Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Houston, We’ve Had a Problem (RJS)

posted by Jesus Creed Admin

Scot forwarded this letter, with permission of the author to post. I am putting it up for consideration because it fits with the general topics I’ve posted on for the last several years. We’ve had a problem – and this problem has raised serious questions in the minds of many, from seventy year-olds in retirement, fifty year-olds looking at middle age, and twenty year-olds looking toward the future. I don’t post to sow seeds of doubt, but to work toward a solution for a crisis that requires response.  This letter reflects a fairly common situation. We’ve had a problem … where do we go from here?

I’ve a thought and a start, (after the jump) but there is much more to say. How would you reply?

(Omitting some personal preliminaries)

Anyhow, here’s my deal.  It’s not so much a simple question, but more of a situation I find myself in and I’d like your comments.

As a [seminary] student in the 70’s I was taught that the entire 66 books of the Bible front to back are equally true.  I’m one of those people who feel that science and scripture should agree if both are true.  For me evolution is a problem as I cannot see how to harmonize it with any plain reading of Genesis 1-3.  So on the radio a few years ago I heard a guy say, something like this, “Sure evolution is a THEORY, but it’s the BEST supported scientific theory of all time.”  That seemed like a bold statement.  Anyhow, I decided it was time to do more reading on this.  First I wanted to explore the age of the universe.  I read Simon Singh’s book — title escapes me now — on the Big Bang.  It seems inescapable that the universe and the earth are billions of years old.  Then I read a book on geology that explains how plate tectonics works and how we see evidence of that the earth and its land forms are constantly changing–again support for an old earth.  Then I’ve read some on human evolution and there, too the evidence is pretty convincing.

So, I’m convinced from the evidence we see around us that the basic tenets of modern science must be about right.  That throws out any historical value to Genesis 1-3.  There was no guy made from dust called Adam, etc.  But if that’s true, then what about the large volume of the rest of the Bible that seems to assume there was.  Jesus and Paul, for example talk about Adam like an historical figure.  So that makes those statements suspect, too.  And now I’m left with no confidence that any of it has any weight.

That leaves me with no basis for calling the Bible “true.”  Which in turn leaves me with no basis for any of the faith I was taught.

So, I’m wondering if my logic has gone astray somewhere.  What do you think?

The first thing that popped into my mind as I pondered this letter last week was an old song, first published about 1836. Surprisingly we also sang this song in worship last Sunday (surprising only as it is somewhat more traditional than usual these days):

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.

We’ve had a problem – and I suggest that a substantial part of the problem is that we’ve lost sight of the foundation of our faith. Other things, other frames, assume central importance and on these we lean. Worse yet, we teach others to lean on these frames. These frames can be “sweet” – they can be true. But right or wrong – they are not the rock on which we stand.

Peter and Paul preached, of their own experience, Jesus, the Messiah, the crucified and risen Lord. They didn’t stand on inerrancy or any myriad of other things we attach to the gospel, and neither do we. This realization, this foundation, lowers the stakes and allows us (it certainly allowed me) the confidence to ask and search for answers to important questions. I don’t have a definitive answer to the Adam question, or even the intent of Paul in Romans 5 – but this isn’t foundational. We wrestle and we ponder. Sometimes we use a little duct tape for a time to hold our ideas together.  But we stand on the solid rock – all other ground is sinking sand. (Photo: makeshift for CO2 scrubber on Apollo 13, credit: NASA)

What do you think? What would you add?

If you wish you may contact me directly at rjs4mail[at]att.net



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Rick

posted July 6, 2010 at 6:31 am


I assume the writer would then ask, how do you know that Christ is the “solid rock”?



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Larry

posted July 6, 2010 at 6:46 am


I think this person raises an important question. Saying that our faith is actually in Jesus doesn’t really help because our information about Jesus comes from the same place that Gen 1-3 comes from. If you can’t trust one, why would you trust the other? At that point, you have made a foundation for authority in your own mind. Some have entered into what surely must be an uncomfortable peace, but they have no foundation for it.
The science of Gen 1-3 is no more unconcerting to the modern mind than the science of Jesus–his incarnation and miracles(from Cana to the Garden Tomb). There is, scientifically speaking, no reason to believe Jesus.
So why should we dispense with Gen 1-3 for scientific reasons but maintain a belief in Jesus? It makes no sense.



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whoschad

posted July 6, 2010 at 7:16 am


I think that it’s answered easily enough, but people have been all but brainwashed to think that “if one part is not true, then none of it is true”. In the comment above, Larry makes the same fundamental mistake.
Let’s say there is no way to harmonize Genesis 1 with science. Let’s say that it’s a completely made up creation myth from the ANE. How in the world does it follow that Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead? I was taught growing up that the early chapters of Genesis were a common genre of literature for it’s day. It’s how people back then used to view the origin of the world. I do not fault the writer of Genesis because he didn’t say “In the beginning there was a fluctuation in a quantum vaccuum…” or “In the beginning there was an 11th dimension collision between two or more p-branes…”. I accept Genesis for what it is. This doesn’t make it ‘a lie’, in fact it’s true. It’s true in that the truths it is trying to convey (not scientific truths) are true.
Again, all of this has absolutely no bearing on the resurrection of Jesus.



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Mark Farmer

posted July 6, 2010 at 7:27 am


I am finding George MacDonald’s Unspoken Sermons, written in the late 1800s, a model of Christ-centered theology that takes science seriously. MacDonald gently indicates that he finds no problem with Darwin’s findings, and constantly pushes his reader to seek God himself “beyond the sacred page.”



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Rick

posted July 6, 2010 at 7:31 am


whoshad #3-
But that is not what RJS is suggesting. She is not saying it is true by means of a different genre. She is saying Christ is the foundation, so it does not matter as much whether Scripture is true or not.
“But right or wrong – they are not the rock on which we stand.”
So the question returns: if the truth of Scripture is not critical, how does one know if Jesus is the foundation?
Or another way to ask it is: Doesn’t Scripture have to be true for us to understand that Jesus is the foundation?



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JHM

posted July 6, 2010 at 7:37 am


Rick (#5)
I think the question is actually, who/what is this Jesus that is the foundation if the Bible is an unreliable source? We can say “Jesus is the foundation” all day long, but if we have no idea who Jesus is or what he did then the foundation is meaningless.



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Scot McKnight

posted July 6, 2010 at 7:41 am


Rick,
Did the apostles have faith in Jesus Christ prior to having the NT?
RJS is not saying it does not matter if Scripture is true. She is saying that one’s doctrine of Scripture is not the foundation. At an objective level, what matters, for instance, is that Jesus was raised. If he was raised, whether we have perfect reports or reliable reports or only partly reliable reports, then he was raised and, if raised, something powerful is at work. I have been convinced for a long that time that many Christians actually believe in Jesus because they believe in the Bible, and that faith in the Bible is the bottom of their faith. Others believe in the Bible because they believe in Jesus. We all need to think through this better: our faith is in a Person.



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RJS

posted July 6, 2010 at 7:47 am


Rick,
I don’t think that our belief in Jesus Christ as Lord rests on a foundation of inerrancy in scripture. It rests on (1) 2000 years of church history, (2) the reliability of our scriptures as apostolic witness, and (3) the work of the Holy Spirit.
Now reliability is different than inerrancy. Mark Roberts wrote a great series of posts – now in book form – that I found quite helpful:Can We Trust the Gospels?: Investigating the Reliability of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
I also found Wright’s three big books, especially Jesus and the Victory of God and The Resurrection of the Son of God and Larry Hurtado’s Lord Jesus Christ very helpful (all three long academic books with footnotes) because they demonstrated to me, among other things that reliable witness doesn’t stand on inerrancy or verbal plenary inspiration.
From this I come back to my statement in the post – we lean not on our own understanding or on scripture, but on Jesus Christ as Lord.



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JHM

posted July 6, 2010 at 7:47 am


That is not to say though, that all parts of the Bible must be equally historically reliable. The reliability of the NT, especially the gospels, would be of course critical but I would hardly think the reliability of say Numbers, if considered separately from the rest of the Bible, would be critical to understanding Jesus and his role as the foundation of our faith.



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JHM

posted July 6, 2010 at 7:58 am


RJS (#8)
How do we lean on Jesus if not through Scripture? I think that is at the heart of what troubles a lot of us.



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RJS

posted July 6, 2010 at 8:11 am


JHM,
Scripture is an important part, reliability of the apostolic witness are important parts of how we know. Scripture is a gift, and illuminates the rock on which we stand. Scripture is a lamp – not the rock (Christ, God) and not the light (which role I would suggest belongs to the spirit). This is an imperfect analogy I admit.
But a doctrine of inerrancy is not the rock on which we stand or fall; at least it should not be the rock. Those who teach it as foundational are making an error of major proportion. (I am not saying that all who believe and teach inerrancy are making an error of major proportion – only those who make it the foundation).



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Larry

posted July 6, 2010 at 8:11 am


Whoschad says, I think that it’s answered easily enough, but people have been all but brainwashed to think that “if one part is not true, then none of it is true”. In the comment above, Larry makes the same fundamental mistake.
Please note that I didn’t make that mistake because I didn’t make that argument. In fact, the argument you present is wrong. Just as with a liar, he or she doesn’t lie all the time. My argument is entirely different. It is that with a liar, you don’t know when he is telling the truth. With someone who always tells the truth, or always lies, you know what to believe. With someone who sometimes lies and sometimes tells the truth, you have no rational way of believing them in themselves. You have to go outside them to believe them, and even then, you are dependent on a number of other fallible sources, including your own reasoning (which we should know how bad we think).
My argument therefore is that if it is all not true, then you have no rational way of knowing what is true. That’s the key. You can jettison rationality and claim that Jesus is true even though Genesis is not, but you have to recognize that is not a rational claim. You are simply picking and choosing without merit which is true.
Remember, that the rational and scientific evidences for biblical creation (as weak as they might be) are far stronger than the rational and scientific evidences for the life of Jesus. It is a form of fideism to accept the latter while rejecting the former.
BTW, I think the “genre” argument of Genesis 1-3 has been pretty well debunked in terms of Hebrew text and grammar. I wouldn’t lean on that.



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RJS

posted July 6, 2010 at 8:19 am


Larry,
Truth can be told in many forms and genre (which has not been debunked for Genesis 1-3) is an important consideration. You’ve poisoned the well with the term “liar.”
The point isn’t that scripture ‘lies’ at times – rather it is all a reliable witness. The point is (1) the form in which you interpret it is in error, and (2) scripture is not our rock.
A view of scripture as inerrant in the fashion you suggest does not do away with the need for duct tape – it only changes the places where the duct tape is applied.



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Larry

posted July 6, 2010 at 8:26 am


Scot,
You say with respect to text and person, We all need to think through this better: our faith is in a Person.
I wonder how you work through the idea that, apart from very few extra-biblical references, we no knowledge of the person apart from the scriptural text.
If I might draw an analogy with which you have done a lot of work, the historical Jesus crowd denies the trustworthiness of the text, but still claims to believe in Jesus, don’t they? In other words, wouldn’t they say, “Our faith is not in the text (which is unreliable); it’s in a person.”
I wonder how you would define your differences (or correct my understanding here). I am not sure I understand your distinction between making faith in Jesus a priority over faith in the text?
In order to believe in the person, do we not have to believe in the text?
And once we admit errors in the text, how do we know what is trustworthy and what is not trustworthy?
Thanks



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Robin

posted July 6, 2010 at 8:26 am


RJS,
“It rests on (1) 2000 years of church history, (2) the reliability of our scriptures as apostolic witness, and (3) the work of the Holy Spirit.”
I don’t know what you mean by (1), but my confidence is not increased on the basis of characters like Thomas More (torturer and executioner), John XII, the Council of Verona, Gregory IX, Gregory XII, etc. There have been some high points in church history, but there has also been enough human refuse that I don’t want it as the basis for my beliefs.
As far as (2) is concerned, I think your post makes a pretty clear case that the scriptures are not reliable. If Genesis 1-3 is a myth and entire portions of later scripture assume it is not, then those portions have a false foundation for their arguments and are most certainly incorrect. We are left with some scripture that might be reliable, and large chunks that are not reliable at all. If you take it one step further and embrace MacLaren’s position, that scripture is just a progressive library of community discussions, then the entire scripture is probably untrue because we in our enlightened age just don’t think that God would have done some of the things attributed to him. So what are you left with? The gospels, maybe, but once you have thrown out the bathwater, why not reconsider if our gospels are entirely falsified and if we need to look to someone like Elaine Pagels to find the “true truth”
So, in the end, all you are really left with is the testimony of the holy spirit.



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Scot McKnight

posted July 6, 2010 at 8:32 am


Larry, I said that in a strong form. I want us to get into our heads again and again that we believe in Jesus Christ. That we believe in God — Father, Son and Spirit. That our faith is directed toward God.
Now having said that, I believe in the Spirit-shaped and produced apostolic witness to that Truth, and I believe the Bible is God’s Word. And I agree that we don’t have access to Jesus apart from the apostolic witness and the Bible, but saying that leads me to say one more time we have to watch that our faith is not in the Bible but in the God of the Bible.



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Rick

posted July 6, 2010 at 8:33 am


JHM #6-
Good question.
Scot #7-
“Did the apostles have faith in Jesus Christ prior to having the NT?”
Yes, but they held the OT to be true, and then had front row seats for seeing Jesus in action (or having relationships with those who did).
“our faith is in a Person.” Absolutely. But the letter writer would want to know why he/she should believe that.
RJS #8-
I followed Roberts when he did that series of posts, and I thought it was great. Wright’s valuable contribution to this is without question. I would also add others, such a Baukham.
But you turned the letter writer’s issue immediately to one about inerrancy. That is different than saying it is about truth.
“(2) the reliability of our scriptures, and (3) the work of the Holy Spirit.”
Although I don’t want to ignore the human element, #2 falls under #3. And because I am a Trinitarian, my foundation is not just Christ, but all persons in the Trinity.
For you, does reliability = true?
Full disclosure- I have seen people use this aspect as a way to downplay Scripture, or major portions of it. Likwise, last week I had an ongoing dialogue with Dr. Sparks over at Biologos. One of his answers was very interesting:
“Whatever the HS does in inscripturation and illuminations, its clear IMO that it did not result in anything like an inerrant Bible, much less in a guarantee of good interpretation. So I must work with the Bible that we have … beautiful but broken … or admit, with all of the skeptics, that the broken world, and broken Bible, are strong evidence that God either doesn?t exist or doesn?t care.”
Do you think Scripture is “broken” as well? Are the parts about Jesus possibly broken?



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Robin

posted July 6, 2010 at 8:33 am


I’m not arguing for inerrancy necessarily – just truthfulness. MacLAren was never seriously taken to task here for his position as scripture as a community library, but lets look at what we have said so far. Genesis 1-3 is a fable and no more reliable than the epic of Gilgamesh. Texts which assume Genesis 1-3 is historical are built on a faulty foundation and, to the extent their conclusions depend of the historicity of Genesis 1-3 they are false.
What about the rest of the OT. They were expressions of the community, not expressions of God. God didn’t really want Israel to go in and take the land, that was just their excuse for a cultural genocide. God didn’t really want the blood of bulls and goats (or of Jesus) as a propitiation, that was just an excuse to let Jews adopt the barbaric ceremonies of the surroundings, and for the NT writers it was just a convenient excuse for why the Messiah had died. Using MacLaren’s logic you eventually arrive at a point where the entire scripture is simply made out of whole cloth to advance the political/economic agendas of the day and it is entirely untrustworhy and untrue. This is where you end up when we enlightened 21st century Christians stand in judgement on the truthfulness of scripture.



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Scot McKnight

posted July 6, 2010 at 8:36 am


Now, I’m going to ask us to take a deep breath and to look again at the post. This is a post that wants to focus on the letter of a person who is struggling with faith and science. This is not a post about inerrancy….
So I”m asking us to cease the conversation about inerrancy etc and go back to the letter and offer our wisdom about the letter. Here are the letter writer’s crucial words as far as I’m concerned:
“So, I’m convinced from the evidence we see around us that the basic tenets of modern science must be about right. That throws out any historical value to Genesis 1-3. There was no guy made from dust called Adam, etc. But if that’s true, then what about the large volume of the rest of the Bible that seems to assume there was. Jesus and Paul, for example talk about Adam like an historical figure. So that makes those statements suspect, too. And now I’m left with no confidence that any of it has any weight.
That leaves me with no basis for calling the Bible “true.” Which in turn leaves me with no basis for any of the faith I was taught.”



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Scot McKnight

posted July 6, 2010 at 8:37 am


I will now begin deleting comments that are not concerned with the letter writer’s concerns.



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Robin

posted July 6, 2010 at 8:49 am


To the letter writer:
You are correct that when you use modern evidentiary standards you have no basis for saying the entire bible is “true”, or that Genesis 1-3 and Romans are true. In fact, since most of scripture is not corroborated by outside sources and you have come to believe that parts of it are entirely false, you have very little reason to believe that most parts of it are true. The best you can hope for is some inward faith that the parts you like are true and the rest is just just a community library for people that committed genocide and adopted barbaric notions that their God was bloodthirsty just like the surrounding gods. The unfortunate part of this is that once you accept those propositions, and once you have thrown out Romans and other portions of scripture that assume a historical Genesis, then even Christ’s death in the gospels doesn’t make much sense. The only thing you really have left is 2,000 years of church history and the work of the holy spirit to convince you which parts are true.



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Larry

posted July 6, 2010 at 8:54 am


Thanks for your response RJS,
I fully affirm the existence of forms and genre, and its ability to convey truth. I would say the point is that in Genesis 1-3, it has been amply demonstrated through the Hebrew text (grammar and syntax) that it is historical narrative. Syntactically and grammatically, it’s not poetry; it’s not myth; it’s not a parable. The framework hypothesis has been dealt with substantially and shown to be tremendously weak. I think, if I understand correctly, that the problem related in your post is a person who says, “This looks just like historical narrative.” Why do they say that? Because it does look just like historical narrative. But they don’t believe it is historical narrative because an outside source tells them it can’t be.
When this person says, “I can’t accept the Bible as true because of this,” (1) they are making the argument whoschad incorrectly attributed to me (that if you can’t believe it all, you can’t believe any of it) and I reject that argument, and (2) I think they are embarking on an unnecessary journey. For all the energy and spilled ink, there is no still no unprejudiced evidence that I know of that demands the old earth theory. All the evidence is dependent on naturalistic presuppositions that may or may not be true. I think that is being too easily overlooked in the faith/science debate.
For my part, I don’t think faith and science are at odds. I don’t see it the conflict. And I don’t see this as a gospel issue (though I think there are some pretty serious implications for the gospel). My point would be that one need not give up the Bible as true because of what science says about the age of the earth.
To someone like this I would say, “There are a lot of things in the Bible that are confusing, but there are a lot that are clear. Let’s focus on the latter — that the world is messed up because of our sin, and we have all sinned; the there is a God who will judge sinners and we must find someway to be made right with God; that Jesus is the one who made that way for us.” Debates about creation will continue until the new creation. But in the meantime, our sin still has to be dealt with, and how will we do that?
I didn’t poison the well with the term liar at all. First, it was an analogy designed to illustrate the argument which “whoschad” misunderstood, with the result that he attributed to me something I didn’t say at all. The letter you related introduced the idea of true vs. false when it said that there is no way for them to see the Bible as true, so I would suggest that your own post introduced the idea of true vs. false (which is only another designation for “lie”).
Thanks again for the interaction.



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Robin

posted July 6, 2010 at 8:58 am


A simply question for Scot and/or RJS.
If we take the view of the letter writer, that Gen 1-3 is false (in a historical sense) and therefore the conclusions in Romans are also false (to the extent its conclusions depend on a historical Genesis) then we have gotten to the point where the Canon contains portions of scripture that aren’t just un-inerrant, but are untrue, unrelieable. They might be small portions, but they’re portions of the canon we previously held as the divinely inspired word of God. Once we get to that point, even if Jesus is our rock, why should I believe that the Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is the true Jesus and not the Jesus of the gnostic gospels. After all, if the councils that gave us the canon erred and led us to believe things that are false, why should we believe they selected the correct gospels? If they gave us scripture that has some unreliable parts, why should we unquestioningly believe that the gospels they gave us are reliable?



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Scot McKnight

posted July 6, 2010 at 9:05 am


Robin, you seem to be very active today and keen for views on this topic.
Let me ask you a simpler question: If you came to the conclusion that evolution was true, as this person did, what would that do to your view of the Bible? Would you begin to wonder if what you had believed about the Bible and about Gen 1-3 in particular was perhaps inaccurate and not according to the design of either God or the author of those passages?



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RJS

posted July 6, 2010 at 9:06 am


Larry,
Here is the troubling piece in your comment:

(2) I think they are embarking on an unnecessary journey. For all the energy and spilled ink, there is no still no unprejudiced evidence that I know of that demands the old earth theory. All the evidence is dependent on naturalistic presuppositions that may or may not be true. I think that is being too easily overlooked in the faith/science debate.

There is a reason why the vast majority of Christians in the relevant sciences accept (1) and old earth and (2) the basic tenets of evolution. This includes the vast majority of professors at Christian institutions, not only those of us who are active in research and the secular academy. The evidence is overwhelming. No question. Now one can use ‘appearance of age’ but I find that a very unsatisfactory response. Then we are left with a view of scripture that doesn’t seem to hold up – even with the way the OT is used within the NT.
With respect to the question in this post – claiming that the evidence is unsupported isn’t going to help. I think we have a problem and the problem is one of foundation – what is our foundation? Then (and only then) can we step back an consider the other issues.



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James W

posted July 6, 2010 at 9:15 am


i think this is the classic rift between historical interpretation/understanding of ancient writers and historical interpretation of modern day Christians. i agree with whoschad’s first post. I think this is a major issue to deal with. that is the issue of modern consciousness and our desire to find certainty for our christian faith. i think that secularism is to blame but that said secularism is not a boogie man, it is just the shape of our modern world.
how do we believe in Jesus if the OT has some elements that are shaped by a different historical consciousness? well this is a complicated question and a short blog response does not help. I think that reading the text carefully without requiring it to conform to our modern scientific paradigm is important. Our demand for historical “accuracy” (whatever that is) reveals a restless mind and spirit that seeks for certainty. I do this all the time. But the biblical text does not provide that kind of information. It is story and narratives to teach us what God is like, not scientific data to “prove” the existence of God. I see genesis 1-3 as story about God but i do not hold it to the same historical standard as the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.



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Robin

posted July 6, 2010 at 9:17 am


Scot,
I’ll admit that most of my frustration on this topic doesn’t come from Gen. 1-3 and Romans, but from the implications of MacLaren’s community library theory and how it was handled here with kid gloves. We might not need scripture to have plenary verbal inspiration, but we do need it to be true, otherwise the people that put the canon together erred.
As to Genesis 1-3 and Romans – if those are really the conclusions he has reached, especially if he believes that Romans is now false because it depended on a literal genesis, then I don’t know what else you tell him. He is right. If his conclusion is that parts of scripture are false then there is some probability that (1) all of scripture is false (2) other chunks of scripture are false and he has no way to know if the false parts are 1 and 2 Kings or John or Acts (though I guess sources like Josephus might provide some corroboration for later writings).
I think the only hope is to convince him of one of two paths (1) don’t put you faith in scientists just yet concerning the truthfulness of Genesis 1-3 or (2) Genesis is not historical narrative and you are incorrect that the conclusions of Romans depend, necessarily, on a historical genesis. However, if he views evolution as true, Genesis as historical, and Romans as therefore essentially false, and ESPECIALLY if he adopts MacLarens community library approach and sits in judgement on other portions of scripture simply because he doesn’t like the God portrayed there, then all he is left is his own personal preferences as to whcih parts of scripture might be true and might be false.



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Michael Noel

posted July 6, 2010 at 9:18 am


I have a saying at my community we use all the time: “The ‘how’ is unimportant in discussing creation/evolution. We only worry about the ‘who'” I think this is what Scot is saying. The real foundation/truth is Jesus. All the rest of it is guesswork in a lot of ways. Genesis 3, whether a beautiful story or historically accurate, is important because it is reminding us of the ‘who’. All the rest is, as Scot aptly put it, “sinking sand”. Good stuff, Scot.



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Travis Greene

posted July 6, 2010 at 9:19 am


I think I would want to look again at how much the NT actually relies, in any substantial way, upon Gen 1-3. Off the top of my head, Paul certainly uses Adam very significantly in Romans. Jesus refers, obliquely I think, to Adam & Eve when he talks about marriage. Is there anything else? The genealogies, I guess.
Set aside Paul for the moment and think about the gospels. Many speak and act as if the gospels “depend” on Genesis 1-3 as the starting premise of a long chain of reasoning, the conclusion of which is the gospel. Thus, as with all logic, if the premises are faulty there is no reason to trust the conclusion. But can we really say that is at all what’s happening?
As for Paul, then it’s a much bigger problem. But even there Paul seems to use Adam more as a mythic figure (a “type” of Christ) than for any conclusions about the age of the earth.
I think the truth is that the origin story for the Jews wasn’t really Adam, or really even Abraham as much as it was Moses & the Exodus.



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James W

posted July 6, 2010 at 9:23 am


Larry.
I think you should take a look at Robert Alter’s work on the Old Testament. He shows us how literary the ot is and how thoughtfully crafted by writers using genre styles which are rooted in their own worldview and mindset.
What is being debated here to some extent is how we do exactly the same thing. Thus i think the demand for actual history is a different kind of conceptual category. Did God create the world? Yup. Do Adam and Eve convey the idea of the first people who existed that we look back to and contemplate human existence? Yup. Are they historical beings in the way that Abraham Lincoln or even Jesus are? Probably not but it is not an all or nothing proposition. It is finding the way to read the text for what it is meant to convey. This literature is not meant to convey proof of historical beings but stories of beings.



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T

posted July 6, 2010 at 9:30 am


I agree with RJS that the modern conservative approach to scripture, which the writer described well (from which folks have believed, wrongly, for over a hundred years that we could build a perfect, unifying knowledge of God) cannot be the only leg upon which our table for communing with the Lord stands. (I’ll stick with that analogy a bit.) One of the strengths of Wesley’s Quadrilateral for me is that it helps me see how necessary and interdependent each of the four really is in the forming and supporting the others, which collectively support our relationship with Christ.
Modern (conservative) Christianity, particularly of this writer’s generation, can so easily be all scripture and reason. Are those the only legs supporting the table over which we eat and drink and bond with the living Lord? One of the reasons I have argued on this blog for more of an experiential faith (both through Spirit and community) AND a faith that is more receptive to Tradition is precisely the kind of difficulty this writer is going through. The first generation of Christians are not the only ones who have personal and powerful Experience of him as one of the legs supporting their theology and faith, not even close. And the Tradition upon which we can lean is far bigger and thicker than the one this writer experienced in seminary.
In a nutshell, my advice to this writer would be to resist chucking Scripture (or certainly his whole faith) just yet, just because he is convinced early Genesis isn’t literally historical. Step back a bit. Find some folks, some giants in the faith, alive and long dead, that also weren’t convinced of various doctrines. Find some folks who went through “the dark night.” In my experience, folks that lean too hard on any one of the legs, be it Scripture, Reason, Experience or Tradition, to the near exclusion of one or more of the others, are putting more pressure on that leg than it can bear, or is meant to bear, alone. I affirm what others have said: our faith, at its foundation, is in a Person. In your attempts to commune with him, don’t lean so hard on the scripture leg alone; try different positions, different seats, as you come to the Table, but keep coming to the Table.



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Daniel Mann

posted July 6, 2010 at 9:30 am


Scot,
Lest you delete my comments, I?ll play by your rules. I think that the letter clearly articulates the horrible dilemma that confronts those who have bought into Darwin, and I don?t think that there?s any way around the necessity to make a choice ? Darwin or the Bible (Mat. 6:23-24).
Meanwhile, theistic evolutionists are offering a host of sentimental compromises. RJS claims that the foundation of the Christian faith is Jesus rather than His inerrant Word. However, such a distinction is not only Scripturally unsupportable, but it also deprives the Faith of all its rational supports. Believing becomes MERELY the product of the Spirit witnessing subjectively to our spirits.
However, the Muslim and the Buddhist also claim their own subjective basis for faith. What then can demonstrate that the Christian?s subjective experience is any more valid than the Muslim?s? Nothing! Without the rational underpinning, claiming that Christ is the truth becomes arrogant and represents an illegitimate dismissal of the experience of other religions.



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Bill Donahue

posted July 6, 2010 at 9:35 am


As I follow this I am also reminded of the Ephesians passage, 2:19ff that declares that there is a foundation that is not Christ, but rather the apostles and prophets, which seems to refer to the OT and NT witness, and Christ is the cornerstone. I wonder if the “foundation” comments are not becoming confusing.
I studied under a seminary professor (PhD Astrophysics and ThD as well) who readily reconciled the historicity of an old earth and the Genesis narratives, without a full “buy-in” to all things evolutionary yet without neglecting the data from studies in astronomy, etc. So I wonder if the letter writer would benefit from a direct discussion with people who have marked expertise in multiple disciplines. We seem to have theologians debating scientists. Forgive me, I do not know the background of all who are posting. My PhD is in Adult Learning so I am not qualified either.
To the writer I would say, “Let’s assume evolution is true, and there are parts of the Bible which seem to directly conflict with that. But let’s set the Bible aside for now, and ask some other questions. Why do you suppose billions of people (some literate, some not, some leaders in their fields, some regular blue-collar workers, from almost every ethic and cultural background worldwide) describe an encounter with this person Jesus? Why has this encounter totally transformed their lives? Why would many of them sacrifice life and limb today to declare this reality without receiving any economic or political benefit for themselves? Some do not have Bibles, yet they hold this faith — why?” Perhaps the answer here is asking more questions, not answers.



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John C. Gardner

posted July 6, 2010 at 9:38 am


I would recommend to anyone who wants to discuss these topics or ruminate about them to read The Lost World of Genesis One by John Walton, Alister McGraths A Fine Tuned Universe, and John Polkinghorne’s Faith of a Physicist. I myself believe in a historical Adam(see John Walton’s commentary on Genesis) and guided evolution. The chapter on St. Augustine in A Fine Tuned Universe is wonderful. I have friens who believe in a 7 day creation. I understand their reasoning but reject it myself. I consider myself a Biblical Christian.
In Christ,
John Gardner



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JoeyS

posted July 6, 2010 at 9:40 am


Well I don’t claim to be an expert on cross-cultural communication but since my undergrad degree is in cross-cultural ministry I think I’ve got a good primer.
The writer of this letter, as Larry pointed out, is making a slight mistake. To assume that the New Testament writers and Jesus needed Adam to be historical for him to be important lacks insight into eastern thought and narrative.
Historical accuracy isn’t as necessary as imparting wisdom/knowledge/narrative to a non-western person. Even in dealing with conflict a two-thirds world person is more likely to deal with conflict indirectly by using ancient narratives and parables (a la Jesus).
If Moses and his contemporaries had a question – “Where did we come from?” and the ancient Jewish narrative provided an answer to that question then it not only satiates the desire to explain our origins but provides a backdrop for human narrative. Through this ancient story we can learn about the divide between Human and God. We can learn about our self-reliance that leads to pride which eventually leads to our destruction. We can learn about God’s love for His people. But for Moses, Paul, Jesus, Isaiah, etc. it doesn’t need to be historically accurate to be “true.”
This happened in every pre-enlightenment culture. The Cherokees have story after story that seem every bit as mythical as the Adam and Eve story but for their culture it provided the means for them to explore the relationship between the Great Spirit and the Cherokee people.



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James W

posted July 6, 2010 at 9:50 am


I think “T” is on to something. When we put all the weight on this question on our ability to reconcile science and the text we will get frustrated rather quickly. But what if God is taking those of us who want to take him seriously on a journey of depth and trust in him, beyond what we have previously conceived or experienced?
Maybe it is our experiences of disorientation and confusion with the biblical text and its irreconcilable differences with evolutionary science that is supposed to lead us into being non-dualistic and more mature Christian believers? There is a way beyond this roadblock for the reader and not just by choosing either to deny science or deny the truth of the biblical text.



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 6, 2010 at 10:26 am


I came to Christian faith — even a strict Evangelical faith believing that Genesis 1-2 was not meant to be literal and historical, so I’ve never had problems with an old earth. For awhile, I did flirt with Hugh Ross’ reading of Genesis, but even then felt no threat from different readings. With that said though,
I’ve always struggled with doubt and suspect I will until I die. But faith and doubt seem to have their seasons. . . And even in my faith slumps, I still pray and read my Bible. . . I just do so with more questions. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot on doubt, because I plan on leading a small group on the subject in September. Personally, I’ve found that like misery loves company, doubt loves other doubters. It’s cathartic. I’ve read both Rachel Held Evan’s “Evolving in Monkey Town” where she had a faith crisis — mostly born out of her fundamentalist mindset (e.g. Everything has equal importance — It’s all fundamental to the faith!). I also read Jason Boyett’s “O Me of Little Faith”, which was also good. I’m currently in the middle of John Ortberg’s “Know Doubt” which was previously published as “Faith and Doubt” and so far it’s excellent. And funny enough, I really enjoyed that not only Ortberg suffers from doubt, but so did apparently Martin Luther and Mother Teresa!
I do think building your faith on “false fundamentals” as Evans called them in her book, or building your faith like a house of cards as Gregory Boyd says (see below), it dangerous to your faith.
Greg Boyd:
http://biologos.org/resources/greg-boyd-on-the-dangers-of-an-ultra-literal-perspective/



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Scot McKnight

posted July 6, 2010 at 10:29 am


Wow, it calmed down all at once.
First, I would urge the letter writer to probe the significance of interpreting the Bible in its historical and literary contexts. While the Church has not always done this, it has done so when it has its wits about itself. Genesis 1-11, at least 1-3, must be read in context. There are really good sources here, including Gilgamesh and Atra Hasis. John Walton’s new book on Genesis One is a good place to start.
Second, learn how the Church has struggled with such issues, and the review on Saturday by Justin Topp about Galileo Goes to Jail, is an excellent book. One also has to listen one more time to the words of Augustine, and no one seems to question the guy’s credentials.
Third, very often our “reading” of the Bible is equated with the Bible itself, and often we learn only later that our reading was in fact “our” reading and not the Bible at all.
I’ve got question: How about if we take time today to think through some of the “readings” of the Bible we’ve had that we now think are wrong no matter how clear they were to us then?
Here’s one of mine and it really mattered to me when I was young: I thought Jesus’ message was for Jews and for Jews alone, and that God didn’t turn to the Gentiles until the second half of Acts and that meant that the Gospels were more or less not for the Church.



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T

posted July 6, 2010 at 10:30 am


I will add I am personally a bit unconvinced of either “side” concerning origins issues. As a lawyer by training and practice, I’m not steeped in evolutionary biology, nor do I have an intent to be, but I can generally spot weaknesses in arguments. I’ve read most or all of RJS posts on this topic and still have my doubts and questions on her views, but neither does Genesis, in my mind, seem overly concerned with answering a plethora of historical questions, even one as simple as the origin of Cain’s wife. That alone gives me pause regarding what God is seeking to communicate in these chapters, not to mention the history that the Church has of claiming more than it ought based on the scriptures concering the physical world and otherwise because of the supposed “necessity” of one doctrine in order for all the others to stand.
Furthermore, Genesis 1-3 isn’t the only passage, by any means, that I feel I have less than nailed down and buttoned up. Some folks say that a pre-trib rapture is a given if we really believe scripture. I doubt it. But despite what has been argued here, and this is the salient point, I personally have more than enough very good reasons (from Scripture, Tradition, Experience & Reason) to trust Christ with my life, my death, and that of my family. I’ll freely admit that witnessing God do beautiful, amazing, even miraculous, work through people, self included, is a big part of that, as is seeing myself and Christ and wisdom in Christians long passed on, as is the Love I see in the whole plan and Story.
Let me put it this way: If scripture is the only venue in which a person sees Christ, I urgue such folks to absolutely continue to commune with Christ in scripture, and also in the other ways that Scripture itself clearly recommends and examples! We can and should witness Christ in his people, in creation, in mission, in the needy, in Tradition, in the Spirit, in awesome works of power and in giving cups of cold water. The book is a witness (not the witness, not according to the book) and it helps us see him better and join with him in a variety of ways. I say again to the writer: look for, consider and ask God for more witnesses, and not of the world’s origin, but of Him.
captcha: around ignore



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Jayflm

posted July 6, 2010 at 10:34 am


I submitted the following in response to RJS’s post “In Search of Truth?” late last month. It describes my own working through this same issue:
In college in the early 80?s I was the one who argued for the literal understanding of the Genesis account, believing that the foundations of the Christian faith would crumble without it. But now I understand things a bit differently.
First, I have come to realize that even if there was no inspired word from God before the coming of Christ Jesus, his unique and miracle-filled life, tragic death and physical resurrection would stand authenticated as something supernatural ? God reaching into this creation in an unprecedented way. On its own merits, this one life is worthy of our attention.
Second, the first eleven chapters of Genesis stand unique in all of Scripture. The distance in time between the events recorded and the time of that recording is immense. And as so many on this blog and others have written, the focus of the creation accounts is the Who, and not the How or When. Why, then, would we feel the need to tie that which is fairly well testified in history ? the life and resurrection of Christ and the birth and rapid spread of the Church ? to that which is hidden in the deep shadows of time? At times I feel like we are living out another chapter in the Screwtape Letters, being led astray by another of the enemy?s strategies.
Finally, why can?t we recognize that every time the Bible talks in detail about creation, there is an accommodation of limited human understanding taking place? For instance, I don?t find anyone maintaining that when God confronts Job in chapter 38 of that book, asking, ?What is the way to the abode of Light? And where does darkness reside? ?Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail,?What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed, or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?? that we must therefore believe that these various meteorological phenomena are best explained as being shipped from supernatural storehouses to the atmosphere above our heads. Doesn?t God merely want our belief that, however He accomplished it, this universe is His creation?



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Wyatt Roberts

posted July 6, 2010 at 10:38 am


I have faced the very same challenge as the letter writer in the last couple of years. I was raised to believe every word of the Bible was true, believed that way for over forty years. In the last couple of years, however, I’ve came to believe that evolution is true, due largely to Francis Collins and other Jesus-loving scientists.
I cannot overemphasize how helpful to be exposed to the views of Christians like Collins, Ken Miller, Alister McGrath, and others who had the framework to harmonize, or at least begin to harmonize, the Bible with Science. It was an incredible relief.
RJS and Scot, I’m sure your bookshelves are full of Faith+Science books that might be helpful to the letter writer. (The two books that were helpful to me were “The Language of God” by Collins, and “I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution” by Denis O. Lamoureux).
Why don’t you give them some of these kinds of books? I would also encourage them to check out BioLogos, which has a lot of good online materials.
Another suggestion would be to have some Christians who’ve walked this same path actually sit down and share a meal with your letter writer. I’m sure you both know a lot of generous, intelligent people who would be willing to do this. I would chip in to play for his/her plane ticket.
I will be praying, too.



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 6, 2010 at 10:48 am


Scot,
“Third, very often our “reading” of the Bible is equated with the Bible itself, and often we learn only later that our reading was in fact “our” reading and not the Bible at all.”
EXCELLENT point. I find that my interpretation of the Bible changes as I grow in faith and learn from others. Sometimes I learn other ways of reading a passage that I don’t necessarily buy into right away (or maybe at all), but think about and wrestle with. Over and internetmonk.com they had a “Creation Week” where Chaplain Mike went through his interpretation of Genesis 1-3. It was very enlightening and his introduced ideas I’ve never even considered before… And he treated Adam as a historical person, but believed he wasn’t the first man. Very interesting.
If I held that the ONLY way to read Genesis was that it presented a literal 6-day creation of the universe 6000 years ago and that a challenge to my interpretation meant that Jesus didn’t rise, then I think I think my faith would be on shaky ground.



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 6, 2010 at 10:59 am


I shared this post on Google Reader. I have some friends/family who believe in a literal 6-day creation 6,000 years ago and they may read this post… I left a comment there that I think succinctly summarized Scot’s point:
“There is an important message here that Christians should heed. Do not make your interpretation of scripture the foundation of your faith. That doesn’t mean you can’t hold to a literal 6-day creation 6,000 years ago — but it shouldn’t be the foundation of your faith in Christ — so that if that belief in interpretation is shaken, then your whole faith comes crumbling down. ”



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Rick

posted July 6, 2010 at 11:02 am


Kenny Johnson #42-
“Over and internetmonk.com they had a “Creation Week” where Chaplain Mike went through his interpretation of Genesis 1-3. It was very enlightening and his introduced ideas I’ve never even considered before”
Amen. I too found it a very good series and higly recommend it to those struggling with Genesis.



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AHH

posted July 6, 2010 at 11:08 am


My first thought is that this writer’s seminary was guilty of malpractice for apparently inculcating a simplistic and restrictive view of how God is allowed to communicate truth in Scripture, and apparently failing to teach about literary genre.
Such a “one size fits all” approach to Scripture runs aground even without thinking about science and Genesis — it can’t really handle Jonah, or the differences between Kings and Chronicles, or the different genealogies in Matthew and Luke.
With regard to the specific concern about Adam and the NT, I would note two things:
1) One can be accepting of the overwhelming scientific evidence for an old Earth and common descent and still believe in Adam as a historic individual. The “federal head” view advocated by John Stott among others (which for example dopderbeck has explicated on this blog and in a post on BioLogos) does that.
2) I personally am OK with the idea of “Adam” being used by Paul in a typological way as a shorthand reference for “sinful humanity” where it doesn’t affect Paul’s point whether it was a historic individual or not (nor does it matter to the point what Paul’s personal opinion of Adam’s historicity was). Similar to Jesus’ use of the story of Jonah, when all but the most fundamentalist OT experts would say that the genre of Jonah is more like a parable.
2a) Pete Enns had a series of posts at BioLogos a couple months ago about Biblical use of Adam which are worth reading.



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Rick

posted July 6, 2010 at 11:14 am


Scot asked about “the “readings” of the Bible we’ve had that we now think are wrong no matter how clear they were to us then?”
Apart from leaving YEC behind, I can think of two that I just am not sure about, but they certainly are not nearly as clear as I used to think:
The first is the “Rapture” and pre-mill issue(s). I lean against that/those now.
The other is the meaning and application of the Beatitudes. I bounce around the various theories on that one and can’t seem to land on a certain one.



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Andrew Vogel

posted July 6, 2010 at 11:14 am


I would ask them to read John Walton’s “The Lost World of Genesis One”. It shows another view where a “plain reading” of Genesis 1-3 sidesteps the entire evolution discussion.



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Larry

posted July 6, 2010 at 11:29 am


RJS,
Let me hit this briefly, since neither you nor I have time to carry on long and most people (perhaps even you) aren’t interested in my line of questioning.
First, I agree that stating the evidence is unsupported doesn’t make it so. But surely you realize that stating the evidence is supported doesn’t make it so either. All evidence is interpreted.
Here are a couple of questions, honest and without prejudice. I really want to understand where you are coming from.
First, why shouldn’t this person jettison the whole Bible? Why did you not do what they did? Why should they do what you did (which apparently, and again with no prejudice intended, change the reading of certain parts of it to conform to your understanding of physical science)? They want to jettison all of it; you don’t. Why should they do what you did?
Second, consider that this person (or another) says, “There is no scientific evidence for the resurrection. In fact, all the scientific evidence points away from the resurrection. It just is scientifically impossible and all the scientists agree on that. Therefore, I cannot believe in the resurrection.” On what basis would you tell them that it is okay that science overrides what Genesis 1-3 seems to say, but it is not okay to let science override the resurrection story? Again, without prejudice or malice intended, what kind of hermeneutic allows us to hold such tensions? Where/how does the Bible make such a distinction between types of affirmations that allow us to treat them differently?
Again, hopefully you understand I am not trying to make my point, but rather only to understand yours.
thanks for responding if you get a moment.
To JamesW,
If you mean Alter’s *Art of Biblical Narrative* I was just reading it last week, and I agree in the main with it. It is an excellent resource. But I don’t see how that applies here. The argument typically isn’t that Gene 1-3 is historical narrative artfully crafted, but that it is not historical narrative at all, in spite of all the textual indicators that it is historical narrative. Perhaps you have another work in mind, or can clarify your point (at the risk of Scot’s wrath :) ).
Thanks



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phil_style

posted July 6, 2010 at 11:40 am


For me, the question of Genesis for the Christian hinges upon Romans. It does appear (as Robin and the letter writer have suggested) that the clearest, most succinct “explanation” of Christ and the “reasons” for his incarnation/death/resurrection are summed up in Romans. Romans has become a kind of executive summary of the Gospel. I note that some of the most vociferous dissections of Christianity from non-believers is their recognition of this appearance in Romans and their consistent insistence that A) without a historical Adam (&fall event) that B) the need for Christ?s death/resurrection disappears, and thus the who rationale for belief in Christ falls over.
To the letter writer I would say:
1. Romans is far from sewn-up in terms of its interpretation. Even now, Doug Campbell and others are still proposing new readings of this book that might fundamentally change the way its argumentation could/should be read.
2. Plenty of other commentators/scholars have applied some thought to reading Romans in light of a non-historical Adam backdrop. It is well worth reading the breadth of material that is available to see if any of it stacks up to your scrutiny.
3. Paul?s ?reasons? for Christ in Romans is not the only set in the biblical texts. And justification theories that rest heavily on Romans have not held a monopoly on Christian thought since the beginning. What other less Romans dependant Christologies are out there?
I?m quite happy to accept that Genesis is not a day-by-day account of real-time events. I?m even happy to accept that no literal ADAM individual ever existed. I?m quite comfortable with the notion that Genesis? theological points survive intact. Like yourself, I wonder though, would Paul have lost his faith in Christ if he considered there to have been no ?historical? Adam?



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Kevin Wong

posted July 6, 2010 at 11:58 am


Dr. McKnight:
I think John Walton’s book, The Lost World of Genesis One, addresses many of these issues. One can still maintain inerrancy and yet read Genesis in a different fashion than literal one-for-one correspondence due to genre.
Blessings,
-Kevin Wong
Biola University



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Fish

posted July 6, 2010 at 12:27 pm


“On what basis would you tell them that it is okay that science overrides what Genesis 1-3 seems to say, but it is not okay to let science override the resurrection story?”
At least for me, the basis is how God reveals Himself to us. The Bible is one way. His creation is another. And yet another is the work of the Holy Spirit within us.
Science tells me that there’s a better way to read Genesis than literally, that the truths within it are deeper than a mere recitation of steps.
The Holy Spirit helps with that discovery, but more importantly the Holy Spirit works within us to believe the reality of the resurrection. I know Christ exists not because I read about him, but because I have experienced him at a far deeper level than the rational area of my brain.
If all we had was a Bible and not the Holy Spirit, none of us would be Christians. Logical rationality is not a solid basis for faith and the things that lie beyond our physical existence.
Captcha: craniums expanding :)



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Travis Greene

posted July 6, 2010 at 12:28 pm


Larry @ 48,
You seem to be making the assumption that “YEC Creationism” and “The Resurrection” are both equivalent supernatural events that people once believed in but science now disagrees with. So, you argue, if the science says YEC is impossible and therefore we modify our views of Genesis (which is itself, I think, not an accurate narrative for how many of us have moved regarding Genesis), why not do the same with the Resurrection?
But the Resurrection was never like that. The permanence of death is not a recent scientific development. The Resurrection isn’t miraculous or surprising to us now because of what we know about blood cells or circulation or whatever. It was always a shocking, world-altering, revolutionary claim. It was always mocked by the wise as being impossible or unfitting.
On the level of scientific evidence, well, of course there’s no evidence of the Resurrection. It was a unique event. We have reliable eyewitness accounts of an empty tomb, and we have the remarkable sociological phenomenon of the spread of faith in the risen Jesus.
I really have no trouble at all putting Gen 1-3 in a totally different category than the historicity of Jesus and his resurrection. You ask how the Bible makes a distinction between those affirmations. The NT is full, full of the Resurrection. It is the early Christian proclamation. Contrast that with mentions of the Genesis 1-3 narrative. There are very few, and only one is of any particular importance (Romans).
I would ask you corresponding questions. Why are you so dedicated to the idea that Bible if any single element of Scripture is ahistorical, it is therefore valueless and the entire canon is therefore ahistorical and therefore valueless?



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RJS

posted July 6, 2010 at 12:38 pm


Larry (#48),
This is the key question – and the point of my comment above. You asked: First, why shouldn’t this person jettison the whole Bible? Why did you not do what they did?
Why did I not jettison the whole? After a great deal of soul searching, thinking, praying, wrestling I came first and foremost to the conclusion I gave in the post. My faith rests in Jesus Christ as Lord. A person, not a book. This is why I gave the start I did in the post.
Clearly scripture is an important part of our received tradition – how we know who Jesus was and what his death and resurrection entailed – but it is not the only part, and it is never, ever read without interpretation. Reliable apostolic witness in the NT, our story in the OT told in many different forms. It is true – but truth can be conveyed in a multitude of ways. So our current interpretation of details is not the foundation on which I stand.
It is also the case that the only place where Jesus refers to Adam and Eve his point is marriage, not persons. And marriage is the point of the referenced passage in Genesis. All he said is true in its intent, but perhaps all of our inferences from it are not true.
It isn’t a matter of picking and choosing. It is really more than anything else a matter of letting scripture be scripture – not turning it into something basically foreign to that day and age imposing sensibilities of the last 300-400 years on cultures of 2000-3000 years ago or more.



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Daniel Mann

posted July 6, 2010 at 12:42 pm


I marvel at the mental gymnastics that we are employing into order to salvage both Darwin and the Bible. Sadly, all of the gymnastics are serving to tear the Bible into shreds in order to reconcile it with Darwin, so much so that the Bible becomes un-interpretable. One respondent thoughtfully wrote about this tearing process:
?Maybe it is our experiences of disorientation and confusion with the biblical text and its irreconcilable differences with evolutionary science that is supposed to lead us into being non-dualistic and more mature Christian believers??
If he is correct, the resulting ?disorientation and confusion? will make the Bible un-interpretable, unusable and irrelevant for anything important (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Instead of reexamining the Bible, perhaps we need to reexamine Darwin?



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T

posted July 6, 2010 at 12:42 pm


Phil (49),
to your last question, which is a good one, and I say this as one who is not at all convinced there was “no historical Adam,” I think the answer is clearly “no.”
Here are a few reasons, off the top of my head:
1. How does someone with Paul’s own experience of Christ, from the Damascus road on, stop thinking Christ is alive with love and power? How does Paul just stop trusting this person with whom he’s had so much interaction?
2. Relatedly, Paul must have had several passages of OT scripture not to mention Jewish Tradition) change meanings for him after personally encountering Christ and dealing with His Spirit and the Church. As one example among many, however normative he viewed the zeal of Phineas, he certainly rejected that kind of violence after encountering Christ. The list for major revisions of Pharisaical Judaism that Paul underwent is striking. Nor does it appear that Paul thought he understood everything there was to understand. There is no reason to believe that all these changes were instantaneous, and many reasons to believe otherwise.
3. Peter and the other apostles certainly had to endure huge shifts in their theology, pneumatology and ecclesiology before and after Jesus rose from the dead, yet they (other than Judas) did not therefore stop trusting Jesus because they had misunderstood God and his plan (even on the OT’s clearer points, say regarding circumcision). No, I think Paul’s experience with Christ was sufficient to allow and even force his mind on various scriptures and traditions to change, even while not allowing his respect for scripture and even tradition to a lesser extent to diminish.



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Robin

posted July 6, 2010 at 12:44 pm


Travis Greene,
I would say that if any portion of scripture is proven to be untrue (once you have accounted for literary genre) then there is no reason to continue to believe that the bible, as a whole, is God breathed and profitable. If scripture, as a whole, is not God’s word, then each individual has to decide why John and Mark should be believed, but not 1 and 2 Kings (or whatever text you don’t like).
I’m not saying that if every word isn’t true that none of them are, but I am saying that if we can prove some are false then the assumption that the rest of them must be divinely inspired goes out the window.
One of the primary reasons I trust the Gospel of John and not the gospel of Thomas is that one is in the bible, which is God’s word, and the other is not. If the bible, as a whole, is no longer God’s infallible word, then why not accord the gospel of Thomas authority equal to John and the Synoptics.



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Daniel Mann

posted July 6, 2010 at 12:48 pm


RJS,
You wrote, ?My faith rests in Jesus Christ as Lord. A person, not a book.?
Your challenge sets Christ in opposition to His Word, as if there?s a difference between trusting God and trusting in what He has taught us. Biblically, the two go together: ?I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope? (Psalm 130:5-6). Clearly, trusting in the Lord and trusting in His Word are synonymous. If we trust in Him, we are trusting in what He discloses about Himself and His promises.
The two are so inseparable that Jesus is even called the ?Word of God? (John 1:1; Heb. 4:12-13), the ?wisdom from God? (1 Cor. 1:30), and the ?truth? (John 14:6). This is partially true because we don?t relate to Him through touch, sight, or smell, but through believing what He has revealed to us.
When you degrade the Book, you also degrade what Jesus said. Meanwhile, He instructs us that we must abide in His Word (John 15:4-7).



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DRT

posted July 6, 2010 at 12:58 pm


Throughout my life I have believed that we are not to view the bible as being true, instead we are to find out what is the truth in the bible.
I have a go-kart that my kids and I drive. One day my 12 year old son was in the woods with the kart and it got stuck (would not move). I asked him what was wrong with it and he said that the front wheels are stuck and would not turn. I went to the kart and tried to push it, and saw that the front wheels are fine in moving. However, from his point of view, sitting in the go-kart, it sure looked like the front wheels would not move. He was right, the front wheels were stuck, but it was because they were attached to a kart that was not moving, not because they were stuck on their own.
The truth in his story is that the go-kart would not move. I found that his causal explanation was not on point because it is obvious that he does not have enough knowledge to make that assessment. But he does have enough knowledge to make a perfectly valid assessment that the kart would not move.
So I don?t have any particular need to force the ancient people to have knowledge of how the world was created. Even Adam and Eve where not there when it was created so how did anyone know?
My son does not know how I was created, but he does have faith in me and he believes in me. He knows that he was brought into this world through love and I care for him.
Again, I don?t see any reason why we have to assume that the ancients actually knew how this stuff happened. Our job is to figure out the truths in the bible despite the quaint way it is written. There is a lot of truth in Genesis, however the truth is not about how the earth was created.



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RJS

posted July 6, 2010 at 12:59 pm


Daniel Mann #57,
You are misapplying John 15:4-7. It does not say the “Word” (i.e. the Bible) must abide in us. It says that we must abide in him as branches on a vine and his words abide in us. (Where I am making the connection between the disciples in his immediate audience and us as much later followers of the risen Lord.) I am not questioning this passage or the need to follow Christ so that he abides in us, nor am I questioning the NT as reliable apostolic witness to the words of Christ.
I am questioning our definition of what scripture “must” be. And I am questioning the notion of the rock on which we stand.



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 6, 2010 at 1:01 pm


@Robin,
I think that’s a false dichotomy and dangerous to faith. Am I really supposed to believe that if, for example, Matthew legitimately made a historic or geographically error in his Gospel, that not only his testimony is now worthless, but the entire testimony of the Bible is too?
I will not me faith be built on such shaky foundation.



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Robin

posted July 6, 2010 at 1:17 pm


Kenny,
You can decide what “true” means to you. I don’t have a problem with Jesus describing the mustard seed as the smallest of all seeds because I see him as accommodating the understanding of his hearers. However, if you firmly believe that something in scripture itself (not just how it was written by scribes, or numerical errors that passed from one manuscript to the next) is in serious error (let’s imagine the wise men never visited Jesus) then I would say that, yes, I would no longer believe that the entire 66 books are the divinely inspired word of God and I would need to evaluate each book, and each section of each book, in order to determine whether or not I could believe that it was God-inspired.
What I am trying to get at is that error in the scriptures (the originals themselves written by David or Paul or whoever) indicate that the text of scripture is false and therefore not divinely inspired (since I presume God would not inspire a lie) and removes the PRESUMPTION of divine authorship from the canon as a whole.



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Fish

posted July 6, 2010 at 1:27 pm


If the Word become flesh and the Bible are the same thing, have the same power, are on the same level, then you end up worshiping a book.
They are not two sides of the same thing. They are two entirely different things. Jesus was created by God; the Bible was written by men, breathed on by God, a revealing of God inspired by God, yes, but crafted by men nonetheless. One is a physical object and the other is God.
The Bible is NOT the same thing as God or the Word become flesh.



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RJS

posted July 6, 2010 at 1:29 pm


Robin,
If we consider the histories in Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles and realize that they are edited in a fashion to make a point, and are not entirely consistent with each other – does that mean they are not inspired?
Or the gospels – where there are come details that are not consistent from one to the other (most notable John and the synoptics) does that mean they are not inspired? Harold Lindsell in “Battle for the Bible” suggested that Peter must have denied Christ six times to account for the differences in detail among the various accounts – even though each text discusses three denials. Gymnastics to preserve inerrancy become rather absurd. And we do not even have to bring science into the picture (it just makes the problem worse).
I think we have made an assumption of what divine inspiration must entail rather than allowing the texts themselves to inform our understanding of inspiration. We then make our assumptions about inspiration the foundation of our faith – rather than making the person of Jesus Christ the foundation of our faith.



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DRT

posted July 6, 2010 at 1:30 pm


Robin, I think I understand your lament and it is valid. I tend to look at it the other way.
It seems to me that you are viewing it much the same way as the letter writer. But one can view it from the other way. What if we make our own reality. What if it is as Jesus said that we can bind and loose and they will be. What if by making the OT we have made it’s truths as far as they are relevant to us to be true? Whether the earth is young or old or evolution happens or not does not change the truths written in the bible in how they would impact our life.
Sure, I guess it would be easier for some people (not me) to believe in Jesus by just believing that everything written is true. For me, I have to have it make sense before I can truly believe.
So what do we have to believe for it to save us? In other words, what is the gospel? For me it is that we need to believe that the right way to live is to care (love) for others and this is the way God intends us to live. That if we live this way we will somehow be saved…
That does not require me to believe in talking snakes, or donkeys.



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 6, 2010 at 1:36 pm


@Robin,
You can certainly hold to that if you wish, but I think it’s ultimately a destructive view. Note, I am not saying that I believe the doctrine of inerrancy is destructive — I don’t believe it is. I’d say that I even hold to it — I just hold to it loosely. Instead, I’m saying that believing that any error (even in the originals) now means that the whole Bible is unreliable and not God’s word. I’ve been there personally, frantically trying to find an answer to some apparent contradiction and sometimes finding unsatisfactory answers from apologists only to let me doubts start to creep in and wonder if everything I believe is a lie. Holding on to the doctrine of inerrancy as firmly as I hold to the belief that Jesus was the Son of God who rose from the dead was detrimental to my faith. I can still hold to some form of inerrancy now… but I do so with a very lose grip. If there is an error, I will not let it shake the faith I have in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
But, I think this conversation is a digression from the original topic. The original post wasn’t about inerrancy. It was about a specific interpretation of Genesis, which has lead a person into a downward faith spiral.



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 6, 2010 at 1:40 pm


“I’m saying that believing that any error (even in the originals) now means that the whole Bible is unreliable and not God’s word” should read:
“I’m saying that believing that any error (even in the originals) now means that the whole Bible is unreliable and not God’s word is a destructive view”



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Robin

posted July 6, 2010 at 1:41 pm


RJS (63),
I am not getting at inerrancy. I don’t know how to explain that fully, but that is not what I am talking about. I am willing to give wide latitude for genre and literary device. What I am talking about is essential truth. Truthfulness of scripture. Let’s go back to MacLaren since he is my current hobbyhorse. He asserts that we should see scripture as an ongoing community library filled with the immature and mature thoughts of the faith community. One of those immarture thoughts of the faith community is that Israel was given to the Jews as an inheritance and God commanded Israel to remove the inhabitants through genocide. Now that is not an immature or mature belief, it is either a true or false belief. Either GOd wanted to give that land to Israel or he didn’t. Either he told Israel to wi[e out its inhabitants or he didn’t. If he didn’t, which is what I believe MacLaren holds, then one of the central plot lines of the bible is essentially false. If something that big is false then yes, it does seem to me that it is not divinely inspired and I would want to question the rest of the canon thorouhgly.
I am not trying to quibble about dates and minor details, but about the essential truthfulness of scripture itself. If big chunks of scripture are the immature, and essentially untrue, expressions archaic civilizations then there are serious problems with asserting divine inspiration for the rest of it.



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Rick

posted July 6, 2010 at 1:45 pm


Fish #62-
“The Bible is NOT the same thing as God or the Word become flesh.”
I don’t think anyone here would disagree with you. However, because Jesus is God and valued it, and because it is God-breathed, Scripture does have His authority.
Robin #67-
“I am not getting at inerrancy. I don’t know how to explain that fully, but that is not what I am talking about. I am willing to give wide latitude for genre and literary device. What I am talking about is essential truth. Truthfulness of scripture.”
I totally agree and so thank you for saying that. For some reason people want to keep bringing it back to that.
It seems the sides are talking right past each other.
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Kenny Johnson

posted July 6, 2010 at 1:56 pm


@Robin,
Then I think you’re off-topic. Why not post these in the Brian McLaren post instead?



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Robin

posted July 6, 2010 at 2:04 pm


I see them as closely related. I don’t think the letter writer’s issue is inerrancy, but the essential truthfulness of scripture. It isn’t that he is holding over-tightly to inerrancy, it is that he now believes chunks of scripture are essentially false because of his hermeneutics (not because of his belief in inerrancy).



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Rick

posted July 6, 2010 at 2:08 pm


Robin #70-
Again- well said.



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Robin

posted July 6, 2010 at 2:12 pm


To put it another way,
His hermeneutical approach has required an essentially historic approach to Genesis in order for the arguments in Romans to be true. His new belief that Genesis is not historical, filtered through his current hermeneutic, tells him that Romans is now essentially false. So you have three options (1) show him some way that key parts in Genesis can still be essentially historic (2) provide him a new hermemutic to apply so that Romans can be interpreted with a symbolic Genesis or (3) Let him believe that Romans is essentially false and abandon his belief in the divine inspiration of the canon as a whole.
If we just tell him that Genesis is non-historic and we do not provide him an interpretation of Romans that allows for a non-historic genesis, then we are simply allowing him to believe that an important portion of scripture is ESSENTIALLY FALSE (not in the details, but in its overall message) and I wouldn’t blame him for throwing out the rest of the canon if that were true.
To me the issue isn’t proving that the rest of scripture can be true even if Romans is essentially false, it is providing a way for him to see that Romans isn’t essentially false.



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Robin

posted July 6, 2010 at 2:16 pm


Thanks Rick



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RJS

posted July 6, 2010 at 2:32 pm


Robin,
I am 50 years old – started college in 1977 just a year after Lindsell’s book was published. This makes me about 5-10 years younger than the author of this letter. Then went from Christian college to graduate school at UC Berkeley in 1981.
When I look at this letter in the context of the battles that were occurring at the time, I see inerrancy looming somewhat larger than you do. The essential truthfulness of scripture was tied to a definition of inerrancy (and a rather tight definition at that).
This is a context for my comments. What you mean by essential truthfulness may be what I mean by reliability. But none of this – essential truthfulness or reliability makes scripture the foundation for our faith, the rock on which we stand.
So when Larry asked above why I didn’t jettison the whole bible and the whole faith – it comes down to two points.
(1) I came to a realization that our faith is founded in God the father and the person of Jesus Christ, his life, death and resurrection.
(2) There is no reason to dismiss the bible as essentially false -rather I agree with you that it is essentially true; and it is a reliable apostolic witness to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah, the risen Lord. Paul’s exposition in Romans is essentially true – but that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t writing out of his culture and worldview. (See comments by some others above … there are some really great comments.)
This becomes my starting point on a number of different issues. And it is where I would start addressing the concerns expressed in the original letter.



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Robin

posted July 6, 2010 at 2:40 pm


RJS,
So in my post (72) you would go for option #2. Is that correct? Would you also agree that if he didn’t go for option #2 but concluded that Romans is not ‘reliable’ that he would have cause to doubt the reliability of other books.



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RJS

posted July 6, 2010 at 2:51 pm


Robin,
I lean toward #2 – we need a new hermeneutic. Such is not unprecedented. We have abandoned the hermeneutic (allegorical and christo-centric along with literal) of the early church for a more literal-historic hermeneutic. Maybe we need to move in a slightly different direction (and return to some of the appreciation for layered meaning and allegory found in the early church fathers).
But I am not ruling out #1 in some fashion and have made posts along those lines at times. John Stott in his commentary on Romans suggests an approach along the lines of your #1, so does Henri Blocher in his book “Original Sin” – I have posted on both of those.
There is a reason I harp on foundation though – I can be wrong, we can be wrong – and it doesn’t matter. In fact as every generation before has erred in interpretation at some point, we can pretty much guarantee that we will as well.



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Travis Greene

posted July 6, 2010 at 3:27 pm


Robin @ 56, “One of the primary reasons I trust the Gospel of John and not the gospel of Thomas is that one is in the bible, which is God’s word, and the other is not. If the bible, as a whole, is no longer God’s infallible word, then why not accord the gospel of Thomas authority equal to John and the Synoptics.”
Ah, but why is it that John in the Bible and Thomas is not? It isn’t because God gave us the Table of Contents written out on a stone slab. It’s because the church recognized this book as being uniquely God-breathed, useful for training and correction in righteousness so that we may do good works. In the words of Martin Luther, Scripture is the manger that presents Christ to us.
A lot of these discussions, particularly about inerrancy, miss out on the the reality of where Scripture comes from, how it was chosen, why some books and not others. Even if you are making Scripture your foundation (as Daniel Mann seems to), you really aren’t, because the canon was picked by the church. You are really trusting a group of human beings who trace their authority to the risen Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, both sent by God the father.
RJS is right. The Triune God is our foundation. Scripture, community/tradition, reason, and experience work together to tell us about God. We should love the Bible and receive it for what it truly is, not try to make it into what it is not, and in the end make an idol.



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Daniel Mann

posted July 6, 2010 at 3:37 pm


RJS,
Thanks for your response. However, I don?t see how that ?rock on which we stand? might not necessarily include Scripture as fully God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16-17). While you admit that Christ?s ?words [must] abide in us,? somehow you think that we can accomplish this requirement apart from knowing with confidence ? Scripturally ? what those words were.
If we come away with a diminished view of Scripture, one that allows us to pick and choose what?s truly of God (inspired), we can no longer exercise the confident faith that is the foundation for everything else. In such a case, we find ourselves sitting in judgment over Scripture instead of Scripture over us. Scripture then becomes irrelevant. If I have the wisdom to judge and pick-and-choose among the verses, then I have enough wisdom to dispense with Scripture entirely.
You talk about sometimes holding your faith together with duct tape (or something like that). I think that this is evidence that you might be proceeding wrongly. Instead, the Bible talks a lot about boldness and confidence, something a duct-tape-faith can?t give you. I do pray that you will reconsider, and I?d be glad to continue this conversation.



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Daniel Mann

posted July 6, 2010 at 3:47 pm


Travis,
You wrote to Robin:
? ?A lot of these discussions, particularly about inerrancy, miss out on the the reality of where Scripture comes from, how it was chosen, why some books and not others. Even if you are making Scripture your foundation (as Daniel Mann seems to), you really aren’t, because the canon was picked by the church. You are really trusting a group of human beings??
I must disagree. If we are not trusting in the men who wrote Scripture (and we?re not!), why would you suggest that we trusting in the men who identified the Books of Scripture. If God could oversee the writing, then He can also oversee the selection of the Books.
Actually the selection of the Books had been a no-brainer:
? Hebrews 2:3-4 ?how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. GOD ALSO TESTIFIED TO IT BY SIGNS, WONDERS AND VARIOUS MIRACLES, AND GIFTS of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.?



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Travis Greene

posted July 6, 2010 at 4:09 pm


Daniel @ 79,
Not sure what that verse has to do with Scripture. Seems to me it’s about God’s activity vouching for and vindicating Jesus and his disciples.
“If God could oversee the writing, then He can also oversee the selection of the Books.”
Sure, but (without getting into sophistry) it depends what you mean by “oversee”. I fully believe all Scripture is God-breathed, useful for training and correction in righteousness so that we may do good works. And I absolutely agree God’s Spirit was at work among the leaders who organized the canon, choosing some books and rejecting others. It was not a no-brainer. That’s just bad history.
A position of verbal plenary inspiration and inerrancy does not automatically follow from anything the Bible says about itself, from what the church has generally believed, or from what lots of notable theologians and thinkers (Augustine, Calvin, C.S. Lewis) have believed. It’s much more Islamic, in fact, than Christian.



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Fish

posted July 6, 2010 at 4:22 pm


“If we come away with a diminished view of Scripture, one that allows us to pick and choose what?s truly of God (inspired), we can no longer exercise the confident faith that is the foundation for everything else.”
Perhaps for some. I was the opposite. I believed that to be a Christian one had to take the Bible as the literal word of God as if he spoke it directly — and so that kept me from being a Christian.
I could not reconcile a God that would require me to believe that the earth was 6000 years old in the face of plain scientific fact, for example, so I threw the baby out with the bathwater.
It was only after my wife dragged me into church for the sake of my child, and I learned that scripture was to be prayerfully studied and interpreted through reason, experience and tradition that I was able to open my heart to Christ.
When I realized I didn’t have to check my brain at the door to be a Christian, I was able to reconcile a living God with the living world around me. And thus have faith.



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T

posted July 6, 2010 at 4:37 pm


Robin, Daniel, Rick and others,
To put your comments back into the original question, what I hear you saying is that the man writing the letter is correct in his logic: if he is convinced that the world was not created in a literal 6 day period within the last 12,000 years or so, he has, in fact, no good reason to trust Jesus himself. Your counsel seems to be that his faith in Christ should properly live or die on this battleground alone, as if the rest of the faith cannot and should not logically stand apart from YEC view of Genesis 1-3.
As one who grew up in and is still in conservative evangelical circles, I understand your convictions about scripture. But our own conclusions on such issues should be different than the pastoral question of how to address someone like this writer. For that a wider angle on the faith is appropriate, regardless of personal convictions. Given that both C.S. Lewis and Augustine (just a couple of the top of my head) had vibrant, fruitful faith in Christ without totally resolving this issue, it seems unnecessary, even irresponsible, to portray it as the battleground for one’s whole faith to properly live or die upon. I just don’t believe that we have to be certain on everything in order to be certain about anything.
Again, please don’t hear this as an argument against a literal 6-day creation; it isn’t, and I have no personal interest in making that argument. But I am concerned with how Christians present the core of our faith and the foundations for it, and I just don’t see the earth’s age as part of that.



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 6, 2010 at 4:46 pm


@Fish,
I think that’s one problem I see among YEC. They find their particular apologetic to be completely convincing. They think they can give a reasonable explanation for why there appears to be an old earth, for example. They then think that everyone else should either a) see that their interpretation of scientific evidence is right and the everyone else is wrong, or b) that you must just trust their interpretation of scripture even if the scientific evidence is contrary to scripture.
I can’t do either. I find the YEC apologetic to be without any merit and my mind won’t allow me accept a YEC scripture interpretation.
And furthermore, many in the YEC camp insist that denying their interpretation is denying the authority and trustworthiness of all scripture.
The one thing I appreciated about the YEC position presented in the Four Views on Creation book was that they admitted that the science was not currently on their side and admitted that they held to YEC position mostly because they believed they had a better hermeneutic.



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 6, 2010 at 4:54 pm


@T,
I think you made the point many are missing. The pastoral response shouldn’t be “You have to accept the YEC interpretation.”
Rather it should be, “This is what I believe and here’s why. . . And while I don’t agree with these other Christian points of view, you might find these views to be helpful as you wrestle with this question. . . Check out these books, websites, etc. If you’d like to talk more about what I believe, I’d be happy to talk more about it. I have a friend Joe who disagrees with me on this if you’d like to talk to him about his views, I’d be happy to set up a meeting.”



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Bill

posted July 6, 2010 at 4:55 pm


As I read through all of these postings, I have to wonder where is there any place for faith in all of this? While there is much room to argue against verbal/plenary inerrancy, taking the opposite position requires you to hold to an unspoken presumption – that Scripture must be subject to something else deemed authoritative for today’s world – the world of rationalism, experience and science. The church must hold to Scriptures, if not inerrant in the fundamentalist sense, then not less than authoritative (NT Wright’s essay is excellent here) but also claims of knowledge stemming from reason, experience, nature or tradition must be considered in light of the norm that is Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scriptures – which leaves me puzzled as to RJS in 74 when she states, rightly so, that her faith is founded upon God the Father, and Jesus (I’m sure the reference was to the Trinity) but there is faith apart from what have been revealed in the Scriptures. Maybe a fine line but one that I believe is necessary.
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Bill

posted July 6, 2010 at 4:57 pm


Sorry need to clarify the line “but is there faith in the Trinity apart from what has been revealed in the Scriptures?”



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Rick

posted July 6, 2010 at 5:17 pm


T #82-
I cannot speak for the others, but I think Robin would agree with me, and perhaps Kenny as well: it is not about the interpretation of Genesis, nor about the “i” word (inerrancy). It is about the trustworthiness of Scripture that points to Christ, and was inspired by the Trinity.
captcha: trusting never.



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Justin Topp

posted July 6, 2010 at 5:21 pm


Wow, what a day on the blog.
Sometimes it is great to just read through all the comments and sit and think for awhile. Because I was disconnected for some time, I was able to do this and read without getting too emotional or drawn in. I feel like I’ve learned a lot from you all.
T, I appreciate your position overall and really like the way you write and debate.
To Robin et al… I just can’t agree with you guys based upon my relationship with Christ, my communion with the rest of the Church, and my scientific background. But I appreciate hearing your thoughts. I will say your position is untenable to those wishing to engage/evangelize intellectual atheists and likely most that don’t come out of a fundamentalist background. Alternatively, I can see how my position (which is probably most similar to RJS, although I’m not sure) would drive you absolutely bonkers.
I am concerned about the overwhelming desire I see in some for an airtight apologetic when the truth is most likely to be gray, complex, and ultimately not completely explainable. There is a fear that if this is “not true” (which needs better explaining for me), than that’s not true, like faith in Christ is a geometry problem. It is not so simple. But what is simple, is that faith based on shaky foundations will die. And we do NOT want that.
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Daniel Mann

posted July 6, 2010 at 5:34 pm


Fish,
I can affirm what you are saying. It seems though that you were turned off to the faith because of some misconceptions.
Although I am not necessarily a YECer, I think you’re making a mistake to assume that this position requires that you park your brain at the door.



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brambonius

posted July 6, 2010 at 5:48 pm


I don’t believe that however God created the earth, he did it in a way that can be summarised in a one-page account like gen 1-3. The visible comes from the invisible, and I a affraid it’s just a hunk of human hubris to think that we can explain how the world was created. I’m sorry, we will not be able to understand, we miss concepts and words in our languages, and it is not our story…
I would expect not but a symbolic story, an acoomodation, Godly baby talk to explain the creation. The point is not how; we cannot onderstand… The point is Who, and why. That’s what genesis is communicating after all… And whether or not Adam is a real first human or just a symbol for humanity (Adam means man or human being) is not that important. The message is clear whether or not we know anything about how sin came into the world. And dare I say, I don’t understand that anyone must know how the fall happened to see that the world is messed-up and that humans are in need of salvation. Even a child can see that with her eyes closed!
Jesus is the living Word, and the bible is just pointing to us. The Spirit is the third party in the trinity, and not the bible. Our faith does not hinge on reason. The resurrection goes beyond every type of reason, we don’t need any modern science to know that. A stumbling stone to the wise and learned of every time and culture…
But still, if the traces we find in the ground point us to the conclusion that the earth might be very old and that some kind of evolution happens, why would we not accept that the visible part of this world has had this old history including evolving life? it will never be the whole story, and we will never be able to know it. But whatever we think, Creation is bigger than what our brainw will make of it, and the Creator did a bigger job than we can ever imagine!
I believe in the ressurection because I somehow am convinced by the Spirit, and because in a very limited way I’ve experienced enough of the Life in it to never be able to be otherwise. I believe in Creation, but I don’t believe we’ll ever know what happened. We don’t have to, God is bigger than any though construct we can come up with.
Faith is relational. We have to trust Him. Not our ideas about Him, they will allways be incomplete. Our scientific or theological ideas will never be 100% complete and ‘true’. We should trust in a person.
All praises to Him
peace
Bram



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Daniel Mann

posted July 6, 2010 at 5:55 pm


Travis,
Here?s the reason that I call the canonization process a ?no brainer.? Firstly, Hebrews 2:4 tells us that God was authenticating the ministry of the Apostles through signs and wonders. There?s absolutely no reason to believe that this wouldn?t also apply to their writings. In fact, we find a lot of Scriptural evidence that the writings had been received as the ?word of God? (1 Thess 2:13).
Secondly, I haven?t seen any evidence that any of the NT books had been questioned or rejected by the Church for almost the first two hundred years of the Church. Yes, the heretics questioned many of the books, but that?s another matter. It seems that the questions only arose later.



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 6, 2010 at 6:16 pm


I might be wrong on this, but I do think there were debates on some like Hebrews and Revelation in the early church.



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Robin

posted July 6, 2010 at 6:20 pm


T,
see my comment (72) for how I would approach the original writer.



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Robin

posted July 6, 2010 at 6:32 pm


Why in the world is everyone making this about YEC?????
My point has never had anything to do with YEC or even Romans for that matter. Let me put it differently.
What if the problem wasn’t Genesis, but Acts. What if we could prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt that Acts was a fabricated book of childhood adventure stories written in the 6th century and that it had no connection, even in oral tradition, with the actual events of the early church. Then a letter write says…”I have been so wrong about Acts, if Acts isn’t true, what confidence do I have that the gospels are true, or the epistles. Unless someone can give me good reasons to believe the rest of scripture is true when I am convinced that Acts is not, I don’t know why I should believe the bible”
What would you say to that guy? This question is much broader than YEC. It is “why should I believe some parts of the bible, when I believe other parts are demonstrably false” My philosophical problem with the approach here has nothing to do with YEC or inerrancy. It is about people who are willing to say that some parts of scripture can be complete falsehoods, but that we should still consider the rest of scripture the word of God (Or at least the parts we like) and I’m not thinking about YEC, I’m thinking about people who denounce Jehovah in the OT as a monster or say that God didn’t really want Israel to inherit the land.
This is not about YEC or inerrancy, it is about bigger issues.



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Scot McKnight

posted July 6, 2010 at 6:37 pm


Robin, the issue is science vs. faith and one reading vs. another. In your Acts example, which gives something silly (like at 6th Century dating), what we would need is for someone to show that Acts gives some fictional speeches … and only on the basis of powerful evidence of creating speechs in the ancient world with some very clear indications in Acts that Luke was doing that too…
Then, and only then, would have a good analogy. At that time, we’d have to ask if we have been reading Acts wrongly the whole time.
Your view of falsehoods and truth imply one kind of reading vs. another. What if someone said Jonah is a fable designed to implicate corrupt prophets?
All of this has to do with one kind of reading that many think true vs. another kind of reading that others think true. “True” doesn’t have to mean “historical record.” It can mean truth through story, as in a parable.



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Robin

posted July 6, 2010 at 6:47 pm


To be clear, I think the letter writers concerns are broader as well. He isn’t looking for a reason to disbelieve inerrancy. He is saying his hermeneutic required a literal genesis for Romans to be reliable and now that he knows genesis isn’t literal he doesn’t think Romans is reliable. You have to either convince him of why Romans is still reliable (it doesn’t demand a literal genesis, or the important parts of genesis might be close to literal) or explain to him why “unreliable Romans” does not equal “unreliable canon” I think you really need to take off the YEC and inerrancy blinders and see what he is really asking.



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Daniel Mann

posted July 6, 2010 at 7:13 pm


Robin,
I have only read the tail-end of your conversation, but I think you, and the letter writer, are making an excellent point. There is a real problem here! The Bible is saying that it is completely inspired (Mat. 5:17-19; 2 Tim. 3:16-17) while the gospel of Darwin is saying it is not.
Meanwhile, the TEs are scurrying to find some safe middle-ground, by spiritualizing/allegorizing the texts, but I don?t think such middle ground exists. Instead, they are creating an anemic faith, one that can?t stand the rigors of life.



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Norm

posted July 6, 2010 at 7:16 pm


RJS and Scot,
If I haven?t done so before I just want to thank you both for your lucid, calm and collected interfacing with such a diversity of opinions and issues coming at you from divergent views.
RJS you have really hit the nail on the head with this understanding of the importance of knowing what our foundation should be. After many years of investigating, debating and understanding I seem to be drawn back to this conclusion time after time. It?s foundational. :)



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 6, 2010 at 7:43 pm


@Daniel Mann,
I think that’s unfair. I don’t consider myself TE, but I’m open to it. What you’re essentially saying is that if they don’t read Genesis the way you do, then they’re watering down the text, seeking a middle ground, or in some other way doing harm to the scripture.
So you’ve created a dichotomy:
Literal 6-day creation reading = Faithful to the truthfulness and authority of scripture
Non-literal 6-day creation reading = Not faithful to the truthfulness and authority of the scripture — a compromise.
I’ve read a bit, but not a lot on different interpretations and hermeneutical approaches to Genesis 1-3 and honestly, many times the non literal 6-day creation reading seems MORE faithful to the text, not less.
But, more than that, people who don’t accept the literal 6-day reading also believe that God reveals Himself in nature and therefore nature should be truthful about God. If, for example, astronomy, geology, anthropology, archaeology, paleontology, physics, etc. all point to an old Earth, then one has to wonder if their original interpretation of scripture is wrong — or if God is purposely revealing himself through creation in some untruthful way. I think then that people are actually MORE respectful of scripture which reveals God when they accommodate their interpretation to be in line with how God reveals Himself in nature.



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Scot McKnight

posted July 6, 2010 at 8:16 pm


Daniel, unfair.
You’ve stereotyped TEs (theistic evolutionists) as if they all belong to one group and made them compromisers; you’ve somehow created a “gospel of Darwin” that has a hermeneutic (really?); and you’ve made the traditionalist the faithful one. Is this even remotely fair? Does it not assume its own conclusion in order to make its point?
The issue really is what is the best way to read Genesis 1-2/Gen 1-3/Gen 1-11. We have to be fair to the text, in its context, and let the texts say what they did say and not what we want them to say.



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R Hampton

posted July 6, 2010 at 8:22 pm


Pope Benedict XVI
September 12, 2008
Scripture requires exegesis, and it requires the context of the community in which it came to birth and in which it is lived. This is where its unity is to be found, and here too its unifying meaning is opened up. To put it yet another way: there are dimensions of meaning in the word and in words which only come to light within the living community of this history-generating word. Through the growing realization of the different layers of meaning, the word is not devalued, but in fact appears in its full grandeur and dignity. Therefore the Catechism of the Catholic Church can rightly say that Christianity does not simply represent a religion of the book in the classical sense. It perceives in the words the Word, the Logos itself, which spreads its mystery through this multiplicity and the reality of a human history. This particular structure of the Bible issues a constantly new challenge to every generation. It excludes by its nature everything that today is known as fundamentalism. In effect, the word of God can never simply be equated with the letter of the text. To attain to it involves a transcending and a process of understanding, led by the inner movement of the whole and hence it also has to become a process of living. Only within the dynamic unity of the whole are the many books one book. The Word of God and his action in the world are revealed only in the word and history of human beings.



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RJS

posted July 6, 2010 at 8:44 pm


Robin,
I’m not going to try to jump inside the letter writer’s head here and look for broader concerns. The specifics of this letter may well be the tip of the iceberg. The questions that come out often are for most of us.
I think we need to think hard about our hermeneutic, how we read scripture, because I think we (evangelicals) do need some revisions.
On the Romans question – Romans is truthful. Paul is honestly teaching and preaching and describing the insights and understanding he had through his interaction with the risen Lord. He is preaching and explaining the importance of Christ crucified. Christ died for our sins, and God through Christ did it all. For Paul’s exposition to be true do we need his entire worldview to be true – and yes this includes his understanding of Genesis 1-3? I don’t think so – his experience was with the risen Lord and this is what he is trying to explain, through the power of the Spirit, using images known to his audience. His audience was largely, I expect, Gentile God-Fearers who had heard the Hebrew scriptures.
The NT is a reliable apostolic witness. The OT illuminates and reveals the nature of God and his interaction in relationship with his creation. It is all true – but what true means may not always be what we think it means.
But, changing the subject slightly to a point you’ve raised above, the issue with the view McLaren takes of much of the OT. In particular with his view of the evolution of our view of God as humanity matures. This is not really an issue of a hermeneutic of scripture. In fact McLaren admits as much at the start of Ch. 10 “Is God Violent?” Rather his view of what God must be shapes the reading of the OT. This is, I think, a real problem. McLaren’s conversation, community library approach doesn’t solve his problem. He needs more than that to do away with the problem passages.
We cannot turn around and shape scripture and our understanding of God and Jesus in our own image and to our own preference.
The problem I have with Calvin is that he also had a tendency to shape the interpretation of scripture to conform to his view of what God must be. So while I find much good in what he thought, wrestled with, and taught – I don’t think he had it all right. We have to take the free will passages that depict God changing his mind, and the sovereignty of God and let them both stand as we wrestle with scripture as the revelation of God.



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T. K. Shultz

posted July 6, 2010 at 9:05 pm


Hey, came in at the tail end of the discussion. We’ve talked about this quit a bit throughout my undergrad phil. classes. I don’t think it’s as large of an issue as the letter writer seemed to make it. It seems there are many biblical and intellectual options. But i was more curious about some of your thoughts about TE. I’ve had a long debate going with my old man over it. He believes you begin to compromise the scripture when you approach it with TE. I hold that it is more over how you view the scientific evidence. He continually brings up Romans 5:12,”Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sin.” How is it that there was death before Adam if he was the one who inagurated our sinful nature? Whether the text refers to death in general over all creation or specifically through humanity is another issue. How is it that if TE’s make since of this verse? I’ve always concluded that it is referring to spiritual death but is this a loyal interpretation to the meaning of the text?
Also, does anybody have some good references for a compelling case for theistic evolution. I’ve read through mostly creationist content. Darwin on Trial etc. and was wanting a good thoughful source for the scientific evidence for evolution.



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fish

posted July 6, 2010 at 9:16 pm


T.K.,
Head over to the internetmonk for a couple of superb posts on on Adam, the fall and death. Chaplain Mike has done a great job with ‘creation week.’



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Lu Gronseth, Jr.

posted July 6, 2010 at 10:06 pm


I’m a little late to the game and haven’t been able to ready every post. It seems that Genesis (and the whole Bible) is written by specific writers to specific people in a specific place at a specific time. First of all the meaning has to come out of that context. It seems, secondly, that the concern of most of the writers is a theological context and not a scientific context, which doesn’t mean it is not true. For example the writer(s) of Genesis (I don’t believe) had advanced scientific knowledge beyond their culture. They wrote what they understood, not to make a scientific statement but to counter the prevailing world views at that time which basically believed in creation by multiple gods and man as something less than good, in some views, we were just created to do the gods’ dirty work. The process outlined in Gen 1 % 2 apparently was the best understand at the time of how the world developed. We wouldn’t criticize the American pioneers for writing about things they could have no way of knowing and we fully understand today. We would judge their content based on what they could have known at the time and their purpose in writing and to whom they were writing. We seem to have a difficult time applying similar principles to the historical parts of scripture. The importance of Genesis is that it confirms that God (one God not many) created our planet and that in His eyes it was good. As good, legitimate science determines facts about HOW our world developed, we should embrace that and know that God could have done it any way He pleased. While there is a divine aspect and inspiration to the Bible, it was also very much written by humans operating in the real world. How many people how lost or doubted their faith because they have been told the Bible is something it isn’t meant to be. I appreciate all the discussions I’ve had a chance to read.



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CGF

posted July 7, 2010 at 1:22 am


I’m a scientist and in a similar crisis myself…I wanted to pass along something that was helpful today…. http://www.rededicate.org/media/audio/2009-10-11-am.mp3 (I don’t even live in Boston, but I had heard of the church through Biologos). And here’s something that was completely unhelpful… http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5889
My biggest issue is resurrection and miracles, and I desperately long to have a “mustard seed” of faith!



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Daniel Mann

posted July 7, 2010 at 5:49 am


Scot (and Kenny),
You wrote, ?The issue really is what is the best way to read Genesis 1-2/Gen 1-3/Gen 1-11. We have to be fair to the text, in its context, and let the texts say what they did say and not what we want them to say.?
I certainly agree with you and acknowledge that there are many difficulties in interpreting Genesis 1-2. However, as it has already been copiously acknowledged, we have certain well-set parameters to assist us in this interpretation. These come primarily from the NT and set definite boundaries on how far we can go.
Yes, I am making certain generalizations about TEs, but these have come forth from the many conversations I?ve had at Biologos. Never once have I seen a TE compromise Darwin to make him agree with the Bible. It?s always the Bible that must suffer in their attempts to find harmony within their new-found faith. Never once have I seen TEs systematically attempt to reach the atheist. (They can?t! They are regarded with disdain by atheists, who regard them as compromised and disingenuous.) Instead, the mission of Biologos is to evangelize Christians into a new faith compromised by the inclusion of Darwin.
I have never seen a TE faith-model that stands on something solid. Having compromised Scripture in order to open the door for Darwin, TEs are left with merely a subjective appeal to the Spirit ? the same appeal that the cults and many religions make.



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RJS

posted July 7, 2010 at 7:31 am


Daniel Mann (#107),
The only faith model that stands on anything solid, no matter what you think of origins, no matter what your ‘theology’ of scripture, is a faith that is founded first, last, and only on God the father, Jesus, the Messiah, the crucified and risen Lord, and rests in the guidance of the Holy Spirit – the helper he promised would be sent.
Derision of subjective appeal to the Spirit is a red herring. Fallen humans are capable of subjective appeal to anything, including scripture. All you have to do is read something of the history of interpretation in the church to realize this is true (slavery and racism being prime examples). Scripture is a God given gift – but we will get no where on scripture alone without the guidance of the Spirit.
The NT sets two limits on the interpretation of Genesis 1-2: (1) God the father is creator of heaven and earth and everything in, under, and above the earth – both inanimate and living. (2) God ordained the institution of marriage between a man and a woman.



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RJS

posted July 7, 2010 at 7:47 am


CGF,
Miracles are worth a post. Have you read Polkinghorne? Both Belief in God in an Age of Science and Quarks, Chaos & Christianity are good.
On resurrection – there is an interesting lecture with NT Wright available here: Can a Scientist Believe in the Resurrection. The same lecture was given for the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion and is available on their site – but the one I’ve linked also has an interesting after dinner discussion worth listening to.



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Travis Greene

posted July 7, 2010 at 7:54 am


Robin,
If the question were about the book of Acts, or th gospels, I would agree with you. But there are a multitude of reasons to treat Genesis differently. The historicity of the Resurrection matters. The historicity of Jonah does not.



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Tricia

posted July 7, 2010 at 8:38 am


As a Catholic, I find this discussion interesting. I view authority as coming from the Church speaking with the power of the Holy Spirit. The Church cannot be seperated from the gospels in my opinion since it is responsible for the cannonization of the Bible.
Anyways, I hope this isn’t too far off topic, but I find this an interesting discussion. As a Catholic, the question of irrenacy or the existance of a historical Adam does’nt bother me since the Bible itself gets authority from the Church. Interesting, the Church is referred to as the “foundation and pillar of truth” in the book of Titus I believe.
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen put it far more eloquently in the paragraph below:
The Gospels did not start the Church; the Church started the Gospels. The Church did not come out of the Gospels; the Gospels came out of the Church.
The Church preceded the New Testament, not the New Testament the Church. When finally the Gospels were written, they did not prove what Christians believed, nor did they initiate that belief; they merely recorded in a systematic manner what they already knew. Men did not believe in the Crucifixion because the Gospels said there was a Crucifixion; they wrote down the story of the Crucifixion, because they already believed in it. The Church did not come to believe in the Virgin Birth because the Gospels tell us there is a Virgin Birth; it was because the living word of God in His Mystical Body already believed it that they set it down in the Gospels.



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Daniel Mann

posted July 7, 2010 at 10:06 am


RJS,
You misunderstand me! I am not deriding the subjective appeal of the Gospel through the Spirit. I?m simply arguing that it was never intended to stand ALONE, apart from objective revelation! In contrast, you state:
? ?The only faith model that stands on anything solid, no matter what you think of origins, no matter what your ‘theology’ of scripture, is a faith that is founded first, last, and only on God the father, Jesus, the Messiah, the crucified and risen Lord, and rests in the guidance of the Holy Spirit – the helper he promised would be sent.?
I?m all for a faith ?founded first, last, and only on God the father, Jesus, the Messiah, the crucified and risen Lord.? But apart from God?s Word, what does this faith consist of? And how can we be certain of it? Is it about Buddha, Mohammed, free sex, or learning how to resonate with the spirit within? On the basis of what can we argue in favor of one faith verses another?
Instead the Biblical faith is inseparable from a Gospel message, a faith that is preached, and Words that we must hold to and follow if we are going to be His disciples (John 14:21-24). These weren?t arbitrary Words or words that we had to guess about and were perplexed about how to interpret them. They came from the Father and formed the core of discipleship, worship and life (Mat. 28:18-20). These are also Words that are able to convert (1 Peter 1:23-25) and to transform us through the Spirit (Acts 20:32).
My chief concern about TE is that it will influence people away from their confidence and reliance upon Scripture (and ultimately Christ) to their great detriment! If there is one thing that we can boast about it is this:
? Jeremiah 9:23-24 This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he UNDERSTANDS AND KNOWS ME, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.
How is this possible without guidance from and confidence in Scripture?



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AHH

posted July 7, 2010 at 10:33 am


TK #103:
You ask for “good references for a compelling case for theistic evolution”
For the science side of that, a compelling case that evolution (development of species by common descent) has happened, an excellent book (understandable for non-scientists) is “Coming to Peace with Science” by Darrel Falk (biology prof at Point Loma Nazarene). Can’t recommend it highly enough.
Then there is the side of compatibility of the position with Christian faith. There for introductory books I would recommend “Creation or Evolution: Do we have to Choose?” by Denis Alexander or “Origins” By Deborah Haarsma and Loren Haarsma (both of which get into the science side somewhat as well).



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BradK

posted July 7, 2010 at 11:05 am


Daniel,
“Never once have I seen a TE compromise Darwin to make him agree with the Bible. It?s always the Bible that must suffer in their attempts to find harmony within their new-found faith.”
I’m not sure exactly of what you are referring to when you say “Darwin” but your comment seems to indicate a possible misunderstanding of science. Science itself has compromised Darwin numerous times. In fact, the current modern synthesis differs from what Darwin proposed. For example, current theory recognizes other mechanisms of evolution (like genetic drift) aside from natural selection. It also recognizes genes (of which Darwin was unaware I think). Current scientific thinking on evolution is much more concerned with genes and populations than Darwin, who was concerned mainly with organisms and speciation. (I am not a biologist by trade, so I hope someone who is more knowledgeable will correct me if I am in error here.)
Bottom line is that TE’s, and people in general, are perfectly willing to compromise their scientific views. This willingness to compromise, or even abandon, previously held views is a hallmark of science and absolutely essential to its practice. This is far more true of science than religion, for which the opposite is closer to the truth. This is not a criticism, btw.
But I submit that all Christians do and have done what you are claiming TE’s do in trying to harmonize the Bible with science. It wasn’t so many centuries ago that many people thought the Bible was absolutely clear that the earth was the stationary center of the universe. Yet today almost no one believes this and any who do are marginalized as crackpots. Did the Bible suffer when Christians abandoned this belief? Why did Christians compromise the Bible rather than compromising Copernicus? Should they have staunchly held to geocentrism?
“Never once have I seen TEs systematically attempt to reach the atheist. (They can?t! They are regarded with disdain by atheists, who regard them as compromised and disingenuous.) Instead, the mission of Biologos is to evangelize Christians into a new faith compromised by the inclusion of Darwin.”
I’m sorry that you haven’t seen TE’s reaching out to atheists, but I have seen this often. And personally, whenever I am faced with someone who is an atheist, I find the biggest obstacle for their belief to be their feeling that they have to “check their brain at the door of the church” in order to become a believer. My immediate response is that that is not necessary and that Christianity isn’t about evolution or creationism at all. To show how one can have faith in Christ without being forced to believe the earth is only 6000 years old (and other similar stuff that is so obviously false and intellectually offensive) is itself an effort to reach atheists. So I would disagree with your assessment of both atheists’ views of TE’s and with Biologos’s mission.
“I have never seen a TE faith-model that stands on something solid. Having compromised Scripture in order to open the door for Darwin, TEs are left with merely a subjective appeal to the Spirit ? the same appeal that the cults and many religions make.”
I can’t speak for the faith-model of others, but I accept an ancient earth and evolution and universal common descent as scientific facts. And my own faith in Christ is based on the scriptures, which I regard as authoritative. I don’t regard the Bible as being at all compromised by accepting the findings of science. In fact, I find that abandoning the mindset required to believe as YEC’s and others who reject science believe to be more than helpful in developing a fuller and more scripturally faithful view of God. It’s almost essential. In my experience, those who are fighting against science, in particular evolution, generally are the ones who have misunderstood scripture and missed a great deal of the message that God has given us.



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RJS

posted July 7, 2010 at 11:32 am


Daniel,
I am not suggesting a lack of confidence in scripture. I am, in fact, claiming it as the reliable apostolic witness.
I am also saying that the way many rely on scripture is unhealthy, is inconsistent with the way even NT writers use scripture, is inconsistent with the way the early church used and read scripture, and fails to actually lean first and foremost on the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Scripture contains books to be wrestled with as we seek to know and understand God. Every bit is God-breathed, able to give wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus, profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
But we do not preserve either scripture or the faith by using scripture as a fortress. We can’t make it serve purposes for which it was never intended. Such a reliance causes more problems than any form of science/faith harmonization, archaeological study, discovery of documents such as Atrahasis and Enuma Elish or other such things.
(By the way – sorry it took your comment awhile to appear, for some unknown reason this one was sent to spam.)



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RJS

posted July 7, 2010 at 12:23 pm


Daniel,
Let me add a bit – Psalm 119 is a wonderful psalm reflecting on wrestling with and desiring to follow God and the ways of God. In the much memorized verse we have the psalmist exclaiming: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
This image of light and lamp is the image I cling to. Whether the psalmist meant exactly what we do by “word” is unimportant. Scripture illuminates our thinking as we wrestle with our inmost thoughts and desires, our purposes and our paths. It illuminates our understanding of God, his nature and his commands, his mission, actions, and purpose.
As light and lamp it provides wisdom leading to faith in Christ Jesus and is profitable teaching, reproof, correction, training, equipping.
But the purpose of light and lamp is illumination – not foundation or prop.



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Rick

posted July 7, 2010 at 12:42 pm


RJS-
So much of what you wrote in #115 and #116 I agree with. Well said.
You also stated, “But the purpose of light and lamp is illumination”.
The letter writer may then ask: but if the lamp is broken (is very dim, or puts out poor lighting, does not accurately illuminate what is there, etc…), how does one expect to see, or find, what is there?



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RJS

posted July 7, 2010 at 1:28 pm


Rick,
No matter where we go in this conversation we have to start with faith. Faith in God first and foremost. Faith in Jesus as Messiah, crucified and risen Lord. Faith that when Jesus said that a “helper,” the Spirit, would be sent, it was and we can trust the guidance of the Spirit. Faith that scripture is a God given gift sufficient for its purpose. We can’t prove anything about scripture except by circular arguments – most of them pretty weak.
I have faith in scripture because I have faith in God. I do not have faith in God because I have faith in scripture.
Where I disagree with many who commented above is with respect to the purpose and form of scripture. So I would say the lamp isn’t broken because it is of God. But we have to take the whole thing as it is and allow it to illuminate, and try not place filters in the spectrum of light, to distort it or scatter it. If the illumination of Genesis 1-11 is more like the illumination provided in the parables of Jesus so be it. Still it is true. Paul used an illustration of his understanding to explain his understanding of and encounter with the risen Lord. If he was mistaken about Adam (a debatable point) it doesn’t undermine the message. Paul’s is the apostolic first hand witness to Jesus Christ preserved for us by the Church through the leading of the Holy Spirit.



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Scott Morizot

posted July 7, 2010 at 2:50 pm


I started to comment yesterday shortly after this was posted (and even wrote a fair amount of it), but (as I often do these days) decided to stay out of it. However, I think I will comment now as a little postscript to the lengthy thread.
First, it seems obvious to me that our Holy Scriptures are not a Christian version of the Qur’an. That is to say they are not the foundation of our faith. We don’t consider them divine in that sense. As our Holy Scriptures themselves repeatedly proclaim, our foundation (our cornerstone) is Jesus, the Word (or act or thing) of God made flesh.
I find the idea some seem to hold that we only know Jesus through the text of the Gospels … disturbing. It never really clicked for me that some people perceive reality that way. Now, that does not mean the Gospels are unimportant. Indeed, they hold the highest place of honor of all Scripture. But they are important and sacred because the church affirms that they preserve the apostolic witness about Jesus, not for any innate quality. If no gospels had been reduced to writing in the first century, would you honestly say that we would know nothing about Jesus? The church would, I’m sure have reduced the apostolic witness to written form at some point, even in a largely oral setting. If it had done so later rather than sooner, those accounts might well not have been considered “scripture” per se, but the truth within them certainly would have been accepted.
We know who Jesus is because of the apostolic witness in and through the church — the same church that preserved the separate texts before anyone recognized them as scripture and which eventually collected some of them in a canonical list. It was centuries before we had an NT canon and it was well into the second century before anyone began to think that some of the apostolic texts might actually be scripture. Irenaeus, in his proof of the apostolic preaching, quotes entirely from what we would call the OT.
The foundation of our faith is Jesus, who is with us (not off somewhere else) and is our source of life and unity. His body is the church and he is living and active in and through it today. If you don’t believe at least that much, I’m not sure I grasp what confidence or surety a text can possibly give you. That mostly seems to be what RJS seems to be saying. If you have faith and confidence in Jesus of Nazareth, then the text of scripture is important and even sacred to you. If you don’t, then it’s just another religious text.
“said wolves” is the captcha. Not sure what to think about that. ;)



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muse

posted July 7, 2010 at 2:54 pm


My feeling is that when Science and the Bible disagree, the Bible is always right; when Science and Christians disagree, Science is sometimes right. With regard to Adam, I think believing in a literal Adam is essential to our faith. You cannot have a second Adam if there is not a first Adam. That’s all.



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Danielh

posted July 7, 2010 at 2:59 pm


RJS,
I have a similar issue — I’ve been asked to sign a statement of faith which refers to the bible as the “inerrant” “factual in the originals” word of god. And in questioning this wording it was suggested that merely agreeing that it was spiritually inerrant was not in line with the statement of faith.
I was given Millard Erickson’s Christian Theology as a guideline for understanding the concept of biblical inerrancy. After having read the suggested text (Chapter 11) and some of Erikson’s other conclusions I find myself in even deeper water.
Erikson concludes in his book that only complete inerrancy is compatible with evangelical theology “We may now state our understanding of inerrancy: The Bible, when correctly interpreted in light of the level to which culture and the means of communication had developed at the time it was written, and in view of the purposes for which it was given, is fully truthful in all that it affirms.”
He then adds a caveat when defining what is meant by an error: “For a belief to have any meaning, we must be prepared to state what would cause us to give it up, in this case, to indicate what would be considered an error. Statements in Scripture that plainly contradict the facts must be considered errors. If Jesus did not die on the cross, if he did not still the storm on the sea, if the walls of Jericho did not fall, if the people of Israel did not leave their bondage in Egypt and depart for the promised land, then the Bible is in error”
The problem I have with these passages is that Archeological evidence now tends to agree that the last two actually DIDN’T happen, that Jericho was already abandon by the accepted date of the Exodus, and that there is no physical evidence of a massive Hebrew exodus from Egypt. (citations: Anne E. Killebrew, “Biblical Peoples and Ethnicity”; William Dever, “Who Were The Early Israelites And Where did They Come From?”; Israel Finkelstein, “The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts”)
Furthermore Erikson bases his Theology on a presupposition of both the doctrine of God and the doctrine of Scripture simultaneously with each supporting the other — creating a circular argument (God exists – because the Bible says so — the Bible is authoritive — because God wrote it…). This has lead me a bit into Textual Criticism and reading Bart D. Ehrman’s ?Jesus Misquoted? which has lead me to see that the Erikson’s claim that “Textual Criticism is a sufficiently developed science that the number of passages in the Bible where the reading is in doubt is relatively small; in many of the problem passages there really is no question of the reading.” is somewhat misleading.
For Example Mark 1:11, and Luke 3:23 “You are my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased” which apparently in the oldest texts read “You are my son, today I have begotten you.” Because I can see where those two readings have the same meaning… Or 1Timothy 3:16 “…God was manifest in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” Where the greek word for God abbreviated in the Codex Alexandrinus turned out to be an alteration from the Greek word for who (sorry can’t do Greek letters on my keyboard) which would weaken the evidence for Jesus being divine. Or that the Johannian Comma — the only explicit passage in Scripture for the Trinity — was a later addition.
All in all this journey ? prompted by the organization I work for?s need to uphold their statement of faith ? has actually lead me further away from that statement indeed from questioning the veracity of the statement?s claim of ?inerrant? and ?factual? to the point of questioning whether the Bible could be considered any more inspired than say the Iliad (which is pretty good even in English). I guess what this rant is really getting to is a) How can we as Christians continue to cling to doctrines that are disprovable, b) what theology is left for a doctrine to be formed from if scripture cannot be considered true, and c) is there any books, videos, etc that you could recommend that might give me a broader view of this situation?
Thanks,
Daniel.
?Faith is belief without evidence, not in spite of the evidence.? ? Unknown
?Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.? ? Carl Sagan



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ECS

posted July 7, 2010 at 3:25 pm


I appreciate what RJS and Scot are saying. I was raised by the anonymous writer whose question has sparked this discussion and it took leaving home to find a personal relationship with Jesus Christ–one that was more than reading the Bible. I believe the Scriptures are true because I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I don’t need it to all add up for me because the way God met me in my weakness, despair, and loneliness told me that he is who he says he is and that I am who he says I am. I am thankful that I do not have a scientific mind–although I do like for things to fit into a formula–because I am able to embrace and even desire mystery. And what is more mysterious than God? If I am wrong about Jesus, that’ll be disappointing. But what will I have lost? But if I am right about Jesus, what will I have gained?



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ECS

posted July 7, 2010 at 3:37 pm


I will add that my dad’s faith introduced me to Jesus and his love for education inspired me to pursue God and yearn for a personal relationship with him. :)



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Daniel Mann

posted July 7, 2010 at 3:56 pm


RJS (and BradK),
I?m certainly glad when anyone affirms Scripture. Even if we might have vast interpretive differences, we have a common language upon which to base our discussion. Although there were many things you said that I agreed with, there were also some things that I found troubling.
Scripture certainly does illuminate, but this is certainly not to the exclusion of propositional statements like, ?Jesus died for our sins? or God led Israel out of Egypt.? It?s not an either or thing! Scripture illuminates and does communicate vital truths.
You also wrote, ?We can’t prove anything about scripture except by circular arguments – most of them pretty weak.?
This statement is troubling for many reasons:
1. If there is no proof for Scripture, there?s no proof for the Christian faith, and therefore, there?s no reason to evangelize.
2. However, the Disciples had much evidence/proof. They had been with Jesus and had seen His miracles and other signs that confirmed for them that they were walking in the light.
3. God cares about proof and has provided much proof for His people. When John was languishing in prison, he sent his disciples to ascertain if Jesus was really the One. Jesus didn?t send them back to John saying, ?Just tell John to believe!? He performed miracles and told them to report to John what they had seen (Matthew 11).
4. Jesus? Church had collapsed following the Crucifixion. It was only by virtue of the ?proofs? of His resurrection appearances that they were revived (Acts 1:3). God has always been in the business of providing proof (Det. 4:35).
5. Many TEs have come to the same conclusion as you. They claim that Scripture is about the spiritual world, not the physical. Consequently, without the physical, there are no physical evidences, no apologetics, no reasons to believe. Their faith is therefore ephemeral and can?t be brought back down to earth where it is needed. Besides, if we can?t trust what the Bible says about the physical world, how can we be confident about what it says about the spiritual?
I?m sorry I haven?t addressed all of your points, but I?d be glad to entertain them if you would bring them back up again.



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Scot McKnight

posted July 7, 2010 at 4:02 pm


Daniel, you have already begun your own quest and it appears to me you have a good idea of how to find the evidence and discussions. May I suggest a few authors in Scripture for you so you can consider the scan of the land:
K. Vanhoozer’s The Drama of Doctrine
C. Pinnock, The Scripture Principle
A McGowan, The Divine Authenticity of Scripture
J Goldingay, Models of Scripture
I would urge you also to read some on the history of interpretation.



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T

posted July 7, 2010 at 4:07 pm


Rick,
Consider this from Martin Luther:
“There is talk of a new astrologer who wants to prove that the earth moves and goes around instead of the sky, the sun, the moon, just as if somebody were moving in a carriage or ship might hold that he was sitting still and at rest while the earth and the trees walked and moved. But that is how things are nowadays: when a man wishes to be clever he must needs invent something special, and the way he does it must needs be the best! The fool wants to turn the whole art of astronomy upside-down. However, as Holy Scripture tells us, so did Joshua bid the sun to stand still and not the earth.”
The whole Church (Reformed/Protestant and Catholic) was convinced that it was impossible that the earth moved, based on Tradition, Experience, at least a little Reason and certainly Scripture. The scriptures say in more than one place that “the earth cannot be moved.” It’s not ambiguous language. It’s clear and obvious. Further, it is used as a testimony to God’s power (and honor, since he said it did not move). And this express statement is buttressed by dozens of theological principles that imply the same. The earth doesn’t move because God made it and he told us it is “secure” and “cannot be moved.” God’s people have believed this from the beginning, and God’s word confirms it, expressly and impliedly.
Would the reality that this “new astrologer” was correct rightly be the end of Luther’s faith in God and scripture? Why should he trust scripture at all if it says the earth doesn’t move when it does, in fact, move, and in more than one way, and with life or death significance to the planet? As someone said earlier, how can he know after teaching people to disbelieve these astronomers based on scripture, when it is “lying” and when it isn’t?
Should Luther have turned “the earth cannot be moved” into a litmus test for the trustworthiness of the scriptures and God himself? Or would Luther be better served by stepping back a bit and seeking God in familiar and unfamiliar ways. Maybe even considering that his belief that scripture was saying the obvious thing (in saying that “the earth does not move”) was mistaken. Maybe God was allowing authors–even inspired authors–to make statements that illustrated the reality as well as possible or necessary for God’s purposes, which perhaps didn’t include teaching astronomy?
Of course, someone can attempt to distinguish this scenario as fundamentally different from the present, but I tend to believe it’s our chronological and emotional distance from that that issue that is more real than any difference between that situation and the current one.



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Danielh

posted July 7, 2010 at 4:09 pm


Scot,
Thanks for the additional material, I will indeed pick them up.
Daniel.



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Percival

posted July 7, 2010 at 4:21 pm


I see some people here equating belief in the resurrection with belief in a literal 6-day creation. People say, “But miracles are not reasonable either.” This is a strange use of the the term reasonable. We should be using the word reasonable to describe how we come to our interpretations about things. There is nothing either reasonable nor unreasonable about events themselves.
The resurrection is not outside of the realm of reason; it is outside the realm of our experience. We have no experience that says resurrection is either possible or impossible; our direct experience can only tell us that it has never happened to us. But by reliance on the experience of others, namely the first followers, we can see that it may have happened. We use our faculty of reason to decide whether we think the testimony of the first followers is accurate.
By way of analogy, none of us have experienced life as a member of another race or gender. That does not mean that we cannot study the reality of these experiences by observing and listening to others who may be “in the know.” It is not unreasonable to conclude that Jesus was “in the know” about resurrection. So, as the first followers relied on the testimony of Jesus, we rely on their testimony.
Early creation events, on the other hand, were things that no human witnessed or experienced, but we apply our reason to the witness that is written in rocks and DNA and in space, and we can believe that it happened and is happening and even understand something about the process. The scripture which was written about the initial creation only addresses the issues that it addresses. We need to be humble enough to adjust our interpretation (using our reason!) to make sense of everything we experience. And we may conclude that the issues that Genesis addresses have nothing to do with geology or mathematics or physics or hydrology or history, but rather about ANE worldview and theology.
When the disciples witnessed the resurrection, it forced them into a reinterpretation of the scriptures. They did not then say, “I guess the scriptures were wrong.” But rather, “I guess we were wrong about what the scriptures were trying to tell us.” We need to be always willing to do the same, because like the disciples, our faith rests on the person of Christ and his resurrection.
Jesus once told the Pharisees that they diligently search the scriptures, supposing that in them they find life, but that scripture points to him. The Pharisees were drawing wrong conclusions because they brought their agenda to the words and wanted their Bible to do for them what it was never intended to do. It would be wrong-headed to say, “I guess the Bible is not inspired because it didn’t tell me I should not have bought that 1988 Yugo.” But isn’t it just as wrong-headed to say that the Bible should reveal to us why simple life forms are found in much older rocks than mammals? God does not have to answer our questions. We need to be humble enough to understand that He may have his own reasons for giving us the Bible we have.



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CGF

posted July 7, 2010 at 4:29 pm


Thanks for the book recommendations. I’ve had several people recommend Polkinghorne and NT Wright.



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Rick

posted July 7, 2010 at 5:17 pm


RJS #117-
“So I would say the lamp isn’t broken because it is of God. But we have to take the whole thing as it is and allow it to illuminate, and try not place filters in the spectrum of light, to distort it or scatter it. If the illumination of Genesis 1-11 is more like the illumination provided in the parables of Jesus so be it. Still it is true.”
I think we are in full agreement on that.
T #126-
First, I have little problem with the Wesl. Quadrilateral. I am glad to see you advocating it.
You wrote:
“Maybe God was allowing authors–even inspired authors–to make statements that illustrated the reality as well as possible or necessary for God’s purposes, which perhaps didn’t include teaching astronomy?”
I don’t disagree with your statement. As has been stated several times to this point, this is not about YEC, literalism, etc…(I don’t hold to YEC, and fully appreciate the J. Walton, Sailhamer approach). It, for the letter writer, is about truth and trustworthiness.
Over the years I have seen people try to put large gap between our Foundation (Christ/Trinity) and Scripture. However, as N.T. Wright points out, Scripture has authority because of Who inspired it. We highly value and trust it because it is from our Foundation, The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. With the large exception of Christ, Scripture is the primary revelation from God. And if that is the case, we should feel that we can trust it.
But now, as we deal with some of the issues in Scripture, we have some, such as Dr. K. Sparks, who have taken this to the next step to say that it is “broken”. The letter writer would then wonder how such a method of revelation, inspired by God, could be broken. What parts are incorrect due to being broken? The Gospels? Again, I am not talking about what parts are true, yet can be interpreted differently due to genre, etc…
The letter writer wants assurance that God’s communicated story is true and trustworthy.



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Daniel Mann

posted July 7, 2010 at 5:47 pm


Scot,
Thanks for the book recommendations. I’ve grown into the perpetual student and welcome the challenge of other perspectives. However, I didn’t always have this openness. I think that the willingness to subject ourselves to some degree of dissonance is a product of our confidence in Christ, and of course, in His Word.



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Scott Morizot

posted July 7, 2010 at 6:49 pm


The comment above brought to mind a question for Scot or any of the other scholars who know Greek that’s bounced around my head off and on for some time now. It’s very common today to see the Holy Scriptures collected in the volume also called the Bible referred to as the “Word of God” (or even Christ’s Word as above). Yet as I’ve read the scriptural usage of “word” it seems to refer to the prophetic speech-act of God that is said to “come” to certain people and which ultimately was embodied in Jesus of Nazareth. In the NT, “word” in any special sense seems to most commonly refer to either Jesus himself (or the speech-act of his prophetic role) or as another way to refer to the euvangelion proclamation of Jesus as Lord and all that went with it. (Including odds uses like Acts 12:24.)
And where the Holy Scriptures are actually referenced (which with the possible exception of 2 Peter only encompasses the OT), the terms used seem to be the “scriptures” or the Jewish phrases such as “the law and the prophets” or simply “the law” or even in some instances the “traditions”.
Is that an accurate reading of the way language is used in our text?
And if it is, might not some of the confusion on this topic stem from the anachronistic use of “Word of God” which is then read back into scriptural texts that use that or similar phrases? I’m just curious myself. I don’t have anything much invested in such readings. That just seemed like a possibility to me and I was wondering if it might be on the right track or not. Thanks.



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AJ

posted July 7, 2010 at 9:48 pm


ECS – thanks for your comment. Your experience with the resurrected Christ is certainly worth noting, even in a scientific/theological debate.
“…the way God met me in my weakness, despair, and loneliness told me that he is who he says he is and that I am who he says I am.”



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SSC

posted July 9, 2010 at 11:10 am


When I sent my question to Scot, I never imagined I’d get this much feedback. Of course, Scot sent me a personal answer and then asked permission to forward on to RJS for anonymous posting. Thanks to everyone who has given this topic some thought. I was especially touched by comment #41 (though no one has invited me to dinner yet :-))
I’ve ordered Walton’s book. That seems like a good place to start.
I hope to have more to contribute on this topic.



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Edward T. Babinski

posted July 15, 2010 at 9:49 pm


@SSC
Hi SSC!
I once sent a large packet of geological data regarding the Green River formation (millions of varves) to a YEC in Australia who read them and left behind the YEC view of Australia’s Answers in Genesis group, even after a letter from Dr. Sarfati denouncing me at as apostate.
I’m an exYEC with articles that question YECism online, just google
babinski flood geology
I also recently contributed a chapter titled, “The Cosmology of the Bible” to a new book, The Christian Delusion. You can probably read that chapter online at amazon.com via their “Look Inside” feature. The endnotes in myi chapter delve into typical YEC misinterpretations of biblical texts that they claim presage modern astronomy. I show that there are no hidden nuggets of modern astronomical wisdom in the Bible. The Bible’s flat earth assumptions are plain to see from Genesis to Revelation.



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