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Ham on Nye: Our Take

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February 5, 2014 Tags: Christian Unity, Science & Worldviews, Science as Christian Calling
Ham on Nye: Our Take

Today's entry was written by Emily Ruppel, Deborah Haarsma, Jim Stump, John Walton, Dennis Venema, and Ted Davis. You can read more about what we believe here.

Those who follow the activities of BioLogos—including seekers, scholars, scientists, and pastors—probably won’t be surprised that we haven’t been too optimistic about the potential consequences of yesterday’s debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. As scientists and science aficionados, we’ve been concerned that the rhetoric employed by Ham would seem to undercut the validity of evolutionary theory for those without a strong grasp on the body of evidence supporting it. As Christians, we’ve worried that our faith will be presented to the world as a tree with only one branch, rather than a rich community of believers with diverse views on origins and God’s ongoing relationship to creation.

But perhaps even more distressingly, we’ve anticipated that one of the lasting effects of this debate will be to further alienate Christianity from science in the public consciousness. As BioLogos president Deb Haarsma wrote recently, constant struggle, argumentation, and debate about worldviews is not the only way to view the relationship between science and faith!

So who won? How did it go?

Of course, we at BioLogos agreed with both debaters at various times throughout the debate and were pleased to note an atmosphere of (mostly) civility and courtesy between both parties. It’s impossible to encapsulate two and a half hours of intense conversation in a single blog post—and only time will tell what effect this event will have on the public conversation on creation and evolution. We anticipate much commentary in news and blog outlets in the coming days regarding who “won” the debate and what was said by both debaters.

Since we are more concerned with how this event will affect the acceptance of evolution in the evangelical community and the accurate representation of what a Bible-believing Christian looks like to the general public, our response to the debate is not a blow-by-blow of the arguments made but rather a series of “big picture” reflections by BioLogos scholars.

Jim Stump photoFrom Jim Stump, Content Manager:

The question of the debate was whether creation is a viable model for explaining origins. Not surprisingly, they disagreed. Perhaps part of the reason for that was that the question was not specific enough: Viable for what? Viable for whom? Young Earth Creationism is certainly viable for millions of Christians. It’s not viable for millions of other Christians. From both sides we heard a lot about what is reasonable and what is unreasonable. But “reasonable” like “viable” is a relational term. Individual claims like the age of the earth or the reality of miracles seem reasonable or unreasonable only against a backdrop of other beliefs. If Ham’s interpretation of the Bible is accepted, then it isn’t reasonable to think the universe is billions of years old. So no amount of evidence about the age of the universe will convince him otherwise. The argument instead needs to focus on his interpretation of Scripture before he’ll even consider the science. If Nye’s naturalism is accepted, then it isn’t reasonable to think that God has any role in the world today. So no amount of quoting Bible verses to him will be effective. Perhaps his concerns about suffering and Christian exclusivism need to be addressed before he’ll even consider a Christian view of creation.

At BioLogos we are not just seeking to defend what seems reasonable to us, but we’re seeking truth from Scripture and from the natural world to form a coherent picture of God’s action in the world.

Ted Davis photoFrom Ted Davis, Fellow for the History of Science:

A central point of the debate was whether the historical sciences are actually “sciences” in the legitimate sense, or somehow distinct from observational and experimental sciences. Are a young earth and old earth equally valid views? These issues were addressed in my 2012 online course “Science and the Bible”, which gave an overview of several “viable models” held by Christians about origins. Particularly relevant are the discussions of the development of the young earth creationism movement and of the principle of accommodation for interpreting Genesis 1.

John Walton photoFrom John Walton, BioLogos advisor:

In general I appreciated the cordial and respectful tone that both debaters evidenced. Most of the debate was about scientific evidence, which I am not the one to address. The only comment that I want to make in that regard is that it was evident that Ken Ham believed that all evolutionists were naturalists—an identification that those associated with BioLogos would strongly contest.

But both speakers also showed assumptions about the Bible that provide opportunity for analysis. Bill Nye repeatedly returned to the idea that the Bible was a book translated over and over again over thousands of years. In his opinion this results in a product that could be no more trusted than the end result in the game of telephone. In this opinion he shows his lack of clear understanding of the whole process of the transmission of texts and the textual basis for today’s translations. The point he should have been making is that any translation is an interpretation. That is the point on which to contest Ken Ham’s “natural” readings of Scripture. We cannot base the details of our interpretations on translated (and therefore interpreted) text. We have to interact with a Hebrew text, not an English one. Nye also tried to drive a wedge between Old Testament and New Testament—a non-productive direction. The point he was trying to get at, but never fully exploited was how dependent Ham’s position was on interpretation.

I commend Ken Ham’s frequent assertion of the gospel message. His testimony to his faith was admirable and of course, I agree with it. I also share his beliefs about the nature of the Bible, but I do not share his interpretation of the Bible on numerous key points. From the opening remarks Ham proclaimed that his position was based on the biblical account of origins. But he is intent on reading that account as if it were addressing science (he truly believes it is). I counter by saying that we cannot have a confident understanding of what the Bible claims until we read it as an ancient document. I believe as he does that the Bible was given by God, but it was given through human instruments into an ancient culture and language. We can only encounter the Bible’s claims by taking account of that context.

One place where this distinction was obvious was that Ham tried to make the statement in Genesis that God created each animal “after its kind” as a technical statement that matched our modern scientific categories. We cannot assume that the same categories were used in the ancient world as are used today (genus, family, species, etc.). Such anachronism does not take the Bible seriously as what it “naturally” says. In the Bible this only means that when a grain of wheat drops, a grain of wheat grows (not a flower); when a horse gives birth, it gives birth to a horse, not a coyote.

The fact is that Ken Ham rejects scientific findings because he believes the Bible offers claims that contradict science. He believes that he can add up the genealogies to arrive at the need for a young earth. He never stops to ask whether it is “natural” to read ancient genealogies in that way. In the ancient world genealogies serve a very different function than they do today, and numbers may well have rhetorical rather than strictly numerical value. He believes that there could be no death before the fall because he has interpreted the word “good” as if it meant “perfect.” That is not what the Hebrew term means. Furthermore, if there was no death before the fall, people would have little use for a tree of life. What is a “natural” interpretation—our sense of what it means or the sense that an ancient reader would have had? Ham actually made the statement that we have to read the Bible “according to the type of literature” that it is. Yet it was clear that he has done no research on ancient genres and how parts of the Bible should be identified by the standards of ancient genres (after all, our genre categories are bound to carry some anachronism and therefore cannot be applied directly). Reading the Bible “naturally” cannot be approached as casually as Ham suggests.

When Ham was asked what it would take to change his mind, he was lost for words because he said that he could never stop believing in the truth of the Bible. I would echo that sentiment, but it never seemed to occur to him that there might be equally valid interpretations of the early chapters of Genesis, or maybe even ones that could garner stronger support. He stated that no one can prove the age of the earth, but he believes that the Bible tells us the age of the earth. Nevertheless, it is only his highly debatable interpretation of the Bible that tells him the age of the earth. What if the Bible makes no such claim? There are biblical scholars who take the Bible every bit as seriously as he does, who disagree that the Bible makes a claim about the age of the earth.

In the end, then, while Ham kept challenging Nye about whether he was there to see this history that he claimed, Nye should have been challenging Ham about what makes him so certain that the Bible is making the claims that he thinks it is. What appears to Ham as a “natural” reading, is extremely debatable if one attempts to read the text of Genesis as the (God-inspired) ancient document that it is.

Dennis Venema photoFrom Dennis Venema, Fellow of Biology:

I was surprised that Nye did not delve into genetics– I was hoping for a good discussion of genomic comparisons between humans and other species, for example. Modern comparative genomics is one very strong line of evidence for evolution in general, and human evolution in particular – and one that I have written about extensively on the BioLogos Forum. So, from my perspective it would have been nice to see Nye press Ham with this evidence. For example, why do humans, as placental mammals, have the defective, fragmentary remains of gene for making egg yolk in our genome exactly where one would predict it to be based on examining the genomes of egg-laying organisms? Why is it that we share many mutations in this defective gene with other placental mammals, to say nothing of the many other defective genes with the same pattern of shared mutations? Did the exact same mutations happen over and over again in many distinct species (species that even Ham would agree are separate “kinds”) or did those mutations happen once and then were inherited by species that later went their separate ways? This line of evidence could have been brought to bear to show how compelling the case for human evolution is when looking at our genome and further highlight, as Nye did, that evolutionary biology is a predictive science – a theory in the scientific sense. This would have also shown that Ham’s position – that of independently created “kinds” of organisms – has no support at all from a comparative genomics perspective. As such, it’s not surprising that Ham didn’t bring it up, but I expected Nye to do so, and to argue it forcefully.

The only discussion of genetics was a brief mention of the work of Richard Lenski, a microbiologist who has been performing a decades-long experiment on the evolution of bacteria (E. coli) in his laboratory. One key result of the Lenski experiment was to catch an evolutionary innovation “in the act” and then tease out the many genetic changes that were required for it. Specifically, Lenski and his colleagues documented the basis for the bacteria to acquire a new function – the ability to utilize the compound citrate as a carbon source in the presence of oxygen. The genetic details of how this new function arose are complex and fascinating, and certainly not the simple case, as Ken Ham claimed, that “nothing new” had arisen and that it was merely the case that “a gene that was previously present was suddenly switched on”. Indeed, this is a well-documented case of a new function, with new genetic information, arising through evolutionary mechanisms – and one that I have written about extensively for those interested in this fascinating story.

Despite these particulars, overall I had the general feeling what is really needed for the conversation on evolution among brothers and sisters in Christ is twofold. First and foremost, evangelicals need a deeper understanding of the Bible, especially the Ancient Near Eastern context and setting of the original audience of Genesis (for which I am glad for the work of others with expertise in that area, such as my colleague John Walton). Secondly, evangelicals need a deeper understanding of how science works in general, and specifically how the lines of evidence for evolution converge on a robust picture of how God used this means to bring about biodiversity on earth. While I am of little help with the first point, the second is the goal of the Evolution Basics series I have been writing for the last year. This series is intended to bring the average layperson “up to speed” on evolution – a resource that I hope will be useful for many who watched the debate and came away with questions.

Deb Haarsma photoFrom Deb Haarsma, President of BioLogos:

While the debate pitted two extreme positions against one another, I was glad to hear references to other options. Bill Nye repeatedly pointed out that many religious people, including Christians, accept the evidence for evolution and the age of the earth. Nye even mentioned our founder, Francis Collins! Ken Ham pointed out that the scientific method grew out of the Christian context of medieval Europe and that the faith is in harmony with the process of science. He even shared a love of technology with Nye! But several times we here at the office groaned in frustration, like when Ken Ham made false scientific arguments or Bill Nye turned to science to answer questions of meaning and purpose. When Ken Ham was asked something like “If science were to show conclusively that the earth was older than 10,000 years, would you still believe in the historical Jesus?” I wished he would have simply said “yes.” Our belief in the Bible and Jesus is more fundamental than our views on science. When Bill Nye referred to religion as a source of social connection and comfort for millions, I wished that he had a deeper understanding of what Christianity is all about. Our faith is much more than a social club; it’s about absolute truth and salvation from sin through Jesus Christ. The highlight of the night for me? Seeing people discover the resources at BioLogos from our tweets during the debate.


Emily Ruppel is a doctoral student in rhetoric of science at the University of Pittsburgh. Prior to her PhD work, she studied poetry at Bellarmine University in Louisville and science writing at MIT. She has also served as blog editor for The BioLogos Foundation and as Associate Director of Communications for the American Scientific Affiliation.
Deborah Haarsma serves as the President of BioLogos, a position she has held since January 2013. Previously, she served as professor and chair in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Gifted in interpreting complex scientific topics for lay audiences, Dr. Haarsma often speaks to churches, colleges, and schools about the relationships between science and Christian faith. She is author (along with her husband Loren Haarsma) of Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design (2011, 2007), a book presenting the agreements and disagreements of Christians regarding the history of life and the universe. Haarsma is an experienced research scientist, with several publications in the Astrophysical Journal and the Astronomical Journal on extragalactic astronomy and cosmology.
Jim Stump is Senior Editor at BioLogos. As such he oversees the development of new content and curates existing content for the website and print materials. Jim has a PhD in philosophy from Boston University and was formerly a philosophy professor and academic administrator. He has authored Science and Christianity: An Introduction to the Issues (Wiley-Blackwell, forthcoming) and co-authored (with Chad Meister) Christian Thought: A Historical Introduction (Routledge, 2010). He has co-edited (with Alan Padgett) The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012) and (with Kathryn Applegate) How I Changed My Mind About Evolution (InterVarsity, forthcoming).
John Walton is a professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College in Illinois and an editor and writer of Old Testament comparative studies and commentaries. Throughout his research, Walton has focused his attention on comparing the culture and literature of the Bible and the ancient Near East. He has published dozens of books, articles and translations, both as writer and editor, including his latest book The Lost World of Genesis One.
Dennis Venema is professor of biology at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia. He holds a B.Sc. (with Honors) from the University of British Columbia (1996), and received his Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia in 2003. His research is focused on the genetics of pattern formation and signaling using the common fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism. Dennis is a gifted thinker and writer on matters of science and faith, but also an award-winning biology teacher—he won the 2008 College Biology Teaching Award from the National Association of Biology Teachers. He and his family enjoy numerous outdoor activities that the Canadian Pacific coast region has to offer. Dennis writes regularly for the BioLogos Forum about the biological evidence for evolution.
Ted Davis is Fellow of the History of Science for the BioLogos Foundation and Professor of the History of Science at Messiah College. At Messiah, Davis teaches courses on historical and contemporary aspects of Christianity and science and directs the Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science.

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Roger A. Sawtelle - #84395

February 5th 2014

John Walton wrote:

I also share his beliefs about the nature of the Bible, but I do not share his interpretation of the Bible on numerous key points.

I question the fact that Dr. Walton shares the beliefs of Ken Ham concerning the nature of the Bible.  The most serious problem that YECs have is that they confuse the divine Word of God, Jesus Christ the Second Person of the Trinity as found in John 1 with the inspired word of God or the Bible. 

Jesus is by nature God and perfectly Good.  The Bible is a divinely inspired book about God’s plan of Salvation through Jesus Christ.  They are not identical or equal by nature.

During my last discussion with Eddie sparked by the Ham on Nye debate something jarred my memory concerning a radio program I has heard not too long ago where R. C. Sproul explained and defended the Chicago Declaration on the Inerrancy of the Bible which he helped shape and signed in the 1970’s.

The statement claims in effect that the Bible is God’s perfect Word.  Since God’s cannot lie it is authoritive in every respect and area of life.  In effect what the statement says is that it does not require significant interpretation in order to be understood.   

Does Jack Ham and Co. understand the Bible and the world through the eyes of the Chicago Declaration, which is less than 40 years old?  From conversations and observations the answer is clearly YES. 

Has the Declaration been challenged theologically by Evangelical teachers?  Not to my knowledge. 

If the Bible is the divinely perfect Word of God it cannot be challenged by science or anything else, but it is not.  The Bible is not perfect because it is subject to interpretation by Jesus Christ Who is the Logos, the Rational Word of God.   


Jon Garvey - #84399

February 5th 2014

The statement claims in effect that the Bible is God’s perfect Word.  Since God’s cannot lie it is authoritive in every respect and area of life.  In effect what the statement says is that it does not require significant interpretation in order to be understood.   

Dear me, what a tease you are Roger! Not being familiar with the Chicago statement, I’ve just looked it up and found:

We affirm that canonical Scripture should always be interpreted on the basis that it is infallible and inerrant. However, in determining what the God-taught writer is asserting in each passage, we must pay the most careful attention to its claims and character as a human production. In inspiration, God utilized the culture and conventions of His penman’s milieu, a milieu that God controls in His sovereign providence; it is misinterpretation to imagine otherwise.

So history must be treated as history, poetry as poetry, hyperbole and metaphor as hyperbole and metaphor, generalization and approximation as what they are, and so forth. Differences between literary conventions in Bible times and in ours must also be observed: since, for instance, non-chronological narration and imprecise citation were conventional and acceptable and violated no expectations in those days, we must not regard these things as faults when we find them in Bible writers. When total precision of a particular kind was not expected nor aimed at, it is no error not to have achieved it. Scripture is inerrant, not in the sense of being absolutely precise by modern standards, but in the sense of making good its claims and achieving that measure of focused truth at which its authors aimed.

That sounds a lot like “significant interpretation” to me. Indeed, any other kind of “interpretation” of a text would not be interpretation, but manipulation. To interpret something as a lie would be not to interpret, but to judge.

I assume Ken Ham regards Genesis 1 as a divinely inspired literal narrative text and interprets it accordingly. I know Dr Walton regards it as a divinely inspired ancient text of more complex character, and interprets it in that light. Their disagreement is on its literary character, not on the extent of its inspiration by the Holy Spirit (of Christ).

So we have a text inspired by the Spirit of Christ, affirmed by Christ during his time in the flesh, and interpreted by that same Spirit of Christ given (as he promised) to his Church for that very purpose. What’s not to like?

Hanan D - #84408

February 5th 2014

Jon .....and even Roger,

I would like to ask you question from someone outside the fold. This has to do with the concept of “inspiration.” I have heard this being used a lot, but I have never gotten any definition of it that does not make it sound incredibly nebulous. 

Let me pull back some. From the Jewish point of view, God revealed the Torah to Moses along a 40 year stretch. This isn’t inspiration. This is dictation. What God said, Moses wrote. It is this dictation that lends two important things: Authority and Reliability. So when God says, do X, we do X. 

Here are my issues:

1) If it is all just inspired by some Israelite Priest, where does the reliability and authority come from? Who decided that THAT is what God actually meant? Why is that inspiration than someone writing a novel today, and, is influenced by todays culture?

2) If it is JUST inspiration, why do you Christians spend so much digital ink defending Genesis? All you have to say is that ancient Israelites did the best they could in explaining the past? God obviously didn’t TELL anyone to specifically write that, correct? So why all the apologetics?

2a) If it is just inspired by the idea of God, why do you even believe God said we were created in His image? You do realize you are relying on the words of man, not God, right?

3) Here I believe is a sticking point that I believe both religions need to contend with: I have been having a debate with Dr. Michael Heiser over here. Like you, he believes in inspiration, BUT, he also believes God DID reveal some laws to Moses, like the Ten commandments. Here is the issue that falls back on Roger saying “God cannot lie:” Like many others, Dr. Heiser (rightly) believes the creation story was written during the Jewish exile. Are you already sensing the problem? If God gave the 10 commandments, how could he justify the 4th commandment (to observe the Sabbath) based on a myth that was only written much later? Or if he DID give such a commadnment, that makes God a liar, since it is obvious the world was not created in the order, form, and time as Genesis gives. I mean, clearly Jesus trusted in Moses, right? He believed Moses was the giver of the law and the author of the Torah. So was Jesus duped too? If you had a chance to talk to Jesus and ask him why he would keep the Sabbath, he would most likely tell you that God gave that commandment in honor of 6 days of creation. Do you really believe he thought things were inspired? Did Jesus believe in One god because some guy was inspred by the idea, or was there true revelation? And if there was true revelation, the only witness to that is the text…. the very same text you just call inspired.

I know you can bring up John Walton’s book, but there is no denying that the commandment is based on 6 day literal creation story (which is not true). Not only that, remember, the text says it is an eternal sign for the Lord created the world in six days. This is what Jews say every single friday night to welcome the Sabbath. But it’s a lie. So if it is a lie, there is no justification for the Sabbath, hence, God could not have given it. 

<end rant>

I look forward to your comments.

Hanan D - #84409

February 5th 2014

By the way, I am clearly talking about the Pentatuch. For the rest of the OT, Jews split them up to either the books of the Prophets or the later writings which are wisdom books. But it just seems you Christians lower the bar even more. You eliminate prophecy all together from anything and stick to “inspiration” and still try to maintain authority and reliability. We have some liberal theologies like Conservative Judaism that try to do that….there is a reason why their numbers are dwindling…..bad.

Jon Garvey - #84416

February 6th 2014


The word “inspiration” has been diluted in Western thought beyond recognition, it seems to me, so it can mean a vague influence or even just high-faluting art.

The idea of “dictation” is overly simplistic, and I’d suggest it was never seriously what was believed of Scripture as compared, say, to the Quran. Your example of Moses goes to the heart of the different ways in which God might work through people. The text (say of Exodus)  does indeed speak of a direct delivery of some parts verbally (or even by “the finger of God”), but such is not stated to have been the case with, say, the patriarchal traditions of Genesis or the account of Moses’ death in Deuteronomy.

The New Testament writers were Jews of a different era, but seem to have had a more nuanced view than dictation, but just as positive about Scripture’s divine origin . Despite Roger’s suggestion below that Jesus criticised the Pentateuchal text (which shouldn’t really need refuting just through careful reading), Jesus quoted Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy as “the commands of God” and “the word of God” in Mark 7.

Peter in his first letter speaks more “interactively” when he says the prophets

searched intensively and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that were to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you when they spoke…

Interesting implications there - the prediction is of the Spirit, and what the prophets were trying so carefully to find out could only have been revealed by God anyway. Prophecy then is an interaction with God in which the result is what God reveals.

2 Peter says

Above all you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

It is Paul alone who introduces the word “inspiration” in 2 Timothy 3 when he says that all Scripture (ie the whole Tanach) is “theopneustos” - literally God-breathed. The allusion is clearly both to God’s dabar, or word of power, and to his breath of life - perhaps suggesting that though the words are human, they are divinely alive (much as Adam was turned from a lump of clay to a man in God’s image by the ruach of God).

The implications for understanding Scripture remain the same as in your suggestion: that the human, cultural elements should be taken as the vehicle through which God speaks, not the dross that corrupts the text. You don’t have to sift through to find the scraps of inspiration and spit out the rest: you have to ask how God accommodates to the worldview and culture in which he speaks.

As has been pointed out by scholars, for the transcendent God to speak at all, it can only be through a specific human culture, just as it can only be through a specific human language, dialect, style and genre. In that sense, all Scripture is metaphor - but at the same time it is the revelation of God’s mind.

Matthew Winegar - #84449

February 7th 2014


Jon did a good job responding to many of your points.  I would say that everywhere you prefix inspiration with “JUST”, you are changing it to mean something different than is meant by biologos or most TE people who hold that the Bible is the inspired word of God.  From the About Us page for biologos, the first item reads as something that I agree with (although my take on it here might differ slightly from others, its close enough to address concerns about it being ‘nebulous’, IMHO):

  1. We believe the Bible is the inspired and authoritative word of God. By the Holy Spirit it is the “living and active” means through which God speaks to the church today, bearing witness to God’s Son, Jesus, as the divine Logos, or Word of God.

First, note that inspired is not alone in the first sentence, it is inspired and authoritative word of God.  This immediately makes it different from the casual sense of the word.  The second sentence indicates that the Holy Spirit is living and active in God’s speech to the church, and living and active in bearing witnesss to Jesus.

Now, to me (I’m going beyond biologos statement here), this means the Holy Spirit is an active component in our understanding and interpretation of Scripture.  In other words, the full revealed meaning (prophecy) of scripture depends not only on the words in the scripture and one’s own interpretation (2 Peter mentioned by Jon below, this can apply to both the prophet, and the reader of scipture), but it depends on the activity of the Holy Spirit.

As for any ideas of ‘dictation’, God’s words/revelation/visions (clearly the Holy Spirit would play a role here) to Moses still had to be translated into language and ancient culture (how else would he do it?).  Then we as readers, have to unpackage that (with the help of the Holy Spirit, and hopefully some kind of sensitivity to the cultural issues that affect interpretations, however this is secondary to the role of the Holy Spirit).  On interpretative grounds, I would note that concerning delivery of the law, in Exodus 31 and 32, a first set of tablets with the law were written with the finger of God, but these tablets were broken when Moses saw the idolatry the people had fallen into.  Then, in Exodus 34, Moses writes the law on a second set of tablets.  The distinction is clear, the second set obviously required a translation (into the language, culture , and understanding of Moses), that the first set would not have had (being directly written by the finger of God).

As for all of the stuff about God ‘lying’, all I can say is that none of this makes God a liar.  It is God’s prerogative to reveal what he will to his people, to bring them into relationship to him (or for whatever purpose he has, but drawing us to him, seems to be a BIG thing, enough to send his Son to atone for our sins).  Historically accuracy is arguably much less important (more akin to getting the correct answers to questions in a trivia game, IMHO) than salvation.  God is not a liar because the Hebrews mode of recording/expressing their Faith makes use of their language and culture (and yes, myths).  What God is saying (through scripture) is much deeper, and is only revealed with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Hanan D - #84484

February 10th 2014

First, note that inspired is not alone in the first sentence, it is inspired and authoritative word of God.

Yes, but that just begs the question. See this response someone once gave in a separate interview:

With so many religions claiming that their scripture is divinely inspired and the others aren’t… You certainly can’t prove that any work is not divinely inspired. You can’t prove that Harry Potter isn’t divinely inspired. We don’t assume other books are divinely inspired. The burden of proof has to be on those who claim that the book is divinely inspired… If a belief can’t in principle be disproved, it’s not a strong argument for the belief. If it is not disconfirmable, then you can say anything you want.”

Meaning Mathew, how does one demonstrate “inspiration” when inspiration means just about anything anyone wants. Dictation is a solid mechanism of transmission. Inspiration is not. Why isn’t the Emunah Elish inspiration? How would one recogonize inspiration since it is not even prophecy. It just means, someone “felt” to right about the divine.

So how on earth does that mean it is authoratative? In order for something being authoratitive it must also be reliable in what it is proclaiming. If you are telling me God did not say X when the text is saying it says X then you are saying the text is not reliable, hence it cannot be authoratative. 


As for any ideas of ‘dictation’, God’s words/revelation/visions (clearly the Holy Spirit would play a role here) to Moses still had to be translated into language and ancient culture

I don’t deny that it would speak to the lives of those in the original generation, but that does not negate the requirement for truth in the story. Look at Peter Enns who basically disputes there was an Abraham. Well, I told him, if he wants a Christianity, there needs to be an Abraham who secured the first part of the Covenant. 


The distinction is clear, the second set obviously required a translation (into the language, culture , and understanding of Moses), that the first set would not have had (being directly written by the finger of God).

Nothing of the sort. God tells Moses that he will give him the law as he did the first time (even though Moses is writting it). So you think Moses just decided to add a bunch of things God did not tell him to? We are talking about legislation here. Legislation is either “Do not do” or “Do.” For Moses to fill it in with a bunch of cultural references on his own that weren’t in the beginning, (especially the ten commandments) is to make assumptions not even in the text and contradictory to the text.

Historically accuracy is arguably much less important 

You’re not paying attention. If God says “I am giving you to do X BECAUSE of this and this happeneing and it turns out that it never happened, than God is a liar. The law of the Sabbath is PREDICATED on the sequence of a literal 6 day creation. It is strengthed by the fact that He says it is an Eternal sign. It is all connected. Here are three options which I wrote on that other blog post

1) God never gave commandments and the entire enterprise is wise ancient people giving it their best shot
2) God lied when he said the Sabbath is an eternal sign for him creating in six literal days and resting on the seventh.
3) God gave “something” but nobody really knows what it is so “something” was recorded and they based it on their ANE mythologies. Something, that Jesus was not aware of when he claimed to trust Moses.


God is not a liar because the Hebrews mode of recording/expressing their Faith makes use of their language and culture (and yes, myths).

Wait, so did God give the 10 commandments or not? This would be dictation, NOT inspiration. Or, was the Sabbath a creation of the Hebrews based on their myths. You do realize in order for their to be Christianity, then central tenants of Judaism must exist. 

Let me ask you, if you were privy to look in the 10 commandment tablets, what do you think would be written in regard to the Sabbath Commandment.

Matthew Winegar - #84494

February 11th 2014

Meaning Mathew, how does one demonstrate “inspiration” when inspiration means just about anything anyone wants.

It can (many English words are like this, with multiple meanings), but in this context (discussing my or Biologos’ understanding of inspiration of scripture), it has a more constrained meaning, even if we do not fully understand all of the details (after all, none of us have ever been inspired, or, as you would prefer, dictated to by God to write Scripture).

How would one recogonize inspiration since it is not even prophecy.

As I indicated in my first post, I believe the Holy Spirit plays a role writing scripture, and in seeing prophecy in it (understanding it).  You can’t do it “by formula” (see 2 Peter 1:20-21, referenced by Jon and myself).

In order for something being authoratitive it must also be reliable in what it is proclaiming.

I agree, but we apparently disagree about what Scripture is proclaiming.

You’re not paying attention. If God says “I am giving you to do X BECAUSE of this and this happeneing and it turns out that it never happened, than God is a liar.

Ironic that you claim I am not paying attention, since I addressed the so-called “God is a liar” point in the first sentences of that paragraph.  Disagree with me if you like, but I did address the point and was “paying attention”

The law of the Sabbath is PREDICATED on the sequence of a literal 6 day creation.

Not in the Deuteronomy account.  It’s the same law, but the justification differs in these accounts.  To me that indicates there is some context for the understanding of the law that is manifested in the expression of that law.  Both say to observe the Sabbath and keep it holy, and do no work, but in Deuteronomy the ‘cultural context’, and justification was recognition of God’s role in brining Israel out of Egypt.

Let me ask you, if you were privy to look in the 10 commandment tablets, what do you think would be written in regard to the Sabbath Commandment.

I do not know.  If I had to guess, I would say the commandment itself, but not the justification part (the part that varies between Exodus and Deuteronomy).

Hanan D - #84522

February 13th 2014

Mathew, thank you for replying. 

 Not in the Deuteronomy account….

So you have two accounts. Great. Then please tell me how can you trust any of it? 


I do not know.  If I had to guess, I would say the commandment itself, but not the justification part (the part that varies between Exodus and Deuteronomy)


Too bad. It would be nice if God just made it obvious. Also, don’t you think it takes a tremendous amount of temerity for anyone to write something as the actual word of God, when it really isn’t? I mean, Exodus makes it EXTREMELY clear that God said what he says. Now, do to science and what we found out about hte world, we are left to say “Oh, he said only part of it, the rest someone else just added a gloss”

Eddie - #84488

February 10th 2014

Roger, you wrote:

“Has the Declaration been challenged theologically by Evangelical teachers?  Not to my knowledge.”

The problem here, Roger, springs from your insistence upon using terms in your own idiosyncratic way, and refusing to use them the way the rest of the world uses them.

The Chicago Declaration has been challenged, at least in some of its sections, by many “evangelical” teachers.  It has been challenged by few or no “fundamentalist” teachers.  “Evangelical” is not the same as “fundamentalist.”  I’ve been trying to tell you that, but it’s impossible to get you to listen.  

I repeat:  virtually every Protestant TE in America would consider himself or herself “evangelical”; but virtually every Protestant TE in America would not consider himself or herself to be “fundamentalist,” and very few, if any, American TEs would subscribe to every line of the Chicago statement.

Repeat this to yourself, Roger:  NOT ALL EVANGELICALS ARE FUNDAMENTALIST.  NOT ALL EVANGELICALS ARE FUNDAMENTALIST.  Maybe it will eventually sink in.

Lou Jost - #84397

February 5th 2014

“I commend Ken Ham’s frequent assertion of the gospel message. His testimony to his faith was admirable and of course, I agree with it.” 

“When Ham was asked what it would take to change his mind, he was lost for words because he said that he could never stop believing in the truth of the Bible. I would echo that sentiment…”

—John Walton

This way of thinking is really at the heart of the issue. It doesn’t matter much which biblical version of creation you believe, or how literally you interpret it, you are all essentially taking Ken Ham’s position that a collection of myths is authoritative source of information about creation. Most of you would recognize the silliness of a Hindu or Shinto or a Mormon or a Scientologist making such claims…..

The key moment of the debate was spurred by an audience question: Mr Ham, what evidence would it take to make you change your mind? His answer—stunned silence, followed by an admission that nothing could do so. This is the same answer I have gotten from many of you. And some of you, like John above, even seem proud of it—- you think this is a virtuous demonstration of faith. A closed mind is not a virtue.

James Stump - #84398

February 5th 2014

Thanks Lou for your challenge to us.  You’re right that we’re committed to the authority of Scripture.  You might even say that we’ve made a daring wager that God really has revealed himself to people throughout history, and now we’re doing our best to understand that record in light of what we learn about the world around us.  But you’re wrong to say that no amount of evidence would change our mind.  We are truth seekers, not idealogues.  The difficulty is that there is a very complex relationship between individual facts and the theories we employ to explain those facts.  We’re no different from Kuhn’s “normal science” that works on extending the explanatory power of a paradigm.  There are always anomalies to theories in this stage, so suggesting one bit of recalcitrant information should not be met with revolution.  We think Ham’s paradigm has become seriously problematic.  To persuade us that ours is too, you’ll need to show a different model that explains all the data better.

Lou Jost - #84403

February 5th 2014

Jim, yes, the fact that you are here and not on a YEC site shows that you are seeking truth. But it seems to me you place limits on your search.

I think most of you came to your beliefs because Christianity helps you make sense of your lives and your experiences, not because it explains external data. Christianity “feels good”, and helps you be better people, and probably buffers against life’s hardships. Some of you may have had more direct visionary experiences.  But as you all know,  none of these things are good evidence that the fact-claims of Christianity (such as the Resurrection) are true. Scientology, Hinduism, and Mormonism have similar effects on people. Scientology and Mormonism have apparently really turned some people’s lives around, even though they are obviously made up.

The theory that best explains all the data is that the Bible, like the books of other religions, contains deep cultural myths capable of transforming lives. There is no evidence for actual divinity behind any of them (even though there easily could have been).

Unfortunately the transformative power of myth probably depends on the recipient believing that it is true. I think maybe this sets subtle self-imposed limits on your search for truth. People may be fearful of losing the transformative benefits of Christianity if they accidentally “pop the bubble.” I rarely see anyone here deeply questioning the divine inspiration of the Bible, even though that book screams “cultural document!” from every page. That kind of discussion is sorely lacking.

Merv - #84407

February 5th 2014

I rarely see anyone here deeply questioning the divine inspiration of the Bible, even though that book screams “cultural document!” from every page. That kind of discussion is sorely lacking.

You have been reading essays and posts on this site, haven’t you Lou?  Of course the Bible is a cultural document (cross-cultural collection of them even) and it doesn’t even need to scream.  Claims of some Christians notwithstanding, we study the cultural origins of each book so we can better understand its message.  Walton has some excellent essays on Biologos if his comments above aren’t enough to bring you up to speed.

Lou Jost - #84410

February 5th 2014

Merv, I don’t think either you or Walton ever treat the bible as just a cultural document. The discussion here always assumes it conveys a divinely inspired message. This view is enshrined as the first sentence in Biologos’ “What we believe” statement: “We believe the Bible is the inspired and authoritative word of God.”

Hanan D - #84411

February 5th 2014

>“What we believe” statement: “We believe the Bible is the inspired and authoritative word of God.”


How? How can something be authoritative if it is just inspired? Remember, it isn’t dictated. It isen’t written by prophetic means. It’s just “inspired.” Why isn’t the Epic of Gilgamesh inspired? Why aren’t the writings of Hindus inspired?

Merv - #84413

February 5th 2014

Hanan, I don’t speak for Biologos of course, but I do see the Bible as not only inspired, but beyond that:  authoritative, prophetic, ... from God.  Calling it ‘inspired’ does not contradict any of that unless you insert the word ‘only’ or ‘just’ in front, which you do, but I’m pretty sure Biologos doesn’t.  Lou seems to be having the same problem…

Lou, you are correct that I (and I would guess Walton also) do not treat the Bible as *just* a cultural document.  Any insertion of ‘just’ or ‘only’ in front of ‘cultural document’ makes the phrase into something you claim, but it does not match what I said.  If you asked a Christian whether Jesus was a man, most should reply ‘yes’ without hesitation or qualification.  If you ask the same Christian if Jesus was ‘*only* a man’, you are asking a different question and should receive a different answer.

Lou Jost - #84421

February 6th 2014

Sorry Merv, I thought it was obvious from the rest of my comment that I was raising the latter question. Re-reading my comment now, I can’t really see how you might have thought otherwise.

Jon Garvey - #84418

February 6th 2014

Hanan - see my reply above.

Ted Davis - #84443

February 6th 2014

I was also struck by Ham’s answer to that question (what it would take to change his mind), but I wasn’t surprised. I’ve corresponded privately with some YEC leaders on a key aspect of this—what would it take to convince you that your interpretation of Genesis is mistaken? I’ve gotten similar answers.

On another site I was once asked what it would take to convince me that the Resurrection didn’t happen. My answer was clear and precise: strong evidence that the bones of Jesus had been found. Since it was an atheist site, this elicited only jeers (if I recall correctly), but it’s a fair and serious answer to the question, not a silly dodge. Not too long ago, in fact, someone did claim to have found Jesus’ remains. Turned out to be a bogus claim, but what if it hadn’t been bogus? Archaeologists have made some spectacular discoveries that should have been suffiicient to prove to “believers” that (say) Philip of Macedon didn’t rise from the dead, or to prove to sceptical biblical scholars that crucified men were in fact (at least sometimes) placed in tombs rather than tossed to the dogs. Or even, to falsify a priori assumptions about the alleged non-historicity of King David (yes, Dr Finkelstein, I do mean you).

On the other hand, Lou, one might ask a similar question about the “religion” of an atheist: what would it take to convince you that you are mistaken to believe in universal human rights? Is that an unshakeable conviction, regardless of the “facts” of biology? (If we go back 90 years to the Scopes era, the relevance of this question is obvious: at that time, the creationists were more likely to affirm those rights than the evolutionists.)

Some religious beliefs are potentially falsifiable by matters of fact, Lou; others are not—and that’s good. Religious beliefs are not all on the same level. Some, as Galileo and Boyle and Locke would have said, are “above” matters of fact.

Lou Jost - #84448

February 7th 2014

Ted,as you note , we are really talking about physical matters of fact in this post. Is the earth 6000 yrs old? Did Jesus rise from the dead? Ethical opinions are not quite the same.

Still your question is a good one. For starters, my ethical beliefs are not set in stone. They have changed over time (hopefully for the better!) When I was young, I shared some cultural prejudices against gay people, for example. I’m over that now. For the specific issue you mention, universal human rights, I suppose I am already convinced that there could be times when certain humans should lose some of their rights. I probably would have voted to kill Hitler after it was clear that he was torturing and killing millions of Jews, for example.

Kimberly Bjugstad - #84400

February 5th 2014

When Ken Ham started by saying they need to define terms- science, evolution, and creation, I was hopeful that this would be a good debate. However, Mr Ham never did define any of those terms and Bill Nye did not step into that vacancy and define it for him- which would have set the tone and direction of the debate in Bill Nye’s favor.  Unfortunately, the debate quickly got off topic (is creation science and viable science) and became a debate on the veracity of the Bible. 

A clear definition of what science is and is not was sorely needed.  Mr Nye alluded to a definition when he repeatedly brought up the need for a science to have predictive ability.  Mr Ham inversely alluded to the definition when he stated that there was no evidence which would change his mind about creationism.  To be a true science, creationism needs to have the potential to be wrong/disposable/changeable so that ultimately we can use it to be predictive.  Science is self- correcting because we can be wrong.  As Mr Nye said, if we can find evidence of a young earth that would be great- it would change the world.  He is open to being wrong- that make him a scientist.  Every scientist must be open to that fact.  We do not change the data to fit our theories, we must change the theory to fit the data.  Since creationism cannot adhere to this simple definition of science, it cannot be a science. 

As we gather more and more data about our origins, we may find that Mr Ham was correct about a young earth however, we will know that he is right ONLY because we engaged in true science. 

Tim - #84401

February 5th 2014

This one is for Dennis Venema:

I noticed you brought up the genetic evidence and how you wish Nye would have addressed this.  I agree.  But the problem is a Creationist will always say that any psuedogene or remnant of a transposition, etc. demonstrating common ancestry is just a specially created genetic code who’s function is yet unknown.  They could even potentially argue this for the Vitellogenin Psuedogene you referenced explicitly.  I’d sent an email earlier on this and thought it might be relevant to post below (if that’s ok):

Hi Dr. Venema,

I hope things are going well!

The reason I’m writing is that we’ve chatted before on Biologos’ forums, and a bit of evidence I always found particularly interesting for evolution/common descent was the Vitellogenin psuedogene in mammals.  And I know that stuck in your head as one of the more clear and compelling examples as well.  The thing about it, though, is that mammalian embryos early in their development still do have some yolk granules.  But for the life of me I have no idea where these come from, what genes code for them, or whether one could make the argument that the mangled Vitellogenin psuedogene could code for any of their constituent parts.  Which really just leaves you back at square one with the standard creationist argument that the psuedogene isn’t “psuedo,” but that it’s performing a function for which it was specially designed.

So I wanted to know if you have any insight into where these mammalian yolk granules come from…if another set of genes code for them for instance.  Or whether the Vitellogenin psuedogene is so mangled that no constituent components of those yolk granules can result (and I do understand that Vitellogenin is a bulk transport protein, but that won’t make a bit of difference to a creationist).  Meaning the psuedogene would be incapable of producing/binding/delivering proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, calcium, phosphate, etc. into those yolk granules.  Or barring either of those two, how big of a deal would it be to do a knock-out study in a mammal to just remove the psuedogene entirely and witness the effect of embryonic development continue unhindered?  Speaking of which, is this something that could be easily enough done by a research scientist such as yourself or a peer, as a rebuttal to creationist objections of psuedogenes as “non-functional”?  Not exactly a worthy experiment in advancing the science, but perhaps for addressing its critics?

I don’t know - what do you think Dennis?  I’d love to know your thoughts on this.  Thank you!

Kind Regards,
Tim Allen

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84402

February 5th 2014


Thank you for your response.

The interpretation that the CD is adressing based on style than a deeper understanding of the text. 

The primary difference between Eddies’ expressed view concerning the authority of the Bible and that of the C.D. is that in Eddies’ view the Bible is not inerrant concerning science while the C.D. specifically said it is. 

While I agree that the Genesis provides much insight into the beginning of the universe, I do not think that one can say that Genesis 1 is inerrant if it is based on the Ancient Near East scientific world view.    

The text of Genesis was criticized by Jesus Christ during the debate on the Sabbath.  It is clear that Jesus did not come to reveal scientific truth. 

He did not tell us that the earth revolved around the sun, or many other scientific “truths.”  If Jesus, the Word of God, did not reveal scientific truths, why do we expect the Bible, the word of God, to reveal them? 

I agree with Eddie in his differences with the Chicago Declaration.     

Jon Garvey - #84417

February 6th 2014

The interpretation that the CD is adressing based on style than a deeper understanding of the text.

Roger, I’m not a signatory to the Chicago Statement, but as so often you pay scant attention to what its text actually says - and then talk about “deeper understanding” of the biblical text having done injustice to the very one before you. Not a good exegetical sign.

To understand the genre of, say, The Ancient Mariner as “romantic poem” is to dismiss at a stroke any idea that Coleridge expected his readers to believe in the albatross of ill-omen, the ill-fated voyage and even the existence of the mariner, and instead to invite the search for its deep poetic meaning. Since the poem is not teaching history, its history cannot be conceived as correct or incorrect, but as relevant supporting narrative.

A supporter of the Chicago Statement could, in good conscience (as John Walton does) understand Genesis 1 to have been intended not as a scientific origins text but as a theological cosmogony, specifically ordered functionally, and as a temple inauguration text. As such it is teaching how God sovereignly brought order to the cosmos his readers experienced as their dwelling, rather than struiggling against the primordial chaos as the Babylonians believed of their gods. The physical nature of that cosmos is mere supporting narrative to that purpose.

If the cosmos the readers experienced contained a raquia and celestial waters, then the didactic and devotional purpose would not have been served by trying to introduce them to a then-unproveable Newtonian cosmology that would have been a focus of speculation for centuries, at the expense of the message of the text.

That fault is indeed behind recent YEC assumptions, but it at least had some excuse when several thousand miles and years separated people from the original culture. It is, indeed, no worse a fault than those who accord evolutionary meanings to “Let the earth bring forth…” in equal disregard of the genre and cultural origin of the text.

Let me bring it up to date: if I went back in time to write the equivalent of the Genesis creation story for a nineteenth century readership, I’d happily presuppose the existence of the luminiferous ether rather than talk about relativity, even though I’m familiar with the latter. My science would not be incorrect, because I would be teaching creation doctrine, not science: and if I’d done it well, my text would be just as relevant now when allowance was made for the audience I originally wrote for.

Lou Jost - #84422

February 6th 2014

“As such it is teaching how God sovereignly brought order to the cosmos his readers experienced as their dwelling, rather than struiggling against the primordial chaos as the Babylonians believed of their gods.”

No, it is not teaching how God did this or that, it is teaching what the Israelites believed of their god. Jon’s assertion is the same sort of assertion Ham makes; from an outsider’s perspective, they differ only in degree, not in kind.

Jon Garvey - #84426

February 6th 2014

No, Lou. It’s teaching what I said it was teaching. Whether that view is true is what you’re free to decide.

If it were teaching “what the Israelites believed” it would say, “This is what the Israelites say…” In the contemporary phrase, it is not teaching the controversy… unless you want to say that Ken Miller’s text book teaches “only” what the Evolutionists say about charles darwin’s theory, which is factually the case but grammatically crass.

Mike Lehmann - #84405

February 5th 2014

Thanks for your thoughts here, and for live-tweeting the event last night. Nye’s approach disappointed me. I know he isn’t a theologian, but consulting a theologian would have strengthened his argument. 


FIRST, Nye should have exposed young-earth creationism’s, uh, youth. Peter Harrison, among others, has shown how the Protestant Reformation marginalized allegorical interpretations of scripture, which the Church Fathers celebrated. Ham’s ignorant hermeneutic evolved from James Ussher’s dating of creation in the 17th century, Ellen White’s expansion of the flood narrative in the 19th century, and Henry Morris’s The Genesis Flood in 1961. 


SECOND, Nye should have exposed young-earth creationism’s arbitrariness. Space shuttles penetrating the firmament (Genesis 1:6-8), basically a hard dome, is a problem for Ken Ham. If it’s not an issue for him, how does he explain his selective literalism? Likewise, Ham accepts heliocentrism, but how can he consistently do so? Doesn’t his perverse use of the Bible forbid this convenient move? He’s not even good at consistently applying his own hermeneutic. 


THIRD, Nye should have shown how many different, independent ways we confirm the earth’s old age, and then asked a question: Is there a single person in the world who believes the earth is young, who isn’t already a Christian committed to young-earth creationism, and thus bent on explaining away any and all evidence to the contrary? 


FOURTH, Nye should have explained that embracing evolution does NOT mean embracing atheism. Proper science practices methodological naturalism, of course, but it doesn’t teach ontological naturalism. Nye should have cited a prominent atheist, Michael Ruse, and a prominent Christian, Ken Miller, to show how evolution and theistic belief are not mutually exclusive. (Nye did this a little bit, but could have framed the issue better, especially as it pertains to how evolution is taught in schools.) A person like Richard Dawkins, who ignorantly claims that evolution necessarily entails atheism, is a boon to the ID and creation science movements because he fits into their narrative: denying evolution is, fundamentally, a moral imperative because accepting it makes God superfluous and welcomes moral chaos.


Ham also unintentionally undermines the doctrine of creation by focusing on a bizarre interpretation of science, based on a bad hermeneutic. Theologian William Carroll explains the doctrine of creation well: “Creation is not primarily some distant event; rather, it is the on-going complete causing of the existence of all that is. At this very moment, were God not causing all that is to exist, there would be nothing at all. Creation concerns first of all the origin (source of being) of the universe, not its temporal beginning.” The doctrine of creation is metaphysical, and the natural sciences can never disprove it. This is not a cop-out—it is simply acknowledging the difference between metaphysics and science. (http://biologos.org/blog/creation-cosmology-and-the-insights-of-thomas-aquinas)

Eddie - #84420

February 6th 2014


I can agree with many of your points.  I certainly do not endorse Ken Ham’s reading of the Bible, or his position on evolution.  I’d add some qualifications, however.

Regarding your remarks about ID and Dawkins and atheism:

The reason that Dawkins links evolution so strongly with atheism is that he holds to classical neo-Darwinian evolution in its uncompromised form, which is resolutely anti-teleological, as is clear from the writings of all the great ND theorists—Mayr, Gaylord Simpson, Monod, Gould, etc.  But of course there are other ways of looking at evolution that admit teleology—the views of Bergson, Denton, Conway Morris, etc.  And it is important to bear in mind that the main thrust of ID literature against “evolution” is not against “evolution” per se but against neo-Darwinism.  Thus there are ID evolutionists—Behe, Denton, Sternberg, O’Leary, Torley, etc.  And there are also many other ID theorists who, though themselves skeptical in practice of macroevolution, admit that at least in theory ID is compatible with an evolutionary mode of creation (Dembski and Meyer have both said as much).    

Bear in mind also that Dawkins had said that evolutionary science is compatible with some sort of God, but that God would be a sort of Deistic God, who creates and sustains natural laws, but doesn’t tinker, i.e., is not the God of revealed religion.  But that is a side point.

I certainly don’t think that “evolution” as such makes God superfluous and welcomes moral chaos.  But “molecules to man by accident” (which is what Mayr, Sagan, Asimov, etc. have taught us for about 100 years now) does in fact do this.  And the extreme difficulty TE proponents have had is that many of them (especially the biologists) hold essentially to “molecules to man by accident” (however they may euphemize the idea) but also claim that God in some vague, mysterious, undefinable way is still somehow responsible for what evolution produces.  For ID-evolutionists like Behe and Denton, however, who affirm “molecules to man but not by accident,” the role of God (i.e., as designer—which does not automatically imply “interference” with nature) is much clearer.

A short way of putting my qualification is that you should be careful (a) not to equate ID with creationism or with anti-evolutionism; and (b) not to identify evolution as such with a particular model of evolution.

As for Carroll, and other Thomists like him, the problem with them is that they take a valid point (that God is responsible not merely for the initial production in time of the natural world, but also for its ongoing reality) and then stretch that point beyond its proper use, to make the question of temporal creation almost unimportant; yet creation doctrine specifically is still in the first instance about the temporal origins of the basic elements of the world, and central to it is the contention that the world and its major elements were planned, designed, and guaranteed to emerge by the will and power of God.  It was so treated even by Aquinas, who is the source of the Thomist arguments.  

It is also important to note what Carroll and the other Thomists never like to tell you, i.e., that Thomas Aquinas himself (who in their eyes can normally do no wrong) believed that both man and the higher animals were created directly by God, i.e., not through secondary causes as both Catholic and Protestant TEs would have it.  And Thomas did not see his belief in direct creation as violating any “difference between metaphysics and science.”  So the Thomist arguments need to be taken with a grain of salt.  And I say that as someone quite sympathetic with much of the Thomist tradition; I just don’t like to see it misused.

mikitta - #84412

February 5th 2014

I watched the debate and was rather disappointed that Nye was all over the map.  He had so many opportunities to bring it around to discussing WHY YEC is not suitable for science education and he dropped the ball on all of them.    He got distracted into minutia and didn’t focus on specifics, like dating methods being in harmony and the strength of the genetics arguments.

There’s a continuation up, of Ham being interviewed after the debate ... here…


I would like to see Biologos comments on that.

Lou Jost - #84428

February 6th 2014

Yes, Nye missed many opportunities, and botched many of the opportunities he did take up. It would have been nice to see a more well-informed scientist up there. Still, he may have piqued some childern of creationists to think more deeply and skeptically about what Ham is feeding them. And even if Nye’s segments of the debate were removed completely, Ham on his own made many patently ridiculous statements that will have set off the BS detectors of the children listening. And his statement saying no evidence would ever change his mind (incredibly applauded by Walton in this BioLogos post) was the kiss of death to the claim that his belief in biblical authority is rational and based on evidence.

mikitta - #84468

February 9th 2014

I think the point of applause was about faith in Christ for salvation.  Unfortunately, Ham purposely misrepresented the question and the moderator didn’t frame the question quite right.

It SHOULD have been stated thus  “What would make you change your mind about creation being very young?”  Not just “what would cause you to change your mind about your beliefs?”.

As for faith in Christ - this is so hard to explain to a non believer.  Look.  You can measure the effect that spiritual belief has on the human brain - which does NOT prove the human brain came up with it.  It only measures the effect not the cause.  But I can say unequivocally that I know that my Redeemer lives.  I cannot impart that proof to any other person because it is very intimate and personal.  Only the Holy Spirit can speak to you in a way that will settle it in your mind, if you let Him.  It isn’t something that can be measured or tested, only something that can be experienced - like love.  You can measure and test the EFFECTS of love, but the actual experience is not objective.

Lou Jost - #84470

February 9th 2014

People say the same thing about many other gods and demons and alien beings and auras and spirits, many of which you would agree are imaginary beings. That is why testing the intersection of a belief system with public reality is so important. It helps weed out the delusional beliefs.

mikitta - #84481

February 10th 2014

Yes, people worship a great many things, and those forays into spirituality have much the same effect on the brain that Christian spirituality does.  That does not make ANY of it fake, or made up.

We are wired to respond to a spiritual reality and this is why people, even athiests, are drawn to it.  Why do you think Scientism and it’s subset, Evolutionism, is so popular amongst those who THINK they are irreligious?


Here’s the thing.  There is one God, creator of all that is, seen and unseen.  And there are many things that people gravitate to in order to NOT be accountable to Him.  Just because worshiping a tree is a false worship, does not mean it is immaginary.  False in this sense, means wrongly placed.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84423

February 6th 2014


Again thank you for your response.

You make some very good points and I see betterf where you and BioLogos are coming from. 

I still think that BioLogos is making a mistake by ignoring the Chicago Declaration.  It should show as you did that it agrees if that is the case and how its approach conforms to this understanding of scripture.

I still think that there are problems.  Using your approach I would say no part of the Bible teaches science.  (I agree using my theological approach which I think is better.)

However the Chicago Declaration specifically indicates that the Bible is inerrant in the area of science and written at the time that it was that must mean that it was written to support Creationism. 

Therefore if it was intended to support Creationism and it seems to most people that it supports Creationism, then one should not blame people for thinking that based on the CD the doctrine of the Inerrancy of the Bible proves Creationism.    

Jon Garvey - #84427

February 6th 2014

Well yes - to suggest that the Bible teaches science is anachronistic anyway, I agree, even given contemporary definitions of “science” as entailing methodological naturalism alone. By that criterion Newton and Kepler’s works don’t teach science. Even “history” wasn’t invented as a literary form when much of the OT was written.

It may be (perhaps I should research it) that the creation accounts were in mind in the Chiago Statement’s, but I can also conceive that that phrase went in as a reaction to the prevalent modernist idea that the Bible is about faith = subjective = untruth, whereas science is about facts = objective = truth. Once again the polarisers breed contention, quite deliberately in most cases.

You’ll see that Lou makes that very same scientistic point above: the Bible is what some primitive peasants once stupidly believed. End of - because, in his view, it’s axiomatically wrong with regard to science, history and all the other areas mentioned in the Chicago statement. And that just leaves “religion,” which is wrong by definition. It’s a view very economical of intellectual effort, and would be harmless enough if it weren’t so influential in the acadamy. So I can understand the Chicago guys trying to respond to it.

Lou Jost - #84429

February 6th 2014

“Lou makes that very same scientistic point above: the Bible is what some primitive peasants once stupidly believed. End of - because, in his view, it’s axiomatically wrong with regard to science, history and all the other areas mentioned in the Chicago statement. And that just leaves “religion,” which is wrong by definition.”

This is a deliberate misrepresentation, one that has been made repeatedly in these circles.  Who claims that the bible is axiomatically wrong about history??? The bible is a valuable primary source about history and past cultures, like any other document from that epoch, and every secular historian and anthropologist recognizes that. It is also not “axiomatic” that the bible is wrong about science, though many of its claims do turn out to be wrong. Jon ends by saying that some scientists (presumably including me) consider religion to be wrong by definition. I’ve repeatedly explained both here and on Jon’s blog that this is not so. There could have been (and could still be) evidence for some of the claims of religions. It is a contingent fact that the claims are not supported.

Jon Garvey - #84430

February 6th 2014


I wouldn’t want to misrepresent you, but so far I’ve seen scant evidence, here or on my blog, of your interacting seriously with the Old Testament as an ancient text in its historical and cultural context, nor with the evidence of the New Testament’s eye-witness character - nor with either in their own terms theologically, philosophically or in any other way than as a Creationist might - as quasi-scientific documents.

Your attitude is summed up in your last sentence: “It is a contingent fact that the claims are not supported.” To which your own post above provides the obvious response: “No, it is a contingent fact that Lou’s subjective opinion is that the claims [all the claims of all religions, apparently] are not supported.”

The trouble is, some of don’t think you know.

Lou Jost - #84431

February 6th 2014

Jon, with respect to the OT, I’ve always been perfectly happy to accept any cultural interpretation of the stories there. If you are willing to consider the parting of the Red Sea, the ten plagues, etc as parables or teaching tools, we agree. I suspect it is you who take these things too literally, not me.

About my not engaging with the “eyewitness character” of the NT—first, now who’s being too literal?  There are no eyewitness accounts of Jesus in the Bible. The gospels were constructed long after the death of Jesus, by anonymous sources, and if we had to choose what genre they best fit by looking at how they were written, it would not be “historical, literal reporting” but hagiography. The closest thing we have to an eyewitness account is Paul’s, which usually treats Jesus’ post-resurrection body as a vision (consistent with purely natural explanations for the experiences reported) rather than a physical thing.

Second, when you claim I did not engage the “eyewitness character” of the evidence for the resurrection, I guess you forgot the hundreds of comments exchanged between me and others on BioLogos on the evidence for the resurrection, following Ted’s posts on the subject. These included checking fine points of Greek translations with Eddie, and long exchanges with others. Whether you agree with me or not, I don’t think you can say I haven’t engaged the issue. See


(34 comments, some involving me)


(81 comments, some involving me)


(272 comments, many involving me)


(328 comments, many involving exchanges with me)

In those exchanges I showed that one of the strongest arguments of NT Wright and Polkinghorne (their argument about the evidential value of the fact that women were said to have been the first to find the empty tomb) was based on shallow scholarship. My overall conclusion was that the evidence for a real bodily resurrection was extremely weak.

My last couple of sentences in my previous comment were apparently unclear. I’ll rephrase them. Science does not rule out a priori any of the many empirical claims of religions (eg Jesus rising from the dead). There could have been strong enough evidence to convince us of these claims. It is a contingent fact that convincing evidence does not exist.

You’ll respond by claiming I would never find any evidence convincing, but that is not true. If prayer to the Christian god (but not to other gods) was answered more often than chance, or if some well-documented miracle happened, or if you were to find some neutral Roman eyewitness accounts of the ascension of Jesus, or if there was an independent Roman account of the zombies that marched on Jerusalem after Jesus’s death, or if earth turns out to be the only habitable planet in the universe, or if world events seemed to follow some clear higher plan, or if the bible contained revealed knowledge that the writers could not have learned by themselves, I’d be convinced. It is a purely contingent fact that this evidence does not exist (yet). You are wrong to say that we scientists all rule out religion by definition.

Jon Garvey - #84432

February 6th 2014

Lou - you seem to presume that you speak for scientists. Perhaps you speak for atheists, but not for scientists.

Lou Jost - #84436

February 6th 2014

Of course I don’t speak for every scientist.

Eddie - #84435

February 6th 2014

As my name has been invoked in the discussion between Jon and Lou, I want to clarify something about my own past statements.

Although I may indeed have discussed points of Greek with Lou, as he says, I want to be sure that people understand that I didn’t apply the Greek to “settle” the question of the Resurrection one way or the other.  I’m not saying that Lou is trying to misuse my words—I believe he is mentioning me only in passing, to make a point to Jon—but I am noting, for a new reader who might misread what Lou said, that I did not argue that Greek philology could settle the question of the Resurrection.  I do not think that the occurrence of the Resurrection is a question that can be settled by any amount of philological or historical research, and I think that the “evidence that demands a verdict” approach to Christian faith is wrongheaded.  Indeed, my theological objection to Ken Ham (never mind any objections I may have to his questionable scientific statements) is that he has a very crude and empiricist conception of religious truth—a conception he shares with his atheist opponents, thus unwittingly validating their line of approach and foolishly allowing them to establish the playing field and the rules of the debate.

Lou Jost - #84438

February 6th 2014

Sorry if my comment might have misled a new reader about Eddie’s position. In the 2013 discussion I was trying to analyze some of Paul’s odd statements about the resurrected Christ, and since he wrote in Greek, and English translations of those particularly important statements varied, I asked Eddie (who knows ancient Greek) for help in choosing the best translation. That’s all. The reason I brought it up at all was only to emphasize that I did make some effort to engage the text, contrary to Jon’s statement.

Ted Davis - #84441

February 6th 2014

I don’t think Lou can fairly be accused of failure to engage the text.

Lou Jost - #84447

February 6th 2014

Thanks, Ted, for supporting me on this even though you disagree with my conclusions.

GJDS - #84462

February 9th 2014

Engaging the text is not the same as sound scholarship, researching the language of the text, examining any other documents that may shed light on the text and the history of that part of the world and its people, along with considering all that has gone into accepting the text as scripture. From what I have seen from Lou, he fails in any criteria that any authentic critic must meet (but he has read the text, so I will state this twice).

Lou Jost - #84465

February 9th 2014

I know very well that I am not an expert on Greek, or on all the context of the ancient Near East. That’s why I look for experts in these issues, and in particular that is why I looked at Wright. I was disappointed by his lack of objectivity, as illustrated by his treatment of this key event of the women finding the tomb. Hence my comment.

GJDS - #84467

February 9th 2014

You have admitted that you lack the expertise in these areas, and yet you remain the most vociferous critic of Christianity (and at times you branch out to include all religion). You even claim to have been deeply immersed in the Faith - yet whenever we undertake serious discussion on theology, you continue parroting this nonsense, which gives the appearance of one who has deeply analysed the text, issues, history and discussions over many centuries. Your position does not make sense. 

Lou Jost - #84491

February 10th 2014

You complain about my being vocal about these issues even though I am not an expert in Near East studies. Nevertheless you, a non-biologist, are a vocal critic of evolutionary theory.

GJDS - #84492

February 10th 2014

I am stating facts as you present them - on evolution, I have repeatedly stated, and provided  impeccable references from pro-evolutionsits, to show that Darwinian thinking is inadequate when examined against the claims made for it. I have as yet not seen anyone address such iinadequacies, and instead your response and others has been one of distain, as just quote mining. I submit to you that there is a vast difference between my approach to Darwinian thinking, and yours towards the Christian faith. The sorry thing is that you still fail to see this.

Ted Davis - #84440

February 6th 2014

I dissent from Lou’s assessment, as follows: “In those exchanges I showed that one of the strongest arguments of NT Wright and Polkinghorne (their argument about the evidential value of the fact that women were said to have been the first to find the empty tomb) was based on shallow scholarship. My overall conclusion was that the evidence for a real bodily resurrection was extremely weak.”

Readers can draw their own conclusions from studying the comments at those URLs, which Lou has kindly provided.

Lou Jost - #84444

February 6th 2014

Yes, I don’t want to imply that Ted or anybody else agreed with my conclusions:

Polkinghorne (following Wright) felt that having women discover the tomb would be something no Jew of the time would invent, because the testimony of women was greatly inferior in weight than the testimony of men. W and P specifically said that if the story were apocryphal, there would be no reason to have women find the tomb first.

But a little research turned up at least two very good reasons why a fictional account might have women finding the empty tomb.

(1) If a non-believer heard the tomb was empty, the first thing that would come to his mind is that the body was taken away by the disciples. If male disciples had been the first to report the empty tomb, their account would be suspect, as most people would assume they just carried off and hid the body. Having women find the empty tomb helps fend off that suspicion, which would have been very strong otherwise.

(2) Much of Mark’s gospel (generally regarded as the earliest, and as the original source of the story of the women) involves deliberate teaching moments in which underdogs are uplifted. If the purpose of Mark’s gospel is not to tell a historical truth but to bring Jesus’ teachings to life and make theological points, it would be entirely consistent with Mark’s other parables to have underdogs play this important role.

My point is not to argue that either one of these, or some other theory, is true. My point is that they are possible, and even reasonable, explanations for why an early Christian writer trying to explain and justify his faith might have women find the empty tomb. Yet Wright and P both say there was no reason why someone would have invented women as the first visitors. In fact they claim that this was one of the arguments that most convinced them of the historicity of the account.  This shows me that they are not trying very hard; they desperately want this story to be true, and cannot be trusted to objectively evaluate it.

Scott Jorgenson - #84457

February 7th 2014

I don’t see where anyone else here has responded to this yet, so I’ll take a shot.  We have a situation here where an unusual and significant event (the bodily resurrection of Jesus) is depicted as having been first discovered and reported by women (while the more credible heros of the story, the men, at the same time are depicted as having been in fear and hiding).  Before us so far we have 3 possible explanations:

1. The event is fabricated, and women are depicted as the first discoverers and reporters in order to thwart arguments that the body had been stolen (women in that culture being seen as constitutionally incapable of such an act).

2. The story is fabricated, and women are depicted as the first discoverers and reporters in keeping with the author’s previous theme of the “last” becoming the “first”.

3. The story is historically authentic - inasmuch as a bodily resurrection had at least apparently happened - and women are depicted as the first discovers and reporters because that’s how it actually went down, despite the apologetic inconvenience of that fact at the time.

Here’s why thesis #1 seems weak to me: there are many ways the body could have been stolen, and #1 only shuts-down on one of them: that those making the initial report were also the ones who had actually done the deed.  A skeptical hearer of the story back in that day could still respond: Well, perhaps the women’s male companions had stolen the body earlier in the day, without the women knowing.  Or perhaps the men had stolen it with their knowledge, and the women were simply accomplices.  Or perhaps factions unknown had taken the body.  Or perhaps the body just got lost in all the mix-up and hubbub.  And so on.  In short, thesis #1 is so ineffective at what purports to have motivated it, that it undermines itself.

As for why thesis #2 seems weak to me: Yes, Mark reports Jesus as having taught about reversals of status in the Kingdom; but let’s not go crazy now.  In Mark’s gospel, all twelve of the disciples are still men.  All of Jesus’s most significant and frequent interactions are with men (especially Peter).  The “least of these” are primarily depicted in Mark as the poor and destitute, the sick and infirm, and though Jesus is respectful and kind toward women in Mark it is far from a feminist depiction.  Would Mark really suddenly have gone all feminist at the end of his gospel?  Just to make a theological point he had made before but never in such an extreme way that he had to have known would undermine his gospel’s credibility in that culture?

So I have to say that #1 and #2 seem to me rather weak compared to #3 and the only reason we are quibbling over that is because of the nature of the event in question. Bodily resurrections simply don’t happen and thus couldn’t have happened in this case either, and so any alternative explanation with even a modicum of plausibility is to be preferred - so goes the argument.  If the event in question was not a resurrection, but instead an unlikely but plausible event on naturalistic grounds - say, a surprising-but-not-impossible Houdini-like escape from jail right before the crucifixion - I think we would all go with #3: that it was an authentic report of what had actually happened - because given the comparative weakness of the others, that’s the most parsimonious explanation.

GJDS - #84458

February 7th 2014

I would agree with you, and add that people have sought to denigrade this event from day one (as the Gospel states, they even bribed the soldiers to tell tales), and yet we continue to believe the event was authentic to this day. It seems that 2000 years (give or take) has been given to critics to pursuade others of their point of view against (that Christ is risen), and still no result for them!

Lou Jost - #84459

February 8th 2014

Re (1): You agree that having women find the empty tomb helps to defuse the body-theft accusation, but you think it doesn’t defuse it enough to be worthwhile. But what more could the author do to defuse it? Words were his only tools. These were well-chosen words for the purpose.

(2): Mary Magdalene is prominently placed by Mark in his crucifiction scene. But anyway, your mentioning of Mark’s prominent use of other “underdogs” only strengthens my argument, even though they were not women. The point of my argument was that Mark had a history of putting underdogs  in prominent places, not that he had a history of putting women in prominent places.

(3) It is hard to imagine how anyone not already a Christian could possibly say that #3 is more plausible than #1 or #2.

But my point was not to argue that either #1 or #2 were definitely true (the evidence doesn’t permit that). My point was that there could be reasons for placing women as the discoverers of the empty tomb. Even if you think they are weak,#1 and #2 are possible explanations. Wright and Polkinghorne said that there could be no reasons for having women discover the empty tomb, unless the story were true. #1 and #2 disprove their assertion, which they regarded as one of the strongest bits of evidence that the story was true. So you can see why I have a low opinion of the objectivity of their writing.

Scott Jorgenson - #84460

February 8th 2014

“(3) It is hard to imagine how anyone not already a Christian could possibly say that #3 is more plausible than #1 or #2.”

Hi Lou.  My point was actually quite narrow.  Note I did not say that #3 entailed there actually was a bodily resurrection. Thesis #3 is merely that the women really did find the tomb apparently empty, and really did have an experience they took to be an angelic encounter announcing the resurrection of Jesus, and were the first to do so and report it.  In other words, thesis #3 is simply that this gospel report is an authentic account of a human experience of some kind, rather than a later fabrication.

This still leaves it possible on skeptical grounds that the body was missing through ordinary means (perhaps some of the male disciples had taken it earlier, as I said before), and that the angelic encounter was some sort of naturalistic vision explained in the same way that skeptics explain other (hallucinatory?) visions and encounters had by mystics over the years.  I don’t personally agree with that, but I agree it is possible on skeptical grounds.

But your contention that the account is fabricated, and the inconvenient role played by women is very plausibly explained by theses #1 or #2, is something I think reasonable non-Christians could certainly disagree with.   And likewise I think many could agree that #3 is more likely, insofar as it goes.  After all, I think everyone - Mormon and non-Mormon alike - can agree that Joseph Smith really did somehow have various witnesses, who were real people, attest in writing that they had witnessed the golden plates.  That account is not a complete fabrication and it is not the case those witnesses never existed and never made such statements, right?  That the witnesses were real and really did attest to those things, at the time they are said to have made those attestations, is authentic - which at the same time does not necessarily concede that what they attested to was actually as it seemed - right?  I think many non-Mormons can agree to that.  So when skeptics are not willing to make such a similar mild “concession” in regard to the gospel accounts, but feel the need to reject their very authenticity in the first place, I have to say it leads me to a low opinion of their objectivity myself.

Lou Jost - #84464

February 9th 2014

Scott, you are right, I do grant you that concession, if we are only considering that event in isolation from the rest of the document. But #3 may not necessarily be “the most parsimonious explanation” when we consider the document as a whole.

There are lots of events in the gospels that seem highly unlikely to record actual experiences of people (even allowing that the actors might have misinterpreted their experiences), for example the march of the zombies on Jerusalem. Furthermore, some of them seem specifically fabricated to make theological points (and these sometimes differ from one gospel to the other). Given that context,  the most parsimonious explanation of the documents as a whole may well be that they were intended as an extended parable. 

But again, my main point was that Wright and P said there were no reason to invent women finding the tomb, and that is just wrong.

Jon Garvey - #84466

February 9th 2014

You’re right Lou. How coul so many have missed it?

The Evangelists, foretelling by the Spirit that some exceptionally ingenious 21st century scholars would dump a post-modern feminist theology on the gospels, and that others would conjecture that somehow women finding an empty tomb in the morning would militate against a theft of the body in the 36 hours before, by members of the same sect, did the only decent thing and invented the story.

I see it all so clearly now - as, I’m certain, the whole world does except those culturally brainwashed Christians.

Lou Jost - #84469

February 9th 2014

When all else fails, pile on the sarcasm.

Having women find the empty tomb could indeed have served either of the purposes I mentioned. Wright is wrong to say that there was no reason to have women find the tomb unless the story were true. 

Scott Jorgenson - #84471

February 9th 2014

There are viable reasons, and then there are implausible conjectures, and I feel that what you have here is the latter.  Keep in mind that #1 and #2 do not only suffer from their respective unique difficulties - #1 being so ineffective at countering the claims it purports to deflect, and #2 being so anachronistic in its feminist concerns. They each come with the same, additional, cost: undermining the gospel’s credibility to the culture at the time by using women as the first (and in Mark, only) witnesses. Mark is nothing if not agitated that his readers believe his message; if he was going to fabricate the women at the tomb, at cost to this - his most overriding concern - then he had better have not just any marginal reason, but an overwhelmingly good reason to make it worth it.  Neither #1 nor #2 can do that, due to their respective weaknesses I already mentioned, and so that makes them even less likely.  I think Wright probably recognizes this and so I would guess that is why he is as dismissive on this as he is.

Anyway, I think I’ve explained my critique here well enough and I’ll leave it at that.  I’m glad you participate here, Lou - your attitude toward us Christians is dignified and respectful overall and you write clearly and always have interesting things to say.  Take care.

Lou Jost - #84474

February 9th 2014

Thanks very much Scott. I really appreciated your engaging the details of the argument instead of being sarcastic.

Jon Garvey - #84476

February 10th 2014


Sarcasm I admit to, bit not all else failing - my point was exactly the same as Scott’s - that you present as legitimate reasons what are entirely implausible, and then persist in saying that they are persuasive.

It’s tempting to reply sarcastically to your staement that the most parsimonious explanation of the gospels as a whole is extended parable. Such sarcasm would not be prompted by the suggestion, but by the authoritative tone you use for a statement that is breathtakingly implausible - as even a nodding acquaintance with skeptical NT scholarship would show.

Non-sarcastically, if it were the most parsimonious explanation, 200 years of critical scholarship would not have ignored it as they have.

In Britain, a vernacular response to those who present bizarre hypothesis with a straight face is, “You’re taking the Mick, aren’t you?” The implication being that those presenting them would have to be irrational to believe them, so are probably being sarcastic.

Lou Jost - #84482

February 10th 2014

Jon, I don’t think that the gospels are entirely made up; it is reasonable to suppose that they are built around a real person with truly radical teachings. Sorry if my phrasing suggested otherwise. But it is also reasonable to think that the gospels, and/or the oral transmissions that inspired them, are not straight histories.

History shows us many examples of the “mythification” of charismatic people, including great teachers, powerful politicians, etc. Roman emperors were often reported to perform miracles, for example. The biographies of Indian gurus are full of miracle stories and even sometimes resurrections, typically to establish the guru’s credentials among his followers, or to justify the cult to others. I don’t rule them out a priori, but skepticism is warranted. Especially when the “back story” makes as little sense as yours does. It is not at all farfetched to think that the gospels are hagiographic works, with major elements meant to elucidate the teachings of Jesus or establish his status as the Messiah rather than to record actual facts.

Many scholars have noted that elements in the gospels seem to be inserted there for non-historical motives. The zombie march on Jerusalem is one example. The story of Jesus’ birth also shows clear signs of mythification in at least some of the gospels, as do Jesus’ travels after his supposed resurrection. 

Even today supernatural legends build up around historical characters, and millions of people believe these legends are true and build their lives around them (sometimes bettering themselves in the process). An obviously fake cult, Mormonism, can even gather millions of converts in a few short decades, and has missionaries going all over the world converting people to some truly crazy beliefs. A Mormon almost won the presidency of the most powerful nation on earth—-shades of Constantine!

Why not expect that the Christian story was subject to the same historical distortions we see in the stories of almost every other cult or religion? Most of us suspect the historical veracity of the supernatural elements in other people’s myths. Am I “taking the Mick” for suspecting them also in the prevalent myth of my own culture?

Jon Garvey - #84493

February 11th 2014


The answer is in the detail, which has been tossed around elsewhere for 2 centuries and doesn’t belong here on an origins site.

The “legendary accretion” idea was, interestingly, never applied by ancient critics (more prone to call Jesus a magician and the resurrection a straight lie), but by those much farther (ie 2 millennia) from the events, with a metaphysical commitment to naturalism.

Specifically, even on standard dating of the gospels and epistles, there is simply insufficient time for such “mythification” to have arisen (one can read scholarly critiques of the shaky methodology of the anthropological studies used in the original claims, if one has a mind).

None of that is slam-dunk. Of course, the gospels could be, for whatever reason, uniquely rapid in the transition from biography to legend. The evangelists could have been uniquely careful to research the local background to make late evidence seem contemporary. They could have deliberately weakened their case (in the instance of the women witnesses) as a subtle ploy to increase credibility. They could have altered events and sayings when using each other as sources to pretend they didn’t know of each other, or to simulate witness variation (their doing so for teaching and narrative purposes isn’t in doubt).

But such considerations cast doubt on the easy dismissal of the gospels’ substantial accuracy (as do things like the specific literary differences from pious legends, the lack of either the educational wherewithal or the tradition for subtle genere-mixing and so on).

In short, the fraud has not been exposed in any reliable or consistent way in 2000 years by great minds. I venture to suggest that the case of the Book of Mormon is not comparable.

Lou Jost - #84498

February 11th 2014

Jon, first, I am not suggesting deliberate fraud.

Second, you dismiss Mormonism for reasons very similar to the reasons I use to dismiss Christianity. It is so easy for you to dismiss Mormonism  because it is recent enough that we know the details of its formation. (Even those suspicious details are, however, not enough to to keep millions from believing it.) Hence the old joke—Q: What’s the difference between a religion and a cult? A: About 150 years.

What if someone like Joseph Smith had started his cult a thousand or so years ago? And what if a Mitus Romnius became emperor of Rome and made this the state religion? All the details that allow us to check the contemporary Joseph Smith would be lost for this ancient J Smithius. You’d be defending him today.

I’d point out that your Mormon account of creation and cosmology is wildly wrong, and you would say “...so far I’ve seen scant evidence of your interacting seriously with the Book of Mormon as an ancient text in its historical and cultural context, nor with the evidence of the Mormon Witness Testament’s eye-witness character - nor with either in their own terms theologically, philosophically or in any other way than as a literalist might - as quasi-scientific documents.”

Lou Jost - #84499

February 11th 2014

Your claim that mythification takes a long time also seems to be false. The miracle stories attributed to Roman emperors didn’t take centuries. The myths surrounding some Indian gurus originated while they were still alive or within  afew years of their deaths. If someone like them had gotten Constantine’s ear centuries ago, you’d be defending them now, with many of the same arguments you currently give for Christianity.

Scott Jorgenson - #84515

February 13th 2014

Lou, I just have time for this.  I’d posit that if you look at the “case studies” here, they seem to show two patterns: miracle accounts that are, as near as we can tell, contemporaneous with the actors; and legendary accounts that only grow up, as Jon was saying, after many, many years (multiple generations).

And so we find that the miracles of the Caesars were known to their subjects at the time (they would hardly have been effective propaganda otherwise), and the miracles of Joseph Smith likewise have their provenance in the time of Joseph Smith.  Meanwhile, the legends of King Arthur and his knights likely developed centuries after the historical figure, and ditto with Robin Hood.

What we don’t find, as far as I’m aware, is legends or miracle accounts cropping up in the years in between.  They seem to crop up either at T-zero with, around and among the original actors in the story; or much later when the population of believers has finally grown past the point of cohesion, and there is no longer enough social glue amongst them to ward against “mythification”.  In the years in between, when there are many believers around, still deeply interested in the story and closely networked with one another, and tied-in perhaps with some of the original actors still alive, there seems to be a natural braking effect on mythification beyond whatever was present at the origin.  And so, for example, there are no “accepted” Joseph Smith miracle accounts which first appear in the historical record in the late 19th century - at least as far as I know.  Rather, they all go back to Mormonism’s early days.

All this seems to argue further against the thesis that the miraculous accounts of the canonical gospels are inauthentic late additions of the sort that we see, for example, in the 2nd/3rd-century gnostics.  The gospels are too early for mythification of the Arthur and Merlin sort to have occurred; so they most likely relate miracle stories that go back to Jesus’ life and ministry.  Whether any of them - particularly the ones multiply attested - actually happened or not is a different matter entirely, of course, and one not likely to be answered on historical/critical grounds as much as philosophical grounds. And elsewhere here you’ve given interesting reasons for answering in the negative on that question.  But I just wish we could at least lay to rest the “mythical Jesus” argument, in which the gospels’ miracle accounts are all a late fabrication.

Lou Jost - #84520

February 13th 2014

Since we both agree that the earliest gospel is pretty close to t=0, I agree that the miracles are of the first type you mentioned. That is why I brought up Joseph Smith, and why I also often mention the biographies of Indian gurus, often written shortly after their deaths, and often containing miracle accounts.

Lou Jost - #84500

February 11th 2014

Here’s a list of some of the accepted miracles performed by Joseph Smith:


Lou Jost - #84501

February 11th 2014

Here’s a Mormon quote about their holy book withstanding criticism for almost two centuries. Notice how similar it is in tone and spirit to some of Jon’s and GJDS’s responses above.

“For 179 years this book has been examined and attacked, denied and deconstructed, targeted and torn apart like perhaps no other book in modern religious history—perhaps like no other book in any religious history. And still it stands. Failed theories about its origins have been born and parroted and have died—from Ethan Smith to Solomon Spaulding to deranged paranoid to cunning genius. None of these frankly pathetic answers for this book has ever withstood examination because there is no other answer than the one Joseph gave as its young unlearned translator. 

Lou Jost - #84502

February 11th 2014

And here is a list of Mormon martyrs, in case some Christians think Christianity is special in that regard. (There are quite a few, even leaving out the ones who died in battle):


Ted Davis - #84442

February 6th 2014

I want to comment now on this, from Lou: “There are no eyewitness accounts of Jesus in the Bible. The gospels were constructed long after the death of Jesus, by anonymous sources, and if we had to choose what genre they best fit by looking at how they were written, it would not be “historical, literal reporting” but hagiography.”

This is the standard view of modern biblical scholarship, and perhaps it’s partly correct. As an historian, however, I’m less inclined to jump to that conclusion. The problem I have with it is as follows. As far as I can tell from reading a number of biblical scholars, there is a key assumption underlying this conclusion: since Jesus talked about the destruction of the Temple, an event postdating his crucifixion by roughly 40 years, the gospel narratives themselves cannot date from close to his lifetime. They MUST have been written much later.

It’s just an assumption, not an historical fact, and IMO it’s a dubious assumption. Everyone agrees that Jesus was highly intelligent, and that he could read people very well. Living at a time when the Romans were constantly putting down rebellions with great force, and at a time when Jewish revolutionaries were always causing enough trouble to make the Romans and the Jewish authorities very nervous, Jesus could very well (IMO) have connected the dots and predicted the destruction of Jerusalem—even if we simply assume (as I have here, for the sake of argument) that Jesus had no “revelations” from God about this. According to some archaeologists and ancient historians I have talked to (though I am no expert in either field, I know several who are), the gospel authors had awfully good ideas about what things were like several decades earlier, if in fact they lived after the destruction of Jerusalem.

In the absence of hard evidence, I regard the date of the composition of the various gospels as highly conjectural, and if I were a biblical scholar (obviously I’m not), I would hesitate to be too dogmatic about such a theory-laden conclusion.

Lou Jost - #84445

February 6th 2014

I hope we can have a good discussion of this important issue someday on BioLogos.

Andy and Jen Rutkowski - #84472

February 9th 2014


I echo your desire that this issue be discussed on biologos. I’ve really enjoyed reading this particular thread on a clearly huge issue to Christians.

Having recently read NT Wright’s 750 page Resurrection of the Son of God (which I’d recommend, it’s actually an easy read), I would note that he certainly provides arguments other than the women to support the resurrection (again worthy of a dedicated topic on biologos).  Speaking of the women, I find it curious that the women are omitted from 1 Corinthians 15 which is the earliest estimated resurrection mention in the New Testament (45-50 AD).  Paul might be partially refering to a creed that early Christians would recite.  NT Wright argued that the women were not included in this creed because as an apologetics tool it was not necessary and including them could deflect from their impact on those they were sharing their faith with (since women were seen as unreliable witnesses).  Fast forward 200+ years, and Celsus would tease Christians regarding the fact that their faith was based on the testimony of “hysterical women.”  This set the state for some fascinating back and forth between he and Origan.


Lou Jost - #84473

February 9th 2014

Andy, thanks for that interesting comment. An alternative explanation for Paul’s omission is, of course, the one I just gave—-the gospels, written after Paul, are not historical. It is really striking how few details of Jesus’ life Paul mentions, even when those details would have helped him stamp out things he thought were heresies.

Andy and Jen Rutkowski - #84479

February 10th 2014


A reason Paul might not have gone into go into the details of Jesus life is that they were already widely know through oral tradition by then (repeated during early church services), which would have formed the basis for the gospels written later.  His focus instead was on providing guidance/encouragement to the different churches for issues they were going through.

I find the 1 Corinthian 15 passage fascinating.  He mentions the 500 which he points many were still alive when he wrote it.  You would think that they could have been approached to corroborate the event described.  The whole point of the chapter is Paul is stressing that the suffering he had gone through and others in the church is because something in fact happened on Easter.  I understand the arguments that Jesus sightings were visions only.  However, the 1st Century Jews had a clear concept of resurrection.  It definitely involved a real body, although they only anticipated it happening in the end times.  Did Jesus really appear in just a vision to 500 people at the same time?  If so, why does Paul stress the bodily resurrection?  The point of the chapter is that what they were doing through was futile if what they believed was not true.

Lou Jost - #84490

February 10th 2014

“A reason Paul might not have gone into go into the details of Jesus life is that they were already widely know through oral tradition by then…”

Andy, I agree that silence by itself is no argument that he didn’t know these details, but the argument is that he was silent even when it would have been advantageous to him to not be silent. He was writing letters to those communities to resolve contentious issues. What better and more authoritative way to resolve them than to raise examples from Jesus’ life? But he doesn’t do that.

The passage about the 500 was discussed at length in my comments in Ted Davis’ posts. Paul included himself in that list of people who had “seen” the resurrected Jesus. But we know Paul’s experience of Jesus was only through visions. So the text itself, even if taken at face value, does not rule out that he is talking about visions.

“You would think that they could have been approached to corroborate the event described.”

Paul is writing to Corinthians very far away from Jerusalem. No chance of verification.

You say that Paul stresses a bodily resurection. Yet he goes to great lengths (1 Corinthians 35-54) to explain that the resurrected body is a spiritual one, not a physical one. He is talking about how WE will be raised, not necessarily how Jesus was raised, but this kind of spiritual body was also the kind that Jesus had when Paul “saw” him.

In fact even the gospels are ambiguous about the physicality of Jesus’ resurrected body. The earliest, Mark, has nothing. Matthew’s resurrected Jesus could easily be a vision. Later gospels get successively more physical but are still sometimes ambiguous.

Paul also does not ever mention the empty tomb, an important corollary of a physical resurrection but not of a spiritual one.  Mark’s odd comment that the women who discovered the empty tomb “told no one” may be a detail added to explain why the empty tomb was not known to earlier Christians.

Andy and Jen Rutkowski - #84503

February 11th 2014

“What better and more authoritive way to resolve them (issues) than to raise examples from Jesus’ life?  But he didn’t do that.”

It’s unclear to me exactly why Paul would not include more stories of Jesus, other than the resurrection.  While the gospels were certainly written later, as I stated before, the church certainly would have had established some oral traditions by this time.  Paul including them would have been immensely valuable for our purposes, but for the purposes of his arguments to his audience, he apparently did not determine them to be useful/necessary.  Regardless, this question, in my opinion does not contribute to the spiritual vs physical resurrection debate.

“But we know Paul’s experience of Jesus was only through visions”

I’m not convinced Paul qrote that his experience was visionary, although I agree that this is a common viewpoint even among Christians.  I agree that the reference in Acts could drive someone to that conclusion.  However, in that, Luke references a blinding light and that the others heard the voice, which indicates to me that this was not a standard internalized vision.  Paul himself refers to him having seen Jesus in the same capacity as the apostles, again indicating to me a physical appearance (Corinth ch 9).  You do bring up an excellent point.  He equates his sighting experience with that of the apostles.  The important ramification of this is that if his sighting was only spiritual, this would be true for everyone else, but obviously if he was referring to a physical sighting, it would apply to him also.

“Paul is writing to Corinthians very far away from Jerusalem. No chance for verification”

Then what is his point in mentioning them?  With apostles themselves going out on missions throughout the Mediterranean, how do we know some of the others with their shared experience would not have done the same.  I think it is certianly plausible they did and if so, people in that church would have come into contact with them and that is why he would mention them.  I don’t think it’s a stretch to think the people in Corinth knew who some of them were and had heard a testimony of some kind from them.

“Yet he goes to great lengths (v 35-54) to explain that the resurrected body is a spiritual one, not a physical one”

You are referring to v44 when in most Engligh translations, Paul contrasts physical body raised with spiritual body raised.  The actual greek words are psychikon and pneumatikon respectively.  Psyche is typically translated soul and pneuma is normally translated spirit.  The adjective (-ikon) describes not what something is composed of but what it is animated by (the New Jerusalem version gets closest to this).  I think he is contrasting the current human body and the new body, post resurection, raised (“animated”) by the Spirit.  I do think as you allude to that while he is in this case refering to our future resurrection, because I think he sees Jesus as having already undergone this, the implications pertain to his resurrection as well.  Bottomline is that there are fairly significant ramifications for what Paul meant by the adjective he used.

In general, I struggle to see how a visionairy only experience fits with his arguments in Chapter 15.  Paul describes the suffering the church was going through including an apparent dangerous encounter he had with wild animals.  Paul’s point is that their efforts were completely pointless is the resurrection were not true (he even uses the phrase “let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die” to describe the ramifications).  I think he is saying that something very dramatic happened to Jesus which evoked the belief they acquired and in my opinion separates this movement from what had happened to other messianic movements at the time.  Reports of visions were not uncommon during that time period.  Physical resurrection, as you well know, simply doesn’t happen.  If he was simply refering to Jesus’ resurrection as an internalized vision, I struggle to see the point of the passage.

“Paul does not ever mention the empty tomb, an important corollary of a physical resurrection but not of a spiritual one.”

I concur that mentioning an empty would have supported the thesis that there was indeed a physical resurrection.  However, he was obviously not writting to Lou and Andy trying to determine the historical accuracy of an event, he was writing to an audience that understood what he meant by resurrection.  If they knew he meant physical resurrection, including this information would not have been necessary.  The first few verses of that chapter are quite possibly a creed recited by the early church, similar to creeds in churches today which also typically don’t mention an empty tomb for the same reason.

“Mark’s odd comment that the women who discovered the empty tomb ‘told no one’ may be a detail added to explain why the empty tomb was not known to ealrier Christians.”

Yeah, Mark’s ending is fascinating and very puzzling.  I highly suspect there was a longer ending that for whatever reason disappeared.  It would undoubtedly shed tremendous light on this subject.

Lou Jost - #84505

February 12th 2014

Thanks for the detailed and civil comment. You said “If he was simply refering to Jesus’ resurrection as an internalized vision, I struggle to see the point of the passage.” Here I think you are making a sharp dichotamy that is anachronistic, in the sense that most people of Paul’s time would not have distinguished between the experience of an internalized vision and that of a “real spiritual body”. Paul was motivated to act on his experience, as if it were real, whether or not there was something there (and note that Paul’s account of his experience differs from that in Luke).

So even if the resurrection is of a spiritual body, there would be “life after death” and Paul’s passages would make sense to him and his Hellenic readers.

Andy and Jen Rutkowski - #84512

February 12th 2014

The word resurrection carried meaning to both Greek and Jew at that time.  As you know, Greeks did not believe in a physical resurrection but believed in the soul escaping the body after death.  I don’t know of any instance in Plato’s writing etc when they refer to the later as resurrection.  From the bible and Josephus, we know the 1st century Jews were divided on a belief in physical resurrection (Sadducees against, Pharases for). But if you asked a Jew what was meant by the word resurrection, they would have said it was physical.  Paul came from a Pharasee background and his Corinthian audience was not exclusively Hellenic.  There were Jews as well in those early churches, hence some of his  writing addressing challenges the two groups were facing meshing within the churches.  Thus Paul refering to resurrection as a non physical event would have not made any sense to his Jewish congregation, it would be inconsistant with what it meant in his background, and would have confused his Greek audience who would have said what he was describing was not an actual resurection but what Plato described as soul leaving body.  The Greeks might have then wondered, how is this belief really that different than how we were raised and if so so, why are we suffering for it.  I think in chapter 15 Paul is communicating the opposite of that message.

On a separate note, due to work/family constraints, I unfortunately don’t get the chance often to read these posts or comment for that matter, but I’m always excited when I come across your posts because, while I may not agree with all your points, they are always well thought out and of tremendous value as they typically represent a serious opposing viewpoint to most of the posters. You also are very civil.  This is a trait unfortunately lacking too often from these important discussions from all sides.  

Lou Jost - #84519

February 13th 2014

Thanks very much for the kind words, Andy. As for Corinthians 15, it sure looks to me like Paul is trying very hard to emphasize that the risen body is not physical. I don’t know how to answer your observation that all Jews would have interpreted “resurrection” to mean “bodily resurrection”, but the text seems very clear that non-bodily resurrection was meant:

“The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”[f]; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we[g] bear the image of the heavenly man.

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable…”

Andy and Jen Rutkowski - #84521

February 13th 2014

On Jews and resurrection, this is a lengthy topic.  The concept of soul escaping the body as you know was a Hellenic one.  The Jews were exposed to these ideas in the 3rd Century BC, but the evidence from the Bible and more importantly (from an unbiased perspective) Josephus, was that the Jews had not embraced this concept.  They believed (other than the Sadducees) that in the end times there would be a mass physical resurrection.  There were questions of what happened in the meantime and what the new bodies would consist of but even today in Jerusalem you can see the thousands of tombs on Mount Olives overlooking the city.  They are there because Jews believed proximity to the temple was of some value for this resurrection.  If they believed it was spiritual only, why would tomb location or burying in general matter.  Understanding the Jewish viewpoint on resurrection is critical to evaluate the use of the word in the rest of the Old Testament, particularly for our discussion, Paul.

With regard to the rest of the chapter supporting spiritual resurrection, I go back to my earlier point that how v44 is translated carries tremendous weight in assessing the rest of the discussion.  I think he is talking about a new body animated by the spirit.  In addition to a spiritual resurrection being inconsistent with beliefs of his contemporary Jewish counterparts, had he wanted to clearly delineate a physical/spiritual resurrection, there are different adjectives he could have used.  I believe the passage is describing that this new body (whatever happened to Jesus and what will happen to us) is a new type of physical creation, created by the Spirit, with different properties that cannot experience death.

The bigger point to make here is that it is clear to me that he is stressing that whatever happened on Easter, it was a big deal.  This was not him or others simply getting a vision from a dead guy.  That was not uncommon at the time and even in some cultures today.  He is foot stomping that something remarkable happened on Easter and that is the basis for their belief.

Conceptually here is where I struggle with Bultmann’s line of thinking.  We have a belief in a resurrection that starts exclusively within a Jewish community.  It then gets introduced into Greek (non-Jews) and then blossoms into a significant movement within the Roman Empire.  To me logically it would therefore make sense for this belief to start as a bodily one (given Jewish context), and then as it became increasingly believed by Greek morph into a spiritual one (opposite of Bultmann).  The advantages are clear.  There would be far more compatibility with established contemporary beliefs, far easier reception from Roman authorities, and an easier time convincing a skeptical audience who would undoubtedly challenge the probability of a physical resurrection.  Evidence of course indicates that did not happen.  By the 2nd Century, Celsus ridicules Christians for their belief in a physical resurrection.  I think the best explanation is that the initial belief was physical.  Oral traditions, later codified as the Gospels, corroborated this belief.

Andy and Jen Rutkowski - #84524

February 14th 2014

Correction.  In the previous post, 1st paragraph, I meant New not Old Testament.

Scott Jorgenson - #84516

February 13th 2014

Just a random thought on Paul and the empty tomb: Not only does Paul fail to explicitly mention the empty tomb - for that matter, he hardly mentions anything about Jesus other than his death, resurrection, and the role those play in salvation.  He does not mention any of Jesus’ ethical teaching, for example, even though Paul’s writings are full of ethics.  You would think, by Lou’s comment, that Paul would refer to Jesus’ teaching to support his own.  But he doesn’t, yet nobody takes that to indicate that Jesus was not much of a teacher.  Rather than fixate too much on how much of the historical Jesus we can glean from Paul, then, we should perhaps turn it around and ask how much the historical Jesus’ absence tells us about Paul.  Me, I’m glad we have the rest of the New Testament to round or balance out Paul’s point of view.

As for Paul and the 1 Corinthians passage about the physical versus spiritual resurrection body: I don’t think he uses “spiritual” here as a synonym for “internal”, “private”, “visionary”, “subjective”, “metaphorical”, or any such thing.  As Andy pointed out, other Pauline passages (including the immediate context in 1 Corinthians 15:12ff) make a point of insisting that the (physical) reality of the resurrection is a big deal to Paul; and the whole Jewish context, especially among the Pharisees, reinforces that view.  Rather, I think Paul is responding to natural, commonplace curiosity over what sort of body a (physical) resurrection entails (1 Corinthians 15:35).  Is it our corpse simply re-animated?  Is it us as we are physically at the age of our death?  If we die young, do we have a youthful body in the resurrection; if we die old, do we have an aged body? Etc.  He’s teaching that we have a transformed body that is in continuity with the old even as it is radically different from the old, as the plant is from the seed.

Scott Jorgenson - #84517

February 13th 2014

Oh, and this: as for Mark’s odd ending with the women telling nobody - this may simply be in keeping with Mark’s handling of the Jesus story throughout as a “Messianic secret”.  There are a number of other places in Mark where Jesus is said to instruct that no one be told (eg Peter’s identification of him as the Christ in Mark 8).  Whatever Mark’s purpose in this (and I admit I’m as puzzled as anyone else), it seems plausible to me that Mark’s ending is simply in keeping with that.

GJDS - #84475

February 9th 2014

I find historically valid documents especially interesting - critics of Christianity can be found over a lengthy period, and the Patristic writings contain a great deal of effort to counter these critics. It is also instructive to realise (as Celsus states) that the Jews came with little historical weight, as they did not have a home, were racked with arguments; the early Christians were also viewed as a Jewsih sect, perhaps with less ‘cultural and historical weight’ then other sects and religions. It is fascinating to look back and wonder how the Chrisitan faith survived, esp when we consider the depth of philosophy and religious practices of the Egyptian/Greek/Roman world.A fascinating subject.

Jon Garvey - #84451

February 7th 2014

Ted, I’m not even a historian, but as a doctor (and studying theology) I had to judge the weight of evidence for positions held, as we all do. There have always seemed to me, when I’ve read the material, quite slender grounds for a number of specialist conclusions about both Old and New Testaments, dating being just one. And I too have talked to ancient historians. Insisting on methodological naturalism to study God incarnate seems -well - inappropriate.

Is one out of order to have opinions about the strengths and weaknesses of other cultures, even when those cultures are academic guilds? At least, it seems, there are some within the culture who think differently - Richard Bauckham’s book “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” is refreshing, as was J A T Robinson’s iconoclastic work on dating. Both have taken some flak for doubting theoretical assumptions that seem to be foundation-myths themselves.

In the context of the debate, it’s sad that the obvious reply to Ham’s rather fideistic, “It’s in the Bible” is, “Even many of your own Bible scholars don’t accord it much authority.”

GJDS - #84446

February 6th 2014

I cannot help but smile when I readd such comments - one may respond on so many levels. Why would any god view Lou as so important that he would corner Lou and bombard him with evidence until Lou felt convinced? But putting that to one side, we have accounts of atheists who speak of understanding the Bible and say publicly they are theists. Yet to others this is also unconvincing. Again we have theists who become aethists. Should this be evidence that would settle the matter and atheists would look for other interests besides anti-Christian activities?

A more serious comment would be this: The Christian faith states unambiguously that belief/faith is granted by God, and it is freely accepted by the us. The notion that God should convince anyone with whatever evidence God can provide would be to coerce belief, and this is contrary to God’s will. Thus I again ask the question, “Why become fixated on self-seeking evidence? If a person is not convinced, that seems ok with God. Should be ok with us, me thinks.”

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84424

February 6th 2014

The problem with insisting that people must accept bad theology as God’s Truth is that sooner or later people will find out that it is not true.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84433

February 6th 2014

Hanan D.

I apologize that I have not learned the trick if there is one of using the reply tab.

To respond to your comments I can see your frustration with inspiration if your tradition maintains a dictation understanding of the Torah.  However concerning the Sabbath I would note that there are two versions of the Decalogue in the Pentateuch, one, the familiar one in Exodus and the other in Deuteronomy.  They are the same except for the rationale for the commandment on the Sabbath.  The one in Deuteronomy is not based on the 7th day of creation, but the liberation of the Hebrews from slavery.

What I was learned in seminary from excellent Bible scholars was that the historical books of the Genesis and Exodus grew out of oral traditions, E and J, of the Hebrews, which were edited and compiled by religious scholars during the peak of Jewish power and culture, the times of David and Solomon.  This means to me that the Spirit of God worked through many people including Moses, and not just one, Moses.   

The fact that Israel was sharply divided between the North and South, as has been the US, and this division was only temporarily healed during the glory years makes understandable the existence separate, but compatible religious traditions.

Now traditions about authority usually develop when that authority is under attack.  Despite what my friends on the blog say Christianity does reject the Law of Moses as binding on Believers.  Jesus criticized both the cleanliness code and the Decalogue and Paul was even clearer.

Therefore the Jewish tradition probably reacted by saying the Pentateuch was dictated by Elohim.  Also the theological tradition of the NT again despite the protestations of my friends is that Jesus Christ is the divine Word, which leaves the Bible as the inspired word.  You are right in saying that the inspired word is less authoritative and they are mistaken.

On the other hand you should not overlook the power of the Spirit for Christians.  The Holy Spirit is fully God and equal to the Father and the Son.  The Spirit rules and guides as do the Father and Son, just more indirectly.

The God the Father spoke God the Word (or Son) to the prophets through God the Spirit.  Probably Christians built their theory of the inspiration on the prophets.  The NT depends more on the Prophets and the Spirit than than the Torah and the Law.

Hanan, I don’t know if this answers your question fully, but I hope that it gives you some possible reasons for different traditions concerning the Bible.                   

Hanan D - #84485

February 10th 2014

What I was learned in seminary from excellent Bible scholars was that the historical books of the Genesis and Exodus grew out of oral traditions, E and J, of the Hebrews, which were edited and compiled by religious scholars during the peak of Jewish power and culture, the times of David and Solomon.  This means to me that the Spirit of God worked through many people including Moses, and not just one, Moses. 


The spirit of God? Do you see how that can just mean anything? Even if Jesus spoke against the law, did he not believe himself that it was the work of Moses and not the North vs South? Did he not believe the 10 commandments themselves were uttered by God Himself and placed on the Tablets? So I ask you the same question I ask everyone, if you were privy to look at the tablets, what woudl it say? Or, maybe the concept of tablets are also fabricated too since there was a divide between teh nortth and the south.

All you are demonstrating, is the the word of God that even Jesus believed was found in the Torah is unreliable. I just want to be clear on this issue of “insipiration” and “holy spirit” and how vague it is. A follower of Hindu religion will say his book is inspired by God as well. It is a problem that you can’t get out of. 

Goign back to the issue of the Sabbath, there ARE two versions, but one version is Moses talking in the End and the first one is spoken by God himself. The first one is the one that has the 6 day creation justification. It is not as easy as you may think it is. A rabbi wrote about this issue in his book. The problem, remains: We KNOW that the 6 days of genesis is derived from the Israelites exposure to myths in the Ancient near east, specifically Babylon. If this is the case, God could not have given tha commandment centuries before. If that is one can be derived, than there is no reliability in the Book and it has no Godly authority since God had no part in it. Nor in the dictation of the Book nor of any commandments being given. And Christianity, though may have gotten rid of many laws, still holds that the decalogue were given by God Himself. Do you see the problem Roger? 


(I have to comment though, that the North vs South issue is pure assumption and even if it was true, it has no relevant to the Deuteronomy. The North vs South is an issue of J vs. E. Deuteronomy is the D.)

Despite what my friends on the blog say Christianity does reject the Law of Moses as binding on Believers.


But that is irrelevant. What is relevant is the issue of whether he believed them to be true or not. Not in some “inspiration” point of view, but whether Jesus believed the Torah as the outcome of the 40 years of Israelite wandering. 

Therefore the Jewish tradition probably reacted by saying the Pentateuch was dictated by Elohim.

Just looking the Dead Sea Scroll findings and works of Ezra and Nehemia would show this is untrue.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84450

February 7th 2014


The question of the date of the writing of the gospels for me is not terribly significant.  You seem to think that nothing happened after the death of Jesus and this event, however we know that much was going on.

People were preaching the good news of Jesus throughout the ancient world.  The Apostles who knew Jesus best were telling others about Jesus not only on the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day, but whenever they could. 

Mark or whomever could not wait 40 years to write the story of the empty tomb, the disciples wanted to know on Easter what happened.  Once a story gained currency, so to speak, it would be very hard to change it significantly.

So you had at least 11 teachers telling the world Who Jesus was.  They didn’t tell these stories just once but repeatedly.  Then you have those who learned the stories from the Apostles telling them again to many others.

Finally you have the authors of the gospels trying to bring together all these stories with their own understanding of what happened to give a picture of Who Jesus is.  That they succeeded points to the power of the Holy Spirit.  

We have not just one, but 4 Gospels.  They are not the same but they all agree that Jesus is the Messiah.  Many have tried to deny this over the centuries, including the Jewish and Muslim faiths.

The Gospels still stand.   

Ken Hamrick - #84453

February 7th 2014

What Ham and Nye both seemed to miss is that the validity of evolution as a natural process is a completely different question from the possibility of a recent miraculous creation. If as the young-earthers read the Genesis account God recently created all by fiat, then He did so by creating a mature Adam, a mature fruit-bearing garden, a mature earth, and a mature universe with visible stars in the sky—-all unavoidably implying natural process already well under way. Even if evolution were proven beyond all possible doubt, it does not threaten a literal interpretation of a six-day, recent creation. Trying to argue the scientific evidence for a young earth was a mistake. Miraculous, supernatural acts leave no scientific evidence and are beyond all scientific inquiry—-one either believes or not.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84455

February 7th 2014


Please read John 1:1.

Jesus Christ did not create a virtual world.

Ken Hamrick - #84456

February 7th 2014


I have read it. I did not say that the Creator created a virtual world. He created a real world out of nothing by fiat. Just as He did not create Adam as an infant but a full-grown man, the world was created already mature with a virtual past. To refute that will require more than a prooftext and a reductionistic denial.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84461

February 8th 2014


Thank you for your response.

First of all according to John 1 God created the universe by the Word, Logos, which is not the same as fiat as most people understand it. 

God did not create a mature universe out of nothing, God created first created chaotic matter out of nothing. Then God created light and time through the Logos on the first day.

On the second day God ordered the sky, the sea, and the earth.  On the third day God created vegetation.  On the fourth day God created the the stars and the planets in the heavens.  On the fifth day God created the inhabitants of the waters. 

On the sixth day God created the inhabitants of the dry land including humans.  In Gen 1 it does not say that the first man was created mature.  That is a surmise from Gen 2.

If Gen 2 describes what happened on day 6, 24 hours is a very short time for Adam to name all of the animals that God had created plus have major surgury. 

I do not find in Gen 1 that God created a full blown mature world out of nothing, but God formed a universe though a step by step process even with a condensed time frame. 

It is clear that the Priestly editor used the six days of creation to give meaning to the Sabbath.  It is also true that the Sabbath was the biggest bone of contension between Jesus and his opponents. 

If Gen 1 and His opponents were right, the Sabbath is built into Creation and Christians are disobeying God by not keeping the Sabbath.  The maturity of Adam surmised ion Gen 2 is not an important part of the text and a very weak foundation for a serious theological claim.

In the other hand the NT version of the Creation found in John has all of advantages of Gen 1 without its problems.  Of course Christians accept the NT claim that Jesus and the New Covenant are superior to the OT.  This means that the NT sees no problem with God creating the universe in time and space through the Logos.

Your view creation is not new.  Usually proponents say that God created the universe with a virtual, bogus history to test us humans to determine those who will believe in God’s word and those who will believe in “the world.”  However James says that God does not tempt humans.

The Bible says that God des not lie and the creation of a virtual, false natural history is a lie.  Jesus said Satan is a Liar and the Father of lies. 

We know that the world is constantly changing.  Why God would create a bogus record of change that exactly mirrors a true record of change?  This makes little sense especially if the Logos, Jesus Christ, stands both for change and integrity.         





Eddie - #84483

February 10th 2014

Roger is right to say that it would be out of character for the Biblical God to deliberately mislead human reason and science by creating a bogus record of change. God gives human beings free will to accept or reject him, but he doesn’t practice entrapment.

Where Roger goes wrong is to pit the New Testament against the Old Testament, John 1 against Genesis 1. We don’t have to choose between the two. In fact, Jesus himself accepted the Genesis account, as did Paul; and the statement in John about the Logos can be squared with the account in Genesis when we remember that the historical, core meaning of logos is “speech”; in Genesis 1 all the creative acts are prefaced by divine speeches. Divine speech either directly creates something, e.g., light, or announces a divine design which is then realized. It is through speech, through logos, that all things are made.

Roger seems to like pitting the New Testament against the old. We have just been through a long debate elsewhere here—http://biologos.org/blog/ken-ham-vs-bill-nye—in which Roger argued that the New Testament freed Christians from the obligation to obey the Ten Commandments. His error in that debate was amply demonstrated, and I won’t repeat the demonstrations here. For the present, the point is that he keeps coming back to this refrain, i.e., that we can toss out major elements of Old Testament teaching on the authority of the New Testament. Why does he do this?
Roger seems to be of the view that narrow fundamentalism, with its “legalism” and “literalism,” finds particular support in the Old Testament. Given this view, he therefore would naturally conclude that one has to undercut the Old Testament, in order to undercut fundamentalism. That is a mistaken diagnosis and prescription. The diagnosis is mistaken, because quite as many of the worst excesses of fundamentalism come from misreadings of the New Testament as from misreadings of the Old. The prescription is therefore mistaken as well: even if we tore the Old Testament right out of our Bibles, the fundamentalists would find plenty of statements of Jesus and Paul and John to misinterpret. And they would still have the book of Revelation, that seedbed of fundamentalist excesses. Thus, you cannot undercut fundamentalism by excluding Testaments or books or passages from the Bible. You can only undercut it with a superior non-fundamentalist, holistic interpretation of the Bible.

A rich and proper understanding of the Old Testament, in which the Old Testament is not pitted against the New Testament (as by Roger), nor badly interpreted (as by fundamentalists), adequately undercuts the fundamentalist vision. One doesn’t have to throw out the baby with the bathwater.  
Hanan D - #84486

February 10th 2014

It is clear that the Priestly editor used the six days of creation to give meaning to the Sabbath.

Well no, it is not clear since nobody really knows any mechanism as the editing. Putting that aside, if you believe a Priest created a justification for the Sabbath, why do you even believe a Sabbath was given by devine will at all? Maybe the priests made that up too? Where do you put the marker to demonstrate X is human invented and Y is actual divine commandment? 

Hanan D - #84487

February 10th 2014

That comment was in response to Roger.

Eddie - #84489

February 10th 2014

Hi, Hanan.

Yes, I understood that you were replying to Roger.  Let me say that I don’t agree with Roger about the Biblical scholarship.  Roger is about 20-30 years older than I am, and when he went through, the historical-critical approach was at the peak of its influence; it had conquered not only all the universities but all the liberal seminaries (indeed, it helped to make them liberal seminaries) and most of the mainstream seminaries.  Roger went to a liberal seminary and there he was taught the historical-critical stuff as state of the art.

I went through later, when the narratological, holistic reading approach (originated largely by Jewish scholars who could read Hebrew very well, some of them from English literature departments rather than Biblical Studies) was starting to gain ground, and skeptical questions were being raised about the adequacy of the historical-critical approach.  Nowadays the narratological, holistic approach is very respectable and is on equal terms with the old historical-critical approach in many places.  It is powerful in many universities, and the conservative evangelical seminaries have taken an interest in it.  Interestingly enough, the mainstream and liberal Protestant seminaries (and some liberal Catholic seminaries) are the places where you will still find the most of the old, die-hard historical critics who talk about the Bible the way Roger does.  The rest of the intellectual world has moved on.

I thus don’t take for granted all the stuff that Roger takes for granted, i.e., that Genesis is a back-reading of later Israelite practice, that we can reliably isolate strands J and E, etc.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Moses as a single author has been reinstated, but I think the tendency is to see much less fragmentation, and to see much less outright political manipulation of the texts than Biblical scholars did 50 years ago.  There is also much less confidence in our ability to isolate sources as precisely as the older critics claimed they could.

The problem is that it is hard to teach old dogs new tricks.  Most of the leading TEs who are biologists learned their biology 40 years ago, when neo-Darwinism was the unquestioned king of castle.  They find it hard to accept any serious criticism of neo-Darwinism.  The TEs here won’t even work up the courage to open Shapiro’s book, because they want to “see no evil, hear no evil” when it comes to the biological indoctrination they received as undergrads.  Similarly, Roger learned his Biblical scholarship 50 years ago, and finds it hard to imagine that that scholarship isn’t still state of the art.  

My point in writing this is to say that you shouldn’t give up on the coherence of the Bible because of speculative claims about putative original sources or putative political struggles behind the writings.  And you don’t have to believe that the priests just “made up” the six-day creation story in order to buttress the six-day work week.  Whenever someone tells you “Biblical scholarship has established ...” you should take that with a grain of salt, just as you should take it with a grain of salt when people tell you that “neo-Darwinian evolution is as certain as the germ theory of disease, the existence of gravity, the existence of atoms, etc.”  Learn to recognize dogmatism.  There is a lot of it in academia, and even more in the popular debates over evolution, creation, and design.

p.s.  I’ve enjoyed conversing with you, Hanan.  If you don’t see me as much here from now on, look for me over at Hump of the Camel.

GJDS - #84504

February 11th 2014


It is difficult for me to get a clear ‘handle’ on many of your comments – nonetheless I will try and get some focus on your hang-up(s) regarding scripture in an attempt to give a straightforward response. If I understand you, you complain the Bible is made up, a cultural document, and perhaps the Gospels are an elaborate deceit foisted on an unsuspecting and ignorant peoples (while at other times, you suggest it was forced on them by Constantine). You also branch out against accounts of miracles, at times insisting evidence be brought before you to prove them, or some such need you have. Finally, you then continue a theme that all religious texts have similar accounts and this also proves some point that is clear to yourself (perhaps they are all made up and thus should be banned or removed from the earth).

On critics against Christianity, my point has been that these are found from the beginning and are by powerful people with all the physical and intellectual resources needed to overthrow the small and fragmented groups of Christians (and they had ALL the political power – ironic how you avoid mention emperors who tried to eradicate Christians, but get fixated on Constantine). These criticisms of Christianity and the NT are with us today (but not attempts to exterminate it) – my point is that if these were so earth shattering, they should have had the desired effect by now. You simply avoid this obvious fact – it is not presented as any proof of anything, nor evidence, but as a rebuttal of what I can make of your confused claims.

Your discussion on miracles still lacks any clear focus – if you think Christianity lives or falls on these accounts, you are even more mistaken (if that were possible). If miracles annoy you because they cannot become experimental, so what!

On religious outlooks found in every nation and every recorded civilisation, it should make you think – has the entire human race suffered delusions about something that we have regarded as spiritual? The real problem for atheists is to try and hide themselves from the fact that religion and a belief in the spiritual (diverse and confused as it has been) is universal.

Again I restate, my comments are a rebuttal to you confused outlook, not a clear analysis of any and every point you keep bringing up.

Lou Jost - #84513

February 12th 2014

“...you complain the Bible is made up, a cultural document, and perhaps the Gospels are an elaborate deceit foisted on an unsuspecting and ignorant peoples… “

I certainly don’t mean that some guys sat down and wrote the Bible or the gospels all at once with deliberate intent to decieve. Instead, as I’ve often pointed out, there are many well-documented ancient and modern examples of the mythification process, especially when a culture is trying to address its origins. Much of the bible looks like those examples. See my discussion above of the nativity stories of the gospels.

“On religious outlooks found in every nation and every recorded civilisation, it should make you think – has the entire human race suffered delusions about something that we have regarded as spiritual?”

This describes your own outlook almost as well as mine—you have often said that non-Christian religions are false. I agree with you, and add one more religion to your list.

GJDS - #84514

February 12th 2014

You display an inclination to reconstruct my comments - I have yet to make any comment of other faiths and religions with the exception of pointing out differences in Genesis vs ancient stories - and I state emphatically that I do not see any agreement between us. You on the other hand, have no trouble commenting on just about everything that drifts into your mind and seem to think (or try to portray) as authoritative and/or knowledgeable. 

On this ramble about mythification (and I question any understanding by you of this, but perhaps you should read some poetry, especially that which has become embedded in the social fabric of communities, and then you may at least appear to make sense when you indulge in such comments) - the process and history of the NT is outlined in many documents - and many go back centuries - recording deliberations. disputes, lengthy discussions - hardly some mysterious ‘mythification’ that is out to decieve an unsuspecting populace. Just why you think an open approach is myth-building? Of course, everyone does this and says such and such - so Lou is now an authority on this area of human endavour (I think not).

I do not mind hearing opposing views, and I have found the novelty displayed in this BioLogos site, be these evagelical , heterodoxy, and atheistic outlooks, has caught my attention. However (even if some feel my comments appear uncivil when they are terse) I still make the observation that you are way out of your depth and show an unusual determination to make you odd comments.

Lou Jost - #84507

February 12th 2014

In comments above, Jon criticized my view that much material in the gospels was written to make theological points and jsutify existing cult beliefs among early Christians, not to convey historical facts. He wrote “if it were the most parsimonious explanation, 200 years of critical scholarship would not have ignored it as they have.”

But the view I defended is not ignored by Bible scholars. Wikipedia, admittedly a dangerous source but usually accurate about identifying the consensus views on a subject, recognizes this view as a common one. From the article on the chronology of Jesus’ life:

“Most mainstream scholars do not see the Luke and Matthew nativity stories as historically factual.[37]”(The book cited is a compendium edited in part by NT Wright, widely respected by Jon and Ted and others here, so this is not a fringe volume, though of course Wright does not agree with the view I am defending.)

Wikipedia also has this statement regarding the difference between Matthew’s and Luke’s nativity stories:

“Many scholars view the two narratives as non-historical and contradictory.[2][3][4][5] Other traditional Christian scholars maintain that the two accounts do not contradict each other, pointing to the similarities between them.[6] Some scholars view the discussion of historicity as secondary, given that gospels were primarily written as theological documents rather than chronological timelines.[7][8][9][10]”

I know Wikipedia can be a dangerous thing, but you don’t need to take it at its word, you can look at the nativity stories yourselves and see that the odd mix of elements could best be explained by a desire on the part of the authors to validate Jesus as the Messiah, rather than to present true hisorical details.

Mark, the earliest gospel, has nothing on the nativity except that Jesus is from Nazareth.  Matthew, though, arranges a complicated story to move Jesus around so that he successively fulfills prophecies about being born in Bethlehem, prophecies about coming from Egypt (most scholars don’t regard those OT lines as messianic prophecies  but Matthew does; Matthew 2:15), and prophecies that the messiah would be  Nazarene. Matthew uses Herod, who died in 4 BC, as the motive for these movements.

Luke, meanwhile, moves Jesus around differently. They go from Nazareth to Bethlehem because of a tax imposed by Quirinius, governor of Syria, even though Quirinius was not the governor unti 6 AD. They appear to stay in Bethlehem immediately after Jesus’ birth.  No escape to Egypt, no Herod’s slaughter of the innocents. After Mary was purified, they went to Jerusalem, not to Nazareth (Nazareth had already played its role in Luke’s story, though Matthew had to make him go there after his birth.)

These look like quite different accounts. Though they can be forced to agree by a lot of special pleading, it sure looks like Matthew and Luke here are not so much concerned with veridical historical accounts but with post-hoc justification of their sects’ belief in Jesus as the Messiah.

Lou Jost - #84508

February 12th 2014

GJDS - #84509

February 12th 2014

I have read enough opinions by scholars to be convinced the best way to ‘evaluate’ the Gospels is to read them and see what each author has in mind when he wrote his text. Generally Orthodox tradition has for centuries stated the Gospel writers were primarily interested in discussing Christianity with other Christians, and these documents were circulated for this reason (and I dare say after discussions some changes may have been made). It is extremely probable that none of the authors had any inkling their writings may be declared scripture by the Church. Nor is there any information that I know of which would show they were writing to support some sect or other – it has been stated ad nausea that the early Christians referred to the OT as scripture. I would think that details of places and times presented were familiar to other Christians in that region, as it was not possible to get on the internet, or visit the University library for historical record and whatever else ..... These matters are, from what I know, well understood and apart from some desperate atheists, no-one else seems perturbed by such details.

I have written enough scientific and literally pieces to know that any author writes for a purpose and states this purpose at the beginning. Thus:

Mark 1:1-2 (KJV) The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

Mathew 1- We have discussed the genealogy, and we note that Mathew then discusses the birth of Christ.

Luke 1:1-4 (KJV) Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,...;  It seemed good to me also….., to write unto thee in order,.... know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

John 1:1-5 (KJV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. .....

Surely the intent of each writer is to discuss Christ (a theological subject), not to make each account similar to any other. 

These writings were for a very long time, examined by those trained in philosophy, literature and history; before the Church selected the NT (this is another subject). The points constantly raised about details were observed by extremely angry pagans who disliked Christianity and Christians. With the weight of the mighty Roman state, and her established pagan religion, it would have been an easy thing to charge prominent Christians with the accusations made by present day atheists, and the Roman state would have records showing how each and every so called ‘contrivance to set up a cult’ using these writings, was exposed and dealt with by the State.

History shows otherwise – pagans died out, while the hysterics of anti-Christians continue to this day. 

Lou Jost - #84510

February 12th 2014

“Surely the intent of each writer is to discuss Christ (a theological subject), not to make each account similar to any other.”

GJDS, that is exactly my point.

Also, as you know, there were lots of sparring Christian sects at the beginning, as evidenced by frequent references to them by Paul and others. The sect that won out declared the others as heresies.

GJDS - #84511

February 12th 2014

Your point, if I ever get a clear statement, has been to convince people the Gospels were contrived, although you are not clear as to what end purpose such a contrivance would serve. Your evidence for such a point(s) seems nil (or you are doing a good job of keeping it hidden). Perhaps you will name the sects that were defeated by Paul, and also some history to back up this other of your strange points.

For the sake of some clarrity, heresies were declared as such when the Church agreed on doctrine (nowadays termed Orthodoxy), and this ocured long after Paul - the references by Paul were to teachings that related to the Jewish faith and such matters.

I still want to read your scholarly account of the reactions of the established Pagan state religion to Christianity, and why all of your objections were not taken up by such powerful people, who would do away with Christianity. I think the reason you have not is because there is no scholarly or historical material that fits in with your constant points (whatever these may be).

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84526

February 14th 2014

Hannen wrote:

Putting that aside, if you believe a Priest created a justification for the Sabbath, why do you even believe a Sabbath was given by devine will at all? Maybe the priests made that up too? Where do you put the marker to demonstrate X is human invented and Y is actual divine commandment?


Thank you for your comment.

First let us comment on the editor question.  It is clear to me and most scholars that are two Creation stories in Genesis 1:1-2:3 and Genesis 2:4-25. 

An editor is one who edits, that is who brings materials together and puts them into a readable, understandable narrative. The editor does not write the book, she or he edits the book. 

The content of the book (tradition) existed before the editor and the final form of the book and I believe that it existed in the hearts and minds of the people, not the mind of Moses to be taught to the people who could not read for the most part.

Now I refered you to the Decalogue in

Deuteronomy 5:13-15.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do.  Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.  

Here we have either a different tradition that the Priestly Editor choose not to use, or the editor chose to unite the two most important events of the Torah, the Creation and the giving of the Law in this commandment as found in Exodus.  His concern for the Law is why hew is identified as the Priestly Editor  

The Bible is not an artificial book born out of the minds of humans.  It is an organic Book born out of YHWH’s relationship with God’s People.   

I believe that this to be true because it fits the facts as found in the Bible that I know and love, not as a liberal ideologue that Eddie wants me to be. 

GJDS - #84528

February 15th 2014

The comment on #84484 and related posts are provocative but also all encompassing. To give a definitive answer to the question of inspiration, we must also include in that a definitive statement on the Holy Spirit, which gets us to God, who He is, or who he may not be, and our points of view regarding theism. If on the other hand, as Hanad-D wants to derive answers to these questions by studying scripture, I suggest the end result will be, “Show me YOUR evidence.” But I am not aware of any decree that insists Christians give any evidence on God except to live by Faith.

I suggest an alternative approach is to ask, “How is it that humanity has used words such as god or gods for all recorded history?” If this is taken as axiomatic, the next question is to ask, “What meaning has been attached to such word(s)?” It is then we may engage in a meaningful discussion. If a person thinks god is someone who solves problems for him, or serves some purpose for the State, then this is his point of reference, or meaning, to his discussion, and can extend this to every discussion that involves meaning and attributes of gods. If on the other hand, as Christians believe, God is revealed, and His attributes are understood by the Church, then this is our point of reference regarding GOD – and our discussions would follow from this.

The subject is enormous and I want to avoid an overly lengthy post, so I make one or two simple points. The Jewish-Christian teachings speak of God dealing with Israel; all from Abraham, Moses, Prophets and Priests, believed God, but there is a great deal of worry concerning Israel, who would fall into the error(s) of surrounding nations and worship idols and adopt pagan practices and vices.

The words they used in teaching this message to Israel are indeed inspired, but this inspiration also includes the care and concern for their people of that day. Look how often Israel is admonished to remember their plight in Egypt, and how often the Prophets spoke on worshipping God and avoiding idols. The Ten Commandments and the Law was given to Israel as part of the Covenant, and the Sabbath had a unique role in distinguishing them from other nations, a re-occurring theme in the OT. The concern displayed in this is not on how well we can read and understand  the OT, but rather how well we can understand the problems faced by Israel and how hard Moses and the Prophets (and the Priesthood) had to work to safeguard Israel’s identify. That is where we can find inspiration and also failure of human beings to respond to such inspiration. The Sabbath and the Tec Commandments, and subsequent detailed instructions, are in the OT for that purpose – if we close our mind to this, I cannot see how we can possibly understand the OT. Christians are admonished to keep the Commandments both in letter and in spirit. I have yet to find any discussion in the Bible that addresses unbelief, or even bothers with presenting proofs or arguments to unbelievers and pagans, that would convince anyone on matters related to God, the Bible, or any such matters. It seems unreasonable to me that others would now make demands on the Bible that are in fact demands they should make of themselves regarding belief and disbelief.

Christianity has brought a quantum leap forward in terms of Law and Freedom, but I close my remarks for now.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84529

February 15th 2014


The message given to pagans is

(John 3:16 NIV)  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

It has little to do with Israel and the Mosaic Covenant.  This is why Paul protested the attempt to make Gentiles become Jews to be saved.



GJDS - #84534

February 15th 2014

Roger, Your tone and attitude reminds me more of Lou’s regarding his unique view (s)on religion(s) and Darwinian thinking - my only response to your odd outlook is to suggest you read not only the Epsitels of Paul, but also of James and Peter - their admonition on keeping the law and living their life according to the teachings of the Bible are crystal clear. You really are obsessed with some nonsense that you think removes the Law from the Christian faith. You could not be in greater error if you tried very very hard. 

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