John Byl, PhD (astronomy) #fundie

Does the Bible speak about reality or only about appearances? Sometimes, to avoid conflict with alleged scientific facts, it is claimed that the Bible uses phenomenal (or phenomenological) language, describing things as they appear from our human, earth-bound perspective rather than being factually correct in a more scientific sense.

An early example of this is found in John Calvin's Commentary on Genesis, in reference to the sun and the moon as "two great lights" (Gen.1:16). According to Calvin, this is factually incorrect since science had proven Saturn to be larger than the moon. However, Calvin excuses this on the ground that Moses had to accommodate his message down to the level of unlearned men, by using the language of how things appear to humans on earth. Factually correct language, Calvin opines, would not have been understood.


Can science genuinely give us such superior knowledge?

The philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) famously distinguished between the phenomenal (reality as it appears to our senses) and the noumenal (the actual reality behind appearances). He claimed that human science is limited to the phenomenal, and could never attain knowledge of the noumenal. Science is grounded in observations (i.e., appearances); any attempt to get beyond these must necessarily rely on theoretical assumptions that can never be definitely proven by science.

Only God can discern the reality behind appearances. God's view of things is the way they really are. Hence our only means to attain knowledge of reality is via God's revelation of it to us, particularly in the Bible.



So were we! You can find all of this, and more, on Fundies Say the Darndest Things!

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