How to use the Bible to disprove just about anything

Meet the Bible. It's a wonderful book, if you read it correctly. Meet the Bible. It's a wonderful book, if you read it correctly.

I’d like you to meet a friend of mine. There’s a picture of it to the left. Its name is the Bible, and it’s a book. And I think it’s a wonderful book, if you read it correctly. If you read it incorrectly, you can use it to discount virtually all modern science and send humanity tumbling back into the Dark Ages.

Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis — along with the rest of the “ministries” that promote an exclusively young-earth view — read it incorrectly. That’s my opinion, and you already know all about it. However, I recently got a question from a reader that illustrated the dangerous potential consequences of the young-earth hermeneutic in a simple, powerful way, and I wanted to share it with you.

The reader quoted from an article written by Ham and still hosted on the website of AiG. It was written more than 15 years ago, but young-earthers aren’t particularly known for the rapid progression of their ideas, so we should be able to trust that Ham’s opinion on the matter today is largely unchanged. In the essay, Ham wrote the following:

Recently, one of our associates sat down with a highly respected world-class Hebrew scholar and asked him this question: “If you started with the Bible alone, without considering any outside influences whatsoever, could you ever come up with millions or billions of years of history for the Earth and universe?” The answer from this scholar? “Absolutely not!”

Let’s be honest. Take out your Bible and look through it. You can’t find any hint at all for millions or billions of years.

Ham’s goal in using an argument like this is to advance the idea that he and his ilk are not the bunch of stubborn, thick-headed, backwards-thinking Troglodytes, hopelessly devoted to their personal view of scripture, that folks like me supposedly try and paint them as. According to them, they are simply “taking God at his word.” Their hands are tied, in a sense.

But there’s a very big, very serious problem with this line of reasoning, which is that the exact same argument could be used to “disprove” many, many things modern science has shown us — things that we now know to be true beyond any reasonable doubt.

You could just as well ask an OT scholar, “If you started with the Bible alone, without considering any outside influences whatsoever, could you ever come up with the idea that the earth is round and orbits the sun?” An honest scholar would have to say, “Of course not!” just as vehemently, since, in fact, there are dozens of passages that indicate the earth is flat, and many more that seem to say the sun moves and the earth doesn’t.

Or you could ask, “If you started with the Bible alone, without considering any outside influences whatsoever, could you ever come up with the idea that the diameter of the universe spans nearly 100 billion light-years?” Not a chance. The biblical authors didn’t seem to know all that much about deep space, galaxies, black holes, quasars or the like. In fact, the author of Genesis 1 seemed to be confused about the nature of the moon as a “light” (in actuality, it merely reflects light from the sun, so it is no more a “light” than the sun-warmed desert sand is an independent source of heat), and didn’t even mention the existence of other planets in our solar system.

What about, “If you started with the Bible alone, without considering any outside influences whatsoever, could you ever come up with the idea that matter is composed of molecules and atoms?” Or, “If you started with the Bible alone, without considering any outside influences whatsoever, could you ever come up with the idea that some diseases are caused by germs and other microbes?” Or, “If you started with the Bible alone, without considering any outside influences whatsoever, could you ever come up with the idea that all biological life contains a genetic ‘blueprint’ called DNA, which is encoded into every one of our cells?”

Of course, the answer in all of these cases — and many others — is “No way. Absolutely not.” So, you see, by the exact same logic that AiG presumes to dispose of evolutionary theory and the age of the universe, we could just as easily dispense with the atomic theory of matter and the germ theory of disease — not to mention the foundation of genetics, which sparked the revolutions in medicine and many fields of science that helped bring us into the modern age.

The problem is not in the interpretation of the science. The problem is in the interpretation of the scripture, and it comes when you try and read the Bible like a science book rather than a theology book; when you — in other words — try and read the Bible in a way that it simply was not meant to be read.

The biblical authors didn’t know about deep time, evolution, deep space, atoms, germs, DNA, RNA, fetal development and many other things we now know about today, because they had no scientific means of obtaining this knowledge and because the Holy Spirit (whom I believe inspired them) evidently didn’t think they needed to know about such things.

And why would they? What possible purpose would a PhD-level dissertation on the biological origins of modern man have served for a tribe of ancient Hebrews living in Babylonian captivity thousands of years ago? Answer: Not much. They didn’t need to know how man was created, what they needed to know was why man was created. Science is quite good at answering the former question, but not much help with the latter. That — I believe — is where the Bible appropriately comes into the picture.

When we take the “why” questions to scripture, we come away with a beautiful revelation of God’s love, grace and power that is incredibly profound and imminently relevant. When we take the “how” questions to scripture, we come away with, well…this.

It doesn’t take a “highly respected world-class Hebrew scholar” to tell you which one is a proper use of the text, and which one isn’t.

Want to know what else the Bible doesn’t talk about? Facebook and Twitter, and yet, they exist all the same. Don’t believe me? You can find our pages here and here.

Tyler Francke is founder of God of Evolution and author of Reoriented. He can be reached at tyler@godofevolution.com.

  • Nancy R.

    Don’t forget about geography. If you started with the Bible alone, without considering any outside influences whatsoever, would you have any reason to believe tat there is a continent called “North America”? I thought not.

    • Yep. That’s actually another place I’d considered going, but I figured I’d belabored the point enough. “If you started with the Bible alone, without considering any outside influences whatsoever, could you ever come up with the idea that the Chinese dynasties existed?” (Or the Mongol empire, or the nation of Japan, and so on and so forth.) Good thought, though! Thanks!

      • Nancy R.

        The absurdity of the examples underscore the poor logic of Ham’s premise – absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, as they say. And it points out that Ham is not just misreading the Bible – he’s misusing the Bible when he claims that it is the ultimate source of authority on matters that are outside of its scope.

      • Marcus

        What about Brazil? We exist 🙁

        Thank you, Tyler. Your website is being very useful to me.

        • Thanks, Marcus! But I’m sorry, Central and South America do not exist according to my literal reading of the Bible 😉

          • Heck, neither does the waves on which we are currently communicating. I must be posessed by the demon Cybertron for thinking I am talking to you guys.

      • Australia, Antartica, Penguins, Zebras, Iguanas, Hermaphrodites, The Congo, Gorillas or any other kind of Monkeys, Greeks, any of the major oceans, hell, even simple things like snow are not mentioned or even alluded to in the Bible (I could be wrong about Hermaphrodites, Monkeys and Snow)

        • The Bible references snow in Job 38:22, and maybe in Psalms as well (I’m not sure right offhand). Scripture certainly doesn’t talk much about geography outside the Ancient Near East, but it does mention “the ocean” many times. I think the clearest sign that though the biblical authors may have been theologically inspired, they were not given special scientific knowledge, is the fact that scripture says nothing about microscopic and cellular life.

          • I know of references to “the sea” of which there are several in that area of the world (Red sea, Mediteranian Sea, Caspian sea, etc.) however, the Bible could have easily referenced the Indian Ocean, now that I think about it.

      • summers-lad

        Tyler
        My reply to Nancy, above, was of course meant to be to you.

    • summers-lad

      As I read your post I was going to make the same point except to say Australia rather than North America – and then I remembered that Ken Ham comes from Australia, which I suppose makes him an unbiblical deception and a lie designed to promote atheism.

  • Curious

    As I read it Jesus says you shall know His disciples by the love they have for each other. He also says to pray for those who despitefully use you. Where does Jesus say to revile your enemies? I take it, Ken Ham is an enemy, or is he a brother in Christ?

    How does that work in a correct hermeneutic? I am just curious.

    • Nancy R.

      I can’t speak for Tyler, but I can tell you why I have issues with young earth creationists. They set up a false requirement to be a Christian: “we must reject evolution and millions of years.” I am quoting Terry Mortensen, a major AIG spokesman, who said those words in a sermon he delivered at my church a couple of years ago. When young people realize that the evidence for “evolution and millions of years” is overwhelming, many of them leave the faith. They’ve been taught a gospel that is intertwined with young earth creationism, and they have not been taught how to disentangle them. So, my issue with Ken Ham is that he sets up a completely unnecessary stumbling block that destroys faith.

      • I completely agree with Nancy here. Ken Ham has said on more than one occasion that “the gospel is true because the history it’s based on is true.” By “history,” of course, he means the 6,000-year-long version of the history of the universe that’s derived from his (IMO) incorrect reading of the Genesis text. The problem with this statement is its inverse: If the “history” is not true, then the gospel isn’t true either. It essentially tells the world that all you have to do to invalidate the entire Christian faith is demonstrate that the universe is more than 10,000 years old. And there is no shortage of atheists who are only too happy to take Mr. Ham up on the offer.

        • summers-lad

          I agree with the line you quoted from Ken Ham, but the history the gospel is based on is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

    • I do not hate Ken Ham, or any Christians who disagree with me about evolution, the age of the earth, or the proper interpretation of Genesis. However, I do think that the thrust of Ham’s multi-million-dollar ministry machine is based on a fundamental misuse of the text, and it’s one that can have grave consequences. I also believe Ham misrepresents the gospel message and the foundation of the Christian faith (something I’ve written about in other articles), which puts an unnecessary barrier before folks in hearing and accepting the gospel.

      All that being said, Jesus did offer the sayings that you mention, but he also had very strong words for those who misused and misrepresented the biblical message, like the Pharisees. In several of his letters (Galatians and 1 Corinthians come to mind), Paul, too, uses strong language in repudiating the teachings of even fellow Christians who were teaching that works of the law (primarily circumcision) were required in order for Gentiles to be saved.

      • Larry Bunce

        An old saying (adapted from St. Augustine) is “Hate the sin; love the sinner.” This is easily transformed into a very cold ‘love’ for the sinner, or a belief that executing the sinner will teach others not to sin, and that if enough sinners are executed, it will eliminate sin.

        • I also dislike the “Love the sinner; hate the sin” cliche. I shorten it to just “Love the sinner.” Unfortunately, hate is so much easier for us humans than love; if we are commanded to love something and hate something, we will gravitate toward the hating and neglect the loving.

  • ashleyhr

    I would NOT get from reading the opening chapters of Genesis either that the Flood was accompanied by massive worldwide volcanism, or that the receding waters carved out massive canyons, or that after the Flood there was a very rapid ice age. Yet YECs teach all of these ‘facts’.

    • Yes, and then they try and criticize us using Proverbs 30:6: “Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.”

  • ashleyhr

    YECs use the Bible as a weapon to refute any science that contradicts Bible THEOLOGY. If however the science does not contradict Bible theology – or indeed it allows YECs like others to preach over the internet – they leave it alone. Thus they pick and choose – and are anti-scientific (after all modern technology is based on the ‘naturalism’ they profess to detest).

  • The thing about a lot of our comments here is that some of these things can be observed to be true, and is never alluded not to be true here. Things like North America or Austrailia, Antartica, Zebras, Monkeys, etc. are not said NOT to exist either. Genesis shows a method of creation (I.E. 6 days, something different each day, etc. etc. etc.) and I can see how a literalist could take that… well… literally.

  • humble13

    Doubt is the path to curosity, whenever we stop doubting we will stop learning.