Charting The Beiring Sea

There is a bit of a comment flurry going on in the Zoomtard comments. QMonkey wrote this:

“but you [Christians] have changed what you once believed because of what science has determined… not what god revealed to you.”

That sentence is philosophically incoherent. If the Judeo-Christian God that is posited does actually exist, he speaks through science just as clearly as his prophets and to remix my favourite Swiss, he can also just as easily speak through communism or a dead dog. If God is, even science is his revelation. You can grow up in a Christendom and still not understand the Doctrine of God.

QMonkey says something else that I suspect lots of people agree with.

“The VAST majority of Christians believe that god created the earth in 6 days, and that he destroyed the earth in a flood, Jonah survived inside a whale etc etc. They deny evolution for exactly the same reason you deny my theory that Jesus didn’t resurrect. I put it to you that up until 1900 ALL Christians believed in a 6 day creation… including st Paul, St John, St Matthew, Luther, William Tyndale etc.”

I cannot prove to you that the majority of Christians living today believe the world was created in 6 days. For what’s it’s worth, the majority of Christians today haven’t thought to ask the question what with famine and persecution and AIDS and all that going on.

But the historical assertion is categorically wrong. Throughout history the Genesis document has been understood to be a framework theological statement written in dispute with other nation’s gods. It’s much more fascinating than the laughable physics paper that fundamentalists turn it into. It was only in the 1900s that anyone began taking it “literally” where literally means scientific, at all. QMonkey and Joe Bloggs on the street actually can’t be more wrong. They have it backwards. I’ll prove it to you now without recourse to empirical methods (since history cannot be generalised) and it should serve as a double blow. QMonkey will accept that I am right about this and then he’ll buy me a pint next time in Dublin and loudly declare to a bevvy of beautiful girls beside us that I am the smartest and wittiest man since Richard Dawkins frankensteinly resurrected a hybrid of GK Chesterton and Carl Sagan in a weird evil atheist science experiment.

In 208 AD Clement of Alexandria wrote:

“And how could creation take place in time, seeing time was born along with things which exist? . . . That, then, we may be taught that the world was originated and not suppose that God made it in time, prophecy adds: ‘This is the book of the generation, also of the things in them, when they were created in the day that God made heaven and earth’ [Gen. 2:4]. For the expression ‘when they were created’ intimates an indefinite and dateless production. But the expression ‘in the day that God made them,’ that is, in and by which God made ‘all things,’ and ‘without which not even one thing was made,’ points out the activity exerted by the Son” (Miscellanies 6:16 [A.D. 208]).

Origen was another super important church father and he wrote:

“For who that has understanding will suppose that the first and second and third day existed without a sun and moon and stars and that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? . . . I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance and not literally” (The Fundamental Doctrines 4:1:16 [A.D. 225]).

Pay attention to this one from Origen which totally contradicts the Monkey’s assertion:

“And with regard to the creation of the light upon the first day . . . and of the [great] lights and stars upon the fourth . . . we have treated to the best of our ability in our notes upon Genesis, as well as in the foregoing pages, when we found fault with those who, taking the words in their apparent signification, said that the time of six days was occupied in the creation of the world” (Against Celsus, 6:60).

Ambrose of Milan wrote:

“Scripture established a law that twenty-four hours, including both day and night, should be given the name of day only, as if one were to say the length of one day is twenty-four hours in extent. . . . The nights in this reckoning are considered to be component parts of the days that are counted. Therefore, just as there is a single revolution of time, so there is but one day. There are many who call even a week one day, because it returns to itself, just as one day does, and one might say seven times revolves back on itself” (Hexaemeron [A.D. 393]).

And Ambrose was preaching when Augustine of Hippo began his conversion process. He went on to be the most important theologian of the post-Biblical era full stop. And he wrote:

“It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation” (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 1:19--20 [A.D. 408]).

“With the scriptures it is a matter of treating about the faith. For that reason, as I have noted repeatedly, if anyone, not understanding the mode of divine eloquence, should find something about these matters [about the physical universe] in our books, or hear of the same from those books, of such a kind that it seems to be at variance with the perceptions of his own rational faculties, let him believe that these other things are in no way necessary to the admonitions or accounts or predictions of the scriptures. In short, it must be said that our authors knew the truth about the nature of the skies, but it was not the intention of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, to teach men anything that would not be of use to them for their salvation” (ibid., 2:9).

“Seven days by our reckoning, after the model of the days of creation, make up a week. By the passage of such weeks time rolls on, and in these weeks one day is constituted by the course of the sun from its rising to its setting; but we must bear in mind that these days indeed recall the days of creation, but without in any way being really similar to them” (ibid., 4:27).

“[A]t least we know that it [the Genesis creation day] is different from the ordinary day with which we are familiar” (ibid., 5:2).

“For in these days [of creation] the morning and evening are counted until, on the sixth day, all things which God then made were finished, and on the seventh the rest of God was mysteriously and sublimely signalized. What kind of days these were is extremely difficult or perhaps impossible for us to conceive, and how much more to say!” (The City of God 11:6 [A.D. 419]).

“We see that our ordinary days have no evening but by the setting [of the sun] and no morning but by the rising of the sun, but the first three days of all were passed without sun, since it is reported to have been made on the fourth day. And first of all, indeed, light was made by the word of God, and God, we read, separated it from the darkness and called the light ‘day’ and the darkness ‘night’; but what kind of light that was, and by what periodic movement it made evening and morning, is beyond the reach of our senses; neither can we understand how it was and yet must unhesitatingly believe it” (ibid., 11:7).

And on it goes through the ages. Christians did not read Genesis as a scientific text until a weird off-shoot called the 7th Day Adventists got very angry with Darwinists in the 1920s. I am a scientist who is a Christian. I subscribe to the theory of evolution and believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ. In so doing, I am standing with the oldest of Christian traditions.

Your Correspondent, Would do anything for a banana

12 Responses to “Charting The Beiring Sea”

  1. QMonkey says:

    There are more ways to determine facts than through evidence based enquiry (apparently) . But it should also be noted that god speaks to us though evidence based enquiry… therefore it’s ok to not take the bits of the bible which we can prove to be in error, as allegorical. But the idea that maybe god spoke to use though science and told us that someone can’t rise from the dead doesn’t enter your mind?

    If it was revealed though science by god that say, Paul wasn’t converted by an light on the way to Damascus (it was to Rome instead) would that be too much? Or what if god revealed that it wasn’t a blinding light (it was an ‘episode’) … or if indeed there was no light… he just ‘decided he was wrong’. Would that be enough to make you think… hmm? What if it was revealed to you that say jesus wasn’t at a wedding at Canna.. it was actually a barmistzvah? What if it was revealed to you that he didn’t say those exact works at the sermon on the mount… what if Lazarus wasn’t really dead?

    What I’m getting at is… are there core facts and events in the bible that if they didn’t happen like it says in the bible… then thats the whole shooting match … you can forget about it and give up your job and leave the church? Because for most of your faith… (80% of Americans for a start) 6-day-creation is the whole shooting match. But for people like the bishop of oxford ( ) , he, like me, agrees that its mad to say that extra-physical miracles happen or happened.

  2. zoomtard says:

    I have never said the Bible is in error. Of course it enters my head that people don’t rise from the dead. But does it ever enter your head to listen to our arguments. You never deal with any of them. You just jump from one to the next and on to the other. We’re not philosophical dimwits. Jimlad and I are actually pretty well trained science guys. Jayber can’t actually count but he appreciates science.

    Jesus didn’t say just those exact words that we now call the Sermon on the Mount. Does that make the “meaning” of the Gospel untrustworthy? Hell no! This is a classic case of your “argumentation”. Discussing with you is like discussing a wraith- you feel no need to stay in one place at a time or be bound in any way by our response.

    This comment you have made makes no effort to deal with my post at all. And it is spurious at best.

    Shall I direct you to the Bishop of Durham, a better man by half?

  3. QMonkey says:

    Oh I don’t know about that… bit harsh I think. Its completely irrelevant to the discussion to quote from numerous 3rd century random church people. The catholic church only agreed in 1950 that 6 day creation story didn’t really fit. I think you’ll stretching your credibility to say that if it hadn’t been for science investigating the progress of man from animal then Christians would have come to the conclusions that 6-day-creation wasn’t true. Of course not. Arguing with you is like arguing with someone who says things like the laws of physics only apply ‘some’ times wink wink.

    Your arguments and comments are all for believers to sure up their belief and feel that there’s still enough uncertainly in about how the world works to keep believing in their gods -- they are meaningless to a non-believer.

    You said it once before… and you are right. These things end up with 3000 posts each and no one moving an inch. You haven’t answered even one of my points to anywhere near my satisfaction -- and im sure you say the same. Unsurprising. We haven’t even touched on what evolution means to the whole redemption narrative… at what point of evolution did god say to man… hey you in the cave… you’ve evolved enough now to understand this now… so… hello im god, if you ‘sin’ then you’re screwed so please don’t or im going to have to get in to this whole thing with my son dying etc etc.

    I have ZERO doubt that you have some convoluted but intellectual sounding explanation, and I await.

  4. zoomtard says:

    Random church people? Argh!

    It’s not relevant to link to the church fathers voluminous writings from a pre-scientific age where they clearly state that they do not interpret Genesis 1&2 to be literal when you have said that “until 1900 ALL Christians believed in a 6 day creation”. If this were a public debate, they’d be applauding me by now. And you’d be throwing your feces at them like a dirty monkey! 🙂

    When did the Catholic church agree in 1950 to a non-literal interpretation? I’m a bit of a not-so-secret secret Papist so I’d love to know. 🙂

    Q, I became a Christian having been an atheist with a severe case of scientism, as a reasonably bright adult. These viewpoints were all worked out by me as an unbeliever. None of this stuff has changed since then, it’s just I’ve read lots more of the big fat books where the ideas come from. So they are meaningful to at least one unbeliever- me. 🙂

    Even if I haven’t answered your questions to near your satisfaction, at least I’ve tried man. State them again and I’ll give one sentence replies. State them a second time and I’ll answer in cartoon form. Thank you for idea shopping, please come again.

  5. jimlad says:

    You haven’t really tried very hard Zoomtard. You didn’t admit that QMonkey was right. That would surely be a satisfactory answer for anyone, and it’s so easy to think of. My only conclusion is that you Zoomtard, are too biased to be able to think of that answer, and I have em.. pirical evidence somewhere to prove it. I demand that you’re next post simply states, “You’re right.”

  6. QMonkey says:

    jimlad’s got his head screwed on 🙂

    it’s your blog zoom so, if your happy that you’ve put your best case as to why apples can fly up, pigs can fly at all, and people can rise from the dead then thank you for your efforts. Next stop is Tom cruise to see if he can convince me that we’re decended from aliens, then its the dali lama to see if i need to worry about ‘the next life’ (you’re in elevated company)

    stand up and take your bow if you think you deserve it.

    respect as always

  7. jayber crow says:

    Sadly my poor attempt at humour/hyperbole in the apple flying upward comment has backfired badly and given QMonkey ammunition for his “all religious believers are gullible fools” generalisations… Oh well. Just for the record, my point was straight from Karl Popper (look up Wikipedia) and was simply that no matter how many times we repeat the experiment, we can never prove that apples will always fall downwards. That involves a leap well beyond our limited experience/evidence. (And of course I agree that for practical purposes the generalisation is well founded and we can go ahead and design planes etc based on our observations). My more important point was that the science can only describe what happens, but can never explain why (or in this case even how).

    This debate is like a scab I can’t stop picking but, a couple more points before I leave it alone.

    One – science has nothing to say to our discussion about the resurrection. It’s part of the arrogance of our scientific age that we forget that pre-scientific people knew fine well that the dead don’t rise. The first century disciples were well aware that the dead don’t rise – that’s why they were so excited by the discovery that Jesus had, and believed it was the turning point of the world’s history.

    Two – You claim that we never answer your questions, and maybe you’re right. But it damages your credibility if you won’t hold up your hands and accept when someone does deal directly with one of your questions. You claimed that all Christians before 1900 believed in a 6 day creation. Zoomtard provided direct quotations to show that most of the Church Fathers didn’t read Genesis that way. These were not “random” eccentric fringe Christians, but the people seen as the authoritative and definitive interpreters of Scripture for at least the first 1200 years of the church. So he has shown that the mainstream of Christian thinking for at least 1200 years (and we could probably push that well past the Reformation and into the 1600s) did not believe in the 6 day creation currently pushed by American fundamentalists. So the appropriate response is, “Fair play, Zoomtard, I didn’t know that, I stand corrected.” Then we can move onto another point. It doesn’t prove you are wrong in the rest of the debate, or give us the right to come round and forcibly baptise you, but it makes for a more meaningful dialogue…

    Three – I’m going to rise to Zoomie’s questioning of my scientific credentials and attempt a post on the nature of science. I await your ridicule.

    Four – I reckon we should move on soon to other things (say music – I hear the QMonkey plays a mean base)…


  8. QMonkey says:

    i have a mean base too, but the diet is helping ….

  9. QMonkey says:

    “You claimed that all Christians before 1900 believed in a 6 day creation” no i didnt… i said the VAST majority. and i stand by that… and i stand by that the VAST majority today think this as well. and who are you to say they are wrong? just because science says its impossible/improbable

  10. QMonkey says:

    Ok… on reflection jayber is correct. It’s a dead end. I can say most if not all have always believed in a literal genesis and you can point to great figures who didn’t… and say that you are in the tradition of them or whatever. So I will do as I’m asked an put my hands up. I’ll just ask this which will maybe help focus… if we discover something through evidence based enquirey which seems to run at odds with the bible… which should be believe? and which should be asume to be allegorical?

  11. jimlad says:

    I don’t know about the others, but my view is that the bible is pointless if it doesn’t relate to reality, so if we discover something that shows that it is at odds with reality it must therefore be pointless.

    I would like to qualify that though, by noting that reality is often at odds with itself. I mean that in terms of our definitions and rules of life. One might be told that an orange is a fruit, and then shown an apple. We know what a fruit looks like, so we must assume that the apple isn’t a fruit. Except, obviously the word fruit represents a set of realities rather than one specific reality: childish example! If a book told us that an apple was literally an orange though, we could probably wrap our heads around the concept and bend over backwards to believe that book, but I think we would be wrong to do so.

    The something that is at odds would have to be something that really does show the bible to be a pointless guide to reality, not something that is simply misinterpreted by a culture or individual that tries to make it fit the particular facet of reality they prefer to focus on.

    I realise this viewpoint is open to abuse by anyone who stubbornly wants to stick to what they believe for whatever reason. However I don’t think I could approve of its opposite: I don’t think we should take a particular objective and twist everything else, bible included, to fit it, for whatever reason.

    Maybe someone could provide some parameters/boundries for the argument, so that we can’t say an apple is an orange? I can’t do this off the top of my head, because the apple/orange/fruit thing is just an analogy that I used to present my point of view. It is much simpler than comparing the set of realities represented by the bible to the set represented by science.