Righting America

A forum for scholarly conversation about Christianity, culture, and politics in the US
The Wannabe Popes of Creationism Are on Shaky Ground | Righting America

by William Trollinger

For Answers in Genesis (AiG), the Bible is without error, and factually accurate in all things, including matters of science and history. Moreover, the Bible is perspicuous, easily understood by readers in all times and places. As a result, the best way to read the Bible is in a plain-sense, literal fashion.

Literal is the rule, except when it is not. And who decides when the Bible is not to be read literally? Why, AiG, of course.

Take, for example, this passage from Joshua 10:12-13 (NRSV):

On the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, Joshua spoke to the LORD, and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and Moon, in the valley of Aijalon.” And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in mid-heaven, and did not hurry to set for about a whole day.

It is obvious that the plain sense reading of this text is that the author of Joshua understood that the sun revolves around a stationery Earth (which, it should be noted, is in keeping with Martin Luther’s cosmological understanding).

But the biblical authorities at AiG decisively reject this commonsensical reading. In their book,  Old Earth Creationism on Trial: The Verdict Is In, Tim Chaffey and Jason Lisle reject this “hyper-literal reading of Joshua 10:12-13,” arguing instead that

It is quite obvious that Joshua was simply using observational language . . . similar to trained meteorologists today [who] speak of the sun “rising” and “setting” . . . Clearly, the Bible does not teach geocentrism, and neither do we.

In battles over the Bible’s meaning, fundamentalists almost always offer up verses to support their argument. It is telling that AiG spokesmen Chaffey and Lisle provide absolutely no text to support the notion that the Bible teaches that the earth revolves around the sun.

So it is not surprising, as we document in Righting America (145-147), that geocentrists have a field day lambasting the young Earth creationists at AiG for their failure to stand firmly on the perspicuous and inerrant Bible, and attack them for their eagerness to compromise the Word of God in their efforts to appease secular scientific authorities. That is to say, the geocentrists make precisely the same arguments against young Earth creationists that the folks at AiG make against old Earth creationists.

Here is how Gerardus Bouw, director of The Association for Biblical Astronomy, responded to the attack on geocentricity made by AiG’s Danny Faulkner:

So, if Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” is a clear statement that God created, then Ecclesiastes 1:5, “The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to the place where he arose,” is just as clear a statement of geocentricity. And with that, we come to the real issue: Is the Scripture to be the final authority on all matters which it touches, or are scholars, to be the ultimate authority? . . . The issue is final authority, is it to be the words of God, or the words of men.

As Susan Trollinger and I discuss in our 2017 essay, “The Bible and Creationism” (Oxford Handbook of the Bible in America), creationism has a history. For the first fifty years or so of the fundamentalist movement (which emerged in 1919), old Earth creationism held sway. For the past half century, young Earth creationism has dominated, making much use of the fact that it takes “day” in Genesis to mean a 24-hour-day. But given that geocentrists can “out-literal” the young Earth creationists – given that the Bible clearly states that the sun revolves around the Earth – then it makes good sense to imagine that sometime in the not-too-distant future a geocentric young Earth creationism will hold sway.

But this raises an interesting question. If geocentrists hold this trump card, why have they not yet dethroned heliocentric young Earth creationism? Stay tuned.