“Be Deceitful as your Heavenly Father is Deceitful” (Things Jesus Didn’t Say)

It struck me powerfully as I replied to a comment on a recent post featuring an infographic about the age of the Earth, that there is indeed a resemblance that appears between a deity and his or her worshipers, as one might and indeed should expect.

In the case of young-earth creationists, the resemblance is deception and dishonesty.

Think about it. Young-earth creationists claim to worship and serve a God who placed evidence in creation all of which agrees in pointing to a very ancient universe and a still really old planet Earth, and who rewards those who are willing to disbelieve the evidence the Creator placed in creation because they believe that, in a separately-published series of literary works, he revealed to them that he was kidding.

Is it any surprise, then, that the young-earth creationists who claim to serve such a God are themselves guilty of deceit, dishonesty, misrepresentation, and everything else that falls under the broad category of lies?

By contrast, Jesus is recorded as having said “Be perfect…as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

Choose ye this day whom you will serve. The God of young-earth creationists is clearly not the God of Jesus Christ.

 

  • http://www.facebook.com/dan.ortiz.54 Dan Ortiz

    CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP…. Truer words never spoken… Thank you James

  • http://www.facebook.com/djeaton Daniel Eaton

    When folks like AIG and ICR still sell books with moon dust and dino footprint arguments in them (or don’t argue with those that do), they can no longer make the case that they have integrity on their side. The whole way that Whitcomb and Morris covered up the origin of the ideas on The Genesis Flood set the stage for “deception for Jesus” that continues to this day.

  • Bilbo

    James: “Is it any surprise, then, that the young-earth creationists who claim to serve such a God are themselves guilty of deceit, dishonesty, misrepresentation, and everything else that falls under the broad category of lies?

    Are you saying that all YECs are deceitful, dishonest, guilty of misrepresentation and everything else that falls under the broad category of lies? Or most of them are? Or some of them are? Please clarify, as your accusation seems rather harsh.

  • Bilbo

    But aside from the question of how many YECs are guilty of deceit, there is the question of whether one can be an intellectually honest YEC. I’m not a YEC, but I think the answer is yes, one can be an intellectually honest YEC. One could maintain that a YEC interpretation of Genesis is the only acceptable (and honest?) interpretation. A YEC would merely need to point out that the scientific endeavor is an empirical search for knowledge and is constantly being revised. Therefore it is reasonable to accept the YEC interpretation of Genesis and believe that eventually the scientific viewpoint will be corrected to match it.

    I disagree that the YEC interpretation of Genesis is the only acceptable one, but I can see why they might disagree with me.

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Bilbo, the YEC position rejects both what scientists say about the evidence and what scholars say about the Bible. If there were not an embarassingly large number of people who adhere to it, it would be so very easy to say that it does not deserve to be called a Christian viewpoint any more than a scientific or Biblical one. It involves either deliberately misrepresenting the Bible and science, or going along with those who do so without fact-checking their claims, which is not more excusable or less blameworthy.

      The appeal to changing scientific thought is a red herring proponents of the YEC view use. As our understanding has progressed, we have moved from a flat earth to a round one to a slightly ovoid one, and from a relatively young earth to a very old one. Our understanding has improved, and so while there may be further refinements, it is not as though a future discovery will show that the Earth is a dodecahedron – or that it is less than 10,000 years old.

    • http://www.facebook.com/tuibguy Mike Haubrich

      Scientific endeavour is constantly being revised because of newer and improving tools for investigation, data gathering and analysis. YEC’s see it as a matter of scientists never knowing which way is up and making things up as they go along. They rest on the perceived static nature of The Bible because they don’t accept that it ever changes.

  • BestValue

    Your argument attacks a straw man since young-eartth creationists do not worship a God who “placed evidence in creation all of which agrees in pointing to a very ancient universe and a still really old planet Earth.” The young-earth claim is not that the earth looks old, but that it looks destroyed by a global flood.

    Furthermore, the majority of “clocks” which can be used to date the earth point to a young earth with the exception of radiometric dating which implys both flawed methodology and questionable assumptions.

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Ah, but those are two examples of young-earth creationist lies! Look into the effects of flooding, and you will understand why the enormous white chalk cliffs of Dover or the many layers of shale along Lake Erie are not the result of that. Look into what radiometric dating is and how it works, and you will probably realize that you have been lied to by young-earth creationists, and have become complicit by repeating their lies here.

      If you refuse to fact-check these claims of theirs or believe them when they use scientific-sounding language while refusing to listen to Christians who are actual scientists, like Francis Collins, Davis Young and Ralph Stearley to name just a few of the thousands out there, then you are guilty of spreading lies. It is not only the inventors of the lies who a guilty.

    • rmwilliamsjr

      re:
      the majority of “clocks” which can be used to date the earth point to a young earth with the exception of radiometric dating which implys both flawed methodology and questionable assumptions.

      afaik there are no legitimate scientific data supporting a young earth.
      see http://biologos.org/blog/how-do-we-know-the-earth-is-old-infographic

      if you can show those “flawed methodology and questionable assumptions” you would earn a nobel in physics. write up that paper today.

  • Biilbo

    James,

    So one should indeed understand you to be saying that all YECs are being deceitful. There’s to be no room for honest disagreement. Let it not be said that Liberal Christians cannot be intolerant of others’ religious beliefs. McGrath has just proven they can be.

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      If someone gave you the impression that liberals are about universal tolerance with no qualifications, they did you a disservice and misled you. We are adamantly opposed to injustice. We a adamantly opposed to lies and dishonesty. We are adamantly opposed to people claiming they merely want the freedom to believe as they choose (something most of us support) and then turning around and trying to screw up science education for others, proving that they were not just about kooky religious beliefs they are free to choose however wrong they might be, but doing a disservice to their entire society by trying to foist their bogus claims about science on others by means of an educational system that should be teaching the truth and not lies to our children. Anyone who tries to use “tolerance” to justify such things is truly evil indeed.

  • Bilbo

    Yes, James, we should oppose intellectual dishonesty. But I was under the impression that we should work on the principle of charity, that calls on us to assume the best intentions in those we disagree with, not the worst. I didn’t realize you were onminiscient regarding the thoughts and intentions of not some, not most, but ALL YECs!!! I bow in awe at your overwhelming intellectual powers.

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I’m not omniscient, obviously. If you have a better explanation for why the various young-earth creationists are promoting the same lies as in decades past even though the evidence supporting evolution has increased and they have had ample time to read and take into account those publications which have pointed out their mistakes/lies in the interim period.

      To me, it seems entirely possible that the movement began with mistakes and misunderstandings, and the desperate desire to avoid the truth working subconsciously. But to persist even when those errors are pointed out takes you from the realm of being mistaken to the realm of deception. That they may have deceived themselves before deceiving others is entirely possible. I know that I genuinely believed I was right when I was a young-earth creationist. But it is not excusable that I helped spread misinformation before I had adequately informed myself about the relevant scientific fields and evidence. And so I write on this topic first and foremost as a repentant sinner, not an omniscient person who wishes to be uncharitable. I cannot be more charitable because I know what I helped spread and how I came to realize my own culpability.

  • Bilbo

    Two responses, James. first one from a YEC scientist, with whom I shared your posting:

    “If McGrath’s central thesis that worshippers resemble their deities
    is correct (which I seriously doubt), then the god of James McGrath
    must be a divisive, belligerent jerk.

    Not the sort of deity I care to worship.” I agree wholeheartedly with his thoughts.

    The second from me: I am not a YEC. I took for granted that mainstream science has it right on the question of the ancient age of the Earth, and that there are legitimate ways to interpret Genesis that are consistent with that view. So I’ve never bothered to thoroughly investigate the issue. I assumed that YECs were mistaken, but except for the ones who insisted that I was guilty of heresy, I was willing to be at peace with them. But now you have inspired me to thoroughly investigate their claims. It wasn’t an area that I had wanted to study, but I will study it now, just because I want to tell a divisive, belligerent jerk where he can stuff his unwavering faith that mainstream science could never be wrong on such a question.

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Your friend sounds charming. I take the stance I do because I used to be a young-earth creationist, and when eventually I investigated the claims made by its proponents I discovered I had been lied to, and had in turn helped perpetuate those lies. So I have no problem with you investigating their claims in detail. In fact, I expect that when you do, you will understand why I find that stance so antithetical to all things Christian.

  • Bilbo
  • Bilbo

    Hi “DBJ,”

    “Charming”? Well, yes. When compared with someone who makes sweeping, disparaging generalizations such as yourself, most people would seem charming. I’ve begun my YEC reading. Some of it seems rather impressive.

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I can fully understand that reaction, as some of it seemed impressive to me too, until I looked to see what mainstream scientists (including those who are Christians) had written about those topics. Then it became clear that YEC literature is lies with a veneer if science aiming to give credibility to claims at are bogus.

      May I suggest that your investigation of their claims might usefully include the book by Young and Stearley, The Bible, Rocks, and Time and Ken Miller’s Finding Darwin’s God?

  • Bilbo

    Thanks for the book suggestions. I have Miller’s, but skipped what he had to say about YECs since I wasn’t one. I’ll look for a copy of Young and Stearly.

  • Bilbo

    BTW, does either book address Baumgardner’s “Catastrophic Plate Tectonics”?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      The Bible, Rocks, and Time does.

  • Bilbo
    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I do not know his specific views well enough to say. He may well be rather like Todd Wood, who is a young earth creationist but honestly admits that the scientific evidence does not support his views, which I consider commendable, but he is the only such person I know of in the movement. But I certainly consider pursuing a PhD to gain a credential which will allow you to turn around and denigrate or undermine that field is extremely problematic. Others have done that, although many more have left the YEC movement as a result of exposure to actual science. But as some ocmmenters on the article you linked to said, so must I say too. I have not attended Ross’ classes, and so all I can say is that he is promoting a viewpoint which is typically based on lies and misinformation, In order to be more specific about his role, I would need to know what he tells his students and probably much else besides.

  • Bilbo
    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Do you deny that people who are quite wonderful human beings and brilliant minds in their own domain of expertise can still be fundamentally mistaken and guilty of self-deception about the matter, which they may then spread to others precisely by virtue of their great talent or personality or kindness or whatever? We are human, and we are fallible. But precisely because the chief proponents of young-earth creationist maintain it is the only Christian viewpoint, I have emphasized the ways in which it is, in its essence, fundamentally incompatible with Christianity. When I was a young earth creationist, I was one out of Christian zeal. But with hindsight I can say that I was spreading lies, not because I was a deliberate liar but because of insufficient investigation and excessive arrogance on my part. It can happen to anyone, although many people are wise enough to fact-check, investigate and withhold judgment where in other cases fools such as I was (and perhaps still am in some matters) rush in. But whether insufficiently cautious or deliberately self-deceived or something else, those who spread information that is verifiably untrue are still culpable, and perhaps more so when they use their great achievement in some other area to spread misinformation about a field that is not their area of expertise.

  • Bilbo

    And all these scientists are liars, also, no doubt?

    http://creation.mobi/article/4983/

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Don’t forget the liars who put together that list, hoping that accumulating a large number of credentialed people would win public opinion even though the majority of people on the list are not experts in fields relevant to determining the status of evolution as a scientific theory.

      Are you familiar with Project Steve, mainstream science’s answer to the “dissent from Darwin” list?

      Are you aware that the list of supposed dissenters is bloated with people whose dissent from Darwin is only that which all biologists today have, because of the wording of that which they were given to sign? I could sign it myself! That list is itself part of the campaign of deception.

  • Bilbo

    James,

    Let’s make a distinction, then, between people who:

    1) know that what they profess as true is in fact false.

    2) do not know that what they profess as true is in fact false.

    Let’s call people in the first group liars, deceivers, etc. Let’s call people in the second group the deceived. It would be unfair to brush the people in the second group with the same paint as people in the first group. As far as I can tell, your opening post starts out brushing both groups with the same paint. It is only as I have pushed you that you have begun to separate out who should be called a real deceiver and who shouldn’t. But let’s take it further:

    2a) do not know that what they profess as true is in fact false, and have not studied the matter sufficiently to know it.

    2b) do not know that what they profess as true is in fact false, and have studied the matter sufficiently to know it, but believe that there is additional information that shows that what they profess as true is in fact true. or is probably true, or could be true.

    Now I believe that there are many people in either group 2a or 2b. I would not label either group as deceivers. But apparently you would? But don’t all of us often fall into either 2a or 2b regarding other matters? Would we want to be judged as harshly as you have judged YECs?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Well, I don’t apply that distinction to myself. I was deceived, but if I had taken the time to look into the matter properly first, before using antievolutionary claims and arguments in sharing my faith with others, then I would not have been potentially guilty of dragging others into that same deception.

      So maybe “liars” is not the most apt term. Would “promulgators of deception” or “purveyors of misinformation” be better?

  • Bilbo

    Yes, that would be better. But you are assuming, of course, that with regard to YECism, there are not people in group 2b. Now I’m not sure how you would know that without some sort of psychic omniscience.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I believe that such people will fall into one of two categories, with a third into which I can only place one individual and thus which is probably largely irrelevant. In one category would be those who are capable of understanding the scientific arguments, and who wilfully disbelieve the evidence. In the other would be those who are not capable of understanding the scientific arguments and evidence or simply do not have or do not make the time to adequately inform themselves. I do not consider people in the latter category, when they help spread misinformation, to be non-culpable. If you do not know enough to decide, you should not promote one side, and to the extent that you provisionally accept something, it should reflect the consensus of experts. A person who does not know enough to see through false claims about science should not be adopting a stance against science.

      The third category is of course Todd Wood, who admits that the evidence does not support his view and manages to live with the tension. I disagree with his YEC stance but admire his honesty about the evidence. He seems to be quite literally in a class by himself.

      But at any rate, my main point is that I consider myself and others responsible to avoid allowing ourselves to be deceived and to not spread information about a topic regarding which we do not have expertise sufficient to justify our doing so.

  • Bilbo

    So I’m correct in thinking that you do not believe there are any people in 2b. Again, I’m not sure how you know this without being psychically omniscient.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Can you give an example? If something is verifiably false, and someone teaches that it is true, I am not sure how much distinguishing between whether they are mistaken, deceived, or deliberate deceivers makes all that much difference. My point is that the teaching of falsehood should stop and should be regarded as incompatible with Christianity.

  • Bilbo

    Well, according to you YECism is verifiably false. Yet there are scientists who say they believe that there is evidence that weakens or refutes the view that we live on an old Earth and evidence that strengthens or verifies the view that we live on a young Earth. We could say that they don’t really believe these things, but deceptively teach them. But I think that would require mind-reading abilities that I confess I lack. A charitable view would be that they are sincere in their beliefs. Should they stop teaching YECism, even though they sincerely believe it to be true? Well, if they are mistaken, yes they should. Does calling them liars and deceivers make them realize that they are mistaken? From the reaction of the one YEC scientist that I shared your post with, I would say, no it does the opposite. It makes them see us as the ones who need to do the repenting. Heck, it made me want to be a YEC, just to spite you. I suggest a more conciliatory approach, as Biologos is attempting to do. But if you think brandishing your sword and chopping off ears will make people hear better, I guess I can’t stop you.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      According to the evidence YEC is verifiably false. their claims do not fit the texts in Genesis they say they are based on. They do not fit the geological evidence. They do not fit the genetic evidence. They do not fit the astronomical evidence. And unfortunately, experience has taught some of us that if our language is too conciliatory, we will be quoted out of context by these deceivers in order to give people the false impression that eree is genuine scientific controversy and disagreement over this.

      I have blogged quite a bit about this subject in the past, and perhaps the time has come to do another round-up…

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2009/02/the-chalk-cries-out.html

  • Bilbo

    So instead of risking rational discourse with YECs, because they will misuse it as evidence that you think their views are somehow scientific, you think it’s better to call them liars and deceivers, even though you have no more mind-reading ability than I do. Or are you claiming that you do have such mind-reading abilities? We could have a scientific controversy about that, if you want.

    And what does calling them liars and deceivers get you? A bunch of liberal Christians cheering for you and a bunch of conservative Christians booing you. That sounds like someone who is being a “divisive, belligerent jerk,” to me.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Bilbo, the only disagreement between us, I thought, is about whether some gullible people actually believe YEC claims and so are victims rather than liars. There are certainly many people in that category. Those who have not helped spread the deception, but have themselves been taken in, are indeed in a different category than the liars who know better and the “purveyors of deception” who could and should know better,

      Why exactly are you defending a movement that would have to claim that, in the midst of a worldwide flood, God created, killed, and compressed billions of microorganisms to make the chalk cliffs of Dover and many other chalk beds around the world, and then maintain that God dislikes the fact that people take his handiwork at face value? Why are you defending people who will cite the Human genome Project when it suits them, and yet deny the theory that inspired it and the confirmation of that theory that the project provided? What is wrong with caling this movement a deception and its promulgators charlatans? If it is only that I seemed to be making its victims guilty, then I do apologize for giving that impression. My post was aimed at those who spread this garbage and drag Christianity’s reputation through the mud by claiming that their faith requires this dishonesty from them. I am saddened for their victims, and had no intention of pointing the finger. Indeed, the reason I am so adamant is because too many people have been taken in and even given money to they purveyors of these deceptions, and I think it is right adn necessary to stand against them, precisely to minimize the number of future victims of their scam.


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