Often, we at the Biblical Science Institute will analyze and refute arguments posed by Bible-critics. This is part of our responsibility as Christians (2 Corinthians 10:5). The purpose here is not to demean or embarrass the critic, but to show the absurdity of unbiblical thinking for the benefit of those who are trapped within it and for the encouragement of Christians who have been freed from such anti-rational futility. These examples may help other Christians to defend the faith more effectively. That being said, anti-biblical, anti-scientific comments by the critics are often ridiculous and probably are embarrassing when exposed as such. I pray that their refutation will encourage critics to be more honest and scholarly in their claims, rather than mindlessly parroting what they have heard other critics say.
Below are two internet exchanges I have had with Bible critics. The first critic (Nicholas) is a geology professor at Columbia University. He strongly believes that the earth is billions of years old, and began rebuking me for believing otherwise. Unfortunately, he was either unable or unwilling to provide any scientific evidence (or any rational argument whatsoever) for his position.
The second critic preferred to remain anonymous (which is fine) and has criticized my position on slavery as discussed in my blog article here: God’s Law: too Harsh?. The problem here is that many people assume that biblical slavery was like the anti-biblical brutal/racial slavery practiced in some areas of the United States. It wasn’t. The biblical system of slavery was designed to help a financially irresponsible person to get out of debt by paying it off for him, training him to become responsible, and giving him sufficient startup capital to begin his own business. The critic doesn’t like this, but has no rational basis on his unbiblical system for making any moral claims whatsoever. Here are the conversations, with my comments in blue.
|Nicholas: Jason’s difficulty is that none of what he is saying is true. It’s contradicted by readily checked evidence.
Dr. Lisle: Evidence, such as…?
Nicholas: There was no creation in six days, no Adam, no Eve, no fall, no global flood.
Dr. Lisle: And you know this how? Were you there? Since these events are part of recorded history, it would take some pretty spectacular evidence to refute them. So where is it?
Nicholas: At stake here are not different assumptions or world views.
Dr. Lisle: So you have the same assumptions and worldview that I have?
Nicholas: It is Jason’s assumptions that are demonstrably not true.
Dr. Lisle: You previously stated that it’s not about different assumptions; but now you want to argue that my assumptions are false? Make up your mind please. You are welcome to attempt to disprove my presuppositions/worldview, but you will need some kind of rational argument. Just repeating the claim accomplishes nothing.
Nicholas: The great antiquity of the Earth is required by the huge array of events preserved in crustal geology, a history that even an undergraduate can appreciate if he or she takes the trouble to look.
Dr. Lisle: Can you provide a single example? My colleague Dr. Tim Clarey has been studying geological megasequences for years, and all the evidence he’s finding confirms a global flood – not deep time. If the rocks were billions of years old, then why do we find measurable amounts of c-14 in the remains of many things within them, such as coal, dinosaur tissue, and diamonds? (C-14 has a half-life of 5730 years). It seems to me that the youth of the earth and the global flood are quite obvious from geology to even an undergraduate who takes the time to look at the evidence and actually think about it.
Nicholas: When Jason claims, as he often does, that we are all looking at the same facts, he distorts reality.
Dr. Lisle: So you are looking at different facts than I am? I am looking at fossils, and rock layers, canyons, and so on – the geology of Earth. If you are not looking at the same facts, then what exactly are you looking at?
Nicholas: Creationism depends upon ignoring most of what is known and misrepresenting the rest.
Dr. Lisle: Actually, I embrace everything that is actually known. What I reject are bald assertions that are not backed up with evidence – such as yours. With respect, it seems to me that you are the one ignoring the evidence, such as c-14 in diamonds, global scale catastrophic geological deposition, etc.
Nicholas: He will disagree. So I challenge him to put his faith on the line, to test his beliefs, to join me in the field to examine that which he denies.
Dr. Lisle: Ironic. I was just thinking that about you. I challenge you to actually demonstrate particles-to-people evolution or deep-time scientifically. Don’t just make sweeping rhetorical assertions, but provide an actual experiment with an appropriate control group that will actually demonstrate either particles-to-people evolution or the alleged antiquity of the earth. So far, no evolutionist has been able to do either of these. But I challenge you to be the first to “put his money where his mouth is.” We creationists do test our models by data, and so far the data confirm recent creation, for example:
Nicholas: He will ignore the challenge, and likely delete this post,…
Dr. Lisle: Yes, everyone can see that I have deleted this post. 😉
Nicholas: …because like all creationists he is threatened by the possibility that he might be wrong.
Dr. Lisle: Again, you seem to be projecting. After all, you haven’t presented any evidence whatsoever to back up your assertions. It’s all just very emotional rhetoric. Are you really so threatened by the possibility that you might be wrong?
Nicholas: Jason may have earned a PhD in astrophysics. He appears not to have internalized the essence of science – an approach to inquiry that depends on testing explanations against data, not fitting data to predetermined conclusions.
Dr. Lisle: My irony-meter just exploded. Don’t you see, Nicholas, that you are the one that has failed to test any of his explanations against data. You didn’t present any evidence whatsoever in your message. None. You simply made assertions. Is that how you think science is done? You have a story that you strongly believe, and it appears that you are merely fitting data to your predetermined conclusions. For example, has it even occurred to you that the reason there is all this evidence of a young earth (e.g. c-14 in everything with carbon, genetic clocks, etc.) is because the Earth really is young? Or do you simply dismiss such data or attempt to fit them into your predetermined conclusions?
|Critic: Lisle said: “Yes, the type of slavery advocated in Scripture (helping an irresponsible person get out of debt by paying all his debt and training him to become financially responsible) is morally right”
Lisle seems to be ignoring the fact that people get into debt for many other reasons beside their own “irresponsibility” (ie. medical debt)…
Dr. Lisle: No. Although slavery was an option available for any kind of debt, medical debt was not likely to have occurred in the Old Testament administration. But even today, it is the obligation of the church and individuals to help those – who through no fault of their own – need help (James 1:27, Matthew 25:34-46, Isaiah 1:17). The biblical form of slavery was a benevolent system designed to provide for those who were hopelessly in debt to help them get out of debt. It was very different from the racial and often brutal slavery seen in other places.
Critic: Other problems with your view, Lisle, as brought up by a smarter person than me:
1) That isn’t the only type of slavery in the Bible. That’s the type of slavery you could use for other Jews. When applied to people captured in war or gentiles it was a form of oppression, not a repayment of debt.
Dr. Lisle: No. God allowed the Israelites, in some cases, to take slaves of conquered people-groups so that those people could repay their debt to Israel. These people-groups had been squatting on land that belonged to Israel without paying any rent for decades or even centuries. They owed massive back-rent.
Critic: Foreign slaves were slaves for life.
Dr. Lisle: Again, no. Even foreign slaves were freed once their debt was payed. Why did you think otherwise? The Hebrews, as God’s chosen people, had special obligations and privileges; one of those privileges was that a Hebrew slave was released after seven years even if his debt had not yet been fully repaid. Foreign slaves would have to pay their debt in full to be freed.
Critic: 2) Repaying a debt is one thing. Being a slave is quite another.
Dr. Lisle: One is a subset of the other. Namely, becoming a slave is one way to repay a dept. It is a last resort for people who have nothing left to repay with, so they must repay with themselves.
Critic: You can’t beat someone to repay a debt.
Dr. Lisle: Slaves were not beaten “to repay a debt”, and so this is a ridiculous straw-man argument. You continue to misrepresent the biblical position. Slaves were only allowed to be beaten if they continued to act irresponsibly or sinfully. A good, loving father spanks his child when the child disobeys so that the child learns to become responsible. Only a wicked father would withhold appropriate discipline.
Critic: You can beat a slave so long as they don’t die in a couple days from the beating.
Dr. Lisle: Wrong. Under biblical law, slaves can only be punished if they act wickedly. And that punishment must not cause any actual damage. Slaves were not allowed to be mistreated under biblical law, or they were immediately freed and their debt was considered paid in full.
Critic: You can make a slave do things that violate their rights…
Dr. Lisle: What?! First, what do you mean by rights? That is a creationist concept, incompatible with an evolutionary worldview. Bags of chemicals do not have rights. And thus, neither would humans if we were merely the accidental result of chemistry acting over time. Humans do have rights because we have been endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. By the way, we do not have the right to food without work (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
Second, where in Scripture do you see any law that says that masters were allowed to violate the rights of their slaves? Not only is there no such verse, but there are verses that protect the rights of slaves, such as Exodus 21:26-27. The text of Scripture is very different from your mischaracterization of it.
Critic: …, whereas someone who’s doing community service work or doing chores for someone to repay a debt still has the right to say “no” if they’re asked to do something that violates their rights.
Dr. Lisle: I hate to tell you this, but community service work is essentially a modern application of the biblical form of slavery. Indeed a judge will often sentence a person to community service to repay the person’s debt to society. And both modern and ancient slaves of this sort have the right to say “no” if they are asked to do something that violates their God-given rights.
Critic: A slave can be raped and beaten and they’re expected to accept it.
Dr. Lisle: Excuse me, but where does the Bible say that a slave may be “raped” and they’re expected to accept it? Hint: it doesn’t. This is another blatant straw-man fallacy. No one may be raped under biblical law. In fact, God is so against rape that He institutes the death penalty for this insidious crime (Deuteronomy 22:25). And again, slaves may not be beaten in a way that brings actual physical harm, or they are immediately freed and their debt is cancelled (Exodus 21:26).
Critic: A vandal who gets caught defacing a business can sue the business and get the owner arrested if he’s beaten and/or sexually violated.
Dr. Lisle: What a bizarre hypothetical. So someone is vandalizing a business, perhaps spray-painting graffiti on the building, and rather than calling the police, the owner chooses to sexually assault the man? Okay. Well, under biblical law, the owner would not only be arrested, but if found guilty he would be executed.
Critic: 3) Owning a person is never right. Even for a short time.
Dr. Lisle: Whoa! You just made a moral claim. But apart from the biblical worldview, how can you say that anything at all is objectively right or wrong? If people are just rearranged pond scum, why not own another person? After all, you can own pond scum. In the biblical worldview, God ultimately owns everything, including all people. Therefore all people, whether slave or free, have certain unalienable rights. Under biblical law, masters were not allowed to mistreat their slaves, and there were penalties for violations of this. But under any non-biblical worldview, why should any person have any rights at all?
Critic: Paying back a debt and doing thing you don’t like? Fine.
Dr. Lisle: THAT’S biblical slavery.
Critic: Being forced to do your master’s bidding, whatever it is? No. A person needs autonomy, even if they are in debt to you.
Dr. Lisle: Under the biblical system, slaves did have rights and thus some autonomy. They could not be raped or murdered or damaged physically. So the biblical system is quite different from your straw-man misrepresentation of it.
Critic: Lisle said: “You again demonstrate the truth of Christianity by the very questions you ask.”
How does the debate about moral absolutism prove that Yahweh created a garden with a talking snake in it, flooded the world, impregnated a virgin with himself, became a carpenter, died, and came back to life?
Dr. Lisle: I wrote an entire book on this topic. I’m not going to repeat it here just because you are too intellectually lazy to study the issue.
Critic: I’d LOVE to see the train of logic that leads from A to B on that one.
Dr. Lisle: Then you will actually have to read the book.
Critic: What’s to stop any other religion from making the same claim? Try and answer that without circular reasoning and begging the question.
Dr. Lisle: Simple: they cannot rationally justify objective morality. Can you provide some non-Christian system that justifies objective morality without circular reasoning and begging the question. (If you cannot, then you demonstrate my case).
Critic: If we actually got our morality from your holy book, Lisle, then slavery would still be morally “right”, as would killing witches, those who work on the sabbath, etc…
Dr. Lisle: If we don’t get our morality from God’s book, then absolutely anything could be considered morally right: killing babies, racism, theft, rape, murder, you name it.
Critic: Our morality does not hinge in any way upon the christian “god”. In many cases, they diverge.
Dr. Lisle: Your subjective “morality” (what you personally prefer to call “right” and “wrong”) may indeed differ from God’s objective morality. But that’s your problem. Just about all evil-doers think they are in the right. Those who steal believe they have the right to another’s property. Those who murder believe that their victims “had it coming” – that they deserved to die and that killing them was justified. Those who murder the disabled believe they are doing humanity a service. For the most part, people do “what is right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6). And that’s the problem: what many people call “right” is actually objectively wicked (Isaiah 5:20). So when you disagree with God’s law, that doesn’t prove that God is wicked; rather it proves that you are (Ezekiel 18:29). On Judgment Day, there is only one set of moral standards that will matter: God’s. God will hold us accountable to His Law and no other. The bad new is: we all fall short. We deserve eternal death for our treason against God. The Good News is that God offers to pay our penalty if only we will repent and trust in Him.