Science and the Sacred

Science and the Sacred


An Incarnational Model

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Every Friday, “Science and the Sacred” features an essay
from a guest voice in the science and religion dialogue. This week’s
guest entry was written by Peter Enns. Enns is an evangelical Christian
scholar and author of several books and commentaries, including the
popular Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament
, which looks at three questions raised by biblical scholars that seem to threaten traditional
views of Scripture. This is the second of his multi-part series on an incarnational model of Scripture.

Models are intellectual constructs that try to account for data. They are ways of putting the pieces together and aim to achieve the greatest degree of explanatory power.

We all have models of reality, whether or not we know it. We all hold to hypotheses and theories (which I will take as roughly synonymous with “model”) to explain what we see.

This is also the case for how we interpret the Bible. All of us–from the most ardent Fundamentalist to the most Liberal Christian–construct models to account for the “data.” The models that are the most coherent (account for the most data) wind up being the most persuasive. No model is pure and objectively correct. They are all working hypotheses, and as such are also always up for revision.

One model that accounts for why the Bible behaves the way it does is an incarnational model. Simply put, an incarnational model of Scripture is one that expects Scripture to have an unapologetically thorough human dimension analogous to Jesus’ complete humanity. Both the human dimension of Scripture and the humanity of Jesus are essential to making them what they are.

If Jesus were less than 100% human, or only appeared to be human, or if his humanity is something that could be dispensed with, he would not be Jesus of Nazareth, and his death and resurrection would be non-sensical. Likewise, if the Bible were a book dropped out of heaven with only a tangential, peripheral participation in the human contexts in which it is written–sort of a divine dictation–it ceases being the Word of God.

I stress an incarnational model because so often, whether knowingly or unknowingly, assumptions are made about the nature of Scripture where the human dimension winds up being something of an embarrassment or scandal. True, many willingly embrace some form of an incarnational model when speaking of less problematic things like how the personalities of biblical writers affect what they say or how their ancient world view would lead them to assume that the sun revolves around the earth.

But that is the easy part. A thoroughly incarnational model is also poised to address some of the more difficult problems that other models of Scripture have not done a good job of handling–such as the challenges posed by Darwin and Mesopotamian literature in the nineteenth century which I mentioned in my last post.

A literalist/historicistic model has not done a good job at all of explaining Genesis, and this has become increasingly clear over the last 150 years. When faced as we are with the strong, even overwhelming, evidence for evolution and the presence of Mesopotamian creation and flood stories that look like what we see in Genesis, it is clear that models are needed that do not force these data into existing models that are ill-suited to handle them.

An incarnational model accounts theologically for why the Bible would speak in such ancient, contextual terms and not in modern ones. An incarnational model presumes a book like Genesis to express itself in ancient conventions. And such an ancient, contextual expression is not an embarrassment but an indication of how willing God is to meet us where we are–a willingness seen most clearly in the incarnate Lord.

In his preface to J. B. Phillips’s translation of the New Testament letters into contemporary English, C.S. Lewis articulately addresses this issue of incarnation. Lewis observes that the Greek style of the New Testament betrays writers for whom Greek was not a language at their full command. He writes:

Does this shock us? It ought not to, except as the Incarnation itself ought to shock us. The same divine humility which decreed that God should become a baby in a peasant-woman’s breast, and later an arrested field-preacher in the hands of the Roman police, decreed also that He should be preached in a vulgar, prosaic and unliterary language. If you can stomach the one, you can stomach the other. The Incarnation is in that sense an irreverent doctrine: Christianity, in that sense, an incurably irreverent religion. When we expect that it should have come before the World in all the beauty that we now feel in the Authorized Version we are as wide of the mark as the Jews were in expecting that the Messiah would come as an earthly King. The real sanctity, the real beauty and sublimity of the New Testament (as of Christ’s life) are of a different sort: miles deeper and further in.

Although the topic here is translation, Lewis’s defense of Phillips is easily applicable to our topic. Lewis’s point is that those who take offense at the low Greek style of the New Testament have not come to grips with the incarnation. The same holds for those who take offense at the thoroughly encultured, ancient style of the opening chapters of Genesis and expect from it a more explicitly literal, historical style.

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Michael Thompson

posted November 13, 2009 at 9:17 am


Hi Peter, good read, thanks, I am going to get your book, I think it would be helpful.
Another book about Modeling I have found helpful is Modeling God and the meaning of life by John Lenhart. He is trying to put together a non contradictory worldview by building a theological model that defines biblical terms like God, Christ, Grace, truth, etc that are not internally contradictory. I don’t know if I agree with everything he wrote, but I find his ideas thought provoking anyhow.
His stuff about “contrastive thinking” helped me to be open to the the possibility that I was wrong, being locked into a fundementalist, calvinistic mindset, and helped me to think outside the box.
MT



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Pete Enns

posted November 13, 2009 at 9:27 am


Thanks for the recommendation, Michael. I will look into it and put the book on my list…..



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Mere_Christian

posted November 13, 2009 at 10:24 am


Which branch of Chimp do you B-L guys think Jesus of Nazareth and his human-ness descended from?
Were there chimpanzees in ancient, ancient Palestine/Holy Land/Mid-east?
Doesn’t Dr. Collins have an educated guess for this?



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Knockgoats

posted November 13, 2009 at 10:42 am


Mere_Christian,
Parading your ignorance again, I see. No human being is descended from a chimpanzee: we and chimpanzees are descended from common ancestors. You know, like you and your cousin are descended from common ancestors, but neither of you is the other’s ancestor (well, thinking about it, maybe one of you is the other’s ancestor in your case – if so, think of another pair of cousins).
There were no chimpanzees (so far as is known) in Palestine at any time before the alleged lifetime of Jesus. The first members of our species, Homo sapiens to live there would have arrived from Africa, where they evolved, probably around 100,000 years ago.



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Daniel Mann

posted November 13, 2009 at 11:25 am


Peter,
You are making a huge quantum leap when you conclude that, “those who take offense at the low Greek style of the New Testament have not come to grips with the incarnation. The same holds for those who take offense at the thoroughly encultured, ancient style of the opening chapters of Genesis and expect from it a more explicitly literal, historical style.”
If the Holy Bible is also the Word of man, which it is, we should have no problem accepting the lowly incarnational language and its ancient style. However, when you include its historicity into your indictment, you are emptying the Bible of what the New Testament authors had uniformly affirmed – the historicity of Adam and Eve, the Flood…and why? To accommodate Darwin!



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Kathryn

posted November 13, 2009 at 11:42 am


Hi Peter,
Thanks for this great series of posts. Lewis is helpful indeed on thinking about inerrancy. He also wrote, “That the over-all operation of Scripture is to convey God’s Word to the reader…I fully believe. That it also gives true answers to all the questions (often religiously irrelevant) which he might ask, I don’t. The very kind of truth we are often demanding was, in my opinion, not even envisaged by the ancients.”
I think Calvin, too, would have liked your incarnational model – he stressed that God accommodates himself (such a needlessly bad word today!) to our limited understanding, speaking in divine “baby-talk” and giving us anthropomorphic views of himself.
Daniel, I don’t think the incarnational model necessarily casts doubt on the historicity of Adam and Eve or the Flood – it rather points at the importance of not reading the text as modern history or science. There may be a great deal of “mythologizing” of real, historical events going on, and it is helpful to be reminded that the Bible (with our current ways of interpreting it) did not drop out of the sky.



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Pete Enns

posted November 13, 2009 at 11:48 am


Daniel,
I am not “emptying the Bible” of anything. I am acknowledging that the NT authors’ understanding of events from primordial times is a function of their own ancient setting. It should cause no offense for an understanding of inspiration to know that the biblical writers were products of their time. You seem to assume that for the Bible to worthy of its name, it can participate in an ancient world in every way but in “historicity,” This, Daniel, is the quantum leap.
As for Darwin, I assume you mean evolutionary theory, which is not the same thing as “Darwin.” As for accommodating “Darwin,” on one level, of course I am and so should you, just as you accommodate biblical cosmology (flat earth, geocentrism) to Galileo.
“Knockgoats” and “Mere-Christian,” you will forgive me, I hope, for ignoring your posts. My suggestion is that you take your interaction elsewhere, perhaps in an email exchange.



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dopderbeck

posted November 13, 2009 at 12:02 pm


Hi Pete! I very much appreciate this model, and I think some version of it is essential. One of my questions is the typical one that folks such as Paul Helm raise: should the phenomena determine the model, or should the model determine how we understand the phenomena? Helm et al. take the common conservative evangelical line: if all scripture is theopneustos, then that supplies the model through which we should interpret the phenomena.
I agree that this approach sometimes leaves us with interpretive frameworks that seem prima facie wildly implausible. For example, it seems that the recent move of these folks vis-a-vis ancient cosmology and the Bible is to argue that the Biblical authors did not intend to communicate anything about material origins (this is Walton and Beale’s approach to this problem). I deeply appreciate Walton’s depth of knowledge in the ancient sources, but it seems passingly difficult to me to argue that the “author” of Genesis 1 had no intention at all of communicating any facts about material origins (not the least because the whole question of “authorship” is so incredibly difficult for these texts).
Nevertheless, desiring to approach the text from a framework of faith in their divine inspiration, there is at least some point at which I also will say that I too will approach the “intention” of the text theologically. So, I too in at least some sense will interpret the phenomena from a faith presupposition, and therefore, for example, I’ll have to reject the ultimate conclusions of most historical-critical scholarship.
All this is a long way of asking: in an incarnational model, what sort of interpretive dialectic is there between the “human” and “divine” meanings of the text?



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Beaglelady

posted November 13, 2009 at 12:34 pm


Dr. Enns,
Thank you for another superb post.



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Pete Enns

posted November 13, 2009 at 1:01 pm


Hi David,
As for Helm, I have a lengthy response to him on my website under the I&I tab.
I appreciate your point.
As for 2 Tim 3:16, this is not a passage that governs all discussions on the nature of inspiration. It has been asked to carry a burden it simply can’t bear. This appeal to “God breathed” is often used as a blank tablet upon which to write a so-called “high” view of inspiration that the biblical phenomena really can’t support. Also, as is routinely pointed out in this discussion, note that 2 Tim 3:16 limits its scope to to matters of practical matters, not theories of inspiration. I also like pointing out how Paul puts this principle into practice, by a midrashic handling of the OT, one of the many things Helm et al. are so intent on avoiding by appealing to this passage
I can understand how you might equate Walton and Beale, but trust me, they are quite distant from each other on this (despite Beale’s appeal to Walton in his recent Inerrancy book). Beale’s point is that Genesis does not speak to material matters, and so is not in conflict with science in an effort to support his brand of inerrancy. Walton understands the tensions between the ancient science of Genesis and any sort of contemporary discussion.
You mention beginning with a faith presupposition. To play devil’s advocate—so do I, and that faith presupposition states that the Bible in an “incarnational” product which leads me to expect the Bible to behave in a way that reflects ancient conventions, not one’s derived from some philosophies or systematic theologies.
As for the dialectic you mention in your past paragraph, try this on for size: the dialectic is in seeing the divine through the human, the glory through the humiliation. You cannot have the former without eh later. That is the way of the cross and that is the way of the Bible. That is what Lewis is getting at, I think.
Well, that was a long response, wasn’t it. Thanks for bringing this out, David.



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Daniel Mann

posted November 13, 2009 at 1:01 pm


Peter,
You are being noticeably clandestine about your incarnational model. Tell us explicitly then, what does it entail? Are Adam and Eve historical people?



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Pete Enns

posted November 13, 2009 at 1:39 pm


Daniel,
What do you mean when you say “historical people”?
Also, I would ask you to try to refrain from making accusations. “Clandestine” means to do something secretively, which implies an intentional motivation on my part to fly under the radar. Discussing these (for some) highly emotional topics on a blog is hard enough without complicating things further.



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Daniel Mann

posted November 13, 2009 at 3:37 pm


Peter,
I think that what I asked was quite clear. Likewise was your answer.



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Denis O. Lamoureux

posted November 13, 2009 at 6:54 pm


Daniel writes:
You [Peter Enns] are being noticeably clandestine about your incarnational model. Tell us explicitly then, what does it entail? Are Adam and Eve historical people?
Daniel (and Peter, if I may),
A + E = ANE
So no, they never were historical people.
In Christ,
Denis



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Beaglelady

posted November 13, 2009 at 7:33 pm


Nice to see you back here, Dr. Lamoureux.



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Steve

posted November 14, 2009 at 9:48 pm


Unfortunately, I showed up quite late to this party. But in case Dr. Enns is still available…
It seems that the incarnational model is intended primarily to help us recognize the “fully human” aspect of the Bible; I’ve read where you mourn that the early forbears of this model (Hodge, Warfield, etc.), oddly enough given their time in history, never pressed the limits of the model to elucidate how thoroughly human Scripture is.
But what I’m not understanding is the divine element. I’ve seen you refer to the “divinity” of the text, but I haven’t seen how you think that works. Is it just “divine” in the sense that God means what the Bible says, but that we can’t know what the Bible says without interpreting it as a fully human document?



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Pete Enns

posted November 16, 2009 at 9:37 am


Steve,
This question comers up a lot and it is a good one to ask.
You are right when you say that an incarnational model is one that highlights the human dimension of Scripture. In my experience, it is not the divine dimension that needs a defense but the human.
The question is what are the “marks” of the divinity of Scripture. One way of approaching that question is to ask what are the marks of the divinity of Christ–and that is where it gets a bit interesting for the purpose of the analogy. Christ’s divinity is not seen in his resurrection, for example, for it is humans who are raised from the dead, not God. Nor is it really “proven” by his miracles, since Moses, Elijah, Peter performs miracles, too, by the power of God Spirit.
The “divinity” of Scripture is a confession of faith, not a end product of proof or demonstration. It is seen not by those ways in which it transcends the human but precisely through the human–God’s chosen means of revealing himself. Like Christ, we see God in and through his condescension. More practically–and this is an unsettling thought if you give it time– we also see him through the effectiveness of the Spirit’s work in the lives of God’s people. The “proof” (in a non-rationalisitic sense of the term) of the divinity of Christ and of the divine dimension of Scripture is demonstrated in how those united with the risen Christ embody the Gospel. As John puts it, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:12).



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Mere_Christian

posted November 16, 2009 at 10:07 am


Mr. Enns,
When you B-L guys elevate Darwin to the level of the Prophets and Apostles, and evolution to a key to salvation, you do need to prove why.
Like it or not, your Jesus is an evolved ape. Your doctrine one of Evangel and Evolution.
I would just like to know of what line the reason for both.



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Knockgoats

posted November 16, 2009 at 11:29 am


The “proof” (in a non-rationalisitic sense of the term) of the divinity of Christ and of the divine dimension of Scripture is demonstrated in how those united with the risen Christ embody the Gospel. – Peter Enns
From an outsider’s viewpoint, Christians today appear to include pretty much the same mix of good, bad and indifferent as everyone else. No “proof” (in any sense) there. Institutional Christianity’s historical record and current behaviour is dreadful. No “proof” there either.



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Steve

posted November 17, 2009 at 1:41 pm


Dr. Enns,
Good answer, thanks!
I would say, however, that there is decidedly more Scriptural evidence for Jesus being divine than there is for Scripture being divine. I mean, it’s one thing to say that it appears as though Scripture has been used by God as an invaluable instrument for working in people’s lives, but quite another to conclude from that that it is by nature divine (in the non-ontological sense) in that it therefore carries the full weight of God’s authority as Jesus did. This is not even claimed for the canon in Scripture (for obvious reasons).
If we claim it’s “divine” just because God has used it effectively to testify to Him and bring others to a full knowledge of His plan of salvation, I know a few pastors and lay people who would be gratified to know that they qualify for this distinction. ;) In what way is it “divine” over and above that? And if it’s not, would it not be a more modest and defensible claim to say simply that Scripture is a tool God ordained as a minister that He has shown an uncommon (even “paramount”) preference for and used with uncommon effectiveness as He has seen fit?
I admit, there is very little practical difference between the two (both emphasize the human element), but the incarnational analogy seems to add a mystical aura to Scripture that I find hard to justify. Can you isolate any problems inherent in such a “ministerial model” as I outlined?



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Pete Enns

posted November 17, 2009 at 5:50 pm


Steve,
Remember though that this is an analogy (and a very ancient one at that). I am not saying that Scripture is “divine” only that its ultimate divine authorship is analogous to the deity of Christ.
As for “proof” of the Bible’s “divine component,” I was just suggesting that its inspired status can be seen in the degree to which God’s people embody it. Now, to bring “knockgoat’s” comment into the picture, it is certainly the case that the church has abad track record (though not entirely so, to be sure), but that is not the point. The ethical burden the church carries is in reflecting God, so to speak, to the world. We have all heard it said “You may be the only Bible people read.” Actually, I think the matter is much more sublime: “You may be the only Jesus people see.” How Christians act is an existential “proof” of what began in the resurrection, The extent to which CHristians do not live up to that new creation reality is precisely the kind of thing Paul and others go after in some of their letters.
If you have a moment, I address some of this in a post on my website, and I mention the viability of an “ecclesiastical” model of the Bible. http://peterennsonline.com/2009/09/13/fleshing-out-an-incarnational-model-of-the-bible/



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#John1453

posted November 18, 2009 at 5:33 pm


P. Enns, your post of the 16th at 9:37 a.m. was quite enlightening and (to me at least) profound.
The Bible certainly cannot be “divine” in the same sense as Christ (or the Father or the Spirit), because it is not God. So, then, in what sense is it divine?
Language is a created thing (by God), as is writing (by humans), but neither is per se divine. Surely the Spirit was upon and in the writers themselves as they wrote, but that does not mean that the Spirit hangs around each Bible like a ghost who arises from its pages each time it is cracked open. Jesus says that He is the way the TRUTH and the life, thus the Bible because it is also truth is divine. Yet that is but an aspect of the Divine because all truth is God’s truth. Moreover, the truth that Jesus is, is not a historiography nor a science text book. One does not look upon Jesus and see the history of the world and the functioning of electromagnetism. Why then should we expect the Bible, as truth, to be that sort of truth? Jesus is the truth of how we know and relate to God; so is the Bible. Jesus was historical and real and participated in a culture of a particular time and place; so does the Bible.
So what other things are created and yet divine?
2 Peter 1:4 says that we have become ” . . . partakers of divine nature.” From such passages was developed the theology of theosis or the deification of humans, wherein the unity of human and God is repaired. This does not mean that humans become gods but that humans join fully with God’s divine life.
Further, when we look at verses that describe the Bible as being a sword (e.g., the armour in Ephesians), we have a metaphor for action, for doing. A Bible is not a piece of divinity lying on a shelf, but when read the Spirit uses the words of truth written by men under inspiration to perform a divine work in the reader.
Understanding the divinity of the Bible in this way means that we don’t have to understand the concept of “God breathed” as excluding the very human aspects of writing and knowledge and knowing and understanding and culture and language.
When the Bible talks of “historical” or “scientific” facts, don’t we have to ask whether the point of view of the inspiring God is inside or outside the point of view of the author? Is God telling us something that is eternally /actually true, or is He speaking from a point of view that assumes the same truth that the author knows? For example, it is eternally true that the earth revolves around the sun (well, technically, they both revolve around a common centre of gravity), but the author may truly believe that the sun revolves around the earth. Hence, when Moses, etc. write that the sun rose they were not writing phenomologically but because they really did believe that the sun rose up. If God speaks from within their perspective, He will not correct that perspective but use it to speak to us today.
I apologize for the length of this post, but I found that P. Enns’ comments really made me think and reflect.
regards,
#John



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Pete Enns

posted November 18, 2009 at 9:12 pm


John,
Thanks for your post.
The Bible is not “divine.” It’s inspired status means we can speak of it’s “divine character” on analogy with Jesus. If you have some time, look at the post I linked above. http://peterennsonline.com/2009/09/13/fleshing-out-an-incarnational-model-of-the-bible/



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Martin Rizley

posted November 18, 2009 at 11:41 pm


Dr. Enns,
“An incarnational model presumes a book like Genesis to express itself in ancient conventions.. . .those who take offense at the low Greek style of the New Testament have not come to grips with the incarnation. The same holds for those who take offense at the thoroughly encultured, ancient style of the opening chapters of Genesis and expect from it a more explicitly literal, historical style.”
It seems to me that your “incarnational” view of Scripture has a built in contradiction. On the one hand, you say that, in order to interpret the Old Testament narratives correctly, we must understand the literary conventions of the ANE culture in which these narratives were written. In that culture, it was a common practice for people to express truth in the form of myths that were invented to answer theological questions , such as, “Where did we come from? Why are we here? Why do we die?, etc. You suggest that the reason the church has misinterpreted Genesis 1-11 for so many centuries is owing to ignorance of these literary conventions. Somehow, an understanding of ANE culture was lost with the passage of time, and consequently, the church fell into the error of interpreting these chapters as factual history, rather than myth. Had the church better understood ancient literary conventions, it would not have committed that blunder.
Then, however, you turn around and say (if I understand you correctly) that the ancients themselves would not have understood that these writings were “myth.” They, too, believed that the Genesis narratives were historically factual. So the ancients were guilty of committing the same error as we, despite the fact that. they were born in the ancient near east and would presumably have understood the literary conventions of their culture. Their total immersion in the ANE culture did not prevent them from falling into the same crass literalism as modern “fundamentalists“.
Do you see the contradiction here? If a better knowledge of ANE culture would have saved the church all these year from misinterpreting the Genesis narratives as factual history, why didn’t the ancients– who possessed first hand knowledge of ANE culture– avoid committing the same error as we? Were the ancients ignorant of their own literary conventions? Or could it be that it is not the ANE culture itself, but some other consideration, that drives modern theologians to interpret these narratives as myth, rather than as straightforward historical narrative. It seems to me that what is really driving the “incarnational” approach to biblical interpretation you advocate is not a more accurate understanding of the authorial intent of the ancient writers, but rather, your own deeply held convictions about the unassailable truth of evolutionary theory. Because in your view, “molecule to man” evolution is unquestionably true, the Genesis narratives must be interpreted as myth– not because the ancients understood them in that way, or any Christian prior to the nineteenth century, but because modern man, confronted with the “fact” of evolution, must change his way of reading the Bible. So it is your belief in evolution and that alone that seems to be the real reason for interpreting the Genesis narratives as “myth,” not the fact the ancients would have understood these narratives as myth. In fact, the ancient seem to have viewed the Genesis narratives exactly as the modern-day fundamentalists– that is, as factual history.
So it seems to me disingenuous (and quite unfair) to charge biblical literalists with failing to understand ANE culture, simply because they interpret the creation and flood narratives as literal history, not myth. What you ought to say is that their interpretation fails to take into account the unassailable truth of evolutionary theory, and leave it at that. To talk about ANE literary conventions is really a distraction; for there is only one issue that is of relevance in determining whether or not the church needs to “recast” its understanding of Genesis– and that is the question of whether or not Darwin was right in his understanding of human origins. That is the only issue that maters. Since the ancients did not view the Genesis narratives as any thing other than factual history, we are under no pressure, on the basis of ANE literary conventions, to view them otherwise. Surely the literary conventions of ANE writings provide no compelling reason, in themselves, to “recast” our understanding of Genesis in a way that is so radically different from the views of former generations, both ancient and modern.



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Gordon J. Glover

posted November 19, 2009 at 10:00 am


“Because in your view, “molecule to man” evolution is unquestionably true, the Genesis narratives must be interpreted as myth– not because the ancients understood them in that way, or any Christian prior to the nineteenth century, but because modern man, confronted with the “fact” of evolution, must change his way of reading the Bible.”
Martin, I can’t let you get away wiht that accusation. This view of Scripture does not exist simply to provide cover for the theory of evolution. As I’ve stated many times here before, you run into major problems with taking Genesis 1-11 as factual history with or without evolution. Just 3 examples…
1.) The age of the earth and cosmos, as determined by multiple lines of converging data, does not fit the timeline of events as portrayed in the Scriptures. These are indisputable facts totally independant of the theory of evolution.
2.) The geologic column suggests that large periods of time separate various layers of strata that each contain differnt sets of fossils. Man is only found in the top-most layer. Even without knowing the absolute ages of the respective layers of strata, the fact that other animals lived and died long before man ever showed up is incontrovertible. Note that this observation is totally independant from any theories of how man got here. Even if you believe that God created Adam and Eve from scratch only 6k years ago, you can’t escape the eons of death and decay prior to their being created.
3.) If the story of Noah were literally true, then the entire surface of the earth, the geologic column, the data from molecular genetics, and the distribution of plants and animals around the globe would show very specific patterns. A recent radiation of flora and fauna from modern day Turkey would be quite noticable today, as would evidence of a recent mass extinction. However, there is absolutely ZERO evidence for any part of this story. Other cultures seemes to live right through it without missing a beat. Moreover, the scientific data in every case fits the predictions of evolution / old-earth geology quite nicely. So unless you want to believe that God erased all evidence of a Noah’s flood and replaced with a carefully-crafted cover story (to test our faith), there was no Global Food, no recent mass extinction, and all animals alive today did not descend from original pairs that came down from Ararat. Again, this FACT is completely independent of evolution.
For the bible to be literally and historically true, one would have to toss out everything we’ve come to know about entire scientific disciplines such as cosmology, geology, palaeontology, molecular genetics, comparative anatomy, biogeography, stratigraphy, and even physics (to accommodate some speed-of-light-decay theories). This is a very tall order for creationists and literalists.
On the other hand, the odds that we don’t fully understand our bibles as well as we should are much greater than the odds of virually every modern scientific field being so far off base — especially in light of the overwhelming sucess of each of these scientific models in the modern age. Believe what you want, but don’t blame evolution for these hermeneutical challenges.



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Your Name

posted November 19, 2009 at 12:36 pm


Thank you, Dr. Enns for your reply. Yes, I agree with you that the Bible is not “divine” but is rather God breathed, and I enjoyed your article. I think I have now read almost everything on your website.
***
Martin Rizley, in his post on November 18, 2009 at 11:41 PM, appears to confuse or misinterpret P. Enns point. When understood correctly, Enns’ work does not suffer from the contradiction alleged by Rizley.
Enns, along with Walton and others, believes that the ANE Hebrews held the belief that the firmanent did factually consist of a solid dome, etc. These beliefs were commonly accepted as true in the ANE world and were backed up by the observations that anyone of the time could make of the world around them.
In addition, there were established literary genres and structures through which the ANE peoples expressed and also transmitted their knowledge. We today call these genres “myth”, though the ANE peoples wold not have. The ANE peoples (including the Hebrews) used these oral and written structures to express both theological and physical concepts that they believed were true.
Given ANE beliefs, it is not farfetched to believe that the Hebrews would have considered the entire earth to be a temple of / for God. Moreover, the ANE peoples were just as intelligent as we are today (same grey matter), and if they did not believe that the earth was itself a temple then they would have understood what they were doing when they described its parts analogously to the parts of a temple. In making the analogy, however, they would have made use of what they thought was true (e.g., hard dome firmanent over a flat earth).
As for the earth being a temple, if I understand correctly, the ANE zigurrats were located beside temples and represented a staircase that the gods could use to ascend to and descend from the heavens. The top of the ziggurat had living quarters for the gods. Overall, the ancients had a world view that spiritualized and made sacred many more aspects of the world than we do today, and their view of the universe was not so much one of disparate components (as is ours today), but more one of “realms” and areas of activities of and for the gods.
regards,
#John



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Martin Rizley

posted November 19, 2009 at 12:55 pm


Gordon,
You yourself are virtually admitting that the real reason for “recasting” Genesis as myth is not the fact that ANE literary conventions demand such recasting, but rather, the fact that modern scientific certainties demand such recasting. Certainly, the ancients did not interpret Genesis as non-historical myth; the only people I know of who interpret Genesis in that way are those who bring to the Scriptures their a priori conviction that the fossil record must be millions of years old. There is nothing about the ANE culture itself that compels us to abandon the view that the Genesis narratives are intended to be read as factual history; if there were, then those brought up in the ANE would not have regarded the Genesis narratives as factual history, which they obviously did.
In response to what you say about the certainties of modern science, let me say several things. First of all, I think you are forgetting that the data of science is always interpreted within a particular framework of understanding. Many of the founders of modern science were conditioned to interpret the data of nature in terms of strict uniformitarian principles (assuming the present is the key to the past); therefore, they were not really open to considering interpretations of that data that posited supernatural forces as being the immediate cause of events in the natural realm. In the view of many nineteenth century scientists, to be a “man of science” meant to reject the idea that supernatural forces can explain phenomena in nature. A man of science operates on the assumption that everything within the natural world can be explained in terms of natural forces. That is, nature can be exhaustively explained from with the system of nature itself. It was in that context of pure naturalism that many of the scientific disciplines you mention were born and developed over the last two centuries– and undoubtedly, great fruit has been born of those disciplines, especially in the area of “operations” science. It is only in the area of historical science that controversy has arisen as scientists operating on uniformitarian principles seemed unwilling to admit the naturalistic presuppositions guiding them in their interpretation of the data. As a general rule, evolutionary scientists have been much less willing to admit their presuppositions than creationists They have claimed to interpret the data from a position of absolute neutrality, thereby contradicting the Scripture’s teaching that there is no such things as a neutral mind.
Now, when it comes to interpreting particular aspects of the geological data, I readily admit that I am no expert in the field of geology. But I have encountered in writings by degreed creationists various objections to the standard interpretation of the geologic column which seem to me quite reasonable. To take just one example, consider the clean, straight edge boundary between the Hermit Shale and Cocconino Sandstone stratas in the Grand Canyon. How do old earthers explain the perfect straightness of that boundary? The Hermit Shale is dated at 280 million years old, more or less, whereas the Cocconino Sandstone just above it is dated at 270 million years old. There is supposed to be a 10 million year time gap between the deposition of the layers, but the contact between them is perfectly flat. There is no evidence of erosion of the Hermit Shale. Are we to believe that this layer of sediment lay undisturbed for millions of years without being eroded? That to me seems like a perfectly reasonable question. Moreover, the existence of bent strata which shows no signs of cracking seems best explained in terms of rapid, continuous deposition of strata, rather than slow deposition over millions of years, at least, according to degreed, practicing geologists I have read who are young earth creationists.
Now, when it comes to the radioisotope dating of these strata, based on igneous intrusions found in fossil bearing rocks, it seems entirely possible to me, if the earth and universe themselves are quite old (in contrast to the fossil record), that these dates reflect the age of the earth base minerals in those rocks, not the date of their recrystalization. It has commonly been assumed that radiometric “clocks” are set to zero when magma is molten but that is not necessarily so. Radioactive inclusions in magma, according to one source I read, tend to survive the magma phase so when recrystallized into rock and then dated there is a considerable “inheritance of daughter elements” in the crystals from the magma source. (Remember that I said in an earlier post, I am not dogmatic on the age of the universe and earth’s mineral base per se. I believe a literal interpretation of Scripture may allow for a “long” first day and for a durational “stretching” of the first three, non-solar days of creation to inconceivable length. Where I am dogmatic is when it comes to the Bible’s unequivocal teaching concerning the history of mankind as descended from an original couple who fell into sin, and the effect of that fall on the natural world. For example, I don’t believe that nature was “red in tooth and claw” before man fell into sin. That’s why I am inclined to accept YEC’s interpretation of the fossil record, though I admit earth’s mineral base and the universe may be quite old.
To me, the larger issue here, however, is whether God intended the Bible to be understood only by some elite class of people possessing the esoteric “key” to knowledge needed to unlock its mysteries, or whether He intended the Bible to be read and understood by the “farm boy at his plough.” The “Genesis as myth” view seems to rob the man in the pew of any confidence in his ability to read the Scriptures with understanding, subjecting him to the “magisterial” authority of those possessing the ‘key’ to understanding– namely, the scientific community, who possess the key to unlocking the real meaning of the Bible which the average man lacks. I have a hard time believing that the Bible is that obscure in its meaning.



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Gordon J. Glover

posted November 19, 2009 at 4:04 pm


Martin,
“You yourself are virtually admitting that the real reason for “recasting” Genesis as myth is not the fact that ANE literary conventions demand such recasting, but rather, the fact that modern scientific certainties demand such recasting.”
When the biblical authors speak of a solid sky that holds up an ocean above the sun, moon and stars, and comparative literature from the ANE shows that both the Mesopotamians and the Egyptians also shared this cosmology, then I think we have to take the ANE cognitive environment seriously. As a bonus, of course, it frees us from having to play hermeneutical gymnastics with the scriptures to fit modern science or bastardize modern science to fit the sriptures.
“It is only in the area of historical science that controversy has arisen as scientists operating on uniformitarian principles seemed unwilling to admit the naturalistic presuppositions guiding them in their interpretation of the data.”
So then by “supernatural” you must mean that God miraculously erased all data that would have shown us what He actually did and miraculously replaced it with a carefully fabricated cover story that makes perfect sense of just about everything we find in nature wihtout invoking any divine intervention. That what you would have to believe. Why would God do that? Any theology that rejects modern science and seeks to maintain the historicity of Genesis 1-11 must have an answer for this. The data are not going away. What is your answer?
“As a general rule, evolutionary scientists have been much less willing to admit their presuppositions than creationists.”
Martin, you can’t be serious!?! Do yo know what a statement of faith is? Of course creationists are willing to admit their presuppositions! Because in creationism, your presuppositions = your conclusions. There is no objective search for truth between start and finish. Only a desparate search for creative ways to explain away mountains of evidence that contradicts your statement of faith. Those geologic arguments you gave are perfect examples of this tactic. You’re basically trying to tell me that since the old man is wearing a “Remember 9-11″ t-shirt, he couldn’t have possibly been born before Sept, 2001. I know, it sounds rediculous. But that is how creationists argue against the conclusions of mainstream science. They are counting on people like you to remain ignorant enough about geology not to notice what they are doing.
“Now, when it comes to interpreting particular aspects of the geological data, I readily admit that I am no expert in the field of geology.”
And if you had ever actually read anything written by a geologist who didn’t work for a creationist organization, you would know how weak those arguments you gave are. Remember, these “geologists” who work for ICR and AiG have signed statements of faith that says no matter what the evidence shows, they will not not waiver from a young earth and global flood. Do you really think that’s where you’ll find an objective assessment of the situation?
On the other hand, there are many books written by Christian geologists who haven’t signed away their responsibility to look at the data objectively. If you want to actually learn something about geology, I suggest you start there. I can make some recommendations if you can’t find them on this site.
“For example, I don’t believe that nature was “red in tooth and claw” before man fell into sin. That’s why I am inclined to accept YEC’s interpretation of the fossil record, though I admit earth’s mineral base and the universe may be quite old.”
Martin, it doesn’t matter what you want to be true or not. Scinece doens’t work like that. Facts are facts, and we have to live with them – even if the tension persists until we can ask God in person. We can’t wish facts away when they don’t fit into our theology. Even before we had the ability to conduct radiometric dating, we could assign relative ages between the top-most layer of earth where only primates are found, and the layers below. There are features separating these layers that require them to have been laid down sequentially rather than down all at once. And many of these features required alternating wet and dry conditions. So the point is not how old the layers are. The point is that they show unequivocally is that animals lived and died long before man appeared. Hence, Genesis 1-2 can’t be sceintfically true!
Of the 25 known places on the surface fo the earth where the geologic column can be observed in its entirety, this basic sequence is universal. Oil and Gas exploration companies have core samples drilled from every continent and under the ocean, and no other sequence but the standard one has ever been found.



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Your Name

posted November 19, 2009 at 4:12 pm


Rizley wrote at “There is nothing about the ANE culture itself that compels us to abandon the view that the Genesis narratives are intended to be read as factual history; if there were, then those brought up in the ANE would not have regarded the Genesis narratives as factual history, which they obviously did.”
There are, in fact, indications in both the ANE culture and in the structure of Genesis itself that indicate that Genesis would not have been regarded by the Hebrews of factual history, i.e., the creation of the world in six consecutive 24-hour periods.
What Rizley brings to the text when he reads it (anachronistically) is his 21st century knowledge, culture, traditions, assumptions and world view. Rizley is familiar with how history and historiography is done in the 20th and 21st centuries, and assumes that any writings about past events must be of that kind. He is unfamiliar with ANE oral and written literary genres and structures and so unfamiliar with how such peoples (including the Hebrews) talked about the heavens, earth, and underworld and how they related that to their gods (the Hebrews frequently worshipped more than one).
Rizley incorrectly assumes that he can read straight off an English translation and use his own background to interpret and understand what he is reading. Rizley also incorrectly assumes that God did not intend for His word to require the use of skilled leaders and teachers to assist in interpreting it and conveying truths to the other members of the body, who are gifted differently. Further, Rizley incorrectly assumes a flat perspicuity to scripture, that is, it should all be equally transparent and understandable.
Needless to say, the above approach will inevitably lead to interpretations that are wrong and not the one’s intended by God and His human writers and editors.
regards,
#John



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Martin Rizley

posted November 19, 2009 at 6:04 pm


Gordon,
Do you think the psalmist Asaph believed the earth was literally sitting on pillars because he wrote in Psalm 75 that God holds the “pillars of the earth” firm when “the earth and all its people quake”? Obviously, he is not talking about literal pillars, for the whole context suggests he is referring to the ‘quaking’ that results from distressing acts of divine providence that cause men to fear, not to a literal earthquake. He is saying, in poetic language, that God gives stability to the earth and to the course of history by His almighty power. Later in the psalm, he speaks of God mixing a cup full of foaming wine with spices and pouring it on the wicked so that they are forced to drink it to the dregs. Is that to be interpreted literally? Obviously not. The Hebrews were perfectly capable of using language figuratively and poetically, and not always in concrete ways. Now, when it comes to the cosmologies of the pagan peoples of the ANE, there is no way to prove that the Hebrews derived their ideas about the structure of the origin or structure of the universe from pagan sources, rather than the reverse. As E. J. Young pointed out years ago, “If God is the Creator, and if things occurred as he tells us in the first chapter of Genesis, then God would have revealed that truth to man very early. Man would have handed that truth down to his descendants, and after the flood the truth would have been passed on to those who were not in the line of promise, as well as to those who were in the line of promise. Among unbelievers we can well understand that the truth would have become corrupted with superstition. Even today we know how rumors spread. Oral tradition in the present day is not a very reliable thing, and this would have been corrupted by the introduction of superstitious elements. That is why in the Babylonian account we find some things that are true and others that are false. . .” Let’s say that the Babylonians were familiar with some very ancient record, now lost to us, that speak of how God created a firmament to separate the waters above from the waters below. They could easily have perverted the information contained in that ancient record by elaborating on the concept of a firmament in ways that go far beyond what God revealed, saying that the “gods” made a solid dome over the earth, etc. In other words, they could easily have corrupted the original divine revelation. E. J. Young says there is no reason to doubt that is just what happened, and that in the book of Genesis, we have the divine revelation faithfully preserved: “In all of these cosmogonies [not only those of the ANE, but also the Polynesian and Hawaiian,etc.] there are certain elements which in themselves are reflections of the truth which God originally revealed to mankind. I believe that God chose someone to write down this material, that may have existed in written form and even in oral tradition before this time, but I believe that God used Moses to write it down and that Moses wrote as an inspired penman and was preserved from error in his writing, so that the first chapter of Genesis is a revelation from God and it towers high above any other cosmogony that comes from the ancient world. We are, therefore, to read it in the belief that what I relates is the truth.”
It is true that there are some features of the natural world that are difficult to explain in terms of rapid deposition of sediment, but there are some issues that used to be problematic for creationists which, according to them, at least, are no longer quite the problem they used to be, such as the creation of millions of laminae in the Green River shale. You claim that the testimony of such scientists counts for nothing, because they have “signed statements of faith that says no matter what the evidence shows, they will not waiver from a young earth and a global flood. Do you really think that’s where you’ll find an objective assessment of the situation?” I could say in response that scientists at our state-funded universities have signed an unwritten statement of faith [in essence] that says no matter what the evidence shows, they will see no evidence of intelligent design in nature or deviate from the “received faith” that unguided forces can produce all the complexity we see in the natural world. If you doubt that such a “statement of faith“ exists, just ask those scientists who have been dismissed from their posts or denied tenure because of their adherence to intelligent design. They have been accused of “abandoning science” because they dare to say that unguided natural forces could not possibly have produced some things in the natural world. You say that naturalistic principles “make perfect sense of just about everything we find in nature without invoking any divine intervention.” A growing number of scientists, and not just YEC’s, disagree with that assessment. They believe there are a number of things– especially at the cellular level– which cannot be explained apart from divine intervention and intelligent design. If they say that publicly, however, they are likely to be branded as idiots, fools, and scientific “heretics” by their fellow scientists. I don’t see any more neutrality or objectivity there than among degreed scientists who are creationists.



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Martin Rizley

posted November 19, 2009 at 8:12 pm


#John,
John,
“Rizley also incorrectly assumes that God did not intend for His word to require the use of skilled leaders and teachers to assist in interpreting it and conveying truths to the other members of the body, who are gifted differently.”
I am by no means denying the importance of the ministry of teaching, nor am I am assuming that all truths of Scripture are equally clear. Some subjects in Scripture are less clearly or less systematically dealt with than others, requiring greater digging to get at their truth (for example, different prophetic passages fall into this category, or the teaching of the book of Revelation). We need skilled teachers to guide us into a deeper knowledge of the Scriptures. But some subjects are dealt with so clearly and explicitly,that “he who runs may read.” Such is the teaching on man’s fall in Adam and his redemption in Christ. Paul’s whole point in Romans 5 is that men are redeemed from sin the very same way in which they are constituted sinners– namely, by the action of someone other than themselves. We were condemned “in Adam,” because through the representative action of one man, Adam, the whole race fell, and consequently, we are born both guilty and sinful. In the same way, Paul says, believers are reckoned righteous “in Christ,” because through the representative action of one man, Christ, all God’s people were redeemed from guilt and sin, and consequently, believers receive in the connection with the new birth right standing with God and regenerate nature– not on the basis of their own works, but on the sole basis of Christ’s work. So the person of Adam, and man’s fall in Adam, is central to a proper understanding of the gospel, as explained by Paul in Romans 5. This is no peripheral issue, neither can Paul’s teaching in Romans 5 be classified among the obscure teachings of the Scriptures.



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Beaglelady

posted November 19, 2009 at 11:48 pm


A growing number of scientists, and not just YEC’s, disagree with that assessment. They believe there are a number of things– especially at the cellular level– which cannot be explained apart from divine intervention and intelligent design. If they say that publicly, however, they are likely to be branded as idiots, fools, and scientific “heretics” by their fellow scientists. I don’t see any more neutrality or objectivity there than among degreed scientists who are creationists.

Intelligent Design proponents do love to play the victim card. So just what research is the Intelligent Design world up to these days. If they can’t obtain funding, what sort of research are they seeking funding for?
This video explains how science works and how ID can get the recognition they seem to crave.



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Martin Rizley

posted November 19, 2009 at 11:56 pm


Gordon,
Gordon,
I would like to know your thoughts about the following quote by noted evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin. Do you agree with it? And if you do, how can you speak with a straight face about evolutionary science being based on a “neutral” or “objective” examination of the physical evidence?
“We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.
It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that Miracles may happen.”
It sounds to me like what Lewontin is saying is that in “science” (by that he means evolutionary science) your presuppositions=your conclusions. In other words, the evolutionary scientists is not without presuppositions; only they differ from those of the creationist. Whereas the creationist presupposes the infallible truth of Scripture’s teaching regarding the history of the earth and mankind, evolutionists presuppose that material explanations are sufficient to explain every past event in earth’s history. Based on a sort of faith (what Lewontin calls it “a commitment to materialism”) evolutionary scientists trust that purely material explanations, in the end, will yield an accurate and exhaustive picture of how the universe arrived at its present state of complexity. As Lewontin puts it, evolutionary scientists “create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations.” However, if the only type of explanations allowed in this type of “science“ are material explanations, then how does anyone have the audacity to claim this approach to science involves an “objective [i.e. neutral] search for truth”? How can it be objective if the “deck has been rigged” in such a way as to eliminate the very possibility of ever “seeing” that God has intervened miraculously at certain moments in earth‘s past? Is it any wonder that most Bible believing Christians reject such an approach to science as implicitly atheistic? Is it any wonder that they continue to believe the Bible’s account of human origins in spite of the dogmatic claims of degreed scientists who are “blinded” by this faulty approach to the study of origins? Anyone who says, “We cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door” simply cannot be trusted to speak God’s truth.



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Beaglelady

posted November 20, 2009 at 12:05 am


The Hermit Shale is dated at 280 million years old, more or less, whereas the Cocconino Sandstone just above it is dated at 270 million years old. There is supposed to be a 10 million year time gap between the deposition of the layers, but the contact between them is perfectly flat. There is no evidence of erosion of the Hermit Shale.

And just where do you get your information? The Coconino Sandstone layer is composed of pure quartz sand — petrified sand dunes. Not what you’d get from a global flood. Unless God is trying to fool us. (What else is new?)



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Beaglelady

posted November 20, 2009 at 12:12 am


“We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.

Isn’t this that passage from an old book review that’s been trotted around here before? Lewontin doesn’t speak for all scientists. And the fact remains that science is the human activity of seeking natural explanations for natural phenomena.



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Your Name

posted November 20, 2009 at 8:43 am


Beaglelady,
No, science is not “the human activity of seeking natural explanations for natural phenomena,” as if all phenomena in nature (and by implication, all events in earth’s past) can be explained in terms of pure naturalism. Rather, science is “the systematic study of God’s creation in its ordinary functioning.” Natural phenomena (by that I mean “phenomena found in the natural world”) produced by miracle, are necessarily outside the realm of science, and therefore, any scientific study of such phenomena will necessarily fail to give an accurate picture. Had a scientist studied the wine Jesus had instantaneously created from water, he would have come up with a scientifically accurate by historically false history of the wine. The same thing is true for the mature almond plant that spontaneously grew from Aaron’s rod overnight. Based on principles of uniformitarianism, a scientific explanation of that almond plant would have posited a prolonged process of growth and maturation over many weeks or months, when in fact the whole thing grew, blossomed and reached maturation overnight. So you see, not all phenomena found in the natural realm can be explained scientifically, from a biblical viewpoint. So the difference between “creationist” science and unbelieving (so-called “neutral”) science really is a difference of one’s starting presuppositions. The unbeliever assumes that all phenomena found in the natural world can be explained through purely natural processes. The believer does not assume that at all; he expects natural processes to be at work on in the ordinary functioning of nature, but not necessarily in extraordinary (i. e., miraculous events) that have occurred in the past.



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Knockgoats

posted November 20, 2009 at 8:51 am


Martin Rizley,
I’m not Gordon, but I’ll answer your question about Lewontin: he’s wrong, and shows a very poor knowledge of the history of science. Supernaturalist and other non-materialist hypotheses have simply turned out not to be scientifically useful – they suggest little or no useful research, and explain nothing – and so have gradually been dropped. As has been noted by many, Newton spent as much or more effort on numerological investigations of the Bible as on his theories of gravity and light – the former led nowhere, the latter were key to early modern science. Most early biologists were vitalists, most early psychologists were dualists – but these approaches have largely vanished as the molecular processes involved in life and mind have become clearer. Many early geologists expected to find evidence of a universal flood, based on what they found in the Bible – but the geological evidence showed otherwise, and men such as William Buckland and Adam Sedgwick (both ordained Anglicans), to their great credit, admitted this error as the evidence became clearer. Many 19th and early 20th century scientists joined in investigations of spiritualism, many more (and more recently) in work on “paranormal” powers which would be inconsistent with materialism, and on the power of prayer. No doubt non-materialist hypotheses will continue to be investigated, but the record of consistent failure leads most scientists to apply their energies and talents elsewhere.



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Knockgoats

posted November 20, 2009 at 8:57 am


Had a scientist studied the wine Jesus had instantaneously created from water, he would have come up with a scientifically accurate by historically false history of the wine. The same thing is true for the mature almond plant that spontaneously grew from Aaron’s rod overnight. – Your Name
Interesting: so according to you, when God performs a miracle, he inserts deceitful appearances into the historical record.



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Gordon J. Glover

posted November 20, 2009 at 9:01 am


“Obviously, he is not talking about literal pillars, for the whole context suggests he is referring to the ‘quaking’ that results from distressing acts of divine providence that cause men to fear, not to a literal earthquake. He is saying, in poetic language, that God gives stability to the earth and to the course of history by His almighty power.”
Just becuase the Psalmist uses a contemporary portrait of creation from which to draw a theological point doesn’t mean that he didn’t believe the portrait to be accurrate. You can find this throughout the Psalms, and in Job as well. And these strange (to us) pictures of cosmos were widely believed and accepted in the ANE.
“Now, when it comes to the cosmologies of the pagan peoples of the ANE, there is no way to prove that the Hebrews derived their ideas about the structure of the origin or structure of the universe from pagan sources, rather than the reverse.”
The Hebrews were the latecomers to ANE thought. There were other cultures with written histories, mythologies and cosmologies long before the Hebrew language even emerged. And if the Hebrews did recieve new scientific revelation that was unavailable to the surrounding cultures, then they would have only gotten this direclty from God. So unless we can find something in the Bible that transcends ANE science, we don’t have to prove the Hebrews derived their ideas from the culture around them. The burden of proof is on you to show otherwise!
“Let’s say that the Babylonians were familiar with some very ancient record, now lost to us, that speak of how God created a firmament to separate the waters above from the waters below. They could easily have perverted the information contained in that ancient record by elaborating on the concept of a firmament in ways that go far beyond what God revealed, saying that the “gods” made a solid dome over the earth, etc. In other words, they could easily have corrupted the original divine revelation.”
But the Bible says the same thing? It even has the upper waters over the heavnely bodies. I don’t see your point. The issue here is not “who copied who”. It doesn’t really matter. The issue here is that the Hebrew were a part of the ANE landscape and were partarkers of that culture and cognitive environment. And they had much more in common with the surrounding cultures than they did with 21st century Western Christians. Therefore, by studying these other cultures, we should gain insights into the Scriptures that we might miss if we only look at them through the lense of our modern post-enlightenment worldview. That’s the point.
“It is true that there are some features of the natural world that are difficult to explain in terms of rapid deposition of sediment…”
Uh, some features? No. The entire geologic column looks nothing like what we should expect from a global flood. The problems for flood geology are huge; and it takes a monumental a-prior commitment to flood geology to reject so much obvious data.
“You claim that the testimony of such [creation] scientists counts for nothing…”
You got that right! If you could dig up just one secular scientist who was convinced that the earth was only 6,000 years old based on the data alone, then I would listen. But the only people peddling this garbage are those same folks who have pledged their unwaivering allegiance to a vary narrow view of creation. What does that tell you? C’mon Martin, just think about it objectively!
“…just ask those scientists who have been dismissed from their posts or denied tenure because of their adherence to intelligent design. They have been accused of “abandoning science” because they dare to say that unguided natural forces could not possibly have produced some things in the natural world.”
Embracing supernatural causality as a means to explain hard problems is, by definition, the abandoment of science. If you are hired by an institution to teach science, and you abondon your calling, don’t be shocked if are asked to either get back on task or find another calling. What do you think would happen if a professor at a medical school decided to stop teaching/researching medicinal cures and decided instead to start a 24-hour prayer vigil for the sick? sure, he would be allowed to pray all he wants, AS LONG AS HE DIDN’T ABANDON HIS PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY TO FIND MEDICINAL CURES FOR HIS PATIENTS. But if he did give up on standard naturalistic medicince, then the university would have every right to encourage him to move on.
“They believe there are a number of things– especially at the cellular level– which cannot be explained apart from divine intervention and intelligent design.”
Of course they do. Any difficult question can be answered with “God did it”. That doesn’t take any effort at all. It’s the universal answer for anything that seems too hard. But unfortunately, it’s not science.
“If they say that publicly, however, they are likely to be branded as idiots, fools, and scientific “heretics” by their fellow scientists.”
And by their fellow Christians who understand much better than them how science works and what is involved in the noble calling of studying God’s creation.
“I don’t see any more neutrality or objectivity there than among degreed scientists who are creationists.”
How can you say this when you admit knowing very little about the natural sciences? What little you do know was gleaned from strictly creationist sources.
Here is the bottom line Martin: Scientists are willing to be wrong — just show them the data. Creationists are not willng be wrong becuase they believe God told them exactly how the world was formed and what happened to it during the first few thousand years. You would never the words, “Moses was wrong” printed across the cover of Acts and Facts, but the words, “Darwin was Wrong” was just splashed across the cover of New Scientist magazine. Darwin was wrong about a lot of things, as all scientists have been. Science is self-correcting and is willing to make adjustments when new data sheds new light. Creationism? Forget about it! The only thing new is the lengths that some creationists will go to keep denying the obvious.



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Gordon J. Glover

posted November 20, 2009 at 9:14 am


“The unbeliever assumes that all phenomena found in the natural world can be explained through purely natural processes. The believer does not assume that at all; he expects natural processes to be at work on in the ordinary functioning of nature, but not necessarily in extraordinary (i. e., miraculous events) that have occurred in the past.”
So like I’ve been saying, a creationist must assume that God miraculously erased all evidence of what He actually did, and miraculously replaced it with very detailed and coherent evidence of an entirely differnet history. So in addition to the original miracle of creation, there was a subsequent miracle of systematic data removal and and a third miracle of data fabrication. But why? Just to confuse us? To test our faith?
The level of fraud that God would have had to perpetrate to accomplish this goes far beyond Jesus fabricating new wine and God growing almond plants. In those case, the fabricated history is a necessary consequence of the miracle itself. But in creation, rather than leave the universe the way the Made, He builds in entire lines of data that apparently serve no other purpose but to allow man to construct a detailed natural history that looks nothing like what he tells un in the Bible.
That makes no sense.



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Beaglelady

posted November 20, 2009 at 10:14 am


The unbeliever assumes that all phenomena found in the natural world can be explained through purely natural processes. The believer does not assume that at all; he expects natural processes to be at work on in the ordinary functioning of nature, but not necessarily in extraordinary (i. e., miraculous events) that have occurred in the past.

Science simply does not have the means to examine the supernatural, and that is why it doesn’t consider supernatural explanations.
If your kid is having seizures a medical doctor won’t consider a supernatural explanation such as demon possession; instead he will suspect epilepsy and run a battery of tests. Do you think this is a good idea?



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Martin Rizley

posted November 20, 2009 at 7:39 pm


Gordon,
There are several problems I have with what you are saying. First of all, I don’t think that there is any proof that the creation and flood narratives of Genesis were “copied” from earlier pagan sources, like the Gilgamesh epic. That is an entirely gratuitous assumption, based on the fact that the Gilgamesh epic is older than the Genesis account. It is just as logical to assume that both the Gilgamesh epic and Genesis are based on earlier oral tradition that the Babylonians corrupted, but that godly believers preserved faithfully in that early period of human history. As Gleason Archer, an expert in ANE languages and culture says, “The resemblances to the Genesis narrative are such as to suggest a common origin in ancient oral tradition, but the differences are too great to permit a possibility of borrowing by the one from the other.” Since Moses alludes to source material that he used to write the book of Genesis (Genesis 5:1– “the book of the genealogy of Adam” is apparently an earlier written record Moses used), the idea of there being a very early oral tradition that was corrupted by the pagans, but preserved by the believing people of God, is not at all a gratuitous assumption.
Second, there is no evidence to support the view that Genesis intends to teach theological truth in the wrappings of ANE creation myth. Many liberal scholars take the same view of the book of Exodus, by denying that the events recorded in Exodus actually took place in history; some may even deny that Moses existed as an historical figure. But the Mount of Transfiguration proves them wrong, for there, Moses appeared in person, together with Elijah, an event to which the disciples of Jesus were eyewitness. Does that not suggest we are dealing in the whole of the Pentateuch with an accurate historical record, not myth? After all, Moses presents Adam as every bit an historical figure as Noah, Abraham, or even himself!
Perhaps the main problem I have with what you are saying is that your talk of “neutrality” and “objectivity” by unbelieving scientists reveals an unbiblical and extremely naïve view of the human mind and heart. According to the Bible, there is no such thing as a “neutral” mind, since the heart of man that is not neutral. By nature, the heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Men’s minds are fallen, as well, so that, apart from divine regeneration, they are not capable of receiving spiritual truth. Men either have a “fleshly mind“ which is hostile toward God and which does not and cannot submit to His Law (instruction), or a spiritual mind (the mind of Christ) which is able to discern spiritual truth in a way the fleshly mind cannot. When Paul says that the “natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned,” I believe that “the things of the Spirit” includes the truth of Genesis 1 and Genesis 6-9, every bit as much as the truth of John 1 or 1 Corinthians 13.
A Christian is someone who has learned to trust the infallible teachings of God’s Word more than the judgments of his own mind. Therefore, if his human judgment tells him something that contradicts what he believes the Word of God is clearly teaching, he ought to believe God’s infallible Word over the judgments of his own mind. That’s part of what it means, I believe, to bring “every thought captive” to the obedience of Christ.
So from my point of view, it is entirely possible for a scientific community made up largely of people who are agnostic or atheist to be dead wrong in their interpretation of the geological data, even if they have much more head knowledge of the data than the average man in the pew.
Does that mean God is deceiving us when the physical evidence of nature seems to be telling us something different than what the Scripture is clearly teaching us. No, God does not deceive us (our own hearts are fully capable of doing that); but God test us, at times, by allowing us to be confronted by situations that seem to contradict the clear teaching of his Word, and He tests us in that way to find out what is in our hearts– that is, to see if we are willing to trust His Word more than our own autonomous judgment of the facts. If you doubt that, ask Abraham. When God told him to sacrifice his son on Mt. Moriah, the “facts” of the situation– judged by autonomous reason– would have led Abraham to see God as malevolent or cruel; on the other hand, he may have been tempted to doubt what God had said, because he could not reconcile God’s command with what he knew of God’s revealed character. It just wasn’t reasonable for him to do what God had said. But Abraham trusted so implicitly in God‘s word, that he subordinated his own human judgment to the explicit testimony of God‘s Word, and did exactly what God had told him to do, despite the seeming absurdity of it; and in the end, his confidence in God’s word was vindicated. The lesson is this: there should never be any higher authority in the thinking of a Christian than the explicit testimony of God’s Word, and that will require us, at times, to subordinate our own human judgment to the judgment of God in Scripture.
We must also keep in mind that when men fail to receive the love of the truth so as to be saved, God does at times sends them a powerful delusion, so that they will believe a lie (1 Thessalonians 2:11, 1 Kings 22:23). If that is so, then it seems to me entirely possible that God has sent a powerful delusion to multitudes of non-Christian scientists in our day who, for their refusal to receive the truth of the gospel in love, have been captivated by a powerful delusion, so that they believe a lie concerning the origin of man which is at complete variance with the teaching of Scripture. I am not saying that all evolutionists are non-Christians, for genuine believers may fall into unbelieving ways of thinking. But I honestly believe that when a true believer reads the creation narrative or the flood narrative and says in his heart, “That never happened,“ that denial of Scripture’s testimony is owing, not to his superior knowledge or learning, but to the fact that he is either ignorant of what the Scriptures teach, or ignorant of God‘s unlimited power, or weak in faith, and therefore, unable to accept the testimony of Scripture. Like the disciples of old, he is “slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken.”
I don’t say that to offend you, Gordon (for only God knows your heart), but to explain why I cannot follow you in your way of thinking about these issues. It seems to me you are exalting man’s fallible judgment over the infallible testimony of the Word of God.



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Beaglelady

posted November 21, 2009 at 12:02 am


But I honestly believe that when a true believer reads the creation narrative or the flood narrative and says in his heart, “That never happened,“ that denial of Scripture’s testimony is owing, not to his superior knowledge or learning, but to the fact that he is either ignorant of what the Scriptures teach, or ignorant of God‘s unlimited power, or weak in faith, and therefore, unable to accept the testimony of Scripture.

So that explains why you can’t take Genesis 6:1-4 at face value. You know, where it says that celestial male beings copulated with human females and produced baby giants. You tap-dance around it because you are not a True Believer. (Hey, it’s a 2-way street.)



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Beaglelady

posted November 21, 2009 at 12:05 am


Correction: I meant to say that the celestial beings copulated with human females and produced baby HEROES (not GIANTS).



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Martin Rizley

posted November 21, 2009 at 12:27 am


Beaglelady,
I find John Calvin’s explanation of why God calls the men in this passage (Genesis 6:1-2) “sons of God” and the women “daughters of men” very convincing. He begins by saying, “That ancient figment, concerning the intercourse of angels with women, is abundantly refuted by its own absurdity; and it is surprising that learned men should formerly have been fascinated by ravings so gross and prodigious. . .Moses does not distinguish between the sons of God and the daughters of men because they were dissimilar in nature, or of different origin; but because they were the sons of God by adoption, whom he had set apart to himself; while the rest remained in their natural condition. Should any object, that they who had shamefully departed from the faith, and the obedience which God required, were unworthy to be accounted as sons of God; the answer is easy, that the honor is ascribed not to them, but to the grace of God, which had hitherto been conspicuous in their families.” In my judgment, that is a brilliant explanation of the passage that pays full attention to the biblical context, rather than ignoring the context in order to bring in ideas that are alien to the context, but allegedly in the mind of the author because of his ANE cultural background.



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Knockgoats

posted November 21, 2009 at 6:06 am


Er, no Martin: Calvin’s “explanation” is drivel. How does it account for the “giants” or “mighty men” that were born to the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men”? Answer: it doesn’t.



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Beaglelady

posted November 21, 2009 at 11:39 am


So Calvin is unable to take this sacred text at face value, as a sober historical account, and implies that doing so would be absurd! But why can’t you take it literally? Has God sent you a “powerful delusion” so you will believe Calvin’s lie?
Do you have evidence that fertile celestial males could not impregnate human females? Where is this faith that you find so lacking in Gordon?



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Martin Rizley

posted November 21, 2009 at 8:27 pm


Knockgoats and Beagle Lady,
As I said before, the ‘nephilim’ or ‘fallen ones’ (translated “giants” in the KJV) simply refers to strong, powerful men of large stature. Are you saying that human beings can’t give birth to men of large stature? Was Goliath’s father an angel? Or were the fathers of the Canaanite Nephilim angels? Obviously not. Moses’ point, I pointed out in a previous post, was to emphasize the spiritually fruitless character of the spiritually ‘mixed’ marriages between God’s own adopted “sons” and the physically beautiful, but unbelieving, “daughters of men” they married. Such marriages did not produce any spiritual giants, but simply big, ugly brutes of men, who were nevertheless renowned as “mighty men” and “heroes” by their contemporaries because of their exploits. That interpretation makes good contextual sense, but seeing the “sons of God” as angels makes no contextual sense. When it comes to interpreting Scripture, the best rule is to let the Scripture interpret Scripture; and Numbers 13 clearly shows us that “nephilim” are simply men of great stature, not human/angel hybrids.



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Beaglelady

posted November 21, 2009 at 8:57 pm


Martin,
But it does say that celestial beings mated with human females. It doesn’t say all that other stuff you mentioned. And the offspring of this mating is clearly unusual. What is the point of tap dancing around this issue? Why can’t you take it at face value? What is the big deal? Isn’t it even possible that this actually happened just the way it says? Where is your faith in Genesis as a sober, historical account?



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Martin Rizley

posted November 21, 2009 at 9:36 pm


Beaglelady,
I certainly admit that it is possible the term “sons of God” refers to angelic beings. After all, that is how the term is used in the book of Job. I am simply saying that linguistic arguments, in themselves, are not always conclusive, apart from all other considerations. It is perfectly understandable why the Jewish rabbis thought the sons of God were angels, and there are many very good commentators who take that view. What really persuaded me of the other interpretation was preaching through the first five chapters of Genesis. Beginning in Genesis 4, Moses develops the theme of humanity being split in two camps. One group, the descendants of Cain, develop a humanistic culture that is technologically advanced, but spiritually apostate. The other group, the descendants of Seth, develop a God-centered culture in which the knowledge of God is passed on from generation to generation, and the worship of God is preserved. In this context, it makes perfect sense to see the “sons of God” as a reference to the godly line of Seth becoming entwined with the ungodly line of Cain through the institution of marriage. This seems to me to be the best interpretation contextually now; though I admit there are plausible arguments on the other side.



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Knockgoats

posted November 22, 2009 at 11:44 am


Beginning in Genesis 4, Moses develops the theme of humanity being split in two camps. – Martin Rizley
Moses didn’t write Genesis; there’s no evidence whatever that he even existed.



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Martin Rizley

posted November 22, 2009 at 4:56 pm


Knockgoats,
By what criteria do you determine whether or not there is any evidence that Moses existed? What has led you to choose the particular criteria that you use to make that determination?



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Knockgoats

posted November 24, 2009 at 7:25 am


By what criteria do you determine whether or not there is any evidence that Moses existed? – Martin Rizley
It’s pretty much universally agreed among historians and biblical scholars, other than the lunatic fringe to which you belong, that Exodus was written around the 7th century BCE, long after the events it purports to describe. Extensive archeological research has found absolutely no trace of the supposed 40-year journey of 600,000 Hebrews from Egypt across Sinai to Palestine, which is impossible if it actually occurred. Hence it is as certain as anything can be that this event never took place, at least in anything like the way Exodus describes. There is not a scrap of non-Biblical evidence for Moses, despite the survival of considerable records of events from the time he allegedly lived. Not. A. Scrap.



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Martin Rizley

posted November 24, 2009 at 1:41 pm


Knockgoats,
You’re wrong when you say there’s not a scrap of evidence that Moses lived or wrote the Pentateuch. Check out Gleason Archer’s Old Testament Introduction for internal evidences in the Pentateuch of Mosaic authorship and refutation of the liberal scholars you mention. Of course, for a believer, the testimony of God’s infallible Word is sufficient to believe in Mosaic authorship, because of his faith presuppositions. As a believer, my presuppositions allow both for the possibility of God’s supernatural intervention in this world and man’s ability to know truly, though not exhaustively, the world around him, since God knows and has created man with the capacity to know truly the world around. When I read the evidence of those presuppositions, I find it convincing. But what ground does an atheist have for believing that true knowledge of anything the world is possible? Since, for an atheist, the existence of God is simply one possibility is a sea of infinite possibilities, there is no way of knowing for sure anything about anything. As one writer puts it, “If materialism is true, the “thought” is just an epiphenomenon of the brain, and the results of the laws of chemistry. Given their own presuppositions, materialists have not freely arrived by their conclusion, because it was predetermined by brain chemistry. But then, why should their brain chemisty be trusted over yours or ours, since both obey the same infaliible laws of chemisty. So in reality, if materialistis are right, then they can’t even help what they believe (including their belief in materialism.”
So it all gets back to the issue of presuppositions. If a person’s worldview is so narrow that it will not allow for a supernatural, miracle-working God to be at work in His own universe, then no amount of evidence will ever convince; it will always be “explained away” in some manner. The deeply rooted, religiously held assurance that the world operates through purely naturalistic laws and processes will prevent that individual from interpreting the evidence rightly. So, go check our Gleason Archer, before you tell me that there is zero evidence of Mosaic authorship for the Pentateuch.



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Knockgoats

posted November 24, 2009 at 4:49 pm


Of course, for a believer, the testimony of God’s infallible Word is sufficient to believe in Mosaic authorship, because of his faith presuppositions. – Martin Rizley
That’s all you needed to say, Martin: it makes clear you are utterly incapable of being objective on anything to do with Biblical history. The same is of course true of Archer, for the same reason. The documentary hypothesis was arrived at almost entirely by believing scholars, too honest to pretend to themselves that the Bible is history: Gleason’s view is regarded by all but the lunatic fringe to which you belong as that of a crank. You fail, of course, to make any comment on the complete lack of evidence for the 40-year journey of 600,000 people in the supposed exodus. Come on, Martin, even you can see that it is quite impossible for such an event not to have left traces.
As for the rubbish about brain chemistry which you bring in to distract attention, I’ve already explained the matter of different levels of description to dopderbeck – as did Gordon J. Glover on the same thread (“Science and the Law”). Go and read it.



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Martin Rizley

posted November 30, 2009 at 12:10 am


Knockgoats,
There you go again, harping away at the importance of being “objective,” by which I think you mean interpreting the evidence from a position of total neutrality, as an unbiased interpreter of facts. I have never claimed to be a neutral or an unbiased interpreter of facts, for I don’t believe such a creature exists. Every human being has a “worldview”, consisting of deeply held “first principles” that are regarded as self-evidently true; these first principles form the presuppositional framework within which we interpret the data found in the world around us.
The scientist accepts “by faith” certain principles as self-evidently true in order to conduct his scientific research. These include his “belief” that the world is orderly and that future experience will conform to past experience. He assumes that nature will always operate according to an established pattern, and therefore it can be examined and its behavior can be predicted. Moreover, he assumes that objective truth exists and is knowable and his five senses give him a true, objective knowledge of the world around him. These are metaphysical assumptions he makes in order to pursue study of the physical world; and even though these assumptions are confirmed over and over again in his experience, they nevertheless remain assumptions, and they are accepted “by faith“.
In like the manner, the Christian also has certain underlying assumptions which guide him in his interpretation of the world around him– his fundamental assumption being the undeniable reality of God (that is, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) as the Author of all things and the supreme Interpreter of all facts. He has arrived at this faith, not through the dictates of human logic, but through the self-authenticating testimony of God speaking in the Holy Scriptures, a testimony corroborated and confirmed by every fact in his experience. Since the Christian believes that God is the Author of both nature and Scriptures, he naturally anticipates that the data of history and the natural world will agree when each is rightly interpreted. When apparent conflicts arise, therefore, he is willing to say, “I don’t have all the facts yet,” or, “There is some error in my understanding of Scripture and/or the data of history and the natural world,” rather than to say, “The Scripture itself is in error.” This is admittedly a faith presupposition that guides the Christian scholar in his research, but it is a presupposition which the Christian scholar finds confirmed again and again in his experience. On the other hand, honesty will compel the Christian scholar to admit when an apparent conflict exists between the data of Scripture and the data of history and/or nature, but he will not conclude that such apparent conflicts are actual; instead, he will say that the apparent conflict arises because of our present lack of knowledge and/or understanding.
To dismiss with a wave of a hand the extensive research of a first-rate biblical scholar like Gleason Archer because of his faith presuppositions is to manifest a degree of prejudice and close-mindedness that I frankly find breathtaking. Archer, the Harvard and Princeton trained professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, was a brilliant scholar and one of the most capable biblical and linguistic scholars of the past century. He was fluent in more than twenty languages including Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek and was well-acquainted with ancient near Eastern literature. To call him a “crank” and anyone who values his research part of the “lunatic fringe” tells me much more about you than about him, because when people resort to such pejorative language (the language of insult) to make their point, it is usually a sign that they lack the hard data to refute those whom they oppose, and prefer instead to use the only “weapon” at their disposal– hot air.
I will not go into detail setting forth the many and detailed arguments that Archer uses to discredit the Documentary hypothesis; but if you will take the time to read the general introduction to his book “A Survey of Old Testament Introduction” you will find an amazing amount of evidence (hard data) that Gleason brings forth to expose the erroneous assumptions about the ancient near east upon which 19th century Documentarian critics were basing their theory. He points out that archaeological finds in the twentieth century (especially since 1950) have gone a long way to discredit those assumptions and to confirm the historical reliability of the Pentateuch. The evidence is too extensive to go into in this brief post, but it is truly formidable, if you will only take the time to look at it. What archaeology has done is corroborate the historicity of the political situation in Palestine as portrayed in the Pentateuch and in the book of Joshua. To give just one example: the Tell el-Armana tablets discovered in 1887 contain alarming reports by Palestinian and Syrian princes to the Egyptian court which speak of fierce invaders called the Habiru’ Apiru. They are sending an urgent request for Egyptian troops to repel these invaders. Many scholars believe that what we have in these letters may well be a record of the Hebrew conquest of Canaan in 1400-1380 B. C. written from the standpoint of the Canaanites.
So, if you want to go on calling me a “lunatic” and Archer a “crank,” go right ahead. But that is no answer to the hard data that Archer presents in support of his position.



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