Someone recently pointed out an article to me on the topic of creation and Scripture called “The Two-Book Fallacy” by Jason Lisle, a director at the Institute for Creation Research. In the article, Lisle very clearly and very firmly says that the Reformation teaching of God’s “two-books” is fallacious and unbiblical.
In other words, Lisle argues that Christians should not call creation one of God’s books because it doesn’t say anything with words and propositional statements. Further, Lisle doesn’t like the two book view because some people use it to defend evolution or an old earth. Still further, he writes, “Interpreting the Bible in light of some other ‘book of God’ is a distinguishing characteristic of cults.”
Lisle also says that nature “is not a book or record that contains propositional truth,” and that rocks or fossils “don’t literally mean anything because they are not statements made by an author who is intending to convey an idea.” In other words, nature doesn’t tell us anything because it doesn’t use words or grammatical phrases. “The primary purpose of nature is not to teach, but to function.”
Though Lisle attributes the two book view to Francis Bacon, it is actually used in the Belgic Confession (1561) which was written well before Bacon lived:
“We know [God] by two means: First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe; which is before our eyes as a most elegant book, wherein all creatures, great and small, are as so many characters leading us to see clearly the invisible things of God, even his everlasting power and divinity, as the apostle Paul says (Rom. 1:20). All which things are sufficient to convince men and leaven them without excuse. Second, he makes himself more clearly and fully known to us by his holy and divine Word, that is to say, as far as is necessary for us to know in this life, to his glory and our salvation” (BCF 2).
1) Referring to creation/nature as a “book” is an analogy based on clear Scripture teaching. For example, Psalm 19 says that the heavens “declare” God’s glory (cf. Ps 8), Romans 1 says that God has revealed his divine attributes clearly in creation (cf. Acts 14:17). Solomon tells us to go to the ant and consider its ways (Prov. 6:6). This also has to do with the fact that all humans (who are created beings) are made in God’s image with a sense of the divine (Ecc. 3:11, Rom. 1:18ff, 2:15). It is an example of biblicism to say the term “book of nature” is unbiblical.
2) Denying that nature contains truths, facts, and information about God the creator is a denial of general revelation reminiscent of Karl Barth (“Barth” and “fundamentalism” together!?). Lisle is essentially saying that God only reveals himself in words and propositional statements. To be sure, God does reveal himself using words, but the Bible also describes God revealing himself in and through nature. Consider (along with the above Scripture references) the OT stories of when God (extraordinarily) revealed himself in the storm, whirlwind, fire, earthquake, and other theophanies. Indeed, God is sovereign in such a manner that he can and has revealed himself in creational ways. I’m wondering how creation scientists can study rocks and fossils and make scientific conclusions if, as Lisle says, “they don’t mean anything.” Isn’t Lisle sawing away at the tree branch on which he is sitting? (As a side, consider how, in church history, general revelation has functioned in apologetics – could there even be Christian apologetics if God didn’t reveal himself in creation?)
3) Just because some have supposedly used the two book view to prove evolution doesn’t make the view wrong (I believe this is called the Domino Fallacy in logic). And hinting that the two book view is wrong because cults interpret the Bible in light of some other “book of God” is also poor logic (I believe this is called the Faulty Analogy – it’s like saying Christians shouldn’t use the KJV because Mormons often use it).
I suppose this article is one of the many reasons I’m not a fundamentalist and why I am instead Reformed. Based on Scripture, I’d say the Belgic Confession is right and this article is wrong. In fact, if you read the article carefully, you’ll notice (ironically) that the author didn’t use Scripture to make his point for Scripture and against general revelation!
It is true that the book of general revelation does not tell us about our guilt, God’s saving grace, and our response of gratitude, but that doesn’t mean we should deny the fact that God reveals himself in nature. Denying general revelation is a very dangerous move in Christian theology; it’s not a trivial matter! I’ll end with these great words by Herman Bavinck:
“Whether God speaks to us in the realm of nature or in that of grace, in creation or in re-creation…it is always the same God we hear speaking to us. Nature and grace are not opposites: we have one God from whom, through whom, and to whom both exist.