The Two-Book Fallacy – Again

Those Christians who reject the biblical timescale or who embrace evolution often defend their position using the two-book fallacy. They claim that nature is essentially a 67th book of the Bible, and equally authoritative with Scripture. Consequently, they argue that we must interpret the Bible in light of this “book of nature.” They might also argue that nature reveals that the world is billions of years old, that all life has evolved from a common ancestor, that stars formed billions of years before earth, and so on. And they interpret Genesis to match this so-called natural/general revelation.

The problems here are numerous. First, these Christians are confused about what general revelation is. General revelation is not man’s beliefs about nature, such as the age of the universe or the history of life on earth. Rather, general revelation is what God has revealed about Himself to everyone. This includes the knowledge that God exists, is the Creator, is powerful, glorious, righteous, and is angry at us for violating His high moral standard (Romans 1:18-20, 2:14-16, Psalm 19:1-6). We call this general revelation because God has revealed this to everyone at all times. We may also call it natural revelation because God has constructed our mind and senses so that when we look at nature we instantly recognize it as the creation of the living God (Romans 1:19-20). All people recognize the world as God’s creation, though many people suppress that truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18).

This stands in contrast to special revelation – when God communicates to human beings using language. The Bible is special revelation. It is not general because not all people have read the Bible. Special revelation is propositional; it is comprised of meaningful sentences in human language and has been codified into a book. Conversely, general revelation is not propositional.

General revelation is not the same thing as science. The methods of science have allowed us to discover that atoms are made of protons and electrons, but this is not general revelation because it is not known to all people at all times. That comets orbit the sun in elliptical paths is not general revelation, because not everyone knows this. These kinds of scientific conclusions are not general revelation, and it would fallacious to refer to them as such.

Furthermore, the scientific method is not infallible. Scientists often draw incorrect conclusions from their observations of nature. So if correct scientific conclusions are not general revelation, how absurd would it be to refer to incorrect conclusions as general revelation on a supposedly equal footing with Scripture? Those Christians who employ the two-book fallacy are tacitly putting the fallible opinions of fallen men on the same level as Scripture. They then distort the clear teaching of Scripture to match secular beliefs.

Another obvious problem with the two-book fallacy is that nature is not a book. We can study rocks and fossils and draw conclusions from them. That’s fine. But rocks and fossils are not a book, and we cannot read them like we would read a book. Language has the unique ability to communicate concepts with clarity unmatched by any non-linguistic medium. This was the main point of the article I wrote years ago, posted here.

I recently came across an article that someone had written in response to mine. The author (Shane) apparently did not read my article carefully because his response is mainly a straw-man fallacy: an argument against a misrepresentation of my position. Namely, he falsely suggests that I deny natural revelation. Of course, my article teaches the opposite; natural revelation does exist, but is less clear than the propositional truth found in God’s Word. Here are Shane’s comments along with my response.

> Someone recently pointed out an article to me on the topic of creation and Scripture called “The Two-Book Fallacy” by Jason Lisle, a director at the Institute for Creation Research. In the article, Lisle very clearly and very firmly says that the Reformation teaching of God’s “two-books” is fallacious and unbiblical.

Shane is off to a bad start. The two-book fallacy is not a Reformation teaching at all. The early reformers would have repudiated the idea that general revelation has the propositional clarity of the Bible. Indeed, the thrust of the Reformation was sola scriptura, in contrast to the Roman Catholic teaching that the Church was equally authoritative. The reformers understood that God has revealed Himself through nature – as do I. But natural revelation is non-propositional, hence not a book in the literal sense. The pioneers of the Reformation would be very disappointed indeed to learn that one Pope has been replaced with another: man’s fallible understanding of nature (which is not the same thing as natural revelation).

> In other words, Lisle argues that Christians should not call creation one of God’s books because it doesn’t say anything with words and propositional statements.

Correct. The dictionary defines ‘book’ as “a set of written sheets of skin or paper or tablets of wood or ivory.” The universe God created does not fit this definition, and hence is not a book.

> Further, Lisle doesn’t like the two book view because some people use it to defend evolution or an old earth.

No. I don’t “like the two book view” because it is fallacious. Nonetheless, such fallacious thinking can lead to any number of false views – including evolution, an old earth, or anything else for that matter. Once people elevate man’s understanding of nature above God’s Word, any errant theology can result.

> Still further, he writes, “Interpreting the Bible in light of some other ‘book of God’ is a distinguishing characteristic of cults.”

Many cults, such as the Mormons, do accept the Bible as God’s Word. But they interpret the Bible in light of another book. That’s what makes them a cult. The idea that we should interpret God’s Word in light of man’s understanding of nature is very similar. Shane doesn’t seem to like that fact. But it remains a fact nonetheless.

> Lisle also says that nature “is not a book or record that contains propositional truth,” and that rocks or fossils “don’t literally mean anything because they are not statements made by an author who is intending to convey an idea.”

Does Shane disagree? If so, would he be willing to show me some rocks and fossils that can literally talk and write? I would love to see that.

> In other words, nature doesn’t tell us anything because it doesn’t use words or grammatical phrases.

If Shane means “tell” in a literal sense, then this is true; nature doesn’t use language to literally tell us anything. However, I suspect Shane is implying that I’m claiming that we can’t learn anything from non-linguistic observations. If so, then he has severely misrepresented my position. Not everything I know has been learned by linguistic communication. I can learn about the universe from observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. But nature is still not a book. Hence, to call it such is still fallacious.

> “The primary purpose of nature is not to teach, but to function.” Though Lisle attributes the two book view to Francis Bacon, it is actually used in the Belgic Confession (1561) which was written well before Bacon lived:

Straw-man fallacy. I never claimed Bacon was the first to espouse such a view. I only claimed that he did espouse such a view – which of course he did.

> “We know [God] by two means: First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe; which is before our eyes as a most elegant book, wherein all creatures, great and small, are as so many characters leading us to see clearly the invisible things of God, even his everlasting power and divinity, as the apostle Paul says (Rom. 1:20). All which things are sufficient to convince men and leaven them without excuse. Second, he makes himself more clearly and fully known to us by his holy and divine Word, that is to say, as far as is necessary for us to know in this life, to his glory and our salvation” (BCF 2).

Notice that the Belgic Confession does not state that nature or natural revelation is a book, and therefore does not commit the two-book fallacy. Rather, it uses a simile – a figure of speech – to compare nature to a book only in the limited sense that we can learn about God from both. Recall that a simile compares two unlike things using “like” or “as.” Furthermore, I actually agree with this portion of the confession as written, because it states (in a somewhat poetic way) that God makes Himself known in nature, but more clearly and fully by His Word. This greater clarity is achieved because (unlike nature) God’s Word is propositional truth: it is a book. This in fact was the main point of my original article. I suspect anyone reading my article without an axe to grind would see that.

> I’m not going to give a full review and critique of the article here. However, let me encourage you to read it, check out yesterday’s blog post and also consider these responses:

1) Referring to creation/nature as a “book” is an analogy based on clear Scripture teaching.

Really? Where does the Bible ever call creation/nature a book?

> For example, Psalm 19 says that the heavens “declare” God’s glory (cf. Ps 8),

They do. But they don’t do it with literal words in a book. For this reason, God’s Word is superior. If Shane had read the entire 19th Psalm, he might have realized this. Beginning in verse 7, the Psalmist shows the superiority of God’s special revelation to His general revelation. Indeed, the best things in nature do not compare to the righteous judgments found in God’s Word (Psalm 19:9-10).

> Romans 1 says that God has revealed his divine attributes clearly in creation (cf. Acts 14:17).

Certainly. But where does it call creation a book? That’s the point that Shane is supposed to be making if he wants to refute my article. Anything else would be utterly irrelevant.

> Solomon tells us to go to the ant and consider its ways (Prov. 6:6).

And where does Solomon refer to nature as a book? These verses do not remotely support the point that Shane is attempting to make.

> This also has to do with the fact that all humans (who are created beings) are made in God’s image with a sense of the divine (Ecc. 3:11, Rom. 1:18ff, 2:15).

Again, God has revealed Himself in nature – but that doesn’t make nature a book.

> It is an example of biblicism to say the term “book of nature” is unbiblical.

No, it is an example of a logical application of careful exegesis. Namely, natural revelation is non-propositional. Books (by definition) are propositional. Therefore, natural revelation is not a book. This is an AEE-2 (Camestres) categorical syllogism, which is valid.

> 2) Denying that nature contains truths, facts, and information about God the creator is a denial of general revelation reminiscent of Karl Barth (“Barth” and “fundamentalism” together!?).

Shane has made several mistakes here. First, he hasn’t defined his main terms; this makes it very difficult to evaluate what he intends. For example, do I deny that “nature contains truth and facts?” Words like ‘nature’, ‘truth’, and ‘facts’ have multiple definitions, so the answer depends greatly on this. If we take nature to mean all creation, then of course nature will contain facts and information, because books contain information and are part of creation. If we take nature in the sense of natural as opposed to artificial, and thus excluding books, then we need to know which definition of ‘truth’ is in play.

Does Shane mean ‘truth’ in the propositional sense, as used in logic: “a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true” or “the body of true statements and propositions”? If so, then the non-propositional world does not contain truth. But if ‘truth’ simply means “the property of being in accord with fact or reality” then it does. Similarly “fact” is used in both a propositional and non-propositional way.

The primary definition of ‘information’ is “knowledge obtained from investigation, study, or instruction.” Now, does the natural world outside of thought and literature have knowledge (true, justified, belief)? Of course not. Rocks don’t know anything. Information requires a mind. We might gain knowledge by studying nature, and pass that along as information. But knowledge/information is not a substance found in the inanimate world of nature.

Finally, a denial that the natural world contains (propositional) information is certainly not a “denial of general revelation” because general revelation is non-propositional.

> Lisle is essentially saying that God only reveals himself in words and propositional statements.

False. This is a blatant straw-man fallacy, and directly contradicts what I wrote in the article. In my opening paragraph I state: “After all, the Scriptures teach that God’s attributes are clearly seen in nature (Romans 1:20).” Since nature is non-propositional, and since God is revealed in nature, it follows that God does reveal Himself in non-propositional ways.

Shane has missed the main point of the article. God has revealed Himself in nature as well as in His Word. But only God’s Word has the clarity of propositional truth. Therefore, it would be ridiculous to reinterpret God’s clear and infallible propositions to match (fallible) manmade propositions obtained from observations of nature.

> To be sure, God does reveal himself using words, but the Bible also describes God revealing himself in and through nature.

Sure. In my article, I cited Romans 1 in support of natural revelation.

> Consider (along with the above Scripture references) the OT stories of when God (extraordinarily) revealed himself in the storm, whirlwind, fire, earthquake, and other theophanies.

Actually, these all fall under special revelation because God spoke to specific people at specific times, now recorded in His Word. Natural revelation refers to what all people can learn about God from our observations of nature – His power, glory, etc. (Romans 1:18-20, Psalm 19:1-6).

> Indeed, God is sovereign in such a manner that he can and has revealed himself in creational ways.

Yes – just as I stated in my article.

> I’m wondering how creation scientists can study rocks and fossils and make scientific conclusions if, as Lisle says, “they don’t mean anything.” Isn’t Lisle sawing away at the tree branch on which he is sitting?

No. We can learn from nature without nature being propositional. Does Shane really think that all knowledge is gained by hearing propositional statements? We don’t need to hear the proposition “things fall down” in order to form that proposition in our mind from observations of nature. But Shane’s mistake is apparently the idea that only propositions can be studied. That just isn’t so.

The way scientists learn about nature is by observing patterns, and creating propositions that describe the patterns seen in our observations. These manmade propositions are fallible, and subject to revision on the basis of future observations. Therefore, manmade propositions that summarize our understanding of nature are not on the same level as God’s authoritative Word. That is the main point hammered out in my article. Shane completely missed it.

> (As a side, consider how, in church history, general revelation has functioned in apologetics – could there even be Christian apologetics if God didn’t reveal himself in creation?)

The point is moot because God has revealed Himself in creation (Romans 1:18-20). But this natural revelation is non-propositional. Therefore, when we create propositional statements about God based on our observation of nature, these statements are not infallible, and must be checked against the objective standard of God’s Word.

> 3) Just because some have supposedly used the two book view to prove evolution doesn’t make the view wrong (I believe this is called the Domino Fallacy in logic).

Shane commits another rather absurd straw-man fallacy. Nowhere does my article suggest that the two book view is wrong because it leads some to believe in evolution. The two book view is wrong because nature is not a book. Theistic evolution is merely one error of many that spring from fallacious reasoning.

> And hinting that the two book view is wrong because cults interpret the Bible in light of some other “book of God” is also poor logic (I believe this is called the Faulty Analogy – it’s like saying Christians shouldn’t use the KJV because Mormons often use it).

Ironically, Shane here commits the fallacy of false analogy (while incorrectly claiming that I was doing that). The reason is clear: he says that the argument is like saying Christians shouldn’t use the KJV because the Mormons often use it. But the KJV is not a distinguishing characteristic of a cult. That is not all KJV readers are cultists, and not all cultists are KJV readers. But the idea that some other book is on the same level of the Bible is a distinguishing characteristic of a cult. If a person holds some non-Bible book to be on the same infallible level as Scripture, that person is a cultist, because Christians hold to sola scriptura.

> I suppose this article is one of the many reasons I’m not a fundamentalist and why I am instead Reformed.

This is another place where Shane would have benefitted by defining his terms. ‘Fundamentalist’ has taken on a number of meanings. Historically, a fundamentalist Christian is defined as one who holds to the five fundamentals of the Christian faith: (1) biblical inspiration and inerrancy, (2) virgin birth of Christ, (3) Christ’s death on the cross as atonement for sin, (4) Christ’s physical resurrection, (5) The historical reality of Christ’s miracles. It seems to me that a Reformed Christian ought to hold to those. In any case, a Christian should not subjugate God’s Word to any other standard. It is very disappointing to see Christians accept secular opinions about nature as “general revelation” and then use these to override the clear meaning of the Scriptures.

> Based on Scripture, I’d say the Belgic Confession is right and this article is wrong.

Actually, the Belgic Confession is in agreement with my article. Neither refers to nature as a book that is supposedly propositional and on equal footing with God’s Word, both acknowledge the existence of natural revelation, both affirm that the clarity of Scripture is superior to general revelation.

Also, notice Shane’s comment “based on Scripture.” But where is his scriptural support? Where does the Bible claim that natural revelation is a book, as clear and propositional as Scripture?

> In fact, if you read the article carefully, you’ll notice (ironically) that the author didn’t use Scripture to make his point for Scripture and against general revelation!

Straw-man fallacy. Since I am all for general revelation (and so is the Bible) of course I wouldn’t use Scripture to argue against general revelation. On the contrary, I used Scripture (Romans 1) to refer rightly to general revelation in my opening paragraph. Shane just hasn’t read the article carefully at all, and is arguing against a position I don’t hold. But if Shane wants Scriptures that show the superiority and clarity of God’s Word over general revelation, I’d suggest Psalm 19, especially verse 10 where God’s Word is shown to be better than the best, most desirable parts of God’s world.

> It is true that the book of general revelation does not tell us about our guilt, God’s saving grace, and our response of gratitude, but that doesn’t mean we should deny the fact that God reveals himself in nature.

There is no “book of general revelation.” That was the point of the article. General revelation exists, but not as propositional statements; hence, it is not a book. Furthermore, Shane is mistaken if he thinks that general revelation “does not tell us about our guilt.” The Bible says that it does (Romans 1:18-20, 2:14-16).

> Denying general revelation is a very dangerous move in Christian theology; it’s not a trivial matter!

Shane again totally misrepresents my article, as if I were somehow against general revelation. The very opening paragraph in my article states the exact opposite. Rather what I am against is people putting their manmade propositions derived from observations of nature, and then claiming that such opinions are “natural revelation” and on the same level as God’s clear Word. That is the two-book fallacy.

> I’ll end with these great words by Herman Bavinck:

“Whether God speaks to us in the realm of nature or in that of grace, in creation or in re-creation…it is always the same God we hear speaking to us. Nature and grace are not opposites: we have one God from whom, through whom, and to whom both exist.

If Shane disagrees with my conclusion that words are far superior in communicating truth than rocks and fossils are, then I would ask him to reply using only rocks and fossils – no words please. On the other hand, if Shane writes a reply using words, then he proves the truth of my original article.

I’ll end with these great words by Jesus Christ:

And He answered and said to them, “And why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER,’ and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER, LET HIM BE PUT TO DEATH.’ But you say, ‘Whoever shall say to his father or mother, “Anything of mine you might have been helped by has been given to God,” he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And thus you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’” [Matthew 15:3-9]

About Dr. Lisle

Dr. Jason Lisle is a Christian astrophysicist who writes and speaks on various topics relating to science and the defense of the Christian faith. He graduated summa cum laude from Ohio Wesleyan University where he double-majored in physics and astronomy and minored in mathematics. He then earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in astrophysics at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Dr. Lisle specialized in solar astrophysics and has made a number of scientific discoveries regarding the solar photosphere, including the detection of giant cell boundaries using the SOHO spacecraft. He also does theoretical research and has contributed to the field of general relativity. Since completion of his research at the University of Colorado, Dr. Lisle began working in full-time apologetics ministry, specializing in the defense of Genesis. He has written a number of articles and books on the topic. His most well-known book, The Ultimate Proof of Creation, demonstrates that biblical creation is the only logical possibility for origins. Dr. Lisle wrote and directed the popular planetarium shows at the Creation Museum, including “The Created Cosmos.”
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34 Responses to The Two-Book Fallacy – Again

  1. Jared says:

    When we say general revelation is a book, we mean that in a metaphorical sense. We don’t mean it literally.
    Also, you say that general revelation isn’t the same as our ideas about nature. That’s true, but the same could be said of special revelation: it isn’t the same as our interpretations of the Bible. Yet you seem certain that your interpretation of Genesis 1 is the only valid interpretation.
    Also, the scientific method is perfect within the context of a universe where the laws of logic apply (such as ours). Our use of it isn’t, but it’s just an application of logical axioms and principles (principles such as the basic reliability of the senses). You claim to have a high view of logic, so surely you can see the inherent flawlessness of a system as logical as the scientific method.

  2. Nina Ruth says:

    This is off-topic, so please forgive me, but talk about “divine appointments,” I’m in my local church bookstore (a very large and influential church) working on my present editing job, and I confess that in the quiet, I’m eavesdropping a bit on the conversation going on behind me. Some older gentleman has asked for an appointment with the missions pastor…and what is he presenting to the pastor? He’s wanting him to start a Reason to Believe class at this church!!! He’s talking about how wonderful Hugh Ross is, and it’s clear from the context that this missions pastor is very unfamiliar with Hugh Ross or his beliefs.

    Sigh.

    I’ve actually finished the editing chapter I was working on, and I want to go home, but now I’m praying and going to have to wait until this guy leaves so that I can talk to this missions pastor!

    Please pray that the Lord gives me favor with this pastor!

    Thank you!
    Nina Ruth 🙂

    • Nina Ruth says:

      The Lord opened the door for me to speak to the pastor, who was gracious, kind, and had me email him some links for his info. So, if you’re reading this…Hi Pastor John! 🙂

  3. Kevin T. says:

    Great blog entry! Glad to see a new post from you! Thank you for all you do and God bless!

  4. J says:

    Here is an argument that a skeptic is attempting to use to refuse the transcendental argument. I’ve got some ideas on how I want to respond (pointing out logical fallacies and so on…), but I wanted to see if any of Dr. Lisle’s readers have some comments.

    “In the same way, the laws of logic are descriptive. No one made them up or wrote them in a handbook somewhere for them to exist. They were simply observed as always being true (rocks are always rocks because if a rock were anything else, it would cease to be a rock). Because the laws of logic are not prescriptive, they do not require the mind of a deity or any other mind to exist. Human minds can identify them and put them into words, but the phenomena these laws refer to would continue to exist regardless of whether a deity or anyone else thought about them.
    Proponents of TAG conflate the description of logical laws with the natural phenomena they refer to. Equating an object with its description is like equating a photograph of a car with the real thing; although the photograph accurately depicts an image of the car, you cannot apply the qualities of the photo in accurately describing the real car. Otherwise, you might erroneously extrapolate that cars are flat and fit in the palm of your hand. The same is true for the laws of logic. The statement “A=A” is a conceptual description of a physical property. The statement itself requires a mind to describe it. However, the physical property would remain true, with or without a mind to conceive it.
    What this means is that these descriptions themselves are what is purely conceptual. But the laws they describe are not conceptual. What these laws refer to is the consistency of existence, which exists whether or not they’re being described or identified by a mind. A rock is always a rock because it exists in reality. If there were no mind to observe the rock, it would still be a rock. Minds are necessary only to describe that phenomenon, not to make it true. 

    The fallacy of equivocation occurs because the TAG argument uses logical absolutes in more than one sense (3). Logical absolutes, as described in step one of the TAG argument above, are physical underpinnings of the universe; in step two, they are the descriptions of those laws, like the photograph described earlier. Logical absolutes do exist. However, these laws are not conceptual in nature. We do not need any minds for them to exit. We only need minds to observe, understand and express these laws. Furthermore, our perceptions of these laws are by no means perfect, unchanging or absolute.
    Even if the premises of TAG were sound, the argument still leaves much to be desired as evidence of the existence of God. If you were to accept the premise that universal concepts require a universal mind to think of them, there is nothing to suggest what that mind might be like.
    In other words, the transcendent mind behind the rules of logic would not necessarily need to have any of the qualities commonly associated with deities, including benevolence, omnipotence, a role in the creation of the universe and a source of morality. There is nothing in the transcendental argument to suggest that the hypothetical mind behind the rules of logic was capable of or responsible for anything other than conceiving of those laws. As such, it would fail to actually prove anything about the existence of deities or provide convincing reason to worship or attempt to create personal relationships with god(s).”

    • Nina Ruth says:

      Hi J. I like your reasoning in paragraphs 3, 4, and the first sentence of paragraph 5, especially. 🙂

      I will pray that our loving Heavenly Father opens your friend’s heart by the power of the Holy Spirit.

      I’m sure that you care about this person, and love him/her enough to speak the truth and plead for this friend’s soul.

      One thing I’ve both observed and experienced is that love is what God seems to ultimately use to draw us by His Spirit into the Kingdom. When people know that we genuinely care about them, we’re more likely to have their ear.

      I see this behind every Pauline apologetic. Brilliant mind, reasonable arguments, rock-solid (pardon the pun-reference to your rock illustrations) and irrefutable logic…and what fuels all of this is a passion for souls!

      Keep up the good work, J!

      Nina Ruth 🙂

      • J says:

        Hi Nina,

        Thanks for the kind words, however that argument I quoted was that of an atheist arguing against the transcendental proof of God’s existence. They were not my words. I actually posted it here to seek help in correcting it. The goal is partake in “Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5)

        • Nina Ruth says:

          Oops, Jack,

          I had a suspicion that was the case…AFTER I posted. 🙂

          *blushes*

          I will defer to those who are much more gifted by our loving Heavenly Father in the realm of logical debate, but now I am truly curious, and thinking much about the wisdom from the Lord to answer your friend’s strong argument.

        • Nina Ruth says:

          Jack, it’d be awesome to see what Dr. Lisle might say to this. I did note that on one of his previous posts there were some comments which he made that seem to address some of these arguments. Of course, you’ll have to wade through over 1200 comments on that post, which include such amusements as unicorns and human photosynthesis. 🙂

    • Christian says:

      Hey J,

      I’m probably late here (you’ve probably already responded), but I’ll give my part.

      I think the biggest glaring issue (perhaps there are bigger issues) I’m seeing is that an atheist is making knowledge claims about what would or wouldn’t be the case with logical laws. How can he know that for instance ‘the physical property would remain true, with or without a mind to conceive it?’ It seems to me he is begging the question.

      Second glaring issue, if laws of logic aren’t prescriptive I’d ask him/her to be consistent with that position. The fact that he/she alleges an equivocation fallacy for TAG only makes sense if laws of logic are prescriptive or at the very least there are some prescriptions attached to them (perhaps I’m misunderstanding here).

      Maybe he/she wants to argue that he is merely describing that TAG equivocates regarding logical absolutes, but what does that description mean if there are no prescriptions attached to or if the laws of logic aren’t prescriptive? Seems to me that his/her argument begins to unravel just like the person who wants to argue that morality is descriptive and not prescriptive (I’ve seen it a few times).

      Now if he/she is willing to argue that there are prescriptions for reasoning or to be rational, one would have to wonder where you get such prescriptions or what being rational means in a world ‘created’ by time and chance without any particular mind or motivation.

      Just my 2 cents. Prayerful regards,

      Christian

    • J says:

      Hi Dr. Lisle,
      I know that argument I posted from an atheist about the TAG was off topic. I realize you are busy, but are you able to to quickly respond to what you would consider to be the highlights of his argument? I’m not asking for a point-by-point response. I’ve already written my response. I am curious as to how closely our responses might align. Thank you and God bless.

      • Dr. Lisle says:

        Hi J,

        First, I think your friend is confusing laws of logic with laws of nature. The latter deal with natural phenomena and can be put into words based on what we have observed happening in the physical world. But laws of logic deal with propositions – conceptual claims, not physical or natural things. Propositions are mental constructs. Laws of logic describe the correct chain of reasoning between propositions. Reasoning requires a mind. Hence, laws of logic require a mind.

        Second, he tacitly assumes uniformity in nature throughout his claims. But how does he know that nature is uniform? For that matter, how does he know that laws of logic have the properties they have? How can he possibly know that laws of logic are universal? He doesn’t have universal experience. How does he know that they don’t change with time, since he has not experienced the future? How does he know that they do not have exceptions – has he tested every possible truth claim?

        Third, his closing remarks (that TAG does not tell us anything about God) are easy to refute. Obviously, only a God who is beyond time can guarantee that laws of logic do not change with time. Only a God who is omni-present and sovereign over the entire universe can guarantee that laws of logic are universal and exception-less. Only if human beings are made in God’s image would it be reasonable to expect that our minds can think in a way that is consistent with His mind. Clearly, only the biblical God will do.

        Blessings,

        – Dr. Lisle

  5. Deak says:

    I always took the “book of nature” as a poetic representation of revelation. No one I know says that general revelation is literally a book. Also, I’ve never met an old earth proponent suggest that modern science should in any way dictate our exegesis. I’ve also never seen an old earth proponent believe general revelation is on equal footing with scripture. Never once. I think this is its own strawman, at least for the majority of old earth proponents. The furthest I’ve seen them go is to say that the facts of nature can be an indication that our interpretation of scripture is wrong (and yes, both sides have an interpretation; supposedly “literal” or “plain” is still an interpretation).

    I did have one question, when you read about Leviathan, where do you turn to figure out what Leviathan is? Or when you read about Paul being caught up to the third Heaven, where do you turn to understand where that is and what the 1st and 2nd Heaven is?

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      Hi Deak

      > I always took the “book of nature” as a poetic representation of revelation.

      That’s how the phrase was originally intended. The fallacy occurs when people push the metaphor too far by claiming that general revelation is as clear as the propositional truth of Scripture, or when they confuse the opinions of scientists for general revelation.

      > No one I know says that general revelation is literally a book.

      That’s not the issue. The problem is when people treat general revelation as if it were a literal book with equal (or superior) clarity to Scripture. Furthermore, they tend to take the opinions of men about nature as if those opinions were general revelation.

      > Also, I’ve never met an old earth proponent suggest that modern science should in any way dictate our exegesis.

      Charles Hodge did. He says, “It is of course admitted that, taking this account [Genesis] by itself, it would be most natural to understand the word [day] in its ordinary sense; but if that sense brings the Mosaic account into conflict with facts [referring to deep time] and another sense avoids such conflict, then it is obligatory on us to adopt that other.” (Systematic Theology, pp. 570-571)

      Hugh Ross does. He elevates science to such a level that he believes it is in a position to judge the truthfulness of Scripture. He says, “With the help of many remarkable advances in [science], the words of the first eleven chapters [of Genesis] can be subjected point by point to rigorous investigation. They can be verified or refuted with greater precision and to a greater depth than previous generations might have imagined possible.” [underline added] (Navigating Genesis, p.10)

      > I’ve also never seen an old earth proponent believe general revelation is on equal footing with scripture. Never once.

      Hugh Ross, the leading proponent of old earth creationism, does this constantly. He says, “Some readers might fear I am implying that God’s revelation through nature is somehow on an equal footing with His revelation through the words of the Bible. Let me simply state that truth, by definition, is information that is perfectly free of contradiction and error. Just as it is absurd to speak of some entity as more perfect than another, so also one revelation of God’s truth cannot be held as inferior or superior to another.” (Creation and Time, chapter 6).

      So, it sounds to me like he is clearly putting general revelation on an equal footing with Scripture. To drill this home he continues, “It could be different, just like the content of Ezra is distinct from that of Romans, but it cannot be better or worse.” Ross even refers to general revelation as the Word of God at points; he states, “The Bible affirms that the Word of God includes not only the words of the Bible but also His words written on the heavens and the earth…. Many young-universe creationists limit the Word of God to the words of the Bible.”

      > I think this is its own strawman, at least for the majority of old earth proponents.

      Yet, the leading proponents of old-earth creationism clearly teach such. Few would admit to it, but they all do it.

      > The furthest I’ve seen them go is to say that the facts of nature can be an indication that our interpretation of scripture is wrong…

      Discoveries in science can prompt us to double check the text. That is perfectly appropriate. But when we exegete the text and find that it clearly teaches something, any contrary claims must be rejected.

      > (and yes, both sides have an interpretation; supposedly “literal” or “plain” is still an interpretation).

      Actually, the Bible is self-interpreting. Only the biblical interpretation matches the meaning of the text. All other interpretations are erroneous. I have a book on this called “Understanding Genesis” that may be helpful to you.

      > I did have one question, when you read about Leviathan, where do you turn to figure out what Leviathan is?

      I turn to Job 41. This gives the most specific and detailed description of Leviathan.

      > Or when you read about Paul being caught up to the third Heaven, where do you turn to understand where that is and what the 1st and 2nd Heaven is?

      I turn to Genesis 1. The Hebrew word translated “heavens” in this chapter (shamayim) is always used in the plural – so there are at least two heavens. Since these were literally the first thing God created, they must be the first and second heavens. Genesis clarifies that these heavens are called “sky” and are where the stars are placed and where birds fly – so apparently both the atmospheric realm and the celestial realm. Paul’s reference to the third heaven is therefore something beyond these two.

      Blessings.

      • Nina Ruth says:

        “I did have one question, when you read about Leviathan, where do you turn to figure out what Leviathan is?”

        “I turn to Job 41. This gives the most specific and detailed description of Leviathan.”

        So, then, Dr. Lisle, while the Hebrew in this chapter of Job is poetic, you do, also then take it as literal and historical, as well (i.e. there really was such a creature, and he really is described in Job 41)?

        On another note, please post an astronomy update when you can…the Lord brought me to Himself on my 12th birthday, using a starry night sky in the mountains and a clear presentation from the Bible of the Gospel of Jesus our Messiah, so the subject of stars is very dear to my heart! 🙂 Very excited to know that there will be a total solar eclipse on my b-day this year! 🙂

        Lastly, are there any good creationist books on astronomy for very little ones (16 mos) that you can recommend?

        Thank you for taking time from your very busy schedule to talk with all of us on your blog.

        The Lord bless you and keep you,
        Nina Ruth 🙂

        • Dr. Lisle says:

          Hi Nina,

          Yes, Leviathan was a real creature. God uses poetic language to describe Leviathan, and to make the argument that Job cannot contend with the Almighty (Job 40:2) because Job cannot even overpower one of God’s creations (Job 41:10). The argument would make no sense if Leviathan were not a real animal. Also, contextually, God had been using the same type of argument using other known animals as illustrations: the horse (Job 39:19-25), the hawk (26), the eagle (27), etc. They are described poetically, but are real animals.

          I usually save my astronomy posts for ICR articles, and use the blog for other topics. But I’ll see what I can do. As far as good creation-based astronomy books for very young children, I’m not really aware of any. When they get a little older, then there will be some options. God bless.

          • Nina Ruth says:

            Thank you Dr. Lyle. I watch a little boy once a week to help a military family, and he never stays still for a moment…except to look up at the sky! Perhaps a budding astronomer? I guess we will just have to wait and pray! 🙂

            In regards to Leviathan – so then, in terms of a Biblical exegesis, it is possible for a passage to crossover in genre, i.e., a passage could be historical and/or poetic, and/or prophetic?

            Lastly, I look forward to any astronomy update, and it’s ok if you save it for an Acts and Facts article. It would be especially wonderful if you could talk about the eclipse in August. 🙂

            Thank you!
            Nina Ruth 🙂

      • Jared says:

        General revelation is on equal footing with the Bible. We could take facts about the world, such as the fact that the earth is spherical and orbits the sun, write those facts down, and put them into the back of the Bible as revelation. They are clear, and reveal to us a bit more about how God created the world. They tell us as much about God’s act of creation as many of the descriptions given in Genesis.
        In addition, science can inform and, in fact, dictate how we ought to interpret the Bible. For example, people used to interpret the Bible as saying that the earth was flat. They changed this interpretation once science dictated that it was absurd.
        Finally, you claim that science and general revelation are not the same (science being centered around our ideas about general revelation). And yet, you claim that Hugh Ross’s quote about general revelation being on equal footing with scripture demonstrates that he thinks science is on equal footing with scripture. That’s a strawman.

        • Dr. Lisle says:

          Hi Jared.

          Jared: General revelation is on equal footing with the Bible.

          I appreciate your honesty. But general revelation lacks the perspicuity of Scripture. The main truths of Scripture are clear and understandable because they are written in human language (Ephesians 3:4; Deuteronomy 30:11-14). Nature is not.

          Jared: We could take facts about the world, such as the fact that the earth is spherical and orbits the sun, write those facts down, and put them into the back of the Bible as revelation.

          First, that would be sin because it violates Deuteronomy 4:2. God does not permit us to add to His Word (Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18). Second, what you believe to be facts about the world are not necessarily facts at all. For millennia, most scholars believed that the sun orbited the earth. They would have called that a fact. If they had followed your advice, they would have written that fact down in the back of their Bible as revelation. Do you see the problem with that?

          Jared: They are clear, and reveal to us a bit more about how God created the world.

          If facts like the earth orbiting the sun are “clear”, they why did it take over five thousand years for the majority of scholars to finally accept that? When human beings create propositional statements that they believe correctly describe nature, those statements are fallible. They are not necessarily wrong, but they could be wrong. This is why we should never try to elevate scientific claims to the level of the infallible Scriptures. I do indeed believe that we can study nature and learn more about how God governs the world, and perhaps gain greater insight into how He created it. But these insights are fallible, and therefore less reliable than God’s Word.

          Jared: They tell us as much about God’s act of creation as many of the descriptions given in Genesis. In addition, science can inform and, in fact, dictate how we ought to interpret the Bible.

          No. It is inappropriate to use science to dictate how we ought to interpret the Bible. For example, science has demonstrated repeatedly that water lacks sufficient surface tension for human beings to be able to walk on it. Should we therefore interpret Christ’s walking on water as non-literal (Matthew 14:25)? Science has shown that virgin women cannot conceive a child. Should we allow this to dictate how we read Matthew 1:18-25? Science has repeatedly shown that people who have been dead for three days do not come back to life. Should we therefore conclude that Christ did not really rise from the dead? If so, your faith is in vain (1 Corinthians 15:13-14). Scripture dictates how we are to interpret Scripture.

          Jared: For example, people used to interpret the Bible as saying that the earth was flat.

          If so, then they were not doing proper exegesis, because the Bible clearly teaches that the earth is round (e.g. Isaiah 40:22, Job 26:10).

          Jared: They changed this interpretation once science dictated that it was absurd.

          Scientific observations may prompt us to double check that we have done proper exegesis. But they may not be used to override careful exegesis. The Bible has always taught that the earth is round.

          Jared: Finally, you claim that science and general revelation are not the same (science being centered around our ideas about general revelation).

          General Revelation is defined to be that which all human beings at all times can know about God from creation. That excludes specific modern claims, such as the structure of the atom.

          Jared: And yet, you claim that Hugh Ross’s quote about general revelation being on equal footing with scripture demonstrates that he thinks science is on equal footing with scripture. That’s a strawman.

          Actually, the reason I believe that Ross thinks science is on an equal footing with Scripture is because he has written that he believes that science can test the validity of Scripture. This effectively puts science on a higher level than Scripture. He states, “With the help of many remarkable advances in astronomy, physics, geophysics, chemistry, paleontology, biochemistry, and anthropology, the words of the first eleven chapters [of Genesis] can be verified or refuted with greater precision and to a greater depth than previous generations might have imagined possible.” [emphasis added] (Ross, H., Navigating Genesis, p. 10). If Ross thinks science is in a position to refute Scripture, does it not follow that he thinks that science is more authoritative than Scripture?

  6. Luke says:

    Dr. Lisle,
    Thank you for this post. Would you please provide a link to “Shane”‘s article? I’d like to be able to read the quotes in the context of his full article.

    God bless, brother!
    Luke

  7. J says:

    Dr. Lisle is a busy guy, but thanks to him for taking the time to write another blog post. Great read!

  8. Jordan says:

    Woohoo! Finally another post from Dr. Lisle!

  9. Nina Ruth says:

    Hi Dr. Lisle, you spoke a few months ago at my fellowship in San Diego, and as an English lit grad, the highest compliment that I can pay you is that you make math TOTALLY interesting to those of us who never thought that we’d like numbers! Thank you, and the Lord bless you! 🙂

    I was just wondering about a presuppositional apologetic vs an historical/grammatical one in regards to certain denominational doctrines and eschatology.

    Could not the very argument,

    “Those Christians who employ the two-book fallacy are tacitly putting the fallible opinions of fallen men on the same level as Scripture. They then distort the clear teaching of Scripture to match secular beliefs,”

    as well as the beautiful and sobering words of King Jesus that you close your article with, apply to the reverence of certain men in post-first century church history – elevating them and their personal hermeneutic – to equal, and even supersede, the Word of God itself – often with tragic and horrific results…especially for my people?

    Thank you and the Lord bless and keep you.

    With respect,
    Nina Ruth 🙂

  10. Jack says:

    Super excited for another Dr. Lisle blog post! Do any readers on here know of a good way to share ongoing discussions that I’m have with athiests to help assess arguments from a presuppositional standpoint?

    • Nina Ruth says:

      Perhaps you could share a snippet (I like that word!) here, Jack? 🙂

      • J says:

        I put a long quote that he used a few posts up. I believe it is from Navabi’s book, “Why there is No God.” Thanks Nina.

        • Nina Ruth says:

          The Lord bless you, Jack!

          Is the entire quote his, or are your thoughts and refutations mixed in, as is originally read it…I may need to go back and re-read! 🙂

  11. Luke Barrett says:

    Glad you’re back on your blog!

  12. Chris C says:

    This was really good! Great to see a new blog post from you. Definitely going to share.

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