Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Divine Inspiration: How would we know?

Divine Inspiration: How would we know?
Glenn R Morton March 2020

2 Tim. 3:16 says "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God."

I spent 15 years seriously questioning everything about Christianity. I was a Christian but my faith was seriously wavering. Questions like: How do I know that Scripture is inspired?  A tautological proclamation by the Bible itself hardly seems sufficient to agree that the Bible is inspired, at least it isn't if one is skeptical in the first place.  For one who believes in Christianity, well, the Biblical proclamation is fine.  But to the skeptic, self-proclamation seems less than conclusive.  For example, If I proclaim that I am infallible in all that I write, you would have just cause to doubt that self proclamation. So, why do we expect the atheists, materialists and adherents to other religions to simply accept the Bible's self proclamation that it is divinely inspired?

So what kind of data is indicative of divine inspiration?  There are two areas: fulfilled prophecy and scientific foreknowledge. I will not cover prophecy in this post as things like Daniel's 70 weeks vision is often claimed to be what I call a postecy rather than a prophecy. Critics do loads of mental gymnastics to say that it was written later than Daniel's time; written at a time long after the events it prophesies.  Such claims while generally baseless, are not easily countered by the side that believes the prophcies are true. The argument becomes one of "Yes it is a prophecy,"/ "No it isn't a prophecy" standoff. Thus I will focus on scientific foreknowledge, knowledge that no one should have known when Scripture was written.

During my years of doubt, I read almost all the documents that founded the various religions. Two things stood out to me in all that reading.  Almost none of them have observationally falsifiable statements.  By this I mean one can't verify anything as being true or false.  The Dhammapada, which is believed to have been written by Buddha, is a book of sayings about how to live a successful life with unverifiable theology thrown in.  The Kiti 'i iqan of the Bahai does have one observationally falsifiable statement. It says that if you leave copper in the ground for 70 years it will become gold.  Such a statement does make one want to discount that document as being in anyway divinely inspired. A real God should know that copper doesn't turn into gold.

The second thing that sticks out is that the Bible is the only document with an actual account of creation. All others claim their God is creator but never talk about how he created the world. So, if the Bible is to be considered divinely inspired, we need to have a way to view the creation account as scientifically accurate. Otherwise, it is like the Kiti 'i iqan. Below I point you to a view of Genesis which is consistent with modern science.  It is sad that most Christians don't want that.  I think it is that they fear its failure--but what if it actually succeeds?  Others think it is because the theologians want to preserve an area science can't touch. Tipler says:

"Of course, the real reason modern theologians want to keep  science divorced  from religion is to retain some intellectual  territory forever protected from the advance of science.  This can  only be done if the possibility of scientific investigation of the  subject matter is ruled out a priori.  Theologians were badly burned  in the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions.  Such a strategy  seriously underestimates the power of science, which is continually  solving problems philosophers and theologians have decreed forever  beyond the ability of science to solve." ~ Frank J. Tipler, The  Physics of Immortality, (New York: Doubleday, 1994), p.  7

Scientists today are constantly biased against the Bible because they think it is unreal. Why shouldn't we try to turn the tables on science and get them burned for once.  The Bible was correct that there was an origin for the universe--something scientists rejected for decades prior to the discovery of he microwave background, leading to the idea of the Big Bang.

Atheists will gleefully cast stones upon the Bible for what they see as similar errors to what I said about the Kiti 'i Iqan.. Wiki in discussing such criticisms says this about the creation narrative:

"A common point of criticism against the Bible is the Genesis creation narrative. According to young Earth creationism, which takes a literal view of the book of Genesis, the universe and all forms of life on Earth were created directly by God sometime between 5,700 and 10,000 years ago. This assertion is contradicted by radiocarbon dating of fossils, as well as modern understanding of genetics, evolution, and cosmology.[ For instance, astrophysical evidence suggests that the universe is approximately 13.8 billion years old. Moreover, 10,000 years is not enough time to account for the current amount of genetic variation in humans. If all humans were descended from two individuals that lived less than 10,000 years ago, it would require an impossibly high rate of mutation to reach humanity's current level of genetic diversity.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_the_Bible#Historicity

All of the scientific facts in the above are absolutely true. So, does this mean that the Bible is like the Kiti 'i iqan, spouting scientific nonsense? I don't believe so. I also don't believe the young-earth apologetical ideas they are criticizing. There is another interpretation which makes Scripture historically and scientifically sound.

Let's face it, no human was at creation, and no human in Neolithic times could have known about the location of Eden as outlined below. Knowledge of what happened at Creation and of those rivers had to be inspired by God, as did the knowledge of the strange hydrology (see below).

 As we saw above, atheists think the creation story, Eden, and the Fall are all faerie tales, being totally unscientific.  No foreknowledge there, they say.. Unfortunately, liberal Christians agree with the atheist critique. I have been on Biologos of late, debating these issues, and with one or two exceptions, I am told there is no history in early Genesis and no secret knowledge in Genesis. I keep asking these liberals why they believe a book that is so flawed?  I never get a good answer.  Anyway, what if we interpreted Scripture a wee bit differently than the way young earth creationists say? There view is not the only possible way to make the Scripture be scientifically and historically true.

An interpretation of Scripture which makes Genesis 1 true is to be found in the Days of Proclamation view. Basically it says Genesis 1 is the pre-creation/pre-temporal planning for what creation would be like and that nothing was actually created in Genesis 1. I know this is not the normal view of that chapter. This was God proclaiming what was to come.  By making it planning, and since planning can be done in any order, this interpretation avoids the order problems atheists are so quick to point out, like the sun being created after the plants and fish and whales being created at the same time.  Planning has no order so these objections wither.  Then it says that Genesis 2 is billions of years after the actual creation.  It's form looks like this:
In the link above, I explain verse by verse how this interpretation works.

In my life, one of my main concerns has been about Noah's flood. As a geoscientist, I know such an event would leave a record of itself somewhere.  No record of a massive year long flood in Mesopotamia can be found, so advocates of that view are simply changing what the Scripture says about Noah's flood to make a flood that they can feel better about.  This seems like cheating to me. If changing what Scripture says is ok, then why isn't it ok for other areas of life?  If I lay my hand down in a poker game, and I have a 5 of diamonds, a 9 of clubs, a six of spades, a Jack of hearts and a 2 of diamonds, it is highly unlikely that I will win the pot. The other guy puts down four of a kind and starts reaching for the pot.  I say "Not so fast there cowboy! I have a straight flush!"  He looks at my cards and says, "No you don't!"  But I grab the pot proclaiming that it is ok for me to change what my hand actually is if I need to in order to win! Why is it considered ok to change clear meaning and words of the Bible so as to maintain a fiction that the Mesopotamian flood is described by Scripture? Such is what the advocates of the Mesopotamian flood do--they proclaim victory and ignore the facts, both of what the Bible says but also of science.

To me, one of the big areas of scientific foreknowledge comes from four different confluences of scientific data pointing to one place for Noah's flood.
First, the description of Eden. fits the geography from 5.5 myr ago.  It was at this time that the Mediterranean sea had been cut off from the Atlantic causing it to dry out and turn into a desert.  It is interesting that one of the possible sources for the word Eden comes from the  Akkadian word edinu, meaning desert. The Mediterranean basin was the deepest valley on earth at that time, but it was also lush where the rivers poured waters onto that former sea floor. Elephants, giraffes, hyenas, sabertooth cats and more lived on that basin floor. The Nile (which encompases Cush), the Pison draining Havilah, the Tigris and Euphrates, all were joined together at the bottom of this basin. How did this information get into the Bible. It could not have come from word of mouth over that much time. It had to be inspiration.
Furthermore, word etymology might be indicating that Scripture was telling us that Eden was in a desert--The dry Mediterranean was a desert in a deep basin.
Secondly, the hydrology ascribed to Eden is only possible in a deep basin. How could this information combined with the rivers have made it into the Scripture?  All I can think of is divine inspiration because smart as we are, no human could have conceived of this scenario before 1970 when geologic cores were taken from the Mediterranean sea bottom.  Before that no one would have thought that an entire sea could evaporate, leaving a deep, dry land. 

Thirdly, it is also interesting  that geologic evidence has shown that the Mediterranean desert (Eden) was catastrophically flooded 5.3 Myr ago, filling it in about one year's time.  How is it that the only known flood in geologic history happened at the only place on earth that fits the Edenic description--in a deep basin. There is a wonderful video of this flood on this page. The waters of this flood: 1. Destroyed the land (Genesis 6:10), 2. lasted a year. 3 covered mountains in that desert landscape as tall as 5 km high. 4. Westward motion of water would push floating objects toward Turkey and the Levant. How did the Bible know to use the four rivers and weird hydrology to point us to a deep basin where a flood matching the description of Noah's flood happened? Somehow, Scripture gave us a description of a flood that fits a real flood, the Zanclean flood,  in the place where Eden is.

The fourth fact supporting this view is that our oldest genes are 5.3 myr old. We didn't know this until this century.   5.3 million years ago is the only time in humanity's history that there could be a primal pair. Here is a list of the oldest I have found (source).

gene       age of the gene   reference
Tap2                 5.36 myr        7
ERAP2                5.08 myr        8
green opsin          >5.5 myr        9
HERVs                 5.0 myr        10
TRIM5                 4-7 myr        11
Patr-DRB1*03          4.6 myr        12
DEFB1                 4.5 myr        13
CDSN/PSORS1C1        4.18 myr        7
ERAP1                4.12 myr        8
Any later than that, and we run into a mis-match between science and our interpretation of Scripture. Isn't this an interesting intersection of facts? The Bible uses the facts of palaeogeography and hydrology to point us to Eden being in a deep desert basin which just so happened to be the place where a cataclysmic flood occurred at the only time  in human history we could have had one single parental pair, Adam and Eve.  Remember above, the criticism that having Adam 10,000 years ago would require unbelievably high mutation rates to produce the variability we see in humanity today?  Moving Adam and Eve way back in time, to 5.3 myr ago solves that problem and matches with the time of Eden and the Flood.

The fifth fact, given the above, is very interesting because people don't think about the curses,, but they do think about the fact that only small brained hominids were alive 5.3 myr ago.  It is supportive of the Bible's scientific foreknowledge that both curses are predictions of increased brain size.  Pain in child birth come from the size of the infant's head which is nearly too big to fit through the birth canal.  This wasn't the case for the early hominids. Sweat of the brow is a cooling mechanism for a large brain. details here. Again, early hominids didn't have that issue. God cursed the small brained Adam and Eve so that their descendants would have bigger brains which would cause sweat of the brow and pain in childbirth.  If Adam and Eve were Neolithic farmers, they already had big brains and sweat of the brow, so what was the point of cursing them with what they already had?

This scenario gets around the  atheist objections above and makes the Bible scientifically and historically true.  If that is what you want, this scenario actually works and matches the scientific data. It is clear to me that this is not information that mankind could have figured out for himself until the last 2 centuries.  Therefore, this had to be knowledge imparted by God. 

Genesis 1 can also be interpreted in a way that is absolutely scientifically true. Unfortunately, many Christians don't want to use it.  Liberals don't want Genesis 1 and 2 to be historically true anyway, and young earthers will stick to their young earth guns til the end of time. 

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