Can all our beliefs be based on evidence?

Jonny Scaramanga (a former British fundamentalist I interviewed here) wrote an interesting article about the way children may become persuaded of the truth of far fetched beliefs.

Jonny Scaramanga teaching a class
Jonny Scaramanga, former fundamentalist, activist and PhD student at the Institute of Education, University of London, studying student experiences of Accelerated Christian Education.

********

Children are not that gullible, which makes indoctrination even more odious

I recently submitted an article on indoctrination for publication in an academic journal. I was attempting to explain what indoctrination looks like in practice in an educational environment, and along the way I made an assertion that I think most people would accept: “Young children … in most cases will believe whatever they are told”.

This is a widely assumed to be true, so I am grateful to my anonymous peer reviewer for pointing out that I was mistaken. The reviewer recommended I read a paper by Dan Sperber et al, “Epistemic vigilance”, which, happily, is freely available online. The section on children begins on page 371. The evidence suggests that children from very young ages use sophisticated techniques to work out who to trust.

Even at a very early age, children do not treat all communicated information as equally reliable. At 16 months, they notice when a familiar word is inappropriately used (Koenig and Echols, 2003). By the age of two, they often attempt to contradict and correct assertions that they believe to be false (e.g. Pea, 1982). These studies challenge the widespread assumption that young children are simply gullible.

Do young children have the cognitive resources to allocate trust on the basis of relevant evidence about an informant’s trustworthiness? Given the choice, three-year-olds seem to prefer informants who are both benevolent (Mascaro and Sperber, 2009) and competent (e.g. Clement ´ et al., 2004). In preferring benevolent informants, they take into account not only their own observations but also what they have been told about the informant’s moral character (Mascaro and Sperber, 2009), and in preferring competent informants, they take past accuracy into account (e.g. Clement ´ et al., 2004; Birch et al., 2008; Scofield and Behrend, 2008). By the age of four, they not only have appropriate preferences for reliable informants, but also show some grasp of what this reliability involves. For instance, they can predict that a dishonest informant will provide false information (Couillard and Woodward, 1999), or that an incompetent informant will be less reliable (Call and Tomasello, 1999; Lampinen and Smith, 1995; Clément et al., 2004). Moreover, they make such predictions despite the fact that unreliable informants typically present themselves as benevolent and competent.

The paper goes on to explain that four- and five-year-olds develop methods of spotting deception and also hypocrisy. Further, they are good at interpreting signals about what other people think about information (and the informers), and they use this to assist their own judgements about who is a trustworthy informant and what information is reliable. They’re also pretty good at spotting when someone intends to deceive them, and they know to ignore that information. From the age of four, children are particularly careful about who to trust.

All of which is not to say that children can’t be fooled, of course, but adults can be fooled too. It turns out children are not the trusting dopes they are sometimes depicted as.

But I know, and you know too, that if you stick a class of children in a room with a teacher who tells them that God made the Earth in six days six thousand years ago, most of them are going to believe it (and this was my point when I said that children generally believe what they are told). So what’s going on?

The answer, of course, is that children have excellent reasons to trust their teachers and their parents. Even in the most extreme cults, the vast majority of the verifiable information we learn from our parents in our formative years turns out to be true. Stoves are indeed hot and plug sockets are dangerous. Waiting for the green man does make it safer to cross the road. The food they recommend is generally good tasting and non-poisonous, and the things they recommend for entertainment are usually enjoyable. Up to the age of four, most of what we know about the world comes from parents, and most of it is right.

Then our parents hand us over to the care of teachers, which implicitly tells us that they are to be trusted. Our parents may also explicitly tell us to trust our teachers, with phrases like “You should listen to what your teacher says”. We trust our parents because they haven’t steered us wrong so far, and sure enough the teacher does seem to be reliable as well. She teaches us to read, which is very useful, and when we read signs using the methods she taught us, we arrive in the right places. She shows us that when we connect wires to metal contacts, the bulb lights up, and when we connect them to plastic, nothing happens.

Our parents and teachers tell us stories, and from quite early on they distinguish between true stories and those which are ‘only stories’. So when they tell us about Noah’s Ark, the exodus from Egypt, and the walls of Jericho, we trust them. We have every reason to do so—they have demonstrated their reliability. We would, as Sperber’s paper argues, be pretty good at telling if they were trying to deceive us, but of course they aren’t.

In short, when children are taught creationism by their parents and teachers, they accept it because this is the rational thing to do. Even the most committed skeptic cannot check everything out first hand. We all gain much of our knowledge from reliable others, and for most of us parents and teachers are the most reliable others we will ever know. It would be insane to trust them on everything except religion when religion is presented as true in the same way as all other knowledge taught at home or school. Of course the children believe you. That’s what you’re for. When you use that fact to make children believe things for which there is insufficient evidence, you are abusing your power and abusing their trust.

Presenting religious ideas as though we can believe them with the same confidence we can believe that clouds make rain or electricity flows through metal better than plastic is just immoral. I find it difficult to overstate how wrong this is. There are not many things I would call sacred, but the duty of care to children must be one of them. Ironically, I find myself wanting to use religious language to emphasise the gravity of this point. From the point of view of the Christian teacher, God has put these children in your care. It is despicable to use this position to present scientific and religious information as though they are both equally knowledge. Your job is to educate children, and you’re lying to them. It is the educational equivalent of a doctor poisoning patients.

*******

I think this raised quite important questions about the nature of faith and what our convictions should be grounded on.

Here was my response.

Hi Jonny.

I certainly agree it may be pretty harmful to teach far-fetched beliefs to children.

I don’t think, however, that one can generally say that fundies are being immoral for doing so.

Most I talked with are sincerely convinced that there are good arguments for a young earth or an exodus out of Egypt and that if it doesn’t belong to public knowledge, it is only because “godless” scientists “suppress the truth”.

Young earth creationism: poor dinosaurs are seeing the ark departing while the raging water is about to flood them.
Young earth creationism in all its glory.

So they teach what they are honesty convinced of and I think that very few of them teach things they know very well to be false.

Of course, I believe they are either utterly irrational or terribly uninformed. But that changes nothing to their sincerity.

Otherwise, I doubt it is possible to only believe in things we’ve evidence for.

Consider the proposition:

“We do not live in a simulation ran by beings we know nothing about.”

Brain in the vat: "I'm walking outside in the sun!"
Brain in a vat. My thought experiment here is far broader than that and include the possibility of being part of a simulation of beings radically different from everything we can conceive of. Or being fooled by a deceitful demon about whose abilities and psychology we know nothing.

Almost all human beings accept this.
Yet, I strongly doubt it is possible to bring up evidence for this without already making assumptions about reality, i.e. without begging the question.

As far as I can tell, nobody has ever come up with a satisfactory answer to the Muenchhausen dilemna,
****

All justifications in pursuit of ‘certain’ knowledge have also to justify the means of their justification and doing so they have to justify anew the means of their justification. Therefore, there can be no end. We are faced with the hopeless situation of ‘infinite regression’.
One can justify with a circular argument, but this sacrifices its validity.

The brain is the most important organ you have. According to the brain.
Circular reasoning.

One can stop at self-evidence or common sense or fundamental principles or speaking ex cathedra or at any other evidence, but in doing so, the intention to install ‘certain’ justification is abandoned.

An English translation of a quote from the original German text by Albert is as follows:[8]

Here, one has a mere choice between:

An infinite regression, which appears because of the necessity to go ever further back, but is not practically feasible and does not, therefore, provide a certain foundation.
A logical circle in the deduction, which is caused by the fact that one, in the need to found, falls back on statements which had already appeared before as requiring a foundation, and which circle does not lead to any certain foundation either.
A break of searching at a certain point, which indeed appears principally feasible, but would mean a random suspension of the principle of sufficient reason.
******

Consequently, I think there are some very basic beliefs we hold which cannot be justified.
This leads me to reject claims of knowing how things really are and to adopt a pragmatic view of our beliefs.
I view “faith” as hope in something highly desirable even if evidence is unavailable or insufficient.

According to that definition, it is my contention that everyone walks by faith.
I don’t have children but I think I would try to explain this to them as soon as they are old enough to grasp that (without hopefully making them too dizzy).
To my mind, these considerations lead to a humble pluralism rather than to a confident materialism.

I don’t, however, hold anything I said dogmatically and would be glad to see your objections, if you have some.

I certainly sympathize with the children of fundamentalists who go through terrible ordeals as you did.

Cheers.

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

Advertisements

Renewing the Evangelical mind: an interview with Peter Enns

Renewing the Evangelical mind: an interview with Peter Enns

 

In what follows, I had the immense privilege to interview Peter Enns (links), who is undoubtedly the leading progressive Evangelical theologian in the whole world.

Here are the topics we touched upon, albeit not necessarily in a chronological order.

 

1) Where Peter Enns comes from and how his thoughts evolved with time

2) How is evolution currently perceived among American Evangelicals?

a) Young Earth Creationism

b) Old Earth Creationism and Concordism

c) His own approach

3) What were likely the intentions of the original authors as they wrote the text?

4) One of the very foundation of Evangelicalism is the idea that God cursed us with a sinful nature, making misdeeds deserving an eternal punishment inevitable.
Can we find this concept in the very text of Genesis?

5) If Paul thought it was the case but the authors of Genesis 2 and 3 didn’t hold this view, what should we believe as modern Christians?

6) What is inerrancy and why is it viewed as the very foundation of Christianity by so many people?

7) What about God inerrantly gathering errant texts for His own purposes, as Professor Randal Rauser thinks it’s the case?

8) Many people say that if there is only a small mistake in one obscure book of the Old Testament, we can no longer trust the resurrection. What’s Peter’s response to this?

9) Problem of divine hideness:

Why would God not have given us an inerrant text rather than leaving us stabbing in the dark?

Why did He allow so many people to mistakenly assume its inerrancy?

10) What did God REALLY do during the history of Israel? Did He reveal Himself to a real Abraham and a real Mose?

11) Given the results of modern critical scholarship, what makes the Protestant Canon so special?
What does it mean to say that the imprecatory psalms were more inspired than books of C.S. Lewis on pain and love, and writings of Martin Luther King on non-violence?

12) Currently, there is a massive exodus from young people out of Conservative Christianity?
What are the causes of this?

 

https://i2.wp.com/randalrauser.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Peter-Enns.jpg

 

For those interested by our conversation, I recommend the following resources:

 

Peter’s blog containing many insightful posts and Peter’s website full of great academic writings.

The following books are also worth looking:

The Evolution of Adam : What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins.
Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology).
Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament.
Telling God’s Story: A Parents’ Guide to Teaching the Bible (Telling God’s Story).
Ecclesiastes (Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary).

UPCOMING: The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It.

 

Remythologizing Genesis

A review of Genesis and the Rise of Civilization, by J. Snodgrass.

CoverBook

There can be little doubt that the first book of our Bibles plays a major role in the North-American culture war and the countless bloody battles raging between fundamentalists and secularists.

 

Both camps keep proclaiming ad nausea that the truth of the Christian faith stands and falls with the scientific accuracy of the Biblical text and as a consequence many American young people see themselves confronted with the choice between embracing a pseudo-science made out of thin air and rejecting their faith in Christ altogether.

creationism-4

This confrontation is gravely compounded by the very entrenched habit of viewing the Bible as an unified whole, which entails that errors in some parts imply errors everywhere.

 

In such a context, this book of J. Snodgrass, a liberal Biblical scholar, preacher and teacher came out as truly refreshing.

Many decades ago, the late German Protestant scholar Rudolf Bultmann set out to “demythologize” the Bible by exposing elements in the New Testament he viewed as utterly at odds with our modern scientific knowledge and replacing them by existential readings.

bultmann2

I think it is fair to say that Snodgrass’ agenda in this outstanding groundwork is not to demythologize the text of Genesis but rather to remythologize it, which basically means two things:
– overcoming the Conservative Christian tendency to misinterpret the text for making it look more rational, more scientific or more consistent with other parts of the Bible- surmounting the pervasive disdain of our Western culture against myths and their equation with worthless untruths.

 

In what follows, I want to explain why I think that this book is an extremely useful resource without betraying too much of its content and without concealing my own areas of disagreement.

 

Old Hebrew tales as parables and allegories

 

According to Snodgrass, many of the elements which have always been historically interpreted as supernatural events (such as the devil masquerading as a snake, God driving out two real persons from a wonderful garden, waters covering the whole world…) might very well have been intended to illustrate quite earthly things.

 

He begins by reminding us that unlike what many of my readers were taught in Sunday Schools, the book of Genesis is NOT a coherent document composed by a unique author (usually seen as Moses) but a mosaic work by different writers separated by large time spans and not sharing the same agendas.

He did a nice job explicating the scholarly consensus as to why the flood narrative (which leads a great part of the American population to reject significant portions of our scientific knowledge) is actually made up of two different tales clumsily woven together, as can be well visualized on the following page.

He also pointed out that the differences between Genesis 1 and 2 are best interpreted by conceptions of God at odds with each others.

Genesis 1 was all about affirming Israelite religious identity during the Babylonian exile and challenging the surrounding polytheistic creation myths.

cain-and-abel

Genesis 2 and 3 were written much earlier and are generally seen as early Israel’s explanation for its own origin, those of the people around Her and the problem of evil. Many critical scholars think it was written at the time of king Solomon, but Snodgrass call this into question, humorously  writing:

“The question of when and how the Eden stories were formed has been a puzzling one in Biblical scholarship. They are usually said to have
been assembled in the age of Solomon, a thousand years before the common era. But Solomon was a king who valued knowledge, enforced labor, and collected women – why would a story from his court have been so pessimistic about domination? If Solomon had supervised the writing, it would have gone something like this: ‘God made Adam and a thousand Eves, and commanded Adam to enslave the whole world, and kill anyone or anything who got in his way. Which he happily did. The End.”

This is but one of the numerous examples where the author conveys his scholarly thoughts in a remarkably witty way.

 

His intriguing idea is that Genesis 2-3 relates to the emergence of civilization (hence the title of the book) out of a populations of hunters and gatherers, who are themselves the ultimate source of the sacred writing and considered the rise of agriculture as a curse being far worse than only an unwelcome evolution.

He shows how this makes sense of many elements of the text, such as Cain and Abel symbolizing human populations rather than individuals, agriculture going hand in hand with environmental problems and related societal issues, such as a greater subjugation of women which was seen as a curse in Genesis 3, and so on and so forth.

3825_hunt

He then went on offering other interesting historical and natural explanations for the rest of the book of Genesis and other parts of the Hebrew Bible, spending a large amount of time analyzing the stories recounting the life of Abraham as well as those of his children and descendants.

Like the great liberal scholar and movie maker Thom Stark did in his book The Human Faces of God, Snodgrass made it clear that there are different portraits of God found in the Hebrew Bible, and that besides the genocidal imperialistic god of the first part of Joshua, one can also find a God of liberation and revolution at other places.

 

Viewing the Bible as an ancient book among others

 

It is extremely welcome that Snodgrass made an abundant use of the rabbinic Midrash and of Ancient Near Eastern myths throughout the whole book, showing how using the same analysis illuminates many aspects of the Biblical texts.

As I myself argued at other places, I fail to see why books contained within the Protestant Canon have necessarily to be more inspired than books located outside of it, and I am open about God’s actions (including miraculous ones) in extra-Biblical stories as well.

 

The impenetrable shroud of history and speculative assumptions

 

That said, there are some points about which I part company with the author. While I find most of his interpretations quite fascinating, I think they often remain nothing more than speculations: owing to the very few data we dispose about the precise identity of the authors and their motives, there are considerable degrees of uncertainty in any reconstruction one tries to reach.

And it is often possible to interpret the same textual situations in many different ways. While Snodgrass is obviously right that the Biblical writers (like almost everyone at that time) had a much lower of women that modern Westerners, it is debatable whether or not they always likened them to material goods or cattle.
As far as I’m concerned, I find that the Sara of Genesis acted as a pretty emancipated woman, leading several times his husband to comply to her will rather than submitting to him, as (ironically enough) she is described to have done by the authors of Hebrews in the New Testament.

 

Evil and divine hideness

 

One aspect I missed in the book is a wrestling with the problem of evil and divine hideness. Why did God create a world with so much pain, and why did he not inerrantly inspire chosen writers rather than letting them writing down their own fallible theological thoughts?

theologys-toughest-question

I certainly think there are tentative answers to these questions, but they remain the strongest arguments against Christianity, challenging both Conservative and progressive believers at the same time.

I found it great if liberal Christians were to take more time to defend their faith or hope in a good God against such objections, or perhaps honestly and pastorally struggle alongside their readers with these topics.

 

Another problem is that Snodgrass seems to explain human evil purely in terms of psychological and social factors and does not consider a genuinely indeterminate freedom.

 

A worthwhile theologically liberal book

 

These disagreements notwithstanding, I find that Genesis and the Rise of Civilization is really an outstanding scholarly book written for lay persons, and I warmly recommend it to anyone interested in the historical-critical scholarship of the Bible without expecting a patch of easy answers to appease the anguish of his or her soul.

 

 Disclaimer: this book has been granted to me through SpeakEasy so that I might review it impartially. I hereby swear I have striven for objectivity in my entire review.

 

 

 

The great duel: Ken ham versus Bill Nye

The great duel: Ken ham versus Bill Nye

I think that few debates have been awaited with more passion and indignation than the duel between the pope of Creationism (and some would say of irrationality too) and the “humanist guy”.

Since the event is widely known and has been reviewed by an almost infinite number of bloggers, I will just offer my own thoughts on points I found interesting in a chronological fashion.

Ken Ham began by pointing out there are great scientists who believe that creationism is the best explanation of nature, and complained about science being “highjacked by secularists”.

The united states, creationism and economical collapse

Later on Bill Nye warned that the spreading of creationist ideas would lead to a considerable deterioration of the scientific performances of America with stark repercussions on the economy.

I respectfully think he is wrong here.

People typically develop incredible abilities to compartmentalize their intellectual life, as the examples of brilliant creationists Ham mentioned clearly show. These folks have managed to be extremely rigorous in their professional works while being incredibly sloppy while trying to fit reality to their fundamentalist convictions.

As a side note, I don’t believe that wild capitalism is such a great promoter of science as Nye seems to believe.
It goes hand in hand with a huge decrease of the number of researcher positions (such as in Germany where lecturer positions Mittelbau have been completely suppressed).
As a consequence, there is a very strong competition between young scientists which often leads to dishonesty and sloppiness for maximizing one’s number of publications, which is nowadays almost the only criterion for getting hired in the Academia.

Experimental and historical science, evidence and probabilities

Ken Ham said that there is a strong difference between experimental and historical science, the latter one failing to generate knowledge. Bill Nye responded by stating that such a distinction is utterly nonsensical.

I think that reality might be more complex than those two binaries opinion.

Henri Gee, chief editor of nature, wrote a book entitled “In search of deep time” where he argued that knowledge about the far past is extremely hard to generate.

In Search of Deep Time: Beyond the Fossil Record to a New History of Life

I take the view that while historical science use the same methodology as experimental science for assessing evidence, the number of data is much more limited as you go back through the mist of history.

I also believe that, unlike most scientific theories or propositions, historical events (including those about the evolution of the universe, earth and life) have an objective physical probability which could (in principle) be computed (WARNING: the two linked posts are quite geeky 🙂 )

Statistics and the unlikelihood of events

Creationists are well known to use (misguided) statistical arguments against Darwinism, stating that many evolutionary events are too unlikely to have occurred.

Bill Nye turned that upside down and conclusively argued that a worldwide flood six thousands years ago has an astronomically low probability to have produced numerous well ordered geological features of the world.

This includes:

– the huge number of fossils and limestone

–  the bio-geography of current wildlife (for instance, the absence of Kangaroos or remains thereof outside of Australia)

– the great number of living species: 16 000 000

– independent dating methods converging to the same values

Such ordered features could not have been brought about by a chaotic global flood.

The worldwide flood and the oldest tree of the planet

Nye also mentioned evidence directly contradicting Young Earth Creationism, such as the oldest tree of the world in Sweden being 9,550 years old.

Darwinism, Jesus, abortion and the afterlife

The most egregious crime of Ken Ham was his insistence that consistent Christians have to believe in a young earth, and that accepting evolution goes hand in hand with losing any hope of an afterlife and supporting abortion.

While one can find the same kind of assertions in the writings of militant atheists (Dawkins, Coyne et al.) this is completely rubbish.

I find abortion bad (expect for protecting the physical or mental health of the mother) and I passionately hope in the resurrection of all dead persons, following that of Christ. Many Roman Catholics accepting and celebrating evolution have pretty much the same convictions.

I find it wonderful that (as a humanist) Bill Nye pointed out that many Christians all over the world have no problem whatsoever to reconcile their faith with mainstream scientific views of our origins.

I also think Bill truly ought to be applauded for his kind, joyful and respectful tone during the entire debate.

Culture war and debating irrationality

I am really not sure I would have been capable of as much civility if I had been the one debating Ham.

To conclude, I believe that Bill undoubtedly won the debate at an intellectual level, and that all honest knowledgeable people cannot fail to realize this was a disastrous debacle for Ham.

I fear, however, that Ham’s rhetorical skills were enough for keeping non-scientific minds in his camp.

Young earth creationism and the demise of Christianity

I have a confession to all of my readers.

I am a sadomasochist, I like to inflict pain on myself.

Consequently, I watched one of the latest video of Ken Ham about the “seduction of our kids”.

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJPESir_moI]

If I were to refute all fallacies in this single video, a whole library could not contain all books which would have to be written.

The Leitmotiv of Ken Ham’s was that “Secularists are here to capture your kids”.

He pointed out that 2/3 of all American college students lose their faith in God and showed us videos of deconversion where people have become atheists after having been confronted with the scientific evidence for evolution.

Ken Ham believes this is increasingly happening because there is not enough young earth creationism.

Tragically, quite the contrary is true. These young folks have given up their faith BECAUSE they have been indoctrinated by creationists who taught them that they ought to reject Evolution if they want to be Christians.

Now, I have two questions for my readers:

1) what is your favorite fallacy of Ken Ham?

2) do you believe that (as a species) young-earth creationism will die out and be competed out of existence?Importa

nt themes

Creationism and Tim Chastain’s spiritual crisis

Tim Chastain is a great progressive Christian writer.

He told us his spiritual crisis which led him to reject fundamentalism and even losing his faith in God altogether before finding back his hope in Jesus.

His testimony is relatively long but it is truly worth being read.

***********************************************************

Sometimes a crisis moment occurs that changes something about us forever. Today, I will share such a moment from my life—how I experienced the loss of God.

I was a creationist. Growing up a fundamentalist, and later being an evangelical, I had no qualms about creationism and the global flood, and I accepted that the Bible taught both in Genesis. I also believed in ‘defending the faith’ and I was good at it. However, I did not like sloppy and inadequate materials that did not address the real issues of evolution, so when the creation-science movement came to prominence in the 1970s, I was ecstatic.

Creation-science teaches that God created separate species (kinds) that do not change except within their created limits; one species does not evolve into other species. All species were represented at the creation event. Therefore, man did not evolve from earlier species but was specially created by God, and man lived together with all species, including dinosaurs, in early earth.

The flood of Noah is understood to be a world-wide (global) flood in which all people and all non-aquatic animals were killed except for the representatives on the ark. This flood accounts for the geographical strata we find throughout the earth today.

I was excited by these new books, particularly The Genesis Flood by Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb, and they inspired me to develop a novel about the global flood; I still think my story was quite creative! One thing that bothered me, though, was the insistence of these authors on a young earth—an earth created no earlier than about 10,000 years ago; I thought insistence on literal 24-hour days of creation was unnecessary since a ‘day’ might have represented any length of time.

Over the next many years, I consumed these books but began to have doubts. My doubt resulted not from evolutionary proofs but from the creation-science books, themselves. As I continued to read, I began to ask, ‘Is this all we have? Are these our best arguments?’

I also wondered how the Genesis writer knew such detail about what happened at the beginning of time. Could the stories have been passed down from Adam generation-by-generation? I spent many sleepless nights with this problem until I concluded it was impossible for such stories to remain intact for the time required between Adam and Moses, and I thought it unlikely that God would dictate the stories directly to Moses so he could include them in Genesis.

I still had no inclination to accept evolution, though it was a reasonable and consistent system, because there were gaps in the theory. But I began to wonder what the Genesis creation and flood stories could mean if they were not what I had understood them to be.

Then in 1993, I read a commentary that demonstrated that the stories were written to counter similar Mesopotamian stories in which, for example, warfare among the gods resulted in the earth being created from the corpse of the vanquished. The Genesis stories, instead, depicted the creator as an orderly and thoughtful God rather than a chaotic group of super-beings.

This seemed very reasonable to me: the Genesis stories should not be read as history but as a different genre—a corrective tract against crude Mesopotamian mythology. This change in my perspective was not difficult. Though I accepted the authority of ‘scripture’, I already understood the importance of reading texts in their proper genre; I had previously abandoned dispensationalism in part due to my respect for apocalyptic genre.

However, I soon experienced the greatest crisis of my spiritual life. Leaving creationism led to an unexpected development in which I underwent more than a year of deep depression and agony as I grieved the loss of God. It was my darkest period.

Noah’s ark, pseudoscience, Genesis flood

Discarding my belief in creationism led to more than a year (1994) of deep grief over the loss of God.

Authority of Scripture, Chicago statement of inerrancy

As an evangelical, I believed in the inerrancy of the Bible. My understanding was not as extreme as those who believe every passage should be read literally and is inerrant to each word and detail. I understood that not all passages are literal or historical writings. Some are poetry and should be read as such. Others are stories or parables to make a point. Apocalyptic passages, such as Revelation, are written to comfort those in crisis and are not intended to be prophecies of the future.

Perhaps some would say I was more committed to the authority of the Bible than to what some evangelicals consider inerrancy.

In 1993, I accepted that the early chapters of Genesis were not meant to be read historically, but rather as a corrective tract against crude Mesopotamian mythology. This re-opened for me the entire question of creationism and evolution. It did not cause me stress but simply meant that I needed to completely re-evaluate the issue in light of my new discovery about Genesis.

However, in the process of assimilating the new understanding of Genesis, a related issue surfaced that almost destroyed my faith entirely. It concerned Paul and the fifth chapter of Romans. Within a lengthy argument about Jesus’ work of justification, Paul stated:

Just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.

As is clear from the preceding development of the argument, the trespass condemning all people was the trespass of Adam in the Garden of Eden. The problem to me was that Paul seems to understand Adam as an historical person and the Genesis story of the Garden of Eden as an historical description.

One might contend that Paul’s comment was simply referring to a familiar fictional story like ‘Just as Rip Van Winkle slept through the revolution, you are in danger of missing the significant event of our time!’ However, Paul seems to historicise Adam earlier in the chapter,

Death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam.

The fact seemed clear: Paul thought Adam and the Garden of Eden were historical. Paul was WRONG! He was NOT inerrant! And this did not concern a mere cultural opinion like long hair; this involved a major doctrinal issue.

Inerrancy, fundamentalism, Bible, Evangelical

While accepting that the Genesis creation and flood stories were not historical did not affect my faith at all, this revelation that Paul is not infallible and authoritative soon sent me into depths of despair. My faith in the authority of the Bible was shaken to its core. And if the Bible was not authoritative, then on what basis could I believe in God? How could I hold to any religious belief?

This spiritual crisis led to more than a year of despondency, depression, and a grieving over the loss of God. Toward the end, I read a book called God and the Philosophers that helped a little in accepting the possibility of God, but it did not really resolve anything. I had lost my confidence in the Bible and in the existence of God. My spiritual journey was over and my religious beliefs were in ashes.

And the ashes were cold.

Unexpectedly, I began to realize a different perspective. It restored my spiritual foundation in a way that inerrancy of the Bible never could. In fact, had my trust in inerrancy not collapsed into ashes, I probably would not have discovered this new perspective.

Against an increasingly solid scientific case for evolution, creationists defend an historical view of the story of Adam beyond all reasonability. This appears a bit odd since the Bible rarely refers to Adam after the first chapters of Genesis. He appears in a few genealogical lists, but the only other writer to mention Adam is Paul.

In 1 Timothy chapter two, Paul uses Adam and Eve as an argument against women having authority over men. Corinthians chapter 15 mentions the historical Adam in Paul’s argument for the resurrection of believers. The most crucial passage, though, is Romans chapter 5. Here Paul argues for faith in Jesus’ work of justification rather than trust in our own personal good works. Paul seems to consider Adam an historical figure.

While accepting that the Genesis stories are not meant as historical accounts is not necessarily a big issue, this conclusion leads directly to the inerrancy of Paul. Not only does Paul consider Adam as historical, but Adam figures significantly in Paul’s theology—especially in regard to his teaching of original sin in Romans chapter 5. The failure of this theological plank has a tremendous impact on the rest of evangelical theology. If Adam is not significant in himself, Paul makes him very significant. Paul’s fallibility on this important matter would lead many fundamentalists and evangelicals to the pit of confusion and despair.

It certainly had that effect on me, but out of the darkness of my despair came a glimmer of something new. As I read the stories of Jesus from the memories of his earliest followers, I found him to be compelling. I was drawn to him. Though I could no longer depend on the authority of an inerrant Bible to accept what his followers wrote to be true; yet I was drawn to him.

Now, I have been impressed by other people of whom I have read. Gandhi is an example. Others include Socrates, C. S. Lewis, and Gautama. But the Jesus I met in the writings of his followers was intensely compelling in a way different from the others. Here was a person I could trust. He is accepting, supportive, inviting. He is concerned with me and my welfare and he claims he can do something about it.

How people fare in their biographies has a lot to do with their biographers, but though I have only met Jesus through the memories of his earliest followers—I trust him. I trust him when he tells of the Father; I trust him when he offers peace, reconciliation, and rest; I trust him when he promises eternal life.

If I trust Jesus, the question arises, ‘On what basis do I trust him?’ Authority of the Bible is not the basis, because I have come to understand that this is an unrealistic approach to the Bible. The absolute reliability of his followers is an inadequate basis because they are human. Their memories could be faulty; they could have misinterpreted Jesus’ words and actions; and they certainly wrote in response to issues of their day, so their writings have a measure of agenda.

That being said, their writings do not seem to have the marks of invention, lies, or fraud. The person of Jesus stands out. The earliest followers were transformed by him and their reports about him transformed others. They transform me. But, in all of this, I know that they could be mistaken or that I am mistaken.

What other basis do I have to trust Jesus? The answer is—none. In the end, I accept the Jesus I find in the writings of his followers by faith. As it turns out, I trust Jesus by faith alone. This sounds very fundamentalist-evangelical, but it is not; often they do not really trust Jesus by faith alone—they trust the Bible by faith alone. I have no safety net, but, for me, trusting this Jesus without a safety net is more than satisfactory.

*************************************************************************

He finally asked:

How does my journey compare to, or help with, your spiritual journey?

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

 

 

CreationWiki, evolution and the inerrant Bible

Eine deutsche Version befindet sich hier.

For all of us who are interested in fringe groups, CreationWiki provides us with an invaluable resource.

Naturally it is pretty dubious as a scientific source, but it gives us deep insights into the mind of creationists.

BildSome selected quotes follow.

Some who dismiss the idea of a global flood do so because they say the Flood would have had to rise as high as Mount Everest, because Genesis 7:19 says the waters covered “all the high hills.” Mount Everest peaks at 29,035 feet (8850 metres), and they say there is not enough water on earth to cover such a height.[13]

This is actually a straw man argument. Creationists do not claim that the Flood covered Mount Everest to its current height (see below). Those who accept the local-flood theory have to admit that the flood must have covered Mount Ararat, because that is where the ark landed. Mount Ararat is now 17,000 feet (5182 meters) high. In the local-flood theory, it would have had the same height before as after the Flood. But waters do not form a cube 17,000 feet high, which seems to make the local-flood theory illogical. The Bible tells us what happened:

“You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight; they flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys, to the place you assigned for them. You set a boundary they cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth.”Psalm 104:6-9

This passage tells us that mountains rose and valleys sank during the Flood. Mount Everest rose up during the Flood, so the Flood did not need to reach the height that Mount Everest is today.

There is enough water on earth for a global flood. If the earth was smoothed out, the water in the oceans would cover it to a depth of about 8,813 feet (2.6 kilometres). This does not include the water in rivers, lakes, glaciers, and other sources. They would add about another 2–3 thousand feet (600-900 metres). In reality, the Flood would only need to be a little over 7,000 feet (2.1 kilometres) deep.

So the real question is whether it is possible for Mount Everest to have risen to its current height fast enough to fit a time-scale consistent with the Flood. The earthquake that caused the Indonesian tsunami of December 26, 2004 caused an uplift of at least 20 feet (six metres) in a few minutes, which is a speed of about 240 feet per hour (84 metres per hour). At that rate Mount Everest could have reached its current height in about five days. Forces observed in earthquakes are sufficient, if extended long enough, to quickly raise the highest mountain to its current height in just a few days.

The result is that, based on the amount of water on earth, and observed tectonic forces, there was the potential to quickly raise mountains. So the global Flood of the Bible is theoretically possible. You can see a seafloor study that traces culprits behind Indian Ocean tsunami[14] for further explanation.”

“Could a just God destroy innocent life?

This objection refers to the many living things that were destroyed in the Flood. Why destroy the innocent animals? This is answered with an examination of the context. Mortal life, including plants and animals, since the Fall of Adam and Eve, is subject to death. Withholding a global flood would not have saved any animal or plant from death. The justice of God provided a way for many species to be saved on the Ark. God waited as long as his justice would allow, before causing a Flood that would shorten the life spans of individual creatures but would not destroy species: Life would return and the earth would be repopulated.”

(Wow, and it is evolutionists who are nihilists denying any value to life???)

Homo erectus is the species name assigned to human fossils that evolutionists claim are transitional forms between australopithecines (apes) and both Neanderthals and modern humans. To date, more than 280 fossil individuals have been found that are identified with this group.[1] The species name means “erect or upright man” and was the name first put forth by Ernst Mayr to unify the classification of Asian fossils.

Creationists generally agree that all supposed ape-men fossils are, in fact, either ape or fully human. Species names within the taxonomic genus homo are viewed as fabricated classes invented to support evolutionary theory, and should be regarded as mere instruments of propaganda. The majority of Homo erectus fossils represent the populations of humans that lived following the global flood and the Tower of Babel, and should be considered true Homo sapiens.[2]”

The extensive timeframe of Homo erectus fossils overlaps other hominids so extensively that it should void any attempt to claim an evolutionary sequence. For example, Homo erectus is almost universally held to have evolved from Homo habilis despite the fact that their fossils appear at roughly the same time (the oldest H. erectus fossil is dated at 1.95 mya and the oldest H. habilis fossil dated at just over 2.0 mya). Furthermore, they continued to coexists throughout the entire 500,000 year span when Homo habilis is said to have lived.[11] Such inconsistencies between the theory of evolution and the fossil evidence are often concealed. Marvin Lubenow warns in his book, Bones of Contention, about the way that evolutionists present the relationship between Homo habilis and Homo erectus..

Terms like Homo erectus and Homo habilis are convenient terms to use in reference to groups of fossil material. But it is obvious that when evolutionists give dates for Homo erectus that do not fit the fossil material, or when they say that Homo habilis evolved into Homo erectus, contrary to what the fossil material shows, they are using those terms in a manipulative manner without regard for the fossil material in those categories. It is not unusual in evolutionary charts to show Homo habilis somewhat below Homo erectus, implying that Homo habilis is earlier in time.[12]

Furthermore, H. erectus is shown to have lived alongside what are known as “early Homo sapiens” during their entire 700,000 year existence, and alongside Neanderthals throughout the 800,000 years of their history. And lastly, Homo erectus individuals have lived side by side with anatomically modern humans for 2 million years (according to evolutionary chronology).[13]”

I think that I am much more depressed than angry after having read that.

Creationists (especially those believing in a young earth) are one of the main reasons why people give up their Christian faith and become atheists.

I think that Richard Dawkins in all this glory could never be as successful as they are in that respect.

Losing faith, apostasy, atheism, bad apologetics

http://sphericalbullshit.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/creationist01.jpg