Monday, August 02, 2010

The Bible God Should Have Written: Randal Rauser responds to Babinski

Why do skeptics like to out-fundy the fundies?


unkleE said...

I see an additional problem. Suppose God did indeed inspire the OT. If he's going to tell "the truth" (big bang, quarks, dark matter, particle physics,natural selection, genes, whatever), the people of the day couldn't have understood it and couldn't have accepted it. It would have to be simplified and modified heaps.

So the only sensible question is, what level of over-simplification would we have preferred God to use? Accommodating himself to the times seems as good a strategy as any.

BenYachov said...

I'll go you one better unkleE. Suppose the Bible did contain explicit references to "quarks, dark matter, particle physics,natural selection, genes, whatever". It wouldn't prove God wrote the Bible since all of the above is mere natural knowledge. What's to stop an Atheist from saying either Aliens revealed that knowledge to the ancients or it was passed down from some long extinct advanced human civilization?

Besides, Philo, Origen, Athanasius, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, Isidore, Alcuin, Abelard, Cajetan, Melchior Cano, Moses Maimonides and Shem Tov bar Joseph adhered to the view of a simultaneous creation and rejected the literal interpretation of Genesis One. They did this long before any science challenged a literal interpretation of Genesis one.

BenYachov said...

As one truly bright Atheist(& I mean that) once commented to me on another blog. Its tempting to want to criticize Catholics (like myself) and other like minded denominations for NOT interpreting the story of Genesis in a plain literalistic sense, as do the Fundamentalists. But this is generally a huge can of worms, as it requires one to don the clothing of a biblical fundamentalist, and basically make arguments on their behalf. The Atheist apologist in essence has to do double duty. He has to compose a convincing apologetic that Genesis can only br legitimately understood literalisticly & then argue the literalistic interpretation fails because of science. However history doesn't help either the Fundamentalist or the Atheist Fundamentalist wannabe in that regard.

Walter said...

The problem with the Accommodation Theory is that the bible is indistinguishable from something that could have been produced by nothing more than the human minds existing at the time. Which is exactly what I think the bible is--a collection of human texts which were the product of human inspiration.

unkleE said...

"he bible is indistinguishable from something that could have been produced by nothing more than the human minds existing at the time"

Easy to assert, Walter, but how would you demonstrate it? I suspect your assumptions would contain the demonstration.

Anonymous said...

That response to Babinski was not from a "fundy". It was from a liberal Christian. It seems it is ok for that guy to interpret the scriptures any way he wants to. Not what the scriptures actually say & teach.

Walter said...

Easy to assert, Walter, but how would you demonstrate it? I suspect your assumptions would contain the demonstration

The fact that the bible contains no knowledge that was not known at the times of the authors counts against it being the product of an all-knowing God wishing to reveal itself to us through this particular medium. Could an omniscient God have chosen to reveal "himself" in such a manner as to be indistinguishable from typical human documents from that era? Sure, anything is possible.The most parsimonious explanation is that the bible is simply a collection of purely human texts describing the authors theological views about God.

Just because the bible is a purely human work does not mean there is no God. But it does count against using the bible as an authority to live your life by. That may not be a problem for a Catholic who believes that God has established his One True Church™ to guide mankind, but it is problematic to the Protestant who wishes to elevate the bible into a "paper pope".

BenYachov said...

Define Liberal Anonymous? On that very same blog Loftus called me a "Liberal" & I'm a traditional Catholic. I believe in the unlimited inerrancy of scripture (as defined by Pius IX, St Pius X & Pius XII)and the whole of Catholic teaching.

Or is a Christian "liberal" someone who doesn't interpret Genesis One in a literalistic way? In which case a lot of Church Fathers & Orthodox Jewish Rabbis of old would be "liberals" which is nuts.

BenYachov said...


If the Bible contained contained explicit references to "quarks, dark matter, particle physics,natural selection, genes, whatever". It wouldn't prove God wrote the Bible since all of the above is mere natural knowledge. (see above)Your polemic is one we Catholics & Eastern Orthodox would use against Protestants for Sola Scriptura & Perspecuity but if successful it doesn't in anyway help Atheists & or biblical skeptics since God can write a book that contains mere natural knowledge & or phenomenological observation & Divine Knowledge (like God being a Trinity) which can't be known by natural intellective methods.

BenYachov said...

Of course I think New Atheists believe that the Bible should have some type of features to it that "prove" God wrote it. Naturally we Catholics & Eastern Orthodox don't agree. Which is why polemics against the Bible are a waste of time on their part when dealing with Christian religions that believe in Scripture, Tradition & Church as the rule of Faith as apposed to Scripture alone.

Edward T. Babinski said...


You could have googled my name and Rauser's and read this:

Ed Babinski Responds to Randal Rauser on "Biblical Cosmology"

Edward T. Babinski said...

I hope anyone reading Randal will also read my response:

My response begins . . .

Hi Randall, all I said in my article on "The Cosmology of the Bible," and in fact the ONLY substantial disagreement you seem to have with my chapter in The Christian Delusion is my statement [that I am paraphrasing below]:

"IF [emphasis added] there are any words of God in the Bible they appear to be delineated as such by humans who wrote the Bible and by humans who read it, and humans are also the ones who interpret such words, and who choose to focus on the importance of some sentences and delegate others as being of less importance, and attempt to harmonize still others."

I might add that no interpretation can be proven to be inerrant nor even necessarily inspired, so even if some humans claim a book is inerrant or inspired there remain different interpretations of such a statement--and different interpretations concerning what divine information the Bible is allegedly conveying--with disagreements stretching from Genesis to Revelation.

Let me add here the words of a Christian:

"The most zealous defenders of the verbal inspiration of the Bible admit that there are parts of it of less importance than others.This is a great admission, because another is involved in it, namely that we ourselves must be judges of the comparative importance of these different parts." - Thomas Erskine (Scottish Evangelical and also universalist)

Edward T. Babinski said...

@Vic, I "out fundied the fundies?" You may have "out dumbed" yourself making such a presumptuous statement. Read my chapter for yourself. I can send you a copy, and if I have the money will send it to anyone here who requests a copy, whatever's within my budget of course. You'll see that Randall has overreacted to a few sentences in my chapter, and AGREES with everything else in it.

And at no time in my chapter did I argue strictly for atheism. Besides, questioning the holy books and perspectives of a "revealed religion" is not equivalent to arguing for atheism. Theism of some sort may still be true.

The book I contributed to was titled The Christian Delusion, because it is primarily a book questioning a particular revealed religion rather than focusing on the question of God's existence in broad philosophical fashion.

Victor Reppert said...

My point in saying that you were trying to out-fundy the fundies was that a sensible understanding of the "God's-word-ness" of Scripture would not require all sorts of scientific accuracy out of the text.

A persistent criticism of the Debunking Christianity site is that material on it is typically aimed at theological views that are pretty far to the right. In other words, it identifies Christianity with fundamentalism. This is a criticism that atheist Blue Devil Knight frequently makes.

Now there are arguments that Christianity requires some very conservative doctrine of biblical inspiration that would make it a problem that, for example, that the cosmology of Genesis 1 is not literally true. These arguments are typically advanced by young earth creationists against liberals like Bill Craig who want to accommodate belief in an ancient earth or a Big Bang. Maybe you can help yourself to some of those.

Rauser uses the quote from Galileo, "The Bible tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go." So, why should Christians be upset if, nope, it doesn't tell us how the heavens go?

David said...

But what would a scientifically accurate book look like that would last a few thousand years. If Genesis were Newtonian it would have been near incompressible for years, but would then only be shot down as not scientific enough because it didn't account for Relativity.

Quantum Mechanics is only comprehensible with the right type of mathematics--should the math also have been revealed. And then who is to say that these theories will not one day be overturned by further evidence.

It is true the Solar-centric system will remain, but other than that, what, maybe, thermodynamics is beyond ever being falsified?

What would make sense 3000 years ago and 3000 years from now? Perhaps all we were hoping for was a revelation of something that took a while to discover by natural methods?

Walter said...

The real question is: What does it mean for a text to be divinely inspired? I believe that it is simply where people desire some type of "rulebook" to live their life by, so they take these ancient human texts and elevate them into something "from God" so that they can be declared normative and authoritative.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, As I said, I am not disproving God in my chapter, or blaming God for writing myths.
It's obvious to both of us that humans wrote Genesis 1, and that humans today are busy interpreting and reinterpreting it as well in all kinds of ways. What's not obvious is that that particular myth is the most God-inspired piece of writing on "creation" ever penned by a human being. It's a book of its day and age. It reflects ancient priestly concerns, and also depicts God like an ANE ruler of a kingdom, etc. Please read my chapter or allow me to send you a copy.

There are also concerns not raised in my chapter, concerning how Genesis 1 relates to Judaic and Christian theologies in a more general fashion.

Lastly, we appear to have a book (the Bible) that you continue to claim is "inspired by God," from Genesis to Revelation. I haven't yes heard you claim it was only partly inspired "here and there" inside its pages.

You and Rauser appear annoyed that anyone might ask for evidence that the primeval history chapters are inspired by God, or that anyone might dare to question how relevant Genesis 1-11 is to understanding life and the universe compared with "less directly" inspired works produced today on all manner of things related to human psychology, sociology, history, science, etc.

Also, no doubt when Aristarchus of Samos advanced his heliocentric model of the cosmos in the 300s BCE it caused a bit of a stir, but the mere fact that someone COULD present such an idea means that there might have also been at least a chance for God to have "inspired" writers of the Bible to depict such a model 300 years earlier, when many scholars believe Genesis 1 was edited into its present form. But as you can read in my article neither Genesis 1, nor isolated verses in Isa. or Job depict such a model.

And lets not get started on the evolution of henotheism to monolatry to finally, monotheism, and how Israel's hope of political independence from Babylon and Assyria drove such a development. We'll have to get together and talk about that sometimes as well as various archaic images of "Yahweh" found in the oldest strata of the OT, compared with later imagery.

David said...

Edward T. Babinski,

I would be interested in reading your book. I'm not much of a philosopher and not a great Christian (but I do believe), but I read your story on your website and was interested.

I don't want it free (I've done well at business and can pay for it).

Dave Duffy
1488 Ventura St.
Kingsburg, CA 93631

Crude said...

What does it take for a text to be divinely inspired? The answer to that seems obvious, along the lines of asking what it takes for a book to be authored by Stephen King. "Did Stephen King write it?" Similarly, "Was it inspired by the Divine? Was it guided by a Divine hand to communicate something from God?"

The problem with the answer to that is it pulls the rug out from a lot of common expectations. Should we expect the science and cosmology in the book to be accurate? The answer seems to be yes, if we expect the divine to teach us science - but why should we expect that? Should we expect rapt and complete rules for living life? The answer is similar.

And I can't help but think that's a point Rauser is driving home here. The accuracy of some quickly brushed over scientific models only matters if the expectation was that God had as a principle concern teaching bare scientific facts. I may expect that out of, say... some faith like scientology, which puts a lot of emphasis on their teachings being alien technology for solving problems. For Christianity, where what's stressed is a personal relationship and union with God? Not so much.

AWA said...

Babinksi: "I hope anyone reading Randal will also read my response:"

Not likely - most folks get a normal 8 hours worth of sleep on their own just fine.

I'm surprised he didn't suggest that God should have unveiled the secrets to nuclear fission in the text. After all, humans have been absolutely responsible with that knowledge.