BioLogos, an organization CMI has refuted in the past, recently came out with an attack on biblical creation through the blog of Jim Stump, their senior editor.1 In his article, Stump lists what he claims are 10 ‘common misconceptions’ about evolution. Far from clearing much of anything up, however, Stump’s comments manage to muddy the waters significantly on a range of topics, and display the fact that he is not very well informed on what biblical creationists believe. The most important and foundational of these topics is the authority of Scripture, which Stump claims to uphold while simultaneously championing completely unbiblical views. Unfortunately, it’s always easier and faster to sling mud than it is to clean it up!
Bad hermeneutics, bad theology
On the topic of biblical interpretation (‘misconception’ #9), Stump makes an honest admission: a plain reading of Exodus 20:11 shows that God created in six literal days. In attempting to justify ignoring that plain and obvious reading, Stump displays a shocking lack of understanding of the discipline of hermeneutics(interpretation), as well as basic Christian doctrine concerning the Law of Moses. He smugly lists 1 Samuel 2:8, Deuteronomy 21:21, John 15:5, and Romans 16:16 as examples to supposedly show that we cannot rely on a plain reading of scripture, since doing so in these places would, by implication, be absurd. This argumentation is, to be frank, infantile, and totally unbefitting of someone who has a Ph.D. in philosophy. It is also a typically dishonest straw man: that creationists are blind literalists, despite our clear statements to the contrary. Stump would also do well to see what classical exegetes like Augustine and Tyndale meant by ‘literal interpretation’.
For Scripture to be of any use to us at all, we must base our reading of it on one foundational principle: words have meaning in a given context. All words represent communication between individuals, and for communication to be possible, both sides must have a common understanding of the meanings of the words being used. Thus, the goal of interpreting any text, including the Bible, must be this: to determine the intended meaning of the original author. To do that, we cannot take a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach; to discover the meaning of any particular passage, we must look at the definitions of the words being used, as well as their context and the literary style being employed. Not every passage in the bible is literal, but by the same token, not every passage is metaphorical. Merely pointing to some other verses that are not literal does nothing to prove Stump’s point about Genesis 1/Exodus 20:11. What do any of these verses have to do with the issue at hand? Stump of course doesn’t address the evidence that Genesis is a historical narrative, and that the other Bible authors and Jesus interpreted it that way.
1 Samuel 2:8, a verse often cited by skeptics to attack the Bible, does not teach that the earth is suspended on pillars. An examination of the context shows that this passage is talking about people, not inanimate objects, and thus metaphorical language is clearly being used.
When it comes to Deuteronomy 21:21, Stump misses the point by confusing the meaning of a command with its applicability today. Various Christian denominations have different views of the latter. But most agree that since we are not signatories to the Sinaitic Covenant, the civil penalties don’t apply today. Similarly, most would agree that Christians are not bound by the Mosaic food (kosher) laws today. See Is eating shellfish still an abomination? and Are we allowed to eat all animals today?
John 15:5 begins, “I am the vine … ” Not much needs to be said here. Jesus often spoke in figures of speech. Taking that verse literally is not even possible, so we have no record of anyone thinking that He had stems and leaves. Therefore by process of elimination (and common sense) we can see it was a metaphor. Jesus also spoke in parables, but they were intentionally designed to hide the truth from the unbelieving masses, while He spoke plainly to His disciples. See discussion in Biblical creation impedes evangelism?
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