Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XXX: Wherein A Poorly-Interpreted Bible Story is Claimed to be Science

Have I mentioned lately the BJU folks who wrote Earth Science 4th Edition don’t like other Christians? They really don’t. It’s obvious throughout this, erm, “science” textbook that they believe there’s only One Real Way to Christian, and everyone who doesn’t Christian that way are substandard Christians who probably aren’t Christians at all. Certainly, they’re all wrong about the Bible, because the Only True Way to read and understand it is the Bob Jones Way.

So, before they tell us How God Did It, and after they finish trashing How [they think] Secular Scientists Believe It Happened But Of Course They’re Wrong Because God Did It!, they take another swipe at Christians Who Are Wrong Because We Said So. This time, they’re sniping at framework hypothesis Christians, because seeing Genesis 1 as “a descriptive pattern or framework of creative acts” is just soooo not True Christian. I know nothing about folks who interpret Genesis 1 through this framework hypothesis thingy, but after seeing how carefully the BJU writers distorted the secular scientists’ ideas on how our solar system formed, I’m fairly comfortable saying we shouldn’t trust their description to be true an accurate in every particular.

Anyway, it seems the framework folks aren’t interested in a literal interpretation of a literary work. They look at Genesis as more of a narrative that speaks deep truths, sort of like poetry, only more meaningful. And of course it’s in a genre of its own. Meanwhile, the BJU folks treat it as an encyclopedia entry.

As far as interpreting an old text goes, I’m with the former-fundie, current Christian graduate in English who can recognize a work of literature when she sees one. Definitely read Kristin Rosser’s analysis at that link: it’s really intriguing. And it shows just how impoverished literal interpretations of the Bible are. Understanding Genesis poetically gives the whole thing a rather epic sweep without discarding reality. And really, if you want the Bible to be the story of a deity that’s big, complex, and actually intelligent enough to create a functioning universe, well, that’s the way to go. Otherwise, to paraphrase Pilate from Jesus Christ Superstar, you end up with a god so small it’s not a god at all.

The BJU folks, of course, can’t abide anything but literal interpretations. They can’t even stand old-earth folks who still believe Genesis is a true account, but have a looser interpretation of it. So they set their students busily poking holes in the framework hypothesis, and end with a loaded question meant to get the students jeering because, obviously, the framework hypothesis people are just trying to suck up to secular scientists and are therefore wrong.

Do you think that the Framework view would have become popular if secular science had no problem with Genesis 1? What does your answer suggest about the Framework view?

Now they’ve disposed of their rivals, they give us “the Young-Earth Geologist’s Story.”

It’s four short paragraphs, two brief text boxes, and one small cross-box, plus a timeline:

Image shows a timeline from ES4. "The history of the earth according to the Bible." It begins with creation at 0 AM (5054 BC). It includes Noah's birth (3998 BC), the Flood (3398 BC), various Biblical events like Abraham's birth, Jacob's move to Egypt, Exodus, Solomon's Temple, and the Birth of Christ. It then has a big blank stretch until Columbus discovers the Americas, and another before "Earth Science textbook is published" (AD 2012). It includes a red line showing the "Average American lifespan (74.1 y)." It then has a break in the timeline, and then shows the "Great Tribulation" and Millenial Kingdom" (AD ????). So science.
Timeline from page 99 of ES4. This is their idea of science.

Yes, they did just put that timeline in a supposed science textbook. Yes, it does include the Great Tribulation. And yes, they do think this is more accurate than anything secular science has to offer.

All of the words in all the boxes basically boil down to God Did It. That simple. God made it all.

How? Well… um…

We don’t know many details of Creation, but God has recorded for us in the Bible what we need to know, and from this information we can infer a lot.

And their inferences are:

  • “God created everything in 6 normal days.”
  • “God spoke, and things appeared.”
  • God did it in the following order:

Day 1: “Separation of light from darkness.”

Day 3: Dry land, grass, trees, and shrubs.

Day 4: the sun, the moon, and stars.

Day 5: all the sea creatures and flying creatures.

Day 6: “and finally, all the land creatures, and Adam and Eve.”

And what, according to them, did God do on Day 2? Dunno. It isn’t in there. It’s not on their list. Apparently, the firmament means nothing to them.

What they say next is precious beyond my ability to prevent myself from laughing my ass off, and I shall quote it for you in its entirety:

This order is not how life would have evolved. For example, lacking God as the source of light, how could plants live for millions of years before the creation (or appearance) of the Sun? And everything God created was fully formed and just right for its purpose. No evolving was necessary.

Ahahaha. What an adorable, and ultimately futile, attempt at being clever. One can see how too much fundamentalism short-circuits thinking. They literally cannot grasp the idea that maybe, if their God exists but also evolution happened, God was perhaps smart enough to get the sun going first, then start the process, sort of like preheating an oven. Later, once some Hebrews evolved and wrote a story, God saw the story was good and rolled with it, because mythology doesn’t have to be correct in every detail to tell powerful truths.

So no, their little “gotcha” moment doesn’t even work from the viewpoint of a believer. As for non-Christians, atheists, agnostics, and such-like, it’s just sad to behold. We’re not so busy trying to fit the facts to a myth that we can’t see that, of course, you get a sun first, then things that depend on that sun for life come after.

Image is a painting of Earth from space, with the Moon at the bottom and the Sun peeking over the horizon at top. Caption says, "If God created the sun on the fourth day.... how had four days passed?"

After telling us that the Bible doesn’t tell us much “about the physical earth before Adam sinned,” they assure us that “it gives us a starting point to explain what we see in our earth and universe today.” Period, end of section.

This, I don’t have to tell you, is supremely inadequate. But it’ll sure be fun to watch them try ‘splaining it to us. For certain values of “fun.”

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Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XXX: Wherein A Poorly-Interpreted Bible Story is Claimed to be Science
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