Failures in Bible Validation
by: John Tyrrell
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I made the mistake of trying to point out errors to a young earth creationist, a KJV Bible literalist. It was, as I should have known, a waste of effort.
He claimed Noah's Ark had been found on Mt. Ararat and its authenticity established because it was made of gopher wood, and thus the literal interpretation of Genesis was validated. I had to point out to him that as it is not known what is meant by "gopher wood" as used in the bible, the Ark could not be validated this way if it had been found, and in any event, the Ark has has not been found.
He claimed that Sodom and Gomorrah had been found in Israel under a layer of ash and thus the literal interpretation of Genesis was validated. I had to point out to him that they had not been discovered.
He claimed a 13th century Rabbi named Nachmanides had determined from Genesis that the Universe contained 10 dimensions, and thus discovered something in the Bible that scientists would not learn for another seven centuries. Thus the literal interpretation of Genesis was validated. I had to point out to him that there is no record of Nachmanides making this claim*, and he was confusing this 13th century rabbi with a 20th century Jewish physicist who came up with 10 dimensions in Genesis after scientists proposed the Universe had 10 dimensions, and before they raised it to eleven.
Not surprisingly, he just flat out rejected that he was wrong on any of these issues in spite of having nothing to support his assertions. Essentially, he was using invented baseless "facts" to substantiate an invented creation myth.
But in checking out the idea that 10 dimensions was consistent with Genesis, I did manage to find the basis of Gerald L. Schroeder's claim that Genesis supported a 10 dimensional universe. Here is his argument:
God chose from the infinite realm of the Divine, ten dimensions or aspects and relegated them to be held within the universe. These dimensions are hinted (emphasis added) at in the ten repetitions of the statements, "and God said..." used in the opening chapter of Genesis. With an amazing congruity, particle physicists now talk of the String Theory, a unified description of our universe in ten dimensions.
Right! the phrase "and God said..." appears 10 times, and this means Genesis points out that there are 10 dimensions. That's one heck of a logical leap.
Does anyone think that reading Genesis would have caused that repeated phrase to be interpreted as "there are 10 dimensions" before a physics theory came along which required that many dimensions? It's just a case of retrofitting. And it's a real stretch of retrofitting. It's looking desperately for anything in the text which would allow the "analyst" to claim - "See - the Bible told us this before science did."
Schroeder has some guidelines for interpretation of Scripture:
- Establish the correct frame of reference.
- Make no conclusions without examining and considering the whole word of God.
- Accept only those conclusions that are consistent with the whole word of God.
- Interpret narrative passages in light of didactic, or "instructive," passages and illustrations in light of principles.
- Take any passage literally unless its context clearly indicates that it should be taken figuratively or symbolically.
- Accept a symbol definitionaly if it is defined as such elsewhere in Scripture.
- Recognize that many prophecies are fulfilled more than once.
- Be prepared to draw more than one message or application from a passage.
- Be alert to occasional problems in translation from the original languages.
The second and third ones appears to be the most important one in the illogical type of thinking we see here.
Simply it seems Schroeder could not accept the idea of 10 dimensions without examining and considering the bible to find support for the idea. (guideline 2) He found a phrase repeated 10 times in the creation myth, and consequently was able to accept that God created a 10 dimensional universe. (guideline 3)
It's a tortuous route that some believers have to take to determine which bits of science they can accept, and which to reject.
...At the briefest instant following creation all the matter of the universe was concentrated in a very small place, no larger than a grain of mustard. The matter at this time was very thin, so intangible, that it did not have real substance. It did have, however, a potential to gain substance and form and to become tangible matter. From the initial concentration of this intangible substance in its minute location, the substance expanded, expanding the universe as it did so. As the expansion progressed, a change in the substance occurred. This initially thin noncorporeal substance took on the tangible aspects of matter as we know it. From this initial act of creation, from this ethereally thin pseudosubstance, everything that has existed, or will ever exist, was, is, and will be formed.
Quite suggestive of the big bang and remarkable for the 13th century, but enough details wrong that it is not the big bang. And it's not from Genesis, but more a brave attempt to fill in the gaps in Genesis. It's also the type of interpetation that is an anathema to young earth creationists who vehemently reject the concept of a big bang.
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