Jesus Creed

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Genesis 2-3 Part 1 (RJS)

posted by Jesus Creed Admin

Genesis 2 begins another view of creation; another voice; a narrowed focus.

apollo08_earthrise Genesis 2ds.JPG

First a context: We have discussed the issues of evolution and common descent in several different posts on this blog.  The mounting evidence, most importantly the molecular genetic evidence emerging from the sequencing of human and other genomes, makes the special creation of the human species increasingly difficult to defend – and we lose credibility in doing so.  External resemblance, embryology, and the fossil evidence are persuasive, but perhaps not conclusive. However, the internal evidence encoded in the DNA of each and every one of us is, in my educated opinion, impossible to refute. Common descent is now as close to proven as anything in science in general, or biology in particular, ever can be. The general evolutionary theory is the best explanation of common descent.  How this works in a theistic, or specifically Christian, worldview is worth discussion – but not today.   Today I’d like to stick with Genesis.

This background certainly influences my interpretation of Genesis 2-3.  An admission that should come as no surprise.  But putting this aside for the moment, on the textual and historical evidence what are we to make of these cornerstone chapters? If Scot still had a “polls tool” I’d use it – but I guess comments will have to do.

Are Genesis 2 and 3:

    (A) Appropriation of ANE myth to convey theological truth?
    (B) Mytho-historical stories of human history?
    (C) Literal descriptions of human history?
    (D) Myth – just so stories reflecting a bygone culture?
    (E) Something else? (Specify if you wish)

In his commentary on Genesis Bill Arnold does not wrestle with the nature of Genesis 2-3, except that by implication it is “mytho-historical.”  But what does mytho-historical mean?  Michael Kruse (Thanks Michael) had an interesting analogy in a comment on the last post, and perhaps this will help focus our thoughts:

Two four year olds are asked where their newborn baby brother came from. The first child says, “My mommy and daddy wanted another baby so one day a large white bird with a big beak brought my brother in a basket and left him outside the front door. My mommy and daddy opened the door one morning and there he was.” The other child responds that, “My mommy and daddy wanted another baby so one day my daddy put a seed in my mommy’s tummy. It grew up to my brother until one day when he was big enough he came out and here he is.”

The first story has no concordance with actual historical events. The second clearly does. Is it complete? No. Is it precisely accurate? No. But it does closely concord with historical realities. Yes.

So…

Discussing origins to a pre-scientific ANE culture is much like explaining birth to a four year old. Rather than a stork fairytale about origins, God instead chose to reveal a description that corresponds with historically realities but was comprehensible to its audience.

Perhaps this is what mytho-historical means, although I am not sure it quite catches Arnold’s meaning. The first story is myth.  The second story is mytho-historical – the parents didn’t lie, but they also didn’t tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, in academic scientific or historical form.  No analogy is perfect, and mytho-historical may be a continuum, some elements are more mythical and some more historical, yet it is a useful frame for thought.

ANE creation myths – and I have Stephanie Dalley’s translation of Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others
before me – read like “stork fairytales.”  The text starts by bringing not man but gods – a panoply of gods – on the scene, gods who fight and covet and create and destroy.  Genesis 2 starts with God who creates man and goes from there, mytho-historical.

Taking this approach we want to look at the elements of the story told in Genesis and contemplate the purpose and point of the story while keeping in mind the original context and audience.  The point is not a scientific description of creation.  Genesis 2-3 is literature – and wordplays, hidden in English but apparent in Hebrew, are common. The text also uses other elements appropriate to the time and place – and this includes ANE literature (creation myths), elements of the ANE culture, and ANE cosmology. Some of the elements used include pieces appropriated from the equivalent of “stork fairytales” – the ANE creation myths. It is not lying to use story to tell truth.

According to Arnold Genesis 2 conveys the following ideas, the following truths:

  • Humankind is created as the earth’s keeper.
  • The man is placed in the garden to till it and keep it – another expression of image of God.
  • Woman is created from man – for relationship.  As Scot puts it God “split the adam.”  This is not a scientific explanation of how; nor is it a description of superior/inferior genders; it is an explanation of, an etiology for, unity despite difference.

This last bears some expansion and may in fact be the core point of Genesis 2.

Marriage of Adam and Eve ds3.JPG

Just as Gen 1 culminated in an etiological explanation for the cultic institution of Sabbath, so now Gen 2 concludes with the social institution of marriage (v. 24). The verse’s opening “therefore” (‘al-ken) introduces the narrator’s voice and brings us to the important consequence of the male-female relationship, and some would say to the goal toward which the narrative has been driving from the beginning. Thus marriage is not simply about romance or raising a family, but about reuniting two parts of a sexual whole. … “Every marriage is a union; not a union of two strangers, but rather a reunion, a reconstitution, so to speak, of the primordial unity.” (p. 61, last line quotes H.C. Brichto)

Genesis 2 teaches man created for an intimate relationship with God, with the earth, and with each other (male and female). It is not history or science.  But it is true. Perhaps it is myth (as Enns says: an ancient, premodern, prescientific way of addressing questions of ultimate origins and meaning in the form of stories) but true myth as C.S. Lewis says, or perhaps more mytho-historical according to Arnold. 

What do you think – what is the truth told in Genesis 2?



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Dave

posted February 10, 2009 at 6:49 am


It seems like you’re trying to have it both ways here. It’s both true and not true. And yet, in your first paragraph you make assertions based on “mounting evidence” and you’re own “educated opinion.” Your scientific investigation leaves no room for doubt and yet your investigation of the scriptures has left you taking two opposite positions at one time. Is there any other discipline that would accept such an assertion?
I’m sorry but I just can’t see how Jesus could proclaim “Thy Word is Truth” but really mean, “Thy Word is both true and untrue at the same time.” I want to say this carefully knowing that comments on a blog don’t often come off as gentle as I would like but if you’re worried about credibility I think you should be as willing to take a stand on the veracity (or lack thereof) of scripture as you are in the realm of science.



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Rick

posted February 10, 2009 at 7:11 am


RJS-
Coincidentally, the Internet Monk (Michael Spencer) today is having a discussion on the Roman Catholic Church’s (supporting) position on evolution and its role in creation. One of the commentors provided the (apparent) RCC position on Genesis 2 and 3.
“on 09 Feb 2009 at 11:24 pm
stephen
This is from catholic.com;
http://www.catholic.com/library/Adam_Eve_and_Evolution.asp
Concerning human evolution, the Church has a more definite teaching. It allows for the possibility that man?s body developed from previous biological forms, under God?s guidance, but it insists on the special creation of his soul. Pope Pius XII declared that ?the teaching authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions . . . take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter?[but] the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God? (Pius XII, Humani Generis 36). So whether the human body was specially created or developed, we are required to hold as a matter of Catholic faith that the human soul is specially created; it did not evolve, and it is not inherited from our parents, as our bodies are.
While the Church permits belief in either special creation or developmental creation on certain questions, it in no circumstances permits belief in atheistic evolution.
Adam and Eve: Real People
It is equally impermissible to dismiss the story of Adam and Eve and the fall (Gen. 2?3) as a fiction. A question often raised in this context is whether the human race descended from an original pair of two human beings (a teaching known as monogenism) or a pool of early human couples (a teaching known as polygenism).
In this regard, Pope Pius XII stated: ?When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parents of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now, it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the teaching authority of the Church proposed with regard to original sin which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam in which through generation is passed onto all and is in everyone as his own? (Humani Generis 37).
The story of the creation and fall of man is a true one, even if not written entirely according to modern literary techniques. The Catechism states, ?The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents? (CCC 390).”
The full post is here:
http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/riffs-020909-cormac-murphy-oconnor-on-darwin-and-faith#comments



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Phil Niemi

posted February 10, 2009 at 8:30 am


I would have to agree that the biggest obstacle for me in this is Adam. He is referred to in a way by NT writers that seems quite literal. How does sin originate, if not in the manner that scripture teaches?
In regards to genetic evidence, what is the evidence that point to a number of couples? Or at least how do the implications play out.



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Kyle

posted February 10, 2009 at 8:31 am


Hey RJS,
We’re still busy as ever in the midst of moving between cities in Asia, and our daughter has been sick with a respiratory virus so we’ve been in and out of clinics and hospitals…needless to say I haven’t been around to think through and post on this series. I also don’t have long tonight.
My understanding of Genesis 2-3 has radically evolved in the past, but I’d still call it evangelical since I first heard this view from an elderly OT professor at a Southern Baptist seminary (post-“conservative takeover”). I read the first three chapters as non-historical polemic against the other ANE views of God’s purpose in creation. So yeah, intentionally theological myth. After all, we’re trying to get at God’s teaching here and not at history so I’d rather have theological truth anyways.
I’d say that Genesis 12 is where the line starts to get awkward about defining historical truth versus theological truth. At that point the story becomes more about what God has done in history to redeem His People and the literary context and reading changes at this point as well.
Anyways, I wish I could partake in this discussion as its really a love of mine, but I don’t have time. God bless and I hope He truly speaks to those thinking through these issues for the first time in this discussion!



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Kyle

posted February 10, 2009 at 8:33 am


One more quick thing…I’d suggest reading John Walton on Genesis as well since he really breaks down all of the ANE myths and shows how radically different the Genesis account is…thus helping show that it is polemic in nature.



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Percival

posted February 10, 2009 at 8:43 am


For theological reasons, it seems we are “stuck with” monogenism, but it sure doesn’t seem to fit with the scientific evidence. I’d like to hear more about why Adam and Eve must be historical individuals from a Christian point of view.
In the land where I live, another word for humans is “awadim” or literally “Adams.” I like to think, like them, that we all have the same human father and mother. Also, the “fall” seems to necessitate that we all inherited fallen-ness from Adam and Eve.



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Dan

posted February 10, 2009 at 8:49 am


RJS,
Since you declared it, I would ask that you please define the criteria required to meet the standards of “academic” truth, whether scientific or historical. I am not trying to be arguementative. I just don’t think it’s understood. I certainly don’t understand what you mean. You’re declaring that there are different degrees of truth. I would re-state by not saying “truth” but instead would prefer words like “credibility” or “validity.” Regardless, in the simplest of terms, perhaps through bullet points, what is required to meet the standard of “academic truth?”
DJ
AMDG



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RJS

posted February 10, 2009 at 9:01 am


Kyle,
Thanks for stopping in – I hope and pray your daughter is getting better. John Walton has a new book on Genesis coming out in the spring and we will do a post or a series on it on the blog. This will gives us a chance to discuss his ideas. I guess I’ll have to get his commentary too – I have not read it yet.
Dan,
Good question – I don’t have time just now, but I’ll try to get back to it. Perhaps in the meantime others will have comments.



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phil_style

posted February 10, 2009 at 9:22 am


I’ve no major issues with a myriad of Genesis interpretive models. I’m not close enough to the historical, archaeological or textual evidence to be able to make any firm conclusions. what bothers me most about this whole thing is Romans/Paul.
I know that Tony Jone’s blog has been stepping into this area recently in a series on Original Sin. This is a biggie. Many of the fundmentalist atheist sites make statements to the effect that killing off christianity requires the dmonstration that Adam never existed. I sure get a strong sense from Romans (i.e. the salvific work of Christ) that there is validity to their position.
This is hwer I always go with the Genesis account – Romans. How else can we possible read Romans without an actual Adam + Eve as the first (and seemingly immortal provided they kept eating of a certain tree) humans who “brought” sin into the world?



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Michael W. Kruse

posted February 10, 2009 at 9:40 am


#1 Dave,
I see no conflict at all in what RJS wrote. We live in a post-Enlightenment world where “truth” is a “just-the-facts” recounting of events, much a like a police officer or investigator is to collect. Science comports well with this mindset.
Yet even in our day we have poets who describe our times and our past through metaphors, playing loose with the actual facts, in order to connect with us at more than purely the left-brain rational level. The intent is to communicate the grandeur, ecstasy, horror, sorrow, or any other of countless realities.
I love movies about actual historical events but I also love learning how writers and directors altered specific facts, inserted fictional characters, or inserted mythical events, in order to more effectively communicate the importance and significance of an event in a coherent story line lasting approximately two hours. Our ancient pre-Enlightenment ancestors were without movie theaters, or even books. Stories were the means of communicating the larger truth, in all its beauty and horror, that exists behind the mere summation of facts.
Thus, when you right,
“… I just can’t see how Jesus could proclaim “Thy Word is Truth” but really mean, “Thy Word is both true and untrue at the same time.””
I think you are suggesting that anything that isn’t a precise summation of historical facts isn’t truth. Most folks born before the Enlightenment would wonder what on earth you were talking about.



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Travis Greene

posted February 10, 2009 at 9:48 am


Are Genesis 2 and 3:
(A) Appropriation of ANE myth to convey theological truth?
(B) Mytho-historical stories of human history?
(C) Literal descriptions of human history?
(D) Myth – just so stories reflecting a bygone culture?
(E) Something else? (Specify if you wish)
A and B, with a sprinkling of C (borrowing from Daniel Quinn, I think the story of Cain and Abel is partly about real conflicts between ancient farmers and herders) and D (I don’t think snakes’ lack of legs really has anything to do with Satan, for instance).
For those troubled by Adam’s importance in Romans, I’ll point out that C.S. Lewis (beloved by evangelicals and certainly orthodox) had no problem with Genesis as myth. He said that humanity’s original rebllion against God may have concerned the literal eating of a fruit, but the question is of no real consequence. The point is it happened. At some point, through some mysterious means, God made us in his image (our moral/ethical sense, ability to reason, self-awareness, etc, with corresponding responsibility to God), and at some point thereafter we rebelled. I don’t need to know the specifics of that to know the reality of it.
So yes, Paul says sin entered through Adam. Fine. At some point, some person we might as well call Adam (which only means “man” anyway) sinned, and since we are inevitably social creatures, sin spread and we all inherited it. In Paul’s terms, we were all in Adam and thus we all sinned. But Paul’s point isn’t about Adam. It’s about Jesus, and his conquering of sin and death, which we (humanity) brought into God’s good world.



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David

posted February 10, 2009 at 10:26 am


#10 Michael – Thanks for the response. I sometimes feel like I hear crickets chirping when I comment on these posts. You say:
“Most folks born before the Enlightenment would wonder what on earth you were talking about.”
This is obviously a popular assertion but I’m not sure I understand why we should just take this as established fact. I’m not sure a Hebrew mind would question what I’m talking about.
But I think it’s also worth pointing out that you, like RJS, seem to want it both ways. You apply enlightenment principles of reason to determine scientific fact. No one in the scientific community would assert that a fact is both true and not true. Why then can we not expect the same thing from theology? We postmoderns are either abandoning enlightenment thinking or not.
RJS – I comment here from time to time (increasingly more rare these days for a reason I am about to state) but you never seem to interact with my comments at all. I try to be respectful which I know is a problem with some who believe like I do. I’m just wondering why that is even when I manage to be the first to comment?



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ChrisB

posted February 10, 2009 at 10:59 am


Poll: C, though I don’t have a huge problem with B.
RJS: Frankly, I don’t see a scientific problem with C. There has to have been a first human man and woman.
I don’t find genetic similarities convincing evidence for common descent — why would God necessarily give every creature a unique DNA? Why reinvent the wheel?
Dave: It’s not postmodern to recognize that there are different kinds of truth. There are true facts and there are true ideas. You can communicate true ideas without using true facts — or using only as many as you have to.
The example RJS borrows from Kruse is a good picture — it communicates the point of where babies come from without getting bogged down into details that would be hard to communicate.



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RJS

posted February 10, 2009 at 11:41 am


Dave (#1 and #12),
I’m sorry – I don’t mean to simply ignore, but I also can’t address everything all the time.
Maybe one place to start is with the parables Jesus told – the longer stories like the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son, or Mt 18:23-35 or Mt 25:14-30 or others – are these true? If so, in what way? I think that it clear – even from scripture – that truth can be told in the form of story and poetry as well as in other forms.
So I think Genesis 1-11 is true but much of it is truth told in story form. This is the short answer – it deserves to be unpacked much more.
I don’t think that the historicity of the gospels depends on the historicity of Genesis 1-11. You didn’t make this argument, but many people do. But we need to take each piece and type of scripture on its own terms to get at the truth of the passage.
So Genesis 1-11 is true,the gospel according to Mark is true. I will take a stand for the veracity of each. But Mark is history of a sort, biography of a sort; Genesis 1-11 is not history in the same fashion. The purpose is not the same and the genre is not the same.



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Douglas

posted February 10, 2009 at 12:07 pm


You say: “The mounting evidence, most importantly the molecular genetic evidence emerging from the sequencing of human and other genomes, makes the special creation of the human species increasingly difficult to defend”
and: “External resemblance, embryology, and the fossil evidence are persuasive, but perhaps not conclusive. However, the internal evidence encoded in the DNA of each and every one of us is, in my educated opinion, impossible to refute. Common descent is now as close to proven as anything in science in general, or biology in particular, ever can be.
As a professional molecular biologist, I simply want to say that thousands of other scientists like myself disagree, and find the opposite to be the case. This blog is not the place for a healthy nor productive discussion of why educated and professionally trained scientists, who may or may not be followers of Christ, reach the opposite conclusions to what you and many others have drawn – but the strength of your assertion is not justified.



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Percival

posted February 10, 2009 at 12:07 pm


I suspect that Genesis 2-4 (and 5-11) are something other than history as we usually see it. Neither are they totally made up stories like Parson Weems’ stories of George Washington and the cherry tree. It seems the account gets gradually less mythical with each chapter up though Abram. There is a historical sequence and direction.
Now, the way Paul interprets them is almost certainly significantly different than how the ancient hearers interpreted them. Does that mean that one of them is wrong? No, I think Paul is using the Adam story to explain Jesus as the founder of a new race. His purpose seems to be show contrast rather than continuity.
Were these ancient stories passed down from generation to generation or were they more of a direct dream/revelation that Abraham or Moses had? We’ll never know, but if they were passed on, each generation takes ownership of the story by doing more than verbatim repetition as a tape recorder would. So, whether they are prehistorically ancient or Mosaic or even later. They are ultimately explanatory in a way that a plain repetition of historical events can never be.
However, I don’t see how it can be with A) with no connection to history. I will have to go with “B) Mytho-historical stories of human history”. After all, those genealogies are meant to tie the distant past to hearers – telling them where they came from.



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RJS

posted February 10, 2009 at 12:26 pm


Douglas,
You make an assertion with no supporting material.
Mine may appear the same – but it is grounded in a long discussion on this blog. We have discussed Francis Collin’s book and Darrel Falk’s book among others. We can look to other sources as well, and will in the future.
I have yet to see one believable argument for the other view.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted February 10, 2009 at 12:49 pm


David #12
RJS expresses many of my sentiments in #16. Science and the scientific is one self-limited way of knowing. It is valid and it is important. But not everything can be answered scientifically. Thus it is possible to talk about truths that shape our reality through story and metaphor that contradict scientific/historical facts. It is possible to have scientific facts that contradict elements of stories and metaphors. Both can be true in the limited spheres in which they operate. I like what Chris B wrote in #13:
“There are true facts and there are true ideas. You can communicate true ideas without using true facts — or using only as many as you have to.”
I think these early chapters of Genesis are connected to historical realities but the aim is to communicate the truth behind those realities, not scientifically precise descriptions of those events. I’ll take another stab at an analogy. Which of the two following statements is true?
“On November 22, 1963, multiple rifle shots were fired that hit and eventually killed U. S. President John F. Kennedy as he rode in a motorcade through Dallas, TX.”
“On November 22, 1963, a shot rang out through the Dallas sky that pierced the heart of every American and scarred each of us who lived through the event.”
Are they both talking about a historical reality? Do they contradict? Is saying they are both true to say that we are claim something to be true and untrue at the same time? This is the kind of thing I’m trying to get at.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted February 10, 2009 at 1:25 pm


Let?s assume that God evolved all life, including a human couple. Via some means he took this couple and endowed them with sentient life. Then he placed this couple in a protected environment he had prepared. How might this be described to a pre-scientific culture? How about:
??. then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, ?? (Gen 2:7-9a NRSV)
“19 So out of the ground the LORD God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; …” (Gen 2:19, NRSV)
I don’t know that what I described is what actually happened but his kind of stuff is what suggests to me we are dealing with mytho-historical stories.



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dopderbeck

posted February 10, 2009 at 2:20 pm


Douglas (#17): I’d love to see some references as well.



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BeckyR

posted February 10, 2009 at 2:29 pm


What is ANE?



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RJS

posted February 10, 2009 at 2:33 pm


BeckyR
ANE = Ancient Near East



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Phil M

posted February 10, 2009 at 3:28 pm


The general evolutionary theory is the best explanation of common descent

I think I missed a step somewhere. Could someone please expand on (or post a link on information on) why common descent is a better explanation than special creation for the internal evidence encoded in DNA?
Thanks.



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RJS

posted February 10, 2009 at 3:33 pm


Phil M,
You can start with this post from December, and the links in it and in the comments. The focus here is a book and some talks by Dr. Darrel Falk.



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Ken

posted February 10, 2009 at 4:43 pm


Thanks, RJS, for this discussion. I bought Arnold’s book.
Is there a book or publication regarding “molecular genetic evidence”, with many specific examples, that wee could go through together. It would need to also contain logical argumentation which relates molecular genetic evidence inextricably to common descent. I think the evidence for this is scattered and that resolution of the question requires something like the above.



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dopderbeck

posted February 10, 2009 at 4:48 pm


Rick (#2): to follow up on the RC view, you should note that Humani Generis is an Encyclical and is not considered infallible. Most RC theologians, at least in my experience, have no problem at all with Adam not being literal. Karl Rahner’s theology, which has been very influential in the post-Vatican-II Church, I think (so far as I can tell from some limited reading) requires some “literal” content to the fall, but doesn’t exclude the possibility of human evolution. So, as best as I can gather from speaking with various Catholic theologians and priests, and from reading the Vatican’s recent book on evolution, (a) the RC Church accepts evolution generally; and (b) with respect to Adam, things are a little bit muddy, but it doesn’t seem to be an enormous problem.



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David

posted February 10, 2009 at 4:58 pm


You clearly know enough about the stories that Jesus told to call them parables. The writers of the gospels actually tell us that Jesus spoke in parables. For the record, I don’t think it’s obvious that the author of Genesis 1-11 is just telling a story. The author (who I take to be Moses by the way) meant it to be history. You can say he was wrong. But he wrote it as history.
Once again I think this discussion depends on where you start. I start with the bible and then move to science. Therefore I assume that science is wrong. You start with science and then move to the bible therefore you assume that the biblical account is wrong.
I know this isn’t the majority opinion around here. Just trying to spread a little healthy doubt.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted February 10, 2009 at 5:22 pm


#29 David
“But he wrote it as history.”
But on what basis do you conclude this?
(By “history” I take you to mean a reporter-like “just-the-facts” presentation of historical events. I too believe it is history (not exclusively) but presented in a different literary style.)



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RJS

posted February 10, 2009 at 5:31 pm


David,
I don’t start with science and therefore assume that the Bible is wrong.
I start with God as creator of the universe and think about what that actually means.
I start with the gospel – that God, through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus restored us to himself to establish a people of God – his church.
I start with the Bible, which is God’s word, his gift to us, which along with the continuous tradition of the church, tells us of Jesus and of God’s workings in the world. But is not a “magic” book. God spoke through people in the context of time and culture. So I start with what we have learned about those times and cultures to gain more insight into what we are to learn from the text.
I start with a theology – a biblically based theology – that denies that God created the world to look one way and then gave us the Genesis 1-11 so that we would know the truth. And ultimately that is what you are saying.
I start with a theology that respects the creativity and power of God.
I start from the realization that while the Bible has been the cornerstone for the faith from the beginning, the details have been interpreted in a multitude of different ways throughout history – everyone gets something wrong. We develop a relationship with God through wrestling with the text and the meaning of the text.
David – if I started with science I’d never get to faith.
I hope that you start with God and get to the Bible as well – because we worship God, not the Bible. The Bible is the light and lamp that illuminates the rock on which we stand – it is not the rock.
We can disagree about how to interpret the Bible and discuss it, fortunately salvation is not dependent on getting it all right.



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Rebeccat

posted February 10, 2009 at 5:41 pm


David, with all due respect, the duality which you have set up is a real problem. This is not an either/or problem, but a both/and. It’s not either science/or scripture, but both science and scripture. If God has both created the world and given us His word, we should have an expectation of consistency. However, at the end of the day, there will always be a gap between what we can know about something and the reality of that thing – INCLUDING what God’s word is communicating to us. Taking either reality as it presents itself around us or the bible as we understand it and priveledging one over the other is, IMO, exactly the wrong approach. What is happening here is not the priveledging of one side over the other, but an attempt to figure out where the error in our understanding is. To do otherwise is to disrespect the fullness of God’s revelation to us which includes both scriptures and the world which has His fingerprints all over it.
So, we look at the science and say, “is there something off here? is there some other way of understanding this?” Then we look at scripture and say, “is this where we have misunderstood? Have my assumptions about the Word been off?” At this point the science is such that the more one looks at it, the firmer it gets and the less room their is for re-interpretation or correction. So we turn to scripture and say, “well, the problem must lie with how we, with our limited understanding, have been looking at this. What is God trying to communicate that perhaps we haven’t even seen before?” If we cannot even bring ourselves to consider the gap between our understanding of God’s word and the reality of scriptures, then we are hopelessly arrogant and will never be able to progress past whatever ignorant position we currently occupy. That is not faith in God or His word – it is faith in ourselves.
Incidentally, this process is just the sort of activity which the ancient Hebrews understood to be at the center of wisdom and understanding. The ancient Hebrews loved paradox and puzzles and believed that these were the places where great truths are to be found. Many, many times in the OT, meditation is spoken of. In their world, meditation was often understood to mean holding an apparent conflict or paradox in the mind until the connections between and necessity of both sides began to reveal themselves. Our western habit of picking one side or the other and then proceeding to find evidence to support it would have been very foreign and wrong to them. I would say that as people here struggle to figure out how science and God’s Word are connected and illuminate eachother, they are involved in a continuation of that ancient and holy practice.



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Darren King

posted February 10, 2009 at 5:44 pm


RJS,
I want to say thanks for boldly going where so few Christians have been willing to go – especially in a blog environment where people often fire back with more than a little hostility.
What I keep coming across in the comments here is this assertion, by some, that because Genesis is written like history, that we should just take it that way.
But what these folks are missing in this argument is the giant elephant in the room – and it is them – and more specifically, their sense that if their first inclination is to read it like factual history that this must have been the case for everyone else before them as well. This is, to say the least, anachronistic. Like Michael Kruse tried to point out, we read things with certain assumptions since the Enlightenment. Those same assumptions would have been, not only contrary to, but in some ways completely foreign to ANE ears.
People, please stop assuming that what seems self-evident for you must be the case for everyone else who has existed over the last several thousand years. To do so suggests fallout from far too much navel-gazing, and far too little understanding of the nature of how worldview constructs have shifted over time.
I know I might sound a little *spicy* here, but it gets frustrating when some people come across as if we’re just ignoring what should be an obvious conclusion.



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RJS

posted February 10, 2009 at 5:45 pm


Douglas,
You posted a comment with all of the names from the Answers in Genesis site – 177 total – as examples of scientists who disagree with my statement.
Here is the link – people can go look:
http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/bios/
But posting the list here is too long and detracts from conversation.
If you wish to post the rest of the comment again, go ahead.



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David

posted February 10, 2009 at 6:06 pm


Darren:
“I want to say thanks for boldly going where so few Christians have been willing to go – especially in a blog environment where people often fire back with more than a little hostility.”
I assume you mean me (David). Please point out where I have been hostile. I have tried to demonstrate humility to the best of my ability in blog comments. Unless disagreeing is hostile.
“Like Michael Kruse tried to point out, we read things with certain assumptions since the Enlightenment. Those same assumptions would have been, not only contrary to, but in some ways completely foreign to ANE ears.”
It seems like you want to just drop this assumption and have everyone in the room nod sagely. I’m just not sure this is true. The Hebrew language is extremely concrete. This idea that something can be true but not true wouldn’t make sense to the Hebrew mind either.
“I know I might sound a little *spicy* here, but it gets frustrating when some people come across as if we’re just ignoring what should be an obvious conclusion.”
Based on your own logic your assertion here makes no sense. I could say this same thing. In my mind you are ignoring the obvious conclusion. Why are you so sure you’re right?
Look, I know this is hard. Blog commenting really stinks as a medium of communication. But I’m just up for a little discussion. Can we disagree without getting frustrated with each other?



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Michael W. Kruse

posted February 10, 2009 at 6:39 pm


David #35
I very much enjoy the discussion. I suspect that Darren may not be referring to you personally but to other circumstances on earlier threads.
You wrote, “This idea that something can be true but not true wouldn’t make sense to the Hebrew mind either.”
I don’t perceive myself or RJS saying anything remotely close to this. Can you give a concrete example of what you mean?
Also, there are different ways of knowing and different kinds of questions.
You are right that I don’t begin with the Bible on “How” questions of our physical environment. I start with science.
I do begin with the Bible on the “Why” questions about our existence. I don’t start with science.
The Bible and science are two different ways (complementary ways for my money) of knowing and they are about two different subject matters. The Bible is God’s revelation of himself through his mighty acts in history and science is a self-limited method of study that focuses only on the observable world. I believe it is over-reaching by advocates of either knowledge source to presume to have the definitive answers to the other’s subject matter.



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Darren King

posted February 10, 2009 at 9:12 pm


David,
Michael’s right, I wasn’t referring to you specifically, or even to this post specifically, but to a general reaction that fundamentalists often bring to these *kinds* of conversations.
Lastly, I think you misread (or misunderstood) my comment about obvious conclusions. I wrote: “I know I might sound a little *spicy* here, but it gets frustrating when some people come across as if we’re just ignoring what should be an obvious conclusion.”
I wasn’t challenging you (or others) to draw the “obvious conclusion”, but rather, explaining why what is so obvious to others is not at all so for us. I think if you re-read my first post you’ll see this is how I phrased it, not the other way around.



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Eric

posted February 10, 2009 at 9:46 pm


Douglas # 15 (and any others who seem to disagree with the science behind evolution),
I have to admit I’m very skeptical of your position, but I’m willing to listen. Can you point me to any links which you believe provide a scientific rebuttal to the genetics evidence in favor of evolution?
I find the genetics evidence in favor of evolution — e.g., as explained by Francis Collins, former head of the genome project, and Christian — very, very compelling. When I go to anti-evolution websites, I don’t see responses to it — they are usually talking about fossils, etc., and not genetics. If you are aware of a rebuttal that I’m missing, please let me know.
Michael Kruse,
Thanks much for the where-babies-come-from example. I find it very helpful, as well as your comments about the order of events in Genesis on the last post on this issue.



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Dan

posted February 10, 2009 at 10:27 pm

Doug Allen

posted February 10, 2009 at 10:43 pm


I think Genesis 2-3 is one of the two creation stories in the Bible. However, it’s more than a creation story. The Genesis story also tries to answer the age old question of why evil exists. Like all such attempted answers, it’s unsatisfactory, a lot worse than unsatisfactory.
Did most early Christians understand Genesis 2-3 literally? Many here are in a better position to answer that question than I am.
In any case, the emphasis many churches put on accepting it literally has always made me look for a quick exit. Interpreting the story in order to posit a angry God and a depraved humanity also contradicts my understanding of Jesus’ Abba and Jesus’ teachings which frequently show the impure, such as the Good Samaritan, to be good, compassionate people. I think the literal interpretation of Genesis and especially the insistence on an angry God and depraved mankind has and will continue to offend the common sense and Jesus-taught values of the many of us.
Doug



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RJS

posted February 10, 2009 at 11:07 pm


Dan,
That response from an ID perspective still leaves an ancient human species – old enough for evolution within the human species to have produced the observed features of the chromosomal fusion among other things.
Even if they are right (although I don’t think they are) it doesn’t make a literal historical interpretation of Genesis any more scientifically plausible.



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Eric

posted February 11, 2009 at 2:23 am


Thanks, Dan, I will take a look at the link. But doing a quick search, it looks like the critique of Collins was written by an attorney and a policy analyst. I would tend to find Collins’ views more credible on issues of science. But I will read it.
Also, as I understand ID, it still has the purported problems that people say arise when you buy into theistic evolution. For example, I don’t think that ID denies that death and decay are baked into the universe pre-fall. So it raises the same questions as evolution regarding what the fall really means. And it isn’t consistent with what the literalists say Genesis means, as RJS points out. That obviously doesn’t mean its wrong — just that it doesn’t seem to resolve the theological hang-ups people get any better than theistic evolution does.



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David

posted February 11, 2009 at 6:11 am


Darren King – I’m sorry if I misread your comment.
Doug Allen –
Offending common sense is exactly what the gospel does. The depravity of man is very difficult because we want to think ourselves good. And yet the NT makes it clear that while we were sinners Christ died for us. We can’t go through the bible picking and choosing the parts we like while throwing out the ones we don’t.
I think the same thing goes for the parts that seem to contradict science. The miraculous offends the mind. Frankly, I find creation to be just one of many acts of God like “the fact” that Jesus raised from the dead that are very difficult to explain. How can we hold to the resurrection and maintain credibility among those who demand hard science?
The Bible offends the mind. God must judge sin which means He tells us we’re wrong and that is offensive. Otherwise He’s going against His Holy nature. His wrath is necessary in light of His holiness. But He is also a God of love who in His great wisdom found away to satisfy BOTH His wrath and His love in Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross.
Michael Kruse –
“I believe it is over-reaching by advocates of either knowledge source to presume to have the definitive answers to the other’s subject matter.”
I believe that where the bible and science come into conflict the bible is right and science will one day catch up. The mind of man, terribly hindered by sin, will try to find another explanation other than the bible for the things it observes.



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phil_style

posted February 11, 2009 at 6:55 am


David, “I believe that where the bible and science come into conflict the bible is right and science will one day catch up”
Let’s hypothetically assume that the bible made the claim that the moon was made out of cheese. should we believe it then? If not, I would suggest that this is becasue we know better due to the advances made by science. Now we both know the bible makes no such claim, but what claims as made by the bible do we let science inform us?



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David

posted February 11, 2009 at 7:41 am


Phil –
Obviously the topic here is creation so one example would be that God created in 6 days. Other examples may or may not be denied around here but certainly would be denied by many in the scientific community: a flood over the entire earth, the parting of the Red Sea, a dead person becoming alive again after days in a tomb, a few loaves and fish feeding thousands. The Bible says these things happened but one would be hard pressed to find scientific evidence to prove them or to prove that anything like them could possibly happen.
Plus, if the bible did (hypothetically of course) say the moon was made of cheese I’d believe that too.



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Dan

posted February 11, 2009 at 8:22 am


I’m not a geneticist either, but I have to decide what, or who, to believe. I think there are some definitions that constantly get confused.
ID is, by definition, not creationism and does not attempt to reconcile the Bible to the current scientific consensus. ID only points out that the key assumption of naturalism is an assumption that causes naturalists to dismiss flaws in their own theories and argues that intelligence is required for a number of things in “nature”. The article I referenced points out several possible logical problems – that similarities are not necessarily evidence of relationship, that “junk” DNA which suggests dissmilarity is not yet understood and may have much to say in constructing structures, and that “information” necessary to construction of organisms still is not adequately explained outside of intelligence. There are critiques of the human-chimp common-descent argument from genetics among creationists as well, but I assume such critiques will be dismissed out of hand, judging from the disdain many have expressed toward them in comments on this site.
I am sympathetic to ID, but I recognize ID intentionally does not attempt reconcile scriptural passages to science. This is where David (41) makes valid points. Creation, whether old earth or young earth, will never be tolerated by the science intelligentsia who insist that everything be explained according to natural processes alone. Scripture, from cover to cover, insists on a God who 1) created all things and 2) at key points in history worked in ways that are beyond natural law. That second proposition, according to the science establishment, makes ID “not science”.
It appears some scientists will allow for the first proposition, but most will not allow for the second. For this reason, nothing creationists of any stripe say will have much effect on these discussions – it is assumed that creationists can’t look at the evidence objectively because of a prior commitment to the supernatural. (Just as creationists are skeptical of a naturalist’s ability to deal objectively with evidence that suggests design).
But it still seems to me that many here are adopting the naturalist stance with regard to origins, even if they have a Christian outlook on other things. They are naturalists with regard to Genesis, but not naturalists with regard to the Gospel. That seems to be having it “both ways”.
Would it be correct to say that Francis Collins allows for God to create nature, allows for God to work “in” the laws of nature, but does not allow the explanatory possibility that God might have intervened in nature outside of natural law?
Why do some seem to believe in the virgin birth, the resurrection, the raising of Lazarus, but then adopt a purely naturalistic view in the realm of origins? It seems that many are quite willing to allow science to influence and mold theology, so that our interpretation of Genesis bows to the current scientific consensus, but not willing to allow theology to have any real influence in science, with the possible exception of the big bang.
It just seems more consistent to believe that if God can raise Christ from the dead and turn water into wine, then supernatural activity in the events of creation should not be dismissed out of hand in favor of explanations that insist all be explained according to natural law.
For my part, I have to be consistent. If I believe in the supernatural, I am at odds with naturalistic science. If I were to accept the conclusions of naturalistic science regarding origins, I would also have to accept the conclusions of naturalistic science regarding the New Testament miracles as well. I would have to become an agnostic.
So the ID argument, though I am not a geneticist, seems more reasonable and consistent. Information is required for ANY complex genetic structures to exist and information implies design. Once I accept that point, it is not at all illogical to begin to think that the God who designed it all can tinker with things at any time. And I read all of scripture from that perspective.



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RJS

posted February 11, 2009 at 9:01 am


Dan,
It is hard to carry on a conversation because there is an assumption by all to assume that disagreement means dismissing out of hand.
Both Francis Collins (from what I’ve heard and read) and I would allow for a supernatural origin for the universe – certainly I believe that God intelligently designed the universe and the world with purpose and plan. Certainly I believe that he has intervened and does intervene. The most significant, but far from only, intervention was in the incarnation – the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
So where’s the rub? Just here – I do not believe that we are so tainted by sin that our every observation of the world is to be tossed in the garbage heap and the only thing we can trust is one interpretation of Genesis.
In this instance we are not talking about whether God could and has intervened – but whether he created a world to look old and gave us Genesis so that we would know the truth.
I don’t think that this comes down to belief in supernatural or not – but an understanding of what the Bible is and what it is intended to be. With respect to Genesis this is why I am looking at what respected OT scholars tell us about Genesis.



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David

posted February 11, 2009 at 9:25 am


RJS-
First of all, you’re looking at what respected OT scholars you agree with have to say about Genesis. I’ll admit I do the same thing but on this issue appealing to auhtority is soemthing we both can do.
“I do not believe that we are so tainted by sin that our every observation of the world is to be tossed in the garbage heap and the only thing we can trust is one interpretation of Genesis.”
I think this is a fair point. I obviously disagree but I appreciate you stating this so clearly. I would appeal to Romans 1:18-23 on this point where Paul actually tells us that man, even though he has God’s creation screaming God’s Glory, willfully ignore Him and give themselves over to futile speculations. Based on this text it seems fairly reasonable that the unsaved mind would come up for a different exlpanation of origins than what the bible descibes.
“In this instance we are not talking about whether God could and has intervened – but whether he created a world to look old and gave us Genesis so that we would know the truth.”
I agree that this is a difficult point for one who holds my position. I know many friends who have turned from 6 day creation because of this very point. But I don’t find it insumountable. There are reasonable explanations ranging from man’s ability to see something different because of sin all the way to the effects of the flood. I know you’ll probably take issue with that last point too.
But I do appreciate that you clarified a couple of these points. And you’re right to say that dissagreement shouldn’t lead to dismissal.



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Scot McKnight

posted February 11, 2009 at 9:39 am


David,
If I understand you aright… (1) Humans who are fallen cannot see the through the empirical evidence accurately enough to render the right judgment; (2) therefore, we need the Bible for that. This leads you to a non-evolutionary view of origins.
First, there is a hint of suggestion that anyone who thinks evolution is accurate has partaken in the fallen mind and fallen condition. But, RJS and other Christian scientists are (1) in a redeemed condition and (2) think evolution is the best explanation of the evidence.
Second, one might push back against your view by suggesting the logic can be applied in reverse, namely that it is the fallen condition that prevents a centuries old view from admitting it might be wrong.



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David

posted February 11, 2009 at 12:01 pm


OK. Honestly, I knew I was stepping into this and was just hoping that maybe the thread was dwindling and no one would notice :). Also, I don’t want this to turn into the kind of thing where we all start linking to other authers because we don’t have space or time to make every point here. I’ll take a shot at responding though I know I’m responding to a guy whose been at this a lot longer than I.
Point #1: There probably is a hint of that of which you speak and let me say that I am certain (beyond a shadow of a doubt) that there are blatant areas of biblical interpretation where I am stepping into the same error. I am willing to wear that hat. But I don’t think it lets me off the hook for trying to get it right. I believe I am accountable to God for handling His Word. If I get it wrong it’s my fault. If I get it right it’s because He enabled me to do it. To sum up here: I believe God’s Word in the form of the bible is factually true in all it’s parts. I believe God expects us to do our best to interpret it correctly and the fact that I can’t always do it because of my sin doesn’t let me off the hook.
Point #2: Alternate explanations for creation are not new. Evolution is just the newest theory concocted by man in our modern/post-modern day. If I understand the Pentateuch to be written by Moses under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit then I’m not just holding to a centuries old view. I’m holding to the correct view ( as I understand it) against which competing theories have been warring for thousands of years. I realize this probably strikes many who read this blog as ridiculous and filled with hubris. But it is “a” perspective. Once again, my mind is tainted by sin. But that still makes me responsible before God to stay true to the view my consience will allow.
I’m sure I’ve left a lot of holes here.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted February 11, 2009 at 12:30 pm


David #46
Early church fathers like Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 ? c. 215), Origen (185 ? 253), and Augustine all postulated figurative days. In more recent times, there are these three men:
*****
B. B. Warfield, one of the most respected theologians of conservatives and fundamentalists in the early 20th Century.
?In a word, the Scriptural data leave us wholly without guidance in estimating the time which elapsed between the creation of the world and the deluge and between the deluge and the call of Abraham. So far as the Scripture assertions are concerned, we may suppose any length of time to have intervened between these events which may otherwise appear reasonable. The question of the antiquity of man is accordingly a purely scientific one, in which the theologian as such has no concern.? (“On the Antiquity and Unity of the Human Race” (1911, p. 261)
****
William Jennings Bryan, the 1920s Fundamentalist champion at the Scopes Money Trial:
[In 1925, at the famous Scopes Trial1 in Dayton, Tennessee, William Jennings Bryan was cross-examined – part of the transcript follows:]
Clarence Darrow (the ACLU lawyer) [D]: ?Mr Bryan, could you tell me how old the Earth is??
Bryan [B]: ?No, sir, I couldn?t.?
[D]: ?Could you come anywhere near it??
[B]: ?I wouldn?t attempt to. I could possibly come as near as the scientists do, but I had rather be more accurate before I give a guess.?
[D]: ?Does the statement, ?The morning and the evening were the first day,? and ?The morning and the evening were the second day,? mean anything to you??
[B]: ?I do not think it necessarily means a twenty-four-hour day.?
[D]: ?You do not??
[B]: ?No.?
[D]: ‘Then, when the Bible said, for instance, “and God called the firmament heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day,” that does not necessarily mean twenty-four-hours??
[B]: ?I do not think it necessarily does.? ?I think it would be just as easy for the kind of God we believe in to make the Earth in six days as in six years or in six million years or in 600 million years. I do not think it important whether we believe one or the other.?
[D]: ?And they had the evening and the morning before that time for three days or three periods. All right, that settles it. Now, if you call those periods, they may have been a very long time.?
[B]: ?They might have been.?
[D]: ?The creation might have been going on for a very long time??
[B]: ?It might have continued for millions of years.?
Source: The World?s Most Famous Court Trial, Second Reprint Edition, Bryan College, Dayton, pp. 296, 302?303, 1990.
*****
Francis Schaffer
?The simple fact is that day in Hebrew (just as in English) is used in three separate senses: to mean (1) twenty-four hours, (2) the period of light during the twenty-four hours, and (3) an indeterminate period of time. Therefore, we must leave open the exact length of time indicated by day in Genesis.?
Source: Book – Genesis in Space and Time; The Flow of Biblical History (1972 p 59)
Back in #27 you wrote that Genesis 1-11 is history as recorded by Moses. When some of us suggest that metaphor and other literary techniques are at work here, you say we are saying something is true and untrue at the same time. Do you see these people in the same light?
I’d still be curious to know on what basis you insist Gen 1-11 is pure history.



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RJS

posted February 11, 2009 at 12:32 pm


David (#46)
First of all, you’re looking at what respected OT scholars you agree with have to say about Genesis.
To do this would be lousy scholarship. I don’t read only those who agree with me/with whom I agree – I read much more broadly than this. And I take none of them as unquestioned authority, but think about and evaluate what they say. You can’t weigh experts (heaviest doesn’t wins), count experts (as though truth was determined by a vote), or submit to the authority of an expert (he will err on some things, guaranteed).
It is true that I don’t put everything up for discussion here, there is selection.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted February 11, 2009 at 12:56 pm


Dan #44
Dan,
I think we need to be careful to make a sharp distinction between methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism.
Science is self-limiting. It limits itself to the material world and learns through the scientific method which includes observation testing. It is ever in pursuit of how the natural occurs. Therefore, methodologically it must exclude supernatural influence because the supernatural is not observable or testable. Should a supernatural event occur, you could not conclude from science that it was supernatural. All you could conclude is that science is without an explanation. If you begin postulating God or the supernatural as the cause, every time you run into a seemingly unsolvable problem, then you will shut of scientific inquiry. (ID essentially does this by saying, ?evolution can?t account for complexity, a supernatural designer must of have done it.?)
The problem is that there are scientist who do make truth claims about God and the supernatural (or the absence thereof) claiming they are based on science. That isn?t possible. Such matters are beyond the scope of scientist. These folks have slipped over into philosophical naturalism, which is a faith commitment not a scientific one.
Thus, no scientist, Christian or otherwise, is ever going to be able to legitimately say that God exists or doesn?t exist based on science. Science is a self-limited form of study that only studies the natural. Therefore, theology and God must be excluded from science. But there are other ways of knowing than science. The issue isn?t that theology needs to be in science but rather that philosophical naturalist have no basis for excluding theological ways of knowing.



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David

posted February 11, 2009 at 12:58 pm


Michael:
We’ll quote then. I really don’t think it will go anywhere. What I quote to you won’t convince you of my view point. But here is one quote from EJ Young, “Studies in Genesis 1″:
“Genesis one is written in exalted, semi-poetical language; nevertheless, it is not poetry. For one thing the characteristics of Hebrew poetry are lacking, and in particular there is an absence of parallalism. It is true that there is a division into paragraphs but to label these strophes does not render the account poetic. The Bible does contain poetic statements of creation namely Job 38:8-11 and Pslam 104:5-9. Ridderbos points out that if one will read Gen. 1:6-8, Job 38:8-11 and Psalm 104:5-9 in succession he will feel the difference bewteen the Genesis accounts and teh poetic accounts…Genesis one is the prelude to a severely historical book, a book so strongly historical that it may be labeled genealogical…”
My main point is that the author thought it was history. Whether you think he’s wrong is up to you. But he wrote it as history not poetry.



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Darren King

posted February 11, 2009 at 1:34 pm


David,
The challenge with your view is that it involves massive doses of circular reasoning based around two assumptions: 1.) the Bible must be read literally (and with your particular perspective on literalism), and 2.) that human beings can’t possibly trust any evidence other than that revealed by the Bible (and again, more specifically, the Bible read through your particular literalist grid).
On the other side of things, there are numerous factors: the geological record, DNA, biblical literature studies, ANE studies, etc… put together by a group of people with different underlying assumptions – as opposed to one homogeneous group, who all draw similar conclusions about the age of the earth and the origins/evolution question.
So the question is, with your airtight circle of in-house sources and reasoning, how could you ever begin to question the legitimacy of those claims – with any claim on some semblance of objectivity?



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Michael W. Kruse

posted February 11, 2009 at 1:59 pm


David #49
I think you may have missed my point. I wasn’t quoting these folks because they are infallible authorities but rather to show that throughout history, leading people within the church, who I think most conservative Christians living today would agree are orthodox in their theology didn’t hold to this literal reading. Is this irrelevant to you?



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David

posted February 11, 2009 at 2:29 pm


Michael –
I didn’t miss your point. I was responding to your question about why I thought Genesis 1-11 was history. I think it’s history because it is written as history. I am reluctant to quote authors and point out nuances in the Hebrew because of the time it would take and the limits of this kind of communication. And, as I mentioned, I doubt citing sources will change our minds.
I am also well aware that many throughout church history have been divided on this and other issues. There are plenty of orthodox theologians and pastors with whom I would respectfully disagree.



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Rob

posted February 11, 2009 at 4:37 pm


#55 – I think it’s history because it is written as history
But why does history equate to literal/factual in your mind?



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SteveT

posted February 11, 2009 at 4:50 pm


RJS, let me pose a different question to you in this. I am genuinely sympathetic to the Old Earth view, but I find some very distinct problems. Specifically, if we read Gen 1-3 as somehow myth or parable, then we have to deal with a very difficult question.
Luke 3 shows the genealogy of Christ, going all the way back to Adam. So if we read that as somehow a parable, a theological story that is “truthy” but not literal truth, then Adam is a fictitious character, right? Then we have to imagine that Seth was too, right? So at what point do we say that the genealogy is actually starting to talk about real people?
When we lose the idea of man as a special creation, when we lose literal Adam, the impact of that on scripture seems to me to be devastating.



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RJS

posted February 11, 2009 at 6:08 pm


SteveT,
How we are to interpret the genealogies in Matthew and Luke is a good question. I’d like to hear Scot weigh in here – as a NT scholar.
Apart from the issue of Adam, the genealogies in Mt and Lk do not agree. I’ve heard some people say that one is the genealogy of Mary and one of Joseph. But if this is the case there is still a problem – because if we read it literally, according to the plain meaning, the text clearly says both are of Joseph – at least in the translation I have.
Even if the above is correct, there is an extra name in one list compared with the other once they agree (starting at David). So is this an error or a function of the form and purpose of the two?
What is the purpose and the form of the genealogies in the NT in Matthew and Luke?
I bring this up because I think the answer is relevant to how we should take the genealogy in Luke from Adam to Abraham.
Beyond the issue of the NT genealogies – Arnold and most other OT scholars I’ve read thus far make a distinction between the Primeval History (1-11) and the Ancestral Narrative (12-50) in Genesis. I personally think we start seeing elements of “real” history in Gen 12-50, the ancestral narratives.



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Travis Greene

posted February 11, 2009 at 10:03 pm


I’d concur with truth starting to crystallize into fact around Genesis 12. By which I mean, I think Abraham was a real historical figure, although his story may be legendized to some degree. But the basic outline, that God called one man (one family, really) out from where they were to create a people for himself, is true. And fact. And we’re basically into full-on history by the time of David. But again, history by ancient standards, not ours.
As for the genealogies…well, they show the essential identity of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, as well as God’s ultimate control of history. I sometimes wonder if there was some genetic component to Jesus’ messiahship that God was guiding throughout history, given the crazy hookups in his family tree (Ruth & Boaz, or Judah & Tamar, for instance).



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Doug Allen

posted February 11, 2009 at 11:00 pm


David et al,
Your defense of one fundamentalist interpretation against both what I called common sense (or ordinary intelligence) and also against what others many times have referred to as scientific method, reminds me of what I learned from my travels and from my readings of comparative religion. Many people are taught, conditioned, “wired” to defend what is considered orthodox in a culture and will often give their lives to defend it. If you were born a Muslim, I have no doubt that you would defend Muslim fundamentalism as no doubt others are doing in pulpits and in blogs at this very minute.
Ironically, Jesus was not one of these defenders of orthodoxy. He did not defend much of his culture’s Jewish orthodoxy. Though he, no doubt, knew the Torah better than most of us here, He did not teach about the depravity of man or necessity of understanding the Torah in any particular way. He seldom talked about hell and never to sinners, only to the self-righteous (I learned this last week here on the Jesus Creed blog where there was a link to another blog so tell me if I am wrong). The alternative wisdom he taught flew in the face of the conventional wisdom including the purity laws of his culture. He invited everyone to his table. I am convinced if you told him you were a tax collector, a thief, a prostitute, divorced and remarried, homosexual, a Samaritan, a skeptic, whatever- He would have the same short answer, “follow me.” Orthodox Christianity may or may not- I think not- be the best way to follow Him. I realize we are all trying to follow Him to the best of our understanding and ability.
Doug



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ChrisE

posted February 11, 2009 at 11:43 pm


RJS, anybody-
Why are we starting with the [fairly confident] assertion that Gen 1-3 is mytho-historical as opposed to some other kind of historical, like history-historical? I don’t think that foundation was laid. Or to put it another way, why do you reject Genesis 1-3 as accurate history? Bullet points would be fine. This has been discussed a lot, but I think this question is at the heart of what is generating the ‘debate’ right now. A lot has been said about the fact that these chapters are not scientifically accurate, but I guess it’s not clear for me what your scientific problems are.



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Eric

posted February 12, 2009 at 1:33 am


Dan # 44 (and other posts) —
I agree that we each need to consider and decide the issues for ourselves, but I think our initial bias should be in favor of an expert in genetics talking about that topic, rather than a lawyer. If there is a scientific basis for criticizing Collins, I’d like to hear it from a scientist — not from a lawyer.
You also suggest that the term ID constantly get confused. If that comment was in response to my post, #40 (and it appears to be), then I can assure you that what you say is consistent with my understanding of ID. And ID still raises the same purported theological problems that people claim arise from evolution, as I said in #40.
Also, you suggest that Francis Collins “does not allow the explanatory possibility that God might have intervened in nature outside of natural law.” That is not accurate. It isn’t that he (or I, or RJS and others) deny that there are supernatural explanations for some things. (The resurrection is an example — I agree it was a supernatutal event). Instead, our position is that the genetic evidence in favor of a naturalistic explanation for this particular thing — human creation — is very strong.
David ? you seem to acknowledge that throughout history orthodox Christians have given different interpretations to Genesis than what you have given. You even seem willing to agree that your interpretation on some matters isn?t always correct. I don’t understand your basis for such apparent certainty, then, about your interpretative approach to this particular point in Genesis.
Take as an example Psalm 139, which says that God made infants in the womb. I don?t think that God physically intervenes in space-time for each infant to make that happen. I assume you agree, and that you do so because you are willing to interpret that passage in a different manner from the way you interpret Genesis. What is so offensive about applying the same sort of interpretative approach to Genesis — particularly given the very strong scientific evidence?
I would also like to say something, risking that it may offend some, but believing it is crucial: In trying so hard to defend your own interpretation of the faith, these sorts of strict views are pushing many, many away from faith. I have friends that have left their faith over this, because they bought into the idea that you either agree with a particular interpretation of Genesis, or you might as well throw out the whole thing.
I grieve deeply over this.



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Eric

posted February 12, 2009 at 1:47 am


ChrisE (#61) — over the past few months RJS has had a number of posts that go into the scientific evidence in more detail. They are in the archives.



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RJS

posted February 12, 2009 at 6:30 am


Chris E (#61),
Two reasons (1) The form and text of Genesis itself; (2) our increasing empirical knowledge of the nature of the world.
For the first – one discussion is in this post.
We’ve had many more discussions on the second (science), I am trying to take a closer look at the first. I doubt that Arnold agrees with all I say on the science end, but I don’t know. I do know that he finds the Genesis material is abused by the literalists (creationists) in this debate, especially the reading of Gen 1 as literal 24 hour days. Mytho-historical is his term for the text itself.



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Dan

posted February 12, 2009 at 7:41 am


I’ll bite one more time.
1. I actually agree with Francis Schaeffer for the most part, but Schaeffer, even though he allowed for an old earth and the possibility of animal death before the fall (not by tooth and claw), he insisted on an historical Adam and Eve and an historical fall in space and time. That is the point at which I have to get off. I cannot reconcile common descent with the whole of scripture, particularly the New Testament passages.
2. As for naturalism and the definition of science, my point is that scripture does insist on the miraculous. The miraculous cannot be explained by science, but the effects of miracles can. That is, we could take Jesus’ pulse after the crucifixion and after the resurrection. I still see in the tenor of this debate a tendency to dismiss the biblical account based on what naturalistic science asserts and to not really consider supernatural possibilities because that wouldn’t be “science” in the current definition of the term.
3. Once again, if common descent is true and special creation of Adam and Eve is false, then for me, the logical conclusion is that Christianity becomes meaningless. It no longer explains, in a way that correlates to reality, the existence of evil, death, suffering and the “solution” quite naturally false into the realm of a “nice story”. It become something one might believe subjectively or psychologically, but has no appeal as a vital explanation of what is “real”.
So go on, convince me that common descent is true. If you succeed, you will have made an agnostic out of a life-long believer. Thanks.



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David

posted February 12, 2009 at 8:08 am


Eric –
“In trying so hard to defend your own interpretation of the faith, these sorts of strict views are pushing many, many away from faith. I have friends that have left their faith over this, because they bought into the idea that you either agree with a particular interpretation of Genesis, or you might as well throw out the whole thing.”
I was going to excuse myself from this thread but I’d like to address a couple of thoughts here.
We’re all defending our interpretations of the faith and fairly vigorously I might add. Some have labeled my interpretation “fundamentalist,” a term that is probably intended to be at least moderately pejorative. That’s fine if we need to add labels. But I don’t see why the “fundamentalist” position needs to be disqualified from open, intellectual discussion. A literal interpretation of the creation account is listed in the post we’re discussing as possibility (c). If (c) is off the table then I assume RJS wouldn’t have listed it.
You indicate that because some have made this issue of creation an essential doctrine that others have walked away from the faith. I too I’m grieved that this is the case. But while this is instructive to me to never lead with non-essentials when speaking of faith in Christ it does not cause me to change what I believe. If anyone is to be offended by the gospel that I preach (and the bible says some will be right?) my prayer that is is because of “Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness” (I Cor. 1:23) and not because of something non-essential to the faith.
May we all be loving, careful and gentle as we approach those who need to hear of Christ. But I also hope we can enjoy vigorous and respectful discussion as we enjoy speaking to brothers and sisters in Christ about the things that are important to us and about which we may certainly disagree.



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Chris E

posted February 12, 2009 at 8:49 am


RJS-
I really am trying to learn here, but I think your position has not been stated as clearly as you think. I went back and read the entirety of the post you listed; thanks for that. I get the general contour of your position; (1) some Evangelical conceptions of inerrancy cannot explain some apparently errant/contradictory passages in the Pentateuch, (2) genetic evidence for common descent!, (3) pre-scientific worldview dominates in Gen 1-3. Maybe you could focus in on just Gen 1-2. Which verses clearly say things that are not scientifically supported? Again, bullet points would do.
btw, have you read C. John Collins’s “Gensis 1-4″ or John Sailhamer’s “Genesis Unbound”? Both are inerrantists but take a far different view of Genesis 1-4 than most Evangelicals.



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RJS

posted February 12, 2009 at 9:03 am


Chris E,
I have not read Collins, but I should and will read it.
I have read Vern Poythress’s Redeeming Science. He is also an inerrantist, a professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and he relies heavily on Collins. I strongly recommend this book to many who are struggling here. It is a more conservative take than you’ll get from me, but overall a good book.



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Chris E

posted February 12, 2009 at 9:30 am


RJS –
Thanks, I’ll look into Poythress. I’m reading “Saving Darwin” right now; honestly, it’s kind of like nails on a chalkboard, but I’m pressing on! If you do get around to Collins’s “Genesis 1-4″ I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on it. He makes exegetical and generic claims that defuse a lot of the flash points in the science-faith argument. Very helpful to me.



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Chris E

posted February 12, 2009 at 9:58 am


RJS –
Thanks, I’ll look into Poythress. I’m reading “Saving Darwin” right now; honestly, it’s kind of like nails on a chalkboard, but I’m pressing on! If you do get around to Collins’s “Genesis 1-4″ I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on it. He makes exegetical and generic claims that defuse a lot of the flash points in the science-faith argument. Very helpful to me.



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Doug Allen

posted February 12, 2009 at 2:00 pm


Dan et al,
How sad that if common descent is true… then for you the logical conclusion is that Christianity is meaningless. Does that mean that if science is correct and your preferred way of interpreting the Bible is incorrect, that you then reject what Jesus taught was most important: the Jesus creed? It makes me wonder if fundamentalism or literalism of interpretation isn’t a much greater barrier to trust in God than is a scientific understanding. Am I wrong in saying that Jesus didn’t dwell on all these theological distinctions or insist on correct ways of interpretation or belief? Am I wrong in thinking that Jesus was at least somewhat critical of those who did insist they had the right(eous) understanding?
Sure, I think my understanding of the Bible and science are fairly well informed if tentative, but can religion or science ever explain all the really big questions like “the existence of evil, death, suffering, and ‘the solution'” to quote you? Aren’t mere Christianity and especially mere humans too limited to demand understanding before giving trust?
Doug



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SteveT

posted February 12, 2009 at 4:46 pm


We’re probably getting too late in this thread for anybody to even notice, Doug, but the stakes here are high. If we cannot trust Gen 1-3 (1-11) as an accurate discussion of creation, what gives us any confidence in understanding the rest of the Bible as an accurate discussion of redemption?
How can we make any sense of Paul’s argument that atonement through Christ is possible since he is the second Adam, uniquely qualified to reverse the fall, if the fall is really just a nice story?
At what point here can we not just join the skeptics and say “Well, you know, the whole Jesus story is just that — a story. It has some nice ideas, but it’s just a story, and I don’t see any reason to pay it any attention.”
You bring up the Jesus creed — So we start with part of that — “the Lord your God is One”. Well, can we really trust that statement? Hindus flatly deny that. Can we trust the Bible or not? Or is this just somewhere where the plain meaning of the text is just not correct and we need to learn to adjust our expectations to match those?



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Ben B.

posted February 13, 2009 at 1:46 am


SteveT,
I hear your argument, but i just think people use that argument way too much, and it isn’t as solid as it sounds. Like, we have to flesh that out. For one, nonliteral history is a REAL thing. For example, Jericho. A lot of OT scholars believe that while Joshua was most likely a real guy who really took the promised land, the city of Jericho was probably not even around at the time they took the land. So, if we can’t trust that? Well, it was not written to take as literal history, that wasn’t the point. It was history, regardless of literal or not… the point is that in Israel’s history, they had conquered and God had given them the land by divine approval. Therefore, why does the Genesis account have to be different?
Now, the stories of Jesus are NOT like the Jericho story, they are not like the Genesis story. They are written in a way where we can see that they are intending us to take them literally. There is a distinct difference in the MANNER in which the Jesus story is told… and the way that the Creation and Flood narratives are told.
So it actually doesn’t cause the problems we feel like it might. Also, the Lord your God is One.” The Jews fought and died for this one belief, that their God, YHWH, was the ONE, true, only, living God. Pretty sure they literally meant that and that it wasn’t myth-history.
Just my thoughts. I think the whole “story” thing not having boundaries is an argument that isn’t really founded. The people who use it to advance agendas of Jesus stories just being “stories” are the ones who seem most misinformed.



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Steve

posted March 17, 2009 at 3:14 pm


Would “mytho-historical” be an apt way of designating what Henri Blocher, I seem to recall, called “mixed genre”? It tells us where we have come from, but not in literal terms, much as biblical passages about the future tell us where we’re going in similar terms. Blocher also noted that whatever parallels there are with ANE texts, the differences are what stands out, and I think it’s this non stork story like character that he partly had in mind. Nahum Sarna, best as I recall, also points to the same contrast of style, and that more sober, more dignfified, less fantastic tone is part of the polemic. The best myth does more than entertain around a campfire, it tells us who we are. So, on this line of thought, I’m wondering if Gen 2-3 is both A and B–that is to say, it’s B in order to do A effectively. Any thoughts?



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Steve

posted March 17, 2009 at 3:19 pm


(I should qualify, best myth for biblical revelation purposes, for the purpose of confronting the values of the ANE world and instructing Israel in being a light to the nations. If the point is to tell cool campfire stories, that’s another mater.)



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