Based on the quotations below, Augustine would say creationists and ID proponents are “reckless and incompetent expounders of Scripture” because they turn the Bible into primitive science.

From Peter Enns, Senior Fellow in Biblical Studies at the BioLogos Foundation:

You cannot expect the Bible — written in ancient times for ancient eyes — to enter a modern scientific discussion, and you cannot fault the Bible when it fails to answer our questions.

This is not a new insight. Augustine said famously 1600 years ago that Christians embarrass themselves when they appeal to the Bible to settle scientific matters (cosmology was the issue he was dealing with). Even if many Christians throughout history did assume that the Bible is scientifically accurate, the problems with that position have been understood for a very long time, long before the modern era.

The problems with thinking of the Bible as a science book have been made clearer in recent generations. Beginning in the middle of the nineteenth century, archaeologists unearthed other creations stories from the ancient Mesopotamian world, the same environment that produced the Bible. These discoveries have helped us understand a lot about how creation stories worked in the ancient world.

Ancient peoples did not investigate how things came to be; they assumed that there was a “beginning” when the gods formed the earth, people, animals, trees, etc., as you see them now. You can hardly blame them for making this assumption. The “how” question of creation was settled. They were interested in the “who” question: which of the gods is responsible for all of this? Each society had its own answer to this question, which they told in story form. The biblical story cannot claim a scientific higher ground. It, too, works with ancient themes and categories to tell Israel’s distinct story (qtd. from “Does God Talk to Us Through Fiction? Unpacking a Non-Literal Interpretation of the Bible”).

From St. Augustine:
Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of the 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 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 [quoting 1 Tim 1:7] (qtd. from The Literal Meaning of Genesis).

Articles by Christopher Benson

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