodge, and later Shedd and Warfield) began to conform their exegesis to the ascendant science of the day. We believe that this was a strategic and hermeneutical mistake, as well as a departure from the meaning of terms in the Westminster Standards.

This ignores the fact that most educated Christians throughout Europe and America had accepted geology as this rather anglocentric article shows;

Genesis and geology unearthed

The geological column was essentially worked out in the early 19th century by geologists such as Rev Adam Sedgwick (seen here) who was a major worker on the Cambrian to Devonian, a mere 180 million years worth of strata

column+temp300px-Adam_Sedgwick

The presbyterians cited followed on from geologists like Rev E Hitchcock and British counterparts. In his Systematic Theology Hodge gives a careful discussion of genesis and geology and was helped by the geologist James Dana. Later in his What is Darwinism he looked to Asa Gray a Christian botanist and populariser of Darwin in the USA.

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Mention ought to be made of Scottish and Irish presbyterians which are discussed in Livingstone’s Darwin’s Forgotten defenders.

 

  • Leading southern Presbyterians (such as Thornwell, Dabney and Girardeau) however, simultaneously resisted efforts to broaden the church on this point, as is documented in the Woodrow trial and decisions.

These were almost alone in their rejection of geology and evolution and were almost alone in their support of slavery. So much for evolution supporting racism!

 

  • Early in the twentieth century, numerous evangelicals – and some seminaries – became overly concessive to a secular cosmology, departing from the historic view expressed in the Westminster standards on this subject.

This is a very loaded statement.I presume a “secular cosmology” is simply the whole scientific picture from cosmology , geology and biology over 13.4 billion years. It is only secular as it is not overtly Christian, though many of the scientists behind it were Christian themselves. N.B. People were “departing” from the Westminster standards on this with in 25 years

  • Some of us, at earlier times, were willing – due to love of the brethren and respect for esteemed teachers – to declare that the meaning of confessional language on this question was vague. We are no longer able in good conscience to do so. Both the normal meaning of the confessional phrases and the original intent as verified by other writings of the divines is now abundantly clear, with no evidence to the contrary.

It was not so much that the language from another era was vague, but that all the evidence pointed to an earth and universe billions of years old. Maybe WPTS should realise that the Westminster Divines writing nearly 400 years ago were simply wrong. It was only shortly after William Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood.

 

  • Even the secular confidence in earlier cosmologies is declining in some areas.

This is such a vague statement. What and who do they mean? There are always some who reject contemporary cosmologies as Fred Hoyle objected to the Big Bang (put forward by a Christian – Georges le Maitre) before his death. He dubbed it Big Bang to ridicule it. And then some question evolution, and a tiny handful the age of the earth

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(I dig his sunglasses)

This statement sounds good and may mislead those with no science.

  • Therefore, we declare our view shares the exegesis of the Westminster divines that led them to affirm that God created all things “in the space of six days” by the word of his power. We also believe that this clear meaning of confessional language should be taught in our churches and pulpits, and that departures from it should be properly safeguarded.

The Westminster Confession was written by  60-80 clergy  in one decade nearly 400 years ago. Why ignore all since who have considered the science.

For me, I prefer to follow the myriads of clergy in the last 400 years, who have understood science and the way it develops.

 

  • Accordingly, we reject the following contemporary notions:
    1. that John 5:17 teaches a continuing seventh day of creation;
    2. that violent death entered the cosmos before the fall;
    3. that ordinary providence was the only way that God governed and sustained the creation during the six days of creation;
    4. that extraordinary literary sensitivities must be ascribed to pre-1800 audiences; and
    5. that Scripture is unclear in its use of “evening and morning” attached to the days of creation.
  1.  Not very important
  2. This is a more serious issue. A major plank of creationism is that there was no death before the Fall. Life started about 4 billion years ago and since then there has been a cycle of life and death. Predation, i.e. violent death occurred among trilobites in the Cambrian some 500 million years ago. To deny this is to say all science is wrong and especially geology with all its half-chewed fossils. I am baffled to understand how the fall affected the structure off far-off galaxies.
  3. This is neither here not there and will depend on how you define providence. I don’t see why you need to distinguish between ordinary and extraordinary providence.
  4. In my own historical and theological researches I have read a vast number of works before 1800 in several languages. Many have shown immense erudition, profundity and literary sensitivity. (For those reasons I often go to Calvin on Genesis.) I regard writers like Ussher, Ray, Mersenne, Pantycelyn, Needham and de Luc among many others as having great literary sensitivity. I just accept that some  (or many) of their ideas were modified after their time. I think Ussher was a brilliant scholar and theologian, who, among other things, opened the way for a more critical historical method.
  5. I think the meaning of YOM wa very clear to the writer of Gen 1 – it is 86,400 seconds. But he was also very clear about the earth being flat and a firmament above it with tiny stars tacked on.

Jacobus_ussher

The great James Ussher – a great scholar and theologian

We admit that some Christians have been too lax on this subject, and others have been too narrow. Hence, we hope to enunciate in this statement a moderate, historic, and biblical position. Even should other fine men differ with us on this subject, we hereby announce our intent to remain faithful to the teaching of the Westminster Standards and other Reformed confessions of faith on this subject.

To God alone be glory.

I agree that too often Christians have not been concerned been concerned about the relation of science to theology and focussed to much on a personal relationship to Jesus.

But to insist on a literal Genesis is the opposite of moderate and biblical. It is false and creates a ginormous stumbling block for so many Christians and seekers. To do this you have adopt the whole of Young earth Creationism founded by Morris and Whitcomb, which rejects science by misrepresenting it as we see on websites like Answers in Genesis or Creation ministries International.

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Far better is to read the various writings from https://biologos.org/about-us  and   https://faraday-institute.org/index.php

which have excellent material on Christianity and science.

To conclude I will quote the Lord Protector , Oliver Cromwell (who wrote to the general assembly of the Scottish Kirk four years after Westminster

I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.

 

 

Killing off the Conflict Narrative (of Science and Religion)

Another good blog on the whole issue of the supposed conflict of science and religion.

This should have been a dead duck decades ago , but it is still used as a rod to beat Christians with , comes out in science teaching at schools and in popular culture.

Faith and Wisdom in Science

It’s been a long and tiring century or more of fake news, but I nurture a precious hope (how can one live otherwise?) that the voices of evidence, reason and truth will ultimately prevail.

One of the more persistent myths that have invaded our conversion, media and (very sadly) education, is the late Victorian invention that religious faith and science are necessarily in conflict. So prevalent and normalised is this assumption, that recent surveys in UK high schools find up to 70% of 15 year olds think it (but without being able to say why). I say ‘late Victorian’ for before the publication of two books, now forgotten and unread but best-sellers in their time, there is no great ‘conflict narrative’. The books were: History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896), by Andrew Dickson White, and History of the Conflict between Religion and Science

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Moses, creation and science

This sums up the absurdity of Creationism trying to show modern science is found in Genesis

or this?

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Science meets Faith

Eric Hatfield provides a humorous interpretation of God trying to teach creation to Moses:

Scene: The Sinai Desert, 1400 BCE. Two unshaven and dust-covered men are sitting around a campfire.

Moses: Hey Aaron, how do you spell “quark” in Hebrew?
Aaron: No idea. What do you want to know that for?
Moses: It’s Yahweh again. Keeps telling me all this strange stuff about strangeness and charm and spin, and quarks and gravitons and dark matter. I don’t mind not understanding, but I need to know how to write this stuff down.
Aaron: Tell him we’re just stone-age goat-herders living a subsistence existence, and you’re the only one who can read and write. Ask Him for something simpler, like why does the sun rise every morning?

Moses goes away up Mt Sinai, and returns 3 days later.

Moses: He says the sun doesn’t rise in…

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Weird Worldview Warriors take on 350 years of geology.

In August 2018 I was asked to write of blog entitled

10 questions to ask a young earth creationist

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2018/11/19/10-questions-to-ask-a-young-earth-creationist-premier-christianity/

It was fairly basic focussing on creationist flaws and then to my amusement an Amercian Steven Risner devoted several blogs on it in worldviewwarriors.blogspot.com. I presume he meant keyboard warriors. I just luv werldvew warriers!! It’s so pretentious!  He came about with the usual young earth stufff,

Jacobus_ussher

but more recently focussed on who geologists have got their geology wrong for 350 years. I suppose most geologists are plain thick to do this. According to Risner there have a succession of thicko geologists teaching at all the universities of the world, from Oxford to the University of Lower Piddle in Dorset and are blissfully unaware that all their teaching is based on false assumptions. How thick can the Goulds, Lord Oxburghs, Arthur Holmes , Tuzo Wilsons and the rest be? They should have more perception.

So let’s consider Steven Risner’s gems of critical thinking.

http://worldviewwarriors.blogspot.com/2019/04/why-are-all-geologists-wrong.html

He posted this on 11th April and he may wonder why I spent so long in replying. My first delay was due to Holy Week and the business for a priest in that week and I’m sure he’d approve of that. (Maybe I am an imposter!) And then a bit of time off!!

Why do you claim that so many geologists in the last 350 years got their geology wrong?

As is my custom, I try to answer short and sweet if possible. This has more than one answer that’s fairly obvious, at least to me.The first one is that the last 350 years of geological study disagrees with the Bible’s clear teaching on earth’s history. It doesn’t get any more obvious. However, the second answer is a little more detailed.

Over the last 350 years, geologists frequently have started their observations of the evidence with the wrong assumptions. These assumptions force geologists to interpret the evidence a particular way. Those assumptions are that of deep time and that there was no global Flood as described by the Bible. If we reject the clear teachings of the Word of God, how can we even suggest we are following the God of the Bible? Sure, many of these old earth creationists and theistic evolutionists will say they accept Christ’s teachings and the apostles’ teachings, but why? If we reject some of it, what standard do we use to know if we should accept what the Bible says in one place and reject other parts? I’m seriously asking. If the answer is “science,” then we’re lost already.

The bottom line is this: if your worldview places the authority of science (or in this case what you mistakenly believe is science) over that of Scripture and you use that so-called science to determine how the Bible is to be interpreted, you’ve placed something before the authority God has over you. This is especially true if those portions of Scripture you’re choosing to reinterpret based on your view of nature are major foundational points of the Christian faith.

Now there is a lot here but our warrior makes three points

  1. He assumes the Bible has a clear view of earth history
  2. Geologists start with wrong assumptions that there is Deep time and no global Flood
  3. Geologists place the authority over that of scripture

If he is right then the whole of geology must be rejected as intellectual codswollop. If even one is partly true then all geology is nullified

Now to consider his main points in turn

  1. He assumes the Bible has a clear view of earth history

The first one is that the last 350 years of geological study disagrees with the Bible’s clear teaching on earth’s history.

This is a standard appeal from Young Earthers that the Bible is absolutely clear on the earth’s history. Yet apart from the claims that  Genesis 1 and a few psalms (poetry) speak of earth history, the Bible says nothing that could even considered as earth history, and even that is questionable, as all have either a poetic or stylistic form There is simply nothing of the earth’s history in the Bible, and those who claim there is do not read the Bible for what it is. It is like going to Genesis to find the Periodic Table. On early Genesis there is no consensus down the two millennia on what it means beyond God as creator, with some taking Genesis one as something other than a historical account. Augustine simply regarded the whole of Creation as instantaneous and not spread over six days. Further there was no consideration over the time of earth history until proto-geologists started to consider the order of strata. A little thinking would show that there couldn’t have been.

It was only in the 1680s that questions were raised about time. Before that there was much vagueness but a tendency to a shortish chronology. Even Calvin who assumes a young earth gives us no earth history. Seventy years later the Roman Catholic Fr Mersenne is his literally mammoth commentary gives no earth history either. It was memorable reading Mersenne in Latin as the volume was so large – about 24 in x 15 ins x 5ins.

So none of these learned clerics give us earth history, and the the Theories of the Earth at the end of the 17th century give no coherent account because they are so variable.

Oh for a clear view of Biblical Earth History!!

2.Geologists start with wrong assumptions that there is Deep time and no global Flood

Over the last 350 years, geologists frequently have started their observations of the evidence with the wrong assumptions. These assumptions force geologists to interpret the evidence a particular way. Those assumptions are that of deep time and that there was no global Flood as described by the Bible.

 

Now that is a bold statement! As these putative assumptions have gone back 350 years we should be able to identify who put them forward. And so someone or a group of savants decided sometime after 1660 to argue  WITHOUT EVIDENCE, as it was an assumption, for Deep Time and the absence of a Global Flood. If it were so pervasive, then historians could identify the culprits. I claim to have read a vast number of writers from 1660 onwards on geology (and its relationship to Christianity), yet I have failed to find one possible suspect. Better historians of geology, like Rudwick and Ellenberger have been equally unsuccessful.  If Risner’s claim were true, then all of us would have found several examples where a writer made a garatuitous assumption of Deep Time. At best this is arguing from lack of evidence, or is it simply codswollop?

The period 1660 to 1710 is pivotal in the study of earth history from Nils Steno through John Ray to the Theories of the Earth and the known and unknown William Hobbs. Before 1660 virtually none had any inkling of Deep Time. Here James Ussher was reflecting the views of most with an age for the earth of about 6000 years. Yes, he argued for 4004BC and others went for some date within a thousand years of so of his date – including Sir Walter Raleigh, who wrote a history of the world while waiting execution. There was not much geological research in the 1610s!!

Having read many works from this period, I found no example of an assumption of Deep time , but rather the opposite. In fact, all savants in the late 17th century made the tentative assumption that the earth was young and Ussher’s figure of 4004BC was in the right order and that the global Flood had laid down the strata. They went into the field with that in mind and initially interpreted the strata according to their assumptions and gradually many found that the evidence went against their assumption of a young earth, so corrected them!

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The earliest example of question the young earth and global assumption I have found is the Oxford scholar Edward Lhwyd, who was a good friend of Rev John Ray.

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See this for detail where referring to Lhwyd’s letter to Ray

The Royal Society of London, founded in 1660, epitomised the flowering of science both in Britain and the continent. The work of Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton and others in physics and chemistry needs no introduction. Less well-known is the natural history of John Ray (1627-1705), Edward Lhwyd (1660-1709) and others. The period also saw the beginnings of a scientific study of the earth and their findings were published in turgid volumes known as “Theories of the Earth”. On a first reading these seem to be a literal reading of Genesis stories with a few semi-scientific glosses. A closer read shows them to be more profound as they meld together the Bible, the classics, almost mediaeval “book” learning with the citing of endless authorities and scientific insight in a Chaos-Restitution interpretation of Genesis One. Here they shared the outlook of most theologians (except Ussher!) and literary writers such as Thomas Traherne and Alexander Pope. Instead of taking the Creation story to teach creation in six short days, writers, following an interpretation going back to the early Church Fathers, claimed from Genesis (Chapter one verse one) that God first created Chaos (without form and void) and after an interval recreated it in six days. The duration of Chaos was undefined. With Ussher it was twelve hours, but for most it was a long and unspecified duration.  Some, notably Thomas Burnet (1635?-1715), Edmond Halley (1656-1742) and William Whiston (1667-1752), reckoned the days to be more than twenty-four hours. Halley attempted a calculation of the age of the earth from the sea’s salinity, but came to no firm conclusions other than it was tens of thousands of years old. Likewise theological writers of the day; Bishop Simon Patrick (1626-1707) reckoned that God first created Chaos and then later re-ordered it in Six Days. He said of the duration of Chaos, ‘It might be … a great while;…’ Few accepted Ussher’s date of 4004 BC for the initial Creation, though most accepted that humanity first appeared in about the year 4000 BC, hence the general acceptance of the rest of Ussher’s chronology. The extension of time by the “Theorists” and contemporary theologians was minute compared to the billions of years of geological time, but was, as Stephen Gould wrote of Whiston’s argument that the day of Genesis one was a year long was, “a big step in the right direction.” In Britain the way was open for a longer time-scale.

Fossils and Geology

Not until the late 17th Century were “formed stones” or fossils recognised as imprints of dead creatures rather than formed as “sports of nature” in place. Only then could “fossils” be used to demonstrate former life and it took a century before the succession of fossils was used to put strata into historical order. Possibly the first person who used the succession of fossils to demonstrate evolution was Charles Darwin in a notebook in 1838, shortly before he “discovered” Natural Selection. In the 1690s there were insufficient grounds to suggest “Deep Time” or the continual reworking of the earth’s crust as understandings of erosion were rudimentary. Ray, Whiston and others cannot be expected to have done otherwise.

Most of the writers had some “scientific” understanding and often spent as much time refuting each other as suggesting new ideas. Some were mostly speculative, as was Thomas Burnet’s The Theory of the Earth. Despite his devotion to the Deluge, he sought to explain phenomena naturalistically and somewhat extended the duration of Genesis One. John Ray’s Miscellaneous Discourses concerning the dissolution of the worldshows the beginning of careful observation on earth processes and questions over geological time. After reading the first edition of Ray’s Miscellaneous Discourses, Lhwyd wrote to Ray on 30 February 1691, ‘Upon the reading on your discourse of the rains continually washing away and carrying down earth from the mountains, it puts me in mind…which I observed’, and then described what he had observed in Snowdonia. He described innumerable boulders which had “fallen” into the Llanberis valleys. (Most of these are glacial erratics.) As ‘but two or three that have fallen in the memory of any man…, in the ordinary course of nature we shall be compelled to allow the rest many thousands of years more than the age of the world.’ Ray commented on Lhwyd’s findings and seemed deliberately to avoid facing the logic of Lhwyd’s comments. He nailed his colours firmly to the fence, and did not explicitly reject an Ussher chronology. However from his discussion of Chaos and other comments, it is fair to conclude that he accepted that the earth was considerably more than five-and-a-half thousand years old, but left the reader to decide.

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An erratic block in Nant Peris, Snowdonia, near where Lhwyd had his ideas. They are scattered both along the floor and sides of the valley. Occasionally a higher one may roll dwon, but I can think of no example recently.

And so some thought time might be less shallow. They had no assumption of deep or shallow time, but carried out geological investigations, starting with a tentative young earth.

Towards the end of the seventeenth century a large number of theories of the Earth were  published, mostly in Britain by writers such as Burnet, Whiston, Woodward, Ray and Hobbes (Roberts 2002, pp. 144–150). These were an attempt to rationalize the early history of the earth into six days to uphold the text of Genesis. The authors allowed an indefinite time for chaos and combined Genesis, classical writings, scientific observation and speculation into a fascinating melange of ideas. Burnet wrote of the indefinite
chaos, ‘so it is understood by the general consent of commentators’ (Burnet 1681, chap IV, p. 30) and the commentator Bishop Patrick wrote of the duration of chaos that ‘(I)t might be a great while’ (Patrick 1854, Vol. 1, pp. 1–3). Exactly how long chaos lasted was never made explicit. Most accepted that the ‘days’ of Genesis 1 were of  twenty-four hours duration, but Burnett and Whiston argued that each day of creation could have been a year in duration and the obscure William Hobbs suggested an even longer time basing his ideas on 2 Peter 3:8; ‘one day is as a thousand years’ and ‘I say, why may not one such day, be equall to many years’ (Hobbs 1979, p. 110). Writing about Whiston (Whiston 1696), who extended each day to a year, Stephen Gould said that this ‘was a big step in the right direction’ (Gould 1991, p. 372).

These remarks lifted from two of my published chapters show there was no dogmatic assumption of either Deep Time or a young earth in the late 17th century, but rather savants trying to make sense of the rocks they saw and beginning to stumble towards Deep Time as a result of their research. They started with an initial assumption of a young earth, as that was the culture they lived in. Slowly they changed their minds . They were gradually wading out to deeper water from the shallows.

What we have is that early geologists/savants took their working assumptions form the prevalent culture, hence they initially started with a young earth and found that what they observed in rocks did not fit. Lhwyd is an example – even though the many boulders in Nant Peris had not rolled down the hillsides but were transported by glaciers. He gives an excellent example on how geologists were thinking things through

Because of this I never mock Ussher or anyone else from that period who tended to accept a young earth. They were excellent scholars for their day and slowly worked out details of geological time.

As we move into the 18th century more and more “geologists” became convinced of a deeper time, though there was still considerable variance of conclusions. Thus Hutton, of unconformity fame

Angular Unconformity at Siccar Point, Scotland. Siccar Point, Scotland (Photo: Wikipedia “Hutton’s Unconformity”)

accepted a vast amount of time of many millions, whereas J. A. de Luc seemed to accept only hundreds of thousands. A minority like Kirwan still held to thousands. Among the geologically literate few held to a young earth by 1800 and those who did were changing their minds. One was William Smith who worked out how to relatively date rocks by fossils in the 1790s, he produced a succession of strata in historical order and the fist geological map ever of a country (England and Wales) in 1815, which was remarkably accurate by todays’ standards..

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Yet in the 1790s he was young earth not for dogmatic reasons. In ten years he realised the earth was old – probably due to his mentors the Revs Samuel Richardson and Joshua Townsend, who as Christian clergy accepted an old earth! Then James Parkinson d1824 – the first to diagnose Parkinson’s disease – wrote the first volume of Organic remains of a former world in 1804. There he described the earth as some 6000 years old. But four years later in volume ii , he explicitly avowed an ancient earth.

Did they change their assumptions or were they following the evidence? I’d say they modified their working assumptions as they went along, and had the nouse to do so.

Smith and Parkinson show the gradual shift over geological time, and  with only one or two exceptions all competent in geology accepted Deep Time well before 1820. It is instructive to see how Christian writers changed their views over time. Thus Dean Close of Carlisle was young earth in the 1820s and fully accepted Deep Time by 1850. Thre are many other examples.

This shows a slow gathering awareness of Deep Time from 1680. By 1800 Shallow Time was a thing of the past.

As usual Answers in Genesis in the incarnation of Mortenson argue that the church compromised.

https://answersingenesis.org/creationism/old-earth/deep-time-and-churchs-compromise-historical-background/

As for a Global Flood, most savants in the 17th century simply assumed a Global Flood, as did most theologians. However William Poole in his Commentary argued for a local flood and our unknown William Hobbs refused to grant geological efficacy to the Deluge. This continued right into the 19th century.

Willaim Smith accepted a global flood which laid down the most recent strata as did many others until the 1830s. Most interesting is William Buckland who wrote Reliquiae Diluvianae in 1823. There he limited flood deposits to the uppermost strata, which today are seen as pleistocene. The volume was dedicated to his mentor Bishop Shute Barrington of Durham, who was then a crusty and conservative reactionary octagenarian bishop! (I think he holds the record for the time he was a bishop.) On theology he looked to evangelical scholars like John Bird Sumner. Buckland held on to diluvialism right up to the 1840s and at Oxford are some of his almost illegible musings of the flood in relation to glaciation written in the 1840s.

To sum up, Risner fails to identify who made these assumptions of Deep Time, which would guide all geological thinking. He produces no evidence for his claims.

WHO MADE UP THE ASSUMPTION OF DEEP TIME?

I could say more but you could read Davis Young’s The Biblical Flood. or the Bible, Rocks and Time

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3. Geologists place the authority over that of scripture

The bottom line is this: if your worldview places the authority of science (or in this case what you mistakenly believe is science) over that of Scripture and you use that so-called science to determine how the Bible is to be interpreted, you’ve placed something before the authority God has over you. This is especially true if those portions of Scripture you’re choosing to reinterpret based on your view of nature are major foundational points of the Christian faith

This needs to be reworded;

The bottom line is this; if your worldview places the authority of science…………. under your inconsistent interpretation of Scripture……

This many Creationists cannot see. They force their literal view of scripture onto Scripture. This was challenged 500 years ago by Calvin and his view of accommodation.

The period of the Reformation resulted in a more rigorous biblical interpretation with an emphasis on the literal, or plain, rather than allegorical, meaning of scripture. This  inclined most theologians and savants to understand the ‘day’ of Genesis Chapter 1 as of twenty-four hours and thus the earth to have been created in about 4000 BC, be they Luther, Calvin, Mercator, Raleigh or Columbus. Despite the emphasis of both Roman Catholic and Protestant exegetes on the ‘literal’ meaning of Scripture, this ‘literalism’ never went to the extreme of insisting on a flat earth, which is demanded by a literal reading of Genesis 1:6–8, and Exodus 20:4. In fact, very few Christian theologians had ever considered the earth to be flat, a myth demolished by Russell (Russell 1991).  Literalism was tempered by ‘accommodation’. This refusal to adopt a slavish literalism can be seen clearly in Calvin’s understanding of the accommodation of Scripture. In 1554, eleven years after Copernicus published De revolutionibus, Calvin published his commentary on Genesis in Latin. Calvin

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made no reference here, nor probably anywhere else, to the Copernican theory, but he stressed that Genesis was not written to teach astronomy. As he dealt with the Mosaic description of the firmament of Genesis 1 he wrote, ‘He, who  would learn astronomy and other recondite arts, let him go elsewhere’ (Calvin 1847, p. 79). He considered the firmament of Genesis 1:6–8, not to be the solid crystalline dome, which is implied by Egyptian astronomy, but a representation of rain clouds, because ‘nothing is here treated of but the visible form of the world’ (Calvin 1847, pp. 69–88). Calvin was wrong at this point as most ancients considered the firmament to be a solid dome. But he considered that Moses accommodated himself to the limitations of human thought and as Calvin commented on Genesis 1:15, ‘For as it became a theologian, he had respect to us rather than the stars’. Calvin approached his task with Ptolemean assumptions of a spherical rather than a flat earth. He also did not question a 6000- year-old earth nor a universal flood. Calvin’s  accommodating interpretation eased the path for many Calvinists to accept  Copernicanism, with  the result that some Roman Catholics referred to the ‘Calvino–Copernican’ theory. In the following centuries Calvin’s doctrine of  accommodation allowed devout Protestants to accept the findings of science, whether astronomy or geology, without the rejection of the authority or the teaching of scripture (Hooykaas 1972, pp. 114–130).

Calvin’s idea of ACCOMMODATION shows there is no theological objection to an ancient earth as the Bible is not written to give that information, but rather is ACCOMMODATED to the thought forms of the time it was written.

The most apt quote is that of Calvin

He, who  would learn astronomy and other recondite arts, let him go elsewhere’

We go elsewhere on most things. Trivially I do not go to the bible to find out how to fix my bicycle, nor when I should plant certain seeds or prune plants. Calvin was clear, the bible is not a source for astronomy – and we can add, any other science.

Behind Calvin’s comment is that we need to know where biblical authority lies and what for. There are so many things which the bible does not mention and thus we do not go to it to see whether we should use oak or balsawood for the framework of a house. !! Nor will it tell us whether coal or gas is a better fuel. It goes on.

To most Christians the Bible is the ultimate authority, but for moral and theological principles and not details on science, mechanics or gardening. However on ethical issues we are not given blanket rules but ideas to give as Middle Axioms as William Temple called them. This is clear in his Christianity and Social Order. Thus a National Health Service as in Britain is not prescribed by biblical authority, but the principles of love of neighbour and even some OT teaching we can see it as an outworking of biblical teaching and authority. Hey I’m going to be called an extreme socialist for this!!

By claiming this Risner actually destroys the authority of scripture as it then is seen to be risibile.

I look to the authority of the Bible on what is revealed about Jesus Christ and why I should love my neighbour, not tell lies or steal etc, but not whether Lyell, Buckland or Steno gives me the better basis for geology, or which month I should plant my runner bean seeds.

For all normal Christians the Bible is the authority for doctrine and ethics, but not whether fish preceeded dinosaurs on this planet.

Risner has a perfect way of undermining the authority of the Bible

Augsutine

Does Geology destroy God. Genesis and geology,Seven papers

Does geology destroy God?

Some say yes.

Read on

Angular Unconformity at Siccar Point, Scotland. Siccar Point, Scotland (Photo: Wikipedia “Hutton’s Unconformity”)henslow

Here are seven papers of mine on themes around Genesis and Geology. Only one (A history of design in unpublished

 

  1. Historical survey on Genesis from 1600 to 1850

Two bogey men, Calvin and Ussher. Or were they?

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Genesis 1 & geological time from 1600-1850

2. A similar one for Evangelical Quarterly focussing on John Ray

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Genesis of Ray

3. Geology and Genesis in the early 19th century

The age of william Smith

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Genesis and geology unearthed

4. The geologist Adam Sedgwick on genesis and his opposition to the creationists of his day

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sedgwick

 

5. A short doctrine of creation written for a Geol soc of London Special Publication

(N.b. it omits any reference to the environment – before you criticise!!)

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339lgscreation

 

6. Evangelicals and Climate Change (before the age of fracking!)

Increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations from 1958–2013

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7. History of design

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History of design1

a Warning

Augsutine

THE BIBLE AND A FLAT EARTH

THE BIBLE AND A FLAT EARTH; A CASE STUDY IN EXEGESIS

ON DOES THE BIBLE TEACH SCIENCE?

 

I have never met a flat-earther but some Afrikaner farmers in the remoter parts of South Africa were in the 1970s. My source was a fellow geologist Dr. Piet Joubert, also an Afrikaner, who regaled friends about it. When local farmers asked about his work, Piet happened to mention that the earth was spherical, to which they retorted, “Ek is plat!” About the same time other geologists working in Zimbabwe told theirAfrican laborers that men had walked on the moon and were told, “Yes, baas, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin.” With these exceptions there can be few who accept that the world is flat and hence it is a good example to discuss the Bible in relation to science.

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Before doing so, the myth of a flat earth must be dispelled. Most people in the West believe that until the time of Columbus most Europeans believed in a flat earth and it was the voyages of Columbus and Magellan, which disproved a flat earth around about 1,500 and is still repeated by some (Moore, 2002, p. 148). It is one of the instances where the Church opposed science and AndrewWhite waxes eloquent on the subject. The myth of the flat earth was wonderfully exploded by J. B. Russell (Russell, 1991), who demonstrated that few theologians believed in a flat earth in contrast to the majority like Augustine and Aquinas who took the earth’s sphericity for granted.

However the cosmogony of the Bible tells a very different story. The New Testament makes no clear reference to cosmogony but Rudolf Bultmann claimed that it teaches a three-decker universe, but this cannot be substantiated. In his classic argument presented in 1941 Bultmann in New Testament and Mythology (Bultmann, 1984, pp. 1–2), the world-picture of the New Testament as something highly mythological: The world is like a three-storied building. In the middle is the earth; above it is heaven, below it is the subterranean world. Heaven is the dwelling-place of God . . . the lower world is hell, the place of torment. He argued that “modern man” cannot accept Christianity without “demythologizing” the biblical world view. Though few still adhere to Bultmann’s “demythologizsation,” many still believe that the New Testament writers held to a flat earth. That would be highly unlikely, especially for the Greek-educated Luke and Paul, as the Greeks had demonstrated the earth’s sphericity in 500 BC. It is entirely reasonable to regard the apparently mythological descriptions of “the heavens” in the Lukan and Paulinewritings as metaphorical. However, it is possible that Gallilean fishermen and carpenters could have adhered to a three-decker universe. In the centuries beforeChrist, astronomers considered the earth to be spherical but the stars were tiny and fixed on the celestial dome. The small size of the stars is probably reflected in Matthew 24 vs 29, “and the stars will fall from heaven.”

However, the Old Testament was a very different world, going back to 2000 BC.8 The dates of the actual composition of Old Testament books are in dispute. Many liberal scholars hold that all were written after the Exile and thus are post 500 BC, with Genesis being of a Babylonian origin. The most Conservative Evangelicals reckon that Job was written before 1500 BC, and that Moses wrote the Pentateuch in about 1450 BC. Moderate evangelicals argue that little of the Old Testament was committed to writing before 1000 BC.

Ancient-Hebrew-view-of-universe

The differences are more than those of theology as if the biblical books were written before 500 BC. then the authors could not have known that Greek astronomers had demonstrated the earth’s sphericity, and thus would have held to the conventional beliefs of their societies, viz., that the earth was a flat disc, with the hemispherical firmament above, and the underworld below. To those who consider that the Bible will reflect the world view of the writers’ day that presents no problem. But to those who hold fast to a strong form of Inerrancy, then the “science” in the Bible must be accurate. Thus some evangelicals argue that biblical writers believed that the earth was spherical. As Moses and Isaiah lived in the fourteenth and eighth century BC this was before the time of Plato (427–348/7 BC) when most educated Greeks began to accept that the earth was spherical. To maintain that the Israelites believed that the earth was spherical (often with the implication that this had been revealed to them by God) it is necessary to interpret several Biblical passages contrary to their “plain and literal” meaning. Take Isaiah chapter 40 vs 22, “It is he [God] who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers.” Most commentators take the word for circle khug to mean a flat disc or the dome of the firmament. However Mark Eastman in his article, “Science and the Bible,” states:

Despite contrary assertions, the fact of a spherical earth was clearly proclaimed in the Bible by the prophet Isaiah nearly twenty-eight centuries ago . . . “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers [etc.]” Isaiah 40:22 (NKJ).When Isaiah wrote this verse he used the Hebrew word “khug” to describe the shape of the earth. Although this word is commonly translated into the English word “circle,” the literal meaning of this word is “a sphere.”9

Jonathan Sarfati in Refuting Evolution,

Jonathan Sarfati, YE creationist author and speaker. Source: http://creation.com/dr-jonathan-d-sarfati

argues in a similar way, as does Henry M. Morris, who in The Biblical Basis of Modern Science asserts that khug in Isa. 40:22 often translated “circle” means a “sphere” (Morris, 1984a, pp. 245–246). All of these writers claim that the Hebrew khug—or hˆug of Isaiah 40:22a means “sphericity.” No biblical scholars support this; in the nineteenth century Delitzsch translated it as the “vault of heaven” which is supported by Allen in DOTTE. Arguments that the Bible teaches the earth’s sphericity are to be found in many YEC writings and Web sites.10 Sarfati also argues that Luke 17:34–36 implies that Jesus believed the earth to be spherical, because Jesus “stated that different people on earth would experience night, morning and midday at the same time!” This raises a fundamental question: Just how should one interpret the Bible in light of modern scientific knowledge? The YECs Nelson and Reynolds state that one should not readmeanings into biblical texts that are not there in order to make them conform to modern scientific knowledge (Moreland and Reynolds, 1999). Some YECs do not follow their advice. Besides the earth’s sphericity, Eastman finds references to such modern scientific knowledge as ocean currents (Isaiah 43:16; Psalm 8:8), elementary particles (Hebrew 11:3), and nuclear explosions (2 Peter 3:10). Such fanciful eisegesis as this is matched by Morris’ readings into the text of Job, whom he credits with knowledge of the hydrological cycle (28:24–27), and the rotation of the earth (38:12–14). He also claimed that Job describes dinosaurs in Job 40 vs 15ff and, according to Henry Morris (Morris, 1984, pp. 356–359) from Job chap. 41 vs 20–21 some dinosaurs were like dragons and breathed fire. No one can fault their devotion to the Bible, but by reading modern science into the Bible, they make mockery of it by ignoring the historical context of the Bible. Ernest Lucas emphasizes that the thought world of the Ancient Near East of Babylon and Egypt demonstrates that the Cosmology of the Hebrews was similar to that of its neighbors, with some kind of flat earth and heavens above and the underworld beneath (Alexander and Baker, 2003, p. 137). This is manifest in Exodus 20 vs 4, which of the “heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath or that is in the water under the earth.” This is similar to Egyptian cosmology (Alexander and Baker, 2003, p. 134). In parts of the Old Testament there are still references to Babylonian and Egyptian mythology associated with their cosmology.

There have been many interpretations of the firmament of Genesis chap. I vs 8. Calvin writing in his commentary on Genesis in 1553 claimed that this was a description of clouds carrying rain, no doubt because although no Copernican he was a well-informed Renaissance man and knew that the heavens or the firmament was not a solid dome. During the next three centuries most commentators evaded the question of what the firmament was, partly because Copernicanism was unquestioned. With the rise of more detailed biblical studies in the nineteenth century and research into other ANE cultures, scholars began to see that this fitted into typical Egyptian cosmogony. Conservative exegetes objected, as did Delitzsch in his commentary of 1852 (Keil and Delitzsch E. T., nd, p. 53) presumably to allow Genesis not to contradict modern astronomy. He also argued for six Solar Days and a global flood and questioned the reliability of geology. Several decades later he took a far more open line in a later commentary on Genesis.

Many recent commentators ignore the question, but Paul Seely, a graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary, has demonstrated conclusively that the firmament was a solid dome (Seely, 1991) and this has been incorporated into the commentaries by Walton and Currid. To conclude then, the writers of the Old Testament clearly accepted a flat earth as part of the common ANE cosmogony. This is of no concern to many Christians, who accept that the writers were children of their time. However if Inerrancy extends to history and science, then it is inevitable that some Inerrantists would feel obliged to demonstrate that the Bible taught a spherical earth. The question of a flat earth in the Old Testament highlights the problems some evangelicals face in relation to science and the Bible.

I feel as bit like this!!!

Fourth Law

Refs

  1. www.marshill.org/Apologetics%20Pages/science and the Bible.htm
  2. “The Bible and the Earth’s Sphericity” posted on the Creation Research Society web site: www.creationresearch. org/creation matters/ Astronomy and the Bible, www.answersingenesis.org/docs/400.asp

Answers magazine, Oct-Dec 2014 issue