The Bible Is Just An Old Book

The Bible is a very old book.  Or more accurately, a collection of old books.  This is a common complaint leveled at Christians in order to undermine the veracity of their theological claims and moral admonitions.  It has been charged that Christians get their morals and beliefs about God from an old book.  That may be true, but so what.

What does the age of a book or books have to do with whether the information contained in their pages is accurate or not?  Nothing.  The rules of mathematics, laws of logic, and heliocentricism to name a few, are among truths found in dusty old books.  In virtue of the complaint that the age of the Bible is a liability of its truth claims, the critic must also for consistency’s sake be skeptical of these as well.

At this point the critic might be inclined to chime in ‘but…but…’.  Allow me to interrupt.  If you are not willing to be skeptical of math, logic, or heliocentricism because they are found in old books, then you are implicitly admitting that the age of the source is irrelevant to the information contained within its pages and it’s the content of the claim that matters.

Claims aren’t refuted because they’re old.  They are refuted when they are shown to be false.  So if you think Christians are wrong in their convictions that Jesus rose from the dead, or that their moral ideals are incorrect, the claims themselves must be dealt with and not simply dismissed due to their age.

Comments

  1. Claims aren’t refuted because they’re old. They are refuted when they are shown to be false.

    Do you believe all old texts that aren’t falsifiable?

  2. Correct. Your book is not wrong because it is old. It’s the bad science, history, ethics, and continuity.
    But you again misunderstand the argument. The response is ”It’s *just* an old book”. So you’ve clearly heard the objection as stated.
    I’d also like to remind you (and readers) about the context of this argument. ”It’s just an old book” is a response to ”The Bible says so.” Because Christians often argue not on the merits of the argument but rather by appeal to the authority of their old book, we are obliged to remind them that it’s just an old book. This is especially valid when they are trying to convince us, atheists, to take rights away from people based on what their old book says purely because their old book (supposedly) says it.

    So please, yes, put forth sound arguments, justified with evidence and reason. If you don\’t put forth the oldness or specialness of the book as evidence, then we won\’t have to remind you it’s just an old book

  3. Marshall Art says:

    @Z

    To the extent that it has been possible to do so thus far, no evidence has been found to contradict the historical reporting of the Bible. Not everything has been confirmed through the limited abilities of mankind perhaps, but nothing has been proven wrong.

    @Jason,

    I think your argument depends upon when “The Bible says so” has been used as a response. There are appropriate times for that response and I don’t know if it is common amongst articulate and learned Christians to use it as a fall back line when allegedly “stumped”. I wonder if you could present an actual scenario through which your point could be illustrated.

  4. MA – “I don’t know if it is common amongst articulate and learned Christians to use it as a fall back … present an actual scenario”. You want a video? It happens to me all the time. And if/when they present other evidence, that’s fine. I’m just saying ‘the Bible says so” isn’t valid, and that’s when we respond “It’s just a book”. That’s not necessarily the whole conversation. It sounds like you’re agreeing that ‘the bible says so’ is a bad argument, but if you want to present a scenario when ‘there are appropriate times for that response’ that would be up to you.

    And as for ‘no evidence has been found to contradict the historical reporting of the Bible, then you are blind to history and science. Creation, the Flood, and the Exodus come to mind as Biblical events proven conclusively never to have happened or at least not to have happened in any way resembling the events described in the Bible (7 days, 2 of each, 600,000 for 40 years).

  5. Marshall Art says:

    @ Jason

    “It sounds like you’re agreeing that ‘the bible says so’ is a bad argument,…”

    I’m saying that I don’t believe the argument is used often or in the manner you suggest by people who know what they’re talking about.

    As to when the phrase is appropriate, an example would be something along the lines of citing the Bible as the source of a Christian belief or behavior or understanding. Said another way, that which is stated in Scripture to back up an argument regarding something about Scripture. “How do you know what Jesus would do?” “The Bible says so.”

    As to history and science, provide something of either to make your point. History is a record of events. It is nice when one recording of events is backed up by the recordings of a separate people, but the absence of such validation doesn’t prove the single recording is erroneous at all. Is every bit of Roman history recorded by ancient Roman historians validated by ancient Egyptian historians? If not every bit of Rome’s history appears in the historical records of any other nation’s history, does that mean the events not covered by the others didn’t happen?

    As to science proving events didn’t happen, I don’t think any such evidence exists. You suggest such evidence does exist, but I would only concede that no evidence exists to prove they happened. That’s two different things and I don’t believe the former is accurate even if the latter is certain.

  6. “As to science proving events didn’t happen, I don’t think any such evidence exists. You suggest such evidence does exist, but I would only concede that no evidence exists to prove they happened.”
    If there’s no evidence then it is only reasonable to conclude that it didn’t happen, at least until evidence is found. That’s how science works. That’s the best way not to be taken in by made-up nonsense. Now the fact is that science has provided ample evidence that the universe formed in greater than 7 days. The thermodynamic calculations and water-content of the Earth rule out any 40-day total-Earth deluge. The lack of debris and lack of extra-biblical evidence for the Exodus is strong evidence that the Exodus actually didn’t happen.
    The way science works is that lack of evidence obliges us not to accept a claim. Even beyond that, there is counter-evidence and we find no evidence where we should find evidence for many Biblical claims.
    Back to the point, “the Bible says so” is, I agree, a good argument if you want to explain why Christians do such-and-such a thing, at least if you can get the Bible not to contradict itself. But I think we agree that ‘the Bible says so’ is a bad argument to make any non-Christian accept something, to implement a civil law, or to change science education.

  7. Marshall Art says:

    But that’s just it, Jason. My point is that “the Bible says so” is rarely used to persuade non-Christians to accept something, except by those who are not equipped to argue in defense of the faith.

    As to evidence, the lack of evidence does not prove something didn’t happen, therefor it is NOT reasonable to assume anything about whether an event occurred or not. It only means there isn’t sufficient evidence to prove it did. One would need evidence to prove something didn’t happen to insist that it is a fact to say it didn’t happen. “Did ‘X’ happen?” “Well, we have no evidence to prove it did, so I prefer to believe it didn’t. But I can’t say with certainty as no evidence exists one way or the other.”

    Your suggestion that science has provided evidence regarding the time frame of creation is not something that can be duplicated in a lab, and thus is speculation based on how science interprets data. These interpretations are only as good as human limitations, both in interpretation of data and of the tools used to provide the data. Put that together with the lack of hard proof of the exact meaning of the Genesis account and nothing disproves that account at all, but only suggests a different analysis. Said another way, until you can duplicate the creation event, and until you can provide proof of what is meant by the exact wording of the Genesis account, you cannot insist you have proven Genesis wrong. For those who doubt the existence of God, their faith in science is on par with the faith of believers insofar as believing what cannot be proven.

    At the same time, like Z, you ignore the Bible as worthy of the title “evidence”. This is intellectually dishonest. You might not believe it is conclusive evidence of anything. This is reasonable as few apologists offer it to be so. But it is evidence.

  8. Sure the Bible is evidence, but it’s just an old book. I recognize the couple of Bible pages that make claims about Creation. We can recreate a lot about creation. We know about nuclear deterioration of many isotopes and the speed of light to start with. Both of those things require greater than a 7 day universe. And “The Bible Says So” is the only argument against a mountain of evidence from geology, physics, and biology about the age of the universe. That’s how science clears out deadwood hypotheses like Biblical creation.

    Said another way, you just don’t understand science. And that is not some dogmatic alternative to religion. Science provides the right answers responsible for your computer, space travel, cancer remission, and all the other things humanity has accomplished through a science-based approach to the world.

    The Bible Says So can’t even get you from a radius to a full circle.

    Maybe you should join many other Christians who agree the Bible, even if it is the literal revelation of God, is only valid to the extent it agrees with science. When it disagrees, it is only reasonable and safe to accept science and declare the Bible to be ‘misunderstood’. It’s not as intellectually honest as declaring the Bible wrong, but it might allow you to understand the natural world despite a supernatural faith.

  9. Marshall Art says:

    Jason,

    As suggested by John, the age of the book is irrelevant regarding the data presented by it unless that data can be proven to be incorrect. And what you take as faith is only conjecture. That is, that proof of the Bible’s shortcomings can be evidence by the speed of light, for example. Sure, we know the speed of light and what now are limitations if we base anything on our understanding of light. But we’re talking about the creation of all things including the creation of light. What happens after that is another thing. If light was created instantaneously, via the power of God or whatever reason is one day proven to be the cause of the beginnings of all things, its characteristics manifest from that point forward.

    That mountain of evidence to which you award religious-like belief, is based entirely upon the limitations of man that in itself should provide no more than “likely possibility” status to the explanation you prefer. THAT is an example of what can truly be a reasonable acceptance. Science has cleared out nothing in regards to the Scriptural description of Creation. It has only offered it’s own description of the same thing. It seems to suggest to the science acolytes who prefer a secular world-view, a more sophisticated and therefor truer explanation. Yet, it is theory regardless of what it claims to be evidence of proof, and certainly regardless of how individual aspects can be duplicated in a lab setting.

    Thus, it is a dogmatic alternative to religion, whereas belief in the Bible is not a dogmatic alternative to science. Religion has played a major role in the advancement of the sciences as believers sought to understand the world God gave us. We do not fear science or misunderstand it. We know its place and understand its relevance.

    A correction: I believe most honest scientists would prefer to say that science provides the “best” answers as opposed to the “right” answers.

    Another correction: I reject the statement that the Bible “it agrees with science.” A more accurate statement would be that the Bible and science are very often in agreement. But to put one over the other is more problematic, especially since the fact is that science has come to agree with the Bible so often. The realm of human sexuality is a prime example. Thus, it is also more accurate to say that it is intellectually honest to understand that we simply lack the information, or the ability to yet find it, when the Bible and science do not agree.

    We do not have difficulty understanding the natural world. Indeed we have a more honest understanding of it and do not conflate the natural with the supernatural, fully understanding the difference between the two. Your side? Not so much.

  10. Marshall Art says:

    A correction of a correction: “…science provides the “best” answers as opposed to the “right” answers.” OR, they are the right answers as far as we can tell at this point.

  11. Jason,
    The heart of Christianity is in the New Testament, not in the first few books of the Old Testament. Let’s move your critique to something more more at the heart of the Christian message: Show me something that has been proven false by archaeology that is postulated in the Gospels or in Acts.

    By the way, your examples (the 7-day creation, the worldwide flood, and the million-plus Exodus) are events that are already questioned frequently among believers. The stories have profound theological teachings, but may be based only loosely on the actual historical event. But either way is of little consequence to the faith of most Christians. In order to be truly effective with your criticism, you’ll have to deal with the gospels and Acts.

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