Saturday, December 29, 2012

A False Concord

So a group called Patriotic Christian Quotes posts this chart on Facebook ...

And my comment on their Facebook post was this ...

The Scriptures have nothing to do with science, and this chart stretches the point. It is very dangerous for Christians to think that the Bible teaches the truth about physics or biology. It teaches a far deeper truth, and the more we confuse the issue, the harder it is for us to show that Faith and Reason go together. Take the first item on the chart, for example. Isaiah 40:22 in no way asserts that the earth is a sphere. The ancient Hebrews believed the earth was a round disk floating on water, with the sky pitched as a tent about it. They were wrong about geology, but right about God. This chart is well intentioned but very wrong headed.
And, naturally, I was more or less excoriated by others commenting after me. 

One lady said,

Science now is proving that what the bible says is true, and always has been. Can I get an Amen?!

... with a number of "amens" following.


The easiest way to understand how this all works is to keep this in mind: The Bible does not teach how the heavens go, but how to go to heaven.  Take Is. 40:22, the first instance on the chart, for example ...

He's the one who sits above the disk of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers. He's the one who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in.
Does the truth of this passage lie in its scientific value?  Is the earth a "disk" - i.e., flat but circular?  Is space a "curtain"?  Do we live under the sky as if the sky were a "tent"?   Certainly these are poetic truths, but not scientific ones. 

Such bizarre literalism leads the fundamentalists to insist upon six 24-hour days of creation, and to claim (as a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod pastor once told me) that the fossil record was "placed on earth by the devil to deceive us."

And such tone deafness serves as a bad witness for Christians, who appear in the eyes of others as Neanderthals.  Indeed, during my atheist days, I thought the Christian Faith was predicated upon a sacrifice of reason, that reason and faith either never met, or when they did they flat out contradicted one another.  Which is exactly the opposite of the truth - Faith and Reason confirm one another, but you'd never know that from the chart above or from those who are pushing a false Concordism between science and scripture.

For what the Concordists don't see is that it's just as wrong-headed for Christians to make claims about scientific matters which the Faith does not touch upon as it is for scientists to pontificate about matters that are beyond their scope - such as metaphysics, meaning, and God.

It would, for instance, be wrong for a scientist peering in a microscope to claim that the germs he sees prove that the sky does not exist.  He's looking in the wrong direction, with the wrong tool - a tool that can tell him much about little things, but nothing about big things. 

In the same way, believing in God will not tell me how much money I have in my wallet.  I have to look and count to find that out.  I could claim that the "1260 days" mentioned in Revelation (Rev. 11:3-13 and elsewhere) means I've got $1260, and that "personal accounting proves the Bible is right!"  But the Bible also mentions "forty days and forty nights", and I know it's less than forty bucks down there.  A lot less.

At any rate, they are different operations of the mind, dealing with different things, different aspects of Reality, and to insist upon the Bible as a kind of proto-textbook on physics and biology is to use a mistaken literalism, which will inevitably (and rightly) alienate non-believers who take reason and logic seriously.

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