A Better Way to be a Biblical Literalist

A Better Way to be a Biblical Literalist August 18, 2013

If you're determined to be a Biblical literalist, or at least to pretend to be one (since no one is really one), you don't have to deny evolution. Indeed, there is a better option, that accepts that evolution occurred and says that God miraculously does evolution better than natural causes could!

Since there is no way that all the different “kinds” of animals that exist in the world could have fit into Noah's ark, young-earth creationists end up claiming that Noah took a smaller number of “kinds” into the ark, and that these then evolved into the varied organisms we see today, at a speed faster than mainstream biology claims that living things evolved.

Instead of denying evolution out of one side of your mouth, and claiming that it not only happens but works faster than mainstream science claims out of the other, why not just go with the latter, and add “God did it”?

Then you can claim to be a Biblical literalist, accept evolution, and claim that God does evolution better than science does. It seems like a win-win-win situation – so why persist in denying evolution?


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  • Ian

    This is something I’ve often marvelled at in the YEC camp. They claim there is no macro-evolution, yet claim micro-evolution is responsible for the great variety of beetle species from a small number of original ‘kinds’, in 5000 years or so.

    Of course YEC’s are stuck in pre-school biology, where creatures are “Horse”, “Donkey”, “Zebra”, “Beetle”, “Fish”, all at the same level. So, heaven forbid, a chimp is definitely a different kind to a Orang-Utan, but most beetles are interchangeable, except ladybugs, which clearly have their own kind.

    • Ignorantia Nescia

      Good point. I guess that their theory would need some God-guided (micro)evolution indeed. Or the devil does genetic modification.

    • TomS

      How many years from the Flood to Abraham? 300 years? In the story of Abraham, we read of goats and sheep (and distinction between varieties of them), so that amount of “micro”evolution took only a few hundred years.

  • Ian

    PS: Weird mangling of your text in the penultimate paragraph.

  • Lyle Grover

    “. . . Evolution occurred and says that God miraculously does evolution better than natural causes could” vs “. . . evolved into the varied organisms we see today, at a speed faster
    than mainstream biology claims that living things evolved” rather transparently seems like two ways to say the same thing, yet here are presented as a stark conrtrast where one makes more sense than the other.

    • Ian

      I think there’s a corruption in the text. Everything after “God did it”? in paragraph 3 is an earlier draft of the previous paragraph, I think. So there is no dichotomy, James is suggesting that, given YEC believe in evolution, and think it is faster and more powerful than science does, why not just accept it as a miracle rather than wanting to fight it.

      • Yes, I had some text go missing, and somehow it got pasted into another spot. Sorry for the confusion – I fixed it. Thank you for making me aware of this!

  • I’ve heard this argument before. And of course when you ask, “Well how did a creature such as the three toed sloth, whose natural habitat is South America get there and it not be found naturally in other parts of the world?”

    “Oh they migrated there after the waters receded? ” Really…Sloths? They are not known for their speed. And of course that doesn’t consider smaller non-mammals whose habit ranges are even smaller, like ants, or salamanders, or those who’s habitats are cold, like Penguins and are only found in the southernmost regions of the planet. In just the variety of birds there are, there wouldn’t have been room, even if we don’t subspecies them out.

    But then considering that the ark event was probably more a regional one, and it taking the form of a myth has been made more fantastical than it really was. Its possible that a big flood did occur, in the region Noah was supposed to have lived, and he grabbed his family and what livestock he could get and through them into something that floated. They survived while so many who just tried to run to higher ground didn’t That they survived, floating on whatever it was they survived on, birthed a legend….But try and suggest that, and you risk getting all sorts of names hurled your direction.

    • Of course, the alternative is that our omnibenevolent God violently murdered every last man, woman, child, and animal on earth, except the ark survivors.

    • Mary

      Although your argument makes perfect sense, I have heard people say that the separation of species to different parts of the world was due to SUPERFAST continental drift. So there was only one continent. Again they want to twist real science into something that fits their story, without any shred of proof. For YEC’s their argument is that it COULD HAVE happened that way. Problem solved, nothing to see here.

      The guy who first came up with the idea of continental drift actually was studying ice flows in the Artic. He saw the way that the ice moved over the water and made a mental connection to continents. But I doubt if he were still alive that he would agree with this YEC nonsense. While the dynamics are similiar ice moves very rapidly over water. Continents move slowly over magma. Big difference.

      Archeologists suspect that the tall tale came from the formation of the Black Sea. Originally it was a valley with a lake. The sea levels rose and the barrier blocking it suddenly gave way. That meant a catastrophic flood in that area that seemingly came from out of nowhere. There is evidence that there were settlements there before the flood.

      As far as exaggeration, there something curious about a different catastrophe mentioned mentioned in the Bible. After the decimation of Sodom and Gommorah, Lot’s daughter’s did a naughty thing. They got their papa drunk and commited incest with him. Why? BECAUSE THEY THOUGHT THE WHOLE WORLD HAD BEEN DESTROYED. They thought that they were the only survivors and so it was up to them to keep the human race going. Ooops!

      • Yeah, people forget that little tidbit at the end of the Sodom and Gomorrah tale, instead fixating on a poor interpretation of the story. The destruction, if it was two towns named thus, may have been the result of a volcano erupting. We assume the tale takes place in Mesopotamia, but as the stories weren’t written down until the Babylonian exile, it could have happened anywhere.

        I’ve heard the Black Sea theory, It makes sense, especially considering that there have been discoveries of communities found under coastal regions thousands of years after they went under water. National Geographic has an article about such an area off the coast of Great Britain.

  • newenglandsun

    I was telling my friend about how Matt Slick of CARM believes Pokemon is demonic because it promotes evolution.

    His response about was that if evolution happened the Pokemon way, it would actually be much closer to a young Earth model considering how fast they evolve.

    Speaking of Pokemon and “kinds” though, it would behoove you to be informed that Kabuto is one kind and Kabutops is another. They are rock type Pokemon but they are also water type Pokemon so they don’t fall into the “rock” kind or “water” kind. And Arcanine is a dog Pokemon because it resembles a dog but then again, so is Absol and Absol is a dark type and Arcanine is a fire type.

    • Mary

      Aside from your points I chuckled over this one:

      “Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water are frequent elemental themes found in Pagan religions, witchcraft, and Wicca, and are used heavily in Pokemon.”

      Well guess what? The four elements reflected the scientific “knowledge” they had IN BIBLE TIMES as well!

      I am not sure exactly when that was tossed aside but it had to have been around or after we figured out that the earth wasn’t flat and the universe did not rotate around us.

      • newenglandsun

        It just also shows that Matt Slick has absolutely no knowledge of Pokemon either. The fact that Pokemon calls “earth” Pokemon ground types and “wind” Pokemon flying types. Doesn’t it make one question as to whether fundies like those have even played or watched Pokemon?

        “Pokemon are summoned to do battle and to protect. This is equivalent to sorcery.”

        God is also summoned by Christians to battle and protect. This is equivalent to…oh, wait, never mind.

        And seriously, how do you leave Arcanine off your list of fire type Pokemon?!?

    • Cosmo Fish

      I like his claim that another reason Pokemon is bad is because it teaches kids to poison each other.

      You don’t know how many times as a kid I wished I could lob fluorescent purple mud at my enemies, I tell ya…

  • dangjin

    the question is: why do you have such a hard on for evolution, that you would encourage people to disobey God and ignore what He said?

    • Using such language is rude and inappropriate. What is more, this is not about ignoring what God said. To treat the writings of ancient people about God as though they provide superior information and insight to the work of God’s own hands is a bizarre heresy, and it baffles me that so many people not only embrace it, but think that that is the natural position for Christians to take.

      • Cosmo Fish

        If I may play Fundie’s advocate, he’s just going to respond that they are not just the writings of people but of God speaking through them.

        • Why not just call it “Devil’s advocate”? 🙂

          It is easy to make such claims. But it is problematic to do so. Paul doesn’t write as though his words are the words of God. And so this view, characteristic of Protestant fundamentalism, actually puts a great deal of emphasis on the role of the church in identifying those texts that are, allegedly, in some unique sense the words of God.

          • Cosmo Fish

            I wonder if that could be solved by an appeal to a more “subconscious” model of the idea of inspiration. Paul could be giving his honest opinion as a Rabbi but that in this instance that opinion happens to be what God is saying as well. Seems like a long shot, though, I admit.

            My big problem with Liberal Christianity in general is that it seems like it need not be Christianity at all. There’s nothing about it to differentiate it from any other religion and barely anything to differentiate it from an atheistic humanism. God seems to be saying the exact same thing to everyone on the planet no matter what they happen to believe. If there are no differentiating words or signs, you might as well just say you’re a deist or something.

          • Well, could one not say the same thing about theistic traditions – they all have one or more anthropomorphic gods to whom appeals are made in prayer? And mystical traditions, which all tend to emphasize the symbolic nature of religious language?

            But be that as it may, since liberal Christianity was here first, it isn’t our fault that when atheists and secular humanists came along, they borrowed all our good ideas! 😉

          • Cosmo Fish

            One could, yes. But at least conservative Christianity has the theoretically testable claim of Christ’s Resurrection. I can’t think of another religion that does (I mean, honestly. I’m not trying to just give the William Lane Craig dog and pony show).

            Also, I think atheists and humanists have existed in one form or another since the dawn of time :p

          • Many strands of Liberal Christianity focus more on values, which are inherently untestable. But our rejection of the historicity of many things in the Bible is every bit as theoretically testable as conservative Christian claims to their factuality.

          • Cosmo Fish

            That’s my point, yes. You reject 90% of the Bible and then you’re just left with Jesus the Moral Teacher who *might* be God in some airy, mystical sense. I don’t see how that’s any different from, at most, being a New Ager. It certainly doesn’t seem worth dying for (Yes, I know about Candida Moss. I’m talking more about modern martyrs like Richard Wurmbrand and Jim Elliot).

            At least with historically accurate Gospels you could fall back on something definitive like Lewis’ Trilemma Argument. As I recall, Hitchens would barely even bother to debate liberal Christians for just such reasons.

          • Martin Luther King is just one liberal Christian who found something worth being martyred for. And I don’t see liberal Christians saying that Jesus is God even in some mystical sense. Liberals tend to be rationalists rather than resembling New Agers, although there are people who are prone to superstition throughout the human populace and so I wouldn’t characterize a movement in relation to that.

          • Cosmo Fish

            MLK died for civil rights. He might very well have done the same thing as an atheist.

            Liberal Christianity implies that people in third world countries who are arrested and threatened for being Christian might as well make an expedient false recantation.

          • He died for civil rights, as a Liberal Christian. I wouldn’t expect a Liberal Christian to end up in a situation that led them to give their lives for dogma alone. Like Liberal Christians down the ages, they may be accused about their dogmas but it will often be the social message and challenge to authority and bigotry that irks authorities the most.

            Candida Moss’ recent book suggests that Christians have rarely been attacked solely or even primarily because of doctrines that they hold.

          • Cosmo Fish

            🙁 Well, thanks for your help. I still don’t get it, but I thank you for taking the time to try.

          • Sorry that I don’t seem to be communicating effectively. For liberal Christians, it is precisely this sort of thing that is worth giving one’s life for. Where conservative Christians might say that Jesus was executed for dogma, for claiming to be God for instance, liberal Christians will say that it was his daring to transgress boundaries between clean and unclean, rich and poor, male and female, slave and free, Jew and Roman.

          • Cosmo Fish

            Oh, I understand that. Civil rights certainly is something worth dying for. But that’s true for everybody regardless of beliefs. If that’s the only baseline, then I don’t see what difference a belief in God actually makes. It seems like it’s completely tacked on to an otherwise secular humanist outlook.

            In the absence of positive arguments for the existence of God, I see no good reason to be a Christian if I could just hold the exact same ethics for the exact same reasons as an atheist. At least then I wouldn’t be so obsessed with the seemingly unanswerable question of whether there’s a God or not and I could quit opening myself up to insults to my intelligence from people like Richard Dawkins.

          • Many Liberal Christians do not think of God as an object or entity that exists within the universe, about which it makes sense to debate whether he/she/it exists. For me, as for Tillich, God is Being, the Ultimate Reality, i.e. reality at its most transcendent level and its greatest depth. And so we might usefully discuss the character of reality, but debating whether there is anything that deserves that label is not an issue for most people.

          • Cosmo Fish

            I know. And that’s where it gets far too subtle for me. Frank Lloyd Wright once said that his religion was “Nature with a capital N.” To my ears that’s all talk about “Ultimate Reality” is really saying.

            So, to me there isn’t really any point in bothering with religion if at the end of the day it’s pretty much identical to psychology. If that’s the case, then all you and Tilich are doing is muddying the waters with circumlocution.

          • It isn’t mere circumlocution. The reason people use religious language and other symbolism is because we feel that there is a depth and richness to something, or aspects of something, which other language does not do justice to.

          • Cosmo Fish

            Sorry if it came off like I was accusing you of something. That was not my intention.

          • Please feel free in the future to accuse me of something, if it seems appropriate! 🙂

          • newenglandsun

            I agree with you. I think that liberal Christians do exactly what fundamentalist Christians do. Both seem way too concentrated on materialist viewpoints and have stopped seeing the higher sacred value in it (the Christian faith).

          • newenglandsun

            Which conservative Christians are you talking about? I have never heard that from Christians. Sure, I’ve heard the blasphemous teaching of penal substitutionary atonement but the *proper* interpretation of Christ’s death and resurrection is in the Catholic and Orthodox faith. Christ did *not* sacrifice himself for dogma but he certainly didn’t sacrifice himself for “civil rights” either (just what is a “civil right”? – oh wait, non-existent).

            Jesus died to restore a fallen race, to bring it back to God what was held captive by their own sin. Sin was confronted by Jesus and forgiven. It was because of this love that God had for the human race that he became a human and raised humanity up from its own sickness. You have made MATERIALISTIC the entire atonement!

          • newenglandsun

            A lot of history is speculation. I think you make the error in hinging on the ideology of a particular thought-process being the end-all say-all personally. I would vouch that you’re exactly like your fundie extremists just in a different way.

            I’d say the theological spectrum is a circle. Theological moderates especially Popes like Benedict XVI and John Paul II at the top of the circle. Raymond Brown would be at the top. Kallistos Ware and Rowan Williams would be at the top. Etc.

            Then at the bottom are liberals and fundies. James McGrath, James White, John Shelby Spong, John Piper. They’re all Biblicists and Bible-worshippers just in a way that is much different from each other.

            N.T. Wright and C.S. Lewis are more on the middle. Not really totalitarian fundamentalist like the pseudo-liberals and fundies but still not pure like the other guys.

            A Biblicist is he who bases authority on Bible alone. If you don’t follow a tradition, you follow yourself. Protestants alone are Biblicists and that Christian Smith guy converted to Catholicism because of that.

  • Cosmo Fish

    Are you saying…. Ken Ham is a Pokemon Master? :0