Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Timelines and Perspectives: Contrasting Naturalism and Biblical Creation

By Brian Mariani

In the last post (Defining our Terms and Checking our Biases), we defined some terminology and explained that even in science, subjectivity, bias, and personal opinion are unavoidable. Now let’s look at some examples showing the radical effects of those different perspectives even when looking at the same data.

Historical Revisionism – What does that mean?

On this blog, we discuss mostly ancient history. A significant factor about studying history is that the further back in time we go, the fuzzier the facts become. In fact, the rate of decay for historical knowledge can be much quicker than you might guess. Depending on different cultural factors, biases, motives and personal agendas, history can be virtually rewritten in a few generations. This process is called “historical revisionism”.

Hitler, Hitler youth, ethnocentrism, history, racism
Hitler Youth
Historical revisionism can be, in part, based on ethnocentrism, which is a specific people groups’ pride in their own culture or heritage. A common and scary example of ethnocentrism is how Hitler, working from the ideas of evolution, concluded and convinced others that the Aryan race had evolved to be the superior race and thus primarily Jews and Blacks were inferior evolutionary forms and needed to be exterminated (survival of the fittest).

Columbus, edge of the earth, history, revisionism
Another example of historical revisionism is the long taught idea that Columbus was a lone believer in a spherical earth. While there were several scholars in history who really did believe the earth was flat, the majority of Europeans believed what the Greeks (and the church) taught, that the earth was spherical. Why have the past several generations been taught that most people believed the earth was flat before Columbus? We owe that to the writing of Washington Irving. In his "the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus"(written in 1828) he portrayed Columbus as the only believer in a spherical earth. However Irving later admitted that this work was a twist of fact and fiction. Even so, it stuck. Several later writers (Andrew White and John Draper) made the same mistake and it became a fact taught in most schools.[i]

Victory rather than Defeat

It is interesting that as you study human history, you can come across conflicting accounts of the same event. People generally record their history in a way that presents themselves in the best light.  For example a particular culture may not accurately portray their destruction in a military defeat, whereas they might also embellish a great victory. Therefore, even if we do have access to ancient historical accounts, they may not be accurate at all! 

The writings of Josephus are an example of this. Josephus was a Jewish historian who is best known for his account of the AD 70 siege of Jerusalem. However, even this eyewitness account had some misrepresentations. Josephus was employed to write his account by Titus (the Roman commander) and therefore he wrote to please the Romans. For example he stated that Titus did not know or order that the Roman soldiers destroy the Temple; in fact Josephus states that the commander gave orders to spare the Temple. However modern historians reject this because it is highly unlikely that A) Titus was not in control of his troops and B) Titus was present when they sacked the Temple and tore it down (Josephus and other historians say that he entered the Holy of Holies) which means he knew what the soldiers were doing. Many believe that Titus had Josephus write the account in order to cast a merciful light upon himself, thereby making him more popular[ii].

Differing Interpretations

 So the data itself might differ based on the perspective of whoever wrote or created it. And then a researcher or scientist comes along and they will often try to fit evidence into what they “know is true” about history (in actuality, all of us do this without even realizing it, similar to the affect of presuppositions). Whether it is interpreting ancient cave paintings to learn about an ancient culture or studying rock layers to discern the age of the earth, our previous assumptions play a part in our interpretation of the evidence. Therefore due to different perspectives and starting points, the same evidence can be interpreted in different ways. Take a look:

Naturalistic Interpretation
Biblical Interpretation
      Rock Layers[iii]
Laid down over long periods of time in small annual or seasonal layers
Most laid down rapidly in the massive catastrophe of a worldwide flood
      Fossil Record*
Since the layers were laid down slowly, organisms in lower layers (typically smaller) existed before those in more recent layers.
As sediments are mixed up in a massive flood, those sediments and organisms tend to sort out into layers, and many organisms were buried immediately by mud slurry flows.
      Ice Age[iv]
There have been many ice ages (~20) corresponding to cycles in solar activity, approximately every 100,000 years with the last one ending in about 10,000 BC.
There has been only one ice age and that was caused due to the warmer oceans and radical climate change due to the worldwide flood. It began circa. 2350 BC and ending about 700 years later.
This complex system of proteins and information has evolved from basic elements to a simpler system and to what it is today through random mutations and natural selection over ~4 billion years.
This complex system of proteins and information has been intricately designed by the source of information, the Creator God.
Everything has formed randomly in an undirected fashion in our “lucky” spot in a “lucky” universe over the past ~14 billion years.
God created everything (approximately 6000 years ago) with purpose to glorify Him.
Culture and History

Things appear old and must have arisen through long, slow-changing ages of time. Time is the hero of the plot.
God created everything mature in 6 days, Adam and Eve rebelled and God has been working out His perfect plan over the past six thousand years to redeem mankind thereby bringing glory to Himself.
1) There is no truth,
2) Truth is a construct of society
3) Truth is relative and defined by each person individually
God is truth and the only basis for truth and knowledge. Everything He says and does must align with His character. Therefore His word is truth.
Morality is a construct of society and is based on majority opinion.
God and His laws are the only basis for morality.
      Purpose of Life
1) Advance yourself or humanity to be better and to do the most good,
2) To have the most fun
3) There is no purpose.
Live your life to glorify God in everything you do; to love God and in so doing love others as well. To share the gospel and the incredible sacrifice Christ made, becoming sin for us that we may be saved through His incredible grace!

*There are many inconsistencies and fossils out of place in the fossil record.[v]

Do Some More Diggin’!

Beyond what is noted in the above chart, there are many more topics and subjects that are interpreted very differently between the two worldviews. For the sake of brevity, we won’t even get into “kinds” of animals, dinosaurs, astronomy, earth history, nature of man, suffering, death, etc. Perhaps some of those topics would be great research projects for you!

creation, evolution, Answers in Genesis, graphic
Graphic Credit: Answers in Genesis

As always we encourage you to look critically at the world and society around you and to identify the different starting points that are represented. Study God’s word, the only reliable and trustworthy starting point, and be ready to “give a defense” (1 Peter 3:15) of your view!

Have you noticed any contrasting interpretations of the same evidence that surprised you? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment or email us!

Read Brian's previous article: "Defining our Terms and Checking our Biases"

[i] “Who Invented the Flat Earth”. Answers in Genesis. 1994. Accessed A
[ii] Collins, Stephen Dando. Caesar's Legion: The Epic Saga of Julius Caesar's Elite Tenth Legion and the Armies of Rome. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2002
[iii] John K. Reed  and Michael J. Oard,  The Geological Column: Perspectives within Diluvial Geology, (Chino Valley, Az: Creation Research Society, 2006).
[iv] Michael J. Oard, An Ice Age Caused by the Genesis Flood, (El Cajon, Ca: Institute for Creation Research, 1990).
Michael J. Oard, The Frozen Record, (Santee, Ca: Institute for Creation Research, 2005).
[v] Roger Patterson, “Chapter 7: The Fossil Record,” Evolution Exposed: Earth Science, January 27, 2011, accessed March 16, 2011, 

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