Everyone works within certain axioms or assumptions; ideas that are just accepted, believed to be true without the need to be proven—and often incapable of proof anyway.[i] These assumptions can be based on experience; or cultural, educational, training and religious conditioning. We interpret the world around us and take actions based on assumptions. Even the objective world of science, is done within a framework of philosophical assumptions which often circumscribe research, conclusions and grants and depend upon a final published manuscript. This is a paradigm. A paradigm is a framework of thinking that is accepted prior to the evidence, and conditions the collection and interpretation of evidence. This can create a practical application that can be dead wrong if the initial assumptions on which the paradigm is based are incorrect. I dealt with this often as a software developer- the clients always wanted the program to provide more information than what was originally placed into it. They never seemed to understand that they had to enter certain values if they wanted an analysis of those values.
Logic is the science of the relations between propositions. Logic can tell us what can be inferred from a given proposition, but it cannot tell us whether the given proposition is true in the first place. All philosophical systems rely on logical deductions from starting assumptions—axioms—which, by definition, cannot be proven from prior assumption. For our axioms, it is rational to accept the propositions revealed by the infallible word of God in the 66 books of the Bible.
Creationists and evolutionists, Christians and non-Christians all have the same evidence—the same facts. Think about it: we all have the same earth, the same fossil layers, the same animals and plants, the same stars—the facts are all the same. The difference is in the way we all interpret the facts. And why do we interpret facts differently? Because we start with different presuppositions. These are things that are assumed to be true, without being able to prove them. These then become the basis for other conclusions. This becomes especially relevant when dealing with past events.
We all exist in the present—and the facts all exist in the present. When one is trying to understand how the evidence came about (Where did the animals come from? How did the fossil layers form? etc.), what we are actually trying to do is to connect the past to the present. However, if we weren’t there in the past to observe events, how can we know what happened so we can explain the present?
The Bible is primarily concerned with the Person and nature of God, and His interactions with humanity in creation and redemption. But this description of the Bible’s purpose means that it has to have a lot of historical content; i.e., “the Bible purports to record a chronicle of real events from the ancient Near East, against which backdrop the revelation of God was communicated. The work of Yahweh in the OT is depicted as being a part of history itself.”[ii] And wherever the Bible has made a specific historical claim, it has been shown to be correct where external corroborating evidence exists[iii],[iv],[v]
Some people say that the Bible cannot be history because God has such a prominent place in ordering the events it records. But there are no disinterested secular documents in the ancient world; Babylonian documents would attribute a victory in battle to their god Marduk, and so on. So if including the supernatural excludes a document from being considered as historical, then that excludes the great majority of documents. The division between secular and religious is a modern one that most ancients would not accept or even understand.
So if the religious content of other ancient documents do not exclude them from being historical documents, the Bible’s historical content does not exclude it from being a possible source of history. We would need to look at two things: do the statements of Scripture regarding people, places, and events in ancient Israel line up with archaeological findings and records from other civilizations (in the cases where these sorts of data exist)? The answer is overwhelmingly yes. In fact, the Bible’s statements about the nations and cities of the ancient world have been supported by the archaeology of the Middle East. Any good Bible atlas will show the archaeological sites of cities that are mentioned in Scripture.[vi] In fact, some of these cities were discovered because the Bible said that a certain city should exist in a certain area.
The foundational assumption of evolution is that all material phenomena can be explained by natural causes. A corollary of evolution is abiogenesis; life must have arisen from non-life at some time in the past in order for mutations and natural selection, the ‘engines’ of neo-Darwinian evolution, to act upon that first living organism. In earlier times, many seeking to deny the Creator’s hand believed in the spontaneous generation of life. Hard-to-explain occurrences of life such as maggots and even mice, were attributed to spontaneous generation. This often resulted in a ‘c’est la mort’ attitude to death by infection in medicine. Well into the 19th century, encouraged by a belief in evolution, scientists believed in the spontaneous generation of microbes. It was work by Christian creationists such as Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister, against much resistance and ridicule, that led to an understanding of the germ basis for infection, that life only comes from life–the Law of Biogenesis. Consider what multiple benefits we enjoy today due to people like these refusing to accept the ruling assumptions of their day.
Though increasingly challenged today by even secular cosmologists, the Big Bang remains the domineering theory of the origin of the universe. As observational data has accumulated, increasing layers of fudge factors have been added to the model in order to keep it viable. These fudge factors are assumed to be true for the model to work. Some of these assumptions, never proven or observed, are that the universe has no center, that it has no edge, and that approximately 70% of this universe of mass-energy consists of dark energy, and 25% dark matter—where ‘dark’ means totally unknown and unobserved. This means that only about 5% of the mass-energy in the universe consists of ordinary, known forms of matter or energy that can be observed and measured. It is not biblical creationists who rest on blind faith for their origin assumptions. Those questioning the Big Bang have to do so in teams in order to avoid being crushed by the bouncers defending the naturalism nightclub.
The above ‘rule’, which they insist on in their definition of science, certainly does not exclude a god. But it most definitely excludes the transcendent Creator God of the Bible, and the possibility of Genesis creation of a fully functional cosmos. Notice that it is not the facts which exclude this, but the rules.
It is clear that a religious dogma has been forced upon science, one which allows only evolutionary (naturalistic self-transformation) models to be discussed in scientific circles. Note that ‘religion’ does not necessarily include a god — it is a world-and-life view, held with ardor and faith, incorporating beliefs which cannot be directly and conclusively tested or disproved. The atheist’s conviction that there is no God obviously qualifies as a religious belief system.
Of course, for most people at some point, since origins is un-provable, there is a step of faith in deciding which framework of explanation is believed to be true. Looking at the way in which each of the two basic possibilities fits the evidence of the present world seems to be not at all unreasonable in assisting in that faith decision. To see scientists state openly that creation may not be considered, even if true, is a sad indictment on the departure of science from its intuitively perceived mandate as a search for truth and reality. It makes nonsense of the widely held belief that science is philosophically ‘neutral’ in such matters. It also seems a powerful confirmation of the Bible’s statements that unregenerate men do not like to retain God in their knowledge, and prefer to worship the created things rather than the Creator.
Some who superficially read the Bible claim that Proverbs 26:4–5 makes contradictory[vii] statements: ‘Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own eyes.’ However, there are wise principles in these verses, lessons which would help Christians to be much more effective in countering false arguments and in witnessing. Let’s look at verse 4: ‘Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him.’
As we have often said, one must understand that all evidence is interpreted on the basis of ‘presuppositions’. As Christians, all of our thinking—in every area—should be built upon the history revealed in God’s Word. Doing this, you have the correct ‘big picture’ way of understanding the universe so that the evidence of the present can be interpreted correctly.
Sadly, many Christians often succumb to the non-Christian’s challenge to provide evidence for the existence of God, creation and the Christian faith, etc., without using the Bible. When you agree to these terms of the debate, however, you are answering a person ‘according to [i.e. within the terms of] his folly’.
By accepting the non-Christian’s presuppositions (that thinking is not to be built on the Bible), one only has, by default, the non-Christian’s way of thinking to interpret the evidence. With no true foundation (God’s Word) on which to correctly (and differently) interpret the evidence, one cannot ‘win’ the argument. Understanding the presuppositional nature of the argument, one will not answer someone ‘according to their folly’ (i.e. based on secular presuppositions about life).
Now verse 5: ‘Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.’ As mentioned, on the surface, this seems to contradict verse 4. But when you think about it, there is infinite wisdom behind it.
As said, first you show the non-Christian that you will not argue according to someone else’s presuppositions. Rather, you use the biblical foundation of history to interpret evidence, confirming this with real science.
Then you need to proceed by applying verse 5—i.e. answering an opponent by showing the logical consequences of his ‘folly’ (non-biblical presuppositions). For instance, if someone believes they evolved by chance, then you need to point out that their processes of logic—of thinking—also evolved by chance. So ultimately, they can’t be sure they are even asking the right questions … let alone understanding the answers![viii]
Further research and material for this article comes from the following inspirational sources:
[i] How do you prove, for instance, that the law of gravity will not change from one moment to the next?
[ii] Walter Kaiser, Jr. A History of Israel: From the Bronze Age Through the Jewish Wars, Broadman & Holman, Nashville, 1998, p. 3.
[iii] http://www.newmediaministries.org/Bible/Corroboration_S.html In addition, there were ancient Christian writers in the period of time following the Apostles (c. 95-150 AD). They quoted the New Testament documents extensively as they wrote to fellow Christians. Scholars have laboriously compiled those quotations and have been able to reconstruct all but 11 verses of the New Testament. This means two things. First, even if we didn’t have any copies of the New Testament manuscripts we could reconstruct what the original manuscripts said from these quotations. Second, we can use both this compilation and the thousands of manuscript copies to check each other for accuracy.
[vi] For instance, Barry Beitzel’s The New Moody Atlas of the Bible, Moody Publishers, Chicago, 2009.
[vii] Sadly, some skeptics think that since ‘ancient people were stupid’, they didn’t realize that these ‘contradictory’ statements were next to each other. But obviously, the author intended these seemingly opposite statements to go together, and this article suggests some applications. In fact, they do not have the logical form of a contradiction, but that of a dilemma—there are problems with both ways of dealing with a fool. Also, we should add, proverbial literature is not intended to be absolute.
[viii] Similarly when asked about the problem of evil—if the questioner rejects an absolute moral Lawgiver, then they are unable to justify absolute moral concepts, so how can ‘evil’ even be a meaningful concept?