Christopher Hansen (@unicornwiz) recently published an essay entitled “The Foundational Falsehoods of AronRa: How an Educator has Misinformed Thousands.” This well-written and well-documented piece is available at Amazon for just $1 (electronic download only). In it, Hansen takes AronRa to task for some rather problematic takes on biblical texts in his book Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism. Both Hansen and I would more or less agree with AronRa on the issue of evolutionary biology but Hansen shows that AronRa makes a number of missteps in his handling of the Bible and related texts.
Hansen’s essay includes a brief forward from Michael Jones of “Inspiring Philosophy” who writes, “Christopher brings a refreshing scholarly look at Aron’s work and demonstrates why Aron’s argument’s lack intellectual depth.” I completely agree. Though Hansen is not yet a scholar, he exhibits all the necessary qualities to be one and it is why I have no problem considering what he has written to be “scholarly.” His command of the relevant texts and issues puts me to shame and he has a very easy to follow writing style. I look forward to referring to “Dr. Hansen” in the years to come.
In addition to the forward by Michael Jones, there is an afterward written by me. Hansen asked me to read his essay before its publication and then asked if I would like to write its afterward. It was my honor to make a contribution to his essay in this way and I hope that readers find his work, from beginning to end, useful.
You can find my contribution to Hansen’s work below.
Despite what you may have heard, the Bible is a complicated book. One of the primary reasons for thinking this is that the Bible isn’t a book at all; it’s an anthology. Within its pages we find erotic poetry, political propaganda, contemplative philosophy, urgent epistles, apocalyptic visions, and much more. And this anthology didn’t just fall from the sky into our laps, bound in calfskin leather with a ribbon marker in the middle. Rather, its various authors wrote in varying circumstances and sometimes with contrary views on particular subjects. Add to all of this that the biblical texts were written in languages most of us cannot speak (let alone read or write) and in a cultural context few of us can even begin to fathom, where gods battled sea serpents, prophets raised the dead, and blood flowed often from the veins of animals upon altars and men upon battlefields. To read this anthology requires some appreciation for all of this and a willingness to engage with it in good faith. But for so many readers, both are in short supply.
As an atheist on social media, I frequently encounter Christians who look at the creation narrative of Genesis 1 and see it as some historical account of God’s creation of the cosmos. They correctly infer that the days of Genesis are twenty-four hour days but from there they extrapolate a “scientific” scheme that contradicts what we know about the formation of the universe from actual scientific discoveries. They engage with the Bible in good faith, but they often lack the background knowledge to appreciate how these ancient texts function and what they are telling their ancient readers. But as Mr. Hansen has demonstrated in this essay, this is not limited to what we would consider “fundamentalist” Christianity; it is a disease plaguing atheism as well. Aron Ra’s rather flat-footed reading of biblical texts may garner him a following among the godless, but for those of us who do not believe in any deities and seek to understand both what the Bible is saying and howit is saying it, his approach leaves much to be desired. He not only lacks an appreciation for the texts’ linguistic, historical, and cultural background, he refuses to engage with it in good faith as well.
Aron Ra’s approach to the Bible is the same as so many among my atheist brothers and sisters: if the Bible is wrong on some issue, then it should be cast aside on every issue. Consequently, they read it only to find fault with it, not to understand it. This all-or-nothing mentality is the thinking of a fundamentalist, not of one who can appreciate color and nuance. Does the Bible contain troubling material? Of course. But as Richard Elliot Friedman so aptly stated, “One does not need to deny what is troubling in order to pay respect to what is heartening.” If Aron Ra wants to be taken seriously, perhaps he should make every effort to dig into biblical scholarship and bring out the rich color of the biblical texts. This approach doesn’t entail he blindly agree with all the Bible says.
Far from it, it will properly arm him to disagree with it where it is wrong.
Ben, the Amateur Exegete
August 30, 2019
Richard Elliot Friedman, The Exodus: How It Happened and Why It Matters (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2017), 214.