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What Did Jesus Know? (RJS)

posted by Jesus Creed Admin

Scot occasionally tries his hand with posts related to evolution – so I suppose I can post on Jesus. This post though has a great deal to do with the discussion of the relationship between science and faith. While many would concede that Genesis 1-11 could be viewed as truth told in a form of story or parable or poetry, the way the text is used in the New Testament appears to preclude this option. If Jesus and Paul viewed Genesis 1-11 as History shouldn’t we also? This general idea has come up in the comments following many different posts, most recently the post on the Tremper Longman video, Historical Adam?  I don’t think the way that Jesus refers to Gen 1-2 (see for instance Mt 19:4-6) implies historicity at all. The reference is to God ordained marriage, not to unique individuals. The reference to Noah may or may not imply that Jesus was thinking of a literal historical person (Mt 24, Lk 17). But this raises an important question…

What did Jesus know when he was on earth, fully human as well as fully divine? Does it matter?

The Biologos site has a new video up featuring NT Wright discussing this question: Understanding the Humanity of Jesus.

Wright notes, both in this short clip and in his broader writing and speaking, that it is important to remember that the church from the beginning affirmed both the humanity and the divinity of Jesus. Jesus became like us and the power of his life, death, and resurrection is tied up in this important reality. This was a profound insight on the part of the early church. rooted in the apostolic witness we find in scripture – in the writings of Paul and John most clearly. The Jesus known as fully human during his life was more than this with a far greater mission.

Some within the church, again from fairly early on, have viewed Jesus more as God with human clothing. See the non-canonical infancy gospels – for example Thomas or James – for an early illustration of this tendency. Evangelical Christians today often seem to make this kind of mistake as well and it impacts both how we think about our faith and how we approach some of the important questions in the intersection between science and faith.

The post on BioLogos sums up:

The divinity of Jesus isn’t an abstract thing–instead, it is very much entwined with his humanity. The lack of recognition of the human aspect of Jesus, however, is something that much of evangelical understanding has a hard time with and that ultimately prohibits one from actually engaging with what the Gospels are all about.

Watch the video and lets start a conversation.

Does it matter if Jesus, in his human life on earth, thought Noah was a historical person?

Is your answer different for Paul? If so, why?

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



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Rick

posted August 26, 2010 at 7:19 am


“What did Jesus know when he was on earth, fully human as well as fully divine? Does it matter?”
More than anyone else (rightly or wrongly), we hang on every word of Jesus. If He is wrong about Noah, what else is He wrong about? At what point do potential errors about facts impact theological truths (or just truth in general) that are attempting to be taught?
That is why it matters.



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Scot McKnight

posted August 26, 2010 at 7:25 am


Rick, would you equate “limited” knowledge with “wrong”?
Jesus admits that he does not know when the Parousia will occur (Mark 13:32).



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Rick

posted August 26, 2010 at 7:42 am


Scot,
No, I would not equate limited knowledge with wrong. I appreciate the take NT Wright has on the humanity of Jesus, and limited knowledge could easily be seen as one aspect of that.



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phil_style

posted August 26, 2010 at 8:03 am


The distinction between “wrong” knowledge and “limited” knowledge might be a fine one.
With respect to Noah, suppose I was to reword Jesus’ Noah comment (as per Matthew);
But as the days of Romeo and Juliet were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before Romeo’s suicide the two families were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, (until the day that Romeo and Juliet entered their forbideen love) and knew not until the pair were discovered; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
Does this mean that I really think Romeo and Juliet were real people? (and thus “wrong knowledge”), or does it simply mean that either;
1. I am making good use of the cultural stories that apply to my day, in order to make a point (“limited knowledge”), OR even
2. I am fully aware that R&J only exist in story, but find their example to be a perfect match for the purpose of analogy?



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Rick

posted August 26, 2010 at 8:21 am


Phil_style-
“Does this mean that I really think Romeo and Juliet were real people?”
That is a good example, but that assumes Jesus “knew” Noah may just have been a fictional person.
However, one of the questions RJS is asking is: if Jesus thought Noah was real (historical), and if Noah was not real, would it matter if Jesus may have been wrong about that fact?



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Samuel

posted August 26, 2010 at 8:23 am


Maybe it’s me, but it seems we’re asking the wrong questions. It seems the presupposition is: Noah wasn’t a real person. I am entertaining the narrative of Genesis as not being totally literal (6 day creation, Adam being the first of Israel vs. first man, etc)but it seems we’re taking this train ride all through Genesis. Will we start to question the historicity of Abraham as well? Now, this is not to say that the humanity of Jesus was completely swallowed up by His divinity while on earth. I agree, His humanity is as important as His divinity but I don’t think we can take the fact that He said He doesn’t know when He will return as normative for everything else.



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T

posted August 26, 2010 at 8:44 am


For chiefly other reasons, I was very grateful (even if a little disturbed at first!) when someone first broached this subject for me. Embracing that Jesus actually had to trust, that he did not walk around omniscient or all powerful, but that he was given insights and power as needed through his communion with the Father through the Spirit, is key for me now.
I was always taught as a child that Jesus did this or that great thing to prove and/or because he was God, the second person of the Trinity. I don’t believe that’s the explanation the scriptures give. (Wright’s work on the “Son of God” phrase was key here.) Now I believe that he laid down his own divine knowledge and divine power, and relied on whatever measure of each the Spirit would give him to inform him of and empower him for the will of the Father as he went. Jesus, by his own report, could do nothing on his own (as with us) but was driving out demons and doing all his amazing deeds “by the Spirit of God” with whom he always enjoyed communion. Jesus wasn’t Superman. He was a typical man in terms of natural ability and strength who lived and worked in perfect union with God the Father through the Spirit. That’s why his disciples did all the great things he did; because it was the same Spirit working with them that had been with him, and on the same mission.
But this is how I wonder about the Noah issue: I don’t think Jesus said anything apart from God’s leading. That doesn’t mean that Jesus necessarily understood every detail everything he discussed. Jesus could talk about the parousia, for instance, and like any prophet, not know many of the details God has in mind for fulfillment. And
the distant past is just as mysterious in that regard as the distant future.
But again, I think Jesus can use the Noah story/warning as he did, just as I could use the story (warning) of Lazarus and the rich man with someone today, and it doesn’t require either to be non-parable, though historicity arguably gives either argument more edge. Clearly both are meant as a warning, and they both function in that respect regardless.



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Scot McKnight

posted August 26, 2010 at 8:44 am


Samuel,
I agree with you that Jesus’ limited knowledge of the future should not be the pervasive category, but that limitation reveals both his humanity and the kind of knowledge Jesus would have had. I consider that conclusion significant. I don’t consider the psalmist “wrong” in thinking the earth rested on pillars, either, but instead as an indication of the kind of (mythically-shaped) knowledge such persons had in their day.



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RJS

posted August 26, 2010 at 8:45 am


Samuel,
I am not trying to presuppose anything much about Noah. I am sure that there was not a global flood – but the story could be literal history on a smaller scale as many before me have suggested.
I am asking a more general question – many will play the Jesus trump card in these conversations. I am asking if that is a valid trump – does it matter if Jesus, in his humanity, thought the Noah story was literal history, does it matter if he thought the flood was global?



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phil_style

posted August 26, 2010 at 8:55 am


Rick, I think (hope?) option one leaves room for Jesus to be unaware of whether or not Noah was a historical person. This is the “limited knowledge” option. I think option 2 less likely to have been the case.
Now if Jesus thought Noah WAS real, we are moving into a less clear area. We can all agree that the point He is making still stands, but does being wrong about Noah mean He might be wrong about some other things? Which thing? How would we know?
It makes me do a thought experiment. Suppose Jesus worked with his father on some labouring tasks as a boy. Did he ever get any tasks wrong? Was there any point where Jesus’ technical knowledge was wrong (compared to modern knowledge), becasue it was the common technical knowledge of the day? Here, RJS’s point about the infancy gospels comes into play. When we start projecting a super-human Jesus into the Gospels, things get just as complicated as when we try to understand a potetianlly “knowledge limited” Jesus….



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Rick

posted August 26, 2010 at 9:31 am


Phil_style-
I am with you on the limited knowledge option.
“How would we know?”
Good question. When do we see human Jesus speaking, and when do we see divine Jesus (or the Holy Spirit) speaking? Do we hold Jesus to the same standard as the psalmist, Paul, James, etc… in interpreting the words.
“…a super-human Jesus”. I hear you, but am wondering what that really means? Are we reading our context (Superman) back into what we don’t want to read in the text. How does a fulfillment of humanity, Jesus, differ from a super-human Jesus?



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Chris Rosebrough

posted August 26, 2010 at 9:38 am


The deceit in this video is VERY obvious. The BioLogos folk have telegraphed their punch. Here is how this video will be used.
Anti-Darwinian Fundamentalists claim that Jesus believed that Adam, Abel & Noah are literal historical people and that we should not have an opinion of Genesis that differs with Jesus.
But, says BioLogos we have a video from N.T. Wright that discusses a proper understanding of Jesus? humanity and based on what Wright said we can therefore say that Jesus, the man, was a product of his time and was raised to believe the stories in Genesis were literal history. He just didn?t know any better because of the limitations of His humanity at that time. Therefore, if Jesus lived today, His human nature would have learned what we know today from science and Jesus would have believed in and taught the truthfulness of Darwinian Evolution and that Genesis is NOT literal history. Here?s the problem. This tactic relies on the Nestorian Heresy and clear passages of scripture that reveal that Jesus taught what was revealed by THE FATHER. ?I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.?? (John 8:38)



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Adam Huschka

posted August 26, 2010 at 9:50 am


This is a fascinating discussion, I had a prof at George Fox (Dr. Brunner) who pushed us hard on deconstructing our superman view of Jesus the historical god/man.
With regard to Noah being a real historical person, or not, I’m wondering, “If Noah wasn’t a real historical person, what was the original author’s motive for creating the narrateive? Further, what was God’s motive for inspiring the story? And why such detail, even detail regarding Noah’s brokenness after exiting the arc?” These questions arise because I’m quite comfortable with his not being historical, but that conclusion leads me to the above questions.
Love to hear your all’s thoughts.



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Scot McKnight

posted August 26, 2010 at 9:51 am


Chris,
Thanks for your comment but please stick to what is said and not to your reconstructed set of motivations for each or to the possible uses of these videos. Please avoid words like “tactic” [how do you know this if they don't say that?] and by all means avoid accusing Tom Wright or BioLogos or whomever of Nestorianism.



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RJS

posted August 26, 2010 at 10:00 am


Chris,
We welcome all views. To have a real conversation people must be open to thinking deeply about the arguments others raise.
But the word deceit is inappropriate and such framing won’t be permitted here. Don’t impugn motive.
I don’t see how this falls in to the Nestorian fallacy of finding Jesus with two loosely tied natures of divinity and humanity. What it does is insist that we take both seriously and realize that Jesus was fully human as well as fully divine. Full humanity is I think seen in Philippians 2 as well as elsewhere.



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RJS

posted August 26, 2010 at 10:01 am


Ah, Scot already weighed in on the same note as I was composing my comment.



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T

posted August 26, 2010 at 10:17 am


Chris,
Yes, the issue of what Jesus knew and how has some obvious potential bearing on the origins debates. But the study by N.T. Wright and others on the nature of Jesus’ “knowledge” are not generally fueled by that issue.
Here’s a question. You likely don’t think that prophets of the OT had all knowledge, or even that they fully understood or knew all the details of everything they prophesied about. That doesn’t make their prophetic words less true or helpful. In the same way, if we agree that Jesus also had typical human limitations of knowledge, but unprecedented communion with and prophetic insights from the Spirit as needed, then it’s fair to say that Jesus discussed things at the Father’s leading just like other prophets did but also wasn’t given total knowledge of everything he spoke about (like the time of his (re)appearing, for instance). If Jesus was also on this “need to know” basis with the Father, did Jesus “need to know” whether the flood story was global vs. local or even parable, for instance, in order to give the warning he did about his own coming based on that story? I don’t think so. Therefore, Jesus citing the Noah story doesn’t really prove anything. Does that make sense?



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 26, 2010 at 10:48 am


I guess I’m not as bothered by the “If He is wrong about Noah, what else is He wrong about?” line of thinking, because I believe that historical knowledge and spiritual knowledge are not equal. I’ll stick with Adam… If Adam was not a historical person, but Jesus believed he was because of his cultural upbringing and limited knowledge — would that change what Jesus taught about the Kingdom? Not for me. I believe that The Holy Spirit filled Jesus and he spoke about the Kingdom with the wisdom the Father gave him.
I also believe that Jesus’ Kingdom teachings were all vindicated by His resurrection.
It seems like for most people it still is a matter of the slippery slope… If this — then what else!



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 26, 2010 at 10:54 am


I just thought of something else about Jesus’ knowledge. If He could never believe something that was not true — Did He always know truth from fiction? So if someone taught him something when he was 5, was he given knowledge immediately on whether that was true or not?



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Rick

posted August 26, 2010 at 10:57 am


Kenny #18-
“I believe that historical knowledge and spiritual knowledge are not equal.”
So how do you differentiate between the two? What tells you this is from human Jesus, and this is from the Holy Spirit? Is it the same hermeneutic you use for Paul?
Also, if God did work in history (Israel, Jesus, Apostles). Much of “historical” knowledge overlaps with “spiritual” knowledge. So how do we discern wrong history from the valid history?



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 26, 2010 at 11:08 am


For me, spiritual knowledge would be things that deal with our relationship with God and with other people. Historical knowledge would be knowledge about the past.
“Also, if God did work in history (Israel, Jesus, Apostles). Much of “historical” knowledge overlaps with “spiritual” knowledge. So how do we discern wrong history from the valid history?”
But if the story of Adam was not literal history, then it wasn’t history in the way you and I think of history. If Jesus’ knowledge of that history was based on His knowledge of scripture and Jewish tradition, it’s not “wrong” history. It’s just not literal history in the modern sense.



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DRT

posted August 26, 2010 at 11:19 am


Rick and Kenny, I think one of the great accomplishments of Jesus teach was to dissociate the historic and spiritual knowledge. He made it so you did not have to be part of the chosen people and instead opened the doors to everyone independent of their history, whether geneological or sinful.
He was communicating. Not teaching history.
Rick said, “What tells you this is from human Jesus, and this is from the Holy Spirit?” It is all from the human Jesus. In my opinion Jesus had a wonderfully deep and abiding practice of meditating and praying in solitude to commune with god in the Holy Spirit. When he was talking he was not a robot under the power of the spirit, he was Jesus who was partners with the spirit.
I personally find that the idea of Jesus getting away time with prayer, fasting and other spiritual practices quite telling in regard to his humanity. If he were all knowing then he would not have done that.
I also think that he did not need to be all knowing in a god sense to know that his mission was not going to end well. He knew men’s hearts and how that mixes with truth and god.
I think we learn more about being a Christian by thinking of Jesus as human than we do in thinking about him as God. Then, as said before, he was vindicated by God who resurrected him thereby showing indeed he was the Messiah that had to come as a human.
I find this topic to be one where I am not articulate enough to express my true feeling.



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John W Frye

posted August 26, 2010 at 11:55 am


I think Gerald F Hawthorne has contributed greatly to an evangelical understanding of the humanity of Jesus in his book *The Presence and the Power: The Significance of the Holy Spirit in the Life and Ministry of Jesus.* As a human being Jesus lived in total dependency on the Father and the empowering Spirit. “The Son can do NOTHING on his own” was Jesus’ repeated confession.
I imagine that Jesus’ native creativity guided by the wisdom of the Father and the discernment of the Spirit prompted Jesus to spin out some very wild (culturally) stories. These stories were purely fictional creations to promote his kingdom vision and agenda. Scot is posting on these (via Klyne Snodgrass’s *Stories with Intent*). Was Jesus “wrong” to play around with such deeply-embedded and volatile cultural sensitivities? Could the Old Testament authors also use creative story-making under the guidance of the Spirit to tell the unfolding salvation purposes of God? What if Jonah is a parable similar to Jesus’ parables? You have to admit Jonah is one wild story. Stories make and change history more than history makes stories.



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ben

posted August 26, 2010 at 12:03 pm


Kenny –
It’s interesting that you split historical and spiritual, and then lump Adam and Noah into historical. Aren’t they (whether literal or figurative) part of the story of God’s relationship with people, and therefore necessarily spiritual?
I do find it troubling to suggest that there is an aspect of the Biblical narrative where Jesus was “wrong”, whether through ignorance or incorrectness. To hang our beliefs on his words due to his position as Son of God and his stated “oneness” with God requires a greater weight to his words than fallibility allows for.



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Dana Ames

posted August 26, 2010 at 12:06 pm


“He was communicating. Not teaching history.”
Exactly.
The point of Jesus talking about people in Israel’s history was to give a frame of reference everyone to whom he was speaking (Jews) would understand, in which they would be invested, so that they could hear clearly the point of his message. What he was trying to communicate came *within* that frame of reference. The message was not the same thing as the vehicle of the message.
The truck that brings water to refugees in the desert, or the homeless in Pakistan now, is important insofar as it gets the water there; when or where it was constructed doesn’t doesn’t matter so much. Once it has delivered the water, it is sort of superfluous. It’s the water that matters.
Dana



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Dana Ames

posted August 26, 2010 at 12:17 pm


Ben,
This is where an Eastern understanding is helpful. The strength of Jesus’ oneness with the Father is not based *primarily* in their mutual “god-ness” (essence/ousia) but rather in their relationship in love as Persons (hypostases), which allows the second Person of the Trinity some real kenosis, admits much more of the “leading by the Spirit” kind of idea T describes above and holds the tension of threeness/oneness much more closely.
This lets me not have to worry so much about so much about Jesus.
Dana



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Rick

posted August 26, 2010 at 12:19 pm


Dana-
I hear what you are saying, but is not part of the message the vehicle of the message (Jesus)? And is not truth a key ingredient?
Those people want to make sure the water is clean/pure. They don’t want the messenger to deliver tainted goods due to incorrect data.



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Darren King

posted August 26, 2010 at 12:21 pm


Ah, finally! The question I’ve suggested we should take up has finally been taken up! Ask and ye shall receive – eventually. ;)
Along with Scot, I would say there is something wrong with our interpretive assumptions if we assume “limited” means “wrong”. That whole kind of thinking speaks to much of the problem. And this is the point: the problem is with us; with our conception of how “truth” (a loaded term if ever there was one) works, plays out, etc.
I believe we are culturally-embedded beings. That means that while I may or may not be a progressive example of a homo sapien in my own time and space – I am still intricately connected to, and shaped by, my context.
I don’t assume Jesus was exempt from this. If he were, then in what sense was he really a human being having a human experience? Now, that said, I still think Jesus communicated to us the truest principles of living. We, however, must take those principles and, with the help of God’s Spirit, imagine the trajectory they take us to in the 21st century.
Lastly, let me say that its clear that much of the underlying concern for people who want to say Jesus was right about everything, in every way – in some kind of contextless, vacuum-ish way, is that if we don’t believe this, then suddenly we have a whole bunch of questions sitting in our lap – and work that we have to do in terms of imagining the trajectory, like I just wrote about. Now, some people will find those questions daunting – cause for concern. For some, the fact that God would leave some of that open-ended is fear-inducing. They feel like the child who’s four protective walls have suddenly come crashing down. Others of us, however, see those walls coming down as an invitation to walk outdoors, smell the roses, explore the environment, learning as we go.
Please understand, I’m not trying to demonize those who are of the opposite perspective here. I’m just saying that how we experience mystery and the unknown says a lot about what we demand from Jesus, from scripture, etc.



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 26, 2010 at 12:28 pm


“Aren’t they (whether literal or figurative) part of the story of God’s relationship with people, and therefore necessarily spiritual?”
Sure. And maybe I can’t articulate this well. But if Jesus’ knowledge about Adam comes from scripture — and not from some divine omnipotence then what impact does that have on His teachings? Which really he didn’t teach the history of Adam and Noah.
Ben,
Do you think Jesus could never had a mistaken knowledge about anything? Ever? At 1? At 2? At 5? at 12? Or did He only gain divine knowledge when He was baptized?



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YourName

posted August 26, 2010 at 12:37 pm


@Chris: Why, of course Jesus would believe in evolution had he been born today. He would need to speak to us in our frame of reference, which is science-based. That seems to bother you, but I’m not sure why.



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JHM

posted August 26, 2010 at 12:40 pm


RJS,
“What did Jesus know when he was on earth, fully human as well as fully divine? Does it matter?”
I find it sort of difficult considering what Jesus would have known, I don’t have much experience with being fully divine myself. But it’s the bit about “fully human” that’s interesting. It seems to me that part of being human is being in dependence upon God, being finite in our knowledge, being imperfect in our execution.
If Jesus was a “perfect” human, did he physically walk any differently, never tripping and having perfect biomechanical motion (how would we even know?)? Did he have perfect elocution and grammar when preaching? It seems to me that the answer is, probably not. So it seems that “fully” human means being everything a human being is in the absence of sin.
However, I also don’t think it is so easy to separate out Jesus’ physical/historical knowledge from his theological knowledge. Can you really ask “is his human side or divine side speaking?” I think we have to say it’s just Jesus speaking.
You ask, “does it matter?” I think it does in that we are looking to Jesus as a very real, personal revelation of God, *everything* he does matters. Whether Jesus truly thinks Jonah or Adam were literal historical people may not matter in terms of his theological point, but I do think it makes interpreting him in general a bit more tricky. In essence, there is then no easy recourse against someone who says “yeah, but Jesus was just speaking from human ignorance” as way of discounting what Jesus said.
To me all this seems to lower my certainty of the letter of the Bible and make me rely more certainly on the Holy Spirit. That may not be a bad thing, but it makes my conservative evangelical hairs on the back of my neck get a little tingly. :-)



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Chris Rosebrough

posted August 26, 2010 at 12:40 pm


Dr. McKnight,
I must respectfully disagree. BioLogos is very clear in communicating the fact that they have an agenda. The videos and articles that appear on their website do not magically appear there for no reason. This video was posted by BioLogos for a reason and that reason is to deconstruct the solid Biblical evidence that Jesus and His disciples believed in a literal, historical Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel and so forth.
Although, Tom Wright most certainly is NOT a Nestorian, the video IS being used by the BioLogos folks in a Nestorian way in order to build the case that Jesus, in his humanity, was unintentionally passing along the Genesis story as if it were literal history. I’m sure that the folks at BioLogos believe that it was an innocent error on Jesus part and He was certainly unaware of His error because He didn’t have our 21st century scientific discoveries available to Him back in 1st century Palestine. But Jesus and His Apostles were mistaken nonetheless in treating the book the Genesis as literal History.
Dr. McKnight, you and I both know that this argument relies on the Nestorian Christological Heresy in order for it to be true.
It is a fact, that both Jesus and His Apostles taught Genesis as literal history including Adam & Eve, Cain and Abel and the worldwide flood. The fault is not Jesus’ human nature nor in His Apostles, because they are right. The fault lies in those who deceitfully attempt to overthrow the literal historicity of Genesis because they are embarrassed by what it teaches and don’t want to be looked down on by those in the Academy.



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Dana Ames

posted August 26, 2010 at 12:43 pm


Rick @27,
Fact is important. And Truth isn’t always found in fact. The “purity” of what Jesus delivered to us is to be found in his relationship to the Father and the Spirit, in the love exhibited on the cross, and the defeat of death in the resurrection. A wise Christian man, Sophrony Sakharov, whose writings I love, says that Truth is not a “what” but a “Who”. As for Jesus’ earthly life, I lean more toward what Darren said above; Jesus had a context.
The best thinkers of the church in the first few centuries did not get hung up on this stuff. Heck, it’s not even a concern of Paul’s!
Dana



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JHM

posted August 26, 2010 at 12:53 pm


Darren,
When you say:
‘I would say there is something wrong with our interpretive assumptions if we assume “limited” means “wrong”‘
Doesn’t “limited” imply “could be wrong” at a bare minimum? Isn’t that what people have a hard time seeing in Jesus. It is hard for people to see that if Jesus (God in the flesh) could be wrong about something, even quite mundane, then he could be wrong about anything.
I don’t think people generally want to submit their whole beings to somebody who may or may not be right because then it’s our job to “judge” what’s right and what’s not. People want to believe in something/someone bigger and “righter” than themselves that tells them what to do.



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RJS

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:02 pm


Chris,
You can argue for a literal history of Genesis. But to claim that the argument discussed here relies on the Nestorian Christological Heresy in order for it to be true is just plain wrong. The argument against the Nestorian heresy is, I think, that it denies incarnation by considering Jesus as two persons sharing one body. It splits the divine and human.
Wasn’t the incarnation was a complete unity – fully human and fully divine at the same time? But the idea of full humanity must entail some voluntary limitation in being. Jesus needed to eat, needed to sleep and may very well have fallen ill on occasion. God doesn’t eat, sleep, or fall ill.
In this same fashion Jesus’ knowledge was limited by his humanity. I doubt if he “knew” about those living in China and the Americas, and I doubt if he knew about quantum physics or modern cosmology – event to the extent that the earth revolves about the sun. To make Jesus super-human is to deny the reality of the incarnation in a different, but just as fundamentally errant fashion.



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Glen

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:02 pm


It seems to me that if we’re to take the incarnation seriously, we must recognize that God incarnated himself as a human in a particular time and place, taking on all that this entails – including an Ancient Near Eastern worldview that was limited in many respects.
We are told that Jesus grew in wisdom. I realize that wisdom and knowledge are not the same thing, but this still leads me to believe that he didn’t emerge from the womb all-knowing. If he eventually became all-knowing – when? At his baptism? That goes beyond anything that Scripture tells us about what happened when the Holy Spirit descended upon him.
We are also told that Jesus identified with us in every way, yet was without sin. But if he had the God card in his back pocket, if he was omniscient, can we really say he identified with us in every way? If that was the case, it seems to me he played human life with a huge advantage, which makes aspiring to live like him even more difficult for us than it already is.
Paul says that in the incarnation, God emptied himself. There’s been a lot of speculation as to what this entails, but it makes sense to me that it includes an emptying of divine knowledge. Jesus entered the world fully human, and learned about his world the same way every other human learns about their world. In short, I don’t think it matters if Jesus had wrong beliefs about the historicity of Noah or Adam, or whether the sun revolved around the earth. It didn’t affect his message or mission, and it doesn’t detract from the fact that by nature he was also fully God.



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Peter Ramsey

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:03 pm


Jesus Christ was a nuclear engineer, but he didn’t want that to distract people from his mission. You know, his mission to save the human race from socialists, liberals and politicians in general.



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John W Frye

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:04 pm


Chris Rosebrough (#32),
I take issue with your “respectfully” in that you respectfully disagree with Scot McKnight. There is nothing respectful about either your knowledge or allegations. To import Nestorianism into this comment stream is absolutely idiotic. You seem to want to create a discussion that fits your “fight” for the truth than to enter into dialogue by Jesus-following, Bible-honoring, theology-shaping friends at Jesus Creed.



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DRT

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:05 pm


Chris Rosebrough@32
What if a united god/human looks exactly like Jesus who is not all knowing? Doesn’t that seem like a better conclusion? Wouldn’t that then tell us that the most important thing is the relationship? the love? the care? the message? the thought?
Come on. Wouldn’t you expect god to use all sorts of fantastic communications to get his message across? Wouldn’t you expect to have to look at the deeper meaning of what god is saying?
I would be disappointed if when god came down to earth as a man he talked to us like a physics or chemistry teacher relaying facts…(just kidding, RJS).



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Ken Silva

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:09 pm


T,
“it’s fair to say that Jesus discussed things at the Father’s leading just like other prophets did…”
I would respectfully offer this is the fallacy of the false analogy because the other prophets, while possessing human natures, did not have a divine nature as Christ does.



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Fish

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:19 pm


This looks like a continuation of the attack on Biologos by various Calvinist blogs. I only wish they spent as much time and energy providing health care and food to the poor as they do on their ego-centered agenda.



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:23 pm


Yeah.. what’s with all the Watch-bloggers on Jesus Creed?



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Rick

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:28 pm


Dana #33-
I appreciate your emphasis on the Trinity, and your point about the early church.
You said, “The “purity” of what Jesus delivered to us is to be found in his relationship to the Father and the Spirit, in the love exhibited on the cross, and the defeat of death in the resurrection.”
But it is also about who God is, and how that was/is communicated. What Jesus showed was more than the relationship, it was something about God. So accuracy is important, but to what degree? Although we cannot know exhaustively, we hopefully can know sufficiently.
So the question I am pondering is whether misinformation Jesus may have provided impacts one’s view of God, or other aspects of the message he was communicating.
Although I lean one way on this, I certainly have not taken a firm position. One thing I am seeing is that while I pay lip-service to seeing all Scripture as equal (since inspired by the Holy Spirit), I still subconciously emphasized the “red letters”.



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Your Name

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:29 pm


Glen #36
I think the emptying of God is a wonderful conversation topic. We, in our western view of the world would view that god somehow removed (emptied) things from himself and put them in to the person of Jesus.
From what I know about eastern thought, this is exactly the opposite of what may be meant. There is a well known thought that we are all empty. Our unique existence as our western minds conceive is that we are somehow full. That we have us in us and we have unique and real properties like being tall, short, fat, nice or anything else (light, dark, whatever). But to really understand the true nature of what we are, one has to realize that this is all an illusion. We are, in and of ourselves, inherently empty.
The emptiness is shown in the way that we describe ourselves. As I said above, I can be a fat, medium height somewhat prickly red guy. But none of that is true of me. That is only true of my relationship with the world and others. I am, empty. That is the eastern view of me. The substance is in the relationship to the other, not in me.
So god would empty himself to become one of us. He would become empty and that emptiness would test him to see how he would react in his relationship toward others. And sure enough, guess what, Jesus did relate to others in a way representing the fullness of god. Because only god has the fullness in and to himself. The rest of us are empty.
I also think this goes with the rest of the conversation in that the idea of a Noah is more important that the actual embodiment of a Noah since it is about the relationship of Noah and not Noah himself that is important. That is one of the key teachings of Jesus too. It is not about us, we are inherently empty, it is about how we treat others. It is about the other.



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Linda

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:30 pm


The Lord Jesus Christ knew that He should trust in His Father and not put His trust in sinful fallible man.



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Darren King

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:30 pm


JHM, you wrote: “Doesn’t “limited” imply “could be wrong” at a bare minimum? Isn’t that what people have a hard time seeing in Jesus. It is hard for people to see that if Jesus (God in the flesh) could be wrong about something, even quite mundane, then he could be wrong about anything.”
Perhaps I should clarify and say that I think we assume “limited” or “wrong” equals “bad”. That’s where I think our platonic absolutes betray us.
In regards to your point about what Jesus could be wrong about, I guess my question back to you would be: what do you think is at stake? What issue would concern you about one of Jesus’ statements if you did know that he was contexually-located – and thus less then all-knowing about all things?
That’s an honest questions. Look forward to your reply.



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DRT

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:30 pm


Oops, I am yourname 44



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RJS

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:33 pm


Kenny 42 and Fish 41,
I don’t know for sure why we pick up some of these comments, perhaps we are on a watch list or two. But as longs as people ask questions, challenge me, or express opinions in a civil manner I welcome them all from all points of view – from conservative Christian to atheist and anything else.
I rather expect that they express views that many others wonder about.



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Percival

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:34 pm


Fish #41,
Are you saying that Arminians are better at providing health care than Calvinists! Come on. People should be able to disagree and comment and we should be able to respond gracefully.
On the other hand, if there truly is a conspiracy of blog attacking by the Calvinist illuminati, I’d like to know about it.



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Tim

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:37 pm


Question for Scot or RJS:
Did Jesus’ human limitation with respect to knowledge play a possible role in his discussions on the “Kingdom of God” being imminent?
For me, the most straightforward interpretation of Jesus’ discussions on that topic, as well as Paul’s apparent expectations afterward, lead me to conclude that they both thought that it was imminent in the sense of occurring within that current generation. I don’t find explanations on the “Kingdom of God” being spiritual with some later physical manifestation of the Kingdom particularly compelling.
Just wondered if you either of you might want to weigh in on this.



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RJS

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:40 pm


Tim,
That is a question for Scot or another biblical scholar. I haven’t thought about it enough to make real comment.



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YourName2

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:43 pm


“The Lord Jesus Christ knew that He should trust in His Father and not put His trust in sinful fallible man.”
Wasn’t Jesus Christ fully a man as well as fully divine? When he asked God why God had forsaken him, he wasn’t trusting.
Jesus was not simply God with human skin. He was human. He got angry, he was rebuked (even the dogs get scraps from the table) and changed his mind, he cried. He had his diaper changed, learned to talk, maybe got his hand slapped for getting too close to the fire.



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Tim

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:44 pm


Thanks RJS.
Hopefully Scot can weigh in here then – though I know he’s busy and can’t expect him to answer every question asked :)



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Fish

posted August 26, 2010 at 1:55 pm


Percival #49:
I simply think that Christian energy is best spent on doing what our Lord commanded us to do, rather than rooting out and flaming heretics who believe in evolution.
This is not the place to get into a discussion on Arminianism vs. Calvinism when it comes to serving the least of these. As a UM, whose denomination was the only one I know of to formally endorse health care reform, I have my views, trust me :)



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Linda

posted August 26, 2010 at 2:04 pm


The Lord Jesus Christ knew that death is the “last enemy” 1 Corinthians 15:26 and that “the wages of sin is death”.
If God used death and evolution to create, then death is not the “last enemy” nor is “the wages of sin is death”, which would make the purpose of Jesus coming into the world to be an atoning sacrifice for sinful humans in vain and useless, yet Jesus knew He would die an atoning death and rise again victorious over sin and death.



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JHM

posted August 26, 2010 at 2:11 pm


Darren,
Let me see if I can take a stab at answering your questions (good ones, btw).
On the face of it, I don’t think any of Jesus’ teachings inherently become false out of the box if we consider him to be “contextualized” and “limited”. However, what it does do is weaken the reliability and certainty of what Jesus, and indeed the entire Bible, is saying. Perhaps Jesus’ declaration, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” was in fact just an overzealous desire to fulfill 1st century Jewish messianic wishes. Maybe he didn’t know about all the other religions out there that can bring us to the Father? It’s a bit of an extreme example, but I think you can see some of my trouble.
The issue is that the primary (maybe sole but I think not) reason I believe Christ is who he said he was is because I believe that what he said was truth. When Jesus says he is God, I believe it (primarily) because I believe that what Jesus says is truth. If we then need to start figuring out what’s cultural/historical and what’s theological/spiritual in order to know what’s really true, then my basis for the whole belief in Jesus’ divinity is weakened. I won’t say it’s shattered, but a significant amount of certainty is missing, IMO.



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Percival

posted August 26, 2010 at 2:17 pm


Linda #55,
If we look at context, it is obvious that Jesus is not talking about physical death when he talks about death. If you are interested, there are earlier posts on the topic of death.
Jn. 11:25 Jesus said to her, ?I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will still live, even if he dies. 11:26 Whoever lives and
believes in me will never die. Do you believe this??



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 26, 2010 at 2:19 pm


Linda,
This post has nothing to do with evolution.



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Rick

posted August 26, 2010 at 2:20 pm


JHM-
“The issue is that the primary (maybe sole but I think not) reason I believe Christ is who he said he was is because I believe that what he said was truth. When Jesus says he is God, I believe it (primarily) because I believe that what Jesus says is truth. If we then need to start figuring out what’s cultural/historical and what’s theological/spiritual in order to know what’s really true, then my basis for the whole belief in Jesus’ divinity is weakened.”
I am with you there. However, I am wondering if our view of his divinity is weakened, or if it is more that our view of his humanity is changed?
Also, when he spoke, was he speaking out of his divinity, or just out of his humanity, yet under the power of the Holy Spirit?



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T

posted August 26, 2010 at 2:21 pm


Ken,
I agree that earlier prophets were not divine, but they were given insights/knowledge, whether into the future, past or present, that they knew via the Holy Spirit, even if the Holy Spirit didn’t give them omniscience, and it was the same Spirit that empowered Christ in his work. So the issue is knowledge, specifically Christ’s occasional supernatural knowledge and whether that was a benefit of his own divnity that he retained throughout the incarnation, or whether, like the prophets that preceded him only to a greater extent, it was an outflow of his perfect communion with the Spirit and the necessities of the mission given to him. I tend to think the scriptures point strongly to the latter, especially in light of Jesus own statements. Certainly his perfect character made his reasoning better as well, but that still doesn’t mean he was omniscient. When his knowledge went beyond that of a natural man of his day, it seems to have been a result of the same kind of dynamic with God’s Spirit we see with prophets, even if in much greater proportion.



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 26, 2010 at 2:25 pm


JHM,
But in a sense, don’t we struggle with that with all parts of the Bible? For example, few Christians I know believe that women need to cover their heads in church. We believe those commands in (I believe?) Corinthians were contextual and not universal. When we contextualize that command, for example, don’t we then complicate other commands — now wondering which are cultural commands and which are universal? Does that mean, we all become fundamentalists and legalists to avoid the interpretative difficulties?
I realize this is a little different of an issue, but I am just meaning to point out that we’re faced with lots of issues like this when we try to apply the Bible to our modern culture, knowledge, etc.



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Darren King

posted August 26, 2010 at 2:29 pm


JHM,
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”
Okay, here is an example of something that, in my mind, is not necessarily weakened when filtered through the lens of contextualized locality.
I would say, on the other hand, that some of our INTERPRETATIONS about what that statement means, could be threatened. Is that a fair distinction?
For instance, we often take this to mean that Jesus was making a comment about himself in relation to other world religions. But what if he wasn’t? And what if he was saying something more like “Right now, right here in front of you, I, and my way, are how you acess the Father and the Kingdom”. And, furthermore, what if we remember that, according to his context, he’s making this statement in distinction to the typical Jewish hopes of politial/military revolt?



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JoeyS

posted August 26, 2010 at 2:34 pm


Linda your logic only follows if folks who find salvation through Christ never experience physical death. So far, Jesus is the only one to have conquered death and, in fact, God used death as a way to further life. That isn’t inconsistent with what you hope your logic refutes.
But, as a previous commenter mentioned, this post isn’t about evolution.



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Linda

posted August 26, 2010 at 2:35 pm


Kenny – this is why I mentioned evolution – if evolution is true then a historical Genesis is false. If Jesus came to save sinners from the wages of sin that results in death then evolution (which uses death) is not true.
Now if Jesus really believed that death is a result of sin, then He could never believe in evolution.



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Ken Silva

posted August 26, 2010 at 2:39 pm


T,
“When his knowledge went beyond that of a natural man of his day, it seems to have been a result of the same kind of dynamic with God’s Spirit we see with prophets, even if in much greater proportion.”
Agreed. It’s the “much greater proportion” which is the issue in my opinion. This isn’t to lessen His humanity, it is to keep in line with Jesus as monogenes; the unique, one-of-a-kind God-Man.



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Alan K

posted August 26, 2010 at 3:02 pm


Tim #50,
I would suggest that the limitations of knowing inherent in Jesus’ humanity has nothing to do with what he said. Did not what Jesus spoke of come to pass in his generation? The big event was Jesus himself, not some future geo-political rearrangement on a grand scale. The kingdom occurs where the king is present.



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T

posted August 26, 2010 at 3:05 pm


Ken,
Okay! Progress! So the issue of how much knowledge Jesus carried around and/or had capacity for remains. I personally think of the kind of omniscience we rightfully attribute to God as so huge, and the admissions by Christ of his limitations in that area as so significant that even saying Jesus is more brilliant than anyone that’s ever lived by leaps and bounds–prophets or otherwise–is a far, far cry from the kind of knowledge we ascribe to God in his fullness. For Jesus even to ask if there was a way to proceed without the cross speaks enormously to me about the limitations of even the theological knowledge that Christ experienced as a human. If his limitations of knowledge were such that his question in the garden about the very hinge of history was genuine, then I have no problem believing that knowledge of facts was not a benefit of his divinity that he clung to in the incarnation. He lived by faith, like we are called to do (thereby tempted as we are), and walked humbly with his God, with a perfect character and revelations from the Spirit as needed for his mission.
Other than how folks may use this conclusion in the origins debates (which is rather on the edges of that debate, it seems to me), do you see any problem with it on biblical grounds? Does our theology of his uniqueness necessitate that he have “perfect” knowledge of Noah but not his second coming or even the absolute necessity of the cross? That just seems like a distinction without any support other than convenience.



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Andy Holt

posted August 26, 2010 at 3:10 pm


T said,
“Now I believe that he laid down his own divine knowledge and divine power, and relied on whatever measure of each the Spirit would give him to inform him of and empower him for the will of the Father as he went.”
Very well put. I also think we should consider that the way Jesus (and Paul) defined history is possibly very different from the way that we define history.



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JHM

posted August 26, 2010 at 3:10 pm


Rick (#59)
Hmmm, maybe more our view of his humanity. I honestly though don’t know how we can in anything remotely approaching a clean way separate Jesus’ humanity from his divinity. I mean, I think that’s the whole point of the hypostatic union, right? I am by far not a theologian so I could be way off though.
Kenny (#61)
I think maybe it’s a bit different though. I think I would say that Paul’s instruction about head covering is of fairly minor importance in comparison to the claims of Jesus. If I was as uncertain about the divinity and reliability of Christ as I am about the appropriateness of headgear in church, I don’t think I’d be much of a Christ-follower. Secondly, contextualization doesn’t mean errant, wrong, or false. I would say (if I were arguing against the head coverings) that Paul’s instruction was absolutely right for his audience, so absolutely truthful. “True at one point but not anymore” is different than “Maybe true at all times”, right? I do recognize your point about already being faced with issues.
Darren (#62)
But as long as we aren’t talking about textual criticism (which I don’t think we are) isn’t the whole thing about interpretation? The question is how does the human and divine natures of Jesus effect our interpretation, right? Jesus could have meant all that you said there, but I think the point is that our view of Jesus’ divinity and humanity, what he knew, etc. makes a difference. That is why I think the whole discussion matters.



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Fish

posted August 26, 2010 at 3:18 pm


I wonder why he didn’t invent bicycles to make it easier for the apostles to get around? Or teach the shepherds how to make electric lights so they could watch their flocks at night? Or warn everyone about Hitler?
When we start crediting Jesus with perfect knowledge of everything, these are the type of thoughts that come to my mind. If he had the power to give the world major technological breakthroughs, why didn’t he? Why did we have to wait over 1500 years to learn that germs cause disease?



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JHM

posted August 26, 2010 at 3:24 pm


T (#7),
When you say:
“Now I believe that he laid down his own divine knowledge and divine power, and relied on whatever measure of each the Spirit would give him to inform him of and empower him for the will of the Father as he went.”
In what way was Jesus divine? And if we say Jesus laid down his own divine knowledge and power, but yet had perfect communion with the Spirit and Father, would he not then have access to divine knowledge and power? If that is the case, how can we distinguish between the two views? It seems that you’re saying that what happened is that Jesus allowed the Holy Spirit to become a “gatekeeper” of divinity, does that make sense?



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Darren King

posted August 26, 2010 at 3:34 pm


JHM,
I agree that it matters. All I’m saying is that I don’t see how the significance of Jesus (who he was, what he did) is lessened when we understand him to be a contexually-located human being. That’s why I ask ed for specific statements of Christ.
And on the particular statement you raised (I am the way…etc) I was just pointing out that I don’t see that particular statement as problematic after we see Jesus as culturally-embedded.



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Darren King

posted August 26, 2010 at 3:37 pm


In other words, we can imagine larger implications around the statements of Christ – without having to locate them in his own understanding at a particular time and place in his history.



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Rick

posted August 26, 2010 at 3:39 pm


Fish #70-
I may agree with limited knowledge position, but the question the arises is: was the knowledge he did have, and expoused, incorrect at times?
JHM #69-
“I honestly though don’t know how we can in anything remotely approaching a clean way separate Jesus’ humanity from his divinity.”
True, but we also need to be sure to stay clear of any form of Monophystism/Eutychianism.



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Scot McKnight

posted August 26, 2010 at 3:40 pm


Tim
I’ve been out of the office … I wrote about Jesus and imminent expectation in my book “A New Vision for Israel.” Prophetic knowledge tends to be connected to the current generation and the fullness of the future is brought to bear (apocalyptic) on that generation, so I would say Jesus saw to 70AD and brought the fullness of history to bear on Israel’s response to his messianic claims and the kingdom offer. Obviously, this is but a brick in a building, but that’s the gist.



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ben

posted August 26, 2010 at 4:00 pm


Kenny –
(many posts have transpired in between – busy topic!)
I don’t have the answer to your question. I can’t honestly say. There is certainly evidence that Jesus learned the scriptures from Mary. At the same time, he also seemed to know more than he was taught because he stood up in the temple and declared that he was the fulfillment of the scriptures from Isaiah. Surely no one taught him that.



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Tim

posted August 26, 2010 at 4:01 pm


Thanks Scot! I’ll look further into your explanation and think on that some more.



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JHM

posted August 26, 2010 at 4:01 pm


Great comments everybody.
Maybe I need to ask some different questions. It seems we’ve moved from “super-human” Jesus to “super-prophet” Jesus :-)
How is it that Jesus did not sin? I have always attributed that to his divinity, but after today’s discussion I really couldn’t tell you what Jesus’ divinity meant. If it was that Jesus was 100% “in tune” with the Father, then how is it that he was so in tune as to have *no* sin and yet not enough to know anything of the historicity of Noah or Adam?
How is it that Jesus communicated with the rest of the Trinity? If it is just as any prophet would or we do today, what is significant about the person Jesus? Was he the greatest of the prophets or is there a real qualitative difference?
On somewhat of a side note: does it seem ironic at all that people who push for “contextualization” and “localization” of Jesus (and the Bible) seems to often do so to avoid historicity elsewhere in the Bible?



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Bob Brague

posted August 26, 2010 at 4:04 pm


See, this is why (and admittedly, I skipped over many of the comments) I don’t come here often any more.
Perhaps next we can discuss how many RJSs can stand on the head of a pin.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted August 26, 2010 at 4:11 pm


Tim #50
In Scot’s book “A New Vision for Israel: The Teachings of Jesus in National Context,” he writes:
“In his vision of human history, Jesus saw not further than A.D. 70, and to this date he attached visions of the final salvation, the final judgment, and the consummation of the Kingdom of God in all its glory. That history took another course does not at all mean that Jesus was in error; rather, like the Hebrew prophets before him, he saw the next event as the end event and predicted events accordingly. This perspective was typical of Jewish prophecy from of old; the next event was seen as the end event, but that next event resulted in a series of unfolding events. Prophecy carried with it an innate poetic ambiguity. It might be argued that Jesus made a distinction between the climactic events pertaining to the nation and to Jerusalem, on the one hand, and to the final events of history, on the other; that is, that Jesus distinguished the events of A.D. 70 from the final events (judgment, kingdom, etc.). This would be very difficult to prove and need not be proved, since Jesus’ method was so typical of Jewish prophecy: the next event, and event that God had enabled a prophet to see, would take shape as the last event would wrap up God’s plan for history.
In other words, Jesus emerged on the scene convinced that within a generation God would act climatically to judge Israel. His whole mission was concerned with delivering God’s message to that final generation. …” (12)
An excellent little book is “Plowshares & Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic” by Brent Sandy, that gives more insight into how prophecy worked.



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T

posted August 26, 2010 at 4:13 pm


JHM,
Clearly, Jesus laid down some of the benefits of his divinity in the incarnation. I think his overwhelming glory, his divine power, divine knowledge, etc. were part of this. But Jesus doesn’t lay down divine/Trinitarian connections or character or mission. While Jesus humbles himself to become human, the Spirit comes upon, in and alongside him to do for Jesus what the Spirit did later for and through the Church, absent correction and the like. Jesus is in this way the prototype human, united with God in relationship, life and mission, with the Spirit of God leading and powering the way.
Without getting too much over my head in Trinitarian mysteries, I think your description of the Holy Spirit as a “gatekeeper” of the knowledge and power of God isn’t that bad, though I don’t know that I’d choose that term.
The I Corinthians discussion of gifts seems to support the idea of the Spirit as both source and gatekeeper of God’s power within the Church. The book John mentioned, The Presence and the Power, probably goes in depth on the very question you’re asking.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted August 26, 2010 at 4:14 pm


Well, Scot was able to get in a comment after all. #80 Just shows he is being consistent. ;-)



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 26, 2010 at 4:16 pm


@Bob Brague,
How big is in the pin?



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RJS

posted August 26, 2010 at 4:19 pm


Bob (#79),
You can put this in the category of head of pin questions if you’d like. On one level it is a question that addresses a mystery that we cannot fully comprehend.
On the other hand though I found that my understanding of the gospels increased dramatically when this kind of question became part of the picture. Jesus was acting and teaching to fulfill a mission on earth as God incarnate. The incarnation is not a divine figure traipsing among men, but God become man. This has profound implications for our faith.



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Dana Ames

posted August 26, 2010 at 4:26 pm


Rick @43,
the “something about God” that Jesus showed *was* the relationship. That’s what “pistis” is all about: trusting and living faithfully, in communion with God. That’s the greatest commandment. The way Jesus did that shows us what kind of god God is: one who is concerned for our healing, joins us in our suffering and frees us from death and the fear thereof, so that we may be in true communion with him.
Of course we can know sufficiently. But exactly how much do we need to know in order to trust?
Again I say, these knotty problems are very much connected to interpretation. My understanding is that the great thinkers of the early church believed that an interpretation based solely on “accuracy” and “certainty” and “what’s really true” was the “lowest” level of interpretation. I don’t believe they believed that everything must be allegorized to find the “true” meaning. They were ok with multiple meanings: “actual factual”, allegory and typology where appropriate. I don’t think they thought that all scripture was “equal”; they surely did privilege the “red letters”. Trinitarian Christians read and understood all of scripture through an interpretation of the Gospels that was handed down from the first disciples and later “codified” in the Nicene-Constantinoplian creed. Which involved quite a bit of wrestling with the text and various interpretations that were floating around (Arius et al).
You quoted JHM: “When Jesus says he is God, I believe it (primarily) because I believe that what Jesus says is truth. If we then need to start figuring out what’s cultural/historical and what’s theological/spiritual in order to know what’s really true, then my basis for the whole belief in Jesus’ divinity is weakened. I won’t say it’s shattered, but a significant amount of certainty is missing, IMO.” and agreed with him/her. I just have to say, as more tools are available to us, we must struggle with scripture and its interpretation- just like the first disciples, who had to *re-interpret* what the OT said about resurrection in the light of what Jesus said *and* did.
“If you get the message, you might refuse it; but if you get the meaning- hey, don’t ever lose it… if you get the meaning, oh, of it all.” -Noel Paul Stookey
May I recommend N.T. Wright’s “Jesus and the Victory of God”? Yes, it’s a thick book. But I’ll tell you, as I made my way through it, and especially when I got to the end, Wright’s examination of Jesus “as a human being” made me fall on my face and exclaim “My Lord and My God!”
Dana



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Tim

posted August 26, 2010 at 4:26 pm


Michael (#80),
Thanks so much for providing that excerpt from Scot’s book – that helps clear things up for me considerably! As usual, I walk away impressed with Scot’s insights and scholarship.



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Allan R. Bevere

posted August 26, 2010 at 4:36 pm


As one who teaches on Nicean Christianity and its accompanying heresies, I am truly enjoying this discussion.
You would be very hard-pressed to demonstrate that Tom Wright stands outside the Nicean tradition. What is key to what he says is that neither Jesus’ humanity nor his divinity should trump the other. The dilemma with most early christological heresies is that is precisely what their proponents did– favor Jesus’ divinity or humanity to the detriment of the other. It is obvious that Wright understands this and then wants to work through the issue of what it all might mean.
Tom Wright is definitely no Nestorian.
Footnote– one of the issues Christians in the West stumble over is this whole question of Jesus’ ignorance on some matters. In Greek philosophical reflection (I am speaking generally here) knowledge is perfection. Since we are heirs to the Greeks many Christians see Jesus’ lack of knowledge of the timing of the coming of the Son of Man as problematic. I have had several parishioners say to me over the years, “How could he not know– he was God?”
The ghost of Plato rears its ugly head. An exorcism is in order.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted August 26, 2010 at 4:52 pm


In “Rich Before We Were Born: On Calvin’s Understanding of Creation,” Lukas Vischer writes:
“When it comes to the origin of the world, Calvin adheres largely to the biblical account of creation, even though he is aware that it does not tie in with scientific knowledge in every respect. ‘The astronomers have shown convincingly that other planets exist that are larger than the moon.’ The language of the Bible is not scientific, but is adapted to the understanding of those reading and listening to it. Like a nursing mother, it stoops to the level of her children and speaks in a way they can understand. The important thing is that we human beings recognize God’s greatness and goodness in his work of creation. …” (11) [The footnote about the nursing mother points to Calvin's Sermon XLII on Deuteronomy.]
When we look at a pre-scientific illiterate culture that communicated important truths through story and metaphorical theology, what mode of communication would we anticipate God, as a nursing mother, would use to communicate about himself and his vision? Scientific “reporter on the scene” accounts or stories that communicated those truths? I’d suggest it is the latter. And if God became incarnate into Middle Eastern culture, self-limiting himself to the human modes of learning, language, and customs of that culture, what mode of communication would he have developed?



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DRT

posted August 26, 2010 at 5:08 pm


Michael@88,
Thanks for that. He said:
When we look at a pre-scientific illiterate culture that communicated important truths through story and metaphorical theology, what mode of communication would we anticipate God, as a nursing mother, would use to communicate about himself and his vision?”
I wrote 5 different responses trying to say this concept.
I think it is odd that part of our society can grow up while a large portion of the society is unwilling to release their bonds to childhood. The go kicking and screaming saying that Dad told me he will always be there and so he must, in body.



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 26, 2010 at 6:02 pm


Don’t feel bad DRT, this blog frequently makes me feel like an inarticulate moron. :)



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DRT

posted August 26, 2010 at 6:40 pm


Kenny, we need to reduce all of this to equations, then I will shine :) This language stuff is so crude.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted August 26, 2010 at 8:16 pm


DRT #88, Kenny #90
I’ve been commenting at Jesus Creed for nearly five years and I couldn’t possibly count the number of times we have covered these issues. But there are always new folks coming in. After umpteen times of trying to say this I’ve begun to hone some of it to shorter statements. Little to do with smarts. Lots to do with repetition. Can’t count the number of times I’ve written five paragraphs and Scot, sometimes others, will write “So what you’re saying is …” and in one sentence say everything I just wrote. At which point you hear my Homer Simpson imitation … “doh!” ;-)
If you ever watch NCIS, you know agent Gibbs has his numbered list of rules. I was thinking the other day that RJS needs a numbered list of responses to the same arguments that are made here over and over. Then in our comments we could just write “#3″ or “11.” ;-)



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Rick

posted August 26, 2010 at 8:16 pm


Dana-
Thanks for your thoughts. Having just completed a couple of more books on the early church father and creeds, I hear you on the trinitarian aspect.
In regards to Wright, I have heard many of his lectures on the topic, and read other thoughts he has. But I will move “V o G’ up my “to read” list per your recommendation.
I do have caution though due to Wright’s apparent lack of full appreciation of the creeds (as was restated at the recent Wheaton conference in his honor). I am not sure how his views on that might impact his take on the topic at hand.



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stephen

posted August 26, 2010 at 8:20 pm


DRT
Not equations. Reduce it to parables. It’s what Jesus would do :)



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DRT

posted August 26, 2010 at 8:57 pm


Michael, 92
Regardless, you thoughts are appreciated.
stephen,
I agree, parables are a lot like equations. In another thread here I posted a radiolab episode discussing language and its role in helping us to form our thoughts. In other words, it does not simply allow us to express our thoughts, but it also allows us to form them. I think the parables of Jesus allow a level of abstraction, much like math, that enables us to go beyond our common understanding of the way things are. Much like Scot’s other series of late concerning the new world parables open.
stephen, thanks for pulling that together for me



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Dana Ames

posted August 26, 2010 at 9:14 pm


Rick,
I don’t think Wright’s views on the creeds (I listened to the Wheaton mp3s- where did you hear that?) will affect your read of JVG. I think Wright has much in common with the church fathers, though he claims not to have read much of them.
Dana



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RJS

posted August 26, 2010 at 9:31 pm


Dana and Rick,
I thought the main criticism of JVG at the Wheaton conference was that it neglected the gospel of John. That is certainly true – and while it may be a drawback from our perspective, it was consistent with Wright’s audience when he wrote the book. I think that the conclusions of JVG are consistent with the Gospel of John (although if some one thinks differently I’d like to hear it).



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Dana Ames

posted August 26, 2010 at 9:36 pm


RJS,
I got that from the Wheaton conf. Rick’s comment was that there seemed to be a lack of “full appreciation of the creeds” on NTW’s part. That’s what I wondered about.
Dana



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 26, 2010 at 10:16 pm


I also listened to the whole Wheaton conf and didn’t catch where Wright wasn’t appreciative of the creeds. Maybe I just missed it though?
captcha: exclica pleniradiata



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Nate

posted August 26, 2010 at 11:02 pm


I don’t know if it was said before, but seeking to understand this concept of Jesus Humanity and Divinity and the impact on His historical teaching and awareness, I wonder if we need to consider the aspect of Spiritual discernment. That is, being a human there would be things that Jesus wouldn’t have known, been taught or had revealed by his heavenly father. But in the case of being taught things that aren’t true could he have believed them being in complete union with the Father? I’ve been taught things that don’t ring true and on further examination realize I was right, and not the “authority.” More often I realize I was wrong. But if I had complete union with the author of creation, if I had a perfect connection to the omniscient one, might I not have the ability to discern correct teaching from distorted teaching? Isn’t this part of what made Jesus Biblical insight so profound? He didn’t parrot the authorities of the day but spoke as one who had authority. Where did that come from?
I think this article does help us to reconsider our God in humans clothing tendencies, but I don’t think we do well to dismiss the Divine so lightly either. Then again, it’s a mystery so I’m probably way off too, but I think I’m closer than the rest of you guys. heh.



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Daniel Mann

posted August 27, 2010 at 6:42 am


RJS
Granted, no one has truly understood what it means to be fully human and fully divine. However, you ask the provocative question, ?does it matter if Jesus, in his humanity, THOUGHT the Noah story was literal history, does it matter if he THOUGHT the flood was global??
However, the critical question isn?t what He thought but what He TAUGHT! Can we bank on it? If we can?t, then the Apostles had misplaced their trust and spilled a lot of useless ink, and we have no reason to abide in His mistaken Word. Please do not underestimate the seriousness of this issue. Our faith rests upon it.
One last question — Do you see the inherent Biblical cost involved in trying to marry off Jesus to Darwin?



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RJS

posted August 27, 2010 at 7:00 am


Nate,
I think you have an important point – in the incarnation and mission of Jesus there was a connection with God that provided a teaching from authority. We don’t want to diminish the divine, or separate it.
But Jesus also went and prayed in solitude, he was tempted in the wilderness, he anguished in the Garden of Gethsemane, he called out as one forsaken on the cross. How do we reconcile what he said and did with a perfect connection with an omniscient one? My hang-up here is with the word “perfect” and what we might mean by the word perfect.
The evidence from scripture is of Jesus as the faithful one – faithful as Adam was not, faithful as Israel was not; Jesus teaching as a prophet (not a scribe) with authority. But he was more than prophet and more than an example. What kind of accuracy is required in a view of a connection with the mind and mission of God – would it include a textual analysis of scripture and a scholarly paper with footnotes of would it require an connection with the spirit of the story and an ability to communicate to his generation? Someone above pointed out that Jesus was a communicator to the common people of his day – and this is an important point for us to remember.



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RJS

posted August 27, 2010 at 7:11 am


Daniel Mann,
What Jesus taught is of utmost importance.
With respect to this post Jesus didn’t teach Adam or Noah as far as we know from scripture – he used God ordained marriage in Gen 1-2 and the example of impending disaster in the story of Noah to make points relevant to the lives of his listeners and their attitude toward impending disaster and coming kingdom.
I don’t see an inherent cost in taking an approach that all truth is God’s truth; that the world, with God as creator, makes sense and should make sense; that we can trust the minds God has given us at a certain level; that God is sovereign. Because of this I see an inherent value in looking at all aspects of the various questions and arguments that are raised in the discussion of science and faith. This isn’t a question where one short post will set everything right. It is a long and involved question.



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Daniel Mann

posted August 27, 2010 at 9:50 am


RJS,
Let me first address the implied contention that Jesus? humanity implies that there might be error in his teaching ? a mis-application of the Biblical teaching about His humanity:
? Hebrews 2:17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way? 4:15 one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was WITHOUT sin.
Jesus claimed that His teachings came from the Father. Had He been teaching falsehoods as truths, He would NOT have been WITHOUT sin!
You contend that ?Jesus didn?t teach [the historicity of] Adam and Noah.? Such a contention is Biblically unwarranted. To cite your example:
? Matthew 19:4-6 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
Jesus clearly cites Genesis as historical fact (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:24). He also affirms that God HISTORICALLY joined them together!
We all understand all truth as God?s truth. However, what is so troubling is that you and the TEs are willing to misconstrue Scripture (Job 42:7-8) to make it conform to Darwin.



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 27, 2010 at 10:09 am


Woah!
No one said that there was error in Jesus’ teachings. Back up!



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T

posted August 27, 2010 at 10:22 am


Daniel,
Let’s back up a bit in history. All the arguments you just used for Jesus specifically were also used for God/scripture generally when the issue of heliocentricity and the movement of the earth arose. It is easy for us now to say, “But those scriptures that say the earth doesn’t move don’t mean that the earth doesn’t move; they mean the earth is stable and secure.” But such clarity is only by hindsight. It was not obvious or clear at all to the Roman Catholic Church or to the reformers or to Luther in particular at the time. According to them all, the bible “clearly” taught that the earth doesn’t move, and that the sun moves around it. To say otherwise was to contradict the clear teaching of scripture.
Also, I and others have made the point that we could cite and use the story of Lazarus and the rich man the same way Jesus cites Genesis, and doing so would not necessitate believing or stating that the story is historical. (e.g., “Be careful about ignoring the poor. Haven’t you read the scriptures? Comfort yourself and ignore your poor neighbor and you will find yourself in the same situation as the rich man that ignored Lazarus.” If someone alleged that the non-historical nature of the Lazarus story made my teaching “in error” they would be wrong. My argument doesn’t depend on that. In the same way, Jesus’ use of Genesis, both in his teaching on marriage and his second coming, are not dependent on the historicity of the stories cited. It is enough that they are scripture, whether historical or allegorical or something in between. Regardless of whether you (or I) buy or don’t buy the rest of the issues around origins, does that make sense?



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RJS

posted August 27, 2010 at 10:26 am


Daniel,
As Kenny noted, and as was the point of my opening response to your comment, … I am not suggesting on any level that there was error in the teaching of Jesus. The teaching of Jesus is of utmost importance. I don’t think that the teaching of Jesus questioned by the discussion we are having here.
Some views of the divine nature of Jesus (how his humanity and divinity are manifest) and the divine nature of scripture (more precisely what it means for scripture to be inspired by God) are impacted. But perhaps this is a good thing.



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Daniel Mann

posted August 27, 2010 at 11:01 am


T.
I draw a different lesson from the church’s teaching of heliocentrism — That the church needs to be careful about being unduly influenced by the “science” of its day!
Clearly, the parables aren’t teaching history nor should we teach them that way. However, the NT’s teachings and references to Genesis uniformly support its historicity. If they were mistaken about this, their points would be undermined. For example, Peter writes about the judgment of God’s Flood as evidence that God will again judge. Had the universal Flood NOT happened, Peter’s point would have been totally invalidated!



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Daniel Mann

posted August 27, 2010 at 11:03 am


RJS,
Why then all the discussion about our not giving adequate attention to Jesus’ humanity?



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kevin s.

posted August 27, 2010 at 12:32 pm


If, as has been argued, Jesus willfully dispensed with certain areas of knowledge in order to become fully human, it would seem odd that this would drift into his understanding of scripture. As has been noted, he clearly knew more about scripture than he could possibly have been taught.
So, was his theology both divinely perfect and humanly flawed? What purpose would this serve?



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RJS

posted August 27, 2010 at 12:43 pm


Daniel,
Within the evangelical church there is a tendency to view divinity as the over-riding characteristic and not appreciate what is actually means for the church to profess Jesus as fully human and fully divine, to think about what it meant when Paul said he emptied himself. To be fully human meant assuming certain human limitations.
Jesus was perfectly obedient and did not sin. But all error and limitation is not a consequence of sin. He taught with authority the message he came to proclaim and embody.
kevin s.
No one here claimed anything about a flawed theology on the part of Jesus. A theology is understanding of the nature of God.



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YourName

posted August 27, 2010 at 12:43 pm


@Daniel,
It was not scientists pressing the church to prosecute Galileo. It was the church threatening any scientist who dared state something that contradicted scripture.
This idea that it was scientists persecuting Galileo for proposing a different theory is not backed up by any history I’ve read. It seems to have been invented by theologians seeking to discolor the obvious parallels between helio-centrism and evolution and excuse the church’s great sins in denying God’s revelation of science.
Galileo was well-respected by his fellow scientists, not persecuted by them. The persecution was instituted by the church and carried out by the church because Galileo found that scripture’s view of science did not hold up to the way it was revealed through man’s study.



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T

posted August 27, 2010 at 12:59 pm


Daniel,
FWIW, I agree with you that Peter’s arguments seem more dependent upon historic acts than Jesus’ arguments. (The “If he” refrain makes me think this.) I don’t know that Peter needs the globe to have been covered for his argument to hold rather than the “world” as it was known to the Jewish people in ancient times, but that’s another discussion.
That said, I think your lesson from the church’s history with heliocentrism is pretty selective. Anthrocentrism and its relatives in the Church weren’t the result of “science” or a scientific community that was independent of the Church and her theological work. But regardless of how the doctrines opposed to heliocentrism came to be part of the Church’s teaching, her reactions to and arguments against heliocentrism have relevance to these issues. If nothing else, they should give us pause to slow down, look fairly at the (new) scientific data, as well as our perhaps long-held interpretations of the scriptures. Mistakes are very possible on any of those fronts, just as surely as the earth revolves around the sun.



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kevin s.

posted August 27, 2010 at 1:08 pm


@RJS
Are you arguing that the historicity of biblical events is not a component of theology?



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RJS

posted August 27, 2010 at 1:18 pm


kevin s,
I don’t think the way Jesus uses the Gen 1-11 stories implies anything at all about historicity of the accounts, either pro or con.
We derive our theology from our understanding of scripture in large part (but not entirely). Jesus presumably had more of that “not entirely” component.
It is not particularly relevant to this post – but I also think that even phrasing the question the way you do is a symptom of the way our church has developed an understanding of the nature of scripture that is not biblical.



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DRT

posted August 27, 2010 at 1:55 pm


Would it be error or wrong for Jesus to give lots of wine to wedding guests? Would it be wrong or in error for Jesus to cause 2,ooo pigs to die? Would it be wrong for Jesus to wait three days with 4,000 people before giving them food? Would it be wrong or in error for Jesus to skip out on his family’s return trip and make everyone worry and have to go back to find him in the temple? Would it be wrong to physically turn over people’s tables in the temple? Was Jesus wrong to allow a religion to be spread in his name that was used to kill thousands of people? Would it be wrong for Jesus to not council Judas and help him get over his deceit and have him not commit suicide?
Now in this context, is it wrong for Jesus to use a commonly held belief at the time for a teaching, even though that common belief may have not been historical?



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Daniel Mann

posted August 27, 2010 at 2:20 pm


RJS,
You responded, “Jesus was perfectly obedient and did not sin. But all error and limitation is not a consequence of sin.”
You seem to be implying that Jesus did err in His teaching. I wish you would say it plainly. It’s not because I want to discredit you in any way, but I think it is important that you level with your readers about the price that they must pay in order to embrace both Darwin and Jesus. They need to realize that it involves an entire reformulation of the way we regard Scripture and consequently, the Christian faith.
Please excuse my blunt style. I don’t mean to be offensive.



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Daniel Mann

posted August 27, 2010 at 2:26 pm


T.
I certainly agree with you that the church has made many mistakes, interpretively and otherwise, and that this should humble us. (I am certainly humbled by my own mistakes!)
I only wish that the theistic evolutionist would be equally humble about their acceptance of Darwin! Instead, they impose an alien worldview upon Scripture and then claim that this is exactly what Scripture is saying. I hope you can understand my indignation (and perhaps even our Lord’s).



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RJS

posted August 27, 2010 at 2:41 pm


Daniel,
I don’t think I said that Jesus erred in his teaching.
Where do you think I said this?



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T

posted August 27, 2010 at 2:49 pm


Daniel,
I hear you, and I hope you continue to come and participate in these conversations because I think the kind of respect for scripture you are seeking for yourself and others is really, really important. For my part, I’m not shy about discussing much of the modern western Church’s captivity to scientific rationalism, or naturalism, or deism, and I share your hesitancy to let those movements have too much of a voice in our heads as we look for the truth in scripture or elsewhere, on the issues of origins or otherwise.
I’m not convinced, though, that some of the Christian scientists discussed here (or speaking here, like RJS) aren’t doing their best to be appropriately humble/cautious about all the evidence they take in, whether physical or scriptural, and pull it out piece by piece for our collective examination and discussion. We all have existing conclusions about scripture, nature, etc., and we all have errors in our thinking. This blog is has been one of the best forums I’ve ever seen for discussing our competing conclusions with grace, even though emotions on many of these issues run quite hot.
I hope that exploring some of these questions can be discussed with as little indignation as possible. I don’t think God’s anger rises very quickly if at all with genuine questions about him, scripture, nature, etc.



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Daniel Mann

posted August 27, 2010 at 3:17 pm


T.
I appreciate your irenic response and hope to measure up to it. Nevertheless, let me just take issue with one thing that you wrote: ?I don’t think God’s anger rises very quickly if at all with genuine questions about him.?
While I agree with you and also want to assert that His forgiveness knows no bounds, there is the issue of sin that so easily clouds our perception and consequently, our words. God cares profoundly about how we represent Him (Job 42:7-8) and His Word. He invokes some of His strongest curses against those who pervert, add or detract from His Word (Deut 4:2; Rev. 22:18-19).
When we pervert teachings that are so patently clear ? the NT?s affirmation of the historicity of first several chapters of Genesis because of our commitment to the present scientific consensus ? we are no longer asking genuine questions, but are placing this commitment above Scripture.
I would rather the TE embraces both Darwin and Scripture without trying to make Scripture conform to Darwin. This is the very thing that Jesus castigated regarding the traditions of the Pharisees (Mat. 15:1-9) which they elevated to the status of Scripture.



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Daniel Mann

posted August 27, 2010 at 3:25 pm


RJS,
I think we can cut through a lot of needless verbiage if you just tell us whether you think that Jesus erred in what He taught.
Once again, I think that your readership has a right to know where you are coming from. However, my concern is rather this — I want people to be aware of the consequences of biting into Darwin’s apple. In this regard, I appreciate Karl Giberson’s transparency:
?Acid is an appropriate metaphor for the erosion of my fundamentalism, as I slowly lost confidence in the Genesis story of creation and the scientific creationism that placed this ancient story within the framework of modern science?.[Darwin?s] acid dissolved Adam and Eve; it ate through the Garden of Eden; it destroyed the historicity of the events of creation week. It etched holes in those parts of Christianity connected to the stories?the fall, ?Christ as the second Adam,? the origins of sin, and nearly everything else that I counted sacred.? (Saving Darwin, 9-10)
I hope you will be equally transparent.



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RJS

posted August 27, 2010 at 4:15 pm


Daniel,
I think that your premise in comment number 104 is flawed on many grounds. Most importantly it is flawed in the assertion that Jesus taught that Gen 1-2 was history and therefore was guilty of Sin if Gen 1-2 was not literal history.
I believe that Jesus was without sin.
When Jesus said “Have you not read” it frames the discussion in terms of the text of Gen 1-2. Both Jesus and the text of Gen 2 teach that marriage is a God ordained institution between a man and a woman. I do not think that Jesus erred in any level in this teaching. I think that the text of Genesis also teaches that marriage is a God ordained institution.
I do not believe that Jesus erred in what he taught.
But I will not let you railroad me by making unwarranted connections.
“If A then B then C …” And I will challenge such unwarranted connections whenever they occur. I contend that the error is not with Jesus or his teaching. The error is with the way some in our church connect the dots on peripheral issues.



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Daniel Mann

posted August 27, 2010 at 4:58 pm


RJS,
Thanks for your straightforward assertion that Jesus didn?t err. So the issue before us now is whether or not Jesus affirmed the historicity of the Genesis accounts.
I had asserted that when Jesus stated that ?God has joined together? the man and the woman (Matthew 19:4-6), He was affirming that God actually did this ? historically! And when He ?made them male and female,? He also did this actually and historically.
If this isn?t the case, then Jesus? argument against divorce ? we can?t undo what God has historically accomplished ? collapses. If this account is not historical, but instead completely figurative, then there is no impediment to divorce because God DIDN?T historically join man and woman. Therefore, divorce doesn?t run counter to His normative work.



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RJS

posted August 27, 2010 at 5:23 pm


Daniel,
In a teaching on divorce Jesus quotes Gen 1:27 and Gen 2:24.

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’? “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” Mt 19:3-6

For this to be truthful we need no more than (1) the quotes to be found in scripture (they are), and (2) the passages quoted to be referring to God creating humans both male and female and God ordaining marriage (they do). I do think that one of the major points of Gen 2 is God ordained marriage, both “liberal” and more conservative commentaries I’ve consulted make this point. Genesis 1-11 teaches truth, I just don’t think it teaches science and I don’t think it teaches history in the terms of a reporter on the ground recording events.
All of your thens and therefores are added to the text to make a point about evolution and history that I don’t think the text makes. Your finishing therefore “Therefore, divorce doesn?t run counter to His normative work.” doesn’t follow.
Jesus taught marriage as God ordained union and ruled out divorce, he noted that this was the original intent and that Moses allowed divorce on account of the hardness of their hearts. His quotes of scripture support his intent and message.



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Daniel Mann

posted August 27, 2010 at 5:37 pm


RJS,
Then we agree that Jesus is affirming the historicity of Genesis. Seems like there’s a problem there for evolution!



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RJS

posted August 27, 2010 at 5:44 pm


Daniel Mann,
You are ignoring what I say and twisting it to your own purpose. I did not say that Jesus is affirming the historicity of Genesis.
I said that Jesus is teaching on marriage. Genesis also teaches on marriage and Jesus uses this to make his point.
The “reporter-on-the-ground” historicity of Genesis is irrelevant to this whole argument. Jesus teaching doesn’t address the historicity to either affirm or deny it.
This is not a problem for evolution – nor is it an endorsement of evolution.
The use of this passage as a “Jesus trump card” to refute evolution is flawed from the very beginning once one actually reads the texts in context.



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Rick

posted August 27, 2010 at 6:49 pm


Dana, RJS, and Kenny-
In regards to NT Wright and the early church, I am not saying he does not affirm the creeds, which is clearly does.
I am referring to his position to see it, and the creeds, as distrupting the historical aspect of Jesus. At Wheaton, while affirming the creeds, he said they contributed to a “de-Israelization” of Jesus. Hays meanwhile attempted to show that Wright seems to “bracket out the church’s received tradition” from such studies, and Humphrey attempted to remind Wright of the value of early church fathers.
Meanwhile, as Hays shows, Wright goes so deep into that jewish context that he goes beyond what Scripture ever states in describing the mindset of Jesus.



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Scot McKnight

posted August 27, 2010 at 8:32 pm


Daniel,
I appreciate your resilience and tenacity in your case, but even if I agree with you on points, and sometimes I do, what you contend as certain or as fact is an interpretation of the text. Here is what you say:
Jesus clearly cites Genesis as historical fact (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:24). He also affirms that God HISTORICALLY joined them together!
In my judgment, you go to far because you contend for conscious historical intentionality on the part of Jesus, that he explicitly was saying something about Genesis 1 and 2 as historical fact.
Here’s the problem I see: it is one thing to say Jesus spoke of Adam etc but it is another thing to say Jesus intentionally and explicitly and consciously is saying something about historicity of Adam etc. I have, of course, added “intentionally and explicitly and consciously” but that is what I see you requiring in your claim above.



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Dana Ames

posted August 27, 2010 at 8:50 pm


Rick,
I agree that the milieu in which the N/C creed developed was one of “de-Israelization”. This is a problem; one can also understand how it developed. However, there were church fathers in the desert ascetic stream who carried with them a sort of “memory” of how “practical theology” was lived in monastic community, like the Essenes etc were trying to do, but for different reasons. St John Chrysostom, saints called “the Syrian” (Ephrem, Isaac) and John of Damascus carry echoes of the Hebrew mindset in their writings. Humphrey was right to remind NTW of this. But his conclusions are so very close to those of the Fathers because his “head is in the text” so very much, as theirs were too.
(BTW, Edith Humphrey was received into Orthodoxy the same day I was, on the other side of the country. And she peppered her talk with phrases that Orthodox could identify from the Liturgy, daily prayer and ascetic sensibility.)
Have you heard of Margaret Barker? She is an English Methodist who studies the Jewish Temple/Tabernacle ritual. Wright has quoted her in at least one of his big books. It was reading some of her work that showed me that there are very strong threads connecting the appointments of the Holy Place in an Orthodox church and the actions of the priests and servers with the inner areas of the Temple and Tabernacle and what the Jewish priests did. Even though this is not stressed in Orthodox teaching, it is one of the things that, for me, validated the O. claim that (at least the core of) the O. Liturgy extends back to the first century. I don’t think men were sitting around trying to devise ways to make the Liturgy look like Temple worship so they could do a “priest thing”. But if a great number of priests became obedient to the faith (Acts 6), those threads are something that would follow, as the priest strove to understand the meaning of Jesus and had to re-work the worship they already knew to reflect that understanding. The first Christians were Jews, and worshiped as Jews – but with a difference, for which they were persecuted within Judaism – for at least ten years (the amount of time estimated between the Ascension and Peter’s visit to Cornelius). Barker published most of her work before she ever attended an Orthodox liturgy; my understanding is that when she finally did attend a Liturgy, she was flabbergasted at the living connections that have survived for 2000 years…
Dana



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Michael W. Kruse

posted August 27, 2010 at 11:53 pm


Holy Cow! This conversation is still going.
Daniel, my take is this. Genesis is from a pre-scientific ancient Near Eastern culture. Physically there is a flat earth with dome separating waters from above. God wants to communicate his purposes in the world and for humanity. God has two choices:
1. Give a science lesson correcting all their misunderstanding about the nature of the physical environment in which they live so they can receive a factual account of their origins.
2. Accommodate the message to to level of “scientific” and “historical” understanding the community has using the genres of story and metaphorical theology that permeated their culture, and powerfully communicate theological truths they need to know.
I’m saying it is #2. It isn’t lying. It isn’t error. It is incarnation and accommodation.
The world of the New Testament was a very similar world to to that of the ancient Near East in these regards. Jesus incarnates the NT world. He is a product of that culture. He has his Father’s guidance but we are still as the same question: Correct the science or accommodate.
That Jesus and NT writers would refer to OT folks as seemingly historical says nothing of there actual historicity. Both NT and OT folks are operating in the same pre-scientific culture God accommodated his message to.
What you are essentially saying is that unless he chose #1 above … that to be trustworthy he was compelled to give them a “reporter on the ground” account of science and history … and that that must therefore be what we have in front of us. There is not reason why this must be true.



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kevin s.

posted August 28, 2010 at 12:57 am


So God, delighting in the pursuit of science, gave us all mysteries, and the brains to solve them. However, prior to the composition of scripture, he did not allow scientists to discover the manner in which man originated.
Rather than having the scriptures remain silent on substantial issues of whether, say, Adam was an actual human being, he allowed erroneous information to be written. This was for the benefit of those who would not have understood scientific evolution.
To which, did God delight in scientific discovery so much that he allowed his followers to be deluded on the historicity of the bible, even to this day, and even to the point where he let his own son preach inaccurately?
Did God, then, subordinate the study of history to the study of science?
What was his agenda here?



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Rick

posted August 28, 2010 at 9:26 am


Dana-
Good thoughts. I think your points about the liturgy point out that there might not have been a “de-Israelization”, at least not in important areas. Likewise, as studies of the early creeds show (ex. JND Kelly’s “Early Christian Creeds”), the early creeds represent original teachings and emphasis on the important elements. The creeds did not pop up in the 3rd/4th Centuries unattached from the Regula Fidei, the catachisms, or baptismal confessions. The prioritized elements have been there all along (even seen in apparent NT creeds). Likewise, thoughts on the Theotokos show they were not separating from the human/Jewish past.
Therefore, in regards to this topic, are some (like NT Wright), going beyond what is taught/available in trying to dig up more on the humanity of Jesus?
Are we overanalyzing what His humanity consisted of?
Can we say that even though fully human, He was also fully divine, and considering His perfect relationship within the Trinity, did this not allow Him to have a deeper understanding of ancient Scriptures and actions of God at a deeper level than we are giving Him credit for?



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John W Frye

posted August 28, 2010 at 7:20 pm


kevin s (#132),
Do you realize how petulant you sound in your comment? You are insistent in reading a Darwinian philosophy of knowledge (note: not evolution) into the Genesis text and Jesus’ understanding of that text. No one is talking here about things erroneous and God letting Jesus preach inaccurately. What vehicles did God use to inform this planet of truth? He did not use a reporter on the ground model of accuracy. Can’t you see this is the heart of the dialogue? Why are you so bothered by a view held by brothers and sisters in Christ other than your own very limited view? Why?



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Dana Ames

posted August 28, 2010 at 8:21 pm


Rick,
Yeah, it’s there in the Liturgy, but most Orthodox don’t know about it. But I think even “on the back burner” something valuable remains, as you say.
I’m not very widely read in pure theology, so I don’t know about many besides Wright. Is he making too much of Jesus’ humanity? I don’t think so, but you can come to your own conclusions when you read the book :)
Are we overanalyzing? In this comment string, probably…
Did Jesus have deeper understanding? Probably, but as you say at the beginning of that last paragraph, it is always inherent in the Trinitarian Relationships. We get murky when we go beyond this to try to pinpoint exactly how.
Dana



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Michael W. Kruse

posted August 28, 2010 at 9:10 pm


#132 Kevin S.
“… he allowed erroneous information to be written …”
Please point to one place where I said erroneous information is given. I explicitly said, “It isn’t lying. It isn’t error.” I said metaphorical theology was used.
“To which, did God delight in scientific discovery so much that he allowed his followers to be deluded on the historicity of the bible, even to this day, and even to the point where he let his own son preach inaccurately?”
Why did God allow us to be confused about slavery? Why did God allow us to be confused about a heliocentric universe? We have been confused about many things. God is nurturing and sanctifying His church. I’m sure there things today we believe that are off base.
Gen 1:6-8
6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the expanse “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning ? the second day. NIV
Later:
Gen 7:11
11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month ? on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. NIV
This is an unmistakable reference to the ancient cosmology that viewed the earth with a dome that covered the earth to separate the waters above and give us our atmosphere. The belief was that their were literal doors in the dome that were used to water the earth. Go to the site below to see and image of how they viewed the world:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelpaukner/4077736695/
So do you believe:
A. We are on flat earth with a dome shielding us from waters above, or
B. The earth is a sphere that orbits the sun.
If you believe A, then you might want to look into joining he Flat Earth society (Do a web search. They fully maintain that the Bible is correct and current science is a lie.) If you believe B, then was God in error? I say no. He was accommodating to their understanding.
You are dismissive of my view of accommodation. So which is it Kevin: A or B? Do we live on a flat or earth or was God mistaken/lying?



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Kevin S.

posted August 28, 2010 at 11:21 pm


@Michael
I was responding to RJS’s broader argument, not your specific comments. RJS said that all error is not necessarily the product of sin, which would seem to acknowledge that Jesus taught utilizing inaccurate information.
I accept, as do most creationists, that the book of Genesis employs metaphorical language. We believe that the flood was a rainstorm, not a literal opening of the floodgates. This does not require me to believe that no flood occurred.
To answer your other questions.
“Why did God allow us to be confused about slavery? Why did God allow us to be confused about a heliocentric universe?”
There is a difference between allowing us to be confused about something and giving confusing information. God laid out the ground rules for the treatment of slaves, and we duly violated them.
W/r/t heliocentrism, the text itself can easily argue for either viewpoint. It is no different from describing a sunrise. Persecution of Galileo aside, there is no language here that presents a real problem for one holding to inerrancy in light of a directly observable scientific phenomenon.
Contrast this with the story of Noah. If you are right, we have a boat that was never built, a flood that never happened, a near extinction of man that probably never occurred.
So why would Jesus go into a detailed analogy between his return and a flood? It is not accurate to say that people were eating, drinking and marrying in the days before the flood, because there was no flood.
If the reference is entirely symbolic, then why such specificity? Why the unnecessary confusion?
@John Frye
I am aware that the core of this discussion is the assumption that God did not employ “reporter on the ground” accuracy. My questions were intended to flesh out what that means, and why God eschewed it.
I don’t see what is petulant about that, and I can assure you that others share a similar confusion. My view is no more or less limited than any of those espoused in these comments.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted August 29, 2010 at 5:20 pm


Kevin S. #137
“W/r/t heliocentrism, the text itself can easily argue for either viewpoint. It is no different from describing a sunrise.”
It can only argue either viewpoint in an age where there are alternative viewpoints. And this is precisely my point. There was only the viewpoint of a flat earth with a dome above in biblical times. There was no viewpoint of a sphere orbiting the sun. The first recorded mention of the earth possibly being a sphere was circa 300 B.C.E. by a Greek philosopher, as I recall, but it was widely rejected for centuries. (Certainly among the masses no such idea was embraced.) The idea that the earth orbits the sun was much later than that.
The “sunrise” was a factual … not a metaphorical … description of events for biblical people. They had no other vantage point or alternative construct through which to view events. Same with a dome ans waters above. Therefore, scripture is using the language and constructs of pre-scientific people. God would clearly know this is “erroneous” yet He accommodates these “errors” and perpetuates them to communicate about his purposes and missions. It is thoroughly anacrhonistic to believe that the ancient folks were just being metaphorical about these celestial events because we still use the concepts now knowing they aren’t true.
As to Jesus referencing Noah, If I say:
“Just as Anakin Skywalker allowed himself to be overcome by selfish emotions of grief and anger, and was thereby led down a path death and destruction, so to will you find yourself enslaved to sin if you don’t resist evil and do what is righteous in God’s sight. But note that even in the depths of Anakin’s sin, there was still hope of redemption.”
Does Anakin Skywalker need to have been a historical person for the message to be true? By referencing Anakin Skywalker, am I saying he is a historical person? Is not the theological truth every bit as real whether this is a “historical” reference or not?



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