googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: How Young Earth Creationists are not like Jesus Mythicists

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

How Young Earth Creationists are not like Jesus Mythicists

It's not very often that I come across a truly novel argument against creationism. Just recently, though, I came across a headline that caused me to do a double-take. On FaceBook, Stephen Bedard posted an article comparing Young Earth Creationists and Jesus Mythicists. It just struck me as odd because I would never have viewed those particular beliefs in the same light. Obviously, I was curious about how anyone would consider them to be similar.

For anyone not familiar with Jesus mythicism, Bedard describes it as the belief there was no historical Jesus and that he is only another form of the common Horus/Dionysus/Mithras myth.” Weird, huh? Any way, as I read Bedard's article I saw that the claims he made weren't really novel at all. //Sigh//.  Before giving my opinion, let me highlight how Bedard sees Jesus mythicism as being similar to young-earth creationism. According to Bedard:
  • Both are views that a person would never get just by looking at the scientific/historical evidence.
  • [B]oth theories are highly suspicious of the scholarly consensus.
  • [B]oth YEC and JM are agenda driven rather than evidence driven. YEC start with their theory and then look to scientific evidence to see how it can be reinterpreted to fit the theory.
Bedard says in the article he was once a young-earth creationist, obviously intending to mean that he no longer is. He tries to deal politely with creationism and concludes his article by saying, I have tried to remain objective here. Either group could be correct.... My point is simply that two groups that have widely different belief systems actually go about their task in very similar ways. Bedard seems to be a nice guy so I will return the favor and not direct my comments toward him specifically. Rather, I will make my own observations of old-earth creationists or theistic evolutionists in general.

I'll start by saying that I agree with Bedard in some ways. For example, I am skeptical of scientific consensus. Just put me in the same category as people like Galiliei who argued against the “scientific” consensus of Ptolemy. Even the majority can be wrong.  Besides, truth is not decided by vote. If we stopped questioning anything after “the science is settled,” where would we be? Scientists are usually proud to say that we should question everything. However, when it comes to issues like evolution or global warming, they want critics to shut up because the science is settled!

At its heart, this is a question of our presuppositions. As people search for the truth, they have to decide what they will accept as evidence.  Personally, I have decided without exception that I will believe the Bible. Romans 3:4 says, let God be true, but every man a liar.  Even if the whole world were to disagree with me, I would like to think I would still stand firmly on God's word. If I'm wrong, then I'm wrong. And when I stand before God in judgment, let my plea be that I believed the Bible too much.

Bedard, apparently, has decided to put more faith in scientific consensus than the Bible. Such a belief has a direct impact on how a person interprets Scripture. An examination of the chronologies in the Bible, for example, suggests that history only goes back about 6,000 years. Of course, old-earth creationists can't accept that because “scientific consensus” says the earth is billions of years old. Therefore, even though the Bible says God made the universe in 6 days, it can't believe it really mean 6 days.

When people start doubting the clear meaning of the words in the Bible, I'm not sure where they draw the line. Hank Hanegraaff – aka, the Bible Answer Man – also believes in an old earth. However, he rejects evolution. That's curious. Why would he accept the scientific opinion on one subject but not the other? I've heard him talk about both subjects and he always appeals to science. He believes that distant starlight proves the earth is old but feels the scientific evidence for evolution isn't as compelling. It seems even the “Bible Answer Man” doesn't necessarily start with the Bible when looking for answers.

Besides the origins issue, what else might these people compromise for the sake of science? The virgin birth? The miracles of Jesus? The resurrection? Where does it stop? And on what grounds can we say science is wrong there but not here? The rate of atheism is a lot higher among scientists than the public. If we trust their opinions, why should we even believe in God at all?

I suppose the ultimate irony in Bedard's article is that it is his views that are more like Jesus mythicism. Neither old earth creationism nor Jesus mythicism are supported by a plain reading of the Bible. Both conclusions are reached by starting with opinions from outside of the Bible and then projecting these unbiblical beliefs onto Scripture. Think about it, Jesus mythicists claim Jesus wasn't a literal person; well, most theistic evolutionists also believe Adam wasn't literal. Neither was Noah. Jesus talked about Adam and Noah as real people from history yet TE folks say they are fictional! Why? Because of science? Many professing Christians also claim Abraham, Moses, and David weren't real. At what point does Luke's chronology from Adam to Jesus stop being fictional characters and start becoming real people?

Let me just say, I agree on a lot of things with folks lot Bedard or Hanegraaff or William Layne Craig and others of that stripe. However, when they allow science to shape their understanding of the plain meaning of words of the Bible, they're setting a terrible precedent. I will paraphrase Martin Luther who said that, if we ever lack understanding of how the Scriptures can be correct, let us merely grant that the Holy Spirit is wiser than we are.


Steven J. said...

When people start doubting the clear meaning of the words in the Bible, I'm not sure where they draw the line.

I have two hypotheses (and no definitive way to falsify either of them).

First, people draw the line where their daily lives make it impossible to support biblical literalism. Psalm 103:12 may speak of sins being removed "as far from us as the east is from the west," but it's hard to believe in a flat Earth (the only way that sentence makes literal sense) when you have to reset your watch every time you cross a time zone. Different people have different daily lives; there are very, very few working geologists who can manage to believe in a young Earth, but it's no real problem for a physician or accountant.

Second, people draw the line where they think that no important theological doctrine is affected by re-interpreting the Bible to fit scientific ideas. There are perfectly good scriptural reasons why the Church opposed Galileo: aside from, e.g. passages like Psalm 104:5 ("the Earth ... cannot be moved") and Judges 10:12-13, where the sun, not the Earth, is said to stand still, the creation account in Genesis 1, which has plants created before herbivores and seas created before fish, has the sun created after the Earth -- which makes very little sense for a heliocentric solar system. But what soteriological doctrine does that affect?

To be sure, Gerardus Bouw asks us how one can believe what the Bible says about the rising of the Son if one denies what it says about the rising of the sun (from Bouw's point of view, you're one of "those people" who compromise the plain sense of scripture with fallible human wisdom!), but there's no direct logical link between the statements.

Steven J. said...

Now, some Christians worry about the age of the Earth. If animals were dying for millions of centuries before humans first walked the planet, what do we make of the doctrine that death entered the world with Adam's sin? Indeed, as Mark Twain snarked, if humanity's time on Earth is, to the age of the Earth, as the thickness of the paint atop the Eiffel Tower is the height of the tower itself, how reasonable is it to suppose we're the point of the whole exercise? But you lose little if you assume that Adam's sin only occasioned human death, and that the death of tyrannosaurs, gophers, and newts is not God's punishment of them for something Adam did. So you can compromise easily enough on the age of the Earth, and insist that the "days" of creation are just as figurative as the "windows in the sky" in Genesis 7.

Compromising with evolution itself is harder, at least if you accept the traditional Christian idea of the Fall, a sin nature, etc. How can there be a literal, unique Fall if there was no literal, unique Adam -- neither a time when the human species comprised only on mated pair, or a definite first generation of human beings as distinct from ape-men? So to accept evolution, you not only need to read the creation accounts in a fashion as figurative as mentions of the "pillars of heaven," but you need a rather non-traditional take on the origin of human sin and alienation from God. But it's do-able.

Besides the origins issue, what else might these people compromise for the sake of science?

Well, all the things you suggest, of course. Among more conservative Christians, though, one possibility that's been raised lately is Matthew 27:51-53. A bunch of dead people coming back to life, going back to Jerusalem, and being seen by "many" people, is the sort of thing that one would expect to occasion comment in contemporary secular sources. And even the other gospels don't mention it. This is one obvious criterion: not merely, is there no evidence beyond biblical statements for it, but is there evidence very different from the sort of evidence we would expect if this were true (including silence where we'd expect some sort of notice to be taken). As I've mentioned before, since it would be trivial for God to make all radiometric dating yield evidence for a young Earth (or at least a range of ages compatible with a young Earth), the very existence of rock layers datable to millions of centuries old is a refutation of young-Earth creationism, even if such dating were not reliable.

RKBentley said...

Steven J,

You know that I've always cautioned against a “literal” reading of the Bible but, instead, encourage an “ordinary” reading of the Bible. To insist every word in the Bible is literal is just as ridiculous as saying every miracle in the Bible must be figurative. In the sames passages that talk about the earth not moving, it also talks about things like the trees singing or clapping their hands. These are obvious use of metaphors and for critics to suggest otherwise is a clear case of quote-mining.

Concerning the sun “standing still,” this is an economy of language. To this day, we have found no easier way to describe the apparent motion of the sun besides to say the sun moves. Besides the examples of saying the sun rises and sets, we also say the sun travels across the sky. We might also say the sun went behind a cloud. Even though we know the mechanics behind the seeming movements of the sun, I cannot think of any more convenient term to use to describe sunrise or sunset. Can you? It is not wrong of the Bible to describe the apparent movement of the sun by using the same language we might.

If people want to ascribe a natural explanation to any miracle in the Bible, then the Bible is worthless. If I assign “figurative” to any verse I disagree with, then I elevate my opinion above the word of God. Why do I even need the Bible at that point? And how would I be different than those people who say Jesus is a myth?

Thanks for your comments. God bless!!


VinnyJH57 said...

If there is a God, he gave me a brain and the capacity to reason about the world in which I find myself. If I am wrong about the conclusions I reached, then I am wrong. My plea will be that I used the mind I was given as best I could, and I didn't spend my time trying to believe things that my reason rejected.

RKBentley said...


Most critics respond to creationists with pithy comments like, “You're an idiot.” Your response was a little more verbose than that but hardly more substantive. I welcome comments from people who disagree with me so, if you ever leave comments on my blog in the future, I encourage you to take a few moments and tell me exactly what your objections are.

Based on just your scant remarks, I think you're trying to say that Christians don't use reason. That's somewhat amusing because I've found that it's secular philosophies that are void of reason. I've heard some critics say, for example, “I don't believe anything without evidence.” Isn't that hilarious? My usual reply is, “Oh, really? What evidence led you to believe that?” Scientific American once said, “A central tenet of modern science is methodological naturalism – it seeks to explain the universe purely in terms of observed or testable mechanisms.” Of course, no where in the universe have we found observable, testable evidence to justify this as a tenet of science. It's a secular assumption and not a scientific principle.

God told Isaiah, “Come now, let us reason together.” (Isaiah 1:18). I hold my beliefs for much the same reasons you hold yours – I'm convinced they're correct. However, my worldview isn't self contradictory like non-Christian worldviews are.

Thank you for your comments. Please keep visiting. God bless!!


Ken said...

Just as an FYI: here is a quick reference list of "Two Centuries Worth of Citations" to the historical Jesus:

RKBentley said...


Thanks for visiting and for your link. Keep up the good work, brother.

God bless!!