Is There a War Between Religion and Science?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

This canard has been repeated so often that it is now part of 21st century folklore.  Contrary to this popular myth, philosopher Edward Feser, in his book  The Last Superstition, correctly points out that the “so-called ‘war between science and religion’ is really a war between two rival philosophical worldviews, and not at bottom a scientific or theological dispute at all” (emphasis in original).

On one side is the worldview derived from the “classical philosophical vision of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas.”  The other side, that of materialistic secularism, derives its premises from the likes of Hobbes, Hume, Descartes, Locke, and Kant.

Feser presents candid comments from several modern scientists and philosophers who admit as much.

The physicist Paul Davies tells us that “science takes as its starting point the assumption that life wasn’t made by a god or a supernatural being.”  Feser further quotes Davies as saying that partially out of fear of  “open[ing] the door to religious fundamentalists . . . many investigators feel uneasy about stating in public that the origin of life is a mystery, even though behind closed doors they freely admit that they are baffled.”

Feser continues by quoting prominent contemporary philosophers.

Tyler Burge opines that “materialism is not established, or even clearly supported, by science” and that its hold over his peers is analogous to that of a “political or religious ideology”; John Searle tells us that “materialism is the religion of our time,” that “like more traditional religions, it is accepted without question and . . . provides the framework within which other questions can be posed, addressed, and answered,” and that “materialists are convinced, with a quasi-religious faith, that their view must be right”; and William Lycan admits, in what he himself calls “an uncharacteristic exercise in intellectual honesty,” that the arguments for materialism are no better than the arguments against it, that his “own faith in materialism is based on science-worship,” and that “we also always hold our opponents to higher standards of argumentation than we obey ourselves.”

One of the most famous admissions from a scientist about the war of worldviews comes from the materialist biologist Richard Lewontin.  Writing in a book review, Lewontin admits:

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

All of this points to the need for the public conversation to include philosophy and worldviews.  The secularist who claims that science, in and of itself, disproves God has merely smuggled in atheism from the start.  Science, in and of itself, does not disprove God.  Only when it is built on a foundation of materialism can it do that kind of work.

  • Anonymous

    You continue to advance a straw man that atheism is about disproving god. This is nonsense. I am quite willing to believe in this god if you can show me good reasons to do so. And those reasons require evidence from the reality you and I share. So I ask of you two questions:

    1) Is your claim true, and
    2) How do you know?

    These questions lead to the incompatibility between the method of inquiry used to inform faith-based claims and the method used to inform science-based claims. Please not we’re not talking about results which is what Feser et al relies on in their wanderings through metaphysical ‘proofs’ (Feser is convinced that Aquinas is the end-all and be-all of philosophical sophistication); we’re talking about method.

    The distortion of describing this method in science to be material is all too common and it is grossly misleading to explain the conflict between religion and science; much scientific knowledge is deduced from causal effect – such as our knowledge about gravity – without having to produce ‘material’ that can be weighed and measured. That’s why ‘materialism’ is such a misnomer for science.

    But what we have to rely on is anything available to us within this universe. Once we go beyond this universe, beyond what we call ‘natural’ we are into idle speculation divorced from the reality, from the nature, we share… because we separate ourselves from having any evidence to work with, to inquire into, that exists in this reality, this nature, to be causally linked to that ‘beyond’. Once we pretend we can cross the threshold into the ‘beyond’, into the ‘meta’ of the physical, into this great unknown, we are impeded by this iron curtain boundary from ever knowing anything about the mechanism by which cause there produces effect here. In a nutshell what we’re talking about is that in order know anything about this universe we must rely on this universe to arbitrate what is true about it and not on our musings about what lies beyond. This is called methodological naturalism (MN). And it works to an astounding degree of success even when the evidence we find seems to be counter intuitive. (Quantum Mechanics, anyone?)

    This is not ‘materialism’ as so many supernatural believers try to portray it to be but a necessary foundation for any claims to be made to create knowledge about this universe, this reality, this nature. The universe we can know something about dictates what is true about it and not our beliefs. Our beliefs can mislead us, and if we reject reality’s role to arbitrate them, then we have rejected the ONLY way our false beliefs can be corrected.

    This epistemology for science – MN – is incompatible with the epistemology used to inform supernatural beliefs because you cannot possibly know anything about a supernatural causation for natural effects for it is beyond our ability to investigate honestly, with intellectual integrity. This is why what informs the epistemology of belief is not reality – meaning this universe – but belief first and foremost. Reality plays no central determining role.

    Claims of knowledge involving supernatural causation – camouflaged by the term ‘metaphysical’ meaning beyond the physical, beyond the ‘material’ – has long been thoroughly discredited not by anyone’s beliefs or some nefarious atheistic conspiracy but by one simple and fatal fact: belief in supernatural causation has produced zero knowledge, zero practical applications, zero insights into the workings of nature. This damning verdict – by your deeds shall you be known – stands as mute testimony to how faith in the supernatural neuters honest inquiry into the workings of nature in this universe and effectively castrates any gains of meaningful knowledge about it (replacing it with faith).

    This is why there remains a ‘war’ between religion and science: a fully functioning, knowledge producing, application rich, practical workings epistemology of MN that you can and do trust with your very life on a daily basis versus a superstitious promoting, knowledge empty, application devoid, impractical contrary musings produced from the broken epistemology of faith-based beliefs. And this difference should be obvious to the religious when they realize that there isn’t any cohesive agreement even even among sympathetic believers! If those who foolishly respect faith-based beliefs can’t find agreement among themselves about some supernatural causal agency and its divine nature, then surely they can appreciate that perhaps the cohesion found among MN supporters to create ONE chemistry, ONE physics, ONE biology, and so on is a superior one that works for everyone everywhere all the time compared to an epistemology that is equivalent in every way to delusion.

  • Boz

    Bill Pratt, I have noticed in many of your posts, (including this one), you say “qualification name surname says XYZ”. And then continue on with the narrative, assuming that XYZ is true.

    But you never actually argue on behalf of XYZ.

    Could you perhaps, in future, provide arguments and evidence to support the assertions that you make?

  • Anonymous

    You have failed to address my central point: that you cannot possibly know anything at all about the supernatural, which makes all your deductions about it deeply suspect. What we do know is that claims of causal effect are either bogus (ie. prayer doesn’t work) or have a valid natural explanation.

  • Ggodat

    If you can’t possibly know anything about the supernatural then how can YOU know that you can’t know anything about it?

  • Ggodat

    If you can’t possibly know anything about the supernatural then how can YOU know that you can’t know anything about it?

  • Anonymous

    Because it supposedly exists where we by definition cannot have access to it.

  • Ggodat

    How do you know we dont have access to the supernatural? Where by definition do you get this? All of your statements are self defeating because you claim to know something about something which you claim we can’t know anything about.

  • Anonymous

    The Indiana State Senate is working on a bill to allow public schools to add “creation science” to the curriculum. I wouldn’t call it a “war” between science and religion though. It feels more like a terrorist campaign by religion against science.

  • tildeb,
    Making a claim that we cannot possibly know anything about the supernatural when greater than 90% of the people that have ever lived claim they do know something about it, means that you shoulder a massive burden of proof to back up your extremely bold claim.

    The metaphysical presupposition that the supernatural cannot be known is a tiny minority position among the human population. Your presupposition may be true, but because you are denying what Alvin Plantinga calls a properly basic belief, which the vast majority of people possess, then surely you have a lot of argumentation to do to convince the 90+% of the benighted remainder of humanity who do not share your radical philosophical assumption.

  • Anonymous

    No, Bill. You’ve got it exactly backwards. Those who think they DO know something about it reveal the problem: whereas you lump all those who believe anything about the supernatural into a single and cohesive group – as they all know something about it to back up your point – is very revealing in detail. The number of different and even contrary claims in the tens of thousands shows us that there is no cohesion in what is believed. In total, what all these claims reveal is that there is no knowledge whatsoever; there’s only belief, which is as random as we would expect to find if we cannot know anything about it.

    And yes, reasonable people who exercise a well justified and healthy scepticism towards these claims are in the minority. And what does that say about the gullibility and confusion of those who assume their beliefs are a different way of knowing? Can so many people be wrong in their attributions and assertions and causal claims? The truthful and honest answer is a resounding yes… unless and until an evidence-based causal chain can be shown to link effects in this world to causation in this supernatural. In the meantime, such ‘knowledge’ proclaimed to be revelatory from this dubious source is worth exactly nothing in truth value. It is upon those who think there is value to prove it.

  • Andrew Ryan

    Argument from popularity?

  • The fact that people disagree about what the supernatural is like in no way proves that the supernatural does not exist. Surely you understand this obvious point!

    Human beings disagree about a myriad of subjects, but we don’t then question the existence of all of those subjects, do we?

    You have still failed to make a case for the fact that a basic intuition of virtually everyone that is alive is that there are powers that exist beyond the natural world that is apprehended by our 5 senses. All you have said is that people disagree about the attributes of that realm.

    Evidence-based causal chains in no way exhaust the way that human beings know things. Some knowledge is simply properly basic. In fact, there is no evidence-based causal chain that demonstrates that the statement – “evidence-based causal chains are the only way to know anything” – is true!

    You, my friend, simply have a subjective preference for knowledge that proceeds from the scientific method. Your mistake is that instead of facing the fact that this is only one way to know, you have determined that it is the only way to know. Not only is that viewpoint self-refuting, it flies in the face of the sum total of human experience.

  • Anonymous

    Your ‘obvious’ point is no such thing; it’s simply reveals there’s no coherence in claims made about the supernatural. Without coherence, claims about the supernatural are equivalent to made up stuff with no way to determine which if any are actually true. This is not a minor point when diametrically opposed claims about the supernatural are made and action here undertaken on these competing and conflicting ‘authority’.

    You claim the supernatural is available to our five senses. Prove it. You claim ‘virtually everyone’ can perceive the supernatural through these senses. Prove it. Leave out the specific claims (which will only clutter the claim) and show this perception itself. If our sense are receiving data, then that data has to come from somewhere, and that location should revealed to exist. Bill, you cannot have it both ways and have the supernatural exist where our senses can locate it while pretending that it is inaccessible to scientific inquiry. That’s just making up the rules and shifting the goalposts as you go along. Keep it simple. Keep it causal. Show efficacy. And once this is done, show by what mechanism your senses perceive this input. If you are successful, rest assured that the Nobel is yours.

    If you want to discuss how your biology predisposes you to assuming agency, then that’s fine. We can have that discussion. But if you assume that agency is real and causal, then it falls to you to prove it. Calling the assumption ‘properly basic’ merely avoids informing the claim with anything more than imaginings. I’m sorry that’s the case, but without evidence your claim is equivalent to made up stuff.

    If you can show knowledge that is true for everyone everywhere all the time deduced from your beliefs, then please tell us because so far religious belief – revelation from god, no less! – has yielded zero new knowledge. It has, without doubt, provided us with a plethora of conflicting claims that cause no end of mischief when believed to be true, but not one jot of consistent and reliable knowledge. That’s not my fault, Bill; that’s just the way it turns out. So it makes no sense to call this belief in belief another kind of knowledge, another way of knowing, when it only pretends to hold out this hope but always fails to deliver. This is not a trivial point, either. It’s a clue…

  • You have misunderstood me. I did not mean to say that the supernatural is directly accessible by our 5 senses. I was saying that the natural world is accessible by our senses. We can only know about the supernatural by reasoning from effects in the natural world back to supernatural causes. We can also know about the supernatural through revelation.

    You said, “If you want to discuss how your biology predisposes you to assuming agency, then that’s fine. We can have that discussion.”

    Your sword is two-edged and cuts you just as deeply. If you want to discuss how your biology predisposes you to assuming the supernatural does not exist, we can have that discussion, as well.

    If that is the path you want to take, then I’m afraid that everything you are saying to me is merely programmed by your genetics, isn’t it? It’s your biology vs. mine, and that leads all of our conversation to a dead end of physical determinism.

  • Andrew Ryan

    You could rephrase it to say “One can only know one thing about that thing – the fact that one only knows that one thing”, but it’s a pretty pedantic semantic point to make.

    Kind of like an Alzheimer’s sufferer saying to you “I can’t be sure of anything any more”, and you replying “Ah, if you can’t be sure of ANYTHING, then how can you be sure of the fact that you can’t be sure?”.

    Anyway if you’re saying that the phrase “One cannot possibly know anything about x” is self-refuting no matter what x is then I don’t think that logically follows.

    “If you can’t possibly know anything about the internal mind of cats living in Berkshire on this day 500 years ago, then how can YOU know that you can’t know anything about it?”

  • Anonymous

    Or as we like to call it, a stealth campaign. The latest is in New Hampshire and this battle never ends to insert creationism into the science classroom by any means possible. The point here is that without any religious motivation, there is no attack on science. It stems entirely from faith-based religious belief but doesn’t go after physics and chemistry that uses exactly the same epistemology as biology; only evolution is targeted by this mass ignorance (pun intended), which follows this standard attack:

    1. Select a conclusion which you believe is true.
    2. Find one piece of evidence that possibly might fit.
    3. Ignore all other evidence.
    4. Cherry pick your epistemology whenever it’s convenient to your faith-based beliefs and call everyone to objects militant.
    5. That’s it.

    And this is what creationists want to teach our children in science class.

  • Anonymous

    And the latest from Indiana.

  • Anonymous

    The Indiana amendment now reads:

    The governing body of a school corporation may (require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science, within the school corporation) offer instruction on various theories of the origin of life. The curriculum for the course must include theories from multiple religions, which may include, but is not limited to, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Scientology.

    The bracketed part has been struck and the new language is in bold.

  • MarkD

    Surely you can recognise a difference between operational science (repeatable experiments to understand natural laws in the present) and origins science (theories on how life began which are based on philosophical assumptions and go on to support a view on what life is about). If physics and chemistry are left alone it’s because they operate in the former and do not lead to a clash of worldviews, which is what the article is talking about.

    If the evidence for creation is as weak as you try to make out, you should not be so offended about the possibility of it being presented to students…

  • Anonymous

    There is no such method known as ‘origin science;’ there’s just the method of science. This is what is used in any subject called ‘science’.

    Surely you don’t mind Stork Theory presented to students in biology class about human reproduction, do you? We could dedicate, say, 25% of curriculum time to it. And then there’s the Cabbage Patch Theory. Let’s dedicate another 25% of class time to examining ‘the strengths and weaknesses’ of this comparable theory. And then we should look at First Nations accounts from the Americas – 25% – and then world aboriginal accounts – 25% … and then using critical thinking approaches look at the ancient Greek versions of of how maleness sparks life from the fertile female non intelligent ground… wait… what do you mean we’re out of time? I’ve only scratched the surface of all the various ‘theories’ of human reproduction!

    Look, provide either compelling evidence to inform an alternative theory to evolution or get out of the way. Use the same method all science uses and stop trying to do an end around it because you don;t like the religious implications. You are harming the opportunity for students to learn the science of biology – exactly the same method that informs chemistry and physics – and thus helping to keep these children from their knowledge heritage. When you have twice as many people believing in angels than you do evolution, you have only doubled the ignorance level of the general population and not added one whit to educating them. And this shows up repeatedly in comparative testing where those students who believe religious nonsense about Oogity Boogity as some supernatural causation for real world effects score consistently lower in scientific literacy than all other students from all other developed nations. This is not a coincidence and carries with it very real and lasting negative consequences for all of us, not just the people who think their religous beliefs trump all else. There is no good science derived from belief in creationism, no knowledge, no practical applications, no advancements in technologies, no benefit in medical services, no basis for further scientific inquiry to be built on it, no new avenues of inquiry to stimulate greater understanding of reality, nothing. It’s a dead end. The only advancement you have is a greater number of people who graduate from public education who do not understand evolution. And that is called ignorance. This deplorable state is completely unnecessary except for religious interference in the public domain. Anyone who supports such ignorance should be ashamed.

  • Ggodat

    You said,

    “Look, provide either compelling evidence to inform an alternative theory to evolution or get out of the way.”

    Why don’t you try doing the same! Provide compelling evidence that evolution is correct or shut up! Evolution has no explanation for the origin of ANYTHING! Cambrian explosion… BOOM roasted! No transitional fossil record… BOOM roasted! No explanation for a moral code… BOOM roasted!

    Please bring something stronger to the game than your weak rhetoric.

  • Andrew Ryan

    Have you ever been to a natural history museum? You’ll find they’re full of the transitional fossils you’re after. Thousands of those pesky blighters that you claim don’t exist. Boom roasted indeed.

  • Anonymous

    Ggodat, I appreciate your passion but it’s not based on good information. A really good source filled with stuff that addresses many of your concerns is here.

  • MarkD

    I think you would agree that human reproduction is fully observable and testable. Unrecorded history isn’t. We have the same physical evidence but it can be interpreted in different ways. You are determined that the rules for deducing origins should exclude God because that fits your worldview. it doesn’t fit mine, and I genuinely believe that your worldview is destructive if it really takes root in society – as well as being factually incorrect. There were a good number of great pioneers of modern science who believed in creation and it didn’t get in the way of their science: nor does it need to today. The different worldviews that Bill Pratt has written about do lead in different directions on serious moral issues in society, and as you rightly say, what students end up believing does matter for all of us.

  • Andrew Ryan

    “The different worldviews that Bill Pratt has written about do lead in different directions on serious moral issues in society”

    Can you give examples where not believing in God necessarily leads to bad morals?

  • Goodness, but you come rather heavily equipped with many creationist canards. So let’s address the issue this way:

    Show me evidence for god and a coherent explanation of how that evidence fits creationism better than evolutionary biology – THE foundational explanation for ALL our biological sciences today, remember – and we’ll be able to learn something new. Together. Until then, creationists only have an intentionally misleading media campaign masquerading as an alternative ‘science’. It’s qualitatively no better informed than Stork Theory.

    The reason – if you’re interested – in why creation ‘science’ is no such thing is because it doesn’t produce any knowledge whatsoever. It is simply a religious belief unsupported by evidence from reality. There’s nothing here to work with, to stimulate new avenues of inquiry and create discoveries. Creationism – what I like to accurately call belief in POOF!ism – stands contrary to what we know is reliably and consistently true in fact and, like all religious assertions based on some imaginary faith position, will eventually yield to knowledge. That’s why children should not be exposed to such pernicious and deleterious faith-based drivel that we know adversely impedes honest inquiry into nature and replaces it with made up stuff. What’s true actually matters and we should respect it enough to restrain our faith-based beliefs when it comes to the education of our children.

  • Don Jindra

    “The number of different and even contrary claims in the tens of thousands shows us that there is no cohesion in what is believed.”


  • MarkD

    Andrew, secular humanism is eroding some moral positions which still enjoy general support but are grounded in Christianity and not atheism, such as the sanctity of human life and the value of the traditional family. This is a clearly recognisable trend. Christianity seeks to understand God’s blueprint for life based on the Bible, on the grounds that God is real and we are who the Bible says we are. Humanism basically replaces this with the idea that the zeitgeist defines what’s right and wrong. As a Christian it is perfectly reasonable for me to be very concerned with this trend.

  • MarkD

    tildeb, obviously we are not going to be able to agree. I consider my position to be credible, reasonable and real. I believe that the Bible is true, and I am satisfied that evidence of historical origins is broadly consistent with my position as argued at I accept that there are many details I don’t have answers for, but I believe this is no different to the many details that evolution doesn’t have answers for. No-one needs to be held up in their scientific endeavours by believing in the Bible. I’m a design engineer myself and I encourage others to take up STEM careers. Evolutionary beliefs have not always led to good conclusions when little-understood glands have been assumed as expendable, and assumptions about junk dna may yet turn out to have impeded useful enquiry. But at the end of the day we’re both trying to influence students in their beliefs about God because we believe this vitally affects their lives and the direction of society: arguing about how useful creation or evolution is to science is a side issue. You are trying to push atheism and I’m objecting to that. You object to my Chrstianity and I understand that. I would like students to know my position and you don’t. We have different worldviews.

  • I find it interesting that you consider legal inequalities based on religious beliefs to be ‘moral’. I also find it fascinating that you seem to think that the shifting moral zeitgeist – ie today’s notion that slavery is abominable in moral terms – is in some way inferior to biblical prescriptions – like how to treat slaves! The presumption on which your reasoning depends is that biblical means moral… regardless of the actions it prescribes. Yet you, yourself, betray this presumption by having brought your morality TO your interpretations of scripture prior to ever receiving any moral revelation from it whatsoever. How is this possible?

    So when you suggest some moral concern is ‘grounded’ in the bible, I suspect you do not understand or appreciate the difference between proving that to be true and assuming it to be true. I guarantee you simply assume. Incorrectly, I think.

    The sanctity of human life held by many religious folk to be immutable really does produce and sustain horrific suffering in some circumstances. That you are willing to maintain this rigid position and think it is pious to do so really can turn you into a willing agent and an immoral monster in the eyes of the sufferer. Those who are willing to challenge the pious on this and many other inflexible positions of imposed brutality and enforced submission to the authority you call your faith is hardly eroding morality as you claim; it is improving human well-being by reducing unnecessary suffering at the expense of respecting your belief in divine totalitarianism. Someday you’re going to have to allow others the same rights and freedoms and legal equality you presume for yourself. It may be difficult to give up the privileges accorded to the pious but supporting legal equality really is the moral high ground even if it isn’t supported by scripture.

  • MarkD

    tildeb, I don’t believe your faith in the shifting zeitgeist to define what is good is at all justified. In the case of slavery I can point to Wilberforce who’s Christian principles drove the abolition of slavery in the UK.

    You can cite examples of people who claimed to be Christians but acted in a way that is inconsistent with what the Bible teaches, but I’m arguing for the real thing, not dead religion. We are meant to have a living relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ and just because God has decided that this will be based on faith does not invalidate it.

    The shifting zeitgeist, on the other hand, accepts no absolute right and wrong. I know of interviews with major atheist figures where they see value in being a ‘cultural christian’, and admit that there is no ultimate foundational reason in atheism why they reject things that we would agree as being wrong. Just looking at the last hundred years of history should show you that it’s easy for entire populations to be carried along with terrible ideas leading to great suffering, things that are easily rejected by a plain reading of the Bible and which those who really have a relationship with God are best placed to discern. On the other hand, consistent atheism (not borrowing from a Christian heritage) cannot offer compelling arguments why those atrocities should have been morally wrong.

  • Andrew Ryan

    “it’s easy for entire populations to be carried along with terrible ideas leading to great suffering, things that are easily rejected by a plain reading of the Bible”

    Plain readings of the bible can and have been used to justify slavery and genocide. That’s doesn’t help. Wilberforce may have cited his beliefs, but the proponents of slavery were able to point to the many, many bible passages that clearly condoned slavery. Indeed such passages WERE used to justify the slave trade for centuries.

  • Mark D, maybe you missed the irony in your own response: you use Wilberforce actions to indicate ‘christian principles’ over and above biblical references that utterly fail to condemn it. (I’ll bet even you would condemn slavery outright!) Then you tell me:

    You can cite examples of people who claimed to be Christians but acted in a way that is inconsistent with what the Bible teaches…. Do you see what you’re doing here? Exactly what you accuse me of doing! Whereas I can show strong evidence that following the moral prescriptions from scripture can lead just as easily to immoral behaviour as moral, you presume moral behaviour you agree with properly reflects ‘christian principles’ derived from the bible. You’ve created a comfy, “Heads the bible wins, Tails critics of the bible lose” framework, while condemning the very moral zeitgeist that determines how you interpret biblical morality!

    You conclude the claim with but I’m arguing for the real thing, not dead religion. And this is where the rubber meets the road. You are arguing that your religious basis for your morality is better than those who do not share the respect you afford your own scriptural interpretation, when you write that those who really have a relationship with God are best placed to discern what is and isn’t moral. Your framework is hard at work here vilifying in somewhat gentle terms a condescending claim atheists do not have as good a basis as you do, not because you are arrogant to assume moral superiority on your own but have been awarded this superiority on the basis of ‘finding it’ in scripture. How convenient for you and how unfortunate for me. The only problem is, your framework is simply wrong; you show that you yourself cannot produce a better moral model from scripture alone without going outside of it. Your claim of moral superiority deduced from scripture is patently false. So if you don’t get your morality from scripture as is clearly the case, then where do you get it from? (Hint: probably the same place I do…)

  • MarkD

    Hi guys, slavery is a big subject and perhaps a bit off-topic but worth looking at because the issue being contended is important, i.e. whether the Bible does teach us how we should behave. You seem to think that if someone falsely claims to have Biblical authority, yet they are not actually following its teaching, this somehow means the Bible doesn’t teach anything. How is that logical?

    First, the whole Bible needs to be taken into account – the New Testament is included as it’s relevant to the time we’re living in. The discussion on how the same God could give instructions for a form of slavery in the Old Testament is a separate question not directly covering the issue of how the Bible teaches us to approach slavery for today.

    Second, our concept of slavery is affected by New World slavery. This was particularly cruel, as argued elsewhere on this site. You will find commentators who don’t think so but I don’t believe they have a good case.

    The aspects of harsh treatment are clearly condemned taking the Bible as a whole, so the nature of New World slavery meant
    that anyone consistently applying the Bible would condemn it, and anyone cherry-picking parts to justify it was being inconsistent. The motivation of people like Wilberforce included the Bible’s teaching against harsh treatment but went further, to foundational issues of human brotherhood, and these ideas are also taken from the Bible. The New Testament did not make a call which would have encouraged a slave rebellion, but it did lay a good basis for our modern rejection of any form of slavery. See for much fuller treatment.

    I agree that to some extent we are all children of our times, and easily swept along by the zeitgeist. All the more reason for needing the Bible’s teaching to challenge the destructive ideas that come along. By contrast, atheism does lack a good basis for defining anything as wrong – guilty as charged, I’m afraid. Neither assessing it logically nor looking at it’s track record gives any justification to put your hope in atheism.

  • Daf

    God was the very first scientist. He invented time, space and matter Gen ch1 ‘In the beginning {time} God created the Heavens(space) and the earth( matter) Everything scientists find out and will find out is already embedded in creation and existed from the beginning. God is always in charge of the unveiling and and revelation of every aspect of science.

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