How Much of the Bible do Young-Earth Creationists Reject?

I have been meaning to blog about this topic ever since Hemant Mehta pointed out that there were young-earth creationists who were mocking flat-earthers for taking the Bible too literally. That hypocrisy continues, as Answers in Genesis just recently posted an article which says the following:

Detractors of the Bible might point to passages like Isaiah 11:12Revelation 7:1, and Revelation 20:8 to claim that the Bible teaches a flat earthBut the phrase, “the four corners of the earth,” must be interpreted within its context, and figurative language must be recognizedWhen the historical-grammatical approachis followed, “the four corners of the earth” is identified as a figure of speech describing the whole word using the cardinal directions (such as on a compass) from north and south to east and westThe passages are all within prophetic books, which are known for using poetic language.

Interpreting the Bible literally doesn’t mean ignoring figurative language of which the Bible is rich (e.g., 1 Samuel 2:8 and Psalm 75:3 poetically describe the earth as sitting on pillars that God founded)After all, if someone says the sun has set, we don’t accuse him of not understanding that it is the earth that is spinning around the sun.

It is not “detractors from the Bible” but honest readers who acknowledge that there is pre-scientific language in the Bible, which its authors and earliest readers would have assumed to be literally factual descriptions of the cosmos. Answers in Genesis turns people who read the Bible honestly into “detractors” by forcing one to choose between honesty and contextual reading on the one hand, and their definition of Christian faith and fidelity to the Bible on the other. As Karl Giberson writes,

In convincing people that Noah’s Flood was a historical event, Ham has done a great disservice to Christianity and thinking people in general. To preserve the historicity of Noah’s story, almost all of contemporary science, biblical scholarship, and ancient history must be wrong.

Randal Rauser reviewed Robin Parry’s book on biblical cosmology and wrestled there with these issues as well. Here’s an excerpt:

Needless to say, the proper response is not to become more fundamentalist than the fundamentalists: a return to the three-tiered universe is not possible for those of us who are familiar with modern science. But then what is the alternative? How should we interpret this bizarre biblical world?

Brad Kramer reviewed Kyle Greenwood’s book on the same subject.

Ben Stanhope has a knack for spotting when young-earth creationists are betraying their superficial acquaintance with and commitment to the Bible, whether in subtle or in blatantly obvious ways. This falls into the latter category, doesn’t it? (Look at the background.)


I came across this quote a while back and have been meaning to share it:

When one carefully examines the argument, one discovers that the biblical view of creation is not being pitted against evolutionary theories, as is supposed. Rather, evolutionary theories are being juxtaposed with literalist theories of biblical interpretation. Even if evolution is only a scientific theory of interpretation posing as scientific fact, as the creationists argue, creationism is only a religious theory of biblical interpretation posing as biblical fact. And to add to the problem, it is a religious theory of biblical interpretation which is heavily influenced by modern scientific, historical and technological concerns. It is, therefore, essentially modernistic, even though attempting, and claiming, to be truly conservative.

A genuine conservatism would, above all, seek to conserve the original conception and concern of the biblical materials-not measure and test it by contemporary canons.

Conrad Hyers (then Professor and Chairman of the Department of Religion, Gustavus Adolphus College) in an article titled “On Interpreting and Misinterpreting the Creation Texts” in JASA 36 (September 1984): 142-148.

I had also been meaning to share this thought:

It is ironic that anti-science creationists want to focus on DNA as information in an effort to argue against evolution. The information in DNA is the strongest evidence for evolution! If you believe that DNA bears information, then you really must accept what that information communicates to us. And conversely, if you are unwilling to accept what the information tells us, then you are undermining your own case that the information in DNA means this or that.

See also Dennis Venema’s piece on the BioLogos website about information, DNA, and intelligent design, as well as Murillo Pagnota’s piece on the use and abuse of information in biology.

Joel Edmund Anderson blogs regularly about Ken Ham and his pseudo-museums, while Jim Kidder blogged about Anderson’s book, The Heresy of Ham: What Every Evangelical Needs to Know About the Creation-Evolution Controversy. Jim also blogged about what young-earth creationists say about evidence concerning ancient native American populations, and the awarding of an honorary doctorate to Ken Ham. See also the interview about the book on the Creation Museum by Susan and Bill TrollingerRighting America at the Creation Museum.

Libby Ann, another Patheos blogger, highlighted the ironic willingness of young-earth creationists to accept super-rapid evolution in order to bolster their overall antievolution stance.

A while back, this chart circulated. It compares the amount of extrabiblical scientific information contradicting the cosmological language used in the Bible and the assumptions of its authors:

Students in last year’s Bible and music class drew this song to my attention, which is intriguing in its combination of certain extrabiblical ideas (God having fun in creating, for instance) with elements of the ancient biblical cosmology that tend to be ignored or denied in the modern era (God placing the solid sky upon the peaks of the mountains):


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  • Tim

    Great post. This is very useful to me, as I am taking my daughter through some dialectic logic right now, and we are discussing the whole evolution vs. creation debate at the moment.

    • James Keegan

      I found two Asimov stories helpful here. The first is the very short “Darwinian Pool Room”. The other is a bit longer and titled “The Last Question”.

      • Tim


  • The Mouse Avenger

    A very well-written, well-research, & well-thought-out post, & one I thoroughly enjoyed reading from beginning to end. ^_^

    For information’s sake, though, I think I should confess to you that I am an Old Earth / day-age / evolutionary creationist who considers the events of the Genesis creation account to be ultimately true in some form or fashion, considers Adam & Eve as the historical ancestors of homo sapiens (divinus?), & regards the Garden Of Eden account as a historical event (albeit certainly much earlier than 6,000 years ago!). I also regard the flood of Noah as a historical event, though I am increasingly of the mindset that it was a localized flood, as opposed to a global one (this website helped me a lot in reaching that conclusion:

    Anyway, I just felt like sharing all that. 🙂 Have a lovely, blessed day! ^_^

    • Neo

      Agreed, and I applaud you, TMA.

      • The Mouse Avenger

        Thank you most kindly! ^_^

    • Matthew

      How do you reconcile the cruelty of the natural world with a loving God? Why would a loving God use such a cruel system to create and sustain life?

      • summers-lad

        Fair question, but irrelevant to the creation/evolution debate.

        • Matthew

          Can you offer any insight(s)?

          • summers-lad

            There is suffering in the natural world, plainly. Everyone, whatever their views on creation and/or evolution, will agree with that. “Nature red in tooth and claw” as Tennyson put it. Whether there is cruelty is a more difficult question, as it assumes intent and probably moral culpability. People can be cruel to animals, and quite rightly can be prosecuted for it; whether a cat can be said to be cruel to a small bird when it plays with it is something I will leave to philosophers to debate.
            Some creationists portray evolution as a cruel system, but I don’t believe so. Any creature (assuming enough future time) is either one whose descendants will eventually evolve into another variation or another species, or will become an evolutionary dead end and become extinct. However, the life of that creature is in no way influenced by these future events. If some creatures prove better fitted to their environment than others, and so become more dominant, that does not imply any cruelty being inflicted on the others. All it means is that some are less successful at reproducing.
            I hope this helps.

          • Matthew

            Very helpful. Thank you summers-lad.

          • Matthew

            Some thoughts from a lunchtime discussion …

            If the system of creating and sustaining life is less than perfect and does indeed involve suffering, and if sin has always been part of the evolutionary process (rather than having been brought on by the sin of Adam and Eve some time later as a result of free will choice), then why would a loving God create such a system?

      • The Mouse Avenger

        Well, hey, hey, hold on now! Can nature be cruel at times? Yes, as can mortal society. But it can also be a very, very beautiful thing–I’d like to think more often than not!

        Also, do you think that, perhaps, it would be more unloving for God to allow animals to overpopulate the land, use up all the resources, & starve to death? Because that’s why God gave us predator animals, you know!

        • Matthew

          Thanks Mouse Avenger. Admittedly, much of the discussion about theistic evolution is very new to me. I´m really just attempting to understand the arguments in favor of this process while processing the problems I have with it.

          Thanks again for the help. You make some good points. I´m not certain I´ll ever be able to fully grasp it all though. I´ll keep trying.

  • Russ Westbrook

    “Figurative language” and “pre-scientific language readers would assume as factual” are hardly synanymous; but the ENTIRE ARTICLE hinges on you not catching that. Not only dishonest, but insulting to the reader.

    • Who suggested they were synonymous? The point is that the flat-earthers insist on taking literally language that ancient peoples would have taken literally, and the young-earth creationists hypocritically criticize them for not recognizing such language as allegedly figurative, while then turning around and insisting that their chosen subset of biblical language is not figurative but must be taken literally.

  • Digitali

    Funny you should use the term “pre-scientific,” to rationalize “creation” as a legitimate theory. Funnier still that you would have an argument with flat-earthers while the theory of creation has few more bases in fact.

    • It isn’t clear whom you are addressing here. I assume it isn’t me, since what you write does not reflect my views. But your comment is not connected to another one that this looks like a reply to, and so I thought I should ask!

  • Bungarra

    Re Noah’s flood. There were some photo’s published in Nature some time ago of what appeared to be the foundations/remains of huts taken from the bottom of the Black Sea. They were near an old water course. During the last ice age the Black Sea was cut off from the Oceans with the lowering of sea levels world wide. So it dried out to a swampy probably salt lake with rivers / streams flowing into the lake. It would appear that humans lived along the rivers. At the end of the Ice age, the Black sea was flooded when sea level rose enough about 6,000 BC to flow into the basin.. Note also that the manufacture of wine is quite ancient and Noah’s demise was due in part to excessive consumption of wine. I guess it was a world wide flood for those at the bottom of what is now the Black Sea.

    • ravitchn

      The biblical authors took all this stuff from Babylonian myth.

      • Etranger

        You are such a f-ing dild0.

      • Bungarra

        Some Australian Aboriginal coastal tribes have stories re sea level rise at the end of the last ice age. I would suggest the Babylonian stories are probably based on observations of Sea level changes occurring at about the same time. My comments re the Black Sea are to suggest that the bases of the Story of Noah seems to fit with events occurring at about that time. However, this is totally at odds with the use of the story of Noah’s Flood by the Young Earth Creationists to claim that all land forms , sedimentary rocks and fossils etc were created in one event. Despite their claims, one sees soils of great antiquity when one digs a post-hole in most places in Western Australia where I have spent some time as an Agronomist.

  • Linguagroover

    Ken Ham really ought to be nominated for a comedy lifetime achievement award. His surname has increased my faith in nominative determinism.

  • JesusIsFakeNews

    Watching you Christians argue over how to interpret your bible is amusing I must say. Particularly when Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would guide Christians into all truth. I mean you’d think being in a personal relationship with the creator would help get some of this basic stuff figured out.

    Reality is your arguing over the tall tales of Bronze Age goat herders. LOL

  • Grimlock

    I have a potentially touchy question.

    Would it be common knowledge around year 30 for someone with Jesus’ cultural and geographical background, that the earth was round? Or would they know the earth was round, seeing as even the size had been calculated a couple of hundred centuries previously in Greece?

    (I’m genuinely curious, and some googling was less than helpful.)

    • David Evans

      A good question. I think you meant a couple of centuries (Eratosthenes, died around 195 BC).

      • Grimlock

        Whoops, yeah, I did. Thank you for the correction.

    • This is a fantastic question! It does seem that, to a large extent, the idea of celestial spheres and corresponding multiple heavens had spread far and wide in this era. But we deduce that from literature, and so it is really hard to know how widely the idea circulated – and to what extent it was accepted – in circles that were not (as) literate.

      • Grimlock

        Very interesting, thank you!

    • ravitchn

      Jesus would not know the earth was round; he did not have a Greek education, given his ethnicity, his poverty, and so on. And he was just a human being knowing only what a religious Jews raised in a semitic, not a Hellenistic culture would know.

  • JesusIsFakeNews

    It is amusing watching Christians run away from their bibles. We know they tend to throw out the Hebrew bible verses they don’t like.

    They do the same here with the New Testament as well. Jesus, Paul and the gang all endorsed Genesis being interpreted literally, Jesus said in the beginning the were made male and female, Paul even said they were made from dust, Paul describes Jesus as the 2nd Adam, of course the sabbath was a perpetual remained of the literal 6 day creation. Luke even has Jesus’ genealogy going to Adam.

    Christians trying to contort the Bible into compatibility with science are just desperate gasps and flailing of the religious trying to be relevant. As their hero Dotard would say. Sad.

    • ravitchn

      Correct! The bible is all the musings of ancient persons, some sincere, some delusional, some frauds who want to push an agenda. The bible can be read for the beauty of the King James version in the English language, for stories that some find interesting, but not for truth in any way, shape or form. The bible certainly doesn’t come from a God, only from people with beliefs that are without foundation.

  • JesusIsFakeNews

    I think you mean how much of the Bible do science believing Christians reject. And the answer is basically all of it. LOL. Particularly when the Bible authors all took Genesis literally. From the sabbath day observance as a perpetual reminder, to Luke’s genealogy making Jesus descended from Adam, to Paul saying god made humans from dust to Paul saying Jesus is the 2nd Adam undoing the failure of the first.

    If you want to accept science you’ll have to leave you bible behind.

    • Some of my earlier thoughts on that topic:

      But it depends what you mean by taking Genesis literally. The authors of Genesis and other works now included in the Bible assumed a cosmology that is also assumed in Genesis, which is something very different from having data from the natural sciences but insisting on rejecting them in favor of what a text says.

      • JesusIsFakeNews

        So if you’re rejecting a literal interpretation of Genesis based on today’s scientific understanding on not based on anything in the Bible since they all understood it literally, then why not just dismiss everything else in the Bible also since it also doesn’t conform to how we know the world works.

        For example, we know miracle working heroes with miraculous births, lives, deaths and ascendences, were just common myths of the time attributed to many heroes from Jesus, to Caesar, to Apollonius, to Hercules, etc etc.

        • Your whole approach to this topic is shaped by the presuppositions of Christian fundamentalism. Even within the first two chapters of Genesis, there are two distinct creation accounts which literally contradict one another. Then there are other views of creation elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, including the older idea of creation through combat with a sea monster. By the time we get to the New Testament we find authors like Paul accepting the cosmology of their time, with multiple heavens, reflecting the shift to what would come to be known as the Ptolemaic worldview.

          None of the above ought to surprise or be controversial to anyone who is not either lagging more than a century behind in their knowledge of the academic study of these texts, or whose whole approach to these ancient texts is shaped by the assumption that is reflected in your final statement. A Christian fundamentalist will insist that other ancient texts are worthless garbage but this one divinely reveals the truth not only about theology but also science and any other matter it comments on. They will likewise insist that all other miraculous conceptions are mere myths while those in this volume are true historical miracles. My question to you is why you allow such a misguided approach to ancient literature to continue to shape your thinking and reading. From the sound of it, instead of denigrating all but one ancient text for containing mere myths and not matching modern science, you now do that to all of them. But do you honestly think that is a helpful lens through which to explore and evaluate the meaning and significance of ancient human literature?

          • JesusIsFakeNews

            Sure the Bible can be studied the same as the Iliad and other ancient literature and fiction.

    • summers-lad

      Not at all. I accept the Genesis accounts of creation for what I believe they are meant to be: descriptions, in language accessible to people regardless of their scientific knowledge, of God being creator of all (in contradiction to Babylonian creation myths), of it being good, and humans finding their place in it and in relationship to God. I do not accept them as literal – the different sequences in chapters 1 and 2 are evidence enough that they are not meant to be literal in any scientific way, and so to insist on a “literal” interpretation is to contradict the text itself. As James McGrath puts it in his parody of the Beatles’ “Let It Be”, “It’s poetry not science, let Genesis be”.

      • JesusIsFakeNews

        You know John 1 starts the same as Genesis 1 right? Funny how one is poetry and the other isn’t.

        • summers-lad

          Well I think John 1 is fairly poetic in style too, but my real point is that Genesis 1 isn’t trying to be science. John 1 gives a much more summarised account of creation – with none of the detail of Genesis – in order to say that Jesus – the Word – was there in the beginning, and has now come to earth. Both, I believe, tell truth, but the truth is about “who” and “why”, not “how”.

  • summers-lad

    Your quote from Karl Giberson made me realise why Ham believes the Flood was a historical event. He was there, along with Shem and Japheth.