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Confronting Our Fears, Part 3: Losing Our Savior

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November 19, 2012 Tags: Lives of Faith

Today's entry was written by Mike Beidler. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Confronting Our Fears, Part 3: Losing Our Savior

For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:17-19, ESV)

 

At the end of my last post, I suggested that as Christians, we have to take seriously Paul’s clear treatment of Adam as a real person rooted in human history. Furthermore, Paul seems to have thought that an historical Adam was important not for its own sake, but for the logic of salvation through Christ Jesus. How could an historical, literal Jesus solve the very real problem of sin that resulted from the rebellious act of a mythical, literary Adam?

 

While that question makes a lot of sense on the surface, are these two figures as closely linked as I, and many others, think they are? Before I address whether the connection between Adam and Jesus is iron-clad or tenuous, though, I need to briefly address a different common objection heard by evolutionary creationists: If we accept that the cosmology and anthropology of Genesis 1-3 isn’t accurate from a modern scientific perspective, then we can’t trust the remainder of Scripture. Are we truly on a slippery slope toward rejecting everything else in Scripture, to include the necessity of Jesus’ role as humanity’s redeemer? I don’t believe so, and here’s why.

As an evolutionary creationist and a Christian, I hold the Bible to be sacred literature, and I identify fully with the faith community that the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures not only shaped, but which also shaped the content of Scripture. As a truth-seeker, I desire to understand what the text is truly saying as much as any other member of our shared faith. I want to read the Bible for all it is worth, and that requires taking the time to determine the author’s original intent for every passage of Scripture, including various passages within the same book that were written utilizing different genres. In doing so, we discover that the life of Jesus as presented in the four Gospels is nothing like the etiological myths encountered in Genesis 1-11; we can safely treat the Gospels as a reliable source for knowing how the early Church viewed the historical person of Jesus of Nazareth, whose very existence is also documented in extra-biblical literature.

Skeptics of evolutionary creationism may accept that the faith-filled life of a theistic evolutionist is evidence that the Bible still wields moral authority in his or her life, and even that he or she affirms the historicity of the God-man Jesus. But there is often still considerable concern over how evolutionary creationists can affirm the historical assertion that Jesus’ death upon the Roman cross was necessary if Adam truly never lived and breathed. If Adam never lived (so the argument goes), sin is illusory, atonement for mankind’s sin is unnecessary, and Jesus’ death is all the more tragic. Because the person of Jesus and His sacrifice are so central to the Christian faith, this is a valid fear.

However, I believe this fear can be dissected carefully and ultimately overcome once one acknowledges that, even without an original source and propagator of sin (i.e., Adam), the sinfulness of mankind (1) remains universally observable and repeatable, (2) can be explained as a result of our status as a created species with free will and a genetic predisposition to sin inherited from our ancestors, and (3) is still recognized as an inherent moral weakness that needs correction and redemption (if a divine lawgiver is presumed). All this, even if Adam and Eve were not historical persons co-complicit in an historical “fall.” In fact, one could argue that evolutionary biology provides an even more powerful paradigm for explaining the source of mankind’s sinful nature in our day than the biblical text does.

Many evolutionary creationists are convinced that our inherited evolutionary baggage—borne of an instinctual (and once necessary) need to preserve one’s self by means of selfish acts—still requires divine intervention in order to allow us to altruistically transcend what Paul calls the “flesh” (Rom 7:18; 8:5-9). We still need the work of the Holy Spirit to lead us on a sanctifying path to make us more than merely human and increasingly like the Logos of whom John the Baptist testified (John 1:6-8).1

An historical Adam

One may argue that Paul treated Adam as an historical person. Yes, I believe Paul certainly did; but this is to be expected and readily admitted.2 To believe that God created Adam approximately 4,000 years before Paul’s day was an integral part of the Jews’ religious heritage. Paul’s belief that Adam actually existed is a natural extension of his rigid upbringing in the Pharisaical tradition. Nevertheless, Paul was not attempting to make an anthropological point and arguing for the necessity of a literal Adam; he was making a soteriological one and defending the necessity for a literal Savior. Even if Paul knew better by exclusive revelation from the Holy Spirit, Paul’s appropriation of Adam’s original act of rebellion is, of course, perfectly acceptable since, regardless of sin’s “material” origin, the solution to mankind’s sin problem remains Jesus’ sacrificial act—an act of love that requires a particular context for it to “make sense” to those to whom Paul preached.

Anticipating the claim that Paul, an inspired apostle, would not have used the rebellious act of a mythical person to justify the loving act of an historical one, I can only appeal to the argument that theological truths need not be couched in the dry, straightforward manner of modern journalism. God can (and did!) inspire the authors of Scripture to express His truths through a variety of methods: myth, legend, epic, poetry, wisdom literature, historical narrative, gospel, pastoral letters, and apocalyptic literature. Jesus’ parables even featured actors who never existed and utilized historical fiction to press his points. Sometimes truth is best communicated through means that accommodate our current paradigms (as inaccurate as they may be) and meet us where we are. All genres that illuminate truth are the “best kinds,” and God uses story as well as history to illuminate His truth.

Next time, we’ll continue our exploration of fears that I and other evangelicals have about considering evolutionary creation by looking at the fear of losing face.

Notes

1. See Daryl P. Domning and Monika K. Hellwig, Original Selfishness: Original Sin and Evil in the Light of Evolution (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2006).
2. For other possible ways to understand Paul’s understanding of Adam, see Peter Enns, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Says and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2012).


A retired U.S. Navy commander, Mike currently resides in the Washington DC Metro Area and works in international business development for a major aerospace/defense company. Mike holds an MS in Global Leadership from the University of San Diego, a BA in Political Science from the University of Michigan, and an AA in Persian-Farsi from the U.S. Army’s Defense Language Institute. Mike is President of the DC Metro Section of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), a member of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), and helps administer the Facebook group Celebrating Creation by Natural Selection.

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Seenoevo - #74590

November 21st 2012

“As the NT proves, doctrinal divisions within the Christian faith existed from the earliest of times, even during the Age of the Apostles.”

Did a doctrinal division exist on divorce and remarriage within the Christian faith from the earliest of times, even during the Age of the Apostles?

If so, did the division remain or was it resolved, and if resolved, how?

While the offer of private consultation is appreciated, wasn’t this apparently an important enough doctrinal issue to be worthy of repeated public proclamation?

 

What other doctrinal divisions did the early Christians have and, as above, did the divisions remain or were they resolved, and if resolved, how?


Mike Beidler - #74634

November 22nd 2012

Seenoevo,

Okay, I’ll bite.  I’m curious as to why you believe answering this particular question bears on the discussion at hand.

Did a doctrinal division exist on divorce and remarriage within the Christian faith from the earliest of times, even during the Age of the Apostles?

There were arguments within Second Temple Judaism regarding divorce and remarriage (Jesus even addresses these disputes in Matthew 5 and 19, and Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:11-13), but I’m unaware of any passages of Scripture that would suggest the existence of any doctrinal divisions on this particular subject insofar as the early Church was concerned.

What other doctrinal divisions did the early Christians have and, as above, did the divisions remain or were they resolved, and if resolved, how?

There were doctrinal divisions over how much of Judaistic practices the Gentiles were required to observe when they became Christians (Act 15:1-29).  These were settled at the Jerusalem Council.

Some in Paul’s circle were declaring that the Resurrection of the Dead had already occured (2 Tim 2:17b-18).  There is no record as to how that was dealt with.

Other passages speak to doctrinal divisions within the early Church without identifying them or how they were overcome:

  • Romans 16:7
  • Ephesians 4:14
  • 1 Timothy 1:3; 6:3
  • Titus 1:9

These are the few divisions that readily come to mind.


Chip - #74592

November 21st 2012

Hello again Mike,

I can dismiss Paul’s anthropology because the scientific evidence, encompassing a number of disciplines from anthropology to linguistics to archeology to genetics, convergences on the conclusion that anatomically modern mankind is much older than 6,000 years by a factor of about 20. 

Hmmm.  You’re conflating issues here Mike.  I can accept everything that follows “because” above, but who said anything about 6000 years?  Certainly not me.  For the sake of argument, I will readily admit that I don’t know when he lived (or even how he might have been created—and neither do you), but that he lived is non-optional given the structure and argument of Romans. 

It seems as if you are arguing for a one-size-fits-all hermeneutic for the entirety of Scripture.

Not at all.  Like I’m sure you do, when I read Ps 17, for example, I recognize that the language employed doesn’t require God to be a chicken.  What I am arguing for is a hermeneutic that is consistent within the context of a few lines of Romans 5.  There is absolutely no linguistic, contextual or rhetorical justification to cherry-pick one verse which you define as “myth,” and then turn around and, embrace the subsequent one “with your entire being.”  Same author, same period, same audience, same genre, same rhetorical style, same language, same cultural assumptions, same piece of parchment… maybe even the same dip into the inkwell. 

Finally, I’m flattered that you liked my first draft of the BLT.  Here’s the next revision, which I believe conforms even more closely to the superior evolutionary paradigm you’re advocating.  Furthermore, since accommodation is a selective process, one redactor selects this, another selects that…

Remember, objections (if you have any) need to be consistent with the principles you have already articulated.  Happy reading. 

if, because of [our inherited evolutionary baggage…] death reigned through [the species], much more will those who [either through luck or hard work instinctually “evolve themselves” back in the other direction and “drop their bags,” have no real need of the] one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as [our inherited evolutionary baggage] led to condemnation for all men, so [self-effort on one’s own behalf] leads to justification [for the fortunate.] For as by [our inherited evolutionary baggage…] the many were made “sinners”, so by [my own] obedience [I may perhaps someday] be made righteous. (Romans 5:17-19, BLT, Rev2)


bren - #74598

November 21st 2012

Hi Chip,

Our best evidence does not point to a genetic bottleneck within a timeframe that can reasonably accommodate a literal Adam (nor to any bottleneck nearly as small as 2).  Clearly Paul was not referencing some obscure ancient proto-human Adam; his vision was surely of the man who lived starting roughly 4000 years earlier (whether or not he was interested in the chronology) for a lifespan of 930 years, and whose descendents gave rise to all living humans.  In other words, he was unambiguously speaking of the biblical Adam, and if we are “required” by our theological perspective to envision a literal Adam and Eve giving rise to all of humanity, then it is this biblical individual and no other who would need to match up to the scientific evidence.  If we want to hypothesis some other Adam and Eve, some vastly more ancient couple that do not match a literal reading of the Bible, then we are no longer on the same page as Paul anyway.

Given the enormous amount of evidence that there were people throughout the earth well before any reasonable timeframe for the existence of a biblical Adam and Eve, precluding any possible common ancestry in Eden, a non-literal reading is the best approach to the first couple, and this matches up fairly well with what we know of the symbolism and the narrative structure in the early Genesis account.

Our need for salvation is dependent on our sinful lives and choices and on God’s justice, not on the roots of our sinful nature (our predisposition to sin).  The Bible is clear in asserting that each will die for his own sins.  The sinful nature (which need not be acted upon) is explained by Paul, in keeping with a perspective he should be expected to have, as arising from the first man, but however it first arose, it does seem to be “in the blood” and Paul therefore gave the obvious inference that it stems from the first sin, and was passed through the generations only to be finally dealt with by Christ.  It is hardly a collapse of the essentials of Christian theology to assert that we now have access to a different vision of how this predisposition may have come to be in evolutionary history (although such ideas should be handled with care and with a healthy dose of scepticism) and it hardly alleviates our need for salvation and a renewed relationship with God.  New information (like that which comes from genetics) cannot safely be ignored or simply overruled when considering theological points like this, at least not without uncomfortably increasing the chances that we are off-track in our thinking.

Think you may need to backtrack on the second BLT BTW, since it weaves together ideas neither biblical nor scientific, producing a hybrid neither here nor there nor anywhere.  The Bible doesn’t need the extra help when showing us the path to salvation (not sure you need any convincing on that one)!


Eddie - #74630

November 22nd 2012

bren:

I think Chip’s point is about the theological elasticity provided by modern hermeneutical principles.  Calvin and Luther and Wesley would all have understood Paul to be speaking of a historical Adam (whether 6,000 years ago or longer is not the issue; Adam’s historicity is) and of a sin transmitted to all his progeny.  And they would have said that this belief of Paul’s was just as much part of his teaching as his teaching about Christ as the redeemer for our sins.  They would have thought this the most natural reading of the text.  Now, along come the allegedly unshakable truths of modern science, and suddenly the hermeneutical principles are different.  Now, instead of reading Paul in the most straightforward way, we read him in a new way:  his “anthropology” is wrong, but his “soteriology” is correct.  So we refer his “anthropology” to “the mindset of his times,” and reject it, or modify it, or treat it as somehow less important or less true, but insist that his “soteriology” is not a product of his times, but is an eternal truth from God, to be believed in exactly the same way as Calvin, Luther, and Wesley believed it.  All this, even though the “anthropology” and the “soteriology” are found within the same literary unit!

If I read Chip correctly, he is saying that there is something suspicious about hermeneutical principles that so conveniently adjust Biblical interpretation to the supposed results of modern science.  And probably he is wondering if there are any limits to the elasticity of these principles.  I have heard TEs say that the story of Jonah is not historical, but a parable.  Interesting.  I don’t think that was the reading of anyone before the Enlightenment.  And surely the reason for the reading is that a human being cannot fit inside the stomach of even the largest whale, and live three days without oxygen etc.  In other words, surely the reason is that the story is scientifically impossible.  So along comes modern hermeneutics: the story is a parable; problem solved!  Well, gee, the laws of gravity, surface tension, etc. say that a man walking on the water is equally impossible.  So is that story a parable, too?  If not, why not?  I’m no crude literalist, but I don’t think Chip’s concerns are unreasonable.


Mike Beidler - #74631

November 22nd 2012

Eddie,

Thanks for the thoughtful post.

I wouldn’t call my particular hermeneutic “elastic” by any stretch.  :::rimshot:::  I would ground it firmly in the historico-grammatical hermeneutic.  Not only do I allow the text to speak for itself, I also allow it to speak to a particular audience in a particular culture in a particular time in history.  However, WE are not that audience.  WE are not that culture.  WE are not in that particular time in history.  WE, in the 21st century, have certain advantages that the ancients did not, especially in regard to understanding the world around us.  Let me illustrate with a paper and several diagrams about how the ancient Near Eastern peoples viewed the world:

http://biologos.org/uploads/projects/godawa_scholarly_paper_2.pdf
http://www.internetmonk.com/wp-content/uploads/genesis_cosmology.jpg
http://rdtwot.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/universe.png

If you truly thought your own reading of Scripture was “consistent,” as you are asking mine to be, you would at this very moment be violating your own hermeneutic, that is, assuming you are neither a geocentrist nor a flat earther.  But you are neither, because you have been unconsciously affected by our modern heliocentric cosmology such that you interpret certain passages containing what the ancients presumed to be an accurate description of the universe and then transform it into “phenomenological” language.  It’s such a subtle shift you don’t even know it.

What I have done is recognize this interpretive shift and learn to shift my viewpoint back to a hermeneutic more faithful to the text and read it from that ancient perspective without abandoning my modern paradigm.  Through this process, I can see the principle of accommodation at work:  God framed His message using paradigms that make sense to the original audience.  We in the 21st century now have a burden to bear that the ancients did not; we have extra work ahead of us in “decoding” that original cognitive environment in order to draw out what Denis Lamoureux calls “infallible Messages of Faith”— God’s immutable truths—from the culturally-bound means by which those messages were transmitted and then apply them to our situation in the 21st century.  But I don’t end up rejecting Genesis or Paul.  I respect them more that you know, and more than I think you’re comfortable admitting.

So what we’ve learned to do with cosmology (which took centuries!), we are now learning to do with anthropology.  But should that be a cause for fear?  Of course not.  Soteriology is not something you can examine under a microscope.  That is a theological truth to be accepted on faith, something of which I have in abundance.

Lastly, you say:

All this, even though the “anthropology” and the “soteriology” are found within the same literary unit!

I do not change how I read the “same literary unit.”  By reading it “as is,” I fully understand the point Paul is making.  I wouldn’t suggest modifying the Bible in any way, shape, or form.  What does change is the object in which you place your faith:  from the culturally-bound vessel through which God communicates to the living Word of God of whom the Scriptures speak.

Your concerns are the very reason I’ve written this series.  If I can pass through these types of fears with my faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God and Creator of the universe, fully intact ... so can you.


Eddie - #74640

November 23rd 2012

Mike:

Thanks for the reply.  

First, let me say that I already, from your articles and earlier comments, “got” the point about accommodation, and ancient world views, etc.  This is not surprising, as I’m a trained Old Testament scholar, who has many times taught Genesis.  You haven’t enunciated any principles that are new to me.  Nor was I saying that the principles you gave had no application in Biblical scholarship.  I grant that they do.  

Second, as I indicated, I’m not a hard-core literalist.  In fact, from a conservative evangelical point of view, I’d doubtless be considered dangerously liberal.  So don’t assume that my objections come from the point of view of someone like, say, Ken Ham.

My comments were raised in a wider context, going beyond your posts to the general ethos of TE Biblical interpretation.  I was asking about the legitimate extension of the principle of separating “the ancient world view” from “the infallible Messages of Faith.”  For example, miracles were very much part of “the ancient world view” but have not been part of the modern world view since the Enlightenment.  So when we read miracle stories, do we treat them as part of “the original cognitive environment” and read around them?

You have doubtless heard about Thomas Jefferson cutting out (literally, with scissors, so I’m told), the parts of the Gospels with miracles in them, the idea being to keep the higher or spiritual teaching of Jesus without all the miracle tales which belonged to a benighted age.  Just as we know the earth is not flat, and just as we know that there are no waters above the heavens, so we know that people don’t walk on water, ride in the bellies of whales, etc.  So we “translate” these episodes into modern language—a language without miracles.  Would you agree with Jefferson about that?

I think Chip is concerned with the boundaries.  What principle does one invoke to control the overuse of the idea that “this aspect of the story is reflects the cultural background rather than the eternal truth, so it does not have to be accepted”?

Notice that I mentioned Calvin, Luther, and Wesley.  Two of them lived in the Renaissance and one in the Enlightenment period.  Different world views than the ancient Hebraic one, to be sure.  Yet they all read Genesis, and Paul, in the ancient way, at least regarding Adam.  And the fact that Calvin understood “the waters above the heavens” to be inaccurate cosmography tells us that he wasn’t against the principle of accommodation.    But he recognized such references as incidental to the main story.  If the waters above the heavens had never been mentioned, nothing central to Genesis would be affected.  The biological ancestry of the entire human race in Adam, however, is not incidental to the story as written.  To change Adam and Eve to “two members of a hominid population” materially alters what is being said in Genesis 2-3.  So it is not clear whether the principle of “accommodation” applies in that case.

Note that I am not dogmatizing on this, but merely trying to explain why Chip’s concern is not trivial.  From the point of view of traditional Augustinian Christianity, the details of the Adam and Eve story which some modern geneticists tell us we must abandon do not appear to be merely dispensable, culturally-bound items.  And no orthodox Christian interpreter thought that—until after Darwin.


Mike Beidler - #74644

November 23rd 2012

Eddie,

I’d like to commend the way you dialogue.  Very refreshing and never defensive.  If only they all could be like you. 

So when we read miracle stories, do we treat them as part of “the original cognitive environment” and read around them?  ...  So we “translate” these episodes into modern language—a language without miracles.  Would you agree with Jefferson about that?

Not at all (with a caveat).  If I am to accept the miracle of the Incarnation, why should I have an issue with other miracles in the Bible designed to evoke a faith response?  In a few of the cases in which Jesus healed someone who was demon-possessed, I would suspect that the possession was more “medical” in nature, whereas some of them were clearly “other-worldly,” e.g., instances in which demons were speaking with Jesus regarding subjects they, as normal people, would know nothing about.  Regardless of the cause of the person’s condition, the individual was literally healed by Jesus’ power.  A parallel could be made here with respect to my TE/EC position:  regardless of the cause of my sinful condition, I am literally saved by Jesus’ power.

Calvin understood “the waters above the heavens” to be inaccurate cosmography tells us that he wasn’t against the principle of accommodation.    But he recognized such references as incidental to the main story.  If the waters above the heavens had never been mentioned, nothing central to Genesis would be affected.  The biological ancestry of the entire human race in Adam, however, is not incidental to the story as written.  To change Adam and Eve to “two members of a hominid population” materially alters what is being said in Genesis 2-3.  So it is not clear whether the principle of “accommodation” applies in that case.

Aside from the fact that I don’t subscribe to the belief that Adam and Eve were “two members of a hominid population,” I have to wonder why you aren’t arguing for my position, especially since you freely admit that the Bible contains inaccurate cosmography.  It took not a little exposure to (relatively) modern science for Calvin to even think of dismissing the “waters above the heavens” as incidental.  What’s not to say that Calvin wouldn’t have done the same thing in our day with Paul’s presumed anthropology given exposure to modern science?

no orthodox Christian interpreter thought that—until after Darwin.

Of course not; scientific concepts like biological evolution were non-existent in the centuries prior. Perhaps you could explain why you think that that a historical Adam and Eve, as depicted in the OT, is not dispensible ...


Eddie - #74656

November 23rd 2012

Mike:

Thanks for your plain-speaking answer.  I don’t know how many of the columns and comments on this site you have read all the way through.  If you do read them all through, you will find that Denis Lamoureux has spoken of the Biblical miracles in the clear way that you just have, but you may find that a number of other TEs here, both columnists and commenters, are much less clear.  You may also find that to be the case in other venues where TEs have congregated in times past.

Regarding “two members of a hominid population” (that were then “adopted” and endowed with “the image of God”, to become the ancestors of all “true” human beings)—you may not support that view, but it has been argued for powerfully on this site by Denis Alexander and, if I don’t misunderstand his position, Dennis Venema.  

No one can say with certainty what Calvin would say today.  It depends on whether Calvin would have persisted in regarding the Pauline understanding of Adam in the traditional way, i.e., (1) with Adam as literally the father of the entire race (with no parallel lines of visually-indistinguishable-from-human hominids that are not descended from him—which parallel lines would be required by the population genetics arguments advanced repeatedly on this site, since Adam and Eve would be only two of the original population of at least 10,000 hominids), and (2) sin transmitted along with physical inheritance.  If he stuck to that, he would have to say either that the population geneticists have erred in their calculations (i.e., he would correct science via theology) or he would have to say that the population geneticists have calculated correctly, but that, since God’s word cannot be false, God must have performed some unrecorded interventions to produce current human race from Adam and Eve alone in whatever shortened time one supposes (6,000 years, or 150,000, etc.).  In that case, the genomic evidence would produce false inferences due to God’s adjustments to purely natural mechanisms.

I suspect (but cannot prove, because Calvin is dead) that Calvin would have regarded the waters above the heavens, the flat earth, etc., as ancient science incidental to the Bible’s message, but that he would have regarded the traditional doctrine of Adam as not incidental but essential, and therefore would not be allowed to make the accommodation you suggest.  I don’t dogmatize, but that is my hunch, based on my reading of Calvin.

As for myself, I’ve already indicated that I would be open to arguments that incorporate a non-historical Adam into Christian theology.  But I’d need to see them fleshed out a bit.  And then I’d have to weigh them for textual evidence and general plausibility against the fact that no one in the tradition until after Darwin read the text in this way.  The important thing is to keep one’s mind open to new readings, on the one hand, while not riding roughshod over text or tradition, on the other.  So again, I won’t dogmatize.  I don’t think I have anything personally at stake in the traditional reading.  I think I am just trying to be fair to tens of millions of Christians who are not willing to give up on their traditional reading merely because of the current calculations of population geneticists, when we know that scientific conclusions have been drastically revised many times before.


Eddie - #74657

November 23rd 2012

P.S.  Thanks for your kind comment on my dialogical style.  I like yours as well—forthright without being dismissive of those who disagree.  And willing to concede points, rather than determined to maintain that everything the other person says (especially if the other person seems sympathetic to ID) is totally wrong.  If only all TE/EC people could be like you.    :-)


Mike Beidler - #74659

November 23rd 2012

Thanks, Eddie.  Would love to stay in touch with you off the BioLogos grid.  Feel free to send a PM my way with your contact info, and I’ll do the same.  I appreciate sounding boards and you are a good one.


PNG - #74637

November 22nd 2012

C.S. Lewis, whose concerns were not scientific but literary thought that Jonah was a parable. (See quote below.) I don’t have his literary credentials, but it seems to me that his point is well taken. Modern science is not the main reason for altered reading of certain parts of Scripture. The reasons really are literary/hermeneutical.

“You see, the question about Jonah and the great fish does not turn simply on intrinsic probability. The point is that the whole Book of Jonah has to me the air of being a moral romance, a quite different kind of thing from, say, the account of King David or the New Testament narratives, not pegged, like them, into any historical situation.

“In what sense does the Bible “present” the Jonah story “as historical”? Of course it doesn’t say, “This is fiction,” but then neither does our Lord say that the Unjust Judge, Good Samaritan, or Prodigal Son are fiction (I would put Esther in the same category as Jonah for the same reason). How does a denial, a doubt, of their historicity lead logically to a similar denial of New Testament miracles? Supposing (as I think is the case), that sound critical reading revealed different kinds of narrative in the Bible, surely it would be illogical to suppose that these different kinds should all be read in the same way?

“This is not a “rationalistic approach” to miracles. Where I doubt the historicity of an Old Testament narrative I never do so on the ground that the miraculous as such is incredible. Nor does it deny a unique sort of inspiration: allegory, parable, romance, and lyric might be inspired as well as chronicle. 


Eddie - #74641

November 23rd 2012

PNG:

Thanks for your comments.  

As I indicated to Mike above, I’m trained in Biblical scholarship myself, and my emphasis is literary, so I certainly don’t disagree with attempts to take account of the genre, style, etc. of Biblical narratives.  I certainly see pronounced literary features in various Genesis stories and elsewhere in the Bible.  I certainly agree with Lamoureux about the literary structure of Genesis 1, for example, and read it much as he does.  I’m also a big admirer of C. S. Lewis.  

However, the mere fact that Lewis thinks that the Jonah story has “the air” of a moral romance does not make it so.  I would also be interested in knowing which of the Church Fathers, Medievals, or Reformers thought that the Jonah story was not historical.

It would be well if I were to make clear the context of my remarks.  I have read TEs—major ones—who, in commenting on the story of Jesus walking on the water, and being asked if the story is to be taken as historically accurate, have either refused to answer the question, or have noted that it says “sea” rather than water, and then talked about sea-symbolism in the Bible, all the while contriving not to answer the question.  I have read other TEs who have tried to give a wholly naturalistic account of the Red Sea episode—the central miracle story for traditional Jews.  I could give other examples.  Thus, I frankly do not believe it is the case that the grounds for disbelieving in miracle accounts are always purely literary, as in the Lewis-Jonah case.  There is a modern bias against the miraculous which causes modern Christians of all sorts, TEs being no exception, to try to minimize its importance in the Biblical stories. 

Note that I am not saying that this modern bias against the miraculous is wrong or even that there is no way of contriving a form of Christian belief that does without miracles.  I’m making no judgment on that, though I’m skeptical that it can be done.  I’m merely saying that the re-reading of Biblical stories by TEs in some cases appears to be based on reasons that go beyond the recognition of literary genres.  And where that is the case, I think those reasons should be stated quite directly.  I think that everybody’s axioms should be out on the table.  I know Ken Ham’s axioms, and I certainly disagree with some of them.  I know very little, however, about the axioms of the leading TEs.  I know some of their conclusions, but their hermeneutical principles are far from clear or consistent, as far as I can see. I wish that all TEs would be as clear as Ken Ham, so that I could see exactly where I agree and disagree, not so much with their conclusions about this or that Biblical passage, but with the principles upon which they base those conclusions.


Mike Beidler - #74646

November 23rd 2012

Eddie,

I’d be curious to know what TEs you are reading, not to fact-check you but rather to better understand from where you’re coming in your critique.

Thanks in advance!

I wish that all TEs would be as clear as Ken Ham

It’s easy to be “as clear as Ken Ham” when one’s hermeneutic is one-size-fits-all and (rarely) does justice to the concept of literary genre.  The Bible, as you well know, is much more complicated. 


Eddie - #74655

November 23rd 2012

Mike:

Do you have a private e-mail I can write to you at?  For certain reasons, I think it best to answer your question privately.  And if I do, I would expect you to keep my answer confidential.

Best wishes.


Mike Beidler - #74660

November 23rd 2012

Sent you my contact info via BioLogos PM.  Check your profile.


PNG - #74686

November 25th 2012

Eddie, I would guess that all the authorities you list would tend to interpret things more or less literally, although it would be interesting to know if any pre-Enlightenment “divines” (as they used to call them) identified Job, Esther or Jonah as possible extended parables. I think there was a growing historical sense and literary sophistication in the last few centuries, such that, for instance on literary matters someone like Lewis who was familiar with a wide range of ancient literature is probably better placed to make a purely literary judgement than any of the early theologians, who were probably like their modern brethren in being more of the philosophical-doctrinal-chronicle mindset than the imaginative-literary. Augustine & co. presumably knew nothing about ancient near eastern literature outside the Hebrew scriptures (or any other “foreign” literature), and those usually in Greek. I don’t have the expertise to have any authority, but I have come to expect that ancient writers were more sophisticated in their choice (and invention) of form than we are inclined to think. It is clear that ancient poets were composing remarkable works even before they could be recorded in writing, and their ancient public was accustomed to hearing and later reading remarkably sophisticated stuff, if the poetry of Greece and Rome is any indication. It may be that some of the ancient Hebrews had more literary intelligence than the average theologian or Biblical scholar of any age.


Eddie - #74693

November 25th 2012

PNG, I agree with almost everything you say here.  Yes, the literature of the Bible is often subtle and wise, and yes, sometimes later tradition has failed to capture its depths.  And yes, sometimes that is because the later authorities had interests and training that were more philosophical or dogmatic than literary.   

So I’m not saying that the Patristic, Medieval and Reformation writers always got the Bible right; I’m saying that when they appear to display a consensus, that should be considered to have some weight.  If, e.g., it struck none of them that Jonah was not meant as historical, that should give pause to those who invoke even the most clever of literary arguments to show that Jonah wasn’t so intended.

In any case, Jonah is, for me, a sideshow, not the center ring of the circus.  I could accept a literary proof that it was intended as a parable without suffering any religious anxiety.  The real question regarding miracles revolves around the miracles in the Exodus account and the Gospels.  All the other miracles are just footnotes in relation to those.  For it is these miracles, more than any others, on which the claim of Judaism and Christianity to be “historical” religions (as opposed to Buddhism, etc.) has been based.  And my sense is that a number of prominent TEs have denied (on occasion), or expressed only ambiguous assent to (more common), the historicity of a number of Exodus and Gospel miracles, or have interpreted those miracles in an Enlightenment naturalistic spirit that is alien to the story.

I stress that I’m not making the acceptance of any set list of miracles the acid test for Christian faith.  I’m merely pointing out what I perceive as a tendency toward Enlightenment thinking about nature among the TE leaders.  I think there is much more going on than “I see no need to interpret the origin of the first life or of the Cambrian explosion or of man as miraculous, because the Bible does not use that term ‘miracle’ to describe God’s creative activity.”  A Christian who doubts the historicity of major Gospel miracles has got some reasons other than literary ones for doing so.

I’m simply asking for frankness and full disclosure—something not easy to get from TE leaders when the subject is either miracles or divine action in evolution.  A haze of “this is very complex, very mysterious, very deep, requires nuance” settles immediately over the discussion.  Yet it is not complex or deep.  If one believes (as most major TEs appear to believe) that Jesus physically got up from the dead, one should have no problem believing the reports (written by the same author, in the same Gospel, in the same literary style, as part of the same coherent overall narrative of Jesus’ life and deeds) that Jesus walked on the sea, fed five thousand, turned water to wine, cursed a fig tree, etc.  The equivocation, the hesitation, seems inexplicable to me on any other hypothesis than that of Enlightenment conditioning of the modern mind, a conditioning which is overridden for the Resurrection, due to dire theological necessity, but comes back into force for the other miracles.  


lancelot10 - #75589

December 21st 2012

Jesus said the story of Jonah was true and it is no problem to God to use a whale to transport a man.


Mike Beidler - #74635

November 22nd 2012

Chip,

I spent the day yesterday thinking, Why on earth would Chip put all these “self-effort,” “my own,” “luck or hard work” phrases into his original BLT?  Then it hit me:  You think my view has us becoming sinful creatures by pure chance and, thus, we can only become righteous by the same “chance-filled” evolutionary processes that got us here in the first place.  No Jesus required.  Just a lot of hard work and just a little luck.

Like Bren writes below, your revision “weaves together ideas neither biblical nor scientific, producing a hybrid neither here nor there nor anywhere.”

As I wrote to Eddie (below), I am not changing how I read the “same literary unit” (i.e., shifting my hermeneutic).  By reading it “as is” and understanding the context in which Paul is writing, I more fully understand the point Paul is making.  I wouldn’t suggest modifying the Bible in any way, shape, or form.  As an evolutionary creationist, what changes was the object in which I placed my faith:  from the culturally-bound vessel through which God communicates to the living Word of God of whom the Scriptures speak.


Mike Beidler - #74636

November 22nd 2012

Well, it turns out this post went to the bottom of the chain.  So when you look for what I wrote to Eddie, don’t look “below.”  Look up.  (One of these days, I won’t forget to not use directional terms in referencing comments.)


Eddie - #74643

November 23rd 2012

But Mike, by your own admission, when you were a traditional creationist, you did not apply the principle of accommodation to your reading of Paul’s “as in Adam, so in Christ.”  The traditional creationist reading is that Christ and Adam are both historical people (for otherwise the parallel would be unbalanced), and that Adam is not merely the spiritual but literally the physical father of the race.  So you have in fact adopted a new principle (new to you, anyway, given your description of your past) in reading Paul’s words differently.  And I’m not saying that makes you wrong.  But you have abandoned former assumptions for new ones.  Formerly, you would have said, “Paul believed in a literal Adam and thought that his scheme of salvation in Christ depended on that, and a faithful Christian should therefore believe in a literal Adam as Paul did,” whereas now you are saying, “Paul believed in a literal Adam and thought that his scheme of salvation in Christ depended on that, but we now know from genetics that there was not an Adam of the sort Paul supposed; yet, since we can also see that he was in error in supposing that a historical Adam of that sort was necessary to explain why we sin, we can keep his soteriology while dropping his anthropology.”  Again, I’m not saying that your new view is automatically wrong, but it is based on a quite a different interpretive approach.


Mike Beidler - #74645

November 23rd 2012

when you were a traditional creationist, you did not apply the principle of accommodation to your reading of Paul’s “as in Adam, so in Christ.”

Correct.

The traditional creationist reading is that Christ and Adam are both historical people (for otherwise the parallel would be unbalanced), and that Adam is not merely the spiritual but literally the physical father of the race.

Correct.

So you have in fact adopted a new principle (new to you, anyway, given your description of your past) in reading Paul’s words differently.

Incorrect.  As a heliocentrist, I don’t re-read geocentric passages of the Bible.  In fact, now that I’ve recognized them as such, I prefer to respect those passages for what they are, temporarily immerse myself in their culture, and allow their view to speak as it once did.  This way, I feel that I can better understand the underlying truth the biblical authors were wanting to communicate.  I no longer desire to simply declare them to be merely poetic expressions (as I tended to do as a YEC).  At the same time, however, I don’t allow that accommodation to color my view of physical reality. 

My reading of Paul is no different.  It is only through understanding that, to him, Adam was an historical person that I can fully understand what he was attempting to communicate in regard to the necessity of Christ.  I don’t go substituting modern science into the text when I read it.  At the same time, however, I don’t allow that accommodation (this time anthropological) to color my view of physical *and* historical reality.

whereas now you are saying, “Paul believed in a literal Adam and thought that his scheme of salvation in Christ depended on that, but we now know from genetics that there was not an Adam of the sort Paul supposed ...”

Not quite.  Have you read Enns’ book on Adam?  There are some great examples of how Paul utliized the OT in creative ways that could very well have a bearing on why Paul used Adam the way he did.  Thus, I don’t think that Paul’s Christo-centric salvation scheme depends on the existence of Adam.  Rather, Paul saw a creative opportunity to use an extant view about Adam to press his point about the necessity of Christ.

 


Eddie - #74654

November 23rd 2012

Mike:

I haven’t read Enns’s book on Adam, but I have read every single column that he ever posted on BioLogos, which gives me a pretty good idea of his conclusions and methods.  I like a lot of what he wrote, and agree with much of it, though not all of it.  I would say that his individual conclusions are often acceptable to me, but the way he arrives at them sometimes (not always) strikes me as potentially dangerous to any traditional evangelical understanding of the truth of scripture.  Of course, one could argue that the traditional evangelical understanding is not adequate and needs to be modified.  I pass no judgment on that claim.  I do think, however, that I see why conservative and moderate evangelicals might be worried.  There is more than a passing resemblance of Pete’s method of reading the Bible with that of Kenton Sparks, and I believe that in Sparks’s columns here there are definitely some spots where he steps outside of even fairly liberal evangelical readings.  Some might fear that Pete’s trajectory, if not his current conclusions, will end him up in a position like that of Sparks.  Note that Sparks is gone (apparently for good) from this site.  I don’t know why for sure, but I expect that his ideas were a bridge too far for many supporters of BioLogos.

My point was not that Paul’s salvation scheme logically depends on the historical existence of Adam; my point was (a) that every pre-20th century theologian known to me thought that it did; and (b) that Paul himself seems to have thought that it did.  Of course, it is always hard to prove what was in an ancient author’s mind.  It could be that Paul did not actually think that the salvation of Christ depended on a historical Adam, but appealed to a historical Adam because he knew that his former fellow Jews interpreted Adam in that way.  I don’t rule that out.  But if you take that line—and maybe Enns takes it, too—you are then forced to say that the overwhelming majority of Christian interpreters, including the founders of the major streams of the faith, simply misunderstood Paul.  That is of course logically possible.  But I wonder if it is plausible.  I’d be interested to hear Jon Garvey weigh in on this.

As for the rest, I understand the distinctions you are making, and I accept your explanation of what you are doing.  I suppose it comes down to what you and I mean by a “new” interpretive principle.  But I won’t quarrel over that; I’ll just say that I now know better what principles you are invoking and why you invoke them.

Best wishes.


Mike Beidler - #74663

November 23rd 2012

As I mentioned elsewhere, Eddie, I greatly appreciate the advisory cautions, as well as the grace with which you offer them.  They will certainly be considered and cogitated upon!

Grace to you!


Jon Garvey - #74703

November 26th 2012

Eddie, Mike

I’ve been behindhand here through family commitments (and I have some preaching commitments to keep me out of it for a bit longer). Plus there arre days when the website refuses my posts.

But one thing I’d like to pick up on is Eddie’s point about where a line can possibly drawn between Paul’s “erroneous conceptions” and God’s truth.

Both Enns and Sparks try to steer a line between them, maintaining “orthodox Evangelical doctrine” together with a Socinian view of both incarnation and Scripture that makes even the incarnate Son of God liable to error. In my opinion that’s exactly the same unstable position that led the 19th century liberals to unbelief, or at least heterodoxy, in the end.

To me it’s bigger than errors in cosmology, ancient anthropology or whale anatomy. Christian soteriology is thoroughly based on historical revelation, and needs radical reinterpretation whenever that base is challenged. So if Christ is the New Passover Lamb, and the Passover was a myth (the whole Exodus is claimed to be such as there is zero archaeological or historical evidence), then what basis is there for thinking there is an equivalent angel of death threatening us?

If the virgin birth, given as a sign, is scientifically improbable midrashic interpretation by the early church, then it’s no longer a sign - and what it signifies is therefore of no consequence.

If we can present no historical explanation for sin because A&E are ahistoric, why not take the line of many liberals that sin/judgement are themselves primitive notions. I note how often now in TE discussions Jesus is no longer said to suffer for sin, but to suffer for suffering, which is very much a secondary theme in the Bible.

Even the basic character and nature of God are negotiable on such worldview considerations. There is NO doubt that the whole subtext of Scripture is about a sovereign Lord who expresses his will through every event, natural or human. But the modern “insight” that God is not a “coercive” “micro-manager”, but a democrat whose greatest priority is freedom, simply sidelines that universal Scriptural assumption as “primitive” in favour of a free, self-creating nature.

Liberal theology started as confessional theology, and its methodology forced it down its chosen route. Adopting the same assumptions and methodology is hardly likely to produce a different outcome a century later because the starting postion is called “Evangelical”.


Cliff Martin - #74706

November 26th 2012

I appreciate your well-constructed observations here, Jon. Just a couple of comments. First, a question: Why should we fear tracking a similar, or parallel course to that of 19th Century liberalism if in fact that is where the evidence, and our best efforts to harmonize Scripture with natural revelation, takes us? Second, you write that “suffering ... is very much a secondary theme in the Bible.” Oh? I find suffering to be a major, overriding, and too-long-ignored theme of both Testaments. And it is certainly taking its place as a primary theme of life as we learn more and more about our natural history. It should not surprise that TEs see significance in suffering. It has been the requisite driver of evolution, and the rise of life.


Jon Garvey - #74740

November 27th 2012

Hi Cliff

I contend that it is not the evidence that takes us towards liberalism, but the Enlightenment philosophical and methodological presuppositions on which higher criticism is based. Still, the fact that you don’t see any danger there underlines my point that Evangelicalism cannot long maintain its distinctives once those presuppositions are taken on board - the issue, then, is not actually one of maintaining core gospel truths whilst revising judgements on Scripture and history, but one of changing the gospel. One needs to face that honestly.

My point about sin and suffering relates to that, though please note that I did not comment on suffering as an overall Bible theme, but as the stated purpose behind the suffering of Christ. Yet the fact remains that for 2000 years, when the Bible was regarded as authoritative in Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant circles alike, Christ’s passion was seen as suffering for sin, on man’s behalf.

As the Bible has been increasingly seen as an erroneous and fallible source, the brilliant and faithful theologians of two millennia have been held to have ignored the “overriding”  truth of both Testaments (an ironic position, when one considers) and natural history, understood in a one-sided Malthusian way, has become the source of atonement theology.

Yet it is not natural history, whose varying moods have been well known to Christians a lot more vulnerable to them than our technological society (and even to the Bible writers themselves), that has caused us to deny the goodness and wisdom of nature, but a shift in attitiude dating to the humanist project of the renaissance, long before evolution. I’ve documented that extensively elsewhere.

Speaking for myself, I have studied Scripture for 47 years and natural history for a bit longer. So when I’m told new stuff about what the Bible has “really” been saying all along I have a certain knowledge base by which to test those claims.

That’s what leads me to conclude that much Theistic Evolution has put itself out on a theological limb, despite the inherent compatibility of Evangelical truth and descent with modification. So far, it seems oblivious to the fact and thinks everyone else is out of step.


Mike Beidler - #74800

November 28th 2012

Jon,

You wrote:

So when I’m told new stuff about what the Bible has “really” been saying all along I have a certain knowledge base by which to test those claims.

Could you provide a specific example or two of “new stuff about what the Bible has ‘really’ been saying all along”?  I just want to be sure I understand a little more before responding.

Thanks in advance!


Mike Beidler - #74798

November 28th 2012

Jon,

I appreciate the concerns you’ve deftly laid out here.  Allow me a few explanations, not necessarily from a general TE/EC standpoint, but my own.

Where a line can possibly drawn between Paul’s “erroneous conceptions” and God’s truth.

I believe there are aspects of the Christian faith that are, from a scientific perspective, unfalsifiable, soteriology being the main one with which I believe you’re concerned.  These have always been taken on faith from the beginning, for no one’s ever come back from the post-Ascension afterlife to assuage those “fears” lingering in the back of our souls.  (Some popular books these days making a mint in the evangelical Christian book market notwithstanding.)  It is upon these theologico-spiritual truths that my faith hangs, not on “erroneous” cosmology or anthropology.  I’ve learned to look beyond that to the heart of faith.

Christian soteriology is thoroughly based on historical revelation, and needs radical reinterpretation whenever that base is challenged.

For me, it’s not so much “reinterpretation.”  When I read the Scriptures, I don’t desire to reinterpret them by means of some modern paradigm.  Without reading them in their ancient context, there is a significant and perhaps unavoidable risk of missing the point.  I do, however, consciously choose which portions need not (or should not) be carried over into how I perceive physical reality.

So if Christ is the New Passover Lamb, and the Passover was a myth (the whole Exodus is claimed to be such as there is zero archaeological or historical evidence), then what basis is there for thinking there is an equivalent angel of death threatening us?

Although I have doubts that the Exodus was as large as the Bible claims, I do believe that an Exodus occured, and I have no reason to assume that the 10 plagues brought upon Egypt were merely ficticious.  But even if the original Passover did not actually occur in history, that changes nothing about the need for Jesus to present Himself as the New Passover Lamb, because that’s what the culturo-religious context of His day required in order for God to bathe the Cross in meaning.  And because we modern Christians have received that context from our forebears, it remains meaningful to us today.

If the virgin birth, given as a sign, is scientifically improbable midrashic interpretation by the early church, then it’s no longer a sign - and what it signifies is therefore of no consequence.

This particular issue was an interesting exercise for me.  I don’t believe Isaiah 7:14 was a Messianic prophecy, and I believe it found its fulfillment in the following chapters.  And, as you are aware, midrashic and pesher forms of interpretation made an art of pulling OT passages out of their original context in order to find fresh application in their present day.  I’m inclined to believe that God foreknew Matthew’s reinterpretation of Isaiah 7:14 (based on the LXX) and purposed the virgin birth of Jesus, not because the Incarnation required per se that the Son of God be born of a virgin, but because such a birth would have meant something to the 1st century Jews and the early Church.  Jesus Himself likely participated in midrashic/pesher interpretation and purposely “fulfilled” these “prophecies” because they would have meant something.

If we can present no historical explanation for sin because A&E are ahistoric, why not take the line of many liberals that sin/judgement are themselves primitive notions. I note how often now in TE discussions Jesus is no longer said to suffer for sin, but to suffer for suffering, which is very much a secondary theme in the Bible.

I’m curious as to why you demand an historical explanation for sin when a perfectly valid scientific reason exists and finds validation in daily observation.  I also find it difficult to believe that liberals dismiss the concepts of sin and judgment when their daily lives testify to just the opposite.  I have a feeling that they truly believe in those concepts, just not using those theologically-laden terms.

the modern “insight” that God is not a “coercive” “micro-manager”, but a democrat whose greatest priority is freedom, simply sidelines that universal Scriptural assumption as “primitive” in favour of a free, self-creating nature.

Could you elaborate a little bit here?  I’m not entirely grasping your objection.

Thanks again, Jon, for your thoughtful comments.  I look forward to interacting with you more here. 


Mike Beidler - #74799

November 28th 2012

Sorry.  Forgot to “quote” you properly, Jon.

the modern “insight” that God is not a “coercive” “micro-manager”, but a democrat whose greatest priority is freedom, simply sidelines that universal Scriptural assumption as “primitive” in favour of a free, self-creating nature.


Norman - #74593

November 21st 2012

Mike,

Concerning Paul’s applying the redemption of “sin” in Romans we have to understand the big picture context of how he is applying it and defines “SIN”.  It isn’t as simple as we think by reading verses taken out of the totality of overall Pauline context. We can take our “sin” reference back to Daniel 9 in which “sin” will be ended at the coming of Messiah.

Dan 9: 24 “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, …

Not all Jews would have been versed in this nuance just as not all Christians understand the Bible today.  Biblical theology and prophecy was the domain of the trained scribe and priest primarily and it helps to keep that concept in focus as we draw conclusions.

Paul’s concept of the removal of “sin” relates to the intrusion in the Garden of the Commandment and its failure for humanity as a methodology of righteousness with God.  That is why Paul starts out with Adam in the Garden in Rom 5:12 and continues his discussion through the next few chapters and wrapping it up in Romans 8 with the renewed Creation.  Everything in these chapters is how Christ removed the “law” which brought the “sin” thus bringing all humanity that seeks God into a standing relationship again.

Rom 7: 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.

Paul’s concept was that the overriding “law” usurped the righteousness that the faith of Adam/Abraham originally portrayed; it became the stumbling block leading to the Big “SIN” which kept all faith seeking peoples individual sins held against them. Remove the big “sin” of self-righteousness through Law keeping and you bring people back into the Original Garden as it was intended where a faith walk with God covers our individual sins.  (That is what Christ accomplished)

Adam as understood through 2 Temple literature is a model of a Jewish Priest representing the collective people who atones for their sins including the Gentiles. (See Jubilees chp 3) So there is a priestly understanding of Adam that most do not understand because we don’t study the 2 Temple literatures that permeated and influenced the early church including Paul.  If Adam fell and could not offer up atoning sacrifices for the faithful including the Gentiles (see feast of Tabernacles) and the yearly sacrifice by the High Priest then all people were left in their sins. So the context of Paul’s statement in Rom 5:12-14 is from the perspective and recognition of Adam as a High Priest model. This is why he was as Paul says a “type of the one who was to come”.  It wasn’t natural sin that did Adam in, it was the misstep with the commandment/Law.

Again most of us are lost reading Paul in Romans because we aren’t familiar with their worldview extensively. We get confused because we are reading biology into Paul’s conceptions of Adam when it really is a covenant worldview through the classic ANE understanding of the collective group being discussed through priestly concepts of redemption. (See Hebrews discussion of High Priest atonement for the people yearly)

By the way I want to state that I am a big fan of Pete Enns because he has laid his career on the line and remain open to ideas.  When I challenge him it will usually be regarding his lack of tying eschatology into the matrix of the discussion which is normal for most scholars who are working with Genesis issues. Genesis alone causes them enough grief that they don’t need the double whammy of eschatology biting them as well. However understanding eschatology from a 2T perspective will ultimately clear a lot of problems up.

There are some scholars I’ve ran across who attempt to bring it all together and some do better than others. That is why I say we need to keep our eyes and ears open because we are in the early years of really good investigative scholarship and new faces are going to be springing up bringing deeper and richer investigations to the table.  Our sample pool of effective comprehensive scholars at this time is just too small to allow us to get overly dogmatic on ideas too quickly. But things are looking up.

Keep up the good work.


Mike Beidler - #74638

November 22nd 2012

Thanks, Norm, for the “alternate take.”  Do you have any authors you would recommend if someone should want to delve further into this topic?


Joriss - #74594

November 21st 2012

I missed your point indeed, Cliff. I could not have suspected that you - or anyone -  would or could label the difference between a good or a bad Adam as mere different qualifications of “imperfect”! These are not gradual differences!
This is a major issue, because God’s righteousness is involved.

The way God created Adam - or the first man - according to Mike - and you, I suppose - was:
imperfect, including a sinful character.

The way God created him, according to me, because I believe the bible tells us, was: good but imperfect.

These are opposite to each other, not just differences in qualification.

The latter is in accordance with God’s righteousness and punishment. A good person without sin reigning in him can only sin by a deliberate act of disobedience, he deserves death in God’s eyes. Therefore Jesus took this death penalty for us.

A sinful person has an inner urge to sin, he has passed the point to be able not to sin. We are in that situation by Adam. That is what we call the old man or the flesh. Was the first man created with the old man inside??

Now you could say: what’ s the big deal? We are born with no chance not to sin and still we are condemned, so is God righteous? But the point is: we were in Adam when he sinned, we are the same “brand”. If you had been the first man or I, or whoever, we would have done the same. God knows that and need not put us to the test individually. So we can truthfully say: yes, I am the same as Adam, the same as Eve, God need not put me in a sinless state again to be tested; I’ve been tested in Adam and I failed. We can trust God knows because He says so.

So the way the bible tells us that Adam was created and sin came into this world in Genesis and explained to us by Paul, who was specially chosen by Jesus to preach and to explain the gospel, justifies God; the way you and Mike suppose God created man - sinful by origin - doesn’t, in my opinion.

 


Mike Beidler - #74632

November 22nd 2012

Joriss,

you and Mike suppose God created man - sinful by origin

Not created “sinful by origin,” but rather created with the capacity to sin.  Nothing has changed, Adam or no Adam.

Here’s how I viewed myself as a young-earth creationist, from the moment of my conception to now:

  1. I was conceived and born as an innocent child with the inherent capacity for sinful behavior, which was destined to manifest itself eventually. 
  2. At some point in my life, I developed the intellectual and moral capacity to understand right from wrong.
  3. Once that point was reached and I willfully disobeyed either the laws of God or the laws of man, I sinned and became subject to judgment.

Here’s how I view myself as an evolutionary creationist, from the moment of my conception to now:

  1. I was conceived and born as an innocent child with the inherent capacity for sinful behavior, which was destined to manifest itself eventually. 
  2. At some point in my life, I developed the intellectual and moral capacity to understand right from wrong.
  3. Once that point was reached and I willfully disobeyed either the laws of God or the laws of man, I sinned and became subject to judgment.

Do you see the difference?  Nothing has changed.  Only what I believe to be the true source of my inherent capacity for sinful behavior has changed, and that was something that I didn’t even need to factor in drawing my self-portrait. 

I believe that mankind, as a species, when through a similar process:

  1. The evolutionary lineage that led to modern man was innocent with the inherent capacity for sinful behavior, which was destined to manifest itself eventually. 
  2. At some point in the history of our species, mankind developed the intellectual and moral capacity to understand right from wrong.
  3. Once that point was reached and mankind willfully disobeyed either the laws of God or the laws of man, mankind became sinners, both in a collective sense (the species equivalent of “in Adam,” if you’re so inclined) and in an individual sense, and subject to judgment.

Norman - #74648

November 23rd 2012

Mike,

Sorry I had to post seperately but I’m having trouble replying to my threads at work.

There are at least two overriding issues that make it difficult for us to understand contextually Paul in Romans 5-8 and in 1 Cor 15. These are two of the most difficult and confusing sections in the bible and IMO it boils down to our not understanding the Hebraic mindset.

First we need to understand the collective and covenant inclusionary nature of Hebrew literature and especially Paul’s concept of “Body” and “flesh” and how he uses it technically.

Second we simply must have a broader understanding conderning 2T literature that set the stage for Christianity in the First century.

Let me provide three or four authors that can help shed some light on this subject.

First one should pick up the little book by John A. T. Robinson (Anglican Bishop of Woolwich, England) called “The Body” you can find it on Google books also. Robinson breaks down the Hebraic understanding of how Paul used “body” but his writing is a little technical for most people but essentially he develops the understanding that “body” in 1 Cor 15 is meant collectively just as it is as he lays out in 1 Cor 12 where Paul describes it usage collectively as the members of the body of Christ the church. Reading it singularly and physically destroys the Hebraic context and will send one down many rabbit trails that aren’t coherent within the context. This book is around 60 years old. 

Building upon Robinson’s work is a contemporary author Tom Holland also of England who wrote “Contours of Pauline theology” and recently his Roman’s Commentary` called “The Divine Marriage”. Holland extensively investigates the idea of the collective Body that Robinson presented and expands upon it in a more accessible writing style and especially opens up Romans 5-8 from that viewpoint. He also defines how the concept of the “flesh” is used from the literary perspective of the Hebrews which is also critical to understanding Paul technically. These kinds of theological examinations are going to make most lay students eyes glaze over but if one wants to master Pauline NT theology you can’t ignore these subjects otherwise one is just picking at the edges of Paul’s discussions.

Secondly I would recommend that one read as much 2T and early Christian writings as they can lay their hands on. Enoch, Jubilees, and the Barnabas Epistle are critical but others such as Psalm of Solomon, 4 Ezra and other 2T and early Christian writings are also helpful.  After acquainting oneself then I recommend some of John J. Collins; “The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature” would be a good starting point to gather an academic scholars point of view.  A recent author that I am also presently investigating and shows great promise in helping us understand the Hebraic background is Margret Barker who may be one of the most useful systematic theologians of 2T literature that I have yet to encounter.

I do not subscribe to any scholars point of view completely because as you know we all, including scholars bring built in suppositions that can and do limit one’s perspective. However if we read enough across the board work we can unravel some issues that have perplexed us for centuries.

Lastly I of course think it’s imperative that we understand eschatology in the manner that it is being presented in the OT and 2nd T literature and is interpreted by the NT writers.  If you get eschatology wrong it will color your work negatively to the point of making it less than useful.  That is where it seems Margret Barker draws closer to the ideas of the original church than most do but in so doing she is going to make some if not most people nervous (people today would not fit in comfortably with 1st Century Christian theology if they really understood it).  There are conclusions she draws that I’m still trying to determine what her basis is. Here is a sample of her extensive works “THE TIME IS FULFILLED. JESUS AND THE JUBILEE”  located on her web site margretbarker dot com

Of course there are many scholars besides that I draw from, especially in Preterist theology, once you sort out those that are worth reading.  Preterist are just as laden with suppositions as anyone is so it’s really a manner of being very selective and discerning about filtering out our baggage we all bring to the table.  Good Theology like good science requires we remove our ingrained filters in order to see the subjects as widely as possible.


Mike Beidler - #74928

December 2nd 2012

Norm,

Thanks for the book recommendations in Holland, Collins, and Barker (whose website is actually http://www.margaretbarker.com/).  As for Robinson, I’ve got an original copy of The Body, not that poorly reproduced version published about a decade ago.  It was a nice find during a book-buying trip with Todd Dennis a number of years ago. 

I also have Charlesworth’s Old Testament Psuedopigrapha collection (among other collections).  I fully intend to delve into those in the years ahead.

Good theology like good science requires we remove our ingrained filters in order to see the subjects as widely as possible.

Amen, and amen!


Norman - #74650

November 23rd 2012

 (understanding conderning 2T literature) should read concerning in above post.


Joriss - #74661

November 23rd 2012

Mike,
This is how I view, or rather how I believe the bible views, Adam from the moment of his creation to his disobedience:


He was created as an innocent man with no inherent capacity for sinful behaviour, that was destined to manifest itself eventually. Of course not, as a matter of fact; how could that be? Destined to manifest a sinful behaviour? Created with that destiny?
From the very beginning, he had the intellectual and moral capacity to understand right from wrong. Right: obeying by eating from all the trees but one.
Wrong: disobeying by eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Once he willfully would disobey the ONLY command God had given him, he would sin and become a sinful person and subject to judgement, with the capacity to commit every sin there is.
Before he ate of the forbidden tree he could not commit any other sin: curse, insult his wife, be cruel to animals or have bad temper or whatever. Only one deed of disobedience opened the gate to all the evil that lives in our hearts today. Rom. 5:19

Here’s how I view myself as a born sinner, because I believe God says so, from the moment of my conception to now:
I was conceived and born in sin (Psalm 51:5) and,  though starting as an innocent child I had an inherent capacity for sinful behavior, which was destined to manifest itself eventually, but long before I knew what it meant to obey or disobey.*) This is absolutely opposite to your statement: I was conceived and born innocent. The bible doesn’t teach that.
At some point in my life, I developed the intellectual and moral capacity to understand right from wrong.
Once that point was reached and I willfully disobeyed either the laws of God or the laws of man, I became subject to judgment.
Although before this point I sinned already, it was not imputed to me. Because without law sin is present, but is not imputed to someone, but the law makes us guilty. Rom. 5:13

When I would believe that the true source of my inherent capacity for sinful behaviour had changed  and that it was something that wasn’t due to the fault of mankind but that this condition  was created in me on purpose by God, than I wouldn’t know how to justify God, because He created me with the intention that I would sin - what you called: destined to manifest sinful behaviour - so that He could save me.
I believe He created me as a good, but a not yet perfected man - in Adam - and I sinned - in Adam - and thus became a sinner. So I need redemption. I can have full peace with that.

Your way of putting the origin of sin in-created by God in man doesn’t do right to the cited texts above. God created the “old man” in me?

*) An illustration of sinful behaviour before understanding what obedience means.

When I was a five year old boy, our neighbour’s wife came to see my mother and drink coffee with her.
My little sister, a baby of eleven monts at that time, was sitting in the box. Our neighbourin had a girl of the same age as my sister, eleven months. So put her baby in the box where my sister already was in, and sat down, to drink coffee and to chat with my mother. How nice and lovely. Two little babies sitting together side by side in harmony!
The neighbour baby looked wondering around to see in what kind of place she was now and then she became aware of the presence of my sister. At the very same moment her eyes darkened, a thick wrinkle of anger appeared above her eyebrows and her face got a grim expression . Within a moment she got hold of my sister’s hair with both her fists and began to pull, fanatically and determined not to stop. My sister was yelling for pain and fright. Of course the mothers intervened and the babies were separated, one with two fists full of hair, the other with the same amount of hair less on her poor head. (continued)



Mike Beidler - #74699

November 25th 2012

Joriss,

I beg your patience as I craft a response to you on this.  It’s been a busy extended weekend, and while I may have responded to others’ comments here and there, I feel that yours needs more attention than I’ve had this weekend.  Be assured, you’ll hear again from me over the next few days.


Mike Beidler - #74801

November 28th 2012

Nice.  I just crafted a large response that was too large.  I tried going back and BioLogos lost the entire thing.  :::sigh::: 

I’ll try again tomorrow evening.  Grrrr.


Joriss - #74814

November 29th 2012

Yes, grrr, Mike, I’m sorry for you! What I’m always doing is making my comment separately and then copy it and paste it on the website, where I give it the finishing touch before submitting. If something is going wrong, I have the original on my computer. Saves time
By the way, did you also read the second part of my comment? Because it was in two parts, the latter under here, 74662.


Joriss - #74662

November 23rd 2012

So this child, eleven months old, didn’t now yet about good or evil or obedience or disobedience. But the power of sinful behaviour, even hate, was already clearly visible in her.
Listen to a baby of two or three weeks, that, after its meal of mothermilk and being cherished, has  to return into its cradle and that let the whole family - and the neighbours - know it doesn’t agree, with a compelling and angry voice. And look in the cradle and see its head, purpled with anger.
Yes, sinfulness is incorporated in us from the day of our birth, or rather conception.

So to recapitulate, in my opinion the bible clearly teaches:

Adam was sinless, without an “old man” within, without a capacity for sinful behaviour, except one option: disobeying by eating from the forbidden tree.
By choosing the latter, sin and death entered his life and he obtained a full capacity for sinful behaviour; the “old man” was now inside him and he was no longer able not to sin.
In this condition we are born, sinners from our mother’s womb and not able not to sin.  


Mike Beidler - #74924

December 2nd 2012

Joriss,

Again, thanks for your patience.  Didn’t get around to this as quickly as I hoped, but better late than never, right? 

Destined to manifest a sinful behaviour? Created with that destiny?

If man was not destined to sin, whether as a result of his evolutionary heritage or by mere fact of his status as a created being, how do you explain the import of these passages of Scripture?

Romans 13:8 (ESV)
… and all who dwell on earth will worship [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.

1 Peter 1:19-21a (ESV)
but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.  He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God …

Jesus was, as the Lamb of God, slain before the foundation of the world in anticipation of our sinfulness.  Our acts of sin were foreknown.

Here’s how I view myself as a born sinner, because I believe God says so, from the moment of my conception to now:  I was conceived and born in sin (Psalm 51:5) and, though starting as an innocent child I had an inherent capacity for sinful behavior, which was destined to manifest itself eventually, but long before I knew what it meant to obey or disobey.

I would be hesitant to use Psalm 51:5 to definitively establish the doctrine of original sin resultant from the sin of Adam.  Allow me to quote Peter Enns from his book The Evolution of Adam (p. 157, footnote 9):

Some might object that Ps. 51:5 is fully in step with Paul’s view of Adam as the cause of human sinfulness: “Indeed, I was born guilty [NIV: “sinful”], a sinner when my mother conceived me.”  This may appear convincing at first blush, but it does not support the argument, mainly because there is no indication of the main point of contention, that David’s congenital condition is caused by Adam.  David’s point is not a brief allusion to a primordial cause for his behavior, but a graphic illustration of how utterly corrupt he is.  His sin with Bathsheba, which included the murder of her husband, Uriah, has exposed to David how deeply sinful he is.  In other words, what he did is not just a momentary lapse in judgment … but an exposure of his own heart, and so he pleased with god to create in him a “clean heart” (v. 10).  We should not minimize David’s words, but neither should we extrapolate from them a “theology of original sin” in the Old Testament as a whole.  Here David is speaking from the deep pain of the consequences of his choices and how he has sinned against God in the process.

Do you see, though, that we’re actually much closer in our respective views?  My view that our evolutionary baggage and your view that we are born sinners comes out in the wash once we’re at an age wherein we can make moral decisions.  Again, the actual cause of our sinful nature is incidental to the fact that we are sinners.


Mike Beidler - #74925

December 2nd 2012

I wouldn’t know how to justify God, because He created me with the intention that I would sin - what you called: destined to manifest sinful behaviour - so that He could save me.  …  God created the “old man” in me?

I would never say that God created an “intention that [you] would sin.”  I would say, however, that the sinfulness of a rational creature is inevitable in a cosmos designed to allow for the free will of said rational creatures to love or reject the God responsible for their creation.  Without that freedom, a love relationship is impossible.

So this child, eleven months old, didn’t now yet about good or evil or obedience or disobedience. But the power of sinful behaviour, even hate, was already clearly visible in her.  …  Yes, sinfulness is incorporated in us from the day of our birth, or rather conception.

Yes, the behavior is quite evident, and this is well explained (from a scientific perspective) by our evolutionary heritage rather than a theological doctrine of original sin (with its origin in Adam’s sin), which is found nowhere in the OT and found solely in the NT, and only by creative reinterpretation by midrashic and pesher interpretative methods commonly accepted by Second Temple Jews.  But you also quoted Roman 5:13 …

… for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. (ESV)

The child of whom you speak is not yet held accountable, just as (in my view) the human race was not held accountable until such time as God-given commands were issued.


Joriss - #74970

December 4th 2012

Mike,
Thank you for taking time to answer me.
When I read all the things you have written, I think what you say boils down to this:

You think that the behaviour of the eleven months old girl is evolutionary baggage and is fully comparable with Adam’s behaviour before his disobedience, which was his evolutionary baggage. Let there be no misunderstanding: the behaviour of the girl was, even without having law or moral responsability, sinful; hate is sinful.
That will say that sin lived in Adam’s heart before he disobeyed! So sin need not to wait for the law: it is already there! Only the law triggers sin much more and make it abundant and puts us under condemnation. But even without law sin is there, although without condemnation, as Paul clearly tells us.
Just like the girl had not yet a law to obey or disobey, she already had a sinful character: hate for a fellow human being just for being there.
So Adam, in your opinion, could very well have hated his wife or have been cruel to animals, before he disobeyed the command of God, or even before he had received that command. That came from his inner old man, baggage from evolution, with al the inherent evil, of which Paul said: I know that in my flesh dwells no good: me miserabe man, who will save me  from this body of death.

So if God created man in this way, Mike, then, inevitably, you can’t deny that He created sinful creatures, although I think you will hesitate to admit.

So we are less close to one another than you may think. Alas! The difference seems subtle, but in my eyes is fundamental. Did God create a sinful person that was absolutely incapable to obey Him by inner corruptedness and if yes, had He the right to do so and ask this person to obey Him? God, although almighty has bound Himself to his word that He is a righteous God.

Or did God create a good, or at least a neutral sinless person, without an inner corruptedness and able to obey Him and start growing in relationship with his Creator, but also to disobey Him, and start sinning and  developing a sinful corrupted character, the one Paul calls the flesh, the old man, the body of death.

That God foresaw the choice of Adam does by no means mean that he was destined to sin. That’s human reasoning, and of course that’s impossible to understand in our 3-dimensional state of understanding. We think:
Either God foreknows and therefore has destined us to sin,
or we are not destined to sin, so God doesn’t foreknow that we will sin.
If that were true, people of which God foreknows that they will reject the gospel, would be destined to go to hell. That’s not true.  

So without humans being destined to sin, God still foreknows we would sin. Two paralell truths that will never come together in  our 3-D minds.
But God is eternal, He is before time, after time and above time, He is not of our dimensions.


Seenoevo - #74665

November 23rd 2012

Repeating: “As the NT proves, doctrinal divisions within the Christian faith existed from the earliest of times, even during the Age of the Apostles.”

But then, according to #74634, unresolved doctrinal divisions within the Christian faith actually did not exist from the earliest of times, even during the Age of the Apostles? Were not the passages cited simply examples of unspecified disobedience or heresy, rather than of doctrinal division/indecision within the faith tradition? In Titus 1:9, for example, does Paul appear divided/undecided about the truthfulness of those who contradict his teaching? When a mother and father jointly discipline their children, are the parents evidencing “doctrinal division” or rather level-headed and mature concern?

Does not choosing an interpretation of a given Scripture verse or chapter which differs from traditional interpretation raise the possibility of other non-traditional interpretations? And of doctrinal division?

Considering that possibility, and considering Mat 5:32, Mat 19:9, Mark 10:11-12, Luke 16:18, and especially 1 Corinthians 6:9, I asked, without receiving a response, “What is the salvation status of a Christian who is divorced and remarried?”


Mike Beidler - #74680

November 24th 2012

Seenoevo,

according to #74634, unresolved doctrinal divisions within the Christian faith actually did not exist from the earliest of times, even during the Age of the Apostles

I never said the doctrinal divisions were “unresolved.”  I merely stated that we have no record of how certain doctrinal divisions were resolved or whether they remained unresolved during or after the Age of the Apostles.  It is quite reasonable to believe that doctrinal divisions remained with the Church, and some lines of division likely led to herectical sects that outlived the Apostles and separated from the Church.  Because records of these divisions were either not kept or, if recorded, no longer accessible due to the lack of extant letters or histories, we cannot even hope to come to a definitive conclusion on these matters.  You are arguing from silence, which is pretty poor form.

In Titus 1:9, for example, does Paul appear divided/undecided about the truthfulness of those who contradict his teaching?

How Paul “appears” in Titus 1:9 has absolutely no bearing on the existence of doctrinal division or heresy in the Church.

Does not choosing an interpretation of a given Scripture verse or chapter which differs from traditional interpretation raise the possibility of other non-traditional interpretations? And of doctrinal division?

I do not “reinterpret” Scripture.  To the best of my ability, I attempt to respect and understand Scripture in its original context in order to draw out the theological message of authors.  I might reject the geocentric and flat earth cosmology of the Bible, but I can only do so if I’ve read those applicable passages correctly as geocentric.  If you reject geocentric and flat earth readings in the Bible, you are the one guilty of reinterpretation.  So, who’s really rejecting traditional readings here?

Considering that possibility, and considering Mat 5:32, Mat 19:9, Mark 10:11-12, Luke 16:18, and especially 1 Corinthians 6:9, I asked, without receiving a response, “What is the salvation status of a Christian who is divorced and remarried?”

I don’t think a single act of adultery by means of unjustified divorce or remarriage has any bearing on one’s salvation status.  A life characterized by such activity could very well call into question one’s salvation, but that’s not for me to judge.  Are you outside the Kingdom of God, Seenoevo?  You have certainly committed adultery in your heart (Matt 5:28) and lied (1 Tim 1:10) at some point in your life, no?


bren - #74673

November 24th 2012

Mike,

I’m finding the “total cultural immersion” position you seem to be advocating interesting and have never really addressed these questions in such a way. It seems that it is a hermeneutic that is fairly unconcerned with scanning the text in order to extract cold historical data (it would be a very poor platform from which to “search for the historical Jesus” for example!), instead permitting the voice of the writer to speak entirely in context and within the belief structure of the time period in question (a position somewhat convincingly argued by Spinoza, although he can hardly be followed much further). A bit similar to Dunn’s method of reviewing the New Testament gospels in order to discover how Jesus was remembered and understood by his first disciples (his primary impact) instead of using it to generate the precise wording of what he said, as though we were uncovering a lost literary work through secondary quotations.  This hermeneutic seems to be a matter of emphasis; that the text, purpose and message of the Bible (the will of God) are best served by this cultural immersion, and that this allows us to zero in on the pith and marrow of the Bible (which is presumably not intended as a student’s sourcebook for ANE historical/cultural tidbits).

I suspect this position can be misread as having postmodern leanings, based in its lack of concern with putting objective historiographical considerations at the forefront.  Actually, it is clearly divorced from this particular modern disease in that it hardly goes around doubting “truth”; it seems to allow questions concerning historicity to arise only when there is specific, positive and convincing datum pointing to an alternate view (such as taking into account known ancient literary conventions or uncontroversial paleontological evidence, or the results of multiple independent dating methods) not when there is some kind of general a priori judgment (ie “since miracles can’t happen…”) doing the heavy lifting.  It also seems reasonable to me to assume that men like Paul were not just putting up a front to match his audiences’ preconceptions, having himself been previously corrected on the subject of a historical Adam by the Holy Spirit (but keeping his knowledge strictly under wraps in order to be a “guy 2000 yrs ago to the people 2000 yrs ago, a Jew to the Jews, etc”).  I doubt that one of the hats that the Holy Spirit wore was that of an 8th grade history teacher.  A complete contextualization of texts and individuals in order to best understand their meaning, along with a tentative openness to new and reliable historical / scientific data (not treating the Bible as a hermetically sealed vault, impregnable to all new information) seems the best approach, and I’ll be interested to see how far the resources in your footnotes (if I can find them!) can take this.

Whatever in this may be theologically naive, I’ll leave to Eddie and others to point out, since I don’t have all of the resources to filter out all of the finer particles from this broth.


Eddie - #74674

November 24th 2012

bren:

I would be surprised if I found that anything that you wrote was “naive.”


bren - #74679

November 24th 2012

Appreciate that, I’ll try to keep it that way ../images/smileys/smile.gif


Mike Beidler - #74926

December 2nd 2012

Bren,

I concur with Eddie’s assessment.  You’ve articulated my approach extremely well, Bren.

I’m finding the “total cultural immersion” position you seem to be advocating interesting and have never really addressed these questions in such a way.

Perhaps my approach of immersing myself in the Bible’s original culture (to the extent that I can with the resources available to us) has its origins as I worked toward my Global Leadership degree.  For this particular degree, we studied how other cultures perceived things, what was and wasn’t important to them, and how miscommunication can result when one doesn’t perceive various facets of a business situation through their eyes.  As well, my Persian-Farsi studies and my years-long interaction with foreign attaches and diplomats have also exposed me to different ways of thinking, allowing me to better understand what’s going on in the Middle East.

It seems that it is a hermeneutic that is fairly unconcerned with scanning the text in order to extract cold historical data (it would be a very poor platform from which to “search for the historical Jesus” for example!), instead permitting the voice of the writer to speak entirely in context and within the belief structure of the time period in question (a position somewhat convincingly argued by Spinoza, although he can hardly be followed much further).

Very well put.  I am a huge advocate of this method.  But it is also tempered with the knowledge that immutable truths can also be couched in culturally-bound vessels, and we must learn to extract those truths with the utmost respect for the ancients.  Perhaps instead of rejecting their culturally-bound paradigms, we learn to respect them and seek analogies aligned with our own modern scientific paradigm to bring the message closer to our hearts, all the while cherishing the Scriptures as a sacred record of our spiritual forebears’ interaction with the one true God.

the text, purpose and message of the Bible (the will of God) are best served by this cultural immersion, and that this allows us to zero in on the pith and marrow of the Bible (which is presumably not intended as a student’s sourcebook for ANE historical/cultural tidbits).

A hearty affirmative!

I suspect this position can be misread as having postmodern leanings, based in its lack of concern with putting objective historiographical considerations at the forefront.  Actually, it is clearly divorced from this particular modern disease in that it hardly goes around doubting “truth”; it seems to allow questions concerning historicity to arise only when there is specific, positive and convincing datum pointing to an alternate view (such as taking into account known ancient literary conventions or uncontroversial paleontological evidence, or the results of multiple independent dating methods) not when there is some kind of general a priori judgment (ie “since miracles can’t happen…”) doing the heavy lifting.

Bren, I have to say that when I get around to writing a book, you will be oft-quoted!

I doubt that one of the hats that the Holy Spirit wore was that of an 8th grade history teacher.

The Holy Spirit is, indeed, a teacher, but a teacher who speaks to us where we are, guiding us along to better and better understandings of where we’ve been, who we are, and where we’re going.

A complete contextualization of texts and individuals in order to best understand their meaning, along with a tentative openness to new and reliable historical / scientific data (not treating the Bible as a hermetically sealed vault, impregnable to all new information) seems the best approach, and I’ll be interested to see how far the resources in your footnotes (if I can find them!) can take this.

All of the resources I’ve referenced are some of the best I’ve encountered, but there’s plenty more where that came from.  Interestingly enough, one of my favorite commentary series is the NIV Application Commentary, which divides each section into three parts: (1) original meaning, (2) bridging contexts, and (3) contemporary significance.  Using this method, continuity is maintained between the ancient and the modern paradigms.  Nothing is outright rejected, for without the original context, we have no theological basis or foundation for our modern paradigm.


bren - #74942

December 3rd 2012

Thanks for your response Mike, it’s interesting to hear the extent to which your background in cross-cultural interactions has reframed your thinking on these issues.  Makes me wonder if one of the driving forces behind the rigid creationist sub-culture being cemented in evangelical communities might be a lack of cultural and even linguistic exposure.  If you are too steeped in your own cultural setting, it is likely that the interpretative lens lent by that same setting will remain one of your least questioned axioms (thus the mysterious “obvious literal reading” posited to exist so pervasively by so many evangelicals).  Such exposure, while it might lead to a bewildered cultural relativism in some (the ol’ throw-up-your-hands-in-baffled-capitulation approach), will encourage a more careful and exegetically aware approach in those willing to do the work.
Surprised to see the NIV application commentary at the top of your list!  I think I’ve always seen the NIV as showing a little too much bias and eisegesis in its translation of the Hebrew or Greek (it’s not too off-the-wall, but enough to make me squirm), so I was suspicious that the application bible would be more of the same.  Might give it another try since I really like the idea of a life application commentary and if it helps with the immersion, who am I to keep my head above water!


Cliff Martin - #74943

December 3rd 2012

Interesting observation, Bren, about enculturization and how Mike’s unique training may have aided him in escaping from the provincial narrowness that dominates so much of evangelicalism in the U.S. Other factors no doubt include Mike’s life-long interest in science, and that his training has also ramped up his reliance upon evidence-based thinking. 

I find it interesting, and instructive, to consider what factors lead some of us out of a Young Earth Creationist paradigm (Mike and I, and many other late arrivers at the T.E. table, were once avid supporters of this paradigm) while others remain entrenched in the Y.E.C. camp. An exploration of these factors may help us to open more minds of our fellow believers.


bren - #74963

December 4th 2012

Thanks Cliff, you’re probably right that a lifelong interest in science is also another factor that can lead to this kind of paradigm shift, although the creationist community does peddle an alternate version of science (essentially divested of many of the key feature that are generally thought to have been so critical to its success and to its objective character), so that even such an interest can be misdirected for long periods of time.  I’m not really one to speak when it comes to this; since my own paradigm shift never had to do with the nature of science or with evolutionary theory (the “controversy” is much less of a talking point in many Canadian churches).  When I read Darwin, it was out of interest and I had no particular reason to line up in either camp at the time.
Still, you make a good point, it is important to identify the factors that can lead to such shifts, and probably more energy should be directed to this effort.  It’s becoming clear to me that it is almost never the accrimonious debates and arguments (as seen in some of the blog comments) that initially open the door to a YEC giving the other side a real hearing.  A common factor I’ve seen in many testimonies really shouldn’t come as a surprise; it seems to be the case that the scientific arguments only find traction for a YEC when the one doing the arguing isn’t putting them on the defensive or when the case is being brought forward with humility and personal engagement.  This is why the Dawkins version of how to convince creationists, as intelligent as it may sometimes be, fails to be wise in a big way!  Intellectual assent is not a function of the force behind the opponent’s battering ram.
It’s really you, Mike and others like you who are best placed to ID the factors that lead to this kind of change - I’d be curious to hear what made the difference in your case!


Cliff Martin - #74967

December 4th 2012

My story is, perhaps, unique, though the slow “evolutionary” nature of my shift may suggest that we be happy to see small steps, as opposed to total paradigm shifts. In the mid-90s, two unrelated but fotuitous events lead me to read Hugh Ross, the astrophycisist and Old Earth Creationist. All of my YEC mentors had warned against reading Ross, but these events opened my mind (just a crack!) to read Ross, and I became convinced of the accepted age range for the universe (at that time, 13 to 18 billion years). Though still opposed to biological evolution, coming to respect Ross gave me a deep distrust of those YEC leaders who had villified him. This distrust, coupled with my own reading and understanding of cosmological evolution did open my mind to possibilities, and my investigations ultimately led me to accept what I came to see as overwhelming evidence for biological evolution.


bren - #74992

December 5th 2012

It’s interesting to hear that for you the transition was slow and that OEC almost acted as a temporary base camp along the way.  I always had the impression that the OEC position must seem like one of the least intellectually comfortable, as it probably feels like a compromise of something or other any way you happen to turn (or so everyone will tell you!), but that on the positive side it might serve as a buffer (or maybe a no-mans-land!) in any move between the YEC and the TE positions (a place where at least some of the most obvious scientific evidence is taken into account).  I suspect it might not be that unusual to transition in this way; YEC leaders spend so long building up suspicion of mainstream science (unless it happens to produce “cell-phones, airplanes and particle colliders”) that I should think it would take quite a while to diffuse the atmosphere of mistrust as a first step.
I check out creationist websites regularly, and I find the level of propaganda (not necessarily a bad word in my view, depends on why and how it’s used) and vilification of other viewpoints that they churn out through clever repetition of central mantras and well directed attacks to be quite impressive (and probably very effective).  Not that I think it is meant to be intellectually dishonest, but I think that they model their efforts on the conversion experience and are very careful about building emotional momentum in their readers and giving the impression that their position is a safe haven from all of the dishonest and anti-God strategies at work in the outside world.  I can only imagine that it would feel somehow “unsafe” to move away from this position!


Mike Beidler - #74944

December 3rd 2012

Bren,

Just a clarification.  I’m not speaking of the NIV Life Application Bible.  I’m speaking of the NIV Application Commentary series, which merely uses the NIV as its translation of choice.  Fear not, for the various commenters do indeed apprise the careful reader where they think the NIV falls well short as a translation.  In addition to Walton (who also gives a treatment on Ecclesiastes), Peter Enns covers the book of Exodus.

Here is John Walton’s Genesis commentary, for a sample.


bren - #74961

December 4th 2012

Ahh, that does clear things up, thanks!  Apparently need to work on my reading skills.


Seenoevo - #74681

November 24th 2012

“…we have no record of how certain doctrinal divisions were resolved or whether they remained unresolved during or after the Age of the Apostles.  It is quite reasonable to believe that doctrinal divisions remained with the Church, and some lines of division likely led to herectical sects that outlived the Apostles and separated from the Church.”

Why is it reasonable to believe that doctrinal divisions remained with the Church absent evidence or proof of such? Wouldn’t that be “arguing from silence, which is pretty poor form”?

If “some lines of division likely led to herectical sects” back then, and lines of division exist today, what are the heretical sects, if any, today?


Mike Beidler - #74682

November 25th 2012

Why is it reasonable to believe that doctrinal divisions remained with the Church absent evidence or proof of such? Wouldn’t that be “arguing from silence, which is pretty poor form”?  If “some lines of division likely led to herectical sects” back then, and lines of division exist today, what are the heretical sects, if any, today?

Seenoevo, you appear unfamiliar with the patristic writings.  This line of questioning is becoming absurd (and quite outside the subject matter), so I’m going to end it right here.



Mike Beidler - #74683

November 25th 2012

I will, however, indulge you with several book recommendations:

Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church by Harold O. J. Brown

Early Christian Doctrines by J. N. D. Kelly

The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrinse, Vol. I—The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600) by Jaroslav Pelikan


Seenoevo - #74691

November 25th 2012

“I don’t think a single act of adultery by means of unjustified divorce or remarriage has any bearing on one’s salvation status.”

How could a divorce or remarriage constitute a single act? Were Christ and Paul talking only about the single divorce decree or the one-day re-marriage ceremony?

What would make a divorce “unjustified”?


Seenoevo - #74692

November 25th 2012

“This line of questioning is becoming absurd (and quite outside the subject matter), so I’m going to end it right here.”

In this series, who first brought up the subject of doctrine and began a line of questioning about Christian doctrinal divisions? (http://biologos.org/blog/confronting-our-fears-part-2)

Is the student to be shunned for asking questions about what the teacher says?


Seenoevo - #74713

November 26th 2012

“If we can present no historical explanation for sin because A&E are ahistoric, why not take the line of many liberals that sin/judgement are themselves primitive notions.”

Is this not the crux of this matter?


Seenoevo - #74804

November 28th 2012

“But even if the original Passover did not actually occur in history, that changes nothing about the need for Jesus to present Himself as the New Passover Lamb, because that’s what the culturo-religious context of His day required in order for God to bathe the Cross in meaning.”

Why would the culturo-religious context of His day require a New Passover Lamb if there was no old Passover lamb?

 

“I don’t believe Isaiah 7:14 was a Messianic prophecy, and I believe it found its fulfillment in the following chapters.”

Did the following chapters have a virgin (obviously, virgin at the time of giving birth) giving birth to one called “God with us”?


Joriss - #74813

November 29th 2012

Yes, grrr, Mike, I’m sorry for you! What I’m always doing is making my comment separately and then copy it and paste it on the website, where I give it the finishing touch before submitting. If something is going wrong, I have the original on my computer. Saves time


Seenoevo - #74971

December 4th 2012

“…coming to respect Ross gave me a deep distrust of those YEC leaders who had villified him. This distrust, coupled with my own reading and understanding of cosmological evolution did open my mind to possibilities…”

Is your understanding of cosmological evolution clearer than that of these scientists?

“It’s more likely that some unknown law governs the way networks grow and change, from the smallest brain cells to the growth of mega-galaxies.” http://www.livescience.com/25027-universe-grows-like-brain.html

“Fifteen years after Schmidt’s initial discovery, the ‘dark energy’ invoked to explain this cosmic acceleration is still a mystery.” http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v490/n7419_supp/full/490S2a.html


bren - #74991

December 5th 2012

?? Seenoevo, these are very interesting links you are providing and they deal with fascinating questions in modern science (found the first one especially interesting), but just to clarify, I don’t think I remember anyone in this forum claiming to have an “understanding of cosmological evolution clearer than that of these scientists”, especially given that “these scientists” have only just been mentioned.  If someone does happen to bring forward such a claim, then once we’ve done a quick background check, I’ll jump in and help you debunk their claims!  Until then, we probably don’t have to worry about such hubris until we see it (-:  Is it possible that you meant something else by this question?


Seenoevo - #75001

December 5th 2012

bren - #74991 : “I don’t think I remember anyone in this forum claiming to have an “understanding of cosmological evolution clearer than that of these scientists””

Cliff Martin - #74967: “In the mid-90s, two unrelated but fotuitous events lead me to read Hugh Ross, the astrophycisist and Old Earth Creationist… and I became convinced of the accepted age range for the universe (at that time, 13 to 18 billion years)… my own reading and understanding of cosmological evolution did open my mind to possibilities, and my investigations ultimately led me to accept what I came to see as overwhelming evidence for biological evolution.”

 

Based on his own words, was I wrong to wonder if Cliff Martin’s conviction about the age and evolution of the cosmos belied a confidence and a clarity of understanding which apparently exceed that of the scientists referenced or of astrophysicists in general?

 

Can Cliff elucidate the dark energy which is integral to the model which gives the 14 billion year age?

 

If not, is the invocation of dark matter/dark energy not similar to the ‘god of the gaps’ critique I hear of in other contexts?

 

 

Is this not a short list?

http://www.space.com/15942-modern-astronomy-mysteries-baffling-scientists.html


bren - #75012

December 5th 2012

Thanks, that’s a bit more clear!  It still doesn’t seem particularly logical to infer that someone is arrogantly claiming to comprehend dark matter / energy when they haven’t even mentioned the subject, but pushing that detail aside, I would point out that physics has a long and successful history of making inferences to new forces and particles based on a combination of scientific models and evidence.  It isn’t dark matter that props up the model, but the model, generated based on other explanatory grounds that infers the existence of dark matter, a fairly workaday strategy in physics, and one that has enough of a pedigree and enough trophies in its closet that it need not be treated as some desperate ploy to save atheism from crumbling to ignominious dust.  I’m not particularly interested in defending dark matter personally, and can frankly live with whatever comes next in the field (and there are doubtless some big surprises still to come, especially in cosmology), but I don’t think I’m alone in viewing the wholesale rejection of a few hundred years of science as a slight overreaction to the fact that we still happen to have some unanswered questions.  I do agree with you that there are still big questions but that should be a source of wonder and not selective scepticism.


Seenoevo - #75015

December 5th 2012

“It still doesn’t seem particularly logical to infer that someone is arrogantly claiming to comprehend dark matter / energy when they haven’t even mentioned the subject”

Who called anyone arrogant?

 

“... a fairly workaday strategy in physics, and one that has enough of a pedigree and enough trophies in its closet”

What would be one of the best trophies in the physics closet in regards to cosmological evolution?


bren - #75032

December 6th 2012

 

Seenoevo,

The arrogant part would actually be implicit (something permitted by the fact that I don’t seem to have quotation marks wrapped around it and also by the fact that it would be difficult for a non-physicist to make such claims in any other way!  I’m sure you weren’t in the business of implying that such claims to knowledge were being made in abject humility, where you?), but thanks for dotting my “i”s!

As to the second point; I’ll clarify, since I’m not sure you really see the point I was trying to make: the strategy discussed above involves the use of scientific models bolstered by various lines of evidence and prior testing to infer new forces or particles which can then hopefully be tested for using other means (particle accelerators etc).  A zoo of subatomic particles, weak and strong nuclear forces etc, have all been inferred and later verified using this general and uncontroversial strategy.  The notorious Higgs boson was a part of a similar strategy in recent work, and frankly, this strategy is so often and successfully applied to uncover new “entities” in this field that it should hardly be a magnet for suspicious denunciation when applied in one particular case, especially when there are few obvious ways to ways to directly test for the inferred force or particle.  If the model is strongly supported by other means, the inferrence is compelling and reasonable and the testing is difficult, then all we can do is keep at it until new evidence gives us something more to work with (assuming we want to deal with the situation in a reasonable manner, even if that might require some patience).

So no, I am not in fact claiming that cosmological evolution itself is a “workaday” strategy in physics (!!) (not really sure if this is what I am to understand by what you wrote), nor did this particular point relate in any way to cosmological evolution!

Since it seems you have a great interest in cosmological evolution, I can suggest a great book by Eric Chaisson, the Epic of Evolution (very nicely written), but otherwise, I will leave it to you to further investigate claims or points that I haven’t made.


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