Joe Carter from Evangelical Outpost analyzes the views of Roy Clouser on Genesis 1, and finds them acceptable. They take the view that to read Genesis 1 as teaching scientific truth is just a sophisticated version of the “flip-and-point” method of exegesis. They assert that it is to read an interpretation into the text that Moses never intended. Clouser calls this the “Encyclopedic Assumption”, which means that the reader assumes that the Bible is intended to answer all sorts of questions, like an encyclopedia.
The encyclopedic assumption may not go so far as to think that the answer to every question is in Scripture, but it does suppose Scripture to contain answers to all sorts of nonreligious questions. It ignores the Bible’s own central theme and purpose, and instead of trying to ascertain the literal meaning of the text (where “literal” means the intent of the author), it tries to force the text to yield truths about matters which never crossed the minds of its author(s).
I’d be interested how they know what intention Moses had. It appears to me that he intended to tell us how the universe came to be, how long it took and how long ago it happened.
Joe asserts that the text is about “teleological order”, rather than chronological order. But how does he know that? There sure seem to be a lot of chronological references in there. Joe says that Genesis is not intended to tell us how old humanity is. And yet there is chapter after chapter telling us that x lived so many years, begat y children, and then died. Why all this detail if it is not the intention of the author to communicate these facts?
This is just the same old chestnut we’ve heard a thousand times before. When Joe started talking about overly simplistic interpretations of Scripture, I knew right where he was going, because they always go to the same place, which is that Genesis 1 isn’t really saying what it’s saying.
He plays right into the hands of the naturalists by creating a division between “scientific knowledge” and other kinds of knowledge. He approvingly quotes Clouser who says, “The encyclopedic assumption may not go so far as to think that the answer to every question is in Scripture, but it does suppose Scripture to contain answers to all sorts of nonreligious questions.” The exact length of time that the earth has been here, and how it came to be, is a “nonreligious question” “. Well thank you very much Immanuel Kant for your continued influence on our thinking. It was Kant who firmly ensconced in our thinking the extremely unbiblical idea that some knowledge was knowable by our senses and experience, and some knowledge was mystical and mysterious in nature, and religion was the topic of the second kind of knowledge only, and not the first.
All issues are religious issues. If you think the question of creation versus evolution is a nonreligious question, then you’ve got more in common with Pharyngula than you do with Christianity. You’ve just divided truth into things that are important to know God, and things that don’t matter. You’re just like the Israelites who said, Jehovah’s a great war God and so we worship him on Sabbath but Baal’s great for getting the crops in so we’ll listen to him the rest of the time. You are, in short, committing syncretism. You are combining philosophies, saying that Christianity’s good for some things but that we have to turn to naturalism for others. But when Jesus appeared to Thomas and called on him to believe, he showed him the nailprints and invited Thomas to feel them. The natural world always supports the Bible, and if we think the natural world contradicts the Bible, it is our understanding of the natural world that needs to change rather than the plain statements of Scripture. This I would ask of you, Joe: How much scientific evidence would be required to overthrow your belief in the resurrection of Christ?
Creation NEVER interprets Scripture. Only Scripture interprets Scripture. And when you bring up that old “two-book” stuff again, you assume that we have somewhere written down for us in never-changing form what the book of nature says. But there is no such book. So what you’ve just put on a par, Joe, is the eternal Word of God and some scientist’s interpretation of how old the world is, which will change by next week.
It’s not hard to understand Genesis 1. It’s not a mystery. It’s only a mystery because you think atheistic scientists have something to tell us about what the Bible says. Your rebellion against the text is what makes it hard. But the text is clear. God made the earth in six days, about six thousand years ago, and then rested the seventh day. You make it hard because you want to believe something else.
Joe and Closer want to say that this is an essentially interpretive issue. They say that they understand Genesis 1 better than we do, since they put this fancy gloss about “teleological purpose” on it. But big words don’t change the fact that they’ve denied what Genesis 1 says. They have stood the meaning right on its head, as I go into in more detail here. And they always give the game away in the end, by their assertion that the natural world informs us that the plain reading of Scripture must be wrong. It is the “science” of the issue which always drives them to say that six days must mean something other than six days. If Joe had stuck to plain Scriptural interpretation then I might have a tiny bit more respect for his position. But he explicitly states that it is the popular interpretation of the natural data which drives his understanding of Scripture and not the other way round. And Roy Clouser begins his article by introducing it as an attempt to resolve the conflict between Scripture and evolutionary theory.
I’ll give you a hint how to resolve that conflict- one of them is true and the other is a lie from the pit of hell.
Hebrews 11:3- By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
I’m sorry if this is tough language. I like EO enough to have it in my blogroll. But if we don’t give up this nonsense about scientific truth versus religious truth, then we might as well fold up shop, because the naturalists have already won. This post by Joe is the argument of a naturalist. Let’s start making the arguments of Biblicists. Let’s start submitting purely and simply to the word of God.
UPDATE: I guess I want to back off the tone of this post just a little. I really am very concerned about what Joe is expressing in his post, but I certainly don’t need to imply that Joe is less than committed to the truth of Scripture. So I’m sorry for the tone of the post, but I stand by the substance of it.