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]

49 Responses to The Two-Book Fallacy – Again

  1. Chris C says:

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

  2. Luke Barrett says:

    Glad you’re back on your blog!

  3. 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! 🙂

  4. 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 🙂

  5. Jordan says:

    Woohoo! Finally another post from Dr. Lisle!

  6. J says:

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

  7. 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

  8. 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

      > 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?

          • Jared Russell says:

            Thanks for replying, Dr. Lisle.

            1) “I appreciate your honesty. But general revelation lacks the perspicuity of Scripture.”

            When I said that General Revelation is on equal footing with scripture, I didn’t mean that it is as easily interpreted as scripture. What I meant was that it is as infallible as scripture.

            Dr. Lisle: If general revelation is not as easily interpreted as Scripture, then it is really not on equal footing is it? God gave us special revelation because He knew that we needed the clarity of the written Word.

            In other words, General Revelation and Special Revelation both come from God and both are used by him to reveal truth to us.

            Dr. Lisle: That is true. But they are not on “equal footing” because special revelation is perspicuous propositional truth. General revelation is not.

            2) “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).”

            When I say we could write facts from General Revelation down and put them into the back of the Bible, it doesn’t seem like that would be a violation of the passages in scripture forbidding us from adding to God’s Word because General Revelation is part of God’s Word (in that it’s a part of His revelation).

            Dr. Lisle: No, the Bible nowhere refers to general revelation as God’s Word. And we are not permitted to add to God’s Word (Deuteronomy 4:2). It is the sin of blasphemy to claim that God said something that He in fact did not say (even if that something is true). So if you write “hydrogen is the lightest atom” in the back of your Bible and call it God’s Word, that would be sin. The proposition is true, but to add it to God’s Word is sin because you are claiming that God said something that He in fact did not say.

            The Bible was written by men who had revelation from God; any description of known facts about nature would be in that same category.

            Dr. Lisle: No, descriptions of known facts about nature are not in the same category as Scripture. Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 4:11). Descriptions of known facts about nature are not. What we accept as a known fact about nature may be tested, and in some cases may turn out to be false. Conversely, it is immoral to test Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:16; Matthew 4:7), and Scripture cannot ever turn out to be false (Psalm 119:160).

            “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.”

            It’s true that some ideas which are presumed to be “facts” turn out to be false. However, there comes a point where we can directly observe a phenomenon, and at that point, it’s apparent that scientific hypotheses are either true or false.

            Dr. Lisle: No. We can directly observe sunrise and sunset, and can therefore see that the sun circles the earth every 24-hours. Yet, it doesn’t. The Bible is more trustworthy than hypotheses based on our own sensory experiences, because the Bible is the infallible Word of God. Our fallible understanding of a fallen world is simply not comparable. To put our understanding of our observations of nature on the same level as God’s Word is erroneous and unethical. We dare not go around “teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Matthew 15:9).

            For example, astronauts on board the ISS can easily tell that the earth is round. Something that has been verified by observations to that degree is factual, and can thus be considered a part of God’s general revelation to us.

            Dr. Lisle: Several problems here. First, general revelation is defined to be that revelation from God which is available to all people at all times. Views from the I.S.S. do not fall under that category. Second, the roundness of earth is actually special revelation, because the Bible mentions it (Isaiah 40:22; Job 26:10). Third, there have been many verified observations that were considered factual, and later found to be false. Fourth, even if a verified observed fact turns out to be genuinely true, it is still not God’s Word, unless it is also mentioned in the Bible.

            3) “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 I said that facts from General Revelation are “clear”, I didn’t meant that they are self-evident or apparent.

            Dr. Lisle: But that is what “clear” means, and that is precisely the problem. It is entirely illogical to take claims about nature that are not self-evidence and apparent, and use such claims to dictate how we should interpret the clear words of Scripture. The main teachings of God’s Word are clear precisely because they have been communicated in human language.

            I meant that their implications are clear. It becomes clear from our observations of redshift that God created a universe which expands. It’s clear that God created earth round because of our scientific observations. In other words, General Revelation is clear in its implications about God’s act of creation.

            Dr. Lisle: If the facts of nature are themselves unclear, how can their implication be clear? Furthermore, the implications are not nearly as clear as you seem to think. The astronomers who first measured galactic redshifts were very doubtful that the universe was expanding, and produced a variety of other explanations. Some scientists still doubt this. Do a search for “tired light”, “c-decay”, or Hartnett’s latest model as a few examples. I suspect that expansion is the right explanation for redshift; but it is possible that this explanation is wrong. So do you see why it would be dreadfully unbiblical to elevate such claims to the level of Scripture? We dare not interpret God’s Word according to the fallen understanding of a fallible interpretation of nature.

            And again, the roundness of Earth is mentioned in Scripture, so let’s pick another example. The fact that electrons surround the nucleus of an atom seems very well established. But is it infallible truth on the same level as God’s Word? No. It is also not general revelation because it was not known to all people at all times.

            4) “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)?”

            No, we shouldn’t reinterpret that passage.

            Dr. Lisle: I’m glad you see that. But it is inconsistent with your previous statement that we should allow science to dictate how we ought to interpret the Bible. Science can demonstrate fairly conclusively that people cannot walk on water. Should we take this as “general revelation”, and write in the back of our Bible “people cannot walk on water”? If so, then we would have to re-interpret Matthew 14:25-26 as non-literal. I’m happy that you don’t, but it is inconsistent with what you have been claiming.

            However, when I said that science can dictate how we interpret the Bible, what I meant was that, if you have two equally valid interpretations of scripture, you should go with the one that makes the most scientific sense, since God tells us that General Revelation reveals knowledge to us (Psalm 19: 1-2).

            Dr. Lisle: First, there is no such thing as “two equally valid interpretations of Scripture.” There is exactly one correct interpretation of any given Scripture: the interpretation that the Bible itself gives. This is not a trivial point, but is central to this discussion. The Bible is its own best interpreter, and gives many examples of correct interpretation, such as when Jesus quotes from the Old Testament. We are not permitted to reinterpret God’s Holy Word to line up with the traditions of men, even in cases where we’re pretty sure such traditions are true (e.g. scientific observations). Jesus absolutely repudiated such behavior (See Matthew 15:1-9).

            Second, I believe that you are still confusing science with general revelation. Again, general revelation is that which is available to all people at all times. I suppose this could include very basic scientific observations, such as the sun shines during the day, water is wet, fire is hot, most things fall under gravity. However, scientific facts that were not known to all people at all times (such as the roundness of the earth, or the structure of atoms) are not general revelation.

            Third, it would make much more “scientific sense” to interpret Matthew 14:25-26 to mean that Jesus was walking on the seashore, perhaps just a little ways in the water so that He merely appeared to walk on water. And yet we don’t interpret it that way. Why? The Scriptures interpret themselves; we understand this section of the Gospel to be recording literal history. So we take it as such, even though the implication violates our understanding of how the universe normally functions.

            Furthermore, it didn’t take modern science for us to know that walking on water was impossible for a normal man. That was known in Jesus’ day. Jesus temporarily suspended the laws of physics to demonstrate himself to be divine. Thus, if we reject that passage of scripture, the theological inconsistencies that would result from that are more apparent than any inconsistencies that might result from reinterpreting Genesis 1.

            Dr. Lisle: Very wrong. First, does the Bible say that Jesus temporarily suspended any laws of physics? More importantly, does the Bible say that He did this to show His divinity? I can find no such verse. Jesus put His ultimate test of divinity on the resurrection, not on His ability to walk on water (Matthew 12:39-40). So, if someone reinterprets only this section of Scripture to be compatible with his understanding of nature, it would have little effect on any other doctrine.

            Conversely, if we re-interpret Genesis to match with what some people call science, Christianity is undone at its core. For example, if billions of years of death and suffering preceded the existence of human beings (as secularists claim), then death is not the penalty for sin. And if that were so, then the whole point of the Gospel is lost. Without a literal Adam, how would we understand what sin is, and why would we need salvation? Apart from a literal Genesis 1:1, how would we know that we owe our existence to God?

            5) “If so, then they were not doing proper exegesis, because the Bible clearly teaches that the earth is round”

            My point is that that’s one area where science could have helped us hone our interpretations to make them more consistent with reality.

            Dr. Lisle: My point is that if you were consistent, you would have to reject the resurrection of Christ, since science has clearly shown that dead people stay dead. You need to decide if it is appropriate to use the opinions of scientists to dictate how the Word of God is interpreted, and be consistent.

            6) “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.”

            However, just as our meticulously crafted ideas about God’s General Revelation can be flawed, so can our interpretations of Scripture be flawed.

            Dr. Lisle: That’s the fallacy of false analogy (and the two-books fallacy) because you have added an extra level of interpretation to the Scriptures that you have not applied to general revelation – a misleading comparison. In other words, to make a correct comparison, you should have said, “Just as our interpretations of man’s ideas about general revelation/nature can be flawed, so can our interpretations of Scripture be flawed.” You left out that we must interpret men’s words when they make claims about nature in order to understand their meaning. Perhaps you left this out because this step is trivial. But for the most part, it is equally trivial with God’s Word precisely because God’s Word is so clear and is self-interpreting. Alternatively, you could have said, “Just as man’s claims about general revelation/nature can be flawed, so can Scripture be flawed.” But then the error would be obvious.

            Moreover, God wrote His special revelation to be understandable. To the extent that it needs to be interpreted, it provides its own interpretive framework. People may not always follow the Bible’s interpretive framework; and we should challenge them to do so. But the Bible’s interpretation of itself is infallible.

            Contrast that with what human beings believe to be true about nature, based on their observations and reasoning. From these observations, we create propositions like “Things fall under gravity.” Since our observations are finite and fallible, and since our ability to reason is fallen, the propositions are fallible. Furthermore, we must then linguistically interpret these fallible statements in order to get their meaning. So ultimately, we are comparing the infallible interpretation of an infallible text, with the fallible interpretation of a fallible claim made by fallen men.

            7) ” 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?”

            No. That’s just the nature of logical analysis.

            Dr. Lisle: No, it is the opposite of logical analysis. It is illogical to test a claim by a standard that is less certain than the claim itself. Suppose you look at a wall, and estimate its length to be twelve feet long. You might check that belief using a tape measure. That makes sense because the tape measure is more authoritative and certain (when it comes to measuring lengths) than an eyeball guess. If the tape measure gives a length of fourteen feet, would you say, “Well, clearly this tape measure is wrong, because I strongly suspect the wall is twelve feet long”? That would be absurd. A person’s guess about length is a lesser standard than a tape measure, and is therefore not in a position to verify or refute the tape measure.

            Therefore, if you believe the methods of science are in a position to test the veracity of Scripture, it shows that you believe the methods of science to be more certain than Scripture. By the way, the Scriptures would not pass such a test. Science has shown that people do not rise from the dead, water does not instantly turn into wine, virgin women do not conceive children, donkeys and serpents cannot talk, braking bread does not cause its mass to increase, and so on. This does not bother me because I know that science is fallible even though it is often useful, and I know that the Bible is infallible.

            You have to use external sources to verify a given source.

            Dr. Lisle: That would only be the case if the external sources were of greater certainty. What you use to validate the Bible is therefore the thing you really have your faith in.

            I agree with Ross’s statement. I would also say, though, that the Bible can be used to validate or invalidate science.

            Dr. Lisle: You cannot have it both ways; that would be vicious circular reasoning. Namely, how do we know that the Bible is true? Science. And how do we know that science works? The Bible. This is one form of the fallacy of begging the question.

            It’s best to form a web of knowledge bases to formulate a more accurate description of reality.

            Dr. Lisle: How do you know? A network of many incorrect beliefs does not produce a correct worldview. Beliefs are hierarchical in nature. We believe p because it is supported by q, which is supported by r, and so forth. This chain of reasoning must terminate in an ultimate standard, because the alternative would be an infinite regress, and we cannot know an infinite number of things. So I must ask, what is your ultimate standard, and how do you know that it is true?

            This naturally involves testing different knowledge bases against each other. As another example, I think that logic is a better tool for determining truth than scientific observations.

            Dr. Lisle: Not that I disagree, but how do you know that? What standard do you appeal to in order to support your conviction that logic is a greater standard than science?

            Yet I would still use observations to validate logic by pointing out that logic never violates what we observe around us. I would use this approach because it’s circular to say that a system is self-confirming.

            Dr. Lisle: Ironically, what you have proposed is vicious circular reasoning. Namely, you trust the methods of science because of logic, and you trust logic because of science. But how do you know that both are not wrong? To what greater standard do you appeal? And how do you defend your ultimate standard? Blessings.

            – Dr. Lisle

            • Jared says:

              1) “If the facts of nature are themselves unclear, how can their implication be clear?”

              I wrote that their implications regarding God’s act of creation are clear. In other words, unclear scientific truths can have theological implications which are clear (since theology is generally more simple than science). For example, the fact that we live on a planet which orbits a star existing within an orderly system consisting of other planets orbiting the same star is an unclear fact, but if you accept the existence of an all-powerful God, then that fact clearly demonstrates that he is willing and able to instill order in his creation.

              Dr. Lisle: Hello Jared. If a claim is not clearly true, then whatever follows from it (its implication) is necessarily uncertain. An unclear/uncertain claim cannot establish anything clearly about God. (e.g. 1 Corinthians 14:8)

              2) “Science can demonstrate fairly conclusively that people cannot walk on water. Should we take this as “general revelation”, and write in the back of our Bible “people cannot walk on water”? If so, then we would have to re-interpret Matthew 14:25-26 as non-literal.”

              That’s a false analogy.

              Dr. Lisle: Actually, it is doing exactly what you suggested we should do; namely, we “take facts about the world… and put them into the back of the Bible as revelation…. In addition, science can inform and, in fact, dictate how we ought to interpret the Bible.” I’m taking a fact about the world (people cannot walk on water), and using that to dictate how we interpret Scripture as you suggest.

              Science can determine whether it’s possible for people to walk on water. It can’t determine whether or not God is subject to those limitations, though. Thus, science can’t tell us if Jesus walked on water, though it can demonstrate that it’s impossible for a normal person to walk on water.

              Dr. Lisle: The Bible says Peter walked on water too (Matthew 15:13). Peter was a normal person and not God. Science has demonstrated the normal people cannot walk on water. Therefore, if science dictates how you interpret Scripture, then you must take Matthew 15:13 as non-literal. If you don’t then you are not being logically consistent.

              It’s different when we are using science to study what has actually occured in the past, as opposed to studying what is possible within the natural realm in the present.

              Dr. Lisle: Actually, science is not equipped to test what has ‘actually occurred in the past’ because science deals with what is testable and repeatable in the present. The past is not testable nor repeatable. That’s not to say that certain methods of science cannot be used to make a guess about the past. But such guesses are not confirmable or falsifiable by the scientific method because they are not repeatable. A reliable historical document recorded by eyewitnesses is the most reliable way to learn about what happened in the past.

              FYI, science is the study of how the universe normally operates in the present.

              For example, the evidence from radiometric dating serves as evidence that the universe is billions of years old.

              Dr. Lisle: No, it certainly does not. Our documented and peer-reviewed research at ICR destroys that claim. Link. Sadly, many Christians believe the secular tradition, and then either reject or distort the Scriptures.

              The phenomenon of starlight reaching earth from distant stars is another example of evidence that confirms the claim that the universe is billions of years old.

              Dr. Lisle: No, it does not. When you understand the physics that Einstein discovered, this oft-repeated claim is indefensible. Link

              This evidence can cause us to check the traditional interpretations of scripture to see if they are flawed.

              Dr. Lisle: We dare not use unbiblical claims about nature to override the clear teaching of the Bible. Jesus adamantly repudiated this kind of unbiblical reasoning. Read Matthew 15:1-9 and consider how Christ might have answered people who claim that billions of years need to be added to the Bible. Perhaps something like this:
              God said ‘in six days’, but you say ‘over billions of years.’ You hypocrites! Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: This people honors me with their lips, the their heart is far away from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.

              Furthermore, if you think that fossils really are hundreds of millions of years old, then you have a crucial theological problem. Fossils are dead things. And if they are hundreds of millions of years old, then you have death occurring before Adam sinned (before Adam even existed). If that were so, then death did not enter the world as a consequence/penalty for Adam’s sin. And if death is not the penalty for sin, then why did Jesus die on the cross?

              3) “Ironically, what you have proposed is vicious circular reasoning. Namely, you trust the methods of science because of logic, and you trust logic because of science. But how do you know that both are not wrong? To what greater standard do you appeal? And how do you defend your ultimate standard?”

              Certain logical principles are axiomatic.

              Dr. Lisle: Well, it sounds like you take certain logical principles to be your ultimate standard for truth. But then I must ask, How do you know that they are true – that they are the correct principles for reasoning? Simply declaring them to be axiomatic isn’t a proof. How do you know that they work in all situations, at all times, etc.? If you arbitrarily assume this, then you don’t really know it, do you? In that case, you couldn’t really know anything that you have derived from them, since they are uncertain.

              How do you establish that your ultimate standard (logical principles) is the correct standard for testing truth claims? To be clear, I do believe that logical principles are an appropriate standard for testing truth claims, but I have a good reason for this. I want to know how you defend your ultimate standard.

              From these principles, we can reason that science is a useful process.

              Dr. Lisle: That would be okay if and only if the logical principles are right. But you have not yet established that. How do you know that your ultimate standard is true?

              Once that has been established, science can be used make observations about the world. When science confirms that the world is orderly and logical, this can demonstrate the usefulness of logic in more concrete ways.

              Dr. Lisle: Consistency isn’t proof. A system of beliefs can be self-consistent and still false. So how do you know that your ultimate standard is true?

              The Bible is not axiomatically true, so other tools (like logic and science) need to be used to test it, since it is less apparent that the Bible is a viable source of truth. My claim is not that the Bible is less authoritative than logic or science, but rather that the efficacy of logic and science in terms of revealing knowledge is more fundamental.

              Dr. Lisle: The Bible teaches that the fear of the Lord (not logical principles) is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7). While I take your point about efficacy versus authority, it still doesn’t make sense to test a greater standard by a lesser one. A lesser standard might be used to discover a greater one, but not to test it.

              When you test something, you are prepared to accept or reject it depending upon whether or not it complies with your standard. Of logical necessity, your standard must be more authoritative than the thing you are testing. So if you really believe that principles of logic are in a position to test Scripture, to confirm or refute it, then it reveals that you hold them to be more authoritative than Scripture.

              4) In a few of your replies to my comments, you have stated that scripture is self-interpreting. Somebody forgot to tell the Apostle Peter, because he talks about scriptures which are hard to interpret (2 Peter 3:16).

              Dr. Lisle: That is the fallacy of irrelevant thesis. Namely, the fact that there are some difficult doctrines is utterly irrelevant to the fact that such doctrines are discovered by the self-interpreting nature of Scripture. Putting it another way, the fact that Scriptures are self-interpreting does not always mean that the process is easy. Furthermore, the main teachings of Scripture are very clear. Peter acknowledges that only some portions are hard (not impossible!) to understand. Peter further specifies that those who misunderstand and end up distorting such passages are the “unlearned” – those who are not well versed in Scripture. For this reason, Paul encourages Timothy to study the Scriptures, so that he may rightly handle the Word of Truth. (2 Timothy 3:9) He warns against accepting what is falsely called knowledge (that would certainly include claims of millions of years of earth history), which have caused some to go astray from the faith (1 Timothy 6:20-21).

              • Jared says:

                1) “If a claim is not clearly true, then whatever follows from it (its implication) is necessarily uncertain. ”

                You’re equivocating on the word “clear”. Because you asked me how facts of nature that took thousands of years to discover are clear, I assumed that, by “clear”, you meant immediately apparent. Now, you’re shifting the term to mean “uncertain” [edit: “certain”]. Things which take a long time to discover can still eventually be found to be true, and this can be found with certainty. The well-ordered nature of the solar system wasn’t apparent until recently. However, it’s clearly true that the solar system is well-ordered, and from that fact in can be inferred that God is willing and able to create order in creation.

                > Dr Lisle: I understand. But please keep in mind the context of our conversation. We have been discussing general revelation – that which God has revealed about Himself to all mankind (at all times). That earth orbits the sun was not always clear in the sense of immediately apparent. So, it does not fall under general revelation. I agree that it is reasonably clear today and about as “certain” as anything in science can be, and that this is consistent with God instilling order into creation. However, (1) I would argue that it is not as clear (or certain) as God’s Word. And (2) it is not general revelation.

                2) “An unclear/uncertain claim cannot establish anything clearly about God.”

                The orderly nature of the solar system may not be clear (as in, immediately apparent), but it is certain. It can indeed be used to infer things about God.

                > Dr Lisle: Since the scientific method is largely inductive in nature, it rarely achieves the level of certainty. But I agree that the modern understanding of the solar system is well-justified. And I agree that we might infer things about God from it. But will these inferences be as apparent and certain as the direct propositions stated in Scripture? I say no. We might infer from the solar system that God likes ellipses (since all the planets orbit in ellipses), that He likes order (since the solar system is well ordered), that He likes little things better than big things (since He made far more small orbiting objects than large ones). Some of these inferences may even be true. But they are fallible propositions created by fallen men, and thus do not compare to the infallible propositions stated in Scripture. And they are not general revelation because they were not known to all people.

                The Bible itself says that the heavens display God’s handiwork. Does that process end with that which isn’t immediately apparent?

                > Dr Lisle: No, but general revelation does. General revelation is defined to be that which God has revealed about Himself to all people at all times. The orderly nature of motions in the heavens was known since antiquity (sunrise / sunset, moon phases, etc.) and implies the power and majesty of the Lord. So that falls under general revelation. But the details of the solar system that were not known to the ancients do not fall under this category. They do imply something about God, but not as clearly as the propositional revelation in God’s Word.

                > Dr Lisle: Additionally, I’m concerned that you seem to attribute such certainty to claims made by secular scientists. History has shown that some things that scientists of the past once considered to be certain are now known to be false. I believe we should have some degree of confidence in the scientific method. But since the method is inductive in nature, and employed by fallen men who create propositional statements about nature, we should not elevate such statements to the same level of certainty as the Word of God.

                3) “Actually, it is doing exactly what you suggested we should do; namely, we “take facts about the world… and put them into the back of the Bible as revelation…”

                Then I gave an example of what I meant by that: it could apply to facts like the fact that the earth is round or the evidence for an old universe. Thus, your analogy to Peter and Jesus walking on water is flawed.

                > Dr Lisle: It’s exactly the same procedure you used. I just gave an additional example. You indicated that science should dictate how we read the Scriptures. Science indicates that people cannot walk on water. Thus, logically, we ought to reinterpret Peter’s walking on water as non-literal. I’m glad you don’t do that; but it is inconsistent with your professed method.

                4) “The Bible says Peter walked on water too (Matthew 15:13). Peter was a normal person and not God.”

                That’s irrelevant.

                > Dr Lisle: It’s very relevant. If we allow science to dictate how we interpret the Bible as you have suggested, then we must interpret Peter’s walking on water as non-literal. You may not follow your own reasoning to that logical end. But that is the necessary logical end of your reasoning.

                I clearly meant that science tells us normal people unaided by God (who, as I said, is not necessarily restrained by the laws of physics) can’t walk on water. Theologically, we know that miracles are possible. So, if we were to write down facts about nature in Bibles, we would have to add the caveat that God can suspend the laws of physics at any time.

                > Dr Lisle: Well, first, we ought not to be writing in our Bibles as you concede below. But aside from this, I agree that God can suspend laws of physics at any time. For this reason, it would be illogical to use science (which describes how the universe normally operates within physical laws) to dictate how we interpret Scripture. Your reasoning here is basically correct, but refutes your earlier claim that science should be used to control our understanding of Scripture. Scripture is God’s Word, and God is not bound by scientific principles. Therefore, science cannot constrain the meaning of Scripture.

                I’ll admit I was wrong to say we could write down facts about nature in the Bible, though. After giving it a bit of thought, I realize the flaws in that line of thinking.

                > Dr Lisle: Very good. I appreciate that.

                5) “Actually, science is not equipped to test what has ‘actually occurred in the past’ because science deals with what is testable and repeatable in the present. The past is not testable nor repeatable. That’s not to say that certain methods of science cannot be used to make a guess about the past. But such guesses are not confirmable or falsifiable by the scientific method because they are not repeatable. ”

                The principle of the uniformity of the natural order (which is a Biblical principle, and which is also consistent with what we observe) means that the laws of physics today are the same as they were in the past.

                > Dr Lisle: But just a few lines above you said, “we would have to add the caveat that God can suspend the laws of physics at any time.” So this principle of uniformity in nature (which I agree is biblical and generally true) does not necessarily apply when God acts in extraordinary ways; when He judges the world by water or fire, when He turns water into wine, when He sends manna from heaven, when He raises the dead, etc. Furthermore, laws of nature describe the consistent (non-miraculous) way that God upholds His creation today. So, obviously these would not apply before creation, or (in their fullness) during the creation week when God was speaking new things into existence – something He does not do today.

                Based upon that, analyzing things like radioactive decay rates and starlight would qualify as science, since both deal with known and uniform laws of physics.

                > Dr Lisle: When such things are used to make a guess about the past, we have stepped beyond the limits of operational science. Be careful not to confuse uniformity with uniformitarianism. We know that radioactivity can occur at different speeds under certain conditions. For example, physicists have been able to accelerate the decay of Rhenium to Osmium by a factor of over a billion in a laboratory. No laws of physics were violated, but rates can change. The assumption that decay rates have always been the same in the past is very dubious, since we know that they can be altered today. And again, the past cannot be subjected to scientific study because it no longer exists. Science proper is the study of how the universe behaves today.

                6) “Well, it sounds like you take certain logical principles to be your ultimate standard for truth. But then I must ask, How do you know that they are true – that they are the correct principles for reasoning?”

                Because it’s self-evident that they are. By definition, it’s impossible to argue for an axiom.

                > Dr Lisle: If that were true, then you don’t really know it do you? Suppose I claimed that the moon is bigger than the sun, and you challenged me on this and asked me how I know it to be true. If I said, “well, it’s just an axiom – you can’t argue with it”, would you accept that answer? Rationality means you have a good reason for what you believe. I contend that apart from Scripture, you cannot justify your belief in logical principles, or their properties (unchanging, universal, exception-less, etc.).

                They are assumed because without them coherent thought is impossible. If they are required for coherent thought, that’s evidence that they are coherent.

                > Dr Lisle: This is better than your first answer, but it still presents some problems. First, it is contrary to your first answer. Namely, you initially suggested that logical principles are an axiom that cannot be argued for, but now you are arguing for them. I’m happy to see you argue for them because that is rationally required. I’m just pointing out that it is contrary to your original claim that they are axioms that cannot be justified.

                >Second, coherency does not equate to truth. A system can be self-coherent, and yet still wrong. How do you know that the logical principles you believe to be true are actually true? How do you account for your ability to know them and their properties?

                >Third, you do realize of course that you are attempting to use logical principles to prove logical principles. Previously you had criticized the use of circular reasoning. So, how do you make sense of this?

                Would you suggest the Bible is a better ultimate standard?

                >Dr. Lisle: Yes!

                If so, how do you know that it’s true?

                >Dr. Lisle: A very good question. The short answer is that the biblical worldview is the only ultimate standard that is able to make knowledge possible. It does so by justifying the existence and properties of laws of logic (by which we connect propositions), uniformity in nature (by which we have some confidence in science), morality (by which we know ethical truths), human rationality (by which we reason), and so forth. Notice that this answer is consistent with the Bible’s own claims in which we learn that knowledge starts with God (e.g. Proverbs 1:7; Colossians 2:3).

                >For a more in-depth answer, I have written a book on this very topic. It is called The Ultimate Proof of Creation. I think you would enjoy it.

                7) “When you test something, you are prepared to accept or reject it depending upon whether or not it complies with your standard.”

                True, and we test the Bible against logic and are prepared to reject it because, as I wrote previously, logic is more fundamental. It’s not a higher standard. Rather, it’s a more fundamental standard.

                >Dr. Lisle: By definition, that would make logic your authority over Scripture. Authority is “the power to determine, adjudicate, or otherwise settle issues or disputes; jurisdiction; the right to control, command, determine.” In your worldview, logic has the power to determine, adjudicate, or otherwise settle the issue of whether or not the Bible is true. So you do indeed take logic to be more authoritative than the Bible. Perhaps your logical principles find the Bible to be “not guilty.” But there is no doubt who is on trial and who is the judge.

                >The Bible however, unambiguously claims to be God’s Word, and thus authoritative over every truth claim, including logic (Romans 3:4)

                The Bible is God’s way of communicating truth to us, so it’s more authoritative than logic. However, it’s not as apparent that the Bible is true.

                > Dr. Lisle: Since the Bible is more authoritative than logic, logic is not in a position to refute the Bible. Rather, logic owes its very existence to the God of the Bible. I want to encourage you to have more confidence in God’s Word, and in God’s capacity to communicate clearly to His creations. And I encourage you to be a bit more skeptical about claims made by secular scientists. I do not advocate rejecting such claims outright, but give them careful thought, and do reject those claims that are contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture. Blessings.

                • Jared says:

                  “I encourage you to be a bit more skeptical about claims made by secular scientists. I do not advocate rejecting such claims outright, but give them careful thought, and do reject those claims that are contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture.”

                  There are some Bible scholars who think that the opening chapters in Genesis can be interpreted differently.

                  > Dr. Lisle: Not for exegetical reasons.

                  For what reason does the young-earth interpretation make the most sense?

                  > Dr. Lisle: It is the only one that is exegetical. The correct interpretation is the one that corresponds to the author’s intention, not your personal preferences. We discover the author’s intention by analyzing his words in their grammatical historical context. When we apply this to Genesis, we discover that it is written in historical narrative, which calls for a literal reading. I have written a book on this called Understanding Genesis.

                  The majority of experts in astronomy believe in big bang cosmology. The majority of experts in biology believe in evolution. It isn’t likely that they are wrong.

                  > Dr. Lisle: This is the fallacy of the appeal to authority. The majority of experts in biology believe that a virgin birth in humans is not possible. Do you reinterpret the Bible’s account of the virgin birth of Christ to match? The majority of experts in physics would say that human beings cannot walk on water. Yet, you have already told me that you don’t reinterpret Christ walking on water to match their expert opinion. So, you are not being intellectually consistent.

                  >I anticipate the objection “But those were acts of God, so the way science normally works does not apply to them.” But then I have to ask, “wasn’t the creation of the universe an act of God?” The Bible explicitly teaches that it was (Genesis 1:1).

                  >I also feel constrained to point out that this shows what you really have your faith in. Unfortunately, it’s not the Word of God, but rather the opinions of men. That is your ultimate authority. The religious leaders during Christ’s earthly ministry also had more confidence in the traditions of men than they had in the Word of God. See how Christ responds to them in Matthew 15:1-9.

                  If there’s evidence that they are wrong,I would be willing to analyze it, though.

                  > Dr. Lisle: There is! See http://www.icr.org, http://www.answersingenesis.org, and for a nice summary, Creation Basics and Beyond. On the contrary, it is evolution and the big bang that are lacking any compelling evidence. If you think you have a good argument for either of these, feel free to post here.

                  However, reconciling scientific understanding and the Bible seems to be the most logical goal.

                  > Dr. Lisle: The scientific position is the biblical position – not evolution or the big bang. That is, what we find in modern science is consistent with what we would expect to find based on the literal history recorded in Genesis. As a few random examples, the decay of earth’s magnetic field, human population growth, the salinity of the ocean, and the recession of the moon are all consistent with creation a few thousand years ago. But these are wildly inconsistent with the secular assumption of deep time. So there is no rational reason to “reconcile” close friends.

                  > So, what you are really attempting to reconcile with Scripture is the secular beliefs about origins – not science.

                  That’s assuming it’s feasible to do so. It seems to be feasible in the case of big bang cosmology.

                  > Dr. Lisle: It is not possible to reconcile the secular beliefs about cosmology with the biblical record because they are antithetical. Secular cosmology is naturalistic at its core, which means it attempts to explain the origin and evolution of the universe apart from God. But the very first verse of the Bible teaches the exact opposite. Moreover, the details do not match:

                  Secular cosmologists teach billions of years; the Bible teaches creation in 6 earth rotations.
                  Secular cosmologists teach that stars formed before the Earth; the Bible teaches that Earth was created before the stars.
                  Secular cosmologists teach that the celestial objects form by natural processes; the Bible teaches that they were spoken into existence by God.
                  Secular cosmologists teach that the Earth formed from a molten blob; The Bible teaches that God formed it from water.

                  So, you would have to modify one of these two stories to make them agree. And the one you modify is the one you don’t really accept as authoritative.

                • Jared says:

                  Regarding the presuppositionalist apologetics method, when it’s said that the Bible is assumed because the makes sense of knowledge and logic, it seems there are two problems: 1) It’s basically no different from saying that logic is axiomatic (an argument which you said was baseless). In the case of logic, the claim is that knowledge makes sense and is possible only through logic. The same claim is made by the presuppositionalist argument regarding the Bible.

                  > Dr. Lisle: There is a difference between an axiom and a presupposition. Axioms are unprovable. However, a presupposition may be provable, but only after the fact. The biblical worldview is a presupposition, not an axiom. It is proved by the impossibility of the contrary.

                  Why is the Bible a better standard?

                  > Dr. Lisle: The Bible not only justifies the existence of laws of logic, but also their properties and the human mind’s ability to harness them. For example, apart from the biblical worldview, how could you possibly know that laws of logic are universal – that they apply everywhere in the universe? How could you know that they do not change with time, that they will work tomorrow as well as today? How do you know that they have no exceptions? And how does the human mind know about laws of logic? You assume these things, and yet the only way to justify them is in the Christian worldview. So, apart from the Christian worldview, you would have no rational reason to trust that laws of logic will continue to work in the future, or in locations that you have not experienced.

                  2) Logic must be assumed o conclude that the Bible makes of knowledge and logic. In this way, my prior claim that logic is more fundamental than the Bible can be demonstrated to be true.

                  > Dr. Lisle: No. You are confusing the chronological order of discovery/usage with logical primacy. Perhaps an analogy would be helpful. As you drive over a hill, a house comes into view. You see the roof first, and then the sides of the house, and finally its base. You conclude that the house has some sort of concrete foundation below the surface, although you never actually see it. Now is the roof the most fundamental part of the house simply because it is the first thing you see? Clearly not. The roof cannot stand apart from the supporting walls, which cannot stand without a foundation. The foundation is the most fundamental aspect of a house – even though it is the last part to be discovered – because it can stand apart from walls or a roof, but they cannot stand without it. Likewise, the biblical worldview is more foundational than the laws of logic that stand upon it. A person might use logic to argue for Scripture, just as the roof of a house implies the existence of a foundation. But that doesn’t make the roof of the house more foundational than its foundation.

                  > Second, logic must indeed be assumed before it is justified – that is always the case with a presupposition. But the biblical worldview alone provides the foundation for the existence and properties of laws of logic, and hence is more foundational than these laws that rest upon it. Take away the biblical worldview, and you lose any rational basis for believing that laws of logic are universal, invariant, exception-less standards of correct reasoning.

                  You’re right that justifying logic by using logic is fallacious.

                  > Dr. Lisle: If that is the case, then how do you justify laws of logic? And if you cannot justify them, then – by definition – it is irrational to rely on them. (Rationality means you have good justification for your beliefs.)

                  Which is why it’s best to say that logic is axiomatic.

                  > Dr. Lisle: If that were so, then your belief in them would be unjustified and hence irrational. That is you have no rational reason for your belief. It’s simply fideism.

                  It’s impossible to argue for logic. But logic is necessary for knowledge.

                  > Dr. Lisle: Do you see the contradiction between these two sentences? The first states that it’s impossible to argue for logic; the second is essentially an argument for logic, e.g. we need it for knowledge. Rational people have a good reason for their beliefs. Do you have a good reason to believe in laws of logic and their properties (one that does not beg the question)?

                  • Jared says:

                    1) “It is the only one that is exegetical. The correct interpretation is the one that corresponds to the author’s intention, not your personal preferences.”

                    And the young-earth interpretation necessarily meets those criteria?

                    > Dr. Lisle: Correct. The grammar and context of Genesis indicates that it is historical narrative, and thus to be interpreted as straightforward history. It is the same style used in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

                    If it is shown that the opening chapters of Genesis contain metaphorical language, then another interpretation might make more sense.

                    > Dr. Lisle: Genesis does not contain much in the way of metaphorical language. Hebrew poetry does. But poetic passages in Scripture are easy to recognize by their parallelism. Genesis lacks all the characteristics of Hebrew poetry. Again, I have a book on this topic called “Understanding Genesis.”

                    The word “yom” can be translated different ways, after all. That alone opens the door for other interpretations of those passages, as it’s best to consider all alternatives.

                    > Dr. Lisle: Any word (not just “yom”) can take on non-literal meanings when used in poetic literature. But Genesis is historical narrative. Thus, the literal meaning of yom is required. And the literal meaning of yom is day. Furthermore, God defines “yom” as when it is light out (Genesis 1:5), indicating an ordinary day, and consisting of one evening and one morning (Genesis 1:5), e.g. one earth rotation. Furthermore, the plural form of day (yamim) used in Exodus 20:11 is always indicative of ordinary days. In fact, Exodus 20:8-11 explicitly teaches that the reason we have a seven day week is because that it how long God took to create the universe and rest.

                    > So, if you are going to read the Bible exegetically (following the rules of grammar and context), then there is no doubt that God really did create in six days – literally. Any other interpretation would necessarily be non-exegetical, and thus contrary to the meaning of the passage. It would be the kind of thing for which Jesus scolded the Pharisees and scribes in Matthew 15:1-9.

                    2) “This is the fallacy of the appeal to authority.”

                    No, it isn’t. The statement wasn’t that the experts are certain to be correct. It was that they aren’t likely to be wrong. That’s a statement of fact, and an example of bayesian logic.

                    > Dr. Lisle: It is the fallacy of appeal to authority for several reasons. First, there are many experts who draw the opposite conclusion. Second, when scientists begin speculating on the distant past, they have left their area of expertise. (Science deals with how the universe works in the present). They are no more qualified than anyone else to talk about the distant past. Third, these same scientists reject the resurrection of Christ. So you ought to argue that “it is very unlikely that they are wrong” in this instance too. But your thinking is not consistent.

                    > By the way, Bayesian logic presupposes uniformity in nature – a principle that cannot be rationally justified apart from a literal, historical Genesis.

                    3) “The majority of experts in biology believe that a virgin birth in humans is not possible. Do you reinterpret the Bible’s account of the virgin birth of Christ to match? The majority of experts in physics would say that human beings cannot walk on water. Yet, you have already told me that you don’t reinterpret Christ walking on water to match their expert opinion. So, you are not being intellectually consistent.”

                    Scientific experts are often wrong.

                    > Dr. Lisle: That being the case, then why do you attempt to reinterpret God’s perfect Word in Genesis to match their “often wrong” claims? God’s Word is never wrong.

                    My point was that it is less common for an idea espoused by an expert in their field to be incorrect, as they tend to know what they are talking about.

                    > Dr. Lisle: Then why do you not conclude that Jesus really did not rise from the dead? After all, modern biologists generally know what they are talking about when they claim that dead people stay dead. Also, when scientists begin speculating on what they believe allegedly happened billions of years ago, they have departed from their field of expertise. Biology, physics, etc. all study the testable, repeatable patterns found in the present world.

                    > This is what is perplexing to me about your way of thinking. When a biologist states, “A virgin birth in human beings is not possible”, he is speaking in his area of expertise. By your reasoning, he is not likely to be wrong. Yet, you don’t reinterpret the Gospels to match. But, when the same biologist says he thinks life evolved over billions of years (something he cannot repeat or demonstrate in a laboratory), he has left his field of expertise entirely. Yet, for some reason, you feel you should reinterpret Scripture to match his beliefs. Why the inconsistency?

                    4) “The scientific position is the biblical position”

                    That’s true. However, science can inform our interpretation of the Bible.

                    > Dr. Lisle: By your reasoning, we should reinterpret the resurrection of Christ as non-literal, since science confirms that dead people stay dead. We should reinterpret Christ turning water into wine as mere allegory, since science shows that water stays water. Science confirms that mere spoken words cannot calm a storm (try it!) So, we should reinterpret the Gospel account of Christ calming the storm as non-literal. Correct?

                    People used to believe that the Bible taught that the earth was non-spherical. Not for exegetical reasons, perhaps. However, it took science to eliminate bad interpretations of the Bible, not because the process of biblical interpretation is inadequate, but because it wasn’t being applied properly.

                    > Dr. Lisle: Yes, I agree with what you’ve written here. A claim made by a scientist may prompt us to double check to see that we have done proper exegesis. But a claim made by a scientist may not override careful exegesis. The same exegetic method that allows us to conclude the Christ literally rose from the dead, also forces us to conclude the God really did create heaven and earth and everything within them in six literal days. Is there external (historical) evidence that corroborates the resurrection of Christ? Sure. Is there external scientific evidence that confirms a young earth and universe? Absolutely! But the reason we know these things for certain is because they are recorded in God’s Word.

                    5) “The Bible not only justifies the existence of laws of logic, but also their properties and the human mind’s ability to harness them. For example, apart from the biblical worldview, how could you possibly know that laws of logic are universal – that they apply everywhere in the universe?”

                    But you have to assume logic to make that argument. So, you have the same problem. The presuppositionalist argument goes in this order: 1) assume the validity of logic, and 2) attempt to use logic to argue that the Bible validates logic. Otherwise, how can the argument be made? Logic still must be assumed at the outset. Therefore, the argument is circular.

                    > Dr. Lisle: I have been trying to lead you to the answer by asking the right questions. But apparently I’m not very good at the Socratic method. 🙂 So I’ll just give the answer outright. 1. An ultimate standard must be defended in a somewhat circular way. You cannot escape that. (See the Munchhausen trilemma for more on this). 2. Not all circular reasoning is fallacious. (In fact, correct circular reasoning is always valid. So you need to give some thought as to why it is that we usually consider circular reasoning to be fallacious.) 3. So, the question is whether or not your ultimate standard is a self-consistent circle that makes knowledge possible. It turns out that the biblical worldview does, whereas any alternative does not.

                    > Kant argued (and I agree) that it is reasonable to hold to those presuppositions that must be supposed even to refute them. I.e., one must use logic to argue for logic; but ironically one would have to use logic even to argue against logic. The latter is self-refuting, and the only alternative is the former. So, I partially agree with your argument for laws of logic, even though it is somewhat circular. But the problem with taking laws of logic as the ultimate standard (rather than the biblical worldview) is that you cannot then justify their properties (universality, invariance, exception-less, etc.).

                    Furthermore, this is an argument that could be made in favor of positions which are completely unrelated to Christianity or the Bible. For example, suppose somebody said that there’s a god who looks like a serpent and has revealed to all of us that there is a god. Furthermore, suppose they said that universal rules of logic come from his nature and that he created uniformity in nature and all other objective standards. This person then said that they had a book given to them by this god, which describes him as a snake. He’s not a trinity.
                    How is this different from the presuppositionalist argument?

                    > Dr. Lisle: Any alternative to the biblical God won’t work. In the hypothetical scenario you have provided, we could never justify the properties of laws of logic. How could we know that laws of logic are universal? A snake is not omnipresent, nor omniscient, so it certainly couldn’t know that. Nor is a snake beyond time, and therefore could never justify the invariance of laws of logic. And since it is not triune, we could never resolve the problem of the one-and-the-many. It is not merely some abstract conception of deity that holds the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Rather, it is Christ (Colossians 2:3)

                    As you yourself have said previously, coherence is not the same as truth.

                    > Dr. Lisle: Correct. However, inconsistency does prove something false. Nonbiblical worldviews inevitably lead to the conclusion that knowledge isn’t possible, which is self-refuting.

                    Just because the Bible makes sense of reality doesn’t mean it’s true.

                    > Dr. Lisle: Correct. However, the fact that the Bible is the only ultimate standard that can justify the preconditions of intelligibility does mean it’s true.

                    6) “No. You are confusing the chronological order of discovery/usage with logical primacy. Perhaps an analogy would be helpful. As you drive over a hill, a house comes into view. You see the roof first, and then the sides of the house, and finally its base. You conclude that the house has some sort of concrete foundation below the surface, although you never actually see it. Now is the roof the most fundamental part of the house simply because it is the first thing you see? Clearly not. The roof cannot stand apart from the supporting walls, which cannot stand without a foundation.”

                    As demonstrated above, though, logic must be assumed in order to argue that the Bible makes sense of logic.

                    > Dr. Lisle: Agreed. But that doesn’t make it more foundational. You would have to use the visible roof and walls of a house in order to locate its unseen foundation. But that doesn’t make the roof and walls more foundational than the foundation.

                    So, the presuppositionalist argument for the validity of scripture rests on the validity of logic. This demonstrates that logic is more fundamental than the Bible (fundamental being defined as “a central or primary rule or principle on which something is based”).

                    > Dr. Lisle: No Jared. Logic itself is only justified in the biblical worldview. I agree that we must use logic to understand this fact, just as we see the roof and walls of a house and conclude that it has a foundation beneath it. But the roof and walls are not the foundation even though we may be aware of them first. Likewise, we use logic before we come to understand its foundation in the biblical worldview. Logic is a reflection of the way God thinks and could not exist apart from Him.

                    7) “If that is the case, then how do you justify laws of logic? And if you cannot justify them, then – by definition – it is irrational to rely on them. (Rationality means you have good justification for your beliefs.)”

                    Rationality means having logical justification for ideas. It’s impossible to logically validate logic.

                    > Dr. Lisle: Your conclusion should be “Therefore, using logic is irrational.” Right? If rational means having justification, and logic (in your view) has no justification, then ironically, it would be irrational to use logic! So, perhaps you need to rethink one of your premises. I suggest re-evaluating #2.

                    Axioms of logic are essentially pre-rational.

                    > Dr. Lisle: If they are before rational, then they cannot be rational. So they are non-rational? Is it rational to believe in something that is non-rational?

                    This means that they must be assumed if rationality is to be considered possible. Thus, they precede rationality.

                    > Dr. Lisle: So how do you justify using laws of logic then? If you can’t justify them (don’t have a good reason for them), but you believe them without having a good reason, isn’t that irrational?

                    8) “Do you see the contradiction between these two sentences? The first states that it’s impossible to argue for logic; the second is essentially an argument for logic, e.g. we need it for knowledge.”

                    The second sentence wasn’t an argument for the validity of logic. It was a statement of the fact that logic is useful and necessary, though it can’t be validated by its own principles.

                    > Dr. Lisle: If logic cannot be justified, then how can we trust any conclusions we make using it? That would seem to lead to the inevitable conclusion that we cannot actually know anything at all. I want to know this: “what is your reason for trusting in logical principles?” How do you justify them? If you cannot justify them, then is it rational to believe in them?

                    • Jared says:

                      1. “Any word (not just “yom”) can take on non-literal meanings when used in poetic literature. But Genesis is historical narrative. Thus, the literal meaning of yom is required. ”

                      A long but finite period of time is a literal meaning of “yom”.

                      > Dr. Lisle: No, it is not. The literal meaning of yom is “day.” (“Literal” refers to the ordinary, most common usage of a term.) God defines days as such in Genesis 1:5 where the text says, “And God called the light day…” He further indicates that this day is comprised of one evening and one morning, which constrains the meaning to an ordinary earth rotation. In fact, this is the same word used in Exodus 20:8 where God commands us to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” The only time yom ever means anything other than an ordinary day is when it is used poetically, such as part of a figure of speech: “The day of the Lord.” We use the same non-literal idiom for ‘day’ when we say things like “Back in my father’s day.” But apart from such obvious idioms, day means day.

                      In fact, as Hugh Ross points out, …

                      > Dr. Lisle: Ah, there’s your problem. Ross is not knowledgeable of Hebrew or of biblical hermeneutics. I have demonstrated this in the book Understanding Genesis. Three chapters are dedicated to exposing Ross’s blunders.

                      …there’s no other word that denotes a long though finite period of time in the ancient Hebrew language.

                      > Dr. Lisle: Incorrect. There are several Hebrew words that denote a long, but finite period of time. Olam means just that and is used that way throughout Scripture, such as in Genesis 6:4, or to describe the ancient hills in Genesis 49:26. Unlike yom, the primary, literal meaning of olam is a long duration that is beyond ordinary perception. It would be the perfect word to use if God had intended to indicate that he created in six “ages.”

                      > The Hebrew word qedem also means “old” or “ancient” as in the “ancient mountains” in Deuteronomy 33:15. It is also used to indicate “ancient times” in 2 Kings 19:25, Nehemiah 12:46, Isaiah 37:26, 45:21, and elsewhere. These all indicate a “long though finite period of time.”

                      >But wait, there’s more! The Hebrew word dôr which denotes a “generation” can refer, in a secondary sense, to time in general and is translated as such in passages like Genesis 6:9 (NASB, NKJV). Furthermore, the Hebrew word tamîd is used for something that is continual (as in Exodus 25:30), but not necessarily forever (Numbers 9:16, 28:3, 6).

                      So, if Moses were trying to speak of six long periods of time grouped according to the segments of creation which were produced during each, he would be able to use no other word besides Yom.

                      > Dr. Lisle: Except for olam, qedem, dôr, tamîd, and so forth, all those Hebrew words that do actually mean a long period of time. But not yom because it never means that when used in context with evening, morning, or a number in any historical narrative passage.

                      > In exegesis, context determines meaning. So when we read Genesis 1, we note that the genre is historical narrative, that each day is bounded by an evening and morning and is therefore an earth rotation. Each day is numbered, and God has just defined “day” to mean when it is light out in contrast with night (Genesis 1:5). Furthermore, God uses exactly the same word for day(s) when He compares our work week with His creation week (Exodus 20:8-11). So exegesis indicates that day means day.

                      So, it’s not true that there are no exegetical reasons to interpret the Bible as such.

                      >Dr. Lisle: No, there were no exegetical reasons in your explanation. Exegesis uses the context to constrain the meaning of a word, and you haven’t done that. The error of interpreting a word contrary to its context due to the way it is used in a different context is called the unwarranted expansion of an expanded semantic field. A modern English example of the same fallacy is: “The Bible says that Jesus rose from the dead. But a rose is a type of flower. So it just means Jesus flowered.”

                      In fact, Isaac Newton used to think that Genesis was possibly teaching an old earth/universe. He entertained the possibility that the days in Genesis weren’t 24 hours long.

                      > Dr. Lisle: I’ve heard that little myth before. But the only documentation I can find to support it was a letter written by Newton in which he closed by saying that he was musing and would not be willing to defend anything he had written in it. Furthermore, Newton verified Ussher’s chronology, which is “young universe.” Finally, it doesn’t really matter what Newton believed the Bible says. What matters (exegetically) is what the Bible actually says.

                      He obviously wasn’t influenced by the secular thinking of his day.

                      > Dr. Lisle: Oh, he certainly was. The ancient Greeks believed in a very ancient universe, and Greek thinking had strongly influenced the church of Newton’s time.

                      Thus, the argument that young-earth creationists often use, which states that old- earth creationists and theistic evolutionists have no exegetical reasons for thinking as they do, but only believe what they do because they capitulate to secular notions, is invalid.

                      > Dr. Lisle: Actually, I think you have pretty well demonstrated that it is perfectly cogent. Why? You have not provided any textual reason to take the days of creation as anything other than ordinary days. An appeal to Newton is not a textual reason. An unwarranted expansion of an expanded semantic field is a hermeneutical fallacy. The fact that yom can rarely mean something other than an ordinary day in certain contexts does not establish that it should be taken as such in the context of Genesis. Conversely, when we do take Genesis in context, we see that God defines the day as when it is light out, and each of the days of creation are bounded by one evening and one morning, which fixes their meaning to ordinary days – the same as our work week (Exodus 20:8-11).

                      Of course, it’s a genetic fallacy anyway.

                      > Dr. Lisle: Your appeal to Newton is the generic fallacy, if that’s what you mean. But the fact that old-earthers interpret the text eisegetically rather than exegetically is not a fallacy, but rather the proper conclusion we must reach when we examine their arguments. I can provide more details if you are interested. But I think you already know this.

                      2. “It is the fallacy of appeal to authority for several reasons. First, there are many experts who draw the opposite conclusion.”

                      But the majority do not. So, the argument from probability still stands.

                      > Dr. Lisle: No Jared. Majority opinion does not determine truth even probabilistically. When Galileo believed that the moon had craters, mountains, and valleys (as he could see them in his telescope), he was in the minority. Does that mean it was likely that he was wrong? Of course not. Majority opinion even among experts does not determine truth. And thus, it is still a fallacy to appeal to authority/majority.

                      3. “Second, when scientists begin speculating on the distant past, they have left their area of expertise. (Science deals with how the universe works in the present). They are no more qualified than anyone else to talk about the distant past.”

                      Do astronomers and biologists not understand space and life (respectively) better than most people?

                      > Dr. Lisle: Sure. They understand how space and life work today. They are not qualified (on the basis of merely their education in science) to say how such things began.

                      Or, would you say that they are no more qualified to make extrapolations from their fields of expertise to understand the past?

                      > Dr. Lisle: Extrapolations into the past are based on assumptions. If the assumptions are faulty, so are the extrapolations. I’m not suggesting that it is always wrong to use scientific methods to make a guess about the past. But such guesses are not amenable to scientific testing, are highly dependent on the scientists’ biases/beliefs about history, and are inferior to recorded eyewitness testimony.

                      If that’s the case, then ICR should hire people of all educational backgrounds, not just scientists.

                      > Dr. Lisle: We do. As one example, Dr. Jim Johnson is an expert on the Bible and is a superb historian.

                      After all, you guys are no more qualified to talk about the past than anyone else.

                      > Dr. Lisle: Not on the basis of our education in science. But we do study the history recorded in Scripture. And our knowledge of God’s Word makes us very qualified to talk about the past – at least those parts of history that are recorded in Scripture.

                      But, of course, you don’t do that. Because scientists understand the tools which can be used to study the past better than most people do. These tools are often inherently scientific.

                      > Dr. Lisle: No. Books of history recorded by eyewitness are far more reliable than guesses made from extrapolating present conditions into the past. Perhaps an example will clarify. Who is more qualified to talk about what George Washington did: an historian who has read many history books that provide the details into Washington’s life, or a scientist (of any sort) who has access to Washington’s remains? The scientist might draw some reasonable inferences by examining the body, and many of them might be correct. But would they be on the same level as recorded history?

                      > Suppose the scientist carbon dates a part of the skeleton and (from extrapolating the decay rate) concludes that Washington was born around AD 1500 ± 150. The historian states, “No, my research shows that Washington was born on February 22, 1732.” Which age estimate is more reliable?

                      As a side note, if a doctor tells somebody they’ve had cancer for three months, would you say that doctor is no more qualified to speak to the past on that matter than anyone else?

                      > Dr. Lisle: I like this example, so let’s run with it. Normally, a doctor would say “You have cancer” (i.e. today in the present). He is very qualified to say that. He might then go on to speculate based on the typical growth rate of the type of cancer and its current size that the person has had the cancer for about three months. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, that might be a reasonable estimate.

                      >However, such an estimate is far less reliable than an eye-witness record. Suppose the patient had an MRI only one month ago and it showed that he was cancer free. His record of the MRI is far more reliable than the doctor’s estimate. In fact, when the doctor learns of such a record, he would likely adjust his analysis and conclude that the cancer is faster growing than he had originally assumed. So you see Jared, I am not against making reasonable guesses about past events by extrapolating present conditions; I simply recognize that such guesses are not nearly as reliable as things that are testable in the present, nor as reliable as eye-witness records. Thus, it would be logically absurd to use guesses based on present conditions to override eye-witness records, particularly when such a record is the Word of God.

                      You’re going to say that this isn’t the distant past. It’s more recent.

                      > Dr. Lisle: No, that’s not what I am going to say. Recent or distant, eye-witness records are more reliable than extrapolations based on present conditions.

                      And I fail to see the relevance of that statement.

                      > Dr. Lisle: Me too. But it’s your statement, not mine. 🙂

                      Clues can be uncovered which can be used to infer what occured in the past in both cases.

                      > Dr. Lisle: True. And in both cases, you will never know for certain if your estimate is right… unless it is verified by an historical record.

                      So, it seems to me that the respective timescales related to these two extrapolations involve a difference without a distinction.

                      > Dr. Lisle: There is no qualitative difference, but there is a quantitative one. The farther in time you extrapolate a process, the less reliable your estimate will be. Suppose you do an experiment growing lima beans. You measure their growth rate when they first sprout. Suppose they grew two millimeters between Tuesday and Wednesday. You expect they will be two millimeters taller on Thursday. That’s pretty reasonable. You expect them to be 14 millimeters taller in one week; that will probably be pretty close. Now extrapolate how tall they will be one thousand years from now. You find that they would be nearly a half mile tall. But that’s absurd. The longer you extrapolate based on a present condition or process, the more likely your conclusion will be in error.

                      Also, to say that “science deals with how the universe works in the present” is to fail to account for fields of study like paleontology or forensic science, which do involve the study of the past. Are these fields not really fields of science?

                      > Dr. Lisle: Paleontology studies fossils in the present. If you then make up a story about how you think the fossil formed in the past, you have left the realm of operational science because you cannot test such a conjecture.

                      Here’s a better definition of science: “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.”

                      > Dr. Lisle: That is a fine definition. Can you observe the past? Can you experiment on the past? Past events are not testable by science according to the definition you provided.

                      In science, if a theory can be tested repeatedly, it can be assumed to have applied in the past.

                      > Dr. Lisle: That is an assumption, not a scientific conclusion. And it is contrary to God’s Word. “Dead people stay dead” is a very good theory and has been confirmed repeatedly in the present. Can you conclude therefore that Jesus did not rise from the dead?

                      If the Bible doesn’t describe a miracle contradicting that theory, then that gives reason to believe it has invariably applied in the past.

                      > Dr. Lisle: Now you’ve made an exception to your previous assumption, which shows that the assumption isn’t always true. By the way, wasn’t the creation of the universe a miracle? If not, I’d like to see you do it. On the other hand, if it was, then it would be absurd to attempt to explain it by present rates and conditions, as you seem to concede here.

                      4. “Third, these same scientists reject the resurrection of Christ. So you ought to argue that “it is very unlikely that they are wrong” in this instance too. But your thinking is not consistent.”

                      It would be unlikely that they were wrong if the resurrection weren’t an obvious miracle. However, the Bible makes it clear that the resurrection was a miracle.

                      > Dr. Lisle: Not that I disagree, but how do you know that? Does the Bible state that the resurrection was a miracle?

                      In contrast, the Bible nowhere says that God miraculously created the universe such that it appears to have aged longer than it actually has.

                      > Dr. Lisle: Who said the universe “appears to have aged?” Where do you get that idea? Was the creation of the universe a miracle? If not, would you please demonstrate it today by creating a universe of your own using natural principles? Please record this on video, because I would love to see this.

                      So, there’s nothing in Scripture to account for the contradiction between science and the young-earth position.

                      > Dr. Lisle: There is no contradiction between science and the young-earth position. Can you think of any actual scientific evidence that demonstrates that the earth must be old without begging the question? On the contrary, all the scientific evidence lines up with the biblical age of the Earth. Take carbon-14 for example. We find it in the remains of organisms that are buried deep in rock layers that evolutionists believe to be hundreds of millions of years old. But the half-life of c-14 is only 5730 years. So, it cannot last that long. Take the decay of Earth’s magnetic field, which has been measured to have a half-life of around 1200 years. That’s consistent with its biblical age of about 6000 years, but wildly inconsistent with even 100,000 years. How long does it take to get Earth’s current population from just two people? Even accounting for disease and higher mortality rate in the past, you simply can’t stretch it for more than a few thousand years. Now I will certainly grant that these lines of circumstantial evidence are not as reliable as the Word of God. But there is certainly no contradiction.

                      > So I have to ask, if God had really created over billions of years, then why did He go to so much trouble to make the Earth seem like its only 6000 years old, and why did He lie in Genesis 1? How do you account for the contradiction between science and an old earth?

                      There is something in the Bible that accounts for the contradiction between science and the resurrection- namely, the presence of a miracle.

                      > Dr. Lisle: I wouldn’t call that a contradiction. Rather, I would say that a miracle is beyond the scope of science. The scientific method was never designed to answer all truth claims. Rather, it is limited to testing claims about the normal operation of the universe in the present. A miracle is – by definition – not part of the normal operation of the universe. Was the creation of the universe part of the normal operation of the universe? (Hint: is it happening today?) If so, please demonstrate it. If not, would it be rational to suppose that God’s method of creating the universe is limited to the means by which He upholds it today?

                      5. “Not all circular reasoning is fallacious. (In fact, correct circular reasoning is always valid. So you need to give some thought as to why it is that we usually consider circular reasoning to be fallacious.)”

                      It’s technically never fallacious. Formally, the only requirements for an argument are that the conclusion follows from the premises (which is always true of circular arguments). Circular reasoning is avoided for pragmatic reasons: A circular argument doesn’t provide any new information.

                      > Dr. Lisle: That’s close to the right answer. But it’s not because it provides no new information that it is normally fallacious. After all, deductive arguments don’t have “new information” in their conclusion that is not contained in the premises. Rather, circular reasoning is normally fallacious because it is normally arbitrary.

                      6. “So, the question is whether or not your ultimate standard is a self-consistent circle that makes knowledge possible.”

                      But earlier, I said we could use logic to validate science, science to validate the Bible, and the Bible to validate the previous two, to form a cohesive picture of reality, and you called this reasoning fallacious. Yet, if it could be proven that all three were consistent with one another, then would that not be a self-consistent circle?

                      > Dr. Lisle: For one, logic cannot justify science because science is inductive and the laws of logic do not (by themselves) justify induction. Apart from the biblical worldview, no one has ever been able to justify induction. So your first step doesn’t work. And while science has some capacity to confirm or show agreement with the Bible, it is not in a position to judge or justify the Bible. And so your second step doesn’t work either. The reason that science cannot justify (be the rational foundation for) Scripture is because Scripture goes beyond the scope of science. Recall from above that science only studies the predictable and consistent operation of the universe, using induction to conclude general patterns from specific instances. But the Bible also includes non-normal actions of God (such as miracles) that do not align with laws of nature. Science cannot – by its very nature – ever justify such things.

                      > Second, your circle is inconsistent with itself. You take logic to be the primary standard for reasoning, by which you eventually conclude that the Bible is true. But that Bible indicates that it, as the Word of God, is the primary standard of truth, not logic. So your conclusion is inconsistent with your starting premise.

                      > Try dropping your first two steps and start with the Bible as your primary presupposition. It can justify the existence and properties of laws of logic, as well as the inductive principle upon which science is based. Then you will have a self-consistent circle that makes knowledge possible. Of course, that only works if you take the Bible exegetically. You will have to drop the old-earth/evolutionary imposition and allow the text to mean what it says.

                    • Jared says:

                      1) “He further indicates that this day is comprised of one evening and one morning, which constrains the meaning to an ordinary earth rotation.”

                      Genesis is the only place in the Bible where “yom” is used with a number and the evening/morning clause. So the young-earth argument that yom used with those qualifiers always means twenty-four hour days is circular.

                      > Dr. Lisle: No, and no. Deuteronomy 16:4 has a number (“seven”) with “day” (and also “first” with “day”) and in context with “evening” and “morning.” Second, the fact that Genesis 1 uses essentially all the contextual indicators for an ordinary day strengthens the claim; it does not weaken it. Suppose I said, “I worked for six days last week, and I really do mean ordinary earth days consisting of six evenings and six mornings, that is: six earth rotations.” Would it be rational to respond, “Well nowhere else does Lisle ever use all these contextual indicators together; so he probably does not mean ordinary days”?

                      In any case, it still seems plausible that the early chapters in Genesis contain metaphor.

                      > Dr. Lisle: There is no indication of such in the text.

                      I intend to read your book to understand your argument a bit better, though.

                      > Dr. Lisle: Good. I hope it will be helpful to you.

                      2) “Ah, there’s your problem. Ross is not knowledgeable of Hebrew or of biblical hermeneutics. I have demonstrated this in the book Understanding Genesis. Three chapters are dedicated to exposing Ross’s blunders.”

                      And do John Walton and Walter Kaiser also lack knowledge on these topics?

                      > Dr. Lisle: No. But they do not interpret the Bible exegetically either, at least in Genesis. In other words, their reasons for rejecting a literal Genesis are not textual/Hebrew reasons.

                      Do you address their arguments in your book?

                      > Dr. Lisle: Yes. Kaiser follows Ross, so his reasons are the same as Ross’s, which I address at length in the book. I don’t think I mention Walton by name, but yes, his mythological approach to Genesis is refuted therein.

                      3) “Not on the basis of our education in science. But we do study the history recorded in Scripture. And our knowledge of God’s Word makes us very qualified to talk about the past – at least those parts of history that are recorded in Scripture.”

                      So why does ICR disproportionately hire scientists? Is that decision arbitrary?

                      > Dr. Lisle: No. People have the misguided impression that science somehow supports evolution or deep time. Therefore, it makes sense for us to have experts in science to refute that claim. Moreover, what we scientifically observe in the present world is consistent with the history articulated in the Bible, even though science cannot prove the past.

                      4) “There is no contradiction between science and the young-earth position. Can you think of any actual scientific evidence that demonstrates that the earth must be old without begging the question?”

                      Radiometric dating is one.

                      > Dr. Lisle: First, I must point out that I asked for evidence. But what you responded with is an interpretation. The evidence would be something that we can objectively investigate. For example, some atoms are radioactive and spontaneously decay into other atoms. This we can confirm in a laboratory. Age we cannot.

                      > Second, I asked for evidence that doesn’t beg the question; so the argument must not assume the very thing it attempts to prove. But any argument for deep time from radiometric dating assumes both uniformitarianism and naturalism: that the universe was not supernaturally created, and that present rates and conditions are indicative of past rates and conditions (hence, no worldwide flood). This presupposes that Genesis is not literally true, in order to reach the conclusion that Genesis is not literally true.

                      I know some research has been done which has supposedly shown that radiometric dating is flawed.

                      > Dr. Lisle: Correct.

                      This wasn’t real science, though, because it was performed by people who set out from the beginning to disprove radiometric dating.

                      > Dr. Lisle: No, and no. First, that’s a “no true Scottsman” fallacy because the scientific method is utterly irrelevant to motives. What the experimenter desires for the outcome does not matter – only the outcome matters. As long as the scientific method is followed, it is science. The researchers that discovered problems with radiometric dating were following the scientific method. Hence, their results are good science.

                      > Second, the actual radiometric dating was not performed by creationists, but by secular scientists. Creation scientists collected rocks that were recently formed in volcanic outflows. The rocks were less than 10 years old. They sent these samples to several secular laboratories and had them do the analysis. Using standard radiometric dating techniques, they concluded that the rocks were hundreds of thousands of years old. The true age is less than ten years.

                      One might imagine what would happen if NASA or Elon Musk and the folks at SpaceX decided to start building rockets based on subjective reasoning of that sort.

                      > Dr. Lisle: It seems to me that the evolutionists are the ones with subjective “reasoning.” I have yet to hear a good objective argument for evolution or deep time.

                      Now, radiometric dating is still an accepted method of dating in science. And that’s for good reason.

                      > Dr. Lisle: Evolutionists accept it only when it gives answers compatible with their beliefs about the past. But objectively, we know it does not work because it gives the wrong answer when we test the method on rocks of known age. Evolutionists arbitrarily assume that the method works on rocks of unknown age. Is that rational?

                      > Also, there are other types of radiometric dating, such as carbon dating, that never give answers that the evolutionists like. For example, if there is sufficient carbon in dinosaur fossils, they can be carbon dated. Without exception, the results are never more than a few thousand years. Do you think evolutionists embrace those results?

                      The main argument against radiometric dating is that it’s based on a random process.

                      > Dr. Lisle: No Jared. No informed creationist would make such a fallacious argument. We do understand statistics.

                      However, the law of large numbers dictates that the probability of random variables varying significantly from the mean is inversely proportional to the number of variables. In this way, radiometric dating is shown to be mathematically valid.

                      > Dr. Lisle: That’s not the problem. The problems with radiometric dating are:
                      (1) We never know (for certain) what the initial conditions are – the initial ratio of parent to daughter element.
                      (2) The system is rarely closed. Elements can move in and out of the rock.
                      (3) We don’t know that the half-life of a given radioactive element has always been what it is today: and there is very compelling evidence that it has not always been what it is today.
                      (4) When we test the method on rocks of known age, it usually gives the wrong answer – far older than the true age. So if we are going to be objectively scientific, radiometric dating is not reliable.

                      In addition, tree ring data contradicts young-earth creationism. There are live trees which are 5,000 years old.

                      > Dr. Lisle: Actually, tree-rings confirm the biblical timescale. Perhaps what you meant is that some trees have more than 5,000 rings – which is true. And perhaps you assumed that only one ring forms per year. That’s often true, but in mild seasons trees can produce two or more rings per year. So, the number of rings in a tree typically exceeds its age in years by some amount. Hence, with the global flood being 4,400 years ago we would expect the oldest trees would have perhaps 5000 rings or a bit more, which is exactly what we find. On the other hand, if there was no global flood, why do we not find trees with, say, 20,000 rings?

                      Noah’s flood purportedly occurred a little over 4,000 years ago (according to Young-Earth Creationists, who also think it was a global flood). Incidentally, tree ring development shows limited variation. So, these estimates are likely fairly accurate.

                      > Dr. Lisle: They are fairly accurate, once we include the fact that some years produce two or more rings. So then the question becomes, “why don’t we find trees with significantly more rings, if there was no global flood?”

                      There’s also historical data that contradicts young earth creationism. For example, Sam Harris makes the point that the Sumerians invented glue 1,000 years before young-earth creationists think the earth was created.

                      > Dr. Lisle: That begs the question. How do they “date” such historical records? Again, the evidence is that we find ancient historical records. But aside from Scripture, no historical document connects the pre-flood and post-flood world through recorded genealogies. Thus, any non-biblical document would require external assumptions in order to estimate its age. Thanks for posting.

  9. 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

  10. Kevin T. says:

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

  11. 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! 🙂

  12. 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.

  13. Lindsey says:

    Hi Dr Lisle,
    I am currently reading this book by CS Lewis, and I thought this section tied in to what you are saying here:

    “Of course the fact that a Christian can so use nature is not even the beginning of a proof that Christianity is true. Those suffering from Dark gods can equally use her (I suppose) for their creed. That is precisely the point. Nature does not teach. A true philosophy may sometimes validate an experience of nature; an experience of nature cannot validate a philosophy. Nature will not verify any theological or metaphysical proposition (or not in the manner we are now considering); she will help to show what it means.
    … We must make a detour- leave the hills and woods and go back to our studies, to church, to our Bibles, to our knees. Otherwise the love of nature is beginning to turn into a nature religion. And then, even if it does not lead us to the Dark gods, it will lead us to a great deal of nonsense.” –C S Lewis ‘The Four Loves’

  14. Brayden says:

    Hello Dr. Lisle,
    I would like to ask a quick question: I recently read an article by Dr. Faulkner on Answers in Genesis in which he stated the raqia (expanse) which was named samayim (heavens) was made on Day 2; the astronomical bodies were place in samayim on Day 4. I read an article by you that stated the universe is expanding. But how can this be? Would the ‘waters above’ be above the universe? If so, how could the universe continue to expand. Dr. Faulkner believes the expansion was a past event. What do you think? What are the waters above mentioned on Day 2 of Creation Wekk?
    Thanks for much,
    Brayden

  15. Nina Ruth says:

    It may just be that I’m a Counselor Troi in a very Spock world, but this article really spoke to my heart:

    https://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=609&cur_iss=Y

    What do you think, Dr. Lisle?

    • Nina Ruth says:

      Met two people yesterday that I was able to refer to this blog. One has an agnostic brother whom I hope will engage in honest dialog here and come to know Jesus because those who truly know Him give reason for our hope with gentleness and respect, as the beautiful article referenced above speaks about. The other met you, Dr. Lisle, when his Christian school came to my church to hear you speak last autumn.

      I’d prayed before work that the Lord would make me the fragrance of Christ and bring about divine appointments, so it was wonderful to see Him orchestrate those conversations, and to be able to have this site to refer their specific questions to.

  16. JJSJ says:

    Dr. Lisle, you have written many helpful books and articles over the years, plus produced several helpful video DVDs (on logic, astronomy, etc.) — but your logical analysis of the “Two-Book Fallacy” is at least tied with the best of all your other Bible-based apologetics scholarship. Thanks for taking the time and analytical attention to explaining this very important issue. May God bless you as you serve Him and honor His Word. > JJSJ

  17. Chris says:

    Good morning Dr. Lisle,

    About 45 minutes ago I started reading this blog post. I am a Reformed Christian who believes that the Belgic Confession is a true (not exhaustive and not infallible) summary of God’s Word. I think Shane misrepresents the Reformed position and you admirably respond to his article well. I also really appreciated how you interacted with Jared. Your well-reasoned and gentle responses demonstrate for the rest of us how to engage in apologetics, etc. I am a principal of a Christian school and I have taught apologetics using “Pushing the Antithesis” by Bahnsen and also your Nuclear Apologetics in my classroom. I am also on the Board of Reformed Perspective Foundation Inc. (www.reformedperspective.ca) and would love it if we could have you come to Canada some time and we would take you on tour across a number of provinces – this topic has become extremely real and increasingly relevant in our churches. I thank the Lord for your work and I am learning from it continuously. May He continue to add His blessing! Much love, brother!

    ps. http://www.creationwithoutcompromise.com is a website of Reformed Christian leaders seeking to continue to promote and defend the very biblical position of six-day creation.

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