An example Creationist attack

Evolutionary Creation is regularly misrepresented and condemned in our community.  Frustratingly there is limited opportunity to correct the errors or deal with the poor logic on display by creationists (certainly not from platforms and in magazines).  Following is extracts of one publicly available talk[1] with a specific example of anti EC poor logic.  The speaker agrees with the evidence EC presents of non-literal language in Scripture.  Rather than discuss a consistent approach to scripture, the speaker instead opts for an out of context attack. The quotes from the speaker were transcribed from an audio file and present the flow of the argument fairly.  The speaker starts out portraying the position of Evolutionary Creationists in anything but a fair way:

1:48 The way we use demons and understand demons in the New Testament is used to suggest that Genesis must also be interpreted through the same methodology.  It’s a case they say where God cannot or does not bother to explain the science to the ignorant.  [a position he later concurs with] What they do is look at the Lord Jesus Christ who cast out demons and even on one occasion actually demonstrated to Legion that the demons had gone into the swine.  And they say that if Jesus did it that way that the demons were actually moving but Jesus didn’t believe in demons then it just shows you that God doesn’t bother to explain complicated scientific theories to people who have no way of understanding them.  [again, something the speaker agrees with despite making it sound bad in our mouths] (2:30)  and because we explain demons like that, that Jesus just operated in the understanding of the times they say well that’s what happened in Genesis, that the poor Jews in Babylon who didn’t really understand science [no-one denigrates the Jews but the speaker insinuates this] would get a nice story about the origins of the world and they wouldn’t believe in Baal but they would believe in the God of heaven who does marvellous things and they were like children in kindergarten who had to be treated such. [once again effective rhetoric, but he agrees with this reality when he talks later about demons!]

The comment both misses the point and misrepresents the logic.  No-one says Genesis has to be interpreted a given way because of the way demons are used.  Rather the issue is that literalists apply an inconsistent approach to interpretation.  EC on the other hand sees that the bible speaks in the language of the day and is not to be taken as science (whether that is biology, mental health or any other science).

Having insinuated that such an approach is looking down on the Jews, the speaker then acknowledges that

Jesus didn’t educate people about medical science and mental science

And goes on to say

But, because they believed it, it was put in a way they could understand.  And so you have this casting out of demons which occurs right through the New Testament and in the gospels especially.

The speaker then goes on to quote Bro Harry Tennant, who we have also quoted, demonstrating common ground that we all accept Jesus used incorrect language to communicate because of the limitations of the audience’s understanding.  Once again though the speaker goes too far in trying to limit the use of demons saying:

So you have got to understand that this is something which happened in the context of dealing with people who were generally insane

This is not accurate.  The language of demons is used by sane people too, like the Jewish leadership (who accused Jesus of being possessed) and the father of the child with epilepsy.  In fact the speaker later acknowledges this saying:

[4:25] people who believed that sometimes that some of their illness might be associated with a demon, but it was part of the general ignorance of the age that some illness and conditions were not comprehended…it was only things they couldn’t see and couldn’t explain, they couldn’t see an obvious reason for it that demons were attributed with it which was the Greek idea about little demons [5:17] getting inside you and causing you to be sick.

Despite the bluster, the speaker is acknowledging exactly the same approach to demons and emphasises that this has long been our community’s approach.  He also acknowledges the truth of other examples of accommodation like the heart discussed on this blog:

[6.00] You know God judges our hearts doesn’t he and we know that it’s really judging our heads.  And our thinking power and the way we have our motives worked out but it is called our heart.  So they are just saying that the bible uses a lot of non-literal language which we have to interpret

Ok, so he agrees.  But he then misses the point:

6:34 The big leap is where they say we can do this to Genesis now there is no doubt that the bible has non-literal language like hearts and bowels and demons, but it doesn’t mean you have the right to apply that to Genesis.  But they say that is our justification for doing so

The point is that given non-literal language how do we distinguish?  The speaker conveniently never answers this.  He never acknowledges that he treats the heart and bowels as non-literal because of science.  There is no consistency in an approach to the bible which accepts science on some biology and therefore accepts language as non-literal but is closed to applying the same logic elsewhere.

He raises another example of incorrect language, note the unbiblical assumption invented to try and make the more bible literal:

8:24 There are bible verses which speak from the point of view of an observer on the earth.  They use those to challenge the way we read other parts of the bible.  So they say do you believe that the sun rises and sets and we say well no that should be read from the point of view of an observer and they say well there you go you are not taking it literally, you don’t read your bible literally so why do you read Genesis literally?  …if you can translate the sun rising and setting into the earth revolving then I can translate created into evolving. 

See what has happened here?  Where does the bible speak of an observer on the earth?  It doesn’t.  This is an invention used to explain why the bible isn’t really teaching a flat earth/stationary earth.  Did the original readers understand this “observer on the earth” perspective?  No.  Until science, this verse was part of a broader understanding of the earth being flat and the sun and moon revolving around it.  It’s a post science inventive reading of the bible, but this self-awareness is sadly absent.

Rather than deal with the implications of non-literal language and articulate why he chooses to read some things literally versus reinterpret other passages and ideas in line with science, the speaker instead diverts into wresting context to slam Evolutionary Creationists.  It’s a smart move, avoid answering the issue and instead just attack your opponents.  Specifically he tries to stick the label of gainsaying from Jude 11 onto ECs.

9:13 So they take this logic of using the way we interpret the scriptures to use the bible against itself and it has a name, it has the name antilogia, the gainsaying of Korah [For the record antilogia doesn’t mean this but means disputing and rebelling to grasp power, but he applies his own meaning for the rhetorical attack.]

He contends that EC uses the bible to dispute with the bible.  No.  The examples given demonstrate we are using the bible to point out inconsistencies in his interpretation of the bible.  Big difference and one he ought to grasp.  Referring back to Korah twisting scripture out of context doesn’t help his accusation.  He agrees with the application of the heart, bowels and demons.  He just doesn’t grasp the implications of his agreement – that he accepts (some) science and it colours his reading.  Furthermore he fails to deal with the inconsistency of his approach.

This performance, like many, has a veneer of engaging with the EC argument but fails to address the core problems and the evidence.  Our community will hardly flourish without dealing openly and fairly with the challenges of science.  Avoiding the core issues and resorting to rhetorical condemnation isn’t building a solution.

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[1] Cowie, Ron (2015)  – Keep that which is committed to thy trust meeting the challenges of the last days Study 8 – Implications of Theistic Evolution – approximate time of quotes shown in brackets

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