Have you been reading Genesis wrong all your life? One Wheaton College professor would have you think so. Specializing in the Ancient Near East (ANE) literature, especially the biblical Old Testament, Dr. John Walton provides colorful and controversial views on the ancient story of the beginning. He wrote them down in book series that have the tantalizing title of “The Lost World of…” He has also given many talks sharing his views. To understand his thinking better, I read him and listened to many hours of him sharing his arguments, including lecture, discussion and debate. He seems to be a brilliant, rational and creative guy.
I want to say up front, many of our views overlap. He’s a smart man and has really helped me understand a number of things better, which I appreciate. I do, however, have a number of concerns with his positions. At times it is hard to critique his ideas; they are quite complex and the discussion gets weedy. Since my time is limited, I will only take a stab at a few of them. It also seems that many of his talks are somewhat repetitive. So, even if I don’t always source one of his ideas, the supplied links contain them. To give this more balance, I also linked to a number of people who have shared their concerns.
If you are one of my regular readers, you may have noticed that I usually dance within the land of ideology and philosophies, not in the land of critiquing individuals and persons. I also try to skirt the age of earth question. For this post, however, I will focus mainly on Walton’s views and what I think emotionally drives them. The age of the earth issue will be in context of Walton’s views. Beyond that, I would rather continue to avoid both of those issues.
Walton’s Lost World
What comes to mind when you hear the world “battery”? A power source for your flashlight? An artillery unit? A line up of tools or items? Mugging another person? A pitcher and catcher duo in a baseball game? Words can be ambiguous in their definition; they can be equivocal. Obviously, we have to look at the context to understand the word’s definition. This is no different from biblical text, context is essential. What is the context of the chapter, verse, phrase or even word? The need to understand context extends into the ancient cultures too. Biblical slavery is not antebellum slavery. Biblical kings are not medieval European kings. Ancient cities are not the same as contemporary cities.
Walton claims to be a text guy, a biblical text guy. He attempts to understand the cultural context of the days and times of the biblical writers. Walton, at times, uses his background in extra-biblical ANE literature to better understand the times of the biblical texts. He claims he avoids using extra-biblical ANE text to push his biblical exegesis, rather he is interpreting the biblical text for itself. However, he does seem to refer to ANE concepts in many of his points. I don’t see why this method is wrong. If we want to understand how they understood the text, should we not check out surrounding cultures of that day?
On the other side of the coin, there does seem to be a need for plain reading of the text. Does it take an elite textual scholar to deconstruct each word and then reframe the whole story as Walton is prone to do? Are we not to trust the many translators and translation teams who have been immersed in the text through the centuries? If we can’t trust the text for what it says, then how can we know unless we have a John Walton telling us what it actually says? As Dominic Statham says, “It is difficult to accept the idea that the vast majority of Christian and Jewish scholars have been wrong about the Bible’s account of creation for so many centuries” (Dubious and dangerous exposition). One person compared Walton to a modern day gnostic, because of his propensity of giving us “hidden knowledge” that the Judeo-Christian world has lost for thousands of years (The Gnostic World of John Walton). Is Walton here to correct everything?
We also have to remember that the text of the Old Testament took greater than a thousand years to write, by various people who lived in various places. I would be stunned that everyone in all those places held to the same ANE views that Walton suggests. Obviously, ancient people were much more isolated than we are today, and even people today have various worldviews even though they live in the same vicinity! So just using the sniff test alone, I think we should be careful to come to bombastic conclusions from ANE sources.
As you may know, unlike Walton, I’m not a Hebrew language scholar, rather I have a science, technology and design background. So, I do respect him for his background. But even with that said, all my life I’ve been reading and studying the ancient biblical texts at one level or another. I also have been in the world of apologetics for years. It seems to me that the text is clear enough for the simple to understand all the while containing unfathomable depths for the curious. Brand new ways of understanding the text, however, always makes me pause. I think the biblical principle of holding and guarding past teachings is always a good place to stand (2 Timothy 1:13).
Inspiration: Is God the Authority or is it Man?
Walton talks about biblical inspiration, which may be thought of as God working through the writers to share his thoughts. The biblical text has a type of dual authorship, the chain of inspiration where God inspires the ancient authors. However, he strangely puts the emphasis of vested authority on the ancient human author, not God. “We ought to focus more narrowly on the authoritative message that is embedded in the author’s intentions.” And similarly, he says, “We need to know as precisely as possible what the text claims by the authority vested in the human author’s intentions (The Problem with Trying to Read Science Out of Scripture). He also says that if we are not reading the text through their worldview, culture and lenses, the meaning does not have authority (John Walton – Human Origins and Genesis)!
While the ancient writer’s understanding is essential, it’s not a sufficient nor ultimate authority. Should not that authority be vested in God? If this is true, we need to read it how it was intended to be read. If God inspired it, we need to read it as God wants us to read it, not just how the writer intended it. If God really is God and if he really did make and order everything, he should know how the universe works. Even if he is communicating in a way the ancients can understand, it does not negate the fact that God is still speaking the truth about the universe. Just because they understood an aspect, doesn’t mean that is the total message. Just as a hand drawn map is quite different from the actual terrain, if done well, it still is an accurate representation of the world. The ancients may have been seeing the accounts in black and white while we may be seeing it in color.
For example, this is common in biblical prophecy. Daniel, and the other biblical prophets, did not always understand God’s revelation completely. For example, we read in Daniel 12:8-9, “And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what [shall be] the end of these [things]? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words [are] closed up and sealed till the time of the end.” The person who wrote it may also have understood it totally different than we do, as we see in the prophecies of Jesus. Consider the prophecy in Psalm 22. While David was really groaning, it was also really a foretelling of Jesus on the Cross! Looking back, we see things that the human authors themselves did not see in the moment, but God saw all along (for example, Luke 24:25-27).
“The Bible was not written to us but for us”
One of Walton’s most repetitive lines is “the Bible is for us, but not to us.” In other words, it was written to the ancient Hebrews, but for all humanity. This is all true. Like I said above, he thus suggests we need to understand the text as they understood the text. They had a different culture, language, time and place. While this is true on one level, I do think this needs to be tempered with another thought too. Jim Bendewald, from Evidence Press, points out that this line of thinking “…can make us feel that since we can’t understand Hebrew and are not intimately familiar with the ancient near eastern texts, we shouldn’t interpret Genesis for ourselves.” Actually, the opposite should be the case. He goes on to say, “…the Bible transcends language, time and culture. The Bible was not just written by men, it was written with the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.” This was my point above; God is God and it was guided by his inspiration.
Bendewald also agrees with what I said above about prophecy, “Prophecy often is dual in nature. But the Bible is timeless with its messages applying to people of all ages. The Bible was written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who is beyond time and culture. I do agree that the Bible is to be interpreted in light of its original language, culture, type of literature and other factors. But let us not forget that God too is the author and He transcends time and culture” (7 Reasons Dr. John Walton is wrong on Genesis 1).
Science and the Biblical Creation Account
Walton is clear that he is a text guy, not a science guy. He claims not to use science to push his exegesis. He accurately adds that the ancients did not understand contemporary scientific knowledge. Rather, he says, they had a totally different “Cosmic Geography,” or view of the world. The “Cosmic Geography” of the ancients was filled with gods, and they had a functional, not physical focus (John Walton – Human Origins and Genesis).
He bucks the contemporary reading of Genesis claiming that the ancients thought of creation in terms of functional origins rather than material origins. Thus, the Genesis account was not about material origins or the physical creation of the universe! According to Walton, the ANE people also thought when it functions, has a name, when it is separated out, has a role to play and when it works, the thing starts to exist. In other words, nonexistence to them meant non order. Thus, when God gives names he makes nonexistence into existence. Thus the line between existence and non existence for them was not material, rather functional (Restitutio, podcast #152, Why Didn’t God Call the Light Light?).
According to Walton, however, the Genesis account was not when God fabricated the material universe; God did that prior. Instead, the first chapters of Genesis only show God giving function and ordering this previous material creation. One writer explained Walton’s views this way, “Therefore, Walton presents Genesis chapters 1-11 as the origin of functional purposes such as the origin of food instead of material trees and plants.” (7 Reasons Dr. John Walton is wrong on Genesis 1)
Like I said previously, I think we should read with God’s perspective, not necessarily from the perspective of the ANE people. God is the Creator; thus it strikes me that he is more than capable of understanding the workings of the universe. It seems more than reasonable that God communicated in a way that the ancients could understand what he was saying while simultaneously communicating reality.
Even with this said, the text really seems to suggest that God created everything in the Genesis account. When one reads the Genesis accounts, one sees it talk about physical objects like earth, plants and animals. At the same time, we see it talking about order, names and meaning. God both created animals and gave them their roles to procreate after their kinds. God created plants and gave them their uses. God created light, the sun, moon, stars and earth, and gave them their roles as calendars. God created humans and gave them their roles too, to have dominion over the earth and to procreate. God created the world but also gave it order.
Consider also the Decalogue’s summary of the Genesis account; it really sounds as God created EVERYTHING at the beginning in the same stretch of time, functional and physical: “For [in] six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them [is], and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:11).
John affirms this too, John 1:1-4 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” Jesus too, being God, says something similar. Being in a post Hellenistic period, as John was, presumably he understood the prominent Greek thought of his day. He did not, however, “set the record straight”. If the Greeks were the ones who promoted the idea of a physical and discernable world, as Walton claims, why didn’t Jesus correct the minds of his listeners when citing the creation story (Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24)? Matthew 19:4-6 records it this way “And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made [them] at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Mark, in Mark 10:6-9, says this, “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
Not only did Jesus lump both the physical and the functional together here, but he did not provide a correction to the post Hellenistic thinking of dual creation of the physical and the functional. One may say that is an argument from silence, and it may be. However, Jesus was happy to correct their misunderstandings on other things, including one that was within this passage! I would argue that the reason he did not correct them was because he knows as much as we do that it is reality that the world is more than just immaterial or material world, rather it is both.
This is one massive reason materialism fails; it doesn’t match reality. As a Christian, I’m obviously not a materialist. I think there are nonmaterial things in the world that God created, such as our spirit, order, laws and information. But I will go a step farther, not only does God create nonmaterial things, we can too as co-creators. Consider such things as thoughts, ideas, dreams, concepts, philosophies and arithmetic calculations and formulas. The scientific method, information and laws are all immaterial too. However, just as materialism fails to match reality, so does a view that only focuses on order and function. Thus, if that was the focus of the ANE people, they only partially understood reality.
So Walton’s dogmatism leaves me scratching my head, why can’t you have it both ways as the text implies? Is this not how it has been tradition has understood? Why can’t we let God be God conveying reality to us, the way he actually created? Just as I know of no Christian in science who would think that the Creation story was just a creation of the physical universe, why would we think it was just the immaterial meanings and order? Creationist Stephen Lloyd makes a similar point in his debate with Walton (Unbelievable? Have we misread the Adam and Eve story? John Walton vs Stephen Lloyd). However, Walton strangely seems dogmatic that Genesis is to be read in the functional origins only view.
In fact, this dualistic view of reality, material and immaterial reality, was assumed by the founders of the scientific revolution. The founders were from a Judeo-Christian worldview that gave us science, that built the scientific enterprise! Plus, his idea of God infusing order in the universe is something that creationists and design advocates have been saying all along. Not only do we find that in the Genesis account, but we also find it built in both the universe and life. The big scientific conclusion of the twentieth and twenty-first century is understanding that physical life and the physical universe contains information infused order! Strangely, this is what Genesis has said all along, whether the ANE people understood the whole picture or not.
I do want to agree with him, to think that the ancients thought scientifically would be anachronistic. The concept of science was non-existent throughout the biblical time period. Science came about thousands of years later, in medieval Europe. While the scientific world assumed natural laws, the ANE people didn’t think within a natural law mindset (John Walton – Human Origins and Genesis). While true, they were not prone to think “magically” either. The ancients saw patterns in nature too, that could be counted upon. They harnessed those patterns to get their way and were skeptical about claims of deviance from those patterns. You don’t think they wouldn’t have been skeptical of Jesus’ virgin conception? They know babies came through sex. They were skeptical of Jesus’ resurrection; dead men don’t walk three days later. David assumed his dead child would stay dead. Jacob bred goats and sheep to his advantage. Moses couldn’t figure out why a burning bush was not coming down in ashes. No, they did not think in the world of natural law as we do today, but they did understand order and repetition in nature.
Walton advocating the division of biblical reality between form and function gives me another concern too. Such an approach opens the path for compromise on the acceptance of the materialistic evolutionary history. While Walton tries to distance himself from the evolutionary worldview, he does work closely with an organization that promotes that. He also sure seems quite comfortable with that idea. (John Walton – Human Origins and Genesis). Not only has Walton been financed by Biologos as a speaker, he is also on their Advisory Council. Biologos is a Christian think tank that attempts to mesh evolutionary history with Christianity (John Walton’s bio at Biologos).
Plus, as you may know already, I think Neo-Darwinism is regressive, not progressive in our understanding of the world. I’ve made the arguments in the past that Darwinism is not compatible with the biblical worldview, reality and even science. Thus, I take great issue with the ideas of universal common descent for the origin of humanity and the flawed thinking that genetic mutations are capable of creating the required information for life’s diversity on earth.
I agree with Casey Luskin when he says “Walton wants religious persons to … deny that religion can ever make any empirically testable truth claims. Thus, he suggests that we should believe that God is ‘working alongside or through physical and biological processes in a way that science cannot detect.’” In other words, God is the invisible leprechaun that blows bubbles to make your pot of porridge when you heat it over the fire. Luskin goes on to say, “That bland view seems to add an unnecessary and dubious assumption, as we should not assume that God’s actions could never be detected by science. If the theory of intelligent design is correct, Walton’s assumption might not just be wrong, but it could hinder the progress of science” (A Misguided Attempt to Critique Intelligent Design: A Response to John Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One).
Walton’s Driving force
Why do people believe what they do? For Walton, I think I know. While Walton may have unbiasedly come to his conclusions, I don’t think that is what happened. He, like the rest of us are prone to let emotions drive decisions. The major item that emotional drives his novel thinking was nicely pointed out by John Bloom. Bloom said this: “I have a great deal of empathy for Walton’s intentions: to present Christianity in a manner that does not create a conflict between science and the claims of the Bible, and especially not to lay any particular creation model as a stumbling block in front of the cross.” (Lost World of John Walton a book review of The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate)
I came to that conclusion too, after listening and reading him and listening and reading others who had commentary on his views. This one emotional drive is supported by three or four legs, depending on how you look at it. I want to make a side note, just because one is emotionally driven to argue a point does not make that person right or wrong. However, once we do know the emotional drive, it makes more sense when his views seem so awkward.
In one of his talks he gave three reasons for his passionate drive to argue his views (Origins Today: Genesis through Ancient Eyes with John Walton). One is that he sees a high attrition rate in the young people of the Church; they are leaving in droves. He says churches say one thing about the universe’s origin, life’s origin and humanity’s origin, and secular colleges and universities say something different. When the youth enter university, they have to choose, and his method short circuits this. Since the Bible says nothing about the material universe’s creation, this either-or issue is now gone, students can still support a secular origins view or even a materialist evolutionary history.
The second reason he gave was for a similar reason, but this time in the sense of evangelism. An unbeliever may be drawn to Christ through a Christian’s life, but then sidelined when he or she finds out that the materialistic evolutionary view of history is not compatible with Christianity. Thus, again, the material creation belief becomes an obstacle to Christ.
His last concern is that he feels the Church is doing a poor job ministering to people in science. He told of one of his colleagues in biology. She’s is always nervous about going to a new congregation. After they find out she is a biologist, she knows when she answers their next question, they will marginalize her and treat her as an unworthy member. In other words, this “colleague” holds to an evolutionary view of history and origins and other Christians don’t agree. This brings me to my fourth reason, which may be the same as the third, I just don’t know.
The reason I say I don’t know is that on his faculty bio on the Wheaton College page, he says this: “My wife, Kim, was trained as a biochemist, which has made for interesting dinner conversations–especially when I was working on my Genesis commentary” (John Walton’s Wheaton Bio). This is interesting, is his above female “colleague” actually his wife? It may be, I just don’t know. If so, I could see why he has such emotional passion! Another source said this about Dr. Walton and his wife: “Dr. Walton said that his wife (who is a biochemist) and colleagues influenced him to accept an Old Earth [OEC] view.” (7 Reasons Dr. John Walton is wrong on Genesis 1). I set out to find the recording of this claim, but could not find it. It seems like this recording, and some others from that time frame, were taken offline. I’m not surprised by this claim, however. Walton repeatedly says that he used to be a Young Earth Creationists (YEC). Without getting into the age of the earth debate, it seems that he totally sided stepped the main arguments between YEC and OEC!
Now, like I said before, just because one is emotionally charged to address an issue, does not make that person’s views are right or wrong. What makes it right or wrong is if it really is right or wrong. I’m concerned with Walton’s above ideas, and a number of other of his ideas, because I don’t think they match reality nor the knowledge of the authority behind the text. He wants me to see the text in human 2D; however, I would rather see it in God’s 3D purposes!
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So, what did you think? Feel free to share your thoughts below!
The following are just a few sources to hear Dr. Walton for yourself: He has many other lectures which can be easily found online.
- John Walton – Human Origins and Genesis https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFyT00m5uTE&t=31s
- Origins Today: Genesis through Ancient Eyes with John Walton https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fR82a-iueWw
- The Lost World of Adam and Eve by Dr. John Walton https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fn1ESgtNi4&t=2502s
- Understanding Genesis 1-3 – John Walton and Joe Fleener https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kOflP3eLSI&t=1233s
- Reading the Old Testament: The Ancient Origins and Authority of Scripture https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RDAbu0KDwM&t=7358s
- Unbelievable? Have we misread the Adam and Eve story? John Walton vs Stephen Lloyd https://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Episodes/Unbelievable-Have-we-misread-the-Adam-and-Eve-story-John-Walton-vs-Stephen-Lloyd
- Restitutio, podcast #152, Why Didn’t God Call the Light Light? https://restitutio.org/2018/10/18/152-why-didnt-god-call-the-light-light-john-walton/
The following sources include commentary and critique of Walton’s works:
- Lydia McGrew. Review of John H. Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One. http://whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2015/03/review_of_john_h_waltons_the_l.html
- Lydia McGrew. Why do human origins matter? Part I of a review of John H. Walton’s The Lost World of Adam and Eve. http://whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2015/03/why_do_human_origins_matter_pa.html
- Lydia McGrew. Part II of a Review of John H. Walton’s The Lost World of Adam and Eve. http://whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2015/03/part_ii_review_of_john_h_walto.html
- Lydia McGrew. Part III of a review of John H. Walton’s The Lost World of Adam and Eve. http://whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2015/03/part_iii_of_john_h_waltons_the.html
- F. David Farnell. A Review of John H. Walton and D. Brent Sandy. The Lost World of Scripture, Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority. https://theologicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/jisca/07-1_341.pdf
- Dominic Statham. Dubious and dangerous exposition. https://creation.com/review-walton-the-lost-world-of-genesis-one
- Thomas Purifoy Jr. The Gnostic World of John Walton. https://isgenesishistory.com/gnostic-world-of-john-walton/
- Thomas Purifoy Jr. How did Theistic Evolution Bring 3 Wheaton College Students to the Ark? https://isgenesishistory.com/theistic-evolution-college-students-ark/
- John Bloom. Lost World of John Walton a book review of The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate https://www.equip.org/article/the-lost-world-of-john-walton/
- Keaton Halley. John Walton reimagines Adam and Eve https://creation.com/images/pdfs/tj/j29_2/j29_2_47-51.pdf
- The Lost World of Walton. https://creation.com/lost-world-walton
- 7 Reasons Dr. John Walton is wrong on Genesis 1. https://evidencepress.com/articles/7-reasons-dr-john-walton-is-wrong-on-genesis-1/
- Richard Ostling. No ‘proof texts’: Wheaton College scholar seeks to shelve Old Testament moral rules (updated). https://www.getreligion.org/getreligion/2019/2/19/biblical-bombshell-evangelical-expert-seeks-to-shelve-old-testament-moral-rules-nbspnbspnbsp
- Associates for Biblical Research. https://biblearchaeology.org/component/finder/search?q=john+walton&f=1&Itemid=101
- Casey Luskin. A Misguided Attempt to Critique Intelligent Design: A Response to John Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One. https://evolutionnews.org/2011/09/a_lost_attempt_to_critique_int/
- Critique of John Walton (Noel Weeks). https://creationwithoutcompromise.com/2018/10/15/critique-of-john-walton-noel-weeks/
- Steve Ham. The Lost World of Adam and Eve: A Response. https://answersingenesis.org/reviews/books/lost-world-adam-and-eve-response/
- William Lane Craig. Creation and Evolution (Part 7). https://www.reasonablefaith.org/podcasts/defenders-podcast-series-2/s2-creation-and-evolution/creation-and-evolution-part-7/
62 thoughts on “The Lost World: Is your Reading of Genesis Wrong? ”
Interesting column but I had trouble getting past this paragraph opening, “One of Walton’s most repetitive lines is “the Bible is for us, but not to us.” In other words, it was written to the ancient Hebrews, but for all humanity.” Is this simply a typo or is it just me having difficulty understanding?
I think that is what he is trying to say. What is confusing about it?
Maybe just me, but to say it was written to the ancient Hebrews and then for all humanity seems contradictory. Does he mean that though it was written for the ancient Hebrews it is still for all humanity?
I think the difference is TO vs. FOR. Same with the NT. Ephesians was written TO the Christians at Ephesus but FOR all Christians. Does that help?
Yes, it does. I guess I was looking at this a bit too critically expecting him to make a statement with which I disagreed. Thanks!
Keep questioning, not a bad thing to do, especially in our world today :/
How many Christians have read the pro an con arguments for Creationism? How many Christians have read the pro and con arguments regarding the evidence for Noah’s great Flood? If you haven’t you should. Investigate! Know the facts. If Christianity is true it will withstand the scrutiny. I would encourage everyone to read the following books in their investigation of the truth claims of Christianity:
–“The Resurrection of the Son of God” by NT Wright
–“The Death of the Messiah” by Raymond Brown
–“Evidence that Demands a Verdict” by Josh and Sean McDowell
–“Misquoting Jesus” by Bart Ehrman
–“The Outsider Test for Faith” by John Loftus
–“Why I Believed, Reflections of a Former Missionary” by Kenneth W. Daniels
And be sure to read the book-length refutation of Loftus: “THE LOFTUS DELUSION” (available for free download at lulu.com), where the bogus “Outsider Test” is soundly refuted.
Remember, Readers, no matter what arguments they make, make-believe is not real. There is no good evidence that the supernatural, if it exists at all, operates in our universe. Abandon ancient religious superstitions and embrace reason, science, and rational thinking.
Yes, the make-believe world of no God should not be believed. Why? Because it takes great blind faith to be an atheists. I don’t have enough faith to believe that rational beings came from unrationality. I don’t have enough blind faith to think that a universe could come into existence without intelligence. I don’t have enough faith to think that life can appear in a fictional pre-biotic soup. I would rather follow reason and rational thinking, which leads to the God of the Bible. I would rather side with the founders of science who started it because of their Christian worldview.
I do not deny the possible existence of the supernatural (and therefore of a supernatural creator) but there is no good evidence that the supernatural operates in our world When is the last time you saw a snake or donkey talk? How about the parting of a sea? Little pieces of bread falling from the sky? When was the last time you saw someone raised from the dead? Never? There you go. There is no good evidence that the supernatural operates in our world. Therefore, even though it is possible that a Creator exists or existed, he/she/they/or it cannot be the Jewish God, Yahweh, the Muslim God, Allah, or the Christian God, Lord Jesus the Christ. It is said that these alleged beings perform incredible supernatural acts in our universe. But they conveniently stopped doing these great supernatural acts over thousands of years ago! Claims of fantastical supernatural events thousands of years ago do not cut it as evidence that the supernatural operates in our world.
Please provide good evidence that the supernatural operates in our universe.
After you read Craig S. Keener’s “Miracles The Credibility of the New Testament” 2 Volume set, feel free to come back and respond.
I’ve read and reviewed both volumes. Dr. Keener admits that he did not spend one dime investigating these thousands of miracle claims. He simply reported them and commented on them. Thousands of anecdotal claims regarding alleged supernatural experiences, most by uneducated or poorly educated people in Third World countries, predominantly members of the Pentecostal branch of one religion, is not good evidence to most modern, educated people.
Please provide better evidence.
So all you give is a genetic fallacy? Again, the evidence stands. You have to deal with each one.
Hearsay is not “evidence” at least not the quality of evidence educated professionals would consider. I am a physician.
So, none were evidential? I don’t think so. He documents them. Even I know of one who was healed through prayer. By the way, I’m a biologist.
Yes, he documents the STORIES told to him. One of those stories is about a woman without a uterus (she had previously undergone a hysterectomy) who prayed to Jesus for a child…and nine months later had a baby!!
Where are the birth records? Where are the doctors’ statements? Where is the evidence of her previous hysterectomy? Answer; Not given. Silly and preposterous. Just based on that one claim, this book should not be taken seriously.
Hummm…so you only give one objection…one you find quite unbelievable? So none had documentation?
No. None provided medical reports, confirmed statements by medical professionals, only anecdotal claims.
Have you read both volumes of Keener’s book?
I would be happy to provide evidence….but first:
1. DEFINE “supernatural”. Pending a good definition, you haven’t even clearly shown us that you understand what you’re talking about. After all, if your definitions are weak, then your understanding could be skewed. Also, different people define “supernatural” in different ways, so again, it’s unclear what you’re asking for, precisely. So please define.
2. DEFINE “evidence”. Pending a good conception of evidence, confirmation, and justification, you haven’t even clearly shown us that you understand the proper role of “evidence” in our epistemic structures. (For example, must you personally observe a “supernatural” event as a necessary condition of accepting the likely existence of the supernatural? Do reports from trusted witnesses count? Are repeatable scientific experiments required?)
If you’re serious, I’d be happy to engage.
So then, set forth your case: Define and defend your position, so that we can properly respond. Thus far, you haven’t really defined or defended your position…you’ve just expressed some opinions.
By the way, why could the Creator not be the Christian God of the Bible?
I didn’t see a clear answer to that claim of yours…
Supernatural: (of a manifestation or event) attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature.
According to your definition of “supernatural”, anything not presently understood by “scientific understanding or laws of nature” is supernatural. And, since the “dark matter” and “dark energy” problems remain UNSOLVED in the scientific community, it follows that “dark matter” and “dark energy” satisfy your definition of SUPERNATURAL events.
Agreed? Great! Now we agree that supernatural phenomena are real!
You and I both know what “supernatural” means. You are being cute. I will be happy to engage you in a discussion but without all the trickery.
Supernatural: any event which defies the laws of physics.
Evidence: any facts that would be used in a court of law to arrive at a verdict.
I believe that any modern, educated, honest person would accept these definitions for our discussion. If you are unwilling to do so, it demonstrates your fear of the weakness of your position. A lawyer with a strong case does not need trickery to win.
“You and I both know…”
In fact, I had no clue how you define “supernatural”. Different people define terms differently. You should know that. So don’t pretend that I knew how you defined “supernatural”. That’s dishonest of you to do such a thing.
And you do NOT know what I know about “supernatural”, so please stop pretending that you know something you do not know. Again, that’s dishonest of you. Please stop being dishonest.
“You are being cute.”
Rather, I simply satisfied your definition of “supernatural” with evidence. If you want to change your definition now, then great! That’s called LEARNING. Learn from your mistake, and give me a better definition.
“without all the trickery”
You misunderstand (again). The purpose of definitions is to AVOID trickery, and to be precise and careful in our analysis. That’s why I demand a definition! So go ahead, refine your definition please, so I can provide evidence accordingly.
“Supernatural: any event which defies the laws of physics.”
Ok then! The “dark matter” and “dark energy” problems defy all known physical laws. They describe the problem of matter orbiting as if some mass is attracting the orbiting matter, but THERE IS NO OBSERVED ATTRACTING MASS. Thus, the “dark matter” problem, for example, DEFIES all known physical laws.
Ok then! We now have satisfied your new definition of “supernatural”.
Glad we agree that supernatural events exist!
“Evidence: any facts that would be used in a court of law to arrive at a verdict.”
That’s problematic. Judicial courts routinely exclude various categories of evidence on technical grounds…but I submit to you that NO evidence category should be excluded in our analyses of these important matters. And, court decisions are determine by jury agreement….however, juries are routinely highly UNQUALIFIED to make pertinent judgments on technical issues. Thus, we don’t even agree on how to define “evidence”. This could turn out to be problematic….we will see.
“A lawyer with a strong case does not need trickery…”
Why so concerned about “trickery”? I’d be happy to share the evidence.
I just want to get some feel for your level of analysis and comprehension, so I can speak more at your “level”. And, from your difficulties with definitions thus far, I see you have some serious problems in your analysis skills.
So then, I already told you my evidence pertaining to the superiority of the explanatory power of theism (vs. nontheistic alternatives).
Why did you not address this evidence?
If you are unwilling to do so, then it demonstrates your fear of the weakness of your position.
Nice try. I leave it to the readers of this blog to decide who is trying to engage in a rational discussion and who is trying to score points with trickery.
Why is it that almost all modern fantastical “miracles” occur in the Third World to Pentecostals or Roman Catholics? Why doesn’t Jesus perform fantastical miracles for Presbyterians and Baptists here in the United States?
“score points with trickery…”
Requesting definitions, and providing evidence accordingly, is RATIONAL (not trickery).
Thus, you have a bogus conception of “rational” tainting your view of the world.
“Why doesn’t Jesus perform miracles here in the USA?”
Why suppose Jesus SHOULD do so?
You haven’t given us a good reason.
Moreover, why should Jesus give excessively greater revelation to those inclined to reject it?
That would be BAD for Jesus to do such a thing, because it would INCREASE the liability for judgment, with respect to those who are inclined to persist in rejecting the proper response to such revelation.
So, you haven’t proven that you are smart enough to determine what miracles Jesus should (or should not) perform in any particular instance.
Therefore, the evidence available to you (regarding geographical distribution of alleged miracles) is NOT evidence against the claim that such miracles are real.
Yes, I’m sure Jesus has very good reasons for why he only performs his really spectacular miracles in the boonies of the Third World.
Jerusalem wasn’t the boonies of the Third World…
I’m talking about Jesus’ alleged miracles today. Why don’t women living in the United States or Europe who do not have a uterus give birth to babies after prayers to Jesus? Nope, Jesus only does that kind of spectacular miracle in the boonies of the Third World.
I find it hard to believe that healing cases Duane Miller and Anna Beam have natural explanations. The same goes with people in my life who have had healing with no explanation besides God…such as being beat almost to death, having a smashed face with and eye that required to be excised but by the next morning, not only received sight but was also released from the hospital. Sorry, but that does sound a lot like a miracle to me. BTW, that all happened in not a third world country, but in the US, each in public settings.
Rare coincidences happen, my friend. What is odd is that there are some miracles that Jesus just refuses to perform. Prayers to Jesus for major limb reattachment are never answered. Prayers to Jesus for the healing of people blown to pieces by a bomb are never answered. And, don’t pray to Jesus to reattach anyone’s head who has been beheaded.
Jesus doesn’t do these miracles…ever. Why does Jesus (Allah, Lord Krishna, the Mormon god, etc.) only answer prayers which COULD have a natural explanation?
So, I gave you three first world miracles that were public and where Jesus did the healing. It sounds you are grasping at straws now, claiming they are real coincidences and changing your criteria; you are moving the goalpost. It seems to be a no true scotsman fallacy. It seems to me that you don’t want answers.
Let’s see the evidence for your claim.
Great! I’m glad you, therefore, retract any suggestion that the observed geographical distribution of alleged miraculous events is evidence against the claim that some alleged miraculous events are miraculous.
Now you’re one step closer to properly identifying the true nature of miraculous events in the world.
evidence: the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.
“you haven’t even clearly shown us that you understand the proper role of “evidence” in our epistemic structures.”
Let’s not get too fancy here. Let’s make it easy: I demand the same quality of evidence that you and most other conservative Christians would (I hope) demand to believe that Farmer Brown’s dairy cow, Martha, has been abducted and transported at the speed of light to Mars by gremlins.
Ok…we can try not to get too “fancy”.
Here’s the BIG elephant in the room:
Atheists have NO good explanation for physical laws of nature.
Theists identify physical laws as (generally) regular patterns of God-caused events.
CONCLUSION: Theism has MUCH greater explanatory power.
Ok…that’s one BIG point in favor of theism (against atheism).
Now, give me your counter-argument, and we can take it from there. (I’m trying not to be too “fancy” here…)
I am not an atheist (in regards to a generic Creator). I am agnostic on that issue. I believe that there is good evidence for both sides, and since the experts have not reached a consensus on this issue, I am withholding judgment. So I do not rule out the possibility that an intelligent being created the universe and the laws of nature.
I AM an atheist in regards to the existence of the deities of all ancient, superstitious, scientifically-ignorant cultures, such Ra, Zeus, Jupiter, Yahweh, Allah, Lord Brahma, and Lord Jesus the resurrected Christ.
“I do not rule out the possibility that an intelligent being created the universe and the laws of nature.”
Good to see! But wait: Why claim it is merely a “possibility”?
Why not “highly probable” or “extremely likely”?
Why merely “possibility”?
You haven’t justified the probability level associated with your knowledge claim.
You see, you are, in effect, claiming that it is POSSIBLE that an intelligent being created the universe and the laws of nature, but what do you claim is the PROBABILITY of this possibility?
After all, if we can prove that this possibility is very very likely, then it becomes tantamount to knowledge for you, in which case you become a THEIST! Agreed?
So, what probability do you assign to the possibility that a generic Creator of the universe (and of physical laws of nature) exists?
“You haven’t justified the probability level associated with your knowledge claim.”
Unlike many conservative Christians, I do not consider myself to be an expert on all subjects. On subjects about which I am not expert (which is most everything) I trust the consensus opinion of the experts in that field. There is currently no consensus expert opinion on the origin of the universe, therefore I withhold judgment on this issue.
“I trust the consensus opinion of the experts…”
Bad choice. Truth is NOT determined by vote.
Learn for yourself. Sure, start with consensus, but then OPPOSE it, as necessary, as you learn more.
“There is currently no consensus on X…..”
That’s not an excuse. YOU are held accountable for evidence available to YOU.
And, I’ve shown you that laws of nature are evidence for God….you’ve given no clear compelling counter-argument, and it seems you might even agree.
Moreover, astrophysicists and biologists are routinely TERRIBLE philosophers. So if you blindly trust the consensus of astrophysicists (many of whom have never taken a philosophy class!), then that’s a REALLY poor choice.
So, it appears you’re using “consensus” to hide from your responsibility to seek and learn for yourself.
Flat Earthers and all conspiracy theorists follow the same line of thinking. Technologically advanced societies depend upon respect for expert consensus opinion. A society in which the average citizen looks down his nose at the experts and believes that he can read a few books and be the ultimate expert is a society in big trouble.
Unfortunately our worldviews are so polar opposite that we will not have a productive discussion. Best wishes.
Geocentrism was the consensus of the scientists of Galileo’s day. Jews being inferior was the consensus of Germany in the early 20th century. In both cases the consensus was wrong. An appeal to popular opinion, even of the experts, is not good argumentation, rather it shows one is prone to logical fallacies.
I never appealed to “majority public opinion”. I am appealing to majority EXPERT opinion., which is the standard used by most modern educated people and all technologically advanced societies.
I specified out not just public opinion, but also expert opinion. The majority of experts can and have been wrong in the past.
Sure the majority of experts can be wrong, but that doesn’t change the fact that all technologically advanced modern cultures still rely on expert consensus opinion to formulate their policies. Educated people in advanced societies, as a whole, accept expert consensus position and ignore the opinions of “well-read” non-experts and conspiracy theorists who insist that the experts have a hidden agenda for their positions.
Ok, so now you are back to the ad populum fallacy…
Be very careful not to confuse “deferring to an authority on the issue” with the appeal to authority fallacy. Remember, a fallacy is an error in reasoning. Dismissing the council of legitimate experts and authorities turns good skepticism into denialism. The appeal to authority is a fallacy in argumentation, but deferring to an authority is a reliable heuristic that we all use virtually every day on issues of relatively little importance. There is always a chance that any authority can be wrong, that’s why the critical thinker accepts facts provisionally. It is not at all unreasonable (or an error in reasoning) to accept information as provisionally true by credible authorities.
Source: A common claim among various kinds of pseudoscientists such as creationists or climate change denialists is that appealing to scientific consensus is either an appeal to the popularity of a position or an appeal to an authority and that therefore, appealing to scientific consensus is a logical fallacy.
However, appealing to scientific consensus is not the claim that “the scientific community is an authority or that it is a popular position, and therefore correct”, but rather, there is an additional premise in the appeal to scientific consensus that does not normally exist in the average appeal to authority. To elucidate the difference, let us see how this plays out.
P1. There is a scientific consensus on X (evolution, global warming, HIV causing AIDS or whatever).
Now, had we gone straight from this to the conclusion that X is true, it would have been an argument from authority or appeal to popularity. However, let us not forget our additional premise.
P2. If there is a scientific consensus on X, then it is probably the case that X is a reasonable scientific conclusion supported by most different lines of converging evidence.
In general, the scientific community as a whole is very conservative in making strong statements, because as we all know, making categorical statements may come back to haunt you. So we can be reasonably sure that, in the majority of cases, a consensus position is at the very least support by most currently known evidence. It is easy to see how the following conclusion follows.
C. It is probably the case that X is a reasonable scientific conclusion supported by most different lines of converging evidence (from P1 and P2 by modus ponens).
Too be sure, the scientific community is not infallible or always right. However, when the majority of the evidence available supports a position, it is reasonable to hold it as a tentative conclusion regardless.
“Technologically advanced societies depend upon respect for expert consensus opinion.”
To the contrary, technological/scientific advancement rates depend upon freedom to legitimately challenge consensus…and blind trust in “experts” will diminish that rate.
I never said the “average citizen” should always look “down his nose at the experts”.
Rather, I emphasize that:
1. Experts in specific fields (for example, astrophysics), are NOT experts in philosophy (pertaining the philosophy of science undergirding their contributions to astrophysics).
2. The “average citizen” can become better informed regarding philosophical issues in which specialized experts have no training.
3. The “average citizen” may only need to read a few books in pertinent areas to become better trained than those who are merely experts in highly specialized and narrow fields.
After all, many “experts” have never taken a single philosophy course! Pretty silly to trust their philosophical proclamations then, eh? (For example, the philosophy of Hawking and Einstein is terrible….even though they made great scientific contributions in their fields).
4. A society that blindly trusts “experts” is in BIG TROUBLE, because it empowers a small group to conceal, manipulate, propagandize, and (intentionally or unintentionally) deceive, without threat of being exposed.
“We will not have a productive discussion.”
That’s your choice. Not mine.
CONCLUSION: For decades now, modern scientific experts have completely failed to explain the “dark matter” and “dark energy” phenomena. These phenomena satisfy your various definitions of “supernatural”. You pretend this is “trickery”, rather than admit it is proof of the very supernatural events you requested.
When you are interested in acknowledging these truths, feel free to come back.
I’ll be waiting for you.
I do not engage in conversations with Flat-Earthers, Climate-Change deniers, or other conspiracry theorists. It is a waste of my time for the reason that we do not have a common basis for the evaluation of truth claims.
It humors me that some think that life came about by unguided process! Talking about conspiracy theorists! Plus, some think that Neo-Darwinism explains the massive amounts of information within life and all the diversity of life on earth! Again, that has to be at the top of the list for conspiracy theories too!
I reject Flat-Earth.
I agree Climate-Change is real.
I reject unjustified goofy “conspiracy” theories.
I’m not wasting your time.
Ok! Try again!
Think of a better excuse to discontinue our truth-seeking dialogue.
Ok. let’s try it.
I will even concede the existence of the supernatural and the operation of the supernatural in our universe for the sake of speeding up the conversation to my main concern: Please provide good evidence that the resurrected corpse of Jesus of Nazareth is alive and performing supernatural acts in our world today.
Ok then….we can move along to your concern.
Your request is simply a special case of a more general question: How do we justify a worldview?
After all, if the Biblical worldview is true, and if we have good reasons to accept it, then we have good reason to believe “the resurrected corpse of Jesus of Nazareth is alive and performing supernatural acts in our world today”.
So all we really need to do is confirm the truth of a Biblical worldview, and then it immediately follows (as a corollary) that Jesus is alive and performing supernatural acts in our world today.
And, there are many categories of evidence which jointly function to justify a Biblical worldview, including:
1. Personal experiences (answered prayers, “coincidences”, visions, out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences, after-death experiences, healings, etc.)
2. Testimonies of others’ personal experiences.
3. Evidence of prophecy.
4. Evidence of prescience.
5. Historicity of Biblical documents.
6. Historicity of distinct Biblical events.
7. The events pertaining to the life of Jesus.
8. The Gospel of Jesus.
9. The Apostolic teachings, experiences, and events.
10. The inadequacy of alternative worldviews.
So, we could discuss thousands of pages in millions of books, all the details here.
I’m not sure where you are at….where you are coming from….what your experiences are…what your preconceived notions are….what your philosophical approach is…etc.
So, I’m not sure what category best suits your needs or interests.
There is an ABUNDANT literature on these topics, written by Biblical scholars.
You could easily study for yourself, and learn for yourself.
Where to go from here?
Excellent. Let’s start with your first category of evidence.
Do you believe that personal experiences are a reliable means of evaluating universal truth claims (a claim that is true for all people, in all places, at all times)?
“universal truth claims”?
Hmmm…..given your fuzzy definition of “universal truth claims”, I doubt any such claim exists.
And, “universal truth claims” (as you’ve defined them) are not a prerequisite for knowledge.
So, you’ve now apparently set up a bogus prerequisite for knowledge.
Person J can know P is true at time T, regardless of whether P is known by all people in all places and at all times to be true for P at T.
In particular, J can know that it is God who is enabling J to know P at T, regardless of whether other people in other places or times happen to be aware of that religious experience.
And in fact, this is precisely the nature of “properly basic” beliefs, outlined by Alvin Plantinga, and attended by the Holy Spirit (as outlined by William Lane Craig), which can justify religious belief, just as the Biblical Scriptures likewise confirm.
Indeed, I personally have this experience, along with many about whom I know.
So again, your “universal truth claim” condition for knowledge is unwarranted.
And, if your “universal truth claim” is not intended to even be a condition for knowledge, then why bring it up?
After all, what matters is evidence available to YOU, regardless of whether this evidence happens to be available to all people at all places and times.
Person-relative evidence is what justifies a person’s beliefs.
You are just too smart for me, Bible Guy.
I asked Ted Wright of Epic Archaeology of his thoughts on Walton’s views. Here’s his reply:
“Yes. I find a lot of commonalities with Dr. Walton, and he does an excellent job on the literary context of the Biblical text, but his underlying philosophy and hermeneutic is flawed (in my opinion). I subscribe to the Albright-Wright school of thought, where archaeology is also taken into account alongside the literary, linguistic, and archaeological evidence. Walton’s arguments arise primarily from literary criticism (which itself is problematic) of the Biblical text and not from archaeological evidence, ceramics, in Israel or the Levant, etc… He came to a talk I gave last year here in IL, on the archaeology of the Canaanites and the 15th Century Israelite conquest of Canaan. I asked him afterwards about his view on the Conquest and he said that we can’t really know whether or not it happened or not…”
So just to clarify, Ted Wright claims Dr. Walton does not “really know” whether the Israelite conquest of Canaan (as described in the Bible!) “happened or not”?
Yikes! I’d say that’s a good reason to take Walton’s views with a BIG grain of salt…
Our Messiah affirms the truth of Biblical Scripture…I’d say that trumps Walton’s apparent unjustified skepticism…
Or am I misunderstanding what’s going on here?
You’re judging, in defense of your own bias (biblically supported) for the 6 literal 24 hr. day interpretation of Genesis 1. If you defend that position, defend it. But don’t cast dispersions on those who don’t agree with it (which happens to be that part of humanity that actually has reviewed the pertinent science). If you disagree with the conclusions of science, the build a case for where they’re wrong, rather than demeaning a non-technical interpreter who is trying to pull out the truth from the author’s language. If you’ve analyzed the language and have a different interpretation, then present it, over against Walton’s.
But you don’t do that. Rather, you go straight to questioning Walton’s motives. That isn’t the way Christians act.
There have been reconciliations of the 6 day account with the physics. Perhpas you’re unfamiliar with them. Gerald Schroeder has one that is quite compelling in his “The Science of God”. It’s not nearly as black and white — truth and heresy — as you would like to believe.
“You’re judging, in defense of your own bias (biblically supported) for the 6 literal 24 hr. day interpretation of Genesis 1.” I’m not sure if I argued this. I will say, however, that Walton does think the days in Genesis are 6 literal 24 hour days. So I’m not sure what your point is here.
“If you defend that position, defend it. But don’t cast dispersions on those who don’t agree with it (which happens to be that part of humanity that actually has reviewed the pertinent science).” So why are you judging for judging? That seems curious?
“If you disagree with the conclusions of science, the build a case for where they’re wrong, rather than demeaning a non-technical interpreter who is trying to pull out the truth from the author’s language.” Walton is not a “non-technical interpreter”, rather he is a well studied scholar, who I actually respect for his knowledge, as I noted above. Plus, his wife is biochemist. He knows the science.
“If you’ve analyzed the language and have a different interpretation, then present it, over against Walton’s.” Sorry, that was not the intent of this post…if you want to blog on that, that is fine.
“But you don’t do that. Rather, you go straight to questioning Walton’s motives. That isn’t the way Christians act.” Again, you are judging me for judging him? That seems strange…
“There have been reconciliations of the 6 day account with the physics. Perhpas you’re unfamiliar with them. Gerald Schroeder has one that is quite compelling in his “The Science of God”. It’s not nearly as black and white — truth and heresy — as you would like to believe.” Thank you.
Hi there! Hard to believe the majority of Jewish and Christian scholars are wrong? Not really!
Most Jews have rejected their own Messiah (for centuries).
Most of us Christians have rejected our Messiah’s teachings (e.g. Mt.5:19) for centuries.
So it’s sad but true…we have all been wrong about many things for a LONG time.
Daniel predicted future growth in knowledge (Da.12:4), implying ongoing ignorance until that time.
So, you could even say Daniel predicted ignorance until that future time of greater knowledge.
And honestly, I’m still not sure anyone has figured out all the numbers in Daniel’s vision!
I guess our ignorance continues…to at least some extent…
Likewise, Paul predicted the apostasy (2Th.2), and Torah-disobedience is apostasy (Ac. 21), and sure enough, here we are some 2000 years later, and a good 99% of the couple billion Christians on the planet think (wrongly) it’s ok to eat pork!
So, we live in exciting times…we are learning how we have drifted away from our truly authentic Torah-obedient Biblical faith, as taught and commanded by Jesus (Mt.5:19;23:2-3,23) and by the apostles (Mt.23:34).