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BioLogos and the June 2011 “Christianity Today” Editorial

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June 6, 2011 Tags: Human Origins

Today's entry was written by Darrel Falk. You can read more about what we believe here.

BioLogos and the June 2011 “Christianity Today” Editorial

In a one page editorial entitled "No Adam, No Eve, No Gospel" (Christianity Today, June 2011, p. 61), Christianity Today (C.T.) draws the line. It is foundational to hold onto the view, the editorial states, that there were two real people named Adam and Eve. Given what else is said in the editorial, regardless of whether they are correct on the historicity question, I heartily applaud the article.

As I wrote last week, the data are clear that humans have been created through an evolutionary process and there was never a time when there was a single first couple, two people who were the progenitors of the entire human race. Within that framework, BioLogos does not take a position on the existence, in history, of two unique individuals, Adam and Eve. This is a theological question, not a scientific one. We recognize that now that the scientific consensus is clear, having become substantiated even further through genetics, there will be many fine theological minds on both sides of the historicity question. Our task is to help the Church come to appreciate that mainstream science and Christianity can co-exist in harmony. We’re happy to stand back and watch as the theologians work through the historicity question. Indeed, some of that conversation may well take place on these pages.

What pleases me most about the C.T. editorial is that it shows the willingness of the C.T. editorial staff to pay close attention to scientific consensus. Look at what they say:

Sometimes, Christian ways of thinking must adjust. Two famous names—Copernicus and Galileo—tell that tale. Other times Christian thinkers adopt some of what scientific research suggests, but hold firm on key aspects of biblical knowledge. The name B.B. Warfield tells that tale…

As the article goes on, the editors also make this statement:

Now we come to another great moment of tension between Christian readings of Scripture and science…

Christians have already drawn the line: there must be an original pair of humans endowed with soul—that is, the spiritual capacity to relate to God in the special way Genesis describes.

Having explained why the line must be drawn at a first couple, the editorial goes on to briefly discuss ways of bringing harmony between the science and traditional Christianity:

Hebrew thought offers one clue to resolving this tension: The corporate nature of humanity. Scripture often calls groups of people by the name of their historical head. Israel is an obvious example. So are Canaan and Cush.

At times, Scripture also holds groups of people morally responsible for the actions of some of their members.

Thus some have suggested—as does John Collins in “Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?” (Crossway, 2011)—that if both biblical and scientific clues suggest a larger population contemporary with Adam and Eve (Whom did Cain marry? Whom did God protect him from?), we can still conceive of Adam and Eve as leaders of that original population. That suggestion has the virtue of embracing both a prehistoric couple and a prehistoric population.

Finally, and all importantly:

At this juncture we counsel patience. We don’t need another fundamentalist reaction against science. We need instead a positive interdisciplinary engagement that recognizes the good will of all involved and that creative thinking takes time. In the long run, it may be the humility of our scholars as much as their technical expertise that will bring us to deeper knowledge of the truth.

The C.T. editorial, in other words, has shown that in their view mainstream evangelical Christianity and mainstream science can co-exist in harmony. There are still many details to be worked out and much conversation lies ahead, but there is reason for optimism. The findings of science and the evangelical approach to Christianity need not be at dead end anymore, and we are thankful that the editorial staff of “Christianity Today” is clearing away the barriers and beginning to pave the way.

As we move forward, the conversation ought to focus on matters about which we can all agree. This is part of the reason that BioLogos has begun a Saturday sermon series, which currently focuses on a set of sermons delivered by Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. I have now listened to the second sermon in this series four times and every time I hear it, I glean some new truth that leaves me in complete awe of our Creator and the never-ending depth of a theology thoroughly grounded in Genesis. Each week we post a four minute excerpt, a brief summary, and then a link to download the entire sermon. We are encouraging people to come back after listening to the whole sermon to “talk” about it if they so desire. So far, it has largely been the atheists who have been chomping at the bit to enter into conversation. That’s not what we want though, especially when I suspect that they have not even listened to the sermon. We hope that a large group of fellow believers will listen to these sermons together as we are all drawn into a spirit of celebration for the beauty of the creation story as fully revealed in Genesis, Romans and Revelation.

The reason that I am advocating Pastor Keller’s messages as the rallying point around which we can all gather is that as one listens to what he has to say, there is very little with which any of us Christians would disagree, regardless of our perspective on details. As I listened again to last Saturday’s sermon, The First Word, I thought to myself that if I were a young earth creationist, I could embrace almost everything he said and grow richly closer to God in the process. However, that would be equally true if I was a Reasons to Believe, old earth creationist, or a William Dembski I.D. theorist, or, of course, a BioLogos evolutionary creationist. The fact is that we are all one. We can all rally around the Word as expounded by pastors such as Dr. Keller. Sure we’ll look at some parts differently—but when we are all hearing the Word together, we can all celebrate its message as it speaks to the heart and soul of who we are as Christians. As we do that—together—we will all, with one voice be able to cry out in unison—“Christ in you—the hope of Glory!” The atheists will look on and wonder what is happening, but what they will see as we all celebrate and worship together is the radiant face of Jesus—the Body of Christ in unison celebrating the beauty of the Creation story as it is completely fulfilled in our Lord.

Editor's Note: Please see Darrel's follow up comment below (#62248) for some clarification on the piece and BioLogos' position on Adam and Eve. Also the first two sentences of the second paragraph have been modified slightly to ensure that the BioLogos position is clear.


Darrel Falk is former president of BioLogos and currently serves as BioLogos' Senior Advisor for Dialog. He is Professor of Biology, Emeritus at Point Loma Nazarene University and serves as Senior Fellow at The Colossian Forum. Falk is the author of Coming to Peace with Science.


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dopderbeck - #62237

June 6th 2011

Darrell, like you I am grateful for much that is in this editorial.  Things have come a long, long way, and that is very good.  However, I also think it is unfortunate in several ways.

First, the title is awful, horrendous, misleading, etc.  Obviously, there are ways of thinking about the Christian gospel in which Adam and Eve could be symbolic.  You said so in your “Coming to Peace With Science” book, and there are many theologians who have said so.  It is unwise in the extreme for CT to stake “the gospel” to this hermeneutical question.  Unwise, and perhaps even heretical.

Second, the editors say “Christians have drawn a line” as though anyone who thinks otherwise is not a “Christian.”  Huh?  Most Christian theologians and Biblical scholars today take Adam and Eve to be symbolic. 

Third, the editors misconstrue Catholic theology for support for this idea that “Christians” have drawn a line in the sand.  I’m really getting tired of conservative evangelicals citing Papal statements as if they understand how Catholic theologians think about these things.  And they completely ignore Eastern Orthodox theology, which generally is unconcerned if Adam and Eve are symbolic (see, e.g., the Orthodox Church in America website here:  http://www.oca.org/CHRIST-life-print.asp?ID=118)

At the end of the day I agree with the CT editors that Adam and Eve were “real people,” or at least are literary figures that represent real people and real events.  But why this continual insistence that all real “Christians” think like editors of CT?  It strikes me as a kinder, gentler fundamentalism, despite the expressed desire to achieve distance from fundamentalism.


theothinker - #62239

June 6th 2011


I agree with dopderbeck that the title is problematic.  Putting the entirety of the Gospel at stake in the question of the historicity of Adam and Eve is troubling.  It reminds me of certain YEC positions that claim Christianity falls apart if Genesis isn’t talking about a 6 day material creation.

It seems to me that this should also be troubling to BioLogos.  If BioLogos takes no position on the Adam and Eve historicity issue, then it seems by implication that viewing Adam and Eve as historical or viewing them as not historical are both acceptable stances (or at least not in conflict with BioLogos’s view of Christianity).  But if the Gospel is dependent on the historicity of Adam and Eve, then how can BioLogos remain neutral on the question?  I think the answer to that question is that thee Gospel is not dependent on the historicity of Adam and Eve, but maybe I’m mistaken.

Just a perspective.

Nancy R. - #62245

June 6th 2011

I too am pleased that CT

accepts the scientific
theories developed by Copernicus and Galileo. What a bold, revolutionary
move on their part. Really…. this is what we’re applauding? “Heartily
applauding,” rather, an editorial that insists that “the line must be
drawn at the first couple.” I know, I know, Dr. Falk insists that BioLogos is
neutral on the question of the historicity of Adam and Eve. But yet
we’re applauding an editorial that insists that my view (and one held by
many Christian theologians) that Adam and Eve were not real people is
indeed incompatible with Christianity. Somehow I thought that that sort
of thinking - you can’t be a Christian unless you accept a literal
interpretation of Genesis 1-3 - was precisely what BioLogos was against
rather than in favor of.

Reminds me of a line I read the other day, by a YEC Christian: “If Adam did not name the dinosaurs, your faith is in vain.”

Dr.
Falk - I really don’t understand what you mean when you say “BioLogos
does not take a position on the historicity of Adam and Eve” if you are
then, as president of BioLogos, endorsing an editorial that insists upon
it. Can you please clear this up for me? Thanks.


Karl A - #62263

June 6th 2011

“If Adam did not name the dinosaurs, your faith is in vain.”

That is sweet!  I love it.  That needs to go on a poster or cartoon somewhere.


Jon Garvey - #62279

June 7th 2011

“Hmm, I will call that little one ‘mouse’. That big one shall be Hypsilophodon foxii.”


dopderbeck - #62246

June 6th 2011

I’d also note that the CT editorial seems committed to an Augustinian view of original sin, a substance dualist view of human ontology, and a creationist view of the soul—all of which are contestable categories within the broad stream of Christian theology.  (On the soul, in fairness, the editorial can be read in a few ways, which actually makes it theologically sloppy on this point).  Again, I personally agree with the editors that a quasi-Augustinian view of original sin and a dualist view of human personhood are probably the best ways to understand things—but they are not the only way.


Darrel F - #62248

June 6th 2011

The points made above are well-taken.  I want to further clarify the point of my piece today.

BioLogos does not take a position on a historical Adam and Eve.  This means we do not agree with any view which suggests that the gospel hinges on their historicity, just as we do not support any view that non-historicity is the only appropriate view for the Church to take.  The editorial in Christianity Today does not represent our position of openness on this question.  However, surely we can all see that the fact that Christianity Today has written such an editorial is a huge step forward…they are seeking various ways of thinking about important doctrines of the faith in a manner that is consistent with the scientific data as it relates to human biological origins.


dopderbeck - #62249

June 6th 2011

Thanks Darrell.  I do agree with you that the CT article and editorial are very positive developments insofar as they acknowledge that the facts of human evolution have to be taken seriously even by conservative evangelicals.  I wish the editorial had been more subtle and flexible, but hopefully that will come in time as well.


theothinker - #62250

June 6th 2011

Thanks Darrel for clearing that up.  For what it’s worth, I think it’s a good position to take (openness to the historical question) since the theological community hasn’t had enough time to wrestle with things.  To that end I do think the CT article is a step forward - at least its being discussed.


Anthony Smith - #62285

June 7th 2011

So the BioLogos position is that the gospel does not hinge on the historicity of Adam and Eve.


Perhaps in future you could say that, rather than “BioLogos does not take a position on a historical Adam and Eve”, which seems to be an attempt to conceal the strong and controversial position that BioLogos does take on the issue.

Nancy R. - #62252

June 6th 2011

The CT editorial does not suggest any acceptance of human evolution or common descent - but rather that “some have suggested… that both biblical and scientific clues suggest a larger population contemporary with Adam and Eve[.]” The editorial does not at all acknowledge the “facts of human evolution” (sorry, dopderbeck). It just states that the cover story “reports the claims of recent genetic research that the human race did
not emerge from pre-human animals as a single pair, as an ‘Adam’ and an
‘Eve.’ The complexity of the human genome, we are told, requires an
original population of around 10,000.” The editorial does not endorse such claims but rather points out that there are ways to reconcile a literal, historical Adam and Eve with a contemporaneous population of humanity. Perhaps this is a small step in the right direction - but please note that it is indeed a small step rather than a giant leap forward.


dopderbeck - #62255

June 6th 2011

Nancy—well, but let’s be fair.  The editorial implicitly accepts the facts regarding the human genome and so on.  Or at least, it accepts the notion that we cannot ignore or deny established facts and well-founded inferences.  For CT, given its very, very conservative constituency, this alone is pretty bold.  No doubt they will be taking enormous heat from many of their YEC subscribers who will not even want the nose of this pony in the stable door.

Like you, I wish the editors had been even bolder.  And at the end of the day, I don’t really care what the editors of CT think about this or anything else, beyond the sociological interest in how the “mainstream” of American evangelicalism might be defined.  There is no evangelical Pope, and CT is not our Vatican publishing house (and Wheaton is not our Vatican!).  At the end of the day the CT editorial page is mostly just a handful of middle aged conservative white American guys who run a glossy ad-supported magazine telling an audience of mostly conservative middle aged white American guys what they think, at the intellectual level of perhaps a high school Sunday School class—while the rest of Christendom carries on, happily oblivious to the CT editors’ cultural baggage.


Nancy R. - #62257

June 6th 2011

Thanks for perspective, and I don’t take that publication seriously either. But - I did recently endure two nights at my church in which Terry Mortenson of “Answers in Genesis” told the congregation that we can’t be Christians if we don’t believe there were dinosaurs on Noah’s ark - and being told through CT that I can’t be a Christian (“No Adam, No Eve, No Gospel”) if I don’t accept a historical Adam is just as grating. No, I don’t care especially what they say - but I certainly object to the official BioLogos stamp of approval of their message.


Jon Garvey - #62253

June 6th 2011

I have to say I take the editorial’s title as a play on the “Historical Jesus” debate. What I think is horrendous is the picture on the cover. Do they really think I’m descended from a guy who was too lazy to comb his hair?


Nancy R. - #62254

June 6th 2011

That’s one area where I’m not arguing with them - I don’t comb my hair either and frankly their “Adam” looks like some of my relatives.


dopderbeck - #62256

June 6th 2011

They should’ve but a Neanderthal on there, given the recent genetic evidence of interbreeding.


Jon Garvey - #62258

June 6th 2011

I thought he looked like a neanderthalis/sapiens cross, but didn’t want to be thought speciesist. Perhaps they are up to speed on the science.

But that’s no excuse for letting your hair go to pot… come to think of it he’s just like a drummer I used to play with.


RBH - #62259

June 6th 2011

I’ll pick a nit.  Nancy R wrote


The complexity of the human genome, we are told, requires an original population of around 10,000.”

No, complexity doesn’t require that, nor is it the <i>original</i> population of H. sapiens that’s at issue. It’s the (relatively limited) <i>diversity</i> (variability) of the human genome that implies a population bottleneck (or perhaps multiple bottlenecks) reducing the breeding population to on the order of 10K  individuals some tens of thousands of years ago.  The population preceding the bottleneck(s) may have been larger.  A brief lay-friendly discussion is <a href=”http://www.bookrags.com/research/population-bottleneck-gen-03/”>here</a>.

Uncle Bonobo - #62262

June 6th 2011

Dopderbeck and NancyR capture my objections.  As you can tell by my name, Adam and I share an ancestor.

But giving credit where credit is due, here’s some comcluding languguage from the article that appears to get to a diffenrt place than the headline would suggest:

“Thus, some have suggested—[omitted]  that if both biblical and scientific clues suggest a larger population contemporary with Adam and Eve (Whom did Cain marry? Whom did God protect him from?), we can still conceive of Adam and Eve as leaders of that original population. That suggestion has the virtue of embracing both a prehistoric couple and a prehistoric population.

At this juncture, we counsel patience. We don’t need another fundamentalist reaction against science. We need instead a positive interdisciplinary engagement that recognizes the good will of all involved and that creative thinking takes time.”


Norman - #62268

June 6th 2011

Just to be a little more Hebraic in our time frame concerning the population density of humanity around the origins of Adam and Eve. It was hardly conceivable that there were only 10,000 people living at the time frame that the Jews established for the origins story.  The 10,000 population very likely goes back to perhaps 200,000 years ago while the biblical story is an ANE thematic development somewhere around the fourth Millennium BC. I think we are mixing science and theology apples and oranges again which happens to be a favorite pastime of those of us interested in such matters, but we need to appreciate that these are two different considerations. One is theological and the other is anthropological. While having implications that we moderns appreciate, the Hebrew simply were not accomplished in making such distinctions.

One of the distinctions of Genesis that gets bandied around without due consideration often is the declaration of Gen 1:26 that the collective “us” has the intent to create Adamites in God’s image.  In Gen 5:1-3 the origins of Gods beginning with these Adamites is that the original “head” Adam receives the “likeness only of God and not the full-fledged “Image of God” that resonated profoundly with an understanding of Kingship in the ANE. The Adamites were set forward on a journey to finally become the full repository of the Image of God eventually only through Christ the messiah. The Image of God was not a biological definition according to Paul in the NT but was the glorification of that journey where the faithful would be called fully “sons of God” bearing completely the Image through the resurrected Christ.

Paul states that God has again “created” the old man anew in His Image through Christ. The creation of the new man through Christ whom was typified first in Adam’s headship [Rom 5:14] is just as much an act of Creation as was Adam’s covenant “creation” of the old man.  In Paul’s understanding creation does not mean what it means to many of us evangelicals who think of miraculous physical formation. No, it keeps getting back to what Walton has outlined for us, which is functional creation.  It is an assignment and is why you and I can still be “created” in God’s Image just as Gen 1:26 Prophesied would occur to the Adamites eventually. 

For those who might appreciate what I believe is one of the best explanations from the Biblical narrative viewpoint concerning the Image of God I recommend NT Wrights speech on “Being Human”. It’s about 45 minutes long but I believe he sheds important Hebraic light on how to comprehend the Image of God biblicaly. Do yourself a favor and listen to this before reengaging again in a discussion trying to make all humanity biologically created in the Image of God and see if you can discern Walton’s ANE idea of functional creation. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73OA7H4Tjj4


Olavi - #62269

June 6th 2011

I read the CT article and the two related pieces here, and I saw Falk’s follow-up above. I am trying but so far failing to understand Biologos’ position on Adam and Eve.

I do know that Biologos accepts evolution. Therefore Biologos is taking the following position: any theology which entails the rejection of evolution must be misguided, because evolution is true (for lack of a better word; “best describes God’s work of creation” is too long).

Now the consequent of accepting evolution is that there cannot be a single human couple which are the progenitors of the entire human race. The diversity we see in the human genome can only be attributed to many thousands of humans, not two.

Thus Biologos is forced to accept the non-historicity of a literal Adam and Eve because Biologos accepts evolution. Therefore (following the same pattern above), Biologos’ position must necessarily be that any theology which requires a literal Adam/Eve pair must be a misguided theology, because there is no literal Adam/Eve pair (because evolution is true).

I am therefore baffled by Falk’s statement above: “...we do not support any view that non-historicity is the only appropriate view for the Church to take.” Does Biologos accept evolution, or not?


dopderbeck - #62271

June 6th 2011

Olavi, as the CT article and even the editorial make clear, it could be particular individuals in a population - like Abraham, Moses, David and Christ.


Olavi - #62272

June 6th 2011

Right, and this is another way of saying that Biologos does take a stand on the historicity or non-historicity of Adam and Eve. Namely, there was no literal human couple. We know that much. But this is not reflected in Falk’s quote above, or in any “official” statement that I’ve seen from Biologos.


Darrel F - #62274

June 7th 2011

Olavi,


Please read this paper, http://biologos.org/uploads/projects/alexander_white_paper.pdf.  It was presented at the BioLogos workshop in November, 2010.  It lays out one way of thinking about a historical first couple that is consistent with the scientific data. 

I would also urge you to read the statement that emerged from the BioLogos workshop.  Please note the signees…they represent a significant cross-section of leading evangelicals.


Finally, BioLogos  has posted a number of articles which lay out the view that Adam and Eve need not be viewed as real historical individuals.  See here for example:

Blessings,
Darrel Falk


Olavi - #62276

June 7th 2011

Hello Darrel,

You may have missed my clarification which I failed to nest under this subthread and which changes the meaning significantly: “...there was no literal human couple from which all humans are descended.”

I greatly overstepped in saying “...or in any ‘official’ statement that I’ve seen from Biologos.” Obviously that was too broad and I shouldn’t have written it. Sorry.

So if I could retroactively make a narrower point, I believe BioLogos (oops, I just noticed that I haven’t been capitalizing the ‘L’) should have made significantly stronger statements regarding Adam and Eve than what I have seen reflected in your recent posts here. In particular I am referring to your clarification above:

BioLogos does not take a position on a historical Adam and Eve.  This
means we do not agree with any view which suggests that the gospel
hinges on their historicity, just as we do not support any view that
non-historicity is the only appropriate view for the Church to take.

It should include something like: “However BioLogos cannot agree with any theology which contends that a single, historical couple were the progenitors of the entire human race, as this runs contrary to our acceptance of evolution.”

In short, you are taking a position on the historical Adam and Eve: you are taking a pro-evolution/pro-science position which necessarily excludes certain other positions.


Darrel F - #62277

June 7th 2011

You are correct, Olavi, and I have usually qualified our view in the manner that you have done here. I think I started assuming that people have read what we’ve written previously.  Thanks for pointing this out.


Darrel

Olavi - #62273

June 6th 2011

To clarify: ...there was no literal human couple from which all humans are descended.


Jon Garvey - #62278

June 7th 2011

To quibble (not for the first time on this board), your statement “there was no literal human couple from which all humans are descended” is too general.

There are indeed many literal human couples from whom all present humans are descended. We have many common ancestors in the history of the race. What science appears to exclude is a single first pair of Homo sapiens, and therefore a single pair from whom all H sapiens ever are descended genetically.

But as Norman has pointed out above, that may well not be what Genesis teaches in any case. A literal couple could have been accounted representative of the race, and so their actions applied to all the race: humans would then be their descendants in a non-genetic sense, just as you might accept George Washington as your national father even if you were a first generation immigrant and Washington had many contemporaries.

Or a literal couple living in A&E times could be one of the race’s common ancestors (very plausible if you look at the maths), and THE common ancestor in a spiritual sense if they had some special spiritual endowment.

Or as Norman suggests above, a literal human couple could have been endowed with some spiritual qualities which were restricted to some part of the human race, ie that Genesis restricts its concept of humanity to some human subset like proto-Israel, rather than our modern scientific understanding that “Human = Homo sapiens +/- other hominin species”. The question of how the whole human race “buys into” that humanity is a theological one, but despite the historical risks of racism, the New Testament says all humanity now has access to relationship with God, so are in some sense descendants of Adam.

There are no doubt other possibilities for Christians to explore, but my point is that all of them allow for, or even demand, a literal couple; and all of them are compatible with genetic science.


Olavi - #62283

June 7th 2011

Regarding the various theories you mention, I can only remark on how this kind of thing appears to an insider-turned-outsider like myself. The vector always points in the same direction: away from the literal and toward the metaphorical. Letting go of the traditional, literal understanding of Adam and Eve is just another waypoint along this journey whose path continues to be straight. Looking behind us, we see a series of similar non-literalizing waypoints like this one, though they now seem distant and quaint to us—curious events from a less knowledgeable time.

Eventually one begins to wonder just how metaphorical it can get. Why do we insist that some things must still be literal, despite the consistent direction of our journey away from the literal? But now this crosses into cultural taboos, which are very powerful and usually prevent further investigation. There is a prohibitive social expense on becoming a taboo-breaking outsider (possible loss of family, friends, work, and more).

I will probably break some taboos on this forum if I keep writing, so I’ll stop there


Jon Garvey - #62284

June 7th 2011

Olavi, the mistake in our age (or the previous, enlightenment age) has been to insist on a dichotomy between the literal and the metaphorical, and to call the first “true” and the second “false.”

I first began to realise this as a small kid after I first transitioned from Sunday School “the moon is to give light at night” to what I thought was the smarter “the moon is a ball of rock orbiting the earth and merely reflects light.” At some stage I suddenly realised that the latter didn’t exclude the former at all.

The task, in dealing with the Bible, is to try and recapture the writers’ (and, more arguably God’s) thought world. They saw real events as having deeper meaning, and real people too as embodying real purpose. Also, of course, they sometimes used non-literal stories, as we do (eg in speaking teleologically about evolution), to convey what they saw as deeper truths.

Actually, there’s a much greater cost to being a taboo-breaking insider than outsider, whether in the realm of religion or science. I think you’re quite safe here.


Olavi - #62301

June 7th 2011

Jon, I was not making epistemological or ontological claims about “true” and “false”. I would certainly agree, for example, that stories can express universal aspects of the human condition through metaphor. Whether such stories could be called “true” in some sense is a matter of definition and is not an interesting issue to me.

I could mention some biblical stories which exhibit this universal-aspect property, but I could do the same with ancient Greek dramas and the works of Shakespeare. To me, the Bible is another patch in the quilt of world literature.

My question still stands—Why should some parts of the Bible be interpreted literally? Why isn’t the Bible another book of literature? All great literature (the Bible included) conveys a sense of universal meaning to the reader. Why not be satisfied with that?

My point about taboos may have been missed. The social force of the insider/outsider distinction is very strong. While many have speculated on the reason for it (easy death by disease from foreign outsiders, etc.), there is no doubt that the insider/outsider impulse plays a significant role in our psychology, however it came about.

For instance this is how I read the latter half of Falk’s last paragraph: “We are the insiders. We are all one. The outsiders will look at us and wonder. Celebrate! We have the key! We are the insiders!”

That plays on a very deep aspect of our minds. Nobody wants to be an outsider. One sure-fire way to become an outsider is to question the foundation which separates the insiders from the outsiders, and taboos naturally form around this (sometimes spoken, sometimes unspoken). The greatest taboo is one which could potentially lead to loss of insider status and therefore loss of friends, family, social standing, and so forth.


Jon Garvey - #62312

June 8th 2011

Briefly on “in and out” ... tribalism is a snare, but only because tribes are a fact of life. If you’re a climate scientist trying to persuade a skeptical public about global warming, the division is real and important, whether or not the tribe of scientists engages in selfless evangelism for the sake of humanity, or takes on the role of the elite cognoscenti. I believe the Gospel liberates, and that liberation causes such a division. Sin easily and frequently turns that into tribalism, but that’s a complication, not a fundamental.

More substantively, I answer that literal truth in the Bible is important because it is a book not about religious philosophy but salvation history. It’s complicated by the fact that much of that history predates the invention of history as the literary form we now recognise.

If Christ did not die for my sins and rise from the dead, then I believe my faith is in vain (that claim actually was made in historical times). Despite the radical theologians I don’t think a metaphorical resurrection cuts the mustard. I consider the evidence sufficient to support such a resurrection.

I can sympathise with Christians wanting to defend such a key historical claim by arguing for literalism throughout the Bible lest the whole house of cards collapse. That maybe makes the “unless Adam named the dinosaurs your faith is in vain” claim less screwy than at first sight. But actually, there is no substitute for a detailed examination of where the book is actually demanding historicity and where it is not. To draw a parallel with your Shakespeare, the power of Henry V is not just in its observation of universals, but in the fact that his public knew that Henry’s real actions at Agincourt had genuinely dictated their present freedom.

Regarding Adam and Eve, the key theological question is “how did people become both bad, and be held to account for it?” Outside the Church, the question could be considered meaningless, but our discussion is about whether the Bible is literal or metaphorical, not about whether it is right or wrong. The argument, then, is that if people’s badness is real, and not metaphorical, then its origin must be too.


Olavi - #62321

June 8th 2011

Jon, my question was meant to be a Socratic one. As I mentioned, I am an insider-turned-outsider so I am quite familiar with the usual explanations and especially with Paul’s 1 Cor 15:14.

Imagine that you ask a Muslim why the various miracles in the Qu’ran should be taken seriously as historical record. He responds with “Well, Muhammad is the last prophet of Allah, who…” He lays out a bunch of theological arguments, but this does nothing for you because you are a nonbeliever with respect to Islam. You are seeking reasons that would convince a nonbeliever, so obviously any reason which assumes the premises of Islam would be disqualified.

For me, therefore, the most interesting thing you said was, “I consider the evidence sufficient to support such a resurrection,” because that does not require Christian theology as a premise. This claim is also familiar to me, and my response is summarized by the following example.

A 2005 Gallup poll found that 41% of Americans believe in ESP. If you talk to a proponent of ESP, it becomes immediately clear that he is 100% sincere. He really believes in it. He has amassed reams of data and can cite study after study to support his position. The literature on ESP is quite vast.

So why doesn’t he convince me—why don’t I believe in ESP? Because the studies which set out to disprove ESP have handily disproved it. For every ESP experiment that has been set up with proper controls, no repeatable, significant effect has been found.

Why does the ESP proponent continue to believe? Why can’t I convince him otherwise? Because he’s not interested in the studies which disprove it. That stuff is biased, he says; it’s just scientism. After some discussion it becomes apparent that he is starting from the premise that ESP exists, and from there he gathers evidence to support it.

The general principle I derive from this is that the ESP proponent does not fully grasp the nature of his own fallibility. If he can first accept that he might be wrong about ESP, the next step is to start reading those ESP-disproving papers. In all likelihood, though, he’ll never take the first step.

I could continue this example further—perhaps adding that the penalty for disbelieving in ESP is eternal torture—but the analogy should be clear enough.


Jon Garvey - #62328

June 8th 2011

Your question was, actually, whether it made any difference whether the Bible contains literal truth or not. Since the difference it makes is theological, that’s why I answered it that way.

The difference between the resurrection and the ESP example is, of course, that the latter is a claim to ability that can be tested repeatedly  in the lab, with the results depending, as you said, on the stringency of the experimental criteria.

The former is a historical claim that, by its nature, is not reproducible. Testing it, therefore, depends on finding historical evidence against it, such as eyewitness testimony that the body of Jesus was seen to be dead whilst the disciples were claiming he was raised, the failure of the story to gain any traction amongst those close at hand and so on. Such evidence is, as you know, singularly lacking. The case against it is based on suppositions about the situation in the early Church, against the backdrop of a philosophical conviction that the dead don’t rise.

If, in fact, the story is a complete fabrication, then it certainly makes a difference to the significance of the Bible’s claims.


Olavi - #62333

June 8th 2011

Jon, that wasn’t the analogy I intended to make. That I chose ESP is not relevant; I could have chosen 9/11 conspiracies, Bigfoot, or most any topic like that. The analogy was not that ESP is like Christianity, but that the ESP “true believer” exhibits the same tendencies as a religious “true believer”.

That is, the ESP believer “does not fully grasp the nature of his own fallibility. If
he can first accept that he might be wrong about ESP, the next step is
to start reading those ESP-disproving papers. In all likelihood, though,
he’ll never take the first step.”
That is where I intended to make the analogy with religion.

Indeed my consistent experience has been that religious believers, like the ESP proponent I described, simply never adopt the possibility that they could be wrong. They build a storehouse of confirming evidence while not pursuing disconfirming evidence.

So before I begin a conversation about the historical underpinnings of Christianity, my initial questions are always (a) do you take your own fallibility seriously—do you accept that you could be mistaken, and (b) do you understand that seeking evidence which supports your view is not sufficient—that you must seek and evaluate the evidence against it.

The ESP proponent I described adopts neither (a) nor (b). That is the essential problem with his stance. It is the reason he is able to maintain his belief and why nobody can convince him otherwise. Religious believers should avoid the same pitfalls.

Without putting forth generalities, my own experience with believers of any sort (remember I used to be one) has been that (a) and (b) are not accepted.


Jon Garvey - #62334

June 8th 2011

Olavi, I’d have to say that the temptation to seek buttresses for ones own position, whatever that may be, is not confined to Christians. For myself, the situation has often been very different - I went up to Cambridge University many years ago as a very young and uncertain Christian, aware (and soon to experience) that it was populated by people far more informed and intelligent than me who regarded Christianity’s truth credentials as worthless.

My survival strategy was the thought that what I believed was in the nature of things no less worthy of open consideration than what they believed. I was actually somewhat surprised to find out how well it stood up in comparison, once refined a bit in the fire of critical thought. I’ve found the same thing since in interacting with the arguments of all kinds of critics of historical Christianity.

That doesn’t make me immune from playing the usual psychological games, but does persuade me after 46 years that my faith is not founded on pure delusion.


Olavi - #62346

June 8th 2011

Jon, I hope it was clear that I was not singling out Christians. I had made reference to ESP, 9/11 conspiracies, bigfoot, and “believers of any sort”.

The number of Muslims who have held onto their faith for 43 years is in the billions. In your view, however, every one of those persons is deluded. The delusion ranges in varying degrees among individuals, of course, and insofar as Muslims have hit on universal aspects of humanity like generosity and forgiveness, they are “right”. But with regard to particulars such as Muhammad riding to heaven on a winged horse, you see them as deluded.

We agree that it is nearly certain that all of the following people are deluded: ESP proponents, 9/11 conspiracists, bigfoot believers, and Muslims. And we have a rough idea of the mechanism by which they remain deluded: (a) they do not consider the possibility that they could be mistaken, and (b) while they are eager to seek evidence supporting their views, they look askance at unsupportive evidence and often remain unaware of it.

Here is where we can identify, I think, the essential difference in our worldviews. One of my central values is a total acceptance of my fallibility and my vulnerability to being deluded. Delusion is not an unusual condition among human beings, but a normative one. The best I can do is to adopt a critical approach to claims and to consciously avoid common pitfalls such as (a) and (b) above.

I don’t want to over-analyze your wording, but that you said “survival strategy” and “stood up” suggests a determination to maintain your faith. But why make that determination? This would imply that you adopted the premise that you are right. In my worldview, that is one of the “mortal sins”.

Is it possible that you have been mistaken for 43 years? If so then there would be no need for embarrassment because in your view billions of others (i.e. those of other religions) have made a similar mistake.


Olavi - #62347

June 8th 2011

Oops, 46


Jon Garvey - #62350

June 9th 2011

Hmm ... I’d be a little more persuaded of your own objectivity if your examples of “believers of any sort” included believers in democracy, the reality of the holocaust and the multiverse hypothesis as well as bigfoot…

Coming from a medical background, and in the aftermath of Prof Dawkins book, I think “delusion” carries rather a lot of baggage as the basis for our discussion, though I used it first. Most people are mistaken much of the time about most things (I think Abraham Lincoln said that…) if only because people are seldom unanimous about anything.

However, I don’t think that’s primarily because they all have an unshakeable notion that raspberry jam is objectively better than strawberry. To steer through life, ones working assuumption has to be that whilst one may well be mistaken, until that’s demonstrated conclusions you’ve arrived at consciously have value.

For example, I doubt that in this discussion you are, in fact, equally open to the likelihood that your own views are either true or utter nonsense. Otherwise it would be meaningless to say that once you were an insider but now you’re an outsider- unless you mean you arbitrarily take a position for each conversation, knowing that it’s probably wrong.

I know people who have been atheists for 43 (or 46) years. Whether they change their views (as Antony Flew did) or remain in them, assumptions that they are merely victims of their own psychology are probably unproductive. Or at least unhelpful in deciding whether their views were correct.


Olavi - #62364

June 9th 2011

Jon, within the limited space of this medium I put forth as straightforwardly as I could what I suspect is the difference between our worldviews.

I was not aiming to make it personal. When I asked you whether you had considered the proposition that you could be mistaken, it was on one level a personal question but more importantly it was meant to illustrate this suspected difference between worldviews.

My goal was not to persuade you of my own objectivity. Whether I utterly fail or succeed in living up to my stated principles can be assessed independently of those principles themselves. As I explained, the central principle is a total acceptance of one’s own fallibility. Now, you can attack me for not living up to that—and you may be right—but that is rather different than evaluating the principle on its own merits.

About the word “delusion”, I am willing to use whatever word you suggest.

I was certainly not implying that other people’s conclusions which differ from mine have no value. I even said that they can be “right”:

The delusion ranges in varying degrees among individuals, of course, and insofar as Muslims have hit on universal aspects of humanity like generosity and forgiveness, they are “right”.

I am surprised that you interpreted my self-fallibility principle as being “equally open to the likelihood” of one claim over another, as if I would be required to hold out a 50/50 chance that faeries exist. No, being open to the possibility of being mistaken means that if I was offered evidence of faeries, I would be genuinely curious to see what it was instead of dismissing it outright.

There is good evidence for the idea that people are prone to delusion (or whatever the preferred word for it is). Muslims alone provide billions of case examples, as we both agree. It is not controversial to suspect that whatever befell those billions could also happen to you and me.

My conclusion about Muslims is still tentative. If good evidence were proffered, I may change my mind. The basis upon which claims are decided is evidence. The recognition that delusions are commonly held plays no role in deciding which views are “correct”. However using that recognition as a guiding principle can prevent oneself from ignoring evidence and therefore, to the extent possible, prevent self-delusion.


Jon Garvey - #63281

July 13th 2011

Just seen your “want to continue” post on the other thread. I got distracted and others seemed to be continuing the argument. But…

I think almost every thinking person has some degree of your checks and balances against self-delusion. But it is never free of many complicating factors, including what one has invested in a belief, how important to you checking it out is etc.

So briefly compare Muslims and members of the public supporting the Neodarwinian Modern Synthesis. Most  Muslims believe because in a Muslim culture its social predominance gives it plausibility. Ditto for MS.

Negatively, the Muslim culture also works on the assumption that Christianity has been debunked, so that the actual case seldom needs to be justified. Ditto for in the West for, say, Creationism: for most secular citizens, it’s bad science - but they couldn’t marshall any particular evidence, because they’re not bothered - they trust authority.

An academic Islamist has actually studied the basis of Islam for decades, so knows why he believes - but he’s still in the culture, and he’s also invested his life and livelihood in Islam. He’s as likely to put the same work into Christian theology as a biologist is to study Creation Science carefully. 

Most Westerners will dismiss Islam because its social implausibility removes the need to study it. Others (like me) will have invested significant time assessing it, but rejected it - ostensibly on rational grounds, but it’s impossible to be sure how much is ones own commitment to non-Muslim views. And the only reason I studied it is because it’s a significant rival to my own belief system, unlike say Scientology. Life’s too short to refute everything, but that inevitably risks missing the important.

A thoughtful Muslim might come to doubt the basis of Islam, just as a biologist might come to doubt the sufficiency of the MS and start thinking heretical thoughts about teleology, natural genetic engineering or convergent evolution. Their thinking is bound to be coloured, one way or the other, by the knowledge that they are heretical. Kudos and jobs are at stake, but you can also make a name for yourself. What is the most likely outcome is a more nuanced view of Islam or the MS than the popular one, in which case maybe some uncomfortable evidence may be downplayed, if not ignored.

Should the dissenter jump ship entirely and become a Christian/Lamarckist respectively, then the evidence being downplayed will be that on the other side of the argument. Humanly we’re not built to sit on fances for long.

These and other factors are all going to affect ones assessment of evidence, but two things remain true: (a) most people will sometimes question their beliefs, whether voluntarily or just through doubt and (b) true objectivity is a myth only believed by those who have deluded themselves they possess it. And there is little difference in that between believers in religion and believers in secular areas like science.


penman - #62282

June 7th 2011

Just to underline Jon Garvey’s important point…

It isn’t a stark choice between (a) evolution with no Adam or Eve (b) Adam & Eve with no evolution. For instance, I think a historical Adam & a historical race-fall are part of the theological fabric of scripture in both testaments (actually far more the New!). But there are various ways of “mapping” that theology onto empirical data.

My preference is to see Adam & Eve as representative heads of an already existing humankind (king & queen of a human population), within the framework of a covenant between God & the race. And yes, that race arrived at its biological “shape” through common descent. AND there are other ways of mapping the theology onto the science - look at Jon Garvey’s material either in the blog post archives or his website.

As I see it, there’s just no need to ditch Adam & Eve, no matter how fully one embraces modern scientific perspectives on origins. The only thing we probably have to ditch is the secondary idea that Adam & Eve were the sole biological progenitors of all imago-dei humankind (“probably” because the current genetic consensus isn’t infallible). But Adam & Eve as sole progenitors is quite secondary; it doesn’t touch the essence of the theological issue, & arguably (strongly, in my opinion) isn’t what Genesis or any other part of scripture necessarily teaches anyway.


Norman - #62288

June 7th 2011

What makes this such a difficult discernment between the historicity of Adam and Eve for us often stems from the recognition of the type of genre we are dealing with in Gen 1-11. If we work backwards from the Babel and flood accounts we recognize first hand that these are not literally true stories in the manner we would ascribe. However they served a purpose in the ANE by identifying individuals within specific groups of people. We know that the 70 ANE nations did not arise from three boys who got off the ark with Noah but this was a common method in the ANE of illustrating history. Think of the Romulus and Remus origins of Rome and you can get the drift that people developed their origin narratives around such methods. We look to George Washington but the ANE peoples had their own method to describe Nations, peoples and City States.

The above being the case though does not preclude that Rome or Israel did not have historical beginnings and Paul’s understanding of Adam and Eve essentially is a common sense understanding that Israel as the people of faith [the old church in need of redemption] had a real life beginning. We just get lost in the details from our perspective and try to work these Romulus and Remus and Adam and Eve stories into our modern concepts and they really are hard to mix. God begin the church with Adam and Eve whomever they were and the last Adam redeemed it.


dopderbeck - #62291

June 7th 2011

Norman, I appreciate your approach, but I think there’s a serious problem with it:  it suggests that only those in Israel / the Church possess the image of God.  This was the sort of stance that got La Peyrere in trouble and that permitted many Christians to use pre-Adamite theories for racist ends.  IMHO, however we try to suss this out, we need to be careful to maintain the unity of all humanity both as created in God’s image and as sinful and in need of redemption.


Norman - #62292

June 7th 2011

David I really appreciate your concern because this issue can be distorted.

However I think you may still be thinking outside the ANE mindset perhaps. This is not a biological issue IMO but a covenantal corporate understanding. The best way to get your mind around this point is to think of the corporate covenant “body of Christ” that encompasses the church at large. Nothing biological about being part and parcel of that collective entity. In fact Paul had to illustrate this point to the first century Jews and Gentiles where those biologically descended from Israel were not true Israel but instead was faithful and covenant Israel [Rom 9:6-8]. This is a critical concept for us to keep in focus upon these discussions.

Would we use the same argument that you pose to reject our inclusion today in a separate collective in which we claim exclusiveness to eternal life? Is that considered a biological attribute? The Image of God in Paul’s eyes goes hand and hand with redeemed faithful believers through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

I believe what you are arguing for is in essence what makes us physically human, and perhaps Genetics answers that question somewhat in identifying that the totality of human commonality goes back perhaps 200,000 years to our most ancient progenitors. Two different issues altogether, and is the point that I keep trying to emphasize in these discussions.

If the biblical idea of man as described in Genesis and the OT is a picture of a covenant [church beginning] then adamites were holistically identified because of their attribute of faithfulness to YHWY [Heb 11 comes to mind]. Their story is a messy one due to trying to work God’s righteousness upon themselves by human effort and design. The New Kingdom became fruitful to the ancient church; because through Christ there were no man controlled High Priest subject to corruption and dishonor.

They had a difficult time making the transition though and the majority rejected Christ because of their desire to continue in the first Adam’s fleshly bondage instead of the freedom availed to them through the last Adam’s spiritual life.


KevinR - #62353

June 9th 2011

From what you’ve written I can only conclude that you are not a Christian - your words completely massacres the word of God. If the global flood and babel are only fables, why should we believe Jesus when he refers to Noah as a real person?


Merv - #62295

June 7th 2011

Olavi wrote:  “The vector always points in the same direction: away from the literal and toward the metaphorical.”

I’d like to reinforce Jon Garvey’s response and add a bit of my own.  I know what you mean, Olavi, about a vector appearing to be consistently one direction, but I think that ends up being a mis-impression that is fueled (usually by science/religion conflict minded people of  these last couple of centuries.)  A frustrated conservative thinker who is quick to be alarmed about modern encroachments on what he sees as “traditional” Biblical understanding can find lots of fodder to bolster his perception.  But when one studies the Old and New Testaments reading about things like the Son of God being a Lion, but then he’s also a lamb (to think that the authors were unaware of metaphor in all this strains all credibility).  Early church monks loved the song of solomon that has Christ romantically courting his bride, the church (and this fails to be metaphorical how? ...)  I could go on from Psalms or Job ... God is a sun, or he’s a shield, a rock, a fortress ...

Comparing this with some modern literalistic thought just as easily reveals a huge vector *away* from metaphor.  Only in a paucity of intellect can moderns imagine that they understand metaphor while poor fools of antiquity could only see things literally.  In fact, to the extent that those blinded by enthusiasm for science are representative, the situation would be the reverse.  That latter fails to understand metaphor, and has even turned the word “myth” into an insult.  Such narrow modern intellect would be laughingstock for authors of Job or various Psalms.  They were way ahead of that.

So while trends may seem unidirectional for a season or two or within certain historical pools of thought, I maintain that your vector is considerably messier than you allow.

—Merv
I was just reading in Job this morning  “He wraps up the waters in His clouds, and the cloud does not burst under them.”, and thought to myself about our ‘firmament’ discussions; that perhaps the author is even visualizing a puffy cloud somehow holding up a singular pool of liquid water inside it.  (I remember growing up and being confused about clouds).  We wouldn’t see them unless they actually were droplets of liquid and/or crystals of ice.  But the silliest (& uniquely modern?) confusion of all that I could have would be to think the author was trying to instruct me about clouds at all.


Olavi - #62302

June 7th 2011

Merv, in the context of what I said, scientific evidence is what causes movement in the direction of that vector. Also, it is Christians who in motion along the vector. Nonbelievers are not part of the picture; indeed they have arrived at “all metaphor”, where the journey ends. The perceptions or misperceptions of some nonbelievers do not move Christians in the opposite direction, from metaphor to literalism.

Is there a passage in the Bible which was traditionally understood (by Christians) to be metaphor but later interpreted to be literally true (by Christians)?


Merv - #62322

June 8th 2011

Hi, Olavi.

I also was speaking in your context of scientific evidence.  It is that very context which has influenced some Christians to be over-zealously literal in order to try to impress skeptical science-minded  people, as if scientific empiricism was the only measure of truth.  It isn’t.  Truth is also conveyed through story, metaphor, myth, and yes—literal things too.

You ask:  “Is there a passage in the Bible which was traditionally understood (by
Christians) to be metaphor but later interpreted to be literally true
(by Christians)?”

Some prophetic / apocalyptic books would fall into this category I think; like Revelation or Daniel or parts of Isaiah.  Not all Christians try to take these literally today, but some very outspokenly do.  But if we’re trying to stick to just Christian ages, then Augustine would probably be a good example of considering the metaphorical nature of the creation passages (Genesis 1 ...) while many U.S. Christians (in our scientific context, and in fact probably *because* of it) have adopted literal understandings of the same.  So I guess I am taking issue with your statement that believers aren’t moved by perceptions of unbelievers.

Also, Paul writes warnings to those who wanted to consider Jesus’ resurrection as not being bodily literal, implying the existence of non-literal approaches in the earliest church days while it is orthodox today to preach a literal resurrection.  None of this is clean-cut, though, since so many exceptions to our imaginary vector could also be constructed.  Not to mention that anyone who does any careful reading at all parses different Biblical material into different categories. 

Still, if you are speaking of the drift of one person’s understandings in their own life-time your case might be stronger.  We could probably compile a big list of folks here who grew up accepting and being taught literalistic approaches who now accept more metaphor than they did.  And the list of modern people going the other way would surely be shorter. At least I can’t think of any unless you count atheists like C.S. Lewis (who moved from unbelief to literal belief in the resurrection).  But this isn’t the same as moving from metaphorical to literal understandings.  He maintained a deep understanding and appreciation of myth and metaphor if anybody ever did.  Would that some of his literary wisdom could be meted out as an antidote (or vitally missing intellectual nutrient, rather) to all of us intellectually starving empiricists of positivist proclivity today.  I include myself and many Christians in this because it has seemed impossible for us NOT to be influenced by our surrounding science-worshiping culture.  Hence the need for this whole discussion and indeed this site.

—Merv



Olavi - #62349

June 9th 2011

I also was speaking in your context of scientific evidence.  It is that very context which has influenced some Christians to be over-zealously literal in order to try to impress skeptical science-minded  people, as if scientific empiricism was the only measure of truth.

Merv, did you mean to say that? Skeptical science-minded people would be the absolutely least likely audience to be impressed by Christians who are over-zealously literal.

I am not aware of anything like that happening, but if it did it would be a failure of nearly limitless proportions. It would be like a group of people having sex in order to impress others with their virginity.


Merv - #62406

June 9th 2011

I know it sounds strange, but hear me out.

You may think that, for example, a YEC and someone else who is an evolutionary enthusiast would be on opposite ends of a spectrum.  But they have a large chunk of common mental ground.  They both think that if something is true about our world in any practical or relevant sense whatsoever, then it should be accessible to scientific scrutiny. 

It’s as if secularists said:  “You know if your God really did create the world, then science should be able to show x, y, and z (recent special creation, global flood, etc.) to confirm these things.”
Then some creationists who couldn’t let that bait go, said “okay, we will look for x, y, and z —-and even if we haven’t found it yet, we have faith that it is there somewhere.”  And then when secularists found evidence for a, b, and c which are contrary to x, y, and z, they throw that in the mix to which beleaguered creationists reply “well, you must be wrong about a, b, and c, because we just know that x, y and z are true.”

Meanwhile evolutionary minded creationists are way back at the original challenge pointing out to both parties how absurd the original challenge is (that any of these would be proof or disproof of God’s activity, but only of certain ways some Bible passages are understood).  But anti-evolutionary creationists are determined to have their day *on scientific turf* because they want the authority of science on their side, in an attempt to win over all (including their own communities—they see much at stake in all this) who agree that science does have that kind of authority.  That is the sense in which I suggested that they are trying to “impress scientists”.   Perhaps I should more accurately stated they are trying to bolster their arguments with science for whatever purpose that may serve.  But what could that be but to win people over ... and to use science to that purpose?

It may be ironic, but it is actually YECs that cede much higher authority to science than evolutionary creationists.  So YECs and fundamentalist-minded atheists really are birds of a feather, and both want their science to make more of an impression on the other.

—Merv



Olavi - #62413

June 10th 2011

Merv, the “creation science” espoused by groups such as YECs is not science. It is a form of cargo cult science. To put “creation scientists” in the same category as real scientists because both are using “science” is akin to saying that this http://bit.ly/jaL8yF is just like an airplane and the people sitting around it are just like aeronautical engineers.

Creationists do not understand the principles of science. They have it exactly backward. In real science, evidence trumps received dogma. In “creation science”, dogma trumps all else.

There is a spectrum of worldviews ranging from “total dogma” (YEC-like positions) to “some dogma” (BioLogos-like positions) to “no dogma” (secular-like positions). One could say that YEC and secularism are similar because neither is in the middle, but this is like saying that $0 and $1000 are similar because neither is $500.

Movement along that spectrum is fueled by questioning and investigating dogma. The journey takes a bit of courage and humility, for there is tremendous peer pressure in the opposite direction and one must face the possibly embarrassing realization of having been mistaken for a long time (perhaps many years). (This relates to my conversation with Jon earlier in this thread.)


Ronnie - #62565

June 13th 2011

Olavi:

Could you expound upon what “cargo cult science” is exactly?

Also, could you give examples of the dogma that you say creation scientists use to trump evidence?


Ronnie - #62415

June 10th 2011

“Creationists do not understand the principles of science.”

Is this your dogma?


Steve Ruble - #62299

June 7th 2011

Each week we post a four minute excerpt, a brief summary, and then a link to download the entire sermon. 

Darrel, it’s not a link to download the entire sermon, it’s a link to buy the entire sermon. 

So far, it has largely been the atheists who have been chomping at the bit to enter into conversation. That’s not what we want though, especially when I suspect that they have not even listened to the sermon.

Darrel, that’s a rather ungracious remark.  One doesn’t need to give Keller any money before being able to point out the flaws in the portion of the sermon you’re making available for free and the summaries you provide. And there are significant flaws in the sermon, even if we ignore the Christian theological assumptions Keller helps himself to; most obviously, Keller seriously misrepresents the philosophies and ideas of people he disagrees with, as I’ve pointed out in my comments. I don’t know why you and/or BioLogos is trying to promote a man who has so little regard for honest engagement with others’ views.  The fact that you depict Keller as an exponent of 

 “the Word” is increasingly puzzling to me.


penman - #62310

June 8th 2011

Norman #62292

Norman, I have a degree of affinity with your view. I think that the Adamite line, traced through the Old Testament (genealogies etc), is in fact specifically the Messianic line of descent within a much larger humanity. The Second Adam is descended from the First in a sort of royal lineage.

However… I still think Adam sustained a covenant relationship to God on behalf of all humanity. That’s the grounding for the biblical view of human sin: a collective race-fall through the first covenant-head, the original priest-king of the race. Likewise Christ is the new & better priest-king for the whole race, although only His redeemed people have a spiritual life-union with Him. In both cases I see a general & a particular aspect. Adam is generally the covenant-head of the race, particularly the biological progenitor of the Messianic line (which you could call Israel). Christ is generally the Redeemer of the race, particularly the spiritual progenitor of the Church.

And… what in your view makes human beings distinctive, if it isn’t the image of God? I understand that you connect the image with a positive relationship with God (salvation). What is it, then, that makes unsaved humans special? Is it their *capacity* for receiving the divine image (a capacity not shared by monkeys, cats, mice, frogs, ants, etc)?

My current understanding is that all humans have God’s image, albeit the image is damaged & obscured by sin.


Norman - #62320

June 8th 2011

Penman,

What you have outlined is very close to how I see things. It seems that Paul though sees sin in the world even though Adam has been established in the Garden. The definition of Garden is simply fulfilled relationship with God via faith. Paul again sees this relationship damaged by the introduction of the Law/commandment first encountered via Adam and Eve in Garden life. This story is in essence a microcosm of Israel under the Law as well. The intro of “law” is what damaged the relationship that had been established by God with Adam and thus his and Israel were in need of redemption from the “bondage” of the Law. This is where a new Adam headship via Christ the redeemer comes in. Christ is not reestablishing those not of faith but is reestablishing only those who are of faith and seek God.

So Sin is part of the Natural order of things but for those in a Garden walk it requires one be in a relationship via Christ. What the OT and NT calls specifically “the Sin” is in regards to the specific act of defilement regarding “Law” breaking according to Paul in Rom 7:9-11. That becomes a non-issue now because of Christ putting an end to Law and thus “the Sin” is not a detriment to faithful anymore [Rom 7:24-25].

By the way the ancient Jews were very specific concerning the time frame that Adam had been established. Luke speaks of the 70 generations and so does second Judaism Temple literature such as Enoch and especially the detailed chronological time frame put forth by the Book of Jubilees. They had a set time when messiah was to appear and Jubilees establishes exactly what you discern about Adam being a priest headship for humanity, this mimics Israel’s call as well. Both were required to offer sacrifices for the Gentiles and so there is fully the idea from the Jewish perspective that Gentiles would be folded into and included under this arrangement for establishing God fully with all of humankind. Adam and Israel failed on their part but Christ of course did not thus becoming the Last Adam.


Nancy R. - #62313

June 8th 2011

A general question to all those who believe in some sort of a literal, historical Adam: does this view thus require a literal, historical flood as well? If so - local or global?


Ronnie - #62319

June 8th 2011

NancyR:

I don’t believe “in some sort of a literal, historical”  Adam, I believe he was the first man on this earth as Genesis so plainly states. So, to answer your question; yes, the same plain reading of Genesis records a worldwide flood, where:

“all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. Fifteen cubits did the water prevail, and the mountains were covered.” (Gen. 7:19-20).


penman - #62316

June 8th 2011

Nancy R. #62313

A local flood for me. One that devastated the land (the land, not the world: the Hebrew of Gen.6-9 fits this) where the Adamite line was dwelling. A global flood isn’t required exegetically. This was recognized ages ago by such ultra-conservative exegetes as the acclaimed Puritan Matthew Poole. The Banner of Truth still publishes his bible commentary. Amazing - a Banner book that says you can believe in a local flood!

But I won’t start on that. Suffice it that I have many scriptural & scientific reasons for not holding to a global flood (& certainly not one that produced the fossil record). I realize this will be seen as a sign of how hopelessly liberal I am…. even though I do believe in a real Noah, who carried on the Adamite line, from which the Messiah was born.

In my circles, denying a global flood is worse than being a theistic evolutionist.


Pete D - #62385

June 9th 2011

So how old was the real Noah when he died? 950 years?


beaglelady - #62327

June 8th 2011

Will Pete Enns be commenting on this thread? After all, he’s the OT scholar here.


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