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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Thinkquote of the day: Why you can take the Bible seriously but not literally on science issues

Mid-twentieth century scholar Bernard Ramm writes,
The language of the Bible with reference to cosmological matters is in terms of the prevailing culture. Biblical cosmology is in the language of antiquity and not of modern science, nor is it filled with anticipations which the future microscope and telescope will reveal. We do not agree with over-zealous expositors who try to find Einsteinian and modern astro-physical concepts buried in Hebrew words and expressions. We also disagree with the religious liberals who object to Biblical cosmology because it is not scientific. We object to the over zealous because it was not the intention of inspiration to anticipate modern science, and we object to the modernist because he sees too much in what is to us a truism. We concur with Calvin, who taught that Gen. 1 is a record of the creation of the world in the language of the common man and from the viewpoint of common sense. His actual words are: “For to my mind this is a certain principle, that nothing is here treated of but the visible form of the world. He who would learn astronomy and the other recondite arts, let him go elsewhere ... It must be remembered, that Moses does not speak with philosophical acuteness on occult mysteries, but states those things which are everywhere observed, even by the uncultivated, and which are in common use.” (John Calvin, Genesis, I, 79 & 84], quoted and discussed in B.L. Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture , [1955] Paternoster: Exeter, Devon, 1967 reprint, pp.65-66)

Yes, and not just the Bible either. And not just in ancient times. Virtually every speaker of English refers to the sun "rising" and "setting," even though we all know that technically the Earth's rotation causes the appearance. But so? In the same way, we refer to bacteria, sowbugs, and flu virus as "bugs" even though none of them are insects. In the same way, a Biblical writer referred to the "ends of the earth." Did he know for sure whether the Earth had ends? So what if it doesn't? So what if the sowbug is really a crustacean like the lobster? Language choices are usually intended to convey an idea. It's the underlying idea we need to grasp.
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

A summary of tech guru George Gilder's arguments for ID and against Darwinism

A critical look at why March of the Penguins was thought to be an ID film.

A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove’s critique of Darwinism.

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

O’Leary’s comments on Francis Beckwith, a Dembski associate, being denied tenure at Baylor.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
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