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Authoritative vs. Information Based Books

There is an issue that generally comes up with creationists in particular. For some reason, some creations believe that if they attack Charles Darwin, they are attacking the scientific theory of evolution. What they don’t understand is that while Darwin wrote the book The Origin of Species, he isn’t the authoritative source of evolution.

When people of reason question whether or not the gospels were actually written by the names ascribed to them it is a direct attack on Christianity itself. If Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and even Paul (although he wasn’t a Gospel writer) didn’t actually write the New Testament, then those parts of the New Testament are meaningless from a religious standpoint.

Why is it that atheists can attack the Bible by attacking its authors, but Christians can’t attack evolution by attacking the author of the Origin of Species? Simple, we are dealing with two different types of books.

Some books are written by people who have observed things that anyone could have observed. Or, perhaps the author of some books had written about something that he or she has researched, but that anyone can take the time to follow the author’s trail and do that research for themselves. These books are information based books. Their authority comes not from the author, but rather from the information presented.

On the other hand, there are books which are from a more eyewitness perspective like the Gospels or a memoir. For example, I read a fascinating book about the Fundamentalist Mormon Church (FLDS) called Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall. This book was her first hand account of being in the FLDS Church and how she escaped from it. If for some bizarre reason, someone could show that she had nothing to do with the writing of that book, then the book would no longer have authority because it is a first hand account.

The Gospels are alleged to be first hand accounts and so if those accounts are put into question, then the entire New Testament and all of Christianity are called into question. On the hand, if Kirk Cameron’s accusations are true and Darwin hated women and supported Nazism, does that reflect negatively on the scientific theory of Evolution? Not in the slightest bit do those accusations even if true (which they aren’t) reflect on the theory.

First hand accounts like Stolen Innocence or the Gospels only have the authority that is given to them by their authors. If we discovered that the author of a first person account was a pathological liar or a drug addict that would reflect negatively on their account. But if a book’s authority is derived from the knowledge within the book rather than its author, then attacking the author does nothing to attack the book’s authority. This is the difference between authoritative vs. information based books.

On a side note: I would highly recommend Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall. It was a fascinating look at how religion can poison and control people. In fact, I just added it to the Dangerous Talk Amazon Store so if you buy it from there Dangerous Talk will get a small commission.

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  • PRG

    Stolen Innocence was a great book!