Can Genesis be reconciled with modern science? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
I was pleased to go through this chapter and find that Mills regularly interacted with the Christian scholarship holding the opinion he disagreed with. He cited sources regularly, took them seriously and……yeah. We all know that didn’t happen!
So how does Mills start?
The New Testament books of Matthew and Luke then continue the genealogy from David to Jesus, again specifying the age at which each male descendant “begat” the next generation. Since we have a fixed “historical” time period for Jesus’ birth, creationists thereby calculate that the heavens and Earth were created by God in the year 4004 B.C. Earth, therefore, is only 6000 years old by the biblical chronology.
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 137). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
No. Earth is 6,000 years old according to Bishop Ussher’s chronology. We’ve learned a lot about biblical genealogies since then, but what does new information have to do with Mills? It would be awful to read the latest and best scholarship on the matter. One wonders what Mills would think if I judged modern science by the beliefs of scientists 300+ years ago. Sure. Like Biblical scholars and historians, they had some things right, but they had some things wrong as well.
Again also, this term comes up of creationists. At some points, Mills would seem to think someone like me is a creationist, but I sure don’t hold to the Earth being 6,000 years old. Not even all YECs hold 6,000 years as some go for 10,000 years.
He also says some creationists say that if the Earth is this young, then evolution is a fraud. On that, they are right, at least in the macro sense. Macroevolution is definitely a fraud then. The problem is what he says after this:
They echo the sentiments of St. Thomas Aquinas, who believed that any discord between science and Scripture was due to errors of science, rather than errors of Scripture.
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 137). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
Aquinas wrote around 80 books or so in his lifetime. Mills just throws out a claim and gives no reference whatsoever to it. To be sure also, I asked some other friends who are also Thomists if they could recognize any such reference. We all knew of no place where Aquinas said this and we also agreed he would be hesitant to disagree with Augustine who said:
“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience.
“Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion [1 Timothy 1.7].” (The Literal Meaning of Genesis, Book 1 Chapter 19 Paragraph 39)
Note this also. There is a reference to that. I don’t pull Mills’s technique of saying “This guy said this. Just trust me on it!” If anyone wants to see what Augustine said, that’s where you go.
One creationist he does interact with is R.L. Wysong. While I don’t agree with Wysong’s claims on the speed of light, granting Mills represents them accurate, a huge thing to grant, I do find it odd that one criticism Mills has is Wysong is a veterinarian. I find this odd because I tried to find Mills’s academic credentials and I couldn’t find any, and yet Mills wants to speak on science, philosophy, history, and Biblical studies, and have us take him seriously.
Moving on, Mills says:
Today, some creationists are abandoning their long-held belief in a 6000-year-old Earth. Why this abrupt reversal of opinion? Were startling new chapters suddenly discovered in the Book of Genesis? Did Moses appear in a miraculous vision, revising his previous chronology, and teaching the geological history of an ancient Earth? No. The change of heart among some creationists is due to the fact that modern scientific research has shown the Genesis chronology to be nothing short of ridiculous.
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 142). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
Actually, this is false. There had always been discussions on the age of the Earth. It can be granted to Mills that Since the Beginning was not in print when he wrote this book, but the information that Greenwood cites in his work was available. (My copy is back in Tennessee so I am unable to cite the references here.) Mills just assumes that a fundamentalist reading has always been the held reading.
More-liberal-minded creationists, however, strive mightily to disassociate themselves from the conservative Fundamentalists. These non-literalists often refuse to call themselves “creationists,” even though they believe in God as the Almighty Creator of the heavens and the Earth. This non-literalist group believes in an ancient Earth and in macro (large-scale) evolution. They believe that Genesis and modern science may be successfully reconciled. The primary difference between the literalists and the non-literalists is this: The literalists distort science to make it harmonize with Genesis. The non-literalists distort Genesis to make it harmonize with science.
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 142-143). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
Yet in all of this, Mills has not gone through the text of Genesis. He has not made any attempt to explain how it should be read. All he is saying is “Anyone who doesn’t read it in way X is wrong.” One may disagree with readings of others who do not hold to a YEC position, but one should at least see what they say and how they explain the text.
That is, if one really cares about truth. Mills doesn’t, so not a shock that he doesn’t do this.
Generally speaking, religious-minded individuals know little about science. And science-minded individuals know even less about the Bible. With each camp sadly uninformed about the other, reconciliation seems possible and desirable to both sides. In reality, agreement is possible only by (1) perverting science, as the Fundamentalists do, or by (2) perverting the Book of Genesis, as the non-literalists do.
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 143-144). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
Yes, everyone. Science-minded individuals, of whom I am sure Mills will include himself, are uninformed about the Bible, but Mills is the exception! He will tell you what the Bible really means! It would be a delight to see what Mills would say in a debate with someone like John Lennox or Hugh Ross.
1. The non-literalists believe that Earth is much older than 6000 years. To rationalize their belief in an ancient Earth, non-literalists claim that the Genesis genealogies contain “errors of omission.” In other words, the genealogies are only partial lists, overlooking many intermediate generations between Adam and Jesus. When Scripture says, for example, that “Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber,” that really means that Salah lived thirty years and begat Eber’s grandfather or great, great, great, grandfather. When the “missing” generations are added to the chronology, the date of Creation drifts further into the past. To me, such a position is absolutely mind-boggling. How can we believe (A) that Genesis is the Inspired, Perfect, Holy, Infallible Word of God, while simultaneously believing (B) that the Genesis genealogies should be disregarded because they contain “errors of omission”? Was God in a forgetful mood when He “inspired” Genesis? Creationist Henry Clarence Thiessen, suggesting that the Genesis genealogies may be overlooked, writes that “a study of the various [other] biblical genealogies indicates that they are incomplete and contain omissions.”
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 144-145). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
After all, the only way you can do a genealogy is the way modern people do. The genealogies do have omissions in them. That’s not because they’re “errors.” It’s because of the way genealogies were done in the past. As said though, Mills is not interested in this kind of thinking or research.
From this, he gets to saying:
So the non-literalist argument goes like this: We believe that the Genesis genealogies may be unreliable since other biblical genealogies are also unreliable.
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 145). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
But we aren’t saying they are unreliable. They are reliable for the purpose for which they were written and the time as well. Mills is imposing a modern standard on the genealogies that is foreign to the text.
When viewed in isolation, the Genesis genealogies themselves posit no miraculous events or supernatural Beings. If we cannot interpret these mundane genealogies literally, then we cannot interpret anything in the Bible literally. These same creationists, however, demand that we interpret literally the existence of God, Jesus, the Holy Ghost, the Devil, Angels, Heaven and Hell. All miraculous events portrayed in the Bible are likewise to be interpreted in a strictly literal sense: Jesus literally turned water into wine—literally cast out demons—literally walked on the Sea of Galilee—literally placed a magic curse on a fig tree—literally rose from the dead. Apparently, it’s only the Genesis genealogies that we are supposed to interpret metaphorically.
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 147-148). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
But saying the genealogies were done differently is not saying they were metaphorical. No. These were real people in a real time and a real place.
Let us remember that a young Earth was always posited by religious leaders throughout the entire history of Christianity. No medieval priest ever asserted that Genesis described a 4.5-billion-year-old Earth. No ancient church document ever claimed that Adam and Eve lived hundreds of millions of years ago. And no pre-Renaissance missionary ever preached a sermon about “omissions” or “time gaps” in the Genesis genealogies. If creationists now wish to abandon their historical position and acquiesce to an ancient Earth, then I applaud their progress. But it is a farce to maintain that Genesis never really demanded a young Earth since the genealogies were always intended as metaphors.
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 148). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
Of course, Mills gives no citations for any of this. There is no indication he has looked at church history. There is no mention of creedal statements or anything of the sort. It is just asserted. Also, I contend that no one could tell the age of the Earth from Genesis because that was not the point of Genesis.
Mills then goes on to list other “problems” in the text, such as the existence of unicorns. He lists all the references, but fails to mention that this is just how the KJV translated it. There is no Hebrew word for unicorn. Many translations now speak of it as the auroch instead. What Mills would need to show is that the Hebrew word meant unicorn. This, he does not do.
The same can apply to dragons, which can often refer to a great serpent or a sea monster or even a venomous snake. The word for cockatrice also refers to a serpent. Satyrs most likely refers to hairy goats.
I also find it revealing that, in the newer, modern-language translations of the Bible, these ridiculous passages of Scripture have been dishonestly excised, rewritten or edited beyond recognition from their original translation in the King James. So not only are the Great Pretenders forsaking long-honored and long-held Christian beliefs, but the Bible itself, under their supervision, appears to be experiencing a quiet, behind-the-scenes, Hollywood makeover as well.
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 150). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
Yes. Because the way the KJV translated it was the way the church for all those years always understood the text. It would be horrible for Mills to go back and just try to figure out what the original words meant. If you go and look up the words on BlueLetterBible.com, you are doing more research than Mills did.
Because religious doctrines are supposedly ordained of God, the religious adherent cannot easily question the teachings of his chosen church, even when those teachings are provably false. The scientist, on the other hand, is most rewarded when he proves the conventional wisdom wrong and revolutionizes our understanding of the universe.
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 155). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
On the contrary, I happen to love it when Christians start questioning the church. Meanwhile, go out as a scientist and start questioning climate change or at least humans causing climate change and see what happens to you. Go out and say “Maybe the Intelligent Design crowd has a point” and see what happens to you. Scientists often have their own groups that do not welcome any questioning. (After Covid, we can speak a lot about any scientist who dared say that Covid was made in a lab.)
Mills is fooling himself if he thinks any majority really likes to be questioned.
The fun continues next time as we talk about miracles.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)