43 Responses to Did the Biblical Authors Picture the Earth as a Flat Disk and the Sky as a Solid Dome?

  1. Chris Skinner November 7, 2011 at 8:34 am #

    Jim,

    As I read your take on Enns’ work, I am struck by your tone. In the posts on this issue, you often come across as condescending and dismissive, and it seems at times as if you are ascribing an evil motivation to what Pete is doing. I understand that you disagree strongly with Pete’s views and I also understand that you believe there is much at stake here. Nevertheless, isn’t it possible that two well-intentioned, well-educated, intelligent, devoted Christian scholars can look at the same evidence and disagree on what’s there? Further, isn’t it also possible that the disagreement in question is based upon different understandings (cultural, religious, biblical, and otherwise) and not at all related to one’s personal righteousness or inability to properly engage in exegesis (cf. your above statement about eisegesis)? Sure, Enns is reading the texts and evidence through his own lenses but so are you. And let’s be honest, what we bring to the text is often as determinative in our conclusions as what we find in the text (this goes for you, Enns, myself, and anyone else who endeavors to explore these questions). Finally, and I’m not sure you’re really concerned about thist, but there seems to be a remarkable lack of charity and willingness to dialogue in this whole enterprise.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts. . . .

    Regards,

    Chris

    • JMH November 7, 2011 at 8:52 am #

      Thanks for your note, Chris, and for your concern for my tone.

      I don’t mean to be dismissive. What concerns me is that Enns says that he is presenting his material for popular audiences, and then he gives those audiences conclusions that are not based on all the available evidence. He assumes a possible conclusion (about a moveable well, for instance), and then he starts theologizing about what has to be concluded since Paul assumed these Jewish myths.

      So I don’t want my tone to be the issue, but I do want to object to this method of presenting one side of an issue and then making theological assertions. The same thing is happening with this whole world picture business. Enns presents selective evidence, then he goes to drawing theological conclusions. The evidence won’t support the conclusions.

      My concern is that Enns is presenting his conclusions as though they are rock solid truth, and he’s presenting these conclusions to lay-people. Then he moves to what those lay-people should/must conclude about what the biblical authors thought or to how we should think of the Bible, and he talks as though if you don’t agree with him it’s because your head is in the sand.

      Can you point me to some specific things that indicate that my tone is condescending and dismissive, or perhaps to where I am addressing his motivation?

      Thanks,

      Jim

  2. Fred November 7, 2011 at 8:36 am #

    Didn’t they make a movie that pictured the world like this? I think Jim Carey was in it.

    BTW, Do you know if that picture is to scale? Because, if the water level is lowered each time it rained, wouldn’t the heavenly temple risk sliding down one side of the dome?

  3. Nate November 7, 2011 at 8:47 am #

    Thanks for sharing this. I’ve been keeping an eye on some of these developments for several years now, and being a recent seminary grad and a current high school biology teacher, all of this is extremely relevant to me now.

    Do you think John Walton makes a persuasive case for the ANE cosmic geography? I just picked up his Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology and am looking forward seeing him clarify his position further than the Lost World of Genesis One (and his ANE Thought and the OT)

    • JMH November 7, 2011 at 8:56 am #

      Thanks Nate, Walton has written a lot so I’m not sure exactly which part you have in mind. I think he’s compelling on the cosmic temple stuff (Eden/Tabernacle/Temple/New Heaven and Earth), but I think the question of whether Genesis 1 is presenting creation out of nothing or presenting a functional view doesn’t have to be an either/or. The author of Hebrews seems to have come to the conclusion that it was creation out of nothing (Heb 11:3), as did Paul (Rom 4:17).

      Blessings!

      JMH

      • Nate November 7, 2011 at 9:04 am #

        I think you’re right about that, and so did John Lennox in his 7 Days that Divide the World.

        I was thinking more about the case Walton makes mainly in ANE Thought and the OT, but also in The Lost World of Genesis One about biblical authors viewing the world as flat with a solid dome. While I think he and Enns may have different motiviations driving them to that conclusion, they seem to be on the same page.

        We were fairly critical of Enns’ selective use of ANE evidence, but Walton seems intent on being exhaustive, as his monograph just published by Eisenbrauns seems to indicate.

        I’m not fan of Enns’ program because I think he has a deficient philosophy of science that prompts him to give current scientific paradigms more authority than any science deserves. I do however tend to agree with the flat earth/solid dome sky view as being consistent with ANE thought around the time the biblical authors (i.e. Moses) were writing the OT. I don’t think that necessitates that Moses held that view per se, but that he may well have.

        Does that clarify some?

        • JMH November 7, 2011 at 9:27 am #

          It does, thanks. I haven’t read the Eisenbrauns book. The problems Weeks articulates with this kind of work, though, seems to pose significant obstacles for these endeavors.

          Blessings!

          JMH

        • JMH November 7, 2011 at 10:15 am #

          When you say “we were fairly critical” are you referring to a seminar discussion of these topics with Lennox?

          • Nate November 7, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

            I was referring to 3rd and 4th semester Hebrew at DTS with Dr. Johnston. We didn’t interact with Lennox, but that was when I was introduced to his writing. We did talk about Enns though and how he doesn’t make the best use of the available evidence and there are better interpretations of the ANE background and literature. I did take a doctoral seminary with Johnston, Webster, and Hilber that dug in even deeper to the ANE background, and my paper was on Walton’s cosmic temple view.

        • Don Johnson November 7, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

          Thanks for the info on Walton’s new book, I ordered it.

  4. Steve Drake November 7, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    Denying that Adam was created from the ‘dust’ of the earth and God breathed into his nostrils the ‘breath’ of life (Gen. 2:7); denying the command of God to Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would bring physical death (Gen.2:17) and that this act of disobedience did in fact bring physical death (Gen. 3:19) (a return to ‘dust’)(cf. 1 Cor. 15:47-49), thus denying that the origin of death came through Adam’s sin,(Rom.5:12) (1 Cor.15:21); denying that man and animals were originally plant eaters only (Gen. 1:29-30); denying that woman (Eve) was made from man (Gen. 2:21-22); denying that thorns and thistles came after Adam’s sin with the curse (Gen. 3:18); denying a global universal Flood (Gen. 6-9) destroyed, ‘all flesh’, ‘every living thing’ that has the breath of life (Gen.6:13, 17) (Gen. 8:21), having severe geological ramifications for earth’s topography, Enns and those who hold to a theistic evolutionary viewpoint and billions and billions of earth history are denying a whole lot of Scripture, don’t you think?

  5. The Atheist Missionary November 7, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    Yes, Mr. Drake, they certainly are. You can affirm the truth of scripture (as you have succinctly summarized) and affirm Christianity or accept the scientific evidence to the contrary. You can’t have both folks – take your pick. As they sing on Sesame Street: “one of these things is not like the other”.

    • Steve Drake November 7, 2011 at 11:19 am #

      TAM,
      You’ve got a much bigger problem though, my friend, in that you deny the God you know is there. Suppressing this truth you are only deluding yourself, lying to your inner conscious. Fighting vehemently to squelch the knowledge of God in your own constitution, you condemn yourself with your own words. There’s still hope for you however, turn to the living water and the bread of life that will eternally satisfy. Do it today TAM, for you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

      • Gabe November 7, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

        Steve,

        With all due respect, this type of response from christians is by far the most disrespectful in these discussions. You’re assuming someone’s motives that you can’t possibly know. I could just as easily say, “You’ve got a much bigger problem my friend, in that you affirm the God that you know doesn’t even exists. Suppressing this truth you are only deluding yourself, lying to your inner conscious, fighting vehemently to squelch the knowledge that your beliefs are nothing more than fairy tales.” See how easy that was?

        • Steve Drake November 7, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

          Gabe,
          The difference is that both you and TAM know it to be true. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.

          • Gabe November 7, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

            Keep telling yourself that Steve if it makes you feel better

        • Noah November 7, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

          What Steve wrote sounds an awful lot like Paul in Romans 1.

          • Noah November 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

            Of course, I don’t mean that Steve is writing Scripture!

          • Steve Drake November 8, 2011 at 8:39 am #

            Thanks Noah. The use of Romans 1 was exactly my point. Psalm 14:1 also comes to mind.

          • Gabe November 8, 2011 at 9:29 am #

            I’m well aware of that. But quite frankly anyone from any religion can say the same thing

  6. steve hays November 7, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    Or, like the Atheist Missionary, you can hide behind intellectual rhetoric, but never back up your claims with suitable arguments.

  7. Daryl Little November 7, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    As I read in a comment box quite some time ago (I think on Fred Butler’s blog) so I’m a sinner because some character in a story someone made up did something wrong?

    Jim, I appreciate what you’re doing here. It’s important.

    Further, is it just me, but, since they first appeared on this particular stage, is it not apparent that both Enns himself, and Biologos as an organization have moved steadily from questioning a few things to outright denial of whole sections of Scripture?

    However compelling an argument may be, once you start saying that Jesus was a product of his time and so was just wrong in affirming creation, and that Paul believed Adam to be a real guy, but was mistaken…you’re off the reservation, or at least you’re leaning on the door sort of hoping that you’ll fall out by “accident”.

    On the other hand…it really is correct theologically to say Jesus was simply a man of his time and made assumptions based on that. He did, after all, create the world, speaking it into existence. Perhaps we could give him a little slack since he was to busy forming Adam & Eve to notice all the billions of years happening all around him…

    These are the same arguments in favour of homosexuality and against male leadership in the church…”they just didn’t understand back then what we do now”

    It is not just silly and sad and angering all rolled into one?

  8. The Atheist Missionary November 7, 2011 at 11:51 am #

    Steve, where is the rhetoric? If you disagree with the observation I made in my first comment, please explain why.

    I am not a scientist and I am certainly not going to enter into a debate with pseudo-scientists. I rely on the authority of those who are specialists in their fields of endeavour to support my beliefs (as do you in most other facets of your life). As I have pointed out in a previous thread of this site, fundamentalist Christians are quire prepared to rely on authority when it comes to medical treatments, structural engineering, GPS design, etc. It’s only at the point where their theology would be defeated by the overwhelming weight of consensus in the fields of biology, chemistry and astrophysics that they start becoming ultra-skeptics. C’mon folks (this is addressed not to Steve but others reading this thread), look yourself in the mirror and ask yourselves whether you truly believe the bibical “facts” recited by Mr. Drake above.

    If you want to continue denying the evidence that the earth is roughly 4.5 billion years old and pretend that humans walked the earth with dinosaurs, go right ahead. In fact, I encourage fundamentalists to maintain the force of their convictions on this score – it makes it far easire to undermine their theology. My point is simply that you cannot reconcile those beliefs with modern science. If you want to rely on psuedo-science to convince yourself that the geologic record is the product of a Great Flood, you are so far downstream without a paddle that there is likely no hope of ever convincing you otherwise [now that is rhetoric!] Just let me know when dinosaur and human fossils are found in the same strata.

    • Steve Drake November 7, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

      One step at a time, TAM. I’ve already pointed out that you deny the God you know is there, and this to your detriment and chagrin. You’ve got to solve this issue first, God’s existence, before we touch on the authority of God’s Word and what is said in that Word. You’ve got the cart before the horse, my friend. Let’s not hear any more musings about what God’s Word says and whether it’s believable or not, before we seek to establish whether God ‘is’, or ‘is not’. Do you wish to address this claim that you have a bigger problem than the discussion here: to wit, God’s existence?

    • Noah November 7, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

      “As I have pointed out in a previous thread of this site, fundamentalist Christians are quire prepared to rely on authority when it comes to medical treatments, structural engineering, GPS design, etc.”

      TAM,
      Don’t forget, your point was addressed, too.

      “It’s only at the point where their theology would be defeated by the overwhelming weight of consensus in the fields of biology, chemistry and astrophysics that they start becoming ultra-skeptics.”

      You may not have seen it, yet, but I’ve pointed out to you that scientific fact is not based on the consensus of opinion by scientists. Instead, the “weight” must come from the evidence that stems from observation according to the scientific method. Therefore, 1000 scientists could all agree on a particular theory, but if the theory can’t be proven scientifically, then it is, at best, only a theory.

  9. Daryl Little November 7, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

    Atheistic Missionary,

    In fact, the very reason I am not tempted to go the direction Biologos and others are going, is the scientific facts which point away from all you are claiming about evolution.

    I’m trusting the experts in that field, just as I trust a doctor, and those experts are saying that science is pointing at 6 day creation and a global flood as the only reasonable explanation of the data.

    But your world-view precludes that, so those scientists, no matter their qualifications and areas of study can’t possibly be experts, can they?

  10. The Atheist Missionary November 7, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    Mr. Little, if you would be kind enough to provide me* with the cites you are relying on to support your belief at a 6 day creation and global flood, I would be grateful. I am genuinely interested to know what “experts in that field” you are relying on. Unlike Christian presuppositionalists, my worldview doesn’t preclude anything – I just go where the evidence leads me. The only presuppositions I begin with is that I exist and can generally rely on my rational faculties (recognizing that we all have cognitive biases). Best, TAM.

    * Please email them to theatheistmissionary@gmail.com or, if you are more confortable posting them here, that is fine as well. Thanks.

  11. Daryl Little November 7, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    TAM,

    Go to creation.com and look there. The scientists who provide the information there are PH.D, level research scientist (at least the ones I am familiar with).

    To be clear, I don’t rely on scientists to provide a basis for my faith, I rely on the risen Christ who has made me alive in him and I believe and understand the Bible to be God-breathed and completely trustworthy in everything it touches. But what these scientists do provide is a solid scientific footing so that no one need be persuaded by the pseudo-science provided by so many evolutionists.

    The guys who’s lectures I listened to are: Dr. Jonathan Sarfati (chemistry), Dr. Emil Silvestru (geology), Dr. John Sanford (genetics), Dr. Robert Carter (Marine biology and genetics), Dr. Danny Faulkner (astronomy), and Dr. Jim Mason (physics).

    Just looking now, I couldn’t find audio of the lectures I’ve heard, but looking them up individually for more of their work would be helpful I think.

  12. steve hays November 7, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    The Atheist Missionary

    “Steve, where is the rhetoric? If you disagree with the observation I made in my first comment, please explain why.”

    What’s the topic of this post, TAM? Whether or not Scripture teaches a flat earth. How did you respond? By making this a choice between scientific evidence and the veracity of Scripture.

    But that would only be relevant if Hamilton was defending the thesis Scripture teaches a flat earth. Since the point of his post was to oppose that thesis, how is it unscientific for Hamilton to deny the flatness of the earth?

    For a rationalist, reasoning isn’t your strong suit.

    “I rely on the authority of those who are specialists in their fields of endeavour to support my beliefs (as do you in most other facets of your life).”

    So you rely on the authority of scientifically trained writers like Andrew Snelling, Kurt Wise, Marcus Ross, John Byl, and Jonathan Sarfati to support young-earth creationism.

  13. RAP November 7, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    UNRELATED: Bro. Jim, your latest sermon at Kenwood is not downloadable. Love ya!
    - B

  14. Stephen November 7, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

    Jim,

    The issue isn’t whether “all” ancient people considered the sky to be a solid dome holding back water. This is a trap into which much scholarship, especially evangelical scholarship on hot-button issues to evangelicals, falls. It’s been a while since I read Enns’ work on this, so I cannot remember if he does this too. You don’t have to show that everyone thought X in order to claim X is the most plausible understanding of, for example, Genesis 1. Neither, for that matter, does showing that not everyone thought X somehow mean you’ve inherently diminished the plausibility of the author of Gen 1 taking the position of X. Contextual data is relevant for establishing ranges of cultural codes, sensitivities, ways different kinds of discourse are used, etc., to help calibrate out interpretive questions for reading Genesis 1 (to stick with that example).

    Why this seemingly condescending lecture about historical method? Few scholars doubt that plenty of ancient sources, including sources purporting to talk about what the cosmos is really like, consider the sky to be a solid dome holding back a cosmic sea. FWIW, you can find this kind of view in later non-biblical Jewish sources as well. Well informed scholars also know that other extant sources show other ancient intellectuals taking different positions about the physics of the cosmos. We actually have much in the way of ancient “scientific” speculation about the universe.

    The issue here is that given that we see such a solid dome that holds back a cosmic sea understanding of part of the heavens in some other ancient sources that also seem to be addressing themes and concerns similar to Gen 1, AND given that Gen 1 can be very plausibly read as depicting a similar physics of the universe (e.g., “cosmology”)…given these points, the solid dome holding back the cosmic see seems to be a very plausible historical reading of Gen 1. Throw in that, for example, other passages like Gen 7.11 (e.g., fountains under the earth as a source of water, windows of heaven open so water above can drain down; note this follows how Gen 1 depicts God dividing the waters; and also, for that matter, fits with how some other ancient sources depict matters) or, more literarily-contextually distant, Ps 148.4 (e.g., waters above the heavens) and it continues to seem most plausible that the producer of Genesis 1 participated and worked within such ancient views of the physics of the cosmos. Granted this may not jive with some evangelical doctrines of Scripture. But last I checked evangelicals claim their doctrines of Scripture were supposed be “subservient” to the Bible, not the other way around.

    Calling attention to Enns’ supposed selective use of evidence (and maybe he is selective, I’m not disputing that in principle) on other issues as argued by Beale or to one of Noel Weeks’ many obscurantist articles doesn’t deal with the specific data in question here for this question. Keep in mind, Weeks is renowned primarily for his transparent agenda of sealing the Bible off from its surrounding historical contexts. See his most recent WTJ article for another example. It saddens me if this is the path evangelical scholars will take to “defend” the Bible; or, put better, “defend” that the Bible is what they say it is.

    Finally, before declaring that claims about the the solid dome are part of some liberal critical scholarly complex, keep in mind that conservative scholars like EJ Young didn’t dispute this (see his Studies in Genesis 1).

    • Peter November 8, 2011 at 1:17 am #

      Wow. This was an amazing response from someone who obviously knows what he’s talking about. Thanks so much for chiming in on this Stephen and providing a very kind, reasoned, and balanced voice to what often appears to be nothing more than a shouting match. That is true scholarship, sir. What little uncertainty I had about the solid dome and the view of some of the biblical authors, I now have none. It is voices like yours that need to be heard the most in arguments like these. You weren’t rude, arrogant, mean, hateful, cock-sure of yourself, or pompous. By all means, please keep helping others in these issues. Do you yourself have a blog or anything else you can direct us to in order that we may be more informed about these issues. Thanks!

  15. steve hays November 7, 2011 at 6:55 pm #

    Regarding Hamilton’s allegedly condescending, dismissive tone, or questioning the motives of Enns, it’s revealing that Hamilton’s critics don’t apply the same yardstick to the tone adopted by Peter Enns, which epitomizes the very faults they impute to Hamilton:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2011/10/fear-leads-to-anger-unpacking-theological-belligerence/

    But, of course, they share the outlook of Enns, so they give him a pass.

  16. steve hays November 7, 2011 at 10:10 pm #

    According to Paul Seely, “And it is precisely because ancient peoples were scientifically naive that they did not distinguish between the appearance of the sky and their scientific concept of the sky. They had no reason to doubt what their eyes told them was true, namely, that the stars above them were fixed in a solid dome and that the sky literally touched the earth at the horizon. So, they equated appearance with reality and concluded that the sky must be a solid physical part of the universe just as much as the earth itself.”

    Let’s put that to the test. To take a few examples:

    i) According to the diagram supplied by Peter Enns, ancient Near Easterners supposedly thought a divine palace was floating above the firmament.

    Question: Did any ancient Near Easterners ever observe a divine palace floating above the firmament? Is that what the world looked like?

    ii) An implication of this diagram is that heavenly beings (e.g. angels) came down through windows in the firmament. But does Peter Enns or Paul Seely think ancient Near Easterners ever observed heavenly beings coming down through windows the firmament (or going back up the same way)?

    iii) According to Babylonian mythology, Marduk split Tiamat (the sea goddess) in two, using one half to roof the sky, while her breasts formed the mountains, the Tigris and Euphrates were her tears, and clouds were her spittle.

    Is this because that’s what their eyes told them?

    iv) Mesopotamian art contains depictions of griffins, centaurs, lion-centaurs, lion-dragons, snake-dragons, humanoid scorpions, mermen, a seven-headed snake monster, and so on. Is that because ancient Near Easterners were used to observing these creatures in real life? Was that a part of their empirical experience?

    Same thing with Mayan or Egyptian iconography. Is that a reflection of how the world appeared to them?

  17. steve hays November 8, 2011 at 7:42 am #

    Let’s take to more examples to test the thesis of Seely/Enns:

    i) According to the diagram, the netherworld is a subterranean cave or cavern. Did ancient Near Easterners depict the world that way because they saw the shades of the dead wandering around the underworld? Is that what their eyes told them?

    ii) According to the diagram, the earth is supported by submarine pylons. Did ancient Near Easterners depict the world that way because ancient skin-divers swam under the earth and saw the earth supported by pylons? Is that what their eyes told them?

    But Seely and Enns don’t believe it was possible for ancient Near Easterners to experience the world in that way, since they don’t believe that’s how the world is configured.

  18. steve hays November 8, 2011 at 7:51 am #

    Chris Skinner

    “Nevertheless, isn’t it possible that two well-intentioned, well-educated, intelligent, devoted Christian scholars can look at the same evidence and disagree on what’s there?”

    Actually, these are fundamentally asymmetrical positions. As Peter Enns himself recently conceded:

    “If one accepts evolution, the first thing to note is that one has left the biblical worldview. I think this is an obvious point, but needs to be stated clearly. As soon as evolution is accepted, the invariably result is some clear movement away from what the Bible says about Adam.”

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2011/11/talking-to-pastors-about-adam-and-evolution-options/

    So by his own admission, Enns is making a clean break with the viewpoint of Scripture. Hence, that’s not a difference of opinion regarding the meaning of Scripture, but whether or not we accept the meaning of Scripture.

  19. steve hays November 8, 2011 at 8:45 am #

    Stephen

    “Contextual data is relevant for establishing ranges of cultural codes, sensitivities, ways different kinds of discourse are used, etc., to help calibrate out interpretive questions for reading Genesis 1 (to stick with that example).”

    Which doesn’t yield belief in a solid dome.

    i) For instance, John Currid has argued that OT cosmography employs architectural metaphors. Cf. Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament, 43.

    ii) Beale has extended this approach in terms of cosmic temple imagery.

    So citing intertextual considerations doesn’t select for your position rather than Currid’s or Beale’s.

    • Stephen November 8, 2011 at 11:01 am #

      Steve,

      I never claimed contextual data (not intertextual, in this case) “select[s] for [my] position…” I said that examinations of contextual data form part of the historical interpretive process — but that the most relevant data comes from examining the details of Genesis alongside ranges of positions held by various of its roughly contemporary ancient sources for interpretive calibration.

      Just for fun, Beale’s so-called approach works primarily from Jon Levenson’s and other ANE scholars’ work on ancient mythic cosmography and cosmology. Beale simply removes the word “myth” from his account and also doesn’t mention that the scholars whose work he draws upon also consider Genesis to be participating in the various kinds of cosmological ideas that Beale rejects.

  20. neurotransmitter November 8, 2011 at 9:46 am #

    The Atheist Missionary said:

    “I rely on the authority of those who are specialists in their fields of endeavour to support my beliefs (as do you in most other facets of your life).”

    1. Of course, the authorities or specialists disagree when it comes to evolution or the neo-Darwinian synthesis. For example, Richard Smalley, Fritz Shaefer, John C. Sanford, and James Tour were or are notable Christians and scientists who aren’t entirely unconvinced about evolution. There are many other scientists skeptical about here. This list includes Christians and non-Christians as well as agnostics and atheists alike.

    2. If we measure you by your own criteria (e.g. non-scientist, non-specialist in the field, rely on the authority of specialists), a more reasonable posture to strike would be agnosticism toward evolution. Maybe it’s true, maybe not. Perhaps the scientists who embrace evolution are correct, perhaps the scientists who reject evolution are correct. However, since you’re obviously biased toward one side over the other, you’re contradicting your own stated words.

    3. Sometimes the best specialists miss the forest for the trees even within their own discipline. An easy example is Einstein and quantum theory.

    Not to mention evolution is not a single field but an interdisciplinary field. Its study involves numerous closely related fields as well as subfields.

    4. Related, since evolution is an interdisciplinary field, with rather fuzzy boundaries, it could potentially be helped by intelligent non-specialists reviewing and assessing the evidence and arguments.

    5. Depending on the argument, it’s quite possible for a non-specialist to find errors in an argument by a specialist. A scientist might be an expert in a particular body of knowledge or perhaps an entire field, but there’s no monopoly on logic, reasoning, critical thinking, etc.

    “As I have pointed out in a previous thread of this site, fundamentalist Christians are quire prepared to rely on authority when it comes to medical treatments, structural engineering, GPS design, etc.”

    By the way, I don’t necessarily lump Reformed Christians like Dr. Hamilton into the “fundamentalist Christians” camp.

    “It’s only at the point where their theology would be defeated by the overwhelming weight of consensus in the fields of biology, chemistry and astrophysics that they start becoming ultra-skeptics.”

    Whether evolution is true isn’t directly dependent on whether Christianity is true. It’s possible to assess evolution on its own merits or lack thereof.

    “My point is simply that you cannot reconcile those beliefs with modern science.”

    But you’ve said you base your scientific beliefs on scientific authority. And the state of our scientific knowledge could theoretically change at any time.

    Plus you’re not a Biblical scholar or theologian or the like as far as we know. So you’re not a specialist with regard to Christianity.

    If we take you at your own word, you aren’t in a position to know what can or cannot be reconciled with modern science as far as Christianity is concerned.

    At best, you could appeal to the authority of Christians trained in science and Christian theology or other relevant disciplines who also support evolution (e.g. Alister McGrath). But there are other equally trained Christians who argue against evolution (e.g. John Lennox, Vern Poythress). At best, it’s back to square one for you.

  21. RD November 8, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    “As I have pointed out in a previous thread of this site, fundamentalist Christians are quire prepared to rely on authority when it comes to medical treatments, structural engineering, GPS design, etc.”

    I agree with this statement to a point. Though I think ALL Christians – not simply more fundamentalist Christians – assign a certain psychological weight to how they interpret and apply scripture in our lives. The question of whether the universe was formed exactly as Genesis 1&2 express really has no personal impact on us. For each of us the question resides in the realm of theory or theology. It’s simply psychologically much easier to view the Bible as a reliable science book when we are discussing the time-table of creation because the question does not really impact us where we live. Thus, we assign far less authority to scientists and science that present data that might contradict our beliefs here.

    However, the level of our willingness to take a theological stand is often directly related to how personally the issue at hand affects us. Christians psychologically assign a higher value of authority to science and scientists when the situation has a more serious and direct personal impact on us. If a brain tumor was discovered in your child, you likely wouldn’t turn to scripture as a medical text book. You’d likely not debate the authority your child’s oncologist has relative to the authority of the Bible, despite the fact that the Bible clearly does have something to say regarding the source and treatment of bodily illness.

  22. steve hays November 8, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    Stephen

    “Just for fun, Beale’s so-called approach works primarily from Jon Levenson’s and other ANE scholars’ work on ancient mythic cosmography and cosmology. Beale simply removes the word ‘myth’ from his account and also doesn’t mention that the scholars whose work he draws upon also consider Genesis to be participating in the various kinds of cosmological ideas that Beale rejects.”

    Just for fun, you might trying drawing some rudimentary distinctions:

    i) For starters, distinguishing the significance of something in the primary source from the significance of something in the secondary source. For instance, Solomon’s temple incorporates various ANE architectural motifs. But that doesn’t mean they retain the same symbolic import. There’s a process of transvaluation.

    ii) Likewise, you also beg the question regarding how “mythic” cosmography was understood by Egyptians, Mesopotamians, et al.

    To take a comparison, when we study Mayan hieroglyphs, it would be silly to assume the artist thought that was a literal description of the world. It’s clearly stylized. It didn’t resemble the world he saw.

  23. m.h. November 9, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    The naming of the raqia’ in Gen 1:8 is a type of synecdoche (totum pro parte). Context supports this. Note that the remaining references to the raqia’ are all to the “raqia’ of the heavens” and not simply to the “raqia’”. Note further that while birds can be said to fly in the heavens (as cited above), they cannot fly in the raqia’, but “against the face of the raqia’ of the heavens” (Gen 1:20). The sun, moon, and stars, on the other hand, are “in” the raqia’, which would appear to reflect a from of Assyrian astronomical speculation (see Wayne Horowitz’s Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography). The word “heavens” apparently has multiple meanings. It can refer to the place where birds fly, the place where God lives, the place where the heavenly luminaries are located, and, in Gen 1 and Ezek 1 only, the raqia’. Against this are you prepared to assert that the OT teaches that God lives in the same place where the birds fly? Of course not. English is not all that different. “Sky” can refer to the atmosphere, including where birds fly, or it can refer to everything above us, including where the stars are. This is all to say that the argument you cite that the raqia’ is not solid since it is called “heavens” and elsewhere “heavens” are not solid is not valid.

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