Al Mohler and His Lying God

Al Mohler is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He’s very concerned about evolution, calling it one of the biggest challenges to Christianity. He knows evolution isn’t true, though, because his God is the author of one of the biggest lies ever: the Earth.

I am willing to accept the authority of science on any number of issues. I am fundamentally agnostic about a host of other scientific concerns — but not where the fundamental truth of the Gospel and the clear teachings of the Bible are at stake.

As I have stated repeatedly, I accept without hesitation the fact that the world indeed looks old. Armed with naturalistic assumptions, I would almost assuredly come to the same conclusions as BioLogos and the evolutionary establishment, or I would at least find evolutionary arguments credible. But the most basic issue is, and has always been, that of worldview and basic presuppositions. The entire intellectual enterprise of evolution is based on naturalistic assumptions, and I do not share those presuppositions. Indeed, the entire enterprise of Christianity is based on supernaturalistic, rather than merely naturalistic, assumptions. There is absolutely no reason that a Christian theologian should accept the uniformitarian assumptions of evolution.

Pause for a second and let that sink in. Al Mohler is explicitly saying that all of the physical evidence points to an Earth much older than however many thousands of years he and Bishop Usher have decided on. He concedes that point, because in the end, God can overrule natural laws, and has done so to manufacture fake fossils and to fiddle with natural processes like radioactive decay.

Think through what this means. In Al Mohler’s view, you can’t trust your lying eyes. The Earth looks old not because it is old, but because God made it look old. God is lying to you, obfuscating the truth as much as possible because…well, that’s really the question.

This portrayal of God is an interesting one. Al Mohler’s God is always testing you, telling you falsehoods to see if you’ll be able to sort them from the truth. The act that Al Mohler is so concerned about, God’s creation of the Earth, was an act of lying. Al Mohler’s God is a lying liar who seeks to mislead you.

I’ve seen this behavior is described in the Bible. Strangely enough, it’s not behavior that the Bible condones or normally associates with God. If you asked Al Mohler if his God is a liar, he’d undoubtedly say no. How strange, then,  that Al Mohler’s worldview requires a God who lies.

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11 Comments

  1. Jim
    on January 6, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    That’s an easy hurdle for most religious folk to rationalize away. They simply paint it as God “testing” your faith. You must believe -in spite- of all contrary evidence. This is held up as a virtue. And how can you argue with someone who touts ignorance as a virtue?

    My biggest problem is that the language used by apologists is just completely incomprehensible to me. I have yet to hear a satisfactory definition of “supernatural.” They throw around a definition that begs the question. And the definition of “God” is even more weaselly.

  2. Chris C
    on January 6, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    I think Al’s response would likely sound a lot like SNL’s Enid Strict. If it’s not God lying, who could it be? Could it be…SATAN?

  3. Lucian
    on January 6, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    As much as I disagree with the anti-evolutionary mindset, I’m going to have to come to Mohler’s defense here. He is not saying that the Earth looks old but actually isn’t. He is saying that the Earth looks old *if* you believe that only natural forces had to have been at work. In contrast, he claims that if you believe that both natural and supernatural forces could have been at work, it would look young to you.

    This doesn’t require a lying God. He’s merely pointing out the existence of the Bayesian priors that people come to the argument with, and acknowledging that if you start off by assuming that no supernatural force could have been at work, you are not going to conclude that a supernatural force *was* at work, no matter what the evidence.

    You see this sort of thing in books like the Dresden Files all the time–magic is real, but lots of people don’t believe in it, so they invent crazy stories to explain naturalistic ways things could have happened, which actually happened because of magic. This is what Science looks like to the hard-core Creationist. The evidence seems to be blindingly obvious that God did it, but these people who don’t believe in the supernatural have to invent these crazy stories to explain what God obviously ‘just did’.

    From Dresden’s perspective, he knows that magic is real, but he also knows that natural forces are real. So when he investigates something, he has to remember that both explanations are possible. He examines the evidence, and deduces which explanation is more likely. I believe that Mohler is wrong not because I think his model of creation requires a lying God, but because I think that even if you acknowledge that God *could have* used supernatural forces to create the world, or, more specifically, to diversify life on Earth, the evidence we have indicates that he did not actually do so, or at least that he did not *need* to do so, though he certainly could have in bits and pieces here and there, his direct supernatural actions covered up by the statistical noise of natural processes.

  4. on January 6, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    I think you’re focusing on the wrong sentence.

    Mohler explicitly rejects a “naturalist” universe, which is to say he a priori asserts that there are “supernatural” mechanisms in the universe. You don’t really need to go further than that.

    If you insist the world is magical, I cannot counter your arguments for Zeus, Thor, Mithras, etc.

  5. on January 6, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    now may be a bad time to bring it up, but most of that fossil stuff was on me- sorry, guys

  6. on January 6, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Lucian: the reason I’m so hard on Mohler and his viewpoint is that we have multiple unrelated ways of disproving Young Earth Creationism. You’ve got radiocarbon dating, evolutionary evidence, helioseismologic calculations, measurements of the cosmic microwave background — why, then, did Mohler’s God carefully create a young Earth with all of these evidences in place? Why fiddle with the rate of radioactive decay, add in fossils, etc. if not to mislead? Why a supernatural process that leaves behind all of the hallmarks of a naturalistic process but yet isn’t?

  7. on January 6, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Even better, one could argue that the Earth was created yesterday and God just made it look old and gave you memories that you existed prior to yesterday!

  8. Lucian
    on January 6, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Steven: Right, that’s why I think he’s wrong, too. And those are all great questions; it’s just that I don’t think the only possible answer to them is ‘because God is lying’. It could be that our understanding of all of those processes just happens to be incomplete. This has certainly happened in the past–physicists used to think the universe had been around forever, which could be interpreted as being at odds with Genesis. Then they came up with a new theory, mockingly named ‘the Big Bang’ which ultimately turned out to be a much better model, and which, by some accounts, no longer was at odds with Genesis. Before that, God wasn’t ‘lying’ by making the universe look infinite; it just turned out we were wrong. The same thing has happened in archaeology on multiple occasions–events depicted in the Old Testament were assumed by many archaeologists to be fictitious based on the extant evidence, until they dug in the right spot and found a city or a tablet or a battlefield or whatever and confirmed that the OT story was indeed a reasonably accurate depiction of the events they described.

    To someone who doesn’t really understand the science, they have no way of judging from the science alone what the error bars are–what sets of scenarios are more or less likely under that model. So they just say, “Well, I have revelatory knowledge, and have to assume that eventually, science will come around. But if they don’t even acknowledge the possibility of supernatural activity, they’re obviously never going to think I’m right, so who cares what they think?”

    Which is why it’s important for those like you and me and Francis Collins to say, “Look, I believe in God and I believe in supernatural events, but the evidence is not pointing to supernatural activity in these cases.” We think they *could* be right, but *aren’t*, from physical and theological evidence, instead of believing they could not have been right from the get-go.

  9. Seth Vidal
    on January 6, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    Stephen, great analysis, as usual.

    I discovered, today, much to my surprise that the catholic church no longer professes creationism:
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110106/ts_nm/us_pope_bigbang

    God is still the creator according to the Pope but evolution is a god-created process.

    The Genesis account is allegorical according to the catholic church.

  10. duchess
    on January 7, 2011 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    “Well, I have revelatory knowledge, and have to assume that eventually, science will come around.”
    This struck me, because it’s a little similar to what I was taught. The difference was that religion was BASED on science, but we just hadn’t gotten around to learning why yet. So instead of saying that faith was contrary to science (better, etc), we were taught that eventually science will catch up and prove why something was so. (The most common example was how no one knew about trichinosis when pork was forbidden)
    I always wondered how much of this worldview was because my religious instruction came from scientists.

  11. on July 21, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    Interesting. I don’t know who Mohler is (the guy on X-Files?; oh wait that’s Mulder) and I’ll have to educate myself on helioseismologic calculations, and the measurements of the cosmic microwave background (which I know nothing of).

    However from what I’ve studied about the evolutionary sciences and radiocarbon dating, I think that the latter two are pretty weak when it comes to proving the earth is billions of years old. Half-life kinda sucks in that regard, and although micro-evolution is pretty strong (I agree with it), the whole macro-evolution thing keeps on flopping on the proof-o-meter.

    Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that I would live and die on the idea that the earth is ten thousand years old or so. But I’ve seen enough evidence to the fact that I certainly lean that way. The position of “science” has changed so much on various issues (it’s the nature of constant discovery) that I’m of the mind that it takes just as much “faith” to believe in science as it takes faith to believe in God :-)

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