Is Nature the 67th Book of the Bible?

Now given that my last post was on Creationism, that’s somewhat been on my mind as of late.  As I’ve been commenting back and forth with people, I found myself having a discussion with my wife about the idea that “nature is the 67th book of the Bible”.  If you’ve been around creation circles for any length of time, that idea comes up and is used as a defense of the whole idea that empirical science is some sort of revelation.  One of the frequent examples of how it is used is in the question of distant starlight.

In the starlight example, people who are defending one of the various theistic evolutionary models will make the point that if C (the speed of light) is a constant throughout the universe, empirical measurements indicate quite strongly that the light from various stars has been traveling for millions or billions of years.  If then the universe is young (i.e. less than 50,000 years old), that light is deceiving us.  It appears to be telling us “I’ve been on the move for millions of years” when it hasn’t, and people will often suggest that God speaking through nature isn’t saying the same thing as God speaking through scripture.  Lo and behold, people who have a deficient doctrine of scripture (and/or a lack of skill at exegesis) always tend to side with what’s called “the book of nature”.

book_of_nature_by_joosmesie-d4o8qc6

The creator lies but the creation doesn’t (ironically that’s equally applied to the bones and the people who examine them).

Sound familiar?

So I was chatting about that idea with my very smart wife and we agreed that God, like all communicators, uses words to explain the pictures that he provides…and that nature isn’t a “book” in any way, unless you completely abandon any sort of objective definition of the term “book”…but if everything is a “book”, then the term basically becomes meaningless:

Bookie Bookelson booked books bookingly on the book bookage with Books Bookington.

My wife then made a point of how God is unlike other “gods” in that he is one who actually speaks and reveals himself in propositional language, which then flashed a scripture into my mind: 1 Kings 19:9-18.

The passage follows 1 kings 18:20-40 where Yahweh (via Elijah) just had a colossal victory over the prophets of Ba’al, 1 Kings 18:41-46 where Yahweh (responding to the prayers of Elijah)  breaks the drought and brings rain (which was supposed to be Ba’al’s job), and 1 kings 19:1-3 where Jezebel hears that Elijah has lead the Israelites in killing all her favorite prophets and she puts a price on Elijah’s head.  In the passage immediately preceding, which is 1 Kings 19:4-8, we see Elijah basically “throwing in the towel”.  He’s served Yahweh, had some victories, but then when things look like they’re turning around it’s the same old, same old: Ahab and Jezebel are trying to slay the prophets of Yahweh again (look at 1 Kings 18:7-14).  It seems like everything that Elijah has done has been, more or less, for naught.  Rather than have Jezebel kill him in a way that shames Yahweh, Elijah asks Yahweh to do the honors (1 Kings 19:4).  Instead, Yahweh sends Jesus to feed Elijah and strengthen him for the journey to Mr. Horeb (1 Kings 19:5-8).

So what in the world does this have to do with nature being the 67th book of the Bible?

Nothing…yet.

In 1 Kings 19:9-10, Elijah comes to Yahweh and makes his same plea as he made before.  He basically says that his serving the Lord has been, in the long run, for nothing (or so it appears).  Then we come to 1 Kings 19:11-13.  Let’s read the (ESV) text:

And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

So we have three occurrences happening: wind that smashes rocks (that’s some serious wind), an earthquake, and a fire.  The text explicitly tells us that God is not appearing in any of them.  Then, there’s a low whisper; Elijah hears it, goes to it, and hears the Yahweh speaking to him.

Now many people love the “still small voice” phrase and pull it out as some sort of normative expression of God’s leading/communicating in people’s lives.  If I had a dime for every time I have heard someone talk about “listening for that still small voice” like it’s something that should be part of normal Christian experience, I’d be driving a gold plated Bentley.

Gold Bentley

But if the passage isn’t simply describing how God speaks to people (or something about his tender voice, his gentleness, etc.) what is going on in the passage then?

Well, the big deal is found in the emphasis and the contrast:

1. “the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind

2. “after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake

3. “after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire

In these three statements, we see what would have been three unmistakable manifestations of Ba’al to those who worshiped him: a storm (windstorm), an earthquake, and a fire.  Ba’al was a storm god; the bringer of rains and lightening, hence the challenge to bring fire in 1 Kings 18:20-40 (if Ba’al was supposed to be able to do one thing, it was starting a simple fire).  Storms and wind were Ba’al’s calling card, as were earthquakes and fire (only gods can shake the earth, and the only “naturally” occurring fires are usually started by lightening).  These three “manifestations” of Ba’al were thought to be obvious indicators of his presence (at least to every Ba’al worshiper), but the author emphasizes (by use of repetition) that Yahweh wasn’t manifested by them at all.

The wind was just a wind, the earthquake was just an earthquake, and the fire was just a fire.  Yahweh brought those things, sure, but he wasn’t in them.  That wasn’t how he made himself known to mankind.

When Yahweh did make himself known he did so in a way that Ba’al never could; he spoke out loud.

That is the big contrast, and that’s part of the takeaway from the passage (the other takeaway being what he said: he foretold the future, which Isaiah 41:21-24 explains as another sure-fire proof of deity).  The difference between Yahweh and Ba’al is that Yahweh is the only one who talks.

godspeaks_billboard_we-need-to-talk

Yahweh is the only god at all; he’s the only voice there is to hear.  Ba’al was actually a pseudo-deity fabricated by people misunderstanding storms, earthquakes, and fire.  The whole reason Ba’al existed was because highly religious people looked at nature, tried to explain it in supernatural terms (as they always do), and got it horribly wrong.

So what does this have to do with nature being the 67th book of the Bible?

Well, the flaw of evolutionary theory is an error that mankind has been making for thousands of years; it’s the same flaw that lead to the worship of Ba’al.  People look at nature and, in their suppression of the truth about God (think Romans 1:18-30), they come up with explanations that are complex, clever, widely-believed (remember how many prophets of Ba’al there were?) and promoted by whole countries (by leaders like Ahab and Jezebel), but all those explanations are equally dead wrong.  They’re not off by a little bit; they’re blatantly incorrect and actually contrary to reality.

God makes the ultimate nature of reality (and the ultimate reality of nature) known because the ultimate nature of reality (and the ultimate reality of nature) are revealed by God.  When people look at nature and attempt to explain it, the only way that they can rightly make sense of what they’re seeing is to understand it in alignment with how God has revealed it to be.  To not factor God into one’s understanding is to choose, from the outset, to work towards a wrong understanding (of anything).  In other words, if you’re trying to work out the answer to a questions (i.e. 2 + 2) and you rule out the actual answer (4) before you even start examining the question, you’ll never arrive at the actual answer.

Never.

People who think that nature can be rightly understood (in any sort of ultimate way) by unregenerate men observing the phenomena of nature, whether storms or supercolliders, are thinking like worshipers of Ba’al, not worshipers of Yahweh.  Nature is not entirely self-revelatory, and those who observe nature are not neutral in their supernatural leanings when it comes to supernatural explanations (i.e. Richard Dawkins and his hilarious comments about transplantationalism/directed panspermia).

So, not only is nature not the 67th book of the Bible, the whole concept is a blatant disregard for the 66 books that are of the Bible.  The who idea also has more in common with those who worship Ba’al than those who worship Yahweh.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “awaiting the wide and amazing misunderstandings that will ensue” Unger

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28 thoughts on “Is Nature the 67th Book of the Bible?

  1. I so thoroughly enjoyed this post! Thank you for taking the time to work out that text of Scripture as well! I always find it exciting when I am able to learn something new. I didn’t know the context of Ba’al in relation to the natural disasters and how that text contrasted the false god with the One True God.

    Thank you much, sir! 🙂

      • I can see why you got a whole lot of good feedback! Excellent sermon! I’ve got a lot of meat to chew on now 🙂

        The Bible is sufficient, no doubt about it, but I would miss these nuances by not knowing the culture, the rituals, the history of the false gods even. As a “lay person” reading the Scriptures, is this background information something I could have gleaned from just reading Scripture? I’m not sure I would have..

      • P.S. I will be writing out S.M.A.S.H. On a 3×5 and taping it to my mirror, loved that acronym. Also loved your example of training for the olympics. I am training for my first half marathon and I could relate to that example, as well as Paul’s, so well (in a much more complete way than before I took up this “task”)

  2. “In other words, if you’re trying to work out the answer to a questions (i.e. 2 + 2) and you rule out the actual answer (4) before you even start examining the question, you’ll never arrive at the actual answer.”

    Have you ever debated an atheistic materialist? They rule out supernaturalism.

    • Yup. I’ve debated atheist materialists. They certainly think that they rule out supernaturalism…but they don’t. They just replace themselves/their reason with the supernatural.

  3. I missed the part where you explained why the light has been travelling for millions of years but apparently the earth is only a few thousand years old (but that’s just me reading the Book of Facts… I mean Nature).

    • Apparently I missed that part too, what with me not explaining something that I don’t believe.

      Interesting how you refer to the current mishmash of continually changing interpretations of nature as “the Book of Facts”.

      I’d love to hear the actual facts you have (not just mindless website links) for whatever it is you’d like to claim. Can you pull out even one that you can authoritatively explain?

      • Is that ‘current mishmash of continually changing interpretations of nature’ you refer to just ‘science’? It just seems to me that you raise a point – scientists have effectively proven that light has been travelling for billions of years to reach earth, but I’m claiming the earth is incredibly young based on the Bible- but never get around to reconciling these beyond casually dismissing hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific articles based on empirical research (and yes, sadly, not based on a book).
        So which part are the scientists getting wrong? In your vast knowledge of scientific data collection (honed no doubt in the scientific hotbeds of Caronport, Saskatchewan and the Masters Seminary), which scientific facts or data points are you refuting using things like data, evidence, information, and proof? Because pointing to the Bible and saying ‘it’s not there’ just isn’t enough.

        • Is it “just science”?

          No. It’s the various and competing theories and hypotheses about the origins of the universe that are vying for fame and funding.

          There is no such thing as “science”, if by “science” you mean some sort of uniform and monolithic consensus of all people who are *truly* intelligent, or educated to a certain level in their various fields…especially on the issues of origins.

          Scientists have effectively proven nothing. They’ve only given the data of redshift and the best naturalistic explanation is long travel. I don’t have the foggiest clue about the mechanism behind explaining the redshift phenomena, but I do know that God clearly states that all the star light arrived at the earth at the same time on the day that they were created.

          You have a philosophical blindspot that is a gaping chest wound. You assume that all the people who write peer-reviewed articles are morally neutral and objective observers of nature who are honestly interested in searching for the ultimate truth, but the scripture tells us that this is simply not the case. Having 10 blind men agree on what something looks like is as useless as having 10 million.

          I don’t claim to be an empirical scientist. I don’t claim to have any authoritative opinion on the facts of nature. I claim to have a reliable testimony from the one who created both facts and nature. God created the observed, the observer, and the concept of observation, and God is the context in which the observer observes the observed in a right observation.

      • Thanks for the link ChazIng.

        I tend to dislike creation science folks because the empirical science guys are usually incompetent at serious biblical exegesis (i.e. Isaiah 40:22 suggests an expanding universe? What?), but that’s the same reason I try to stay away from discussing issues related to empirical science. It’s important to know what you don’t know.

        • Well, I wouldn’t say “incompetent”, but rather “noetically enslaved”, meaning that their reasoning process itself is enslaved to sin. It’s not that they’re dumb, but rather that they’re fools. That is a really important biblical distinction.

      • While I understand your distinction, for an engineer who has actually studied the matter, macro-evolution (as presently postulated) is incompetence. For a so-called evolutionary biologist, perhaps it is noetical enslavement. BTW, have you banned Mr. Dolby? I would have loved to hear him explain the science to which he refers.

  4. I suspect that a genuine scientist would agree that he cannot “prove” something in the category of the age of the Earth, but rather, that he is giving an interpretation of the evidence he has gathered, and I don’t have any qualms with that as such. Such conclusions must assume some givens, that processes we see now, for instance, have continued with no change since the beginning of time. Our window of time to observe is extremely minute compared to the proposed billions of years during which the universe is said to have formed, and to assume that constant based on such a small sample seems to be assuming a lot. One example of this weakness that has been put forward is the apparent slowing of the earth’s rotation. If this rate has been constant for billions of years, earth would, at its beginning, have been rotating at a rate that would have been self destructive. I’m no scientist, so someone may need to correct me on this “for instance”. For my part, however, I’m not looking to any interpretation of data to confirm my faith in the Word of God.

    • Good thoughts Ed. When you talk about the assumption of uniform processes happening over the entire history of the universe (known as “uniformitarianism), that concept is mentioned directly in scripture and overthrown. 2 Peter 3:1-10 address the fact that history is marked by two divine catastrophes that people willfully ignore: the first is the judgment by flood and the second is the coming judgment by fire.

      All the calculations backwards into history are inherently incorrect due to a mathematical assumption that God authoritatively declares to be incorrect.

  5. Pingback: Van Tillian Apologetics Links: Third week of December 2013 | The Domain for Truth

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