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« If Morality Is Objective, How Can We Know It? | Main | The Fundamental Premise behind Ehrman's Claims »

March 22, 2016


Any time somebody prefaces a complaint about God with a phrase like "Wouldn’t the maker of the universe have" done such-and-such, they are essentially saying that they don't believe in God because He didn't do things the way they think He should have. In essence, they are claiming that they know better than He does.

Just reading the first couple of pages of the Bible you see God creating things. He makes the light and the darkness, separates them, names them. He makes the sky and names it. He makes the land and the sea and names them. Then over the next three days he makes the stars, the birds and fish, the land animals. But he doesn't name them. When he makes Adam, he brings the animals before Adam and Adam names them. He becomes the first biologist.

I get the impression that God left the science up to the creatures he made smart enough to figure out the science. It is implicit in his first command to bring creation under our dominion. It's our job. And, indeed, you see that if you read a couple more pages as you get humans figuring out domesticating, herding, and breeding animals; making and playing musical instruments; forging metals.

And really, is this such a mystery? Has the author of this challenge ever watched an episode of any of the Star Trek series? Why does the Federation have the Prime Directive? Because we know that people, given technology faster than their culture can fit it into their understanding, tend to do very destructive and self destructive things with it. It's been the major theme in science fiction from Frankenstein all the way up to Jurassic World.

This "problem" reflects the bias of the writer that the important thing for us to know to make life better is science. But God does share some "basic truths" about the world in the Bible, truths that, if learned, would alleviate a lot of needless suffering. If we're going to play the "I know better than God does" game, let's look at what the Bible does speak to: morality. The Bible doesn't reveal a lot of science, because we can figure out the science. What humanity needs to learn, what we cannot figure out on our own, is how to treat one another. Technology is just a tool. We can use science to build nuclear reactors or nuclear bombs. Science doesn't tell us the RIGHT or WRONG ways to use our knowledge.

The Bible doesn't give instructions on building balloon-frame houses or the making of Styrofoam, so it's not the word of God? Really? Just think of the Germ theory of disease. How did we figure it out? We needed the technology to make glass. Knowledge of how to make lenses (which includes the physics - the dual wave/particle nature of light - and the mathematics to understand and accurately calculate light refraction through different mediums) to make a microscope. That's not just "some basic truths about the world". Yes, to us, its a high school level general science course, but it represents thousands of years of human ingenuity and curiosity. Why would God want to take that away from us (as long as we're playing the "why didn't God do it the way I want Him to" game)?

The question is, what do they mean by "scientific insights"?

That can go a number of directions. Most likely it reflects the beliefs that science (or reason) can give us truth and the Bible doesn't have anything in it relevant to the science (or "moral enlightenment", or technology, or intellectual sophistication, etc) we have today. So I see that there are two things happening here:

1. Internal to their own thinking, there is a deceptive movement from a general idea of reason to a specific experiential idea of what the general necessarily results in.

2. Many people tend to objectify "science" in order to make it distinguishable from things that share significant features with it - like reason. This opens the door to a number of considerations, which can't be covered in a short space. But I'll mention a couple:

a. Science isn't a thing as much as it is a process. Once the process is complete, the result is a probability-based conclusion established by the initial assumptions. Science itself is the process. But the results aren't necessarily "scientific". It's the process of obtaining them that is scientific. And the conclusion is not properly an "insight". The closest actual science can come to insight is in the development of hypotheses from simple observations prior to doing the science.

b. Science relies on principles of reason that are given in the Bible. You can utilize these principles of reason without have read them first in the Bible. But the Bible tells us where they come from and what they have to do with the things that scientists endeavor to study scientifically. Therein we can say that science borrows from the Biblical worldview.

So, starting with the first question about what a challenger means, and armed with an understanding of what science actually does, the careful apologist can push on point #1 in order break into point #2 in the ways in which it directly addresses the flaws in their understanding.

We might want to consider the possibility, to use the example the challenger uses, that the germ theory of disease is false, or at least that it needs to be carefully qualified.

If the challenger got his way and God made unambiguous reference to the germ theory as we understand it today, then in a century, super-new atheists might complain about the fact that God mentioned the outmoded or naive theory in the Bible. The very thing that our atheist claims would really have impressed him as evidence for the Bible would be used by his intellectual grandchild as evidence against the Bible.

What is more, the Biblical mention of the germ theory would have been a substantial stumbling block to everyone who had the Bible before the germ theory was recognized.

To avoid these sorts of problems, it seems that the Bible speaks in non-scientific language much of the time. Not because it is contrary to science, but because it has a timeless message to convey apart from the changes that are a necessary part of scientific inquiry.

WisdomLover makes a very good point, but that just calls into question the whole idea of taking a book as an unassailable authority. We could then ask a related question: Why hasn't God updated the Bible in 2,000 years?

>> Why hasn't God updated the Bible in 2,000 years?

Simply because all things that is the focus of the whole Genesis to Revelation consummated in Christ.

A point to make of the statement: The absence of new ideas about science in the Bible ...

For a document of 1500 years of spiritual progress, how does one make of this document in moments when it invokes progress of knowledge, such as 1 Kgs. 4: 33, 34: He could speak with authority about all kinds of plants, from the great cedar of Lebanon to the tiny hyssop that grows from cracks in a wall. He could also speak about animals, birds, small creatures, and fish. 34 And kings from every nation sent their ambassadors to listen to the wisdom of Solomon.

Sounds like the work of a top-notch naturalist.

From Wisdomlover,

"We might want to consider the possibility, to use the example the challenger uses, that the germ theory of disease is false, or at least that it needs to be carefully qualified."


Considered. Rejected. Should we consider the possibility that basic math is false?

Doesn't make the challenger's example very good, however.

I would ask the questioner, "What do you think the purpose of the Bible is?" And follow up with, "would it be fair to accuse the editor of a science book of being an atheist because he didn't make the writer include what may be known of non-relevant spiritual matters in his science book?" Or "Does the fact that we don't understand everything God chooses to reveal to mankind mean he doesn't have reasons?"

I wouldn´t criticize an alleged divine revelation for not communicating novel scientific ideas, however, if it does speak about matters directly or tangently related to science, it should be correct - if it isn´t, then this would count as evidence for the alleged divine revelation rather being a human invention.

"Considered. Rejected. Should we consider the possibility that basic math is false?"

All claims of empirical science are revisable. If you don't believe me, ask any scientist.

Math is not an empirical, but an a priori science, so a different animal.

Other than chirping out your unscientific thoughts from the cheap seats, GH5, did you have a point?

I wouldn´t criticize an alleged divine revelation for not communicating novel scientific ideas, however, if it does speak about matters directly or tangently related to science, it should be correct - if it isn´t, then this would count as evidence for the alleged divine revelation rather being a human invention.

But there are proper limits to this.

Some claims may be close enough for the discourse being carried out. Since the Bible is not a geometry text, for example, it seems to be unnecessary that it give or imply the exact value of Pi when talking about the size of circular objects.

Wouldn’t the maker of the universe have communicated some basic truths about the world, such as the germ theory of disease to alleviate a lot of needless suffering?

Let’s forget the science around germ theory for a second. The challenger points to suffering as a reason to communicate this. The Maker of the universe could alleviate more suffering than we can imagine in countless ways. Many more than say, Jesus, healed physically.

If this objection is truly about relieving suffering, if that’s the gripe, then just say it. If the challenger won’t say that, then the challenger wants science communicated for educational purposes. That seems awfully silly to me. What other educational information could have been included but was not?

The absence of new ideas about science in the Bible is evidence that it was written by men with no inspiration from a supernatural being.

No reasons offered here. It just goes without saying, I guess. I don’t know why God could not have chosen to operate within the knowledge that the authors had about the physical world at the time. That seems pretty straightforward.


The challenger has rules. They are:

1. If you’re God, and you decide to write a book, there’d better be science in it. (I mean it’s science come on!)

2. The science included in this book had better have some “new ideas” – not just old stuff.

3. The science should relieve human suffering.

I don’t see the need or desire for these rules.

Germ transmissikn is addressed in the OT...cleanliness laws, not just ceremonial washings...that and other health promoting ideas not found outside Israel were taught and required.

Its been more than 20 years since being exposed to this so maybe others can confirm or challenge this notion until I have time to refresh.


While many of the OT rules certainly seem to be recommended by the germ theory, I don't know that they imply the germ theory.

I suspect that our challenger will claim to be satisfied only by a more definite assertion of the theory.

If the Bible did include "science", let's say Isaiah includes some verses referring to small particles that make up all matter, the Bible skeptics would just say, "Oh, that's not revelation, that's just some late addition by some Jewish scribes from Alexandria or something that have heard of Greek Atomism."

If the Bible had clearly described a heliocentric solar system, the Greeks and Romans would have written the Jewish scriptures off as poppycock since all the "scientists" of the day KNEW the Sun went around the earth. It also would have encouraged Sun worship, something the text is specifically written to refute.

What the Bible does include in the way of science is the foundation of science: a rational God creating a rational world using rational rules that his rational human creations could figure out. The Bible de-spiritualizes nature and encourages humans to explore and understand nature. That is why, of all the cultures around the world, Christian Europe turned the ubiquitous study of astrology into the science of astronomy, turned the ubiquitous study of alchemy into the science of chemistry, turned the common study of magic into the science of physics.

So to refer back to KWM's brilliant distillation of the challenge's argument: There IS science in the Bible. It has NEW IDEAS not found before in any other culture around the world. And that understanding of nature DOES alleviate suffering.

The point, WL, is that your argument, which seems to you so clever, is a poor one. Scientific claims that are true are never revised. Germ theory of disease, being true, will never be revised.

So, saying that we should consider a true scientific theory to be false is unconvincing at best, and just plain dumb at worst.

This is answer to the question posed here does more harm than good, although it is the type that has apologists all congratulating each other on their brilliance.

"Germ theory of disease, being true, will never be revised."

  1. It's already been revised many times.
  2. I'm sure that believers in the miasma theory had similar confidence.

But, just FTR, I never said that we should consider the germ theory to be false.

I said we should consider the possibility that it is.

Which, by the way, it is possible.

Every scientist will express a lot of confidence in the theory, but will admit that evidence could arise to prove it false after all.

And not one of them will say that they KNOW that such evidence cannot arise. At least, good ones won't say that. And none will say it truthfully.

God knows, of course. He also knows when it will take a long time to come to the truth. And He knows when it will take a long time to come to the point that the truth can even be expressed and understood.

And my point, which I don't think you got, is that:

  1. God does not seem to have been inclined to needlessly confuse many generations of readers before the adoption of the germ theory (or any theory) for whom the words of the theory would seem almost nonsensical...indeed, some who believed in the miasma theory (or whatever suitable predecessor theory) would probably have used the the proposed addition of the newer theory to the Bible as a reason to reject the Bible.
  2. God's inclination mentioned in item #1 may well be intensified by the fact that atheists would still disbelieve in God anyway even if the desired theory were expressed in the text of Scripture.
  3. Given items #1 and #2, God certainly would not pollute Scripture with a detailed expression of a scientific theory, if that theory would turn out, in the long run, to be false.

Happy chirping sport.

Flu is caused by flu virus.

Consider the possibility that this is false.

Great argument.

Consider away, dolt. "Clever" responses like this to honest objections give Christians a bad name.

I got your point, WL.

It just wasn't a good one.

So, I guess that the objector has a point...God should have confused generations of readers talking about flu viruses, allowing atheist believers in the miasma theory to use that as a further objection in the meantime.

He should have done that for atheists today who do believe that flu viruses cause the flu even though it is not going to change their view.

And we know so much today that we know that no evidence could ever possibly arise to show that flu viruses do not cause the flu (which would then provide future atheists with objections.)

I guess we have foreknowledge, though God does not.

Got it. Oh wise one.


Annnnnd once again WL misses my point.

It wasn't that the objection mentioned in the OP was valid.

It was that your oh so clever response was very poor.


You have yet to make a point. So there has really been nothing for me to miss.

Simply saying that an argument is poor is not a point.

Making incorrect claims about what your interlocutor has said is also not a point.

Of Course Scripture Teaches Science:

Ignorance of what Science is fuels those who assert that Science is not found in Scripture. Just as ignorance of (described below) the sandwich fuels such unthinking assertions.

The Non-Theist’s nonsense:

“What Christian metaphysical assumption is required to make modern science workable and successful? Name me one uniquely Christian metaphysical assumption used in science that if removed, means we cannot do science?”


That’s easy:

A) Reason and logic as our primary guide
B) Orderly properties of the universe
C) Intelligibility of the universe (via B)
D) Principle of Sufficient Reason (via A)

The reason both the A-Theist (No-God) and the Theist (God) must defend their respective view is simply that both the Theist and the Non-Theist have beliefs about Actuality's primordial datum, Actuality's irreducible causation(s) which just are beliefs about either God or else god, about reality's rock-bottom. This has an immediate and direct impact upon the fundamentally different conclusions which we make about Man, Mind, and Reality in *any* setting with respect to *any* path from non-being to being. Both the Theist (God) and the A-Theist (No-God) has his own terminus of explanation -- the Christian his God and the Non-Theist his god. Those who claim to be floating in a kind of thoughtless-space utterly void of thoughts about reality’s causal rock-bottom are simply unwilling to defend their own explanatory termini. As such they provide far more noise and static than reason and sense.

Bill T.” commented elsewhere:

“That science flourished in Western culture in a way it did nowhere else is without question. As to why it’s important to look at its growth throughout what is commonly referred to as the Middle Ages and also Christendom. Though we think of modern science as a phenomenon of the late 18th century it has its roots beginning in the middle ages. The people of medieval Europe invented spectacles, the mechanical clock, the windmill, and the blast furnace by themselves. Lenses and cameras, almost all kinds of machinery, and the industrial revolution itself all owe their origins to the forgotten inventors of the Middle Ages. As well as all that, the birth of the modern university in the 1100’s was also part of the accomplishments of that time and place. What made Christendom a particularly fertile place for the origins of modern science was the (intellectual/philosophical/metaphysical) underpinnings provided by Christian thought. The idea that we live in a world that is intelligible seems a commonplace thought. But, if you look at the other world religions at that time they are dominated by an appeal to mystery and intuition. Christianity alone embraced reason and logic as the primary guide to religious truth. The West’s success in the sciences is traceable to its belief in a God of order and reason, who designed a predictable, orderly universe intelligible to the human mind.”

“Unfashionable History: A Review of How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity", by Rodney Stark:

“Americans are becoming increasingly ignorant of how the modern world came to be what it is, says Rodney Stark. A generation ago, most college curricula included a course in Western Civilization that covered Western achievements in art, music, literature, philosophy, and science. Today those courses have all but disappeared on the spurious grounds that the West is but one of many civilizations and that it is ethnocentric and arrogant for Westerners to study it. So Stark is out to educate us, its beneficiaries, in the “remarkably unfashionable” story of our own heritage.

The most important thing to know on this subject is that “modernity is entirely the product of Western Civilization.” By modernity, he means, “that fundamental store of scientific knowledge and procedures, powerful technologies, artistic achievements, political freedoms, economic arrangements, moral sensibilities, and improved standards of living.”

In How the West Won, the Distinguished Professor of Social Sciences at Baylor University goes beyond the old “Western Civ” courses, which usually merely described the rise of the West. Stark tells the neglected story of why these monumental contributions to human good grew out of the West, and not out of Asia or the Islamic world. To explore this panhistoric phenomenon – as a set of explicable effects produced by discernible causes – is not ethnocentric, but is rather, “the only way to develop an informed understanding of how and why the modern world emerged as it did.” In the process, Stark refutes much of the “received wisdom” about Western history. Here are a few examples:

• Dramatic changes in climate, including a four-century-long warming trend followed by a “Little Ice Age” played major beneficial roles in the rise of modernity.
• There were no “Dark Ages.” The Dark Ages myth was made up by “eighteenth-century intellectuals determined to slander Christianity and to celebrate their own sagacity.” In reality, the entire era was one of remarkable progress and innovation.
• The brilliant achievements of the “Scientific Revolution” (which is also a misnomer) were the culmination of centuries of step-by-step progress.
• Europe did not grow rich by exploiting its colonies. Rather, the colonies drained European wealth – even as they became the beneficiaries of European advances.

Throughout, Stark gives primacy to ideas. He does so because it was certain, specific ideas that gave rise to all those desirable societal traits – democracy, science, free enterprise, etc. – that have characterized Western nations and that are now revolutionizing life in the rest of the world.

Ultimately, Stark says, those potent – and truly revolutionary – ideas are the product of Christianity. “The most fundamental key to the rise of Western Civilization has been the dedication of so many of its most brilliant minds to the pursuit of knowledge. Not to illumination. Not to enlightenment. Not to wisdom. But to knowledge. And the basis for this commitment to knowledge was the Christian commitment to theology” – the highly rational discipline of formal reasoning about God, with an emphasis on discovering his nature.

With lively, in-depth narratives, Stark demonstrates how Christian ideas drove everything that is good and desirable about Western modernity. Yes, Western Civilization has seen its failures, limitations, and discontents. Nevertheless, it far surpasses every known alternative, and is, in a very real sense, God’s gift to the world.”

The Sandwich:

The general mindset of Mankind atop the world stage reveals the radical differences of Man’s interpretation of Reality in various mindsets. It's a kind of Sandwich, beginning ages ago in the murky unintelligibility of illusion, of reality as The Big Con, which then morphs into the crisp intellectualism via Christianity’s radical claims about Reality, Man, and God, of mastering and subduing the stuff of Time and Physicality, which then, now, of late via the embrace of ultimate absurdity via our New-Atheist friends is fading once again, backwards, into the murky unintelligibility of illusion, of reality as The Big Con.

In the middle of the Sandwich we find the epicenter of reason and logic within the Christian’s peculiar metaphysics which from the opening pages of Genesis asserts the antithesis of scientism as the Knowledge of Reality itself is, from the very beginning, divided into two distinct paradigms. Those two paradigms are, we find, in the peculiar claims of Man-In-God and of God-In-Man such that God calls Man to Come In and know God, for it pleases the Father to give to you Himself, and, again, such that God commands Man to Go Out and subdue Time and Physicality, for it pleases the Father to give you the world. Such carried the Christian to the crisp intellectual apprehension of truth as he sought to interpret reality through that lens. As such he found reason and logic emerging as his “primary guide to religious truth”. The peculiar posture of rigorous dissection to see and learn of God in and by His creation then, naturally, surfaced atop all the assumptions granted by the Christian’s absurd and radical claim that God – Ultimate Reality – factually loves Man. Therein Man pressed in to gather up this divine gift such that we find Man, then in history’s lines, pressing in to extricate what he boldly presumed awaited him vis-à-vis Christ – that being the genuine knowledge of the Living God and of His Created World, of the Immaterial order and of the material order’s own Time and Physicality in and through what D. Hart describes as,

“…….the luminous medium of intentional and unified consciousness, which defies every reduction to purely physiological causes, but which also clearly corresponds to an essential intelligibility in being itself. We…. encounter the world… finally through our conscious and intentional orientation toward the absolute, in pursuit of a final bliss that beckons to us from within those transcendental desires that constitute the very structure of rational thought, and that open all of reality to us precisely by bearing us on toward ends that lie beyond the totality of physical things.”

The epicenter there which shocked the human mind ages ago served to carry us onward and out of the initial murkiness of reality being The Big Con, just as, that same epicenter which shocks the mind serves to propel some (of late within Philosophical Naturalism / New Atheists, etc.) retrograde or backwards again into reality as The Big Con as the epicenter is itself to be avoided at all costs. The epicenter remains unchanging and fuels both trajectories – the former by offering Sight to those who know they are blind, the later by offering that same Sight to those who don't want to see too much. Prior to the God of love the unintelligibility in question raced from the heart of the gods who played while the people paid. Post-Christian attempts now find that same unintelligibility of The Big Con racing from the heart of reality itself as – again – some among us bring their costly sacrifice as they place atop the altar's flames the stuff of that same crisp intellectualism and watch – eyes wide open – as the fumes of annihilation eliminate their holy sacrifice. Indeed such is quite costly yet in their minds the alternative is to be avoided at any cost.

Prior to the God of love the very attempt to master and subdue the stuff of Time and the stuff of Physicality was an oxymoron – for none could hope to out-maneuver the gods. The God’s played and the people played.

Mastering and subduing the stuff of Time and Physicality is an odd Command to Man there in Scripture. One wonders why God would even bother all those eons ago. God also makes the peculiar move to separate forms of Knowledge – the paradigm to master the world outside, to subdue the stuff of Time and Physicality (on the one hand) and, then (on the other hand) the peculiar affairs of some other form of knowledge – apparently in a separate paradigm than the stuff of Time and Physicality – as the God Who is The-Good carves out the affairs of the Knowledge of The-Good, and of Evil, as somehow the business of some other paradigm. It’s as if True Knowledge cannot “all” be “perceived” by just “one” of the two paradigms which God has set before Man.

As predicted by Scripture there in Eden’s fateful landscape “Science” emerges as that which “just is” that mastering, that subduing, of that world outside, of the stuff of Time and the stuff of Physicality. Just as Scripture predicted as it defined the peculiarities in and around necessarily different paradigms of knowledge.

Prior to the God of love we find (back then) the same murky landscape of The Big Con as we find (of late with some) in the same sort of murky landscape of those who now (of late via Philosophical Naturalism / New Atheist, etc.) leave the God of love behind. And that landscape is nothing less than this: ultimate unintelligibility amidst a self-negating presuppositionalism wrapped around a bizarre flavor of an unintelligible solipsism.

The Epicenter:

Ultimate Reality (God) cares for us. Loves us. Reality is not a Con. Go out and subdue and master the stuff of Time and the stuff of Physicality. For it pleases your Father to give you............. And so too with the other half of Knowledge…… Come in and taste, see, and know, for it pleases the Father to give you…......

Of course, according to Scripture all those eons ago, when it comes to Knowledge, Real Knowledge, there is an ontological seam, a necessary stopping point to the stuff of Time, the stuff of Physicality. According to the God who is love. Hence the (inescapable) absurdity of Scientism emerges there in Scripture’s auspicious definitions about Knowledge, about Subduing – and we find there in Scripture the affirmation of what everybody today knows: the anti-intellectualism of making an End-All and a Be-All of, you know, "……doing-science…..". Everybody knows that “doing-science” simply fails, when pressed, to coherently lay claim to the ontological real estate which sums to the means by which Man’s perception accesses “All Knowledge”.

But all of this is old news for the Christian.

As for the “Sandwich” of [Unintelligibility / Crisp Intellectualism / Unintelligibility] – well that is an interesting slice of observational reality.

Flu Vaccine:

There is no flu vaccine because the gods play and the people pay. We cannot out-maneuver the gods.


Should be "The gods played and the people payed."

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