We recently received a series of comments from a website visitor who we will refer to as PJ. The comments were made in response to an article by Dr. Todd Beall entitled, 'Christians in the Public Square: How Far Should Evangelicals Go in the Creation-Evolution Debate?' ABR Staff member Henry Smith responds.
Thank you for contacting the ministry of ABR and for posting comments to our website.
I will begin by being very direct with you: many of the comments you have posted indicate a strongly entrenched predisposition and close-minded attitude against the authority of the Bible as the inerrant and infallible Word of God. Nonetheless, I thought it might be fruitful for you and for others to provide a response to your assertions. Various portions of your comments are interspersed throughout this article, and your full comments are found at the bottom in their original order.
“I'm still curious as to why you haven't posted my previous comments. Is fundamentalist Christian doctrine so flimsy that it can't withstand some criticism?”
ABR often has delays in posting comments to our articles because of our limited staff. In addition, when we became aware of your comments several days ago, we contemplated the value of them for people visiting our site. If we can be frank, your comments are so replete with errors, misconceptions and contradictions, we initially did not see much value in posting them. As we thought further about it, and in light of your persistence, we decided to post them along with a response from us.
It is clear that your use of the term “fundamentalist” is designed to be a pejorative against those who hold to the authority of the Bible. In the present day, the term is loaded with inflammatory baggage and faulty ideas about the Christian faith. The use of the term only exposes your own strongly held biases against the position which ABR and many other Christians affirm.
Concerning “criticism”, the ABR website, magazine, and speaking ministries are designed to engage with the very criticisms you imply we cannot withstand. Have you taken the time to actually read some of the 500+ research articles on our website?
“I. Gould, you criticize science for being "nonsense" which has no basis in fact -- but if that is what science is, what is Christianity? Scientists at least have physical evidence, and theories based on such.”
Here, we will allow I. Gould to respond in his own way to your comments, but we have a number of things to add to the conversation. First, I. Gould did not say that “science” was nonsense, he said that “much of astronomy was absolute theoretical nonsense”. The context makes it clear he is not referring to observable, repeatable empirical data, but the extrapolations and pontifications made by scientists about the distant past concerning cosmic origins. These theories are not accessible to the empirical scientific method, but are deeply informed by philosophical presuppositions: most notably, philosophical naturalism. The following quote is helpful:
Advocates of evolutionary theory practice evolutionism when they routinely invoke (and dogmatically defend) naturalistic and humanistic philosophical presuppositions, and arbitrarily apply those presuppositions to their interpretation of the available empirical data. This fact (which many of them zealously deny) severely erodes evolutionists’ credibility, and effectively disqualifies them from any claim to objectivity in matters concerning origins and science, though much material is published by evolutionists under the pretense that it is the product only of purely objective and unprejudiced scientific inquiry.
The question of origins is plainly a matter of science history—not the domain of applied science. Contrary to the unilateral denials of many evolutionists, one’s worldview does indeed play heavily on one’s interpretation of scientific data, a phenomenon that is magnified in matters concerning origins, where neither repeatability, nor observation, nor measurement—the three immutable elements of the scientific method—may be employed. Many proponents of evolutionism nevertheless persist in claiming exclusive “scientific” status for their popularized beliefs, while heaping out-of-hand dismissal and derision upon all doubters...
We agree with you that scientists (and all of us) possess “evidence.” But your argument naively and erroneously assumes that such “evidence” can be interpreted without respect to one’s worldview, and it assumes such interpretations are theologically and philosophically neutral. Nothing could be further from the truth. Greg Bahnsen succinctly states the matter this way:
The activity of science is never impartial; there is always a substructure of metaphysical or religiously motivated belief. If there were not, science would be futile, its feet firmly planted in mid-air. The naturalistic scientist claims to work with “the facts.” Yet even to speak of “facts” is to make some metaphysical declaration concerning the existence of factuality itself.
Your argument also assumes that present natural phenomenon in the observable present day can be extrapolated into the distant past. This is another unprovable philosophical assumption: the assumption of uniformitarianism. This is “the idea that the processes we see at work now in the universe were always at work at the same rate in the same way,” which Dr. Beall logically noted in the article containing your comments. The assumption of uniformitarianism is fraught with numerous insuperable difficulties. One problem is that it is unprovable, since the distant past is beyond scientific observation. It also precludes against miracles, catastrophism and God Himself.
“What do Christians have? Faith, and only faith. I'm no expert on the world's religions, but I believe that Christianity is the only religion that discerns the voice of God in its scriptural texts (texts that were clearly written by humans), and the only religion which has elevated its messiah to the status of "son of God" or "God incarnate".
It isn't necessary to believe in the inerrancy of scripture to be a good Christian. Believing in God and Jesus is all that is necessary. I say that because I assume you and Dr. Beall are afraid of hellfire, which is why you cling to scripture so fanatically. God isn't going to strike you down if you use your common sense.”
Here, you claim that all the Christian has is “faith”. What is your definition of “faith?” Is “faith” a sightless leap into the abyss, a blind step into the bottomless pit of epistemological darkness without a shred of proof? Is this what you mean by “faith?” If so, this is certainly not what the Christian means by “faith”, and thus, you are railing against a straw man.
This notion of faith is not Christian at all, but a dogmatic and irrational fideism. Fideism, as cited by Greg Bahnsen, can be defined in these ways: "1. Christian assertions are matters of blind belief and cannot be known or demonstrated to be true. 2. ...religious truths are inaccessible to human reason. 3. ...a pejorative term for subjectivist theories which are based upon religious experience and which undervalue reason in theology."
In your comments later, you claim that “it is a belief in Christ that makes a Christian a Christian.” We affirm the formal truth of your statement, but with a number of qualifications, because we doubt you mean the same thing that we do. What does it mean to “believe in Christ?” How do you define such belief? Is it “faith in Christ”? What does it mean to have “faith in Christ”? But I thought Christians have “faith and only faith”, not Christ. Which is it?
To what revelation or authority do you appeal to make such an assertion? Your own subjective experience? Why should we believe your claims? Do you have any evidence to support these claims about Christ? In other words, what evidence can you provide us that demonstrates your claim about what it means to be a Christian?
Do you claim “faith in Christ” based on what you find in the Bible? Surely you don’t appeal to the Bible to make such a claim, since you believe the Bible to be “clearly written by humans” and not God, and that the creation account in Genesis One is “crude and illogical”, written by men from a “crude and unsophisticated culture.”
Further, how do you go about “discerning the voice of God” in scriptural texts? By what criteria and authority do you determine what is from God and what is from men? If we accept your argument that the Bible is in error about creation in Genesis One, and that the Bible is filled with myths and errors, why should anyone accept your claim that the Bible is correct about Christ? What if the Bible is wrong about Christ as well? Since you use the claims of the modern scientific establishment to impugn Genesis, to be consistent, you must then also apply the same authority structure in your critique of the Gospel accounts. Surely these same scientists will deny the virgin birth, the resurrection, the miracles of Christ, the exorcism of demons, and so forth. What “Christ” does that leave you with? Certainly not the exalted Son of God found in the New Testament.
Watch, Don't We Just Need 'Faith'?
We should note here that it was not the church that first exalted Jesus as the Son of God, it was God the Father who exalted Him, followed by those who repented and believed in His death and resurrection for their sins. This was not invented by the church... it was given to the church by God in Christ. This is profoundly different from your characterization.
To make matters worse for your position, Jesus Himself held a very high view of the Old Testament, an attitude that is profoundly and utterly at odds with your claims. He claimed that “scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:10). He never denigrated, impugned or changed Scripture in any way. Jesus brought correction to misinterpretations of Scripture by His opponents. Jesus appealed to Scripture concerning Himself after His resurrection on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24: 44-48).
Jesus also said in John 5:45-47: “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” The writings of Moses include Genesis. So how exactly is it that you want to believe in Jesus, but not Genesis?
Jesus also appealed to the historicity and factuality of Genesis 1 and 2 in his discussion with the Pharisees concerning divorce (Mark 10:6). In that dialogue, Jesus informs his audience that mankind was present “at the beginning of creation,” which means Jesus believed that the Genesis creation narrative was not only historical and accurate, but authoritative in defining marriage and that mankind was present at the beginning of the creation of the cosmos. This means that Jesus rejected any and all claims to cosmic origins foreign this kind of understanding of Genesis One. See: Jesus Christ on the Inerrancy of Scripture
We do agree that the salvation of a person is not dependent on their understanding or affirmation of inerrancy, but their belief in Christ as the resurrected Son of God who died for sinners and was raised from the dead. But the only reason we know that this is the requirement for salvation is because it has been preserved for us in the Bible, the same Bible you claim is fraught with errors. Why would you stake your eternal destiny on a person who deeds are found in a book filled with mistakes?
The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy is helpful in this regard:
WE AFFIRM that a confession of the full authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture is vital to a sound understanding of the whole of the Christian faith. We further affirm that such confession should lead to increasing conformity to the image of Christ.
WE DENY that such confession is necessary for salvation. However, we further deny that inerrancy can be rejected without grave consequences, both to the individual and to the Church.
Jesus also was very explicit about the reality of hell and final judgment. He was clear that men could only be saved through Him. We believe in the doctrine of hell because that is the doctrine that Jesus specifically and unequivocally taught. It is clear, once again, that the “Jesus” of whom you speak is merely an idol of your own making, a specter of your own construction, a phantasm of your own imagination.
“There may be some holes in scientific theory, but the holes will be filled soon enough.”
This statement betrays your own faith commitment to the pontifications and theories of the modern scientific establishment. It is not a statement about the facts; it is a statement of belief about the future. You have invested “faith”, with no basis but “faith”. This is a secular eschatology, to be sure. You don’t yet possess certain evidence to fill the “holes”, but you trust that the scientists will eventually fill those holes. These scientists function as your own personal "high priests", priests in whom you have invested utter trust and faith.
"You say that the problem with science is that it thinks it knows everything, but isn't that what Christians do?"
The secular scientists certainly act like they know everything, dogmatically claiming they know how the universe came into existence and that mankind evolved from apes. The problem is not with “science”, per se, the problem is with the arrogance of the secular scientist who believes he can explain reality without respect to the God who created reality.
We don’t know any Christians who claim to know everything. Anyone who claims they know everything would be exalting themselves as God. What Christians do claim is that we have a personal and intimate relationship with the God of the Bible, and He knows everything. That self-same God has revealed Himself in the pages of Holy Scripture, and has told us what He has done in sending His Son to die for sinners, and in creating the universe. We claim that the scientists are utterly and completely wrong about their cosmic origin theories because God has said they are wrong, not because we know everything.
"They elevate their personal faith to the status of fact. It is a much greater leap to elevate faith to fact than it is to elevate scientific evidence to fact."
Here, you have posited another erroneous definition of “faith.” Christian faith certainly has a personal component to it, but it is far from merely personal. This definition requires that “faith” be divorced from “facts.” This idea is not Christian, but a post-modern construct. I outlined this in another article, An Army of Straw Men:
This illegitimate bifurcation of reality is a post-modern faith position... The Christian author and apologist Francis Schaeffer used the simple illustration of a two story house to illustrate the tenets of this belief system, which has many of its roots in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Essentially, faith is relegated to the second story of the house. Faith is detached from the realities of the physical world, nature, science, and archaeological and biblical studies, which reside on the first floor of the house. One has nothing to do with the other.
This view of the world is, of course, completely antithetical to what the Bible teaches about the Lordship of God in Christ over the entire cosmos.
For more on the relationship between Christian Faith and "Facts", see: Of Facts and Faith
"The creation story in the Bible was clearly devised by members of an ancient and unsophisticated culture. It is simplistic and crude and illogical, but it was the best they could do to explain the unexplainable."
This haughty and arrogant characterization of ancient people is what C.S. Lewis rightly called “chronological snobbery.” Perhaps you could take the time to explain to us how the ancients built the pyramids of Egypt, since modern man is so much more intelligent and you are obviously of a superior mold than people who lived in the ancient world?
This comment also betrays an ignorance of the beauty and profound theological depth and meaning of the Genesis One creation account. Any Hebrew scholar who has studied it will tell you that it is written in a wonderful way that speaks of intellectual skill and creativity in writing, the complete opposite of what you claim.
We must be living in different universes. The Bible is full of fables, theories, songs and some historical accounts that may or may not be accurate, but I doubt that much of it is factual. By accepting the creation account in Genesis as fact, you and Dr. Beall are showing yourselves to be illogical extremists. You have joined the ranks of "science deniers", a term which has become synonymous with "fools". If you are going to believe in a six-day creation, you might as well go all the way and believe that the earth is flat and that the moon is made of cheese. The creation story in Genesis is little more than a guess by the early Jews, and not even a good guess.
We actually do live in the same universe. The problem is the way that worldviews inform the evaluation of evidence. Our final authority is Scripture, and so we view the universe through that divinely inspired revelation. You view the universe through the precepts of human autonomy and a predominantly secular worldview, in denial of human sinfulness. The Bible speaks clearly of people who believe they are right, but are utterly wrong: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12). I encourage you to take it very seriously.
The term “science deniers” is a typical debating tactic used to denigrate the opponent and discredit Christians with inflammatory rhetoric. Naturally, we do not deny “science”. Empirical science serves humanity well. What we reject is historical science rooted in anti-supernatural presuppositions tyrannized and controlled by philosophical naturalism.
The flat earth argument... yawn. This has been thoroughly refuted by our friends over at CMI: The Flat Earth Myth and Creationism (https://creation.com/the-flat-earth-myth-and-creationism).
Science, however, is showing us that it CAN'T be true. I mean, we all know that humans and the dinosaurs didn't coexist, and that the dinosaurs flourished for millions of years.
“Science” does no such thing. First, people do science, and people have biases, prejudices, blind spots, and are prone to error. They also have firmly entrenched worldviews which control the way they evaluate evidence. I refer the reader to my previous comments above about the distinction between historical and empirical science.
Concerning the dinosaurs, much research has been done to show that dinosaurs and humans did, indeed, coexist. There is no proof they “flourished for millions of years.” This is merely an evolutionary assertion based assumptions about the unobservable, unrepeatable, inaccessible past. Extensive research on the dinosaurs can be found on the website of our friends at Creation Ministries International: (off-site link)
"Modern Christians are faced with a choice: Either they abandon their logic and believe in the Bible, or they accept science and view the Bible as the writings of humans, which is clearly what it is. (Dr. Beall has obviously chosen to abandon logic.)"
I don’t know any Christian, or any mentally healthy human being for that matter, who has abandoned “logic.” Dr. Beall has chosen to reject “Darwinian/macro/naturalistic evolution”, not logic. Your argument erroneously equates “logic” with “naturalistic evolution.”
A clever tactic, PJ, but a tactic totally devoid of logic!
Along with Dr. Beall, what many Christians reject are the evolutionary, naturalistic claims made by modern scientists concerning cosmic origins and history. That is not the rejection of “logic”, that is a rejection of a naturalistic worldview with a naturalistic interpretation of the evidence. In fact, without the God of the Bible, you have no philosophical basis to claim that logic is something that you can even depend upon.
For more, see offsite:
"My position is that it does not make you less of a Christian to take the Bible with a grain of salt. The litmus test is whether you believe in Christ, not whether you believe in the Bible. It is a belief in Christ that makes a Christian a Christian."
On what basis do you hold this position? How do you determine what it means to be “more” of a Christian or “less” of a Christian? How big should the “grain of salt” be? How do you know what the correct size of the grain is? Please provide us with the criteria that determine the proper size! If you take these questions seriously, you will discover that your criteria only consists of personal preferences and a dependence on esteemed authority figures in the world of secular science.
Concerning the Christian litmus test... on what basis do you claim that “belief in Christ” is the litmus test? The Bible which you so quickly impugn? If the Bible is only the work of men, and those men made errors, how do you know the NT claims about belief in Christ are also not in error? Don’t you see how utterly subjective and personally preferential your position is?
"Didn't Jesus criticize his contemporaries for being obsessed with scripture? And isn't that what fundamentalist Christians are doing today?"
How do you know Jesus criticized his contemporaries about their obsession with Scripture? The only place we find this information is the Bible, the same Bible you claim was written by men and is in error. How do you know that the words of Jesus found in the Bible about this matter are even true? And further, you grossly misrepresent what Jesus was actually saying to the Pharisees about Scripture (John 5:30-47). A careful reading of the context reveals that Jesus criticized the Pharisees not because they accepted the authority of Scripture, but because they rejected the One of Whom Scripture speaks, namely, HIM: Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In other words, they entrusted their eternal life in their own understanding of Scripture instead of the Messiah who is revealed in Scripture. There is a profound difference between Jesus’s words, and what you claim Jesus meant by those words.
PJ, it is apparent from your comments that you have rejected the authority of the Bible as the revelation of God and erected another authority structure in its place: YOU. You have placed yourself in the position as the final arbiter of truth claims concerning Jesus, God and the Christian faith. You have chosen what you believe to be palatable, and what you believe should be rejected. You have chosen other authority figures, your own reasoning, and scientists above the authority of Scripture. The position you have taken is utterly at odds with the attitude of Jesus Himself, the person you claim to follow. Whoever this Jesus is that you are following, it is certainly not the Jesus found in the pages of the Bible: it is a Jesus of your own making, an idol.
This is not only foolish, but dangerous. I implore you to completely turn away from such a position. It will only lead to confusion and self-destruction. And I encourage you to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, whose life, death and resurrection are sufficient to give you eternal life.
The Jesus Christ found in the pages of the inerrant and infallible 66 books of the Bible.
I. Gould, you criticize science for being "nonsense" which has no basis in fact -- but if that is what science is, what is Christianity? Scientists at least have physical evidence, and theories based on such. What do Christians have? Faith, and only faith. I'm no expert on the world's religions, but I believe that Christianity is the only religion that discerns the voice of God in its scriptural texts (texts that were clearly written by humans), and the only religion which has elevated its messiah to the status of "son of God" or "God incarnate". You say that the problem with science is that it thinks it knows everything, but isn't that what Christians do? They elevate their personal faith to the status of fact. It is a much greater leap to elevate faith to fact than it is to elevate scientific evidence to fact.
I. Gould, let me add something to my last post. There is actually a great deal of integrity in what Dan Bruce is doing. He finds the Bible believable, and so he believes it. But he also finds science believable, and so he believes that too. He is not, in short, denying his logic in order to be a Christian. He believes that both are true and that someday they will be reconciled. What I discern in Mr. Bruce is a lack of ego. Unlike everyone else (including me), he doesn't claim to have all the answers, and he is willing to wait for them. He is not charging into the public arena like a bull, telling other people that they are wrong. You could learn something from him.
I'm still curious as to why you haven't posted my previous comments. Is fundamentalist Christian doctrine so flimsy that it can't withstand some criticism?
The creation story in the Bible was clearly devised by members of an ancient and unsophisticated culture. It is simplistic and crude and illogical, but it was the best they could do to explain the unexplainable. Science, however, is showing us that it CAN'T be true. I mean, we all know that humans and the dinosaurs didn't coexist, and that the dinosaurs flourished for millions of years. Modern Christians are faced with a choice: Either they abandon their logic and believe in the Bible, or they accept science and view the Bible as the writings of humans, which is clearly what it is. (Dr. Beall has obviously chosen to abandon logic.)
My position is that it does not make you less of a Christian to take the Bible with a grain of salt. The litmus test is whether you believe in Christ, not whether you believe in the Bible. It is a belief in Christ that makes a Christian a Christian. Didn't Jesus criticize his contemporaries for being obsessed with scripture? And isn't that what fundamentalist Christians are doing today?
We must be living in different universes. The Bible is full of fables, theories, songs and some historical accounts that may or may not be accurate, but I doubt that much of it is factual. By accepting the creation account in Genesis as fact, you and Dr. Beall are showing yourselves to be illogical extremists. You have joined the ranks of "science deniers", a term which has become synonymous with "fools". If you are going to believe in a six-day creation, you might as well go all the way and believe that the earth is flat and that the moon is made of cheese. The creation story in Genesis is little more than a guess by the early Jews, and not even a good guess. The body of scientific evidence that has accrued over the centuries is huge and undeniable -- yes, undeniable. There may be some holes in scientific theory, but the holes will be filled soon enough. Personally, I think that science will eventually prove the existence of God (and when they do, they won't find an old, bearded man). I am a creationist and also an evolutionist. The two can coexist. It isn't necessary to believe in the inerrancy of scripture to be a good Christian. Believing in God and Jesus is all that is necessary. I say that because I assume you and Dr. Beall are afraid of hellfire, which is why you cling to scripture so fanatically. God isn't going to strike you down if you use your common sense.