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A Doubter’s Guide to the Bible Review: are young earth creationists naive?

July 30, 2015

A Doubter’s Guide to the Bible Review: Chapter 1 – How Everything is Good: The Creation Story

John Dickson’s A Doubter’s Guide to the Bible begins at the beginning of the Bible with Genesis 1 and the Creation story.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth

I’m interested to hear what ‘doubter’s’ make of the first chapter of the Bible. This is because your view of what that chapter contains will impact how persuasive you find Dickson’s argument.

Dickson outlines some of the controversy surrounding the interpretation of Genesis 1 and rightly claims that ‘For some, this part of the Holy Scripture, with its emphasis on God creating the world in six days, is a huge obstacle to taking the Bible seriously.’ (p.18)

Is this true for you?

Young Earth Creationists are naive? 

Dickson then goes on to describe (helpfully in my mind) the genre and purpose of Genesis 1. Yet along the way he makes some interesting comments about ‘Six Day Creationists’ – ie. Young Earth Creationists – people who believe that Genesis 1 claims that the world was created in six 24 hour periods about 6-10,000 years ago.

Dickson is very generous towards these people as he outlines how he believes Genesis 1 should be interpreted. He says (correctly in my mind) that Genesis 1 was not intended to be an historical report. He goes on and says,

‘Many fellow Christians disagree with me, and that is fine; I do not want to be dogmatic about this, and nor do I want to cast my Six-Day Creationist friends as naive’.

This is a curious statement. What does it mean to ‘not be dogmatic’ about this?

It also raises questions about the audience Dickson is attempting to reach. Is it the doubter? Or is Dickson concerned about a backlash from a certain group of Christians? I can appreciate Dickson’s attempt at not attempting to alienate some of his Christian audience (an audience in my experience who are extremely aggressive, dogmatic and vocal). Yet by doing so, I wonder if he has not actually spoken to the “doubter”?

How does the “doubter” view young earth creationists? Are they naive? A group of people who overlook the vast body of modern scientific evidence which demonstrates that the universe and our earth are very very old (billions, not thousands of years).

I recognise that Dickson’s key point is to say that the primary purpose of Genesis 1 is to address theological and philosophical questions, but Genesis 1 still does open up some issues relating to modern science. I wonder if trying to placate Young Earth Creationists, Dickson has alienated some ‘doubters’? I’d be keen to hear some reactions.

Genesis vs atheism

Dickson goes on and very helpfully describes how Genesis 1 is profoundly different to other creation stories in the Ancient world – where creation is good and men and women are created in the image of God.

Dickson then goes on to contrast Genesis with atheism. i.e. a purposeful created world, contrasted with the ‘accidental’ world of the modern atheist.

He makes a controversial claim summarising his argument,

The difference between the pagan/atheist view of existence and the biblical view of existence is enormous. If you know the world to be beautifully designed and intentionally created – that is, if you see the genius behind it – you have a logical and moral imperative to treat it with reverence and care. Of course, both atheists and Christians can be equally cruel or kind toward the world. But only for the Christian (and, of course, our Jewish friends) is care of the world a necessary corollary of a worldview.

I’d be keen to see how doubters view this? Is there an enormous difference between the pagan/atheist view of existence and the biblical view? Would it be persuasive to the doubter if our experiences and desires to care for the world and for each other correlated with a universe that was actually purposeful and meaningful?


I found the chapter a helpful and thoughtful summary of some of they key issues pertaining to the interpretation of Genesis 1. I’d be keen to hear if Dickson’s arguments and discussion are helpful for doubters? If they weren’t helpful, what would be helpful?


From → Bible

  1. It’s hard to know whether the writer of Genesis 1 was being literal. I would have to assume not, given they got it wrong. Genesis 1 is a story about the beginning of the universe, written by people who didn’t know there was a universe. They didn’t know Australia existed, let alone the milky way, and other galaxies. It’s written by someone either guessing, thinking maybe they got it right, or close to right, or by someone who was knowingly making it up. Either way, it can be disregarded. I can’t accept that if Genesis 1 was, in fact, inspired/written by a god that it would require interpretation at all. That it has to be interpreted and that there are so many interpretations shows that it’s flawed.

    Dickson confuses atheism with a world view, which is a constant sore point for atheists. I see atheism more of the result of my view, not the cause of it. If you replace atheism with ‘secular humanist’ in the section about caring for the world, then he’s completely wrong. The secular humanist world view does have a reason to take care of the world. Almost all the atheists I know are also secular humanists.

    • Judith de la Cour permalink

      How about it was written by someone who was inspired by God Himself, so although he himself wasn’t necessarily aware of all the facts of the universe he was guided by Someone who was? 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1: 21-21. I myself have no problem believing what the Bible says literally because God is God and He knows more than we do, even with all our scientific discoveries. Carbon dating has been shown to be flawed. We weren’t there at the beginning but God was!

    • dan permalink

      Any text should always be read in keeping with the literature – clearly this isn’t straight forward historical narrative but this doesn’t take away from its claim/truth.- it just needs to be listened to correctly.

  2. Ann permalink

    I could not take anyone seriously who interpreted genesis 1 literally. Light before sun etc. I am way too logical. I don’t respect fence sitters as the author appears to be – you either accept it literally as the inspired word of a god or you accept it was man’s attempt to explain the universe. As soon as the “beauty of creation” is mentioned I am lost. That whole thing about “and it was good” – Nature is beautiful, it is also incredibly, unrelentingly cruel. Even humans are designed incredibly poorly. A committee could have done a better job. Our oesophagus and trachea are too close, our appendix can kill us, we all produce cancer cells constantly due to DNA transcription errors, pregnancies occur in the fallopian tubes and kill women, etc. How about parasites that blind children? Or turn cockroaches into zombies and eat them from the inside out? Parasitic flies (google those), horrific congenital conditions such as Jeune’s syndrome, Harlequins syndrome, retinoblastoma – all examples that god failed to do his job properly. The only explanation for me is that life evolved and this can easily explain all of these things- it’s the only sensible world view in my opinion. No cognitive dissonance required. I would rather know live with a cruel truth than a comforting lie.

    All of this makes it more important to me that we care about each other. Not less.

    I look at all of these things and I could never believe in a loving god. Never ever. Especially one that would forgive child molesters and rapists on their deathbed and send unbelievers to hell in spite of the fact that they had led exemplary lives. Although I am jumping the gun here, I know!

  3. WorldGoneCrazy permalink

    “Is there an enormous difference between the pagan/atheist view of existence and the biblical view?”

    Well, written just as that, of course. On atheism, our existence ends when we physically die. On Christian theism, not so. Because of this difference, our current lives necessarily are viewed differently. On Christian theism, the objective purpose of this life is to know, love, and serve God, to develop talents and traits for the next life, and to love others as we love ourselves.

    On atheism, there is no objective purpose or meaning to one’s life, just as there are no grounds for the existence of objective moral values or duties. It is 80 or 100 years of life in this world, followed by death, permanent cessation of existence, completely forgotten in 3, 5, 10, 100, 1000 generations, regardless of accomplishments, and, long-term, a slow cold dark death for the universe during which time there will be no one around to remember anyone or anything that ever happened. I think that the vast majority of atheists throughout history have agreed on this, even if it was difficult to consistently live out. Here are three recent ones:

    “In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, or any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference… DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.” (Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (1995))

    “Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear — and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.” A-theist William Provine

    “The position of the modern evolutionist is that humans have an awareness of morality because such an awareness of biological worth. Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate when someone says, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. Nevertheless, such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, . . . and any deeper meaning is illusory.” (Michael Ruse, “Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics,” in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262-269).

    Whoops – I just re-read your question. You were asking for doubter input. I am a Christian theist, so just don’t post this if you are only wanting doubters. Sorry.

  4. Col Sharrock permalink

    Problem – if Genesis is fallacy…then Adam & Eve didn’t really sin…so – no need for Jesus…

    • Baptist Joshua permalink

      Right. I study archaeology, and although physical proof is not necessary for me to believe the Word is True(for then, where is faith?), it is nice to see undeniable evidence of events in Genesis. Like, Joseph’s storage silos, the site of the crossing of the Red Sea, Jericho’s fallen walls, etc., etc., etc.

      Just remember: Hebrews 1:1

    • Not really. Humans are imperfect and trapped in an animal body directed by selfish instincts regardless. All that happens here is that evolution becomes a more detailed and advanced explanation of the inescapable human condition (“the flesh”) and the concept of original sin an early but obsolete hypothesis. There are plenty of arguments to be made for and against religious beliefs, but this one is deeply flawed, for it assumes humans are perfect.

      • Baptist Joshua permalink

        What assumes humans are perfect? The Bible clearly teaches that all are sinners and imperfect.

        God’s Gospel:

        “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Romans 3:23

        “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23

        “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

        “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

        “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

        “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:9-10

  5. Baptist Joshua permalink

    You asked what would be helpful. It would be helpful if Dickson was correct. I am a Christian, and I believe The Word of God. Genesis is part of that. There is no guru or interpretation(watering down/lies) needed. Either Genesis 1:1 is True, or a lie. Either God told the truth, or lied because we couldn’t handle the truth. He never lies. Or would you like to tell me where else He supposedly lied? There is absolutely no evidence for millions of years. This “evidence” is always new. Why? Because it does not last. In time, evolutionists themselves discover that something that they thought was true, is, in fact, wrong. Yet they continue to build upon this crumbling ladder, as each rung falls away, out from under them. Why totally trust in science? Science “facts” are later proven false many times. Science, in itself, is fine, I suppose, but men tarnish it all the time. Besides, God is above science, and could not be explained via science.

    • Dan permalink

      I think many of you have missed Dickson’s point regarding Genesis 1. He too believes the Word of God is true, his just trying to be faithful to the text (Gods Word) by reading an ancient text correctly – it shouldn’t surprise us that God speaks to Isreal in the language and ideology they understand.

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