On a Statement by Augustine
"Often a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and even their sizes and distances,... and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all that we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, lest the unbeliever see only ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn."
-- St. Augustine, "De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim"
(The Literal Meaning of Genesis)
Well, let's labor through some of this: If you're a lover of Truth, it should give you some.
"Often a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the
heavens, and other parts of the world . . ."
It is profitable to recall just what things non-Christians "knew" when Augustine wrote this. One remembers the battles real scientists (eg Galileo, Keppler - - - both Christians) later had to fight over the nonsense that was held from Aristotelian belief appreciated by Augustine and his contemporaries and held through the "dark ages."
" . . . and even their sizes and distances . . ."
This statement is on the mentality level of the modern claims that Islamic terrorists brought down the three buildings in 911 with two airplanes. How would the non-Christians of Augustine's day know anything about the sizes and distances of these astronomical bodies? How do we know anything about their sizes and distances even today? (See my article on Astronomical Distances.)
". . . and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason
Yea, fools often, nay, always, exude "certainty." Like modern evolution "scientists'" statements about the ages of rocks and fossils. It's one of the surest ways of recognizing one. Any Christian knows that the present contents of the universe were created within a period of 6 days (Exodus 20:11, Genesis 2:1-2, Luke 16:31). If you don't know that, according to that last verse, you'd better "examine yourself, whether ye be in the faith." And it should be obvious that those six days (about 6000 years ago) MUST include everything that the fools are assigning millions and billions of years to. And there is absolutely not the shreddest evidence from "science" data otherwise. Do you think any rock you can find could have survived for even one million years??? If so, you need to do some thinking about the destructive process always occurring in rocks, turning them into the dust we see everywhere around the earth. There is strong evidence from C14, and from Helium, that the present atmosphere cannot be more than 10,000 years old: what do you think those dinosaurs were breathing "75 million years ago?" Or even ancient man, 2 million years ago?
From "reason?" Apparently Augustine didn't have the slightest idea of what reasoning is. You ought to know, if you studied Euclidean Geometry in the high schools we used to have up to a generation ago; and this type of knowledge should have been available to Augustine, as well. It's very simple: reasoning is the kind of thought in which reasons are given for statements. The contemporaries of Augustine had absolutely no data whatsoever to reason anything about sizes or distances of the heavenly bodies; and he ought to have well known that fact.
Take a look at Saturn! Tell me how far it is, and how big it is? If you tell me it's a sphere 75,000 miles in diameter, 888 million miles from the sun, how did you know that? What reasons do you base these facts on? Certainly none that Augustine and his non-Christian contemporaries he praises knew anything about. And that's only a "nearby local planet," to say nothing about a star, which Augustine evidently knew nothing whatsoever about, either.
And "experience???" Come on; now, even his language is senseless. What "experience" did they have? You mean they travelled there and back??? The speed of light is one peice of data used to reason the stellar distances, and nothing was known of that speed until at least the 16 hundreds. Parallax is another method, but that requires knowledge of the diameter of the earth's orbit (most of Augustine's non-Christian contemporaries didn't even know the earth had one), and also requires fantastically precision instruments. (if you scale the diameter of the earth's orbit of 186,000,000 miles down to one inch, the nearest star will be 2 1/2 miles away, on that scale!!).
"it is thus offensive . . ."
Yes it is, Augustine . . .
". . . and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk
nonsense about such things . . ."
And every clause in Augustine's paragraph seems the most "offensive and disgraceful for a Christian to have to hear, talking nonsense about such things." Is Augustine also ignorant of Jude 3? One last thing: what is that "nonsense" that Augustine is claiming Christians are basing on the Scriptures? Possibly the nonsensical idea that the earth is actually a sphere? (Isaiah 40:22). There are dozens of similar examples one could ask about, of unanimously held facts of today's common knowledge, which are known to be, or likely to be, held by Augustine and his praised non-Christian contemporaries as "nonsense."
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