Science, Biblical Criticism, and Double Standards (Sigh, Par for the Course)

In my book, Why I Became an Atheist, the reader will find several chapter length arguments, some paragraph length arguments, and then there are a bunch of "gems" scattered around that could be made into larger arguments. I think what I’ve written fits together as a whole quite well, but if the reader really wants to get the full scope of it then try reading through the book a second time. Several arguments in the early parts of the book depend for their force on the arguments in the later parts of the book.

One such scattered “gem,” if you will, is mentioned on page 61 where I argued that since methodological naturalism “has produced so many significant results, I think it should equally be used to investigate the Bible, its claims of the miraculous, and the origins of the universe itself, and it provides a great deal of evidence against the Christian faith.” [I mention this on pages 50, 119-120, and again on page 185].

What is methodological naturalism? It’s a method in scientific inquiry whereby “all hypotheses and events are to be explained and tested by reference to natural causes and events.” Dr. Barbara Forrest tells us that “a massive amount of knowledge" has been gained by using this method.

This same method has been adopted by historians. Bart D. Ehrman, as a historian, adopts this method when it comes to studying the Bible, especially the New Testament, his area of specialty.

The rise of Biblical Criticism can probably be seen in light of the rise of modern science which adopted the method of naturalism. Again, we’ve gained a “massive amount of knowledge” from using it.

Applied to Biblical studies scholars have assumed a natural rather than a supernatural explanation for the stories inside the pages of the Bible. Based on the assumption that the past is just like the present in which miracles don’t occur, by taking their cue from the scientific enterprise that assumes a natural explanation for everything, Biblical scholars began studying the Bible afresh. As historians that’s what they must do. Robert M. Price tells us that if historians didn’t assume a natural explanation for events in the past they would be “at the mercy of every medieval tale, every report that a statue wept, or that someone changed lead into gold or turned into a werewolf.” [Incredible Shrinking Son of Man, p. 20].

Many believers reject what these Biblical scholars as historians do, but why? Why is it that methodological naturalism has worked extremely well in every area where it's been used--every single one--but that when it comes to looking the collection of canonized books in the Bible such a method should not be used? My claim is that since methodological naturalism has worked so extremely well in every area where it's been used--every single one--that we should apply that same method when it comes to studying the Bible.

If believers don’t want to apply methodological naturalism across the board into Biblical studies, then please tell me where it should be applied and where it shouldn't. If this method should not be applied to the Bible then why do believers hold to a double standard, allowing it to be used when seeking a cure for cancer (why not call for a miracle worker instead?), or to discover our evolutionary biology (why not just quote Genesis 1 and shun science altogether?), or to explain the weather (why not just do a rain dance?), or a crime scene (why not just cast lots as they supposedly did in Joshua's day?), or a freak tragic accident (why not just say God was punishing someone?), or a noise in the night (demons? angels?), but not when it comes to the stories in the Bible?

This is probably the crux of the issue with me. Without assuming a natural explanation in science and in historical studies we would still think God alone opens the womb, that sicknesses are the result of sin, that the reason we win wars is because God was pleased, and the reason why there are natural disasters is because God is displeased. Given these type of supernatural explanations we would already have the needed explanations in God so there would be no room for science, which is undeniably important to the human race for a wide variety of reasons.

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