@Victor Marshall: The bottom line of this controversy is not …

Comment on Last Thursdayism by Sean Pitman.

@Victor Marshall:

The bottom line of this controversy is not about creation vs. evolution, but authority. Does the Bible inform our science or does science inform the Bible? This question lies at the heart of this controversy.” – Shane Hilde

If as Sean seems to imply, the Bible is useless without scientific empirical evidence to support it – then is the Bible really informing science, or the other way around? Is the Bible the final authority or science?

As I’ve asked you before, upon what basis does one choose the Bible as authoritative over other competing options? Do we as Seventh-day Adventists do as the Latter-day Saints and argue that we know that our Book is “The Truth” because the Holy Spirit tells us directly? – through some sort of deep impression or sensation way deep down inside?

I think not. Rather, as the Bible defends itself against the accusation of being a bunch of “cunningly devised fables” (2 Peter 1:16) by appealing to the empirical evidence experienced by the authors and to the empirical fulfillment of prophecy in actual history – among other empirical arguments.

Therefore, our faith in the Bible should not without empirical basis and actually demands an empirical basis in order for one to be able to take a rational stand on the credibility of the Bible vs. other competing options – such as the Book of Mormon, the Qur’an, the Talmud, or even the claims of mainstream scientists. The Bible must have greater logical appeal based on the weight of available empirical evidence than any other competing option. If it does not, what basis is there, besides blind faith, to give someone as a reason to trust the Bible over any of the other competing options?

Consider the response of well-known Christian appologist Ravi Zacharias in answer to this question: What do you say to a pastor who says, “Apologetics is just philosophy, and we do not need that. All we need is the Bible”?

Zacharias: I desperately wish it were that simple. When pastors believe and teach, “all we need is the Bible,” they equip their young people with the very line that gets them mocked in the universities and makes them unable and even terrified to relate to their friends. If pastors want their young people to do the work of evangelism — to reach their friends — that line will not get them anywhere. Even the Bible that Christ gave us is sustained by the miracle of the Resurrection.

The Resurrection gave the Early Church the argument that Christ is risen: We saw, we witnessed, we felt, and we touched. The apostle Paul defended this gospel. He went to Athens and planted a church there. In Ephesus he defended the faith in the school of Tyrannus. We also need to become all things to all people.

If a pastor says, “All we need is the Bible,” what does he say to a man who says, “All I need is the Quran”? It is a solipsistic method of arguing.

The pastor is saying, “All I need is my own point of reference and nothing more than that.” Even the gospel was verified by external references. The Bible is a book of history, a book of geography, not just a book of spiritual assertions.

The fact is the resurrection from the dead was the ultimate proof that in history — and in empirically verifiable means — the Word of God was made certain. Otherwise, the experience on the Mount of Transfiguration would have been good enough. But the apostle Peter says in 2 Peter 1:19: “We have the Word of the prophets made more certain … as to a light shining in a dark place.” He testified to the authority and person of Christ, and the resurrected person of Christ.

To believe, “All we need is the Bible and nothing more,” is what the monks believed in medieval times, and they resorted to monasteries. We all know the end of that story. This argument may be good enough for those who are convinced the Bible is authority. The Bible, however, is not authoritative in culture or in a world of counter-perspectives. To say that it is authoritative in these situations is to deny both how the Bible defends itself and how our young people need to defend the Bible’s sufficiency.

It is sad that some people think a person who asks, “Why the Bible?” is being dishonest. This is a legitimate question.

Last week, I was in India. I met with the president of India, and then I had meetings with some key men and women who hold the highest places in society. They are India’s tycoons. My driver was a Muslim man. Every time he introduced himself, he would give his name and say that he was a Muslim. So I introduced myself, “I am Ravi Zacharias. I am a Christian.”

On the last day, I sat down with him with a Bible in Hindi, and we talked. Before that hour was over, he bowed his head and received Christ. He had numerous questions on how God could have a Son. People had told him that the Bible was corrupted. He was honest. He needed to know why the Bible is authoritative and can be trusted. He gave his life to Jesus Christ. What a wonderful way to end a three-week journey, with my chauffeur — a man in his twenties — who bowed his head, wiped away his tears, and prayed to receive Jesus Christ.

In short, our faith in the credibility of the Bible must be based on some sort of empirical evidence – a form of “science” that uses the same basic logical arguments as scientific arguments use. It is only with the the use of such empirical evidences that we can appeal to the logical candid rational mind – as did the biblical authors.

So yes, a form of science is needed to support a rational leap of faith in the authority and credibility of the Bible. Therefore, the debate here isn’t “science vs. religion”, but “science vs. science” and “religion vs. religion”. Our religion should be our science since God is the God of both scientific and religious understanding. Both science and religion take leaps of faith which can be based on the weight of empirical evidence.

As Mrs. White put it:

“True science and the Bible religion are in perfect harmony.” and goes on to describe the conclusion of mainstream scientists that differ from the claims of the Bible as “”science falsely so called” – not valid scientific conclusions.

– Ellen White, Nichol SDA Bible Commentary, 4:1167.
– Ellen White, Great Controversy, p 522

In other words, science and empirical reasoning are not the enemies of true religion. These are gifts of God which, rightly used with sincere motives, are the only rational options we have to appreciate God and worship Him in an intelligent and thoughtful manner that goes beyond mere emotion. Emotion and faith need to follow the mind, not the other way around.

Sean Pitman

Sean Pitman Also Commented

Last Thursdayism
@Victor Marshall:

“The deepest students of science are constrained to recognize in nature the working of infinite power. But to man’s unaided reason, nature’s teaching cannot but be contradictory and disappointing. Only in the light of revelation can it be read aright, ‘Through faith we understand.’Heb.11:3″ – Ed.134

It is because of scientific investigation that we can come to the conclusion that revelation is valid and credible – that it has useful predictive power beyond just-so stories and moral fables.

You reference Mrs. White who in turn references Hebrews 11:3. Yet you fail to even comment on the many statements of Mrs. White where she very clearly explains that faith must rest upon the weight of evidence, not demonstration; where she claims that God always gives plenty of evidence upon which to base our faith:

God does not propose to remove all occasion for unbelief. He gives evidence, which must be carefully investigated with a humble mind and a teachable spirit, and all should decide from the weight of evidence” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 255).

“God gives sufficient evidence for the candid mind to believe; but he who turns from the weight of evidence because there are a few things which he cannot make plain to his finite understanding will be left in the cold, chilling atmosphere of unbelief and questioning doubts, and will make shipwreck of faith” (ibid., vol. 4, pp. 232, 233).

“God never asks us to believe, without giving sufficient evidence upon which to base our faith. His existence, His character, the truthfulness of His Word, are all established by testimony that appeals to our reason; and this testimony is abundant. Yet God has never removed the possibility of doubt. Our faith must rest upon evidence, not demonstration. Those who wish to doubt will have opportunity; while those who really desire to know the truth, will find plenty of evidence on which to rest their faith.” – The Great Controversy, p. 527. and Steps to Christ, p. 105.

There is no appeal to blind faith here. Faith, according to Mrs. White, is ultimately supported by the weight of evidence together with a form of scientific reasoning. She specifically notes that, “God never asks us to believe without first supplying sufficient evidence upon which to base our faith.” Why don’t you address such statements? – even once?

The very same thing is true of the biblical appeal to faith. Biblical faith is clearly supported by the weight of empirical evidence as well. It is not blind to the weight of empirical evidence and rational reasoning abilities common to human beings. (Psalm 19:1, Romans 1:20 NIV, John 14:11 and 2 Peter 1:16)

How do you not yet understand this concept? How do you not see that it is through a form of scientific reasoning that one is able to come to a reasonable conclusion that the Bible is superior to any other source of information about God, His Creative Power, and His care and plan for the universe and for us as individuals?

Blind faith is worthless my friend. Even you appeal to empirical evidences for your faith when it comes right down to it…

Sean Pitman

Last Thursdayism
@Ron Stone M.D.:

Sean, You must have a different definition of “empirical” than others. Empirical means by direct experience or observation alone, without regard to a system or theory.

Empiricism refers to a theory of knowledge in philosophy which adheres to the principle that knowledge arises from experience and evidence gathered specifically using the senses.

If empirical data reach significance under the appropriate statistical formula, the research hypothesis is supported. If not, the null hypothesis is supported (or, more correctly, not rejected), meaning no effect of the independent variable(s) was observed on the dependent variable(s).

It is important to understand that the outcome of empirical research using statistical hypothesis testing is never proof. It can only support a hypothesis, reject it, or do neither. These methods yield only probabilities.


In this sense, empirical data are used in various forms of scientific reasoning. The same can be, and I think should be, true of useful religion.

You cannot list off any example in the Bible where God asked anyone to believe anything without first supplying adequate empirical evidence; evidence that appeals directly to the senses and the rational mind. Nowhere does God ask for or expect completely blind faith in His Word.

If someone asked you to prove, using empirical evidence, that God created the earth, would you say the “empirical evidence” is Genesis?

As noted above, one cannot absolutely “prove” anything. One can only produce a useful level of predictive value by appealing to empirical evidence and the past success of the hypothesis/theory in question that is never absolute.

Genesis, by itself, is not empirical evidence of anything. Someone approaching it for the first time has a host of possible explanations for its existence. Perhaps it is a moral fable? or a poetic allegory? Perhaps it is an effort to describe remote history from a limited perspective where much of the information is simply mistaken or not very accurate? Perhaps it is accurate?

How does one decide among these various potential hypothetical options as to which option is most likely true? The argument that one must simply assume, a priori, without any appeal to any kind of comparison with the real world that is experienced by the senses, is simply not convincing to the candid individual who hasn’t already made up his/her mind.

What reasons are you going to give to a Muslim or Hindu or Latter-day Saint for why your Bible should be considered of supreme authority? – your blind faith? The same as the LDS often use? – to the point of withstanding all available empirical evidence? How is that supposed to fly?

Rather, if you know you have an honest and sincere seeker for truth in front of you, why not appeal to what God appeals to as a support for His claims? – the actual universally available empirical evidence?

Sean Pitman

Last Thursdayism

So He said to them, “How is it you do not understand?” – Mark 8:13-21

This is one of my favorite exchanges of Jesus with His disciples. Thank you for quoting it. Don’t think that Jesus was without a sense of humor. This passage is hilarious 😉

Sean Pitman

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