Monday, February 25, 2013

Why is the Bible Not Evidence?

To borrow a choice of words from Aron-Ra:

Because it's flat out wrong about damn near everything.

The Bible makes lots of factual claims about the natural world, and a great many of them can be shown to be incorrect.  For example, we know that the world is not flat (Isaiah 40:22), is not encased in a firmament (Genesis 1:6-8),  and does not sit immobile on a foundation (Psalm 104:5), just to name a couple of examples.

Or, to put it another way, the Bible is NOT inerrant.

So there is no reason to believe anything simply because the Bible says so.  If any claim that Bible makes is true, that claim could be verified by means or sources independent of the Bible.


  1. The Bible is not wrong about anything. There are things that may be difficult to understand. Sometimes poetic language and figures of speech are used. But there is nothing that is actually wrong.

    Let me address the specific points you mentioned.

    Isaiah 40:22
    It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
    And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
    Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain
    And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.

    This verse does not say the earth is flat. If you can't figure it out, that's your problem, not the Bible's.

    Regarding Genesis 1:6-8, you say the world is "not encased in a firmament". It is--we call it the atmosphere.

    Regarding Psalm 104:5, let's look at it in context.
    Bless the Lord, O my soul!
    O Lord my God, You are very great;
    You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
    Covering Yourself with light as with a cloak,
    Stretching out heaven like a tent curtain.
    He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters;
    He makes the clouds His chariot;
    He walks upon the wings of the wind;
    He makes the winds His messengers,
    Flaming fire His ministers.
    He established the earth upon its foundations,
    So that it will not totter forever and ever.
    You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
    The waters were standing above the mountains.
    At Your rebuke they fled,
    At the sound of Your thunder they hurried away.
    The mountains rose; the valleys sank down
    To the place which You established for them.
    You set a boundary that they may not pass over,
    So that they will not return to cover the earth.

    Okay, now we get a different picture. This is obviously poetic, figurative language. There is nothing incorrect about saying, "He established the earth upon its foundations,
    So that it will not totter forever and ever." That simply indicates that the earth won't collapse.

    You wrote, "If any claim that Bible makes is true, that claim could be verified by means or sources independent of the Bible." Is that an objective truth? How do you know that? Let's see the evidence!

    I won't vouch for everything on these sites, but here are a couple links to check out.

  2. I neglected to comment on "Or, to put it another way, the Bible is NOT inerrant."

    First of all, yes, the Bible is inerrant. Also, is that an objective standard? Do you dismiss evidence from any source that is not inerrant? What sources does that leave that you trust?

  3. Right! Those passages are figurative. And how to do we know that? Because we can test them in the real world and find out that they are not factually true. Hence my statement that we should be able to verify any fact claim the Bible makes.

    No, I do not automatically dismiss evidence because a source is inerrant. I evaluate the strength of that evidence using real-world observation.

  4. Isaiah 40:22 is clearly figurative, since it uses the word "like" a couple times. Genesis 1:6-8 is literal. Psalm 104 is clearly figurative, but that doesn't mean the words are without meaning. The whole book of Psalms is poetic/figurative. I think all those things are pretty obvious.

    If I say, "My wife has eyes like diamonds", is that factually true? Yes! That doesn't mean that her eyes *are* diamonds, but that my description of them (using figurative language) is.

    If you believe there are any real factual errors in the Bible, please list them, and I'll address them.

  5. What are your objective criteria for determine which Bible passages are literal and which are figurative?

    In Genesis 1, you're saying that the firmament is the atmosphere. It is inaccurate, because there is no water above the atmosphere.

  6. In response to your question, the same as for other literature. I thought you were trained in that sort of thing.

    Are you sure there is no water above the atmosphere? How do you know that? Where's the evidence?

    In any case, Genesis 1 is describing how God created things in the beginning. However, there was a catastrophic change at the time of the Flood.

    Genesis 7:11
    In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened.

    I wouldn't be dogmatic on this (I don't claim to understand everything in the Bible or have everything completely figured out), but I think this verse could be describing a change which involved "the waters above the firmament" coming down to earth.

  7. Right! The Bible is literature, not fact.

    We know there is no water above the atmosphere because we have satellites in orbit that can detect such things. Using these instruments, the observation that there is no water above the atmosphere can be verified by anyone who tests it.

    If you're going to cite Genesis (or anything in the Bible) as evidence of anything, you're going to need to explain why we should believe those particular passages are factual and not figurative.

  8. By "literature", I simply meant a piece of writing. Sorry, that maybe wasn't the best choice of word, since I meant it to include textbooks, novels, poetry, newspapers, etc. Is something a fact simply by virtue of it being in a textbook? Is something not true simply because it is in a "fiction" novel?

    Different sources present themselves in different ways. The source itself helps us to determine how we should approach it. (Sorry for my rudimentary explanation. I'm sure you're much more knowledgeable in this area.) The Bible claims to be an accurate historical account, but it includes many forms of writing, such as historical narratives, poetry, government records, personal letters, etc.

    One of my mathematics professors at university described functions as "inhabitants" of a "jungle", and went it more detailed descriptions of various "specimens". We didn't have any trouble interpreting what he meant. Similarly, the Bible really isn't that difficult to understand (yes, there are some difficult passages and concepts, but I mean the style of writing in general). The problem is that for some reason people hold the Bible to a different standard than other pieces of writing.

    To start with Genesis 1, we should take it as factual. There is no evidence within the passage that it should be taken figuratively and it is referenced other places in the Bible as being an historical event. Also, it wouldn't make any sense to begin with something figurative, since the literal meaning of the words needs to be established before they can be used figuratively.

  9. A textbook is not literature. We don't automatically assume something is true because it's in a textbook. However, we can test the claims that a textbook makes and confirm that they are true.

    Just because a source claims to be accurate doesn't mean it is. I could write a book about my dragon in which I claim divine inspiration; that doesn't make it so, any more than the Bible's claim makes it so.

    I don't hold the Bible to any different standard than any other book. I don't automatically believe the claims of Homer's Iliad either, just because it also mentions gods.

    Let me make sure I get what you're saying about Genesis... It's factual because it's the first mention in the Bible of any of the concepts it talks about? By that logic, the first description of the earth sitting on a foundation would also be a fact claim, by virtue of it being the first mention.

  10. Here's the definition of "literature" from Wiktionary:
    1. The body of all written works.
    2. The collected creative writing of a nation, people, group or culture.
    3. All the papers, treatises etc. published in academic journals on a particular subject.
    4. Written fiction of a high standard.

    Textbooks fall under definition 1, as I clarified in my last response. However, I will admit that definition 4 is probably what most people think of when they hear the word "literature", so that is why my clarification was necessary.

    Here's part of the definition of "literature" from
    a (1) : writings in prose or verse; especially : writings having excellence of form or expression and expressing ideas of permanent or universal interest (2) : an example of such writings

    Textbooks generally do not have "excellence of form or expression and expressing ideas of permanent or universal interest", so I guess in that respect you could say they are not literature.

    In any case, the point I was making is independent of whether or not textbooks are "literature", so I don't understand why you are giving me a hard time about it.

    I agree that sources need to be verified, just like witnesses in a trial. You can't believe everything that somebody says or writes.

    Regarding your last paragraph, the words "foundation" and "earth" are used throughout the Bible both literally and figuratively (eg. literal - the foundation of the temple, figurative - the apostles are the foundation of the church). The first mention of words is important, but doesn't necessarily need to be literal usage, since the words would already be in usage in spoken language.

    About Genesis 1, the point is that it (as well as any part of the Bible) needs to be evaluated based on the entire Bible. Taking the Bible as a whole, it is clear that Genesis 1 is to be understood literally. Context is critical to understanding what a given word/verse/passage means. To get a proper understanding requires examining the immediate context, as well as the book of the Bible in question, and the Bible as a whole. This is no different than any other piece of written material.

    Just as an example, consider the phrase, "all the nations". This phrase is used numerous places in the Bible, and some people think it refers to all the nations (200+ of them) now in existence. However, the correct way to understand that phrase, is not to simply say what we think it means, but we must see how it is used in the Bible. Surveying the whole Bible, it becomes clear that "all the nations" normally refers to "all the nations surrounding Israel", or "all the nations of the known world", not "all the nations" as we know them today.

    Yes, there are issues to be discussed. Yes, there are some passages that may be more difficult to understand than others. But the same is true of textbooks. They have to be interpreted. Some are more clear than others. Some of the textbooks I had to use in university were very complicated. It could take hours (or sometimes days) to understand a single page, and even then you weren't completely sure you knew exactly what it meant. Maybe you studied easier material. Maybe you're smarter than I am. I don't know. But I do know that everything is interpreted, even "facts".

    1. Again, if there are specific "errors" in the Bible that you want me to address, I will try to do so, although my time is limited, so I can't promise to get to every single thing you may bring up.

      Hopefully you can see that this conversation is ultimately headed to the same place as the "Absence of Evidence" discussion. In the end, how do we know what constitutes valid evidence? How can we ever know that our interpretation of anything is right? How do we know that a "fact" is true?

      I know you have studied these issues, so let me ask you a question. How do you know that anything is true? Take some time to think about it. If you simply say, "Because it is observable and replicable," that only leads to more questions.

  11. That's my answer, so I'm happy to address any questions you might have.

    1. Are only things that are observable and replicable true? If not, please explain what else is a valid source of truth.

      If yes, let me ask the following. Has the concept, "Only things that have been observed and replicated are true", been observed and replicated? How would you even do that? It is a concept, an idea. It has no material substance. It can't be observed, let alone replicated.

      If the determination of truth is, "Only those things that have been observed and replicated are true", then by its own definition, it is false.

    2. ""Only things that have been observed and replicated are true", been observed and replicated? How would you even do that?"

      Yes, many times. It's called science, and it has an excellent track record of explaining things that go on in the real world.

  12. I stand corrected on the primary definition of the term literature; I am happy to accept that all writing falls under that heading.

    I still don't see the distinction as to which parts of the Bible are literal or figurative. You're simply stating that "it's clear" that Genesis is intended literally, but you haven't explained why.

    What it comes down to is this: The Bible says there's a God. So what? Why should we believe anything is true simply because the Bible says so? The works of Homer say that there's a Zeus, but I'm assuming you don't automatically believe that's true.

    The only reason you believe the Bible is right about God is that you're assuming the conclusion that God exists. That is, we know that God exists because it says so in the Bible, which we know to be true because God exists and inspired it. It's circular logic.

    The fact remains that anything factual in the Bible could be verified by means independent of the Bible. No such means exist when it comes to God.

    1. You're correct that I am assuming God's existence. That is my fundamental assumption. Everything else I believe flows out of that one assumption. That's not to say that there isn't evidence that God exists. There is evidence of God's existence, but only for those who believe in Him.

      You also have a fundamental assumption(s). I have been trying to help you see that your fundamental assumption(s) is illogical.

      There is a saying, "Seeing is believing." But the truth is, "Believing is seeing." I will be praying that you will believe and finally see the truth for yourself.

  13. If there is a God, he knows exactly how to convince me.

  14. That was a good one!

    Let's analyze where we're at.

    Me: Assume God exists.
    There is a basis for objective, unchanging morality.
    There is a basis for objective knowledge.

    You: Assume God doesn't exist (or, if you prefer, "Make no assumptions.")
    Morality is subjective and changes over time and location.
    Knowledge can never be 100% certain.

    If that's what you want to believe, that's up to you. However, I believe you are wrong, and furthermore, I believe that you (and other atheists) misrepresent your worldview as being objective and "scientific", when that is not actually the case. I'm all for honesty in worldviews.

    1. By the way, I believe you do make assumptions, which is why you are able to know things, participate in a logical argument, etc.

      I wrote "Make no assumptions", since that seems to be what you would claim. In a way, though, you have made the assumption that the laws of physics are universal and unchanging. Also, that the laws of logic exist and are valid. Actually, you make a lot of assumptions.

      That leads to another "proof" of the correctness of my position. Occam's razor states "that among competing hypotheses, the one that makes the fewest assumptions should be selected." I win again!

  15. You're lying about the nature of science and certainty, since I've already addressed that.

    You're lying about the physics and logic, since I've already addressed those as well.

    You're lying about Occam's razor, since you're the one making assumptions. I've already explained the ways in which my views can be verified and thus don't need to be assumed.

    Lies for Jesus.

  16. Yes, you have already addressed these issues.

    On your post "Knowledge", you wrote:
    "When we have sufficient confidence that something is consistently true, we say that know it.
    This is not to say that we claim 100% certainty, however."

    I am simply repeating/rephrasing what you wrote. How is me saying, "Knowledge can never be 100% certain", different from what you wrote yourself?

    This is just like what happened with our discussion about morality. Your worldview is inconsistent, so I have great difficulty in determining exactly what you believe. You seem to be saying now that you make no assumptions. Is that correct?

  17. You're dishonestly leaving out the rest of what I said about knowledge apart from the comment about certainty. You're quote-mining so that you can attack minute portions of what I've said while pretending you don't understand the big picture.

    I believe you understand exactly what I mean about certainty and knowledge; since you have no way to refute the whole thing, you're nitpicking tiny details. That's the only way that you can continue to dishonestly claim that my worldview is inconsistent.

    What's your point about assumptions, so that I can direct you back to whole explanation, rather than let you attack a tiny slice of it?

  18. I just reread your post on knowledge, and I don't see how I am misrepresenting your view. You mention things like "a high degree of confidence". I completely understand this. Most people use the word "know" in that sense to refer to something of which they are relatively certain or sure. You yourself wrote, "This is not to say that we claim 100% certainty, however," and I believe that is an accurate statement based on your worldview.

    But my worldview, based on the Bible, offers 100% certainty. As I've mentioned before, that doesn't mean that I know everything perfectly, but it does mean that the foundation/source of my knowledge is 100% true and reliable. I still may have problems with misinterpretation or misunderstanding, but I know (for sure, 100% certainty) that God and the Bible are objectively true.

    In your view, not only can you not be 100% certain, but you have no standard to which you can compare what you think you "know" to see if it is correct or not. Like morality, your position on knowledge is subjective and changing. You are like a ship drifting aimlessly at sea.

    Regarding assumptions, I am having trouble even understanding what you think about assumptions. On the one hand, at times you seem to be claiming that you make no assumptions. On the other hand, you are repeatedly making assumptions in your arguments.

    For instance, you said that your philosophical foundation is pragmatism. That is an assumption.

    Here's the definition of "pragmatism" for
    an American movement in philosophy founded by C. S. Peirce and William James and marked by the doctrines that the meaning of conceptions is to be sought in their practical bearings, that the function of thought is to guide action, and that truth is preeminently to be tested by the practical consequences of belief

    How do you know that is the right methodology? You don't. You are assuming that.

  19. You're lying about the Bible, since you're only assuming it's 100% true without being able to support that with evidence.

    You're lying about my worldview meaning that I'm "drifting aimlessly," since you only make that judgment based on an assumed conclusion, with no support.

    You're lying about assumptions; it's clear that you don't even know what the term means.

    You're lying about methodology, since I've already addressed your questions on why empirical observation works.

    Lies for Jesus, and frankly, I'm sick of it. You're out of rational arguments, so you're resorting to dishonesty. Keep doing it, and I'll keep calling you on it.

  20. DVD,

    I am not lying.

    The Bible is 100% true. That is a logical conclusion based on the existence of God. There is plenty of evidence to support it. You have not been able to provide any evidence showing anything wrong with the Bible.

    Your worldview is "drifting aimlessly". You had to change your view of morality, and what you now say you believe regarding morality is subjective and changes over time. The same is true regarding your position on truth/knowledge. I know you don't admit that (yet), but I have demonstrated that above.

    About assumptions, you would have to clarify what you think it means. Perhaps you are using it in some technical sense that I am unaware of. If you prefer, I suppose "presupposition" might be a more technically precise term. In any case, my argument remains valid.

    You have addressed methodology, but by your own admission, using your methodology you can never be 100% certain. There are many other possible philosophical foundations. You have not demonstrated why the one you are using is the correct one, and even if you did, it stills leave us with uncertainty.

    I believe that you are sick. That is a natural response to being confronted with the illogicality of your worldview.

    I would plead with you again. Believe in God. He is your only hope.

  21. You're lying about the Bible, since you admit the circular logic (specifically, assuming your conclusion) that is required to believe it's true.

    You're lying about my views on knowledge, since you continue to quote-mine the 100% certainty part and ignore the rest.

    You're never going to get me to believe in God without evidence, of which you have none. Prove me wrong by demonstrating why I should believe the Bible is true without employing circular reasoning.

  22. Okay, you know where you stand--on nothing. Don't say I didn't warn you.

  23. Whatever you're "warning" me about.

  24. So if you knew that a bridge was out ahead, you wouldn't warn drivers coming that way? Would that be a "threat"?

  25. A bridge being out is empirically verifiable.

  26. So is hell. Just ask all the people who are there.

  27. Just wait long enough and you'll be able to.

  28. So it's not empirically verifiable, and you knew that when you said it, because you're a liar for Jesus.

    Why would anyone want to worship a god that condones your incessant dishonesty, even if such a being did exist?

  29. It is empirically verifiable, as I have said. I never said you could empirically verify it right now. That is true of many things. Just because something is not empirically verifiable right now, doesn't mean that it is not empirically verifiable at all. There are many things about the solar system that are not empirically verifiable at this moment in time, but may have been in the past or will be in the future.

    I was simply giving an honest answer to what I thought was an honest question. If you didn't want to know, why did you ask? Actually, I wouldn't recommend it. My suggestion is to trust in God and avoid hell, but for some reason* you don't seem to want to do that. (*some reason = sin)

    While we're on the subject, you still haven't shown why empirical verifiability is a required condition for knowledge anyway.

  30. I count five lies in that response.