Or, Lying for the Truth
By Robert Haskell
The Story, off the Internet:
The following story has been circulating on the Internet for some time.
The Missing Day in Joshua
Did you know that the space program is busy proving that what has been called "myth" in the Bible is true? Mr. Harold Hill, President of the Curtis Engine Company in Baltimore Maryland, and a consultant in the space program, relates the following development:
"I think one of the most amazing things that God has for us today happened recently to our astronauts and space scientists at Green Belt, Maryland. They were checking the position of the sun, moon, and planets out in space where they would be, 100 years and 1000 years from now. We have to know this so we won't send a satellite up and have it bump into something later on in its orbits. We have to lay out the orbits in terms of the life of the satellite, and where the planets will be, so the whole thing will not bog down.
They ran the computer measurement back and forth over the centuries and it came to a halt. The computer stopped and put up a red signal, which meant that there was something wrong either with the information fed into it, or with the results as compared to the standards. They called in the service department to check it out and they said, "What's wrong?" Well, they found there is a day missing in space, in elapsed time. They scratched their heads and tore their hair. There was no answer.
Finally, a Christian man on the team said, "You know, one time I was in Sunday School and they talked about the sun standing still." While they didn't believe him, they didn't have an answer either, so they said, "Show us." He got a Bible and went back to the book of Joshua where they found a pretty ridiculous statement for any one with "common sense". There they found the Lord saying to Joshua, "Fear them not, I have delivered them into thy hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee." Joshua was concerned because he was surrounded by the enemy and if darkness fell they would overpower them (Joshua 10:1-15). So Joshua asked the Lord to make the sun stand still! That's right, "The sun stood still and the moon stayed, and hasted not to go down about a whole day!"
They checked the computers going back into the time it was written and found it was close but not close enough. The elapsed time that was missing back in Joshua's day was 23 hours and 20 minutes, not a whole day.
They read the Bible and there it was "about (approximately) a day". These little words in the Bible are important, but they were still in trouble, because if you cannot account for 40 minutes you'll still be in trouble, 1,000 years from now. Forty minutes had to be found because it can be multiplied many times over in orbits. As the Christian employee thought about it, he remembered somewhere in the Bible where it said the sun went BACKWARDS.
The scientists told him he was out of his mind, but they got out the Book and read these words in 2 Kings: Hezekiah, on his death-bed, was visited by the prophet Isaiah who told him that he was not going to die. Hezekiah asked for a sign as proof. Isaiah said, "Do you want the sun to go ahead 10 degrees?" Hezekiah said, "It is nothing for the sun to go ahead 10 degrees, but let the shadow return backward 10 degrees." Isaiah spoke to the
Lord and the Lord brought the shadow ten degrees BACKWARD! Ten degrees is exactly 40 minutes! Twenty-three hours and 20 minutes in Joshua, plus 40 minutes in Second Kings make the missing day in the universe! Isn't it amazing?!
Our God is rubbing their noses in His Truth!
References: Joshua 10:8, 12, 13 2 Kings 20:9-1
Forward this to as many people as would think this is equally as cool
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:11&13
Not that God needs to be proven; for those who believe this is not necessary and for those who do not believe, nothing could sway them.
Who would make something like that up?
The famous atheist Bertrand Russell once said, "Christians would rather die than think. Most do." I see this continually confirmed. We are gullible, alarmist and willing to believe anything that makes us look good (which actually make us look very bad).
There is actually a history of making up stories that support the Bible against the claims of science.
In The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (pp. 186-187), Mark Knoll mentions the tale of a sailor who in the last century was swallowed by a whale. A few days later the ship he had been on caught the whale, cut it open and found him inside alive and well. He was supposedly all white, though. Bleached from stomach acid. This then gave credence to the biblical account of Jonah, who was also swallowed by a whale and lived to tell the tale. But it turns out that the modern whale story was actually concocted by a couple
of guys (Rimmer and Gook, whoever they were) who were worried about the challenge of modernism and evolution and especially wanted to defend the literal truth of the Bible against Liberal scholars who claimed that the miracle stories were myths. (Edward B. Davis, "A Whale of a Tale: Fundamentalist Fish Stories," Perspective on Science and Christian Faith, 43:4, Dec, 91)
The tragedy is that this was not a unique occurrence, "The tendency to muster pseudo scientific facts to defend the reliability of Scripture against biblical critics was absolutely characteristic of much evangelical and fundamentalist literature of the period [early 20th century]" (Davis, p. 234). The story of the sailor swallowed by a whale is well embedded in Evangelical mythology and Davis mentions many Evangelical Scholars who assume its veracity in their writings.
So my point up to now is that it is not only possible, but actually quite likely that someone would make up a story with Pseudo scientific facts to make the Bible look true. It's a long-standing Evangelical tradition. Now lets talk about the missing day.
The Scientific Perspective
Supposedly this great discovery started when NASA scientists needed to plot the orbit of a satellite into the future to make sure it would not run into anything and make everyone's beepers go belly up or interrupt the Super Bowl. Then, they were amazed to discover that somewhere in the future things didn't line up, the computer crashed and God rubbed their noses in the truth. Now I'm not am astrophysicist or anything, but I have been known
to think a mean thought from time to time, and I can guarantee this is a bunch of BS (and I don't mean Bible Study either).
First, the test was a simulation. In a simulation the parameters (the original settings) determine the results, and the parameters are set up by humans. In this situation the computer was being used as a sophisticated calculator. Orbits were plotted, and the future was extrapolated based on that input. The computer is therefore not predicting the future, but simply working out the details of a theoretical scenario. If the world blew up tomorrow that scenario would be shot to pieces. The computer is just refining data and (this is the important part) it cannot produce new discoveries. It can only work out the details of the data that has been inputted. In other words if the humans that programmed the computer did not account for the mythical missing day there is no way in the Universe that the computer could have found it. The computer was not out there roaming
the cosmos to then run into the evidence of a missing day. It could only find that evidence if those who programmed it were testing out a scenario in which there was a missing day. In this story the scientist were not, since they knew nothing about the missing day.
The jump from the screen going red (a very dramatic touch) and their being incompatible data to they discovered there was a day missing is suspiciously vague. What facts led them to conclude a day was missing? And why would the computer crash (since the service department was called in)? Why wouldn't it just show that certain things did or did not happen, which, unbeknownst to the engineers, would be wrong because the missing day had not been accounted for? This might result in some future tragedy, but there is no reason it should make the computer crash.
But this brings us to an even greater problem. As I said, there is no conceivable way a missing day 4000 years ago could affect a computer that was programmed on the assumption that there was not a missing day. But even if the programmers had known about a missing day, it still would not have changed the outcome of the program in the slightest way. Whatever that missing day did to the solar system, it did it before the scientists started measuring, therefore all their measurements are still accurate because they reflect the reality of post-missing day universe. The missing day is irrelevant.
Then there is the bit about how the program calculated the orbits of the moon, planets and sun in order to make sure that the satellite would not bump into something later on in its orbits. Like I said, I'm not an expert in this field, but I wonder what the chances are of a satellite bumping into the sun or a planet while orbiting around the earth?
Oh, and another thing. If we are talking about the orbits of satellites around the earth, who cares if there was a missing day? A missing day would mean the earth stopped spinning on its axis (on itself), not around the sun (and if it stopped spinning around the sun it would be even more irrelevant). To remove one day from all the days that dawned on the earth would be like taking out a blank piece of paper from a three-ring binder.
You would never know it was gone. Even if there had been satellites at that time, they would have continued to orbit at their normal rate and when they came around after a day of the earth standing still, the earth would start moving again and everything would be as it was before. This would even apply to satellites in geo-synchronous orbit (pretty impressive term, isn't it? I learned it from a Tom Clancy book). It's all absurd anyway, since we already established that a missing day would be irrelevant even if it did happen, but I thought I would do some nose rubbing of my own. I could say more about the scientific aspect of the story, but I have to save some fire for the biblical part.
The Biblical Perspective
Hezekiah was sick and God promised to heal him. Then Hezekiah asked for a sign, and the prophet Isaiah asked if it would be enough for the sun to go forward ten degrees. Hezekiah had his heart set on a bigger miracle, and so he asked that it go backwards ten degrees instead because in his thinking that would be harder (seems like the same difficulty level to me).
If you are really interested in this you should take a look at the passage for yourself, because our friend behind the story takes some liberty with the terms. It was not the movement of the sun that was in question but of a shadow, specifically a shadow on the steps of Ahaz, which scholars believe was a sun-dial. Not the round kind you can buy in garden shops, but an obelisk that traced its shadow on the steps. You could tell the time by which step the shadow was on.
There is no mention of degrees in the passage. One reason for this is that the system of measuring degrees for navigation and chart making was not developed until the end of the middle ages, and took several hundred years for it to become universally used (Hezekiah lived around 700 BC, so there is a bit of a gap). The only increments mentioned are the steps, and we have no idea what their total number was or how much elapsed time each one represented, so there is no way we can know how much time was gained in the universe by this sign.
But then there is another little thing: Lets assume for a moment that the sun did go back 10 degrees. Would that have made up enough time to complete the missing day? Remember that we had 23 hours and 20 minutes, and we needed 40 more minutes to come from somewhere to save the satellites of the future. Would the sun going backwards 10 degrees make up that missing time? Well, no. It would actually add 40 minutes. Instead of taking away time, the backward movement of the sun would mean that the same 40 minute period would be passed through twice. Say it was 2 PM when God performed the sign. The sun goes back to 1:20 PM, and now the time between 1:20 and 2:00 must be re-lived. Instead of taking away 40 minutes to get us back on track, it has added another 40 minutes for a total of 80 and the universe is in worse shape than before we started!
The Source of the Story
I decided to play the investigative reporter part, so through the wonder of the Internet I searched for and found Curtis Engine Company in Baltimore, Maryland. It does actually exist. They make diesel engines. But Harold Hill is not the president. I sent them an e-mail asking if they knew anything about this absurd story, but I got nothing back.
Then I found out through talking to people that this is an old story (just like the one about the atheist professor who drops the egg, or chalk or beaker). I even found a couple of articles on it. It turns out that Harold Hill really was the president of Curtis Engine in Baltimore in the seventies. He is the one who started the story. He actually wrote a book that I realized I used to own: How to live like a Kings Kid. I had kept it around in case I might need a good example of absurd reasoning and misuse of Scripture, but I never had a chance and eventually threw it out. He also wrote the best seller From Goo to You by Way of the Zoo, an anti evolution book for kids.
An article from 1974 (Robert C. Newman, "The Longest Day," The United Evangelical, August 1974) reprints the version I got from the Internet almost verbatim. Dr. Newman points out some of the same absurdities I did, and he also adds that Hill sticks to his story, which he claims to have on good authority, but he says that he cannot locate the documentation (p. 9). Humm... Did everyone involved die? Did he forget their names? Or maybe they were abducted by aliens. Is there no point from which Harold can go back and reconstruct his lost documentation? This is kind of a major claim, after all.
Speaking of missing proof, this story goes way back. In 1891 some weirdo named Charles A. Totten wrote a book called Joshua's Long Day and the Dial of Ahaz: A scientific vindication and a Midnight Cry. They sure liked to be dramatic back then. It looks like he was the one that started this whole fiasco. Working forward from the date of creation (4,000 BC, by the way) he shows conclusively that there is a missing day or a long day or something. But the really good part is his complete lack of interest in providing any of the details that led to his conclusion (and I quote...),
It is of course impossible to give any adequate idea of the scope of the calculations [we being mere mortals and all] that have conspired to bring about the astro-chronological [that's even better than geosynchronous] results enumerated in this paper. The mere figures [silly little mere details] are of no interest save to the verifier...(p. 17)
You have to admit he is eloquent. Try this one out, but you have to read it with gusto:
It will not do to preach Christ and deny Moses. It will not do to doubt the universality of the Flood and ask men to accept a Savior who alludes to it! It will not do to doubt Joshua's long day, with the sun and moon poised in mid-heaven while he fought and yet stultify our hearts with hopes of a LONGER DAY when even sun and moon will not be needed! If the story of Eden and the Deluge, of Jericho and Joshua, are myths, or fables, and not literal facts, then, to the rational mind, all that follows them is equally so, and faith, lost in those who foretold his advent, can never be savingly and logically found again in Christ and his apostles (p. XIV).
Basically, if the stuff in the Old Testament didn't happen, it makes you wonder if the stuff in the New Testament is true too. Ok, its a good point, although I wouldn't put the Garden of Eden on the same level as whether the flood was universal or local. But, to use his pattern, I think we should also say that (and I quote myself...),
It will not do to preach Christ by making up absurd stories. It will not do to concoct such fantastic theories that they can only be called lies and ask men to accept a Savior who demands absolute honesty from his followers. If the scientific explanation of the long day of Joshua is ridiculous then, to the rational mind, all that goes with it is equally so and faith, etc....
Another great article is written by Tom McIver, a non-believer as far as I can tell: Ancient Tales and Space-Age Myths of Creation Evangelism The Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 10, 1986. He talks about how Jimmy Swaggart uses the Harold Hill story in evangelistic crusades. He also talks about Darwin's death-bed conversion myth, which is a really good one.
These various tales show just how insecure Christians are in the face of modern science. But something is very wrong when we must resort to lies in order to defend the truth. Part of it is that people are afraid to think for themselves because somewhere deep inside they ask themselves, What if all this scientific stuff is true and my faith is shattered? And so they ignore anything that is said against the Bible and they latch on to anything (and I mean anything!) That seems to prove the Bible. But his is just a cop-out and I'm not sure if there is anything else to be said about it.
Christians cannot be afraid of the truth. That would be like a baby that is afraid of milk.
We would all like to see skeptics come to Christ, and it is sometimes a temptation for us to bend the truth a little [or a lot!] to make a stronger argument. After all, the end (eternal life for one person) justifies the means (a little lie), doesn't it? No, it doesn't! This is trying to do Gods work using Satan's tactics (Newman, p. 11).
The ironic thing is that science cannot disprove the events that are spoken of in the Bible, in spite of what many scientists might claim. Science is about verifiable facts and it is also about the physical universe. If miracles can occur, then science will not have anything to say about them because: 1. They are not scientifically verifiable (i.e. you cannot repeat them) and 2. They do not depend on the physical universe for an explanation.
The only thing a scientist can say against miracles is that from what he has observed, the suspension of natural laws does not occur and therefore miracles do not occur. But this is since pretty lame, since a scientist does not have complete knowledge and miracles are by definition rare.
We have nothing to fear from truth and nothing to fear from science. Let's stop embarrassing ourselves and Christ with these absurd tales that are so obviously a result of our insecurity.