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Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople, Part 4

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March 16, 2012 Tags: Pastoral Voices

Today's entry was written by Tim Keller. 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.

Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople, Part 4

This is the fourth of a six-part series considering questions lay people raise with their pastors when introduced to the teaching that biological evolution and biblical orthodoxy can be compatible. In the first three posts, Dr. Keller gave an overview of the tension between biblical and scientific accounts on origins from a pastoral perspective, addressed the conflict between evolution and a literal reading of Genesis, and argued that an evolutionary account of origins does not necessarily diminish human dignity. This week, Keller turns to questions about the origins of sin and suffering in light of the trustworthiness of Scripture.

Three Questions of Christian Laypeople

Question #3: If biological evolution is true and there was no historical Adam and Eve how can we know where sin and suffering came from?

Answer: Belief in evolution can be compatible with a belief in an historical fall and a literal Adam and Eve. There are many unanswered questions around this issue and so Christians who believe God used evolution must be open to one another’s views.

My answers to the first two sets of questions are basically negative. I resist the direction of inquirer’s thought. I don’t believe you have to take Genesis 1 as a literal account, and I don’t think that to believe human life came about through EBP you necessarily must support evolution as the GTE.

However, I find the concerns of this question much more well-grounded. Indeed, I must disclose, I share them. Many orthodox Christians who believe God used EBP to bring about human life not only do not take Genesis 1 as history, but also deny that Genesis 2 is an account of real events. Adam and Eve, in their view, were not historical figures but an allegory or symbol of the human race. Genesis 2, then, is a symbolic story or myth which conveys the truth that human beings all have and do turn away from God and are sinners.

Before I share my concerns with this view, let me make a clarification. One of my favorite Christian writers (that’s putting it mildly), C.S.Lewis, did not believe in a literal Adam and Eve, and I do not question the reality or soundness of his personal faith. But my concern is for the church corporately and for its growth and vitality over time. Will the loss of a belief in the historical fall weaken some of our historical, doctrinal commitments at certain crucial points? Here are two points where that could happen.

The trustworthiness of Scripture

The first basic concern has to do with reading the Bible as a trustworthy document. Traditionally, Protestants have understood that the writers of the Bible were inspired by God and that, therefore, discerning the human author’s intended meaning is the way that we discern what God is saying to us in a particular text.1

What, then, were the authors of Genesis 2-3 and of Romans 5, who both speak of Adam, intending to convey? Genesis 2-3 does not show any of signs of ‘exalted prose narrative’ or poetry. It reads as the account of real events; it looks like history. This doesn’t mean that Genesis (or any text of the Bible) is history in the modern, positivistic sense. Ancient writers who were telling about historical events felt free to dischronologize and compress time frames – to omit enormous amounts of information that modern historians would consider essential to give ‘the complete picture.’ However, ancient writers of history still believed that the events they were describing actually happened.

Ancient writers also could use much figurative and symbolic language. For example, Bruce Waltke points out that when the Psalmist says, “you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps 139:13) he was not saying that he hadn’t developed in the perfectly normal biological ways. It is a figurative way to say that God instituted and guided the biological process of human formation in his mother’s womb. So when we are told that God ‘formed Adam from the dust of the ground’ (Gen 2:7), the author might be speaking figuratively in the same way, meaning that God brought man into being through normal biological processes.2 Hebrew narrative is incredibly spare—it is only interested in telling us what we need to know to learn the teaching the author wants to convey.

Despite the compression, omissions, and figurative language, are there signs in the text that this is a myth and not an historical account? Some say that we must read Genesis 2-11 in light of other ancient creation myths of the Near Eastern world. Since other cultures were writing myths about events like the creation of the world and the great flood, this view goes, we should recognize that the author of Genesis 2-3 was probably doing the same thing. In this view, the author of Genesis 2-3 was simply recounting a Hebrew version of the myth of creation and flood. He may even have believed that the events did happen, but in that he was merely being a man of his time.

Kenneth Kitchen, however, protests that this is not how things worked. The prominent Egyptologist and evangelical Christian, when responding to the charge that the flood narrative (Genesis 9) should be read as ‘myth’ or ‘proto-history’ like the other flood-narratives from other cultures, answered:

The ancient Near East did not historicize myth (i.e. read it as imaginary ‘history’.) In fact, exactly the reverse is true—there was, rather, a trend to ‘mythologize’ history, to celebrate actual historical events and people in mythological terms…3

In other words, the evidence is that Near Eastern ‘myths’ did not evolve over time into historical accounts, but rather historical events tended to evolve over time into more mythological stories. Kitchen’s argument is that, if you read Genesis 2-11 in light of how ancient Near Eastern literature worked, you would conclude, if anything, that Genesis 2-11 were ‘high’ accounts, with much compression and figurative language, of events that actually happened. In summary, it looks like a responsible way of reading the text is to interpret Genesis 2-3 as the account of an historical event that really happened.

The other relevant text here is Romans 5:12ff, where Paul speaks of Adam and the fall. It is even clearer that Paul believed that Adam was a real figure. N.T. Wright, in his commentary on Romans says:

Paul clearly believed that there had been a single first pair, whose male, Adam, had been given a commandment and had broken it. Paul was, we may be sure, aware of what we would call mythical or metaphorical dimensions to the story, but he would not have regarded these as throwing doubt on the existence, and primal sin, of the first historical pair.4

So we arrive at this point. If you hold to the view that Adam and Eve were not literal, and you realize the author of Genesis was probably trying to teach us that Adam and Eve were real people who sinned, and that Paul certainly was, then you have to face the implications for how you read Scripture. You may say, “Well, the Biblical authors were ‘men of their time’ and were wrong about something they were trying to teach readers.” The obvious question is, “how will we know which parts of the Bible to trust and which not?”

I am not arguing something so crude as “if you don’t believe in a literal Adam and Eve, then you don’t believe in the authority of the Bible!” I contended above that we cannot take every text in the Bible literally. But the key for interpretation is the Bible itself. I don’t believe Genesis 1 can be taken literally because I don’t think the author expected us to. But Paul is different. He most definitely wanted to teach us that Adam and Eve were real historical figures. When you refuse to take a Biblical author literally when he clearly wants you to do so, you have moved away from the traditional understanding of the Biblical authority. As I said above, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a strong, vital faith yourself, but I believe such a move can be bad for the church as a whole, and it certainly can lead to confusion on the part of laypeople.

.

Next week, in part 5 of the series, Dr. Keller continues to explore the issues of sin and suffering, focusing on Paul’s view of Christ’s work of salvation.


Timothy Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. The “Influentials” issue of New York magazine featured Keller as “the most successful Christian evangelist in the city” for his engagement with the young professional and artist demographics. He received his bachelor’s degree from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Penn., his Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hampton, Mass., and his Doctor of Ministry from Westminster Theological Seminary. He is the author of such New York Times bestselling books as The Reason for God and Prayer. He is also Chairman of Redeemer City to City, which has helped start over 250 churches in global cities worldwide. He lives in New York City with his wife Kathy.

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Roger A. Sawtelle - #68553

March 16th 2012

I would say that the dichotomy between myth and history does not apply very well to Genesis. 

I believe that it is based on traditional stories that YHWH used to reveal the basic truths about reality.

Genesis is about the beginnings the universe, of humanity, of sin and God’s plan of salvation.  These all take place in time, which makes them historical, but they all take place is a time which was very distant to the Hebrews.

These events are more like legendary than mythological.  The people are real, but larger than life.  The Hebrew language is very simple and based on metaphor which makes it poetic, even when it is not poetry.  Also it is understood that these stories existed for a long time as traditional stories handed down from generation to generation, so they took a simplified and poetic form. 

They are stories that convey the reality of life to the people of that day and today.  History is full of stories that do that even though they are not literally accurate.  As I have said before I believe that Adam and Eve, whomever they were, were the first spiritually aware human beings, not the first genetic human beings.  Exactlyn how and when theis happened we will not know until maybe we see Jesus, but the story still has great meaning for all humans.    


Scott Jorgenson - #68555

March 16th 2012

“Genesis 2-3 does not show any of signs of ‘exalted prose narrative’ or poetry. It reads as the account of real events; it looks like history.”

Really? Here we have a god:

- who creates the man from the dust of the ground,

- who creates the animals in a series of unsuccessful attempts to find a helpmate for the man,

- who finally creates the woman from the man’s rib,

- who plants a garden containing two ‘magical’ trees, one of immortality and the other of knowledge,

- who walks about in the garden in the cool of the morning,

- among whose creations are a talking snake with legs (which goes on to lose its legs with the curse, thus explaining etiologically why snakes have no legs today),

- who, when banishing the couple, skins some animals to make garments for their bodies,

- and finally who places an angel with a flaming sword to guard the garden, which is apparently still there, lest the couple find their way back.

Yes, this does not sound like poetry, liturgy, or ‘exalted prose narrative’ as in Genesis 1. But neither does it sound like an account of embellished but basically-real events either. It does not even sound like what we find in the gospels: a narrative with realistic setting, character, structure and events, punctuated with miracles realistically marveled-at. It sounds like fable (of course I’m not using that word pejoratively, but in the technical sense - that of the genre of fable). And I think that if we approached the story without the preconceptions of tradition, it would be fairly obvious.


beaglelady - #68567

March 17th 2012

Scott,

 

I agree.  Imagine poor Adam waking up and discovering that God had literally removed one of his ribs and manufactured a naked lady from it!  Ouch.


KevinR - #68580

March 19th 2012

You seem to approach the text with the idea that “the present is key to the past” and because of the fact that you cannot see such magical trees today for instance, it necessariy means that those trees could not exist in the past either.

Were you there and can you now state categorically that those trees did not exist? Or for that matter that there wasn’t a serpent that could talk? Does that text say that God walked in the cool of the morning or evening?

Who said that God created the animals in an attempt to find a helpmate for the man? I don’t read that in the bible. Please point to the text that says that.

Since the creator is God, creating that which did not exist before, surely he is free to do as he pleases, so why do you a mere human, the work of his hands, want to question why or how he created Adam from the dust of the ground?Are you greater than he?

OK, from your tone I have to deduce that you are an atheist wanting to point out that the whole bible is a fable. So be it. That’s your choice. Just be aware that that choice has it’s consequences.

 


Ashe - #68588

March 19th 2012

Just because one thinks that genesis 1 may be allegory doesn’t mean that one is an atheist.


KevinR - #68643

March 22nd 2012

@Ashe,

Certainly what you say is true. Unfortunately once you start discarding Gen 1 as historical and follow through consistently you begin to shred the rest of the bible to pieces and end up not believing in God.

You might as well be an atheist.

The ones who treat Gen 1 as allegory and still claim to be Christians are not consistent in what they say and do. At some point they have to stop hanging on to men’s science and suddenly believe in biblical miracles. The problem for them is WHEN does that happen?

I’m talking here about people who believe Gen 1 is allegory AND hang on to evolution as the real history of life on earth because they believe the “science” is correct and overrides the authority of God’s word as to how life got started and promulgated here.

I repeat - if you’re consistent with treating Gen 1. as lies then you might as well be an atheist. If you don’t then you’re behaving inconsistently in what you (claim to) believe. Strangely, this is where the dichotomy between “Science” and the word of God arises!

If you believe Gen 1 to be history and miraculous, you don’t have that clashing problem.

 


Ashe - #68652

March 22nd 2012

You should stop yourself after each assertion, and try to back it up logic and reasoning, don’t just assume it is true. For example, you snuck this assertion in:

“The ones who treat Gen 1 as allegory and still claim to be Christians are not consistent in what they say and do.”

and ran with it without demonstrating it. Don’t talk about Jesus’s ressurrection because that has been explained to you a hundred times and you’ve never responded.


KevinR - #68668

March 23rd 2012

The logic is simple: Theistic evolutionists have twisted the plain and simple reading of Genesis 1 to fit in with their belief that scientific pronouncements on origins takes precedence over God’s authority. So they should really be consistent in that application. They should also be twisting and manipulating the meaning and interpretation of phrases such as “the axe floated”, “the boy came to life”. “Jesus walked on the water” etc. because those are also scientifically impossible. Just when does the T.E decide which things are scientifically acceptable and which are not? Which parts of the bible do you want to comb with your scientific scrutiny and which parts are you going to let slip below the radar? Does it not matter that you are seen as behaving in an incosistent manner in how you treat the biblical text?


Scott Jorgenson - #68702

March 25th 2012

Kevin, one last observation here.  The difference is degree and kind of evidence.  The scientific evidence that the axe did not float is non-existent, other than that axes do not float in general barring some kind of miracle.  After all, whether the axe had floated on that occasion, or not, what evidence would it have left behind?  Philosophy - in particular one’s theology around the possibility and actuality of miracles - and literary criticism - does this seem like an unembellished and wholly literal historical narrative or not - can have a lot to say about whether the axe actually floated, but not science.  Similarly for the other examples you mentioned.

In contrast, the scientific evidence is voluminous against the implication of Genesis 2-3 when interpreted literally, which is that all humans around the Earth who have ever been alive have descended from a culturally and geographically ANE first couple, created de novo no more than a few thousand years BCE.  Now is not the time to list that evidence and I’m sure you would dispute all of it, but that is beside the point.  Your charge here and in other comments on this thread has been that we are inconsistent; but we are not, because the cases are not the same: one has much scientific evidence that directly bears on whether it actually happened, and the others do not.


beaglelady - #68767

March 29th 2012

KevinR,

Do you really eat Jesus at communion?

 

 


beaglelady - #68590

March 19th 2012

“Who said that God created the animals in an attempt to find a helpmate for the man? I don’t read that in the bible. Please point to the text that says that.” 

 Actually it implies that God makes all the animals and then discovers afterwards that not one of them would be a suitable helper for Adam.


The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.   

But for Adam no suitable helper was found.

Genesis 2:18-20, NIV


In Genesis 1 God is more organized; male and female are created in one fell swoop.



KevinR - #68642

March 22nd 2012

@beaglelady,

Do you really think that God, having already created the animals and only after that creating man, wouldn’t know that no helper was to be found for the man amongst them?

I still don’t see how or WHY you’d want to read that Adam was looking for a  helper amonst the animals. It’s as clear as daylight that he was exercising his rulership - naming things; NOT looking for a helper.

Similarly GOD wasn’t expecting him to look for or find a helper there either, God simply wanted to see what Adam would name the animals. Period.

Man was the helper to the earth[read the text]. BUT he himself needed a helper to accomplish that task.


beaglelady - #68685

March 24th 2012

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. (after Adam names all the animals) 

 

Well, someone seems to have been looking for a helper for Adam. He should have posted an ad on Craig’s List.


HornSpiel - #68591

March 19th 2012

KevinR,

Do you believe in magic? The fact that Gen 2 is so incredibly fantastical point to the conclusion that the story should not be taken literally. That, along with what we know now are parallels with contemporary ANE origin stories, indicate this is a response to misconceptions about God in a current literary genre.

You might not like or prefer that interpretation, but shouldn’t it be an option for faithful believers?


Chip - #68595

March 19th 2012

Hornspiel,

I likely don’t agree with much of KevinR’s theology, but I find your “Do you believe in Magic” question both somewhat unfair, and worth exploring.  Indeed, a number of biblical texts fall into the category of “incredibly fantastical” if I read them through naturalist lenses.  Most notable (and important) among these are those that describe the resurrection of Jesus, but there are many more:  seas are parted, asses speak; people walk through furnaces and come out unscorched; dead guys walk out of crypts, are unwrapped and released; tongues of flame dance around the room.  And on and on. 

Do you believe in a God who is capable of acting in ways other than those that are limited to defacto naturalism?  Is your personal incredulity (which is all “incredibly fantastical,” means, after all) the standard by which any text should be understood?  Is God allowed to intervene in the natural order from time to time, even if it makes you uncomfortable?  Shouldn’t such be an option for intelligent believers? 

Or, must all such biblical content be relegated to the status of “myth?”  Is there an interpretive principle in here somewhere? 


HornSpiel - #68601

March 19th 2012

chip, 

I used the word magic because KevinR did:

...because of the fact that you cannot see such magical trees today…

As to it being unfair, the question was rhetorical. I assume he doesn’t. But I did find the use of it odd. It was an invitation for him to explain himself.

As far as comparing Gen 1-11 to other miricle stories in the Bible, I don’t think it is a good idea to lump them all together just because of that. As Scott Jorgenson - #68555 points out above, there are a whole host of internal features of this story (and his list is not exaustive) that point to this as being of a mythical genre. Moreover there are external, historcal, cultural and even theological reasons that all point to the same conclusion—that the story is not to be taken literally. The evidence is rather overwhelming in my opinion.

On the other hand, most of my Christian friends do not believe as I do. Many of them I consider more intellegent than me. On reason I hold the views I do is because I have made peace in my mind with the theological implications. I no longer believe as KevinR does that “It’s an all or nothing proposition.” Or that this somehow relegates Jesus’ resurrection to fantastical delusion.

There is plenty of contemorary evidence in terms of eye witnes reports that God is still at work in miraculous ways today. So why should I doubt that the Bible does record true accounts of God’s interventions in human history? God is allowed to do what He wants, not by me. I am only trying to be faithful to the Word of God and how to properly interpret it.


KevinR - #68641

March 22nd 2012

Actually someone else used the magic word first. Check.


KevinR - #68645

March 22nd 2012

“God is allowed to do what He wants,”

[Who is greater than God that God needs their permission to do]

So why is He not “allowed” to create everything miraculously in six days? Why do you trust the uncertain stories of men where it tries to explain HISTORICAL things.

Science[scientists if you want] works great in the here and now - but it tends to fall flat on it’s face wrgt things that happened in the past, specifically our origins.  The assumptions that need to be made are nothing short of miraculous in themselves, you might as well believe in fairy tales.


Scott Jorgenson - #68604

March 19th 2012

Kevin, indeed I should have said “evening” instead of “morning”, but otherwise I stand by my comment. And I am no atheist but rather a Christian, yet one who tries to acknowledge the text for what it is (based on grammatical, historical, critical investigation), rather than rationalize it to be what I’ve already decided it must be.

That God creates the animals in order to find Adam a helper is clear for a couple of reasons. First, we have the overall arc of the story.  God declares his intention (2:18), then God goes about actualizing it in a way that builds up dramatic tension (2:19-20), so that finally when God makes the woman, the man’s exclamation is all that more of a climactic release (2:23). The story has less dramatic punch intepreted otherwise and so makes less sense. Meanwhile, this is also the plain textual connotation of the passage because of how it has God explicitly plan to make the animals in response to Adam’s solitude (2:18) and then carry that act of creation out (2:19) and bring them to Adam for presentation and “evaluation”. The vast majority of Bible translations, whether considered “liberal” or “conservative”, translate the passage sequentially in that manner; and the only one I know which fudges on this (the NIV, which uses “had formed” to place the creation of animals at some point prior in time) does so for no other apparent reason than to harmonize Genesis 1 and 2 and make biblicists happy. So from both textual and overall literary considerations, we have two streams of evidence that independently lead to the interpretation that God creates the animals in order to find Adam a helper.

As for sensing the genre of fable here: this is no slur. It is simply letting scripture be scripture, God’s message in human words expressed according to the literary conventions of the time. What makes me sense fable here is not the miraculous per se; it is the especially fantastical nature of the ‘miracles’ in question, and the narration of them without any wonderment on the part of the narrator. Historical narrative does not do that; historical narrative, when it relates miracles, marvels at them, insists upon their sober truth, calls up evidence to support them, or through similar devices indicates the author really does think of it literally and means for us to understand him literally, too. Think of Paul relating the fact of the resurrection and then going on for hundreds of words to insist upon its reality (1 Corinthians 15:3-20). Fable does not do this but relates the most fantastical imagery (magical trees and talking animals, etc) sparingly and at face value. This is how we identify the genre. Or was Jotham giving a lesson in history when he told the fable of the trees (Judges 9:7-15)? After all, scripture never says Jotham’s fable is “just a story”.


KevinR - #68646

March 22nd 2012

Elsewhere in the bible miracles are preformed without so much as a mention in passing. So much for the “hooping it up” idea.

Adam needed a helper in his task to be a help to the earth[read the text]. Do you think God created him without male genitals before starting to look for a helper amongst the animals? Please.

The task set before him was to exercise his rulership. Name the animals. Not “LOOK in here amongst this lot and see who you’d like to pick as a helper.” Anything further then that is reading INTo the text. No matter how the “BUT"of the next verse is constructed.

I find it strange that some Christians are going all out to destroy the very book they claim to believe in. If you can’t believe the whole of the bible, why are you somehow managing to believe that Jesus rose from the dead? Scientifically speaking that’s impossible and very FABulous indeed.


Scott Jorgenson - #68663

March 22nd 2012

Kevin, the ‘but’ [no suitable helper was found] ‘so’ [the Lord God went ahead and made him one] that you downplay actually shows the overall arc of the story because it ties back in with the beginning of the story (God’s plan to find Adam a helper) and its end (Adam’s exultation upon receiving the promised helper).  The naming bit mentioned for just a while in-between is merely a sub-plot.

If you would, do some study of how literary genres like myth, and fable and legend, and historical fiction and history, are recognized from their motifs and form; and of how literature functions in human culture and especially in the Ancient Near East.  And then you might re-think your position.

But enough; you’ve made yourself clear.  Fundamentalists and moderates are never going to agree on this and a myriad of other issues in Christianity, which is why Protestantism is splintered into so many denominations and factions.  The purpose of Biologos, as I understand it, is not to persuade fundamentalists to see things differently, but to offer a different, supportive, reasonable and reassuring perspective to those former or straying fundamentalists who’ve already decided you are wrong, and who are perhaps adrift because of that.

Peace -

Scott


Darach - #68561

March 17th 2012

Don’t forget how often Leviathan appears in the OT as apocalyptic imagery of God defeating his enemies, or how God is describe in the metaphor of a potter making us from clay. Even if as Kenneth Kitchen says, this is mythologized history, it doesn’t mean it is a mythologized account of a historical Adam and Eve. Jeshurun wasn’t a real baby God found in the wilderness (Deut 32). Jerusalem and her sisters weren’t real sisters (Ezek 16).

With Paul the question is not whether he thought Adam and Eve were ‘a single first pair’, but whether he based his teaching on the historical pair or on the “mythical or metaphorical dimensions to the story”. We have a problem here because so must traditional understanding of doctrine is built around reading the story of Adam and Eve historically and taking Paul’s discussion of them as if he was speaking literally. Yet in Romans 5:14 Paul describe Adam and a figure of Christ, while the only statement that describes Adam as the first man goes on to describe Christ (not Cain) as the second man. Could Paul be basing his teaching on the “mythical or metaphorical dimensions to the story”, not to teach that Christ came to redeem us from Adam’s first sin, but using the metaphorical picture of the condemnation of mankind in the story of Adam to describe our redemption in another man, Christ.

If Paul is teaching metaphorically about Adam, then it doesn’t matter too much if he also believed Adam was a historical figure, his teaching in scripture was based on the real meaning of the story. But if Paul was speaking metaphorically about Adam, then maybe Paul didn’t think Adam and Eve were the single first pair either. Paul wouldn’t have been alone as a first century Jew if he thought the story was written as an allegory, Josephus and Philo thought the story was allegorical too.


Chip - #68598

March 19th 2012

Josephus and Philo thought the story was allegorical too

Citations?


Darach - #68607

March 20th 2012

In the preface to Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus describes Moses writing somethings literally other passage allegorically:

 our legislator speaks some things wisely, but enigmatically, and others under a decent allegory, but still explains such things as required a direct explication plainly and expressly.

Then in Book 1 Chapter 1 discussing Genesis 2 he says:

2. Moreover, Moses, after the seventh day was over begins to talk philosophically; and concerning the formation of man, says thus: That God took dust from the ground, and formed man, and inserted in him a spirit and a soul…

While the six day creation may have been a direct explanation plainly expressed for Josephus, the story of Adam and Eve is not a plain historical account but Moses speaking philosophically or allegorically.

Josephus took the six days literally, Philo didn’t take either creation account literally.
Allegorical Interpretation Book 1

II (2) “And on the sixth day God finished his work which he had made.” It would be a sign of great simplicity [foolishness] to think that the world was created in six days, or indeed at all in time

XIV. (43) “And God planted a paradise in Eden, in the east: and there he placed the man whom he had Formed:” for he called that divine and heavenly wisdom by many names; and he made it manifest that it had many appellations; for he called it the beginning, and the image, and the sight of God. And now he exhibits the wisdom which is conversant about the things of the earth (as being an imitation of this archetypal wisdom), in the plantation of this Paradise. For let not such impiety ever occupy our thoughts as for us to suppose that God cultivates the land and plants paradises, since if we were to do so, we should be presently raising the question of why he does so: for it could not be that he might provide himself with pleasant places of recreation and pastime, or with amusement. (44) Let not such fabulous nonsense ever enter our minds; for even the whole world would not be a worthy place or habitation for God, since he is a place to himself, and he himself is full of himself, and he himself is sufficient for himself, filling up and surrounding everything else which is deficient in any respect, or deserted, or empty; but he himself is surrounded by nothing else, as being himself one and the universe. (45) God therefore sows and implants terrestrial virtue in the human race, being an imitation and representation of the heavenly virtue. For, pitying our race, and seeing that it is exposed to abundant and innumerable evils, he firmly planted terrestrial virtue as an assistant against and warderoff of the diseases of the soul; being, as I have said before, an imitation of the heavenly and archetypal wisdom which he calls by various names. Now virtue is called a paradise metaphorically, and the appropriate place for the paradise is Eden; and this means luxury: and the most appropriate field for virtue is peace, and ease, and joy; in which real luxury especially consists.


HornSpiel - #68570

March 17th 2012

I like your reasoning Darach. The fact that Paul is focusing on a non-literal aspect of Christ, as the second Man or founder of the human race makes Adam’s historicity less critical. Paul’s theological point is clear and compelling irrespective of Paul’s or our views on the historicity of A&E. In other words, Paul is citing an authoritative literary text in the same way we can do so today even if we do not believe A&E were literal people.

Now Keller says:

“But Paul is different. He most definitely wanted to teach us that Adam and Eve were real historical figures. When you refuse to take a Biblical author literally when he clearly wants you to do so, you have moved away from the traditional understanding of the Biblical authority.”

I would disagree that Paul wants to teach “Adam and Eve were real historical figures.” Paul wants to teach that through Christ we have access to a new source of life that surpasses the old source represented by Adam. What is historical is that we all have inherited the old tainted source of life biologically from our parents. This is something that Genesis clearly teaches that is completely compatible with Evolutionary Biological Processes (EBP).

“As I said above, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a strong, vital faith yourself, but I believe such a move can be bad for the church as a whole, and it certainly can lead to confusion on the part of laypeople.”

I can sympathize with Keller’s pastoral concern. Essentially he is saying the Church should never rule out the possibility of a literal A&E even if Scripture clearly presents a legendary or mythologized account of the same. We need to learn to be comfortable with a spectrum of interpretations. I think it is pretty clear that the more knowledge of history, literature, Ancient Near East (ANE) culture and linguistics a Christian has, the less likely that they will take A&E as literal or historical. On the other hand the more they takes their Christian faith and doctrine the more likely the will be to hold to some form, of literal or historical A&E. On response it to remain ignorant or gratuitously deny facts. I don’t think that ignorance is God’s way though.

I believe a high view of the Bible is compatible with an non-literal understanding of Gen. 1-11. I do not believe essential Christian doctrines are compromised. However if internecine war is declared between camps we will all be losers. A willingness to talk among ourselves respectfully is probably the best we can expect at this time.

A suggestion to BL editors:  When an article like this is broken up into separate posts, it would be a courtesy to reintroduce the phrase an acronym stands for the first time it appears in the post, in this case EBP and GTE (Grand Theory of Evolution).


KevinR - #68584

March 19th 2012

From your own statements then, you simply do not believe in the Christian bible. Plain and simple. Either you believe it as it stands or you don’t believe it altogether because trying to patch the mismatches up simply breaks it even further. It’s an all or nothing proposition. Either take it all or leave it all alone. To do otherwise is to become a false prophet. You’ll be disobeying the express commandments given to neither add nor take away from the word of God. Transgressing that command has it’s own ramifications. Your choice.


HornSpiel - #68586

March 19th 2012

Thanks Kevin for your response. I think your response highlights a problem in Chrisitanity which holds the Bible to an unacceptibly high standard that verges on what might be called Biblolatry. You are right, I don’t “believe in” the Bible, I believe in the God of the Bible. I think I do take the Bible seriously though. For that reason I do my best to understand what God is really saying through the Bible. I am afraid the the approach you take is actually misreading it by adding to what it is saying.

For example the Bible literally says that there is a hard dome separating waters above the earth—the firmament. Is that what the Bible is teaching? No I don’t think so. Why not? One big reason is the study of God’s creation. For the same reason I don’t think the Bible is teaching there was a litereal A&E and a literal flood. All these things are artifacts of the Ancient Neareast Culture in which the Bible was birthed. It is therefore necessary to corrrectly understant the ANE context in order to correcty handle the Word. 

The Word of God does not exist in a vacuum. The guidence of the Spirit is vital in understanding and applying it. Meaning is always a matter of interpretation. Therefore we must carefully listen to what the Spirit is saying. I personally feel it is far wiser and safer to listen to what God’s Creation is saying and what the Church has taught and learned over the centuries, than the current Funamentalist Fad.



beaglelady - #68587

March 19th 2012

KevinR,

Do you literally eat Jesus at communion?  Don’t you have to eat his flesh and drink his blood to have life within you? Do you believe this? 


Peter Hickman - #68627

March 21st 2012

KevinR,

What are your grounds for stating that the Christian Bible is ‘an all or nothing proposition’? The logical conclusion of your proposition is that if a single error is found in the Bible (for example, if it was found that the mustard seed was not smaller than all other seeds) you would reject it all. Dangerous and unnecessary.

By quoting Revelation 22.18-19 you appear to be accepting a form of self-validation by John (and, by the way, the warning he gives there refers to Revelation itself, not the whole Bible). According to John 5.31, however, even Jesus could not validate his own testimony.

I can handle parts of the Bible not being literally or historically or scientifically correct because it is not the Bible or my own unaided intellect that ‘guides me into all truth’ (‘truth’ being reality, the way things really are) but the Holy Spirit.


KevinR - #68583

March 19th 2012

“I don’t believe Genesis 1 can be taken literally because I don’t think the author expected us to. But Paul is different. He most definitely wanted to teach us that Adam and Eve were real historical figures. When you refuse to take a Biblical author literally when he clearly wants you to do so, you have moved away from the traditional understanding of the Biblical authority. As I said above, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a strong, vital faith yourself, but I believe such a move can be bad for the church as a whole, and it certainly can lead to confusion on the part of laypeople.”

Tim, it sounds to me like YOU are the one who is confused. You keep going around in circles - on the one hand saying you don’t believe Genesis 1 is true history but on the other hand trying to cover up the ramifications of such a belief and then returning to say you don’t believe it for one second.

I asked some time ago how you would relate a mythical Genesis 1 to Exodus 20:8-11. Perhaps you’d like to repeat your reply here.

Now, I’d like to ask just how you view Jesus’ own statements regarding events in Adam’s time: Jesus said “in the beginning he created them male and female”. This means that Adam and Eve were there right at the beginning of creation. They weren’t created billions of years afterwards. Furthermore, when pointing to the pharisees that they killed the prophets, “from ABEL to Zechariah”, which Abel do you think he was referring to? We can extend this to Jesus talking about Noah as well - since TE’s don’t believe in a global flood either. Come to think of it, did Jonah really get swallowed by a fish? Jesus believed so.

Now you might want to dismiss Paul’s comments regarding a real, historical Adam, but if you also dismiss Jesus’ historical reference to Adam and Eve you are making Jesus out to be a fabler or should I be more direct and use the word liar?

That would then extend to God himself, since Jesus claimed to only speak the words he received from God.

The point should be clear - if you do not belief in a literal Genesis 1 and Adam and Eve, you are calling Jesus a person who does not know history. This would be a really strange phenomenom for someone who was there in the beginning, and through whom everthing was made.

If that is the case then Jesus cannot be God either and thus is unable to be your Saviour. Only one who is stronger than Satan can bring about salvation from sin.

It comes down to this: If the foundation in Genesis is broken then so is your faith in Jesus Christ son of God, Saviour, Redeemer and [currently] Lord of all.

Now consider the reverse side of this unbelief in Genesis 1:

You basically are saying that only NOW has the real truth of Genesis’  meaning come to light. Previously all people [prophets, disciples, even Jesus himself] believed in fables. Furthermore since you don’t seem to accept the atheistic evolutionary story either, it appears that you (and other theistic evolutionaries) are the ones to finally bring a true understanding of evolution to the world. All other understandings were in error and only NOW has the full truth become clear.

Do you realistically expect people to believe that? Perhaps you’d like to bring that good news to the atheists?

 


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68585

March 19th 2012

Kevin R,

John 1 says that Jesus Christ is God’s authorative Word, not the Bible.  Jesus is the Alpha and Omega of the Christian understanding of God and Reality, not the Bible. 

John writes his first chapter to bring a new perspective to Genesis 1, just as Jesus replaced the Old Covenant with His New Covenant.  Thus Genesis and the OT are not God’s ultimate Word, Jesus Christ the Logos, the rational divine Word is God’s Word of Salvation and the Word of Truth.    


Scott Jorgenson - #68605

March 19th 2012

“The point should be clear - if you do not belief in a literal Genesis 1 and Adam and Eve, you are calling Jesus a person who does not know history. This would be a really strange phenomenom for someone who was there in the beginning, and through whom everthing was made.”

Jesus’ view of the world’s material origins is beside the point.  Any teacher can make allusion to commonly-understand motifs of the day in order to draw forth a teaching point that does not stand-or-fall based on the historicity of the motif.  I can use the story of the Boy who Cried Wolf to draw forth a valid teaching point, irrespective of whether the story actually happened, because it is an understood story in our culture, a common basis for understanding.  And whatever my teaching point may be, it is not undermined by the story not actually having happened; in fact, in my opinion, my teaching point would not even receive further credence if the story had happened.  Whether the Boy who Cried Wolf is a real historical account or not is irrelevant when used as a analogical or illustrative device in moral, philosophical or theological teaching.  And the same with Jesus’ use of Jonah, etc, regardless of his views on their historicity.

 


Chris Massey - #68594

March 19th 2012

“You may say, “Well, the Biblical authors were ‘men of their time’ and were wrong about something they were trying to teach readers.” The obvious question is, “how will we know which parts of the Bible to trust and which not?” “

I guess we will have to use our brains. This prospect is, apparently, terrifying to evangelicals.

Why do the hard work of critical biblical studies when you can settle for the easy comfort of a perfect answer book that is never mistaken?


beaglelady - #68596

March 19th 2012

“I guess we will have to use our brains. This prospect is, apparently, terrifying to evangelicals.”

Yes.


Darach - #68608

March 20th 2012

“Now, I’d like to ask just how you view Jesus’ own statements regarding events in Adam’s time: Jesus said “in the beginning he created them male and female”. This means that Adam and Eve were there right at the beginning of creation. They weren’t created billions of years afterwards”

Does ‘in the begining when he created them’ mean the beginning of the world, or the beginning of the human race, when God created human beings? The problem is, Jesus wasn’t teaching about creation, he was talking about marriage and divorce. Should be base our views about the shape of the earth on Jesus saying the Queen of Sheba  came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon Matt 12:42? We should really stick to what Jesus was actually teaching and try not to build too many doctrines into implications we imagine in phrases Jesus used to teach seomthing else entirely.

“Furthermore, when pointing to the pharisees that they killed the prophets, “from ABEL to Zechariah”, which Abel do you think he was referring to?”

Perhaps you should ask youself which Abel the Pharisees killed.

 

 


KevinR - #68644

March 22nd 2012

@Darach,

Even though he was talking about marriage and divorce, the truth remains and is independent of the context. In fact trying to negate it by saying it was in that context is certainly what happens when one denies the historicity of Gen 1. You are basically calling Jesus ill-informed.

The beginning is the begining no matter how you want to slice it or dice it. Exodus 20:8-11 makes sure of that context.


Darach - #68656

March 22nd 2012

Hi Kevin
“Even though he was talking about marriage and divorce, the truth remains and is independent of the context.”
If it isn’t what Jesus was talking about, what makes you think the things he wasn’t teaching, that you just read into the text, are the truth.

“In fact trying to negate it by saying it was in that context is certainly what happens when one denies the historicity of Gen 1.”
The problem is taking your interpretation of Genesis and reading it into the passage anytime Jesus (or Paul) refers to Genesis, assuming Jesus must be interpreting the text the same way you are. So much better to try to understand how they are treating the text of Genesis and have our interpretation of Genesis line up with that. Paul interpreted Adam figuratively. Jesus treated Genesis as authoritative, but he didn’t teach six day creationism or even mention a literal Adam and Eve. Instead he used Genesis for the lessons it could teach us about our lives today. Where our interpretation of Genesis lines up with how Jesus and Paul handled it, we are probably on the right track, other areas of how we understand the text may fine too, but we should hold them more loosely.

“You are basically calling Jesus ill-informed.”
Not if he wasn’t teaching the things you claim.

“The beginning is the begining no matter how you want to slice it or dice it. “
John 15:27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

“Exodus 20:8-11 makes sure of that context.”
Not if Moses was using the six days as a metaphor to teach the Israelites Sabbath observance. Was the Lord God Almighty refreshed after a days rest (Exodus 31:17)? Or is God resting after a week’s work an anthropomorphism? You get a different anthropomorphism in Deuteronomy when Moses eaplains the Sabbath command Deut 5:15  You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

 

 


johannesargentus - #68634

March 21st 2012

Below I present a conceptual framework whereby the Genesis narrative on the Fall as interpreted by Paul in Romans 5 is compatible with current scientific findings.  I will use this notation:

t-men = true men = theological men = metaphysical men = with an infused spiritual soul

q-men = quasi men = without an infused spiritual soul

where “men” above can be replaced by “women” or “people” as fit. 

I assume that the creation of Biblical Adam & Eve involved a “spiritual-only leap”: they were biologically identical to the surrounding q-people, differing only by having been infused a spiritual soul.

To note, Biblical Adam & Eve are the only t-people for which infusion of a spiritual soul could have occurred at any time after birth (and in our personal opinion, it probably occurred after they had become independent of their respective q-parents).  In the case of all their descendants, infusion of the soul took place at conception.

On the side of science, there are 3 constraints to satisfy:

C1. Current scientific evidence for all living people being descended patrilineally from one most recent common ancestor or MRCA, “Y-chromosomal Adam”, who lived approx. 142 KY ago.

C2. Current scientific evidence for all living people being descended matrilineally from one MRCA, “Mitochondrial Eve”, who lived approx. 174 KY ago.

C3. Current scientific evidence for no human or pre-human population bottleneck ever that was smaller than a few thousand people.

On the side of faith, there are 2 constraints to satisfy:

C4. Genesis text.

C5. Pauline interpretation of Genesis text in Romans 5, which most notaby cares only about Adam and does not even mention Eve, implying exclusively fatherly transmission of original sin.  (BTW, this is consistent with Jesus’ human nature not having to be self-redeemed, as by virginal conception He did not descend from Adam on the fatherly line.)

And finally, a somewhat loose observational constraint:

C6. Zoological and historical evidence on how groups of chimps or people deal with other groups competing for the same land.

 


johannesargentus - #68635

March 21st 2012

The proposed “Pauline concordant conceptual framework” is as follows:

 Biblical Adam is Y-chromosomal Adam.  Mitochondrial Eve could be either Biblical Eve or a matrilineal ancestor thereof, as explained below.

Adam and Eve themselves had intercourse only with each other.

Starting with Adam’s children, or perhaps grandchildren, t-people, and specifically t-men, had to start dealing with q-people competing for the same land, and they took care of them as would be expected: by killing them all, with the possible exception here and there of some young attractive q-women, which were spared to be used as “wives”, or more exactly sex slaves.  (Hey, they looked as good as t-women but did not talk!  What else could a hard-working, hard-fighting t-man ask for?  The point of the humorous comment is to remember that we are dealing with fallen men.)  Thus, the restriction is simply that t-men mated with q-women as extensively as needed to satisfy C3 above, but t-women never mated with q-men.

Here an objection could be raised about why a similar degree of interbreeding did not occur with Neanderthals or Denisovans in Eurasia after the Out-of-Africa event.  The answer is quite simple: as the Neanderthal and Denisovan lineage had diverged from the lineage leading to t-men around 800-600 KY ago, Neanderthal and Denisovan females, in contrast with q-women, looked really awful from the perspective of t-men, so that very few t-men had such a terribly bad taste or were in such dire sexual need as to take them as sex slaves.

Regarding the offspring resulting from t-men having intercourse with q-women, there are two possibilities that satisfy C2:

I1: Interbreeding resulted in t-men who were reproductively viable.  Either there was no female offspring, or that female offspring was sterile. In this case Biblical Eve is Mitochondrial Eve.

I2: Interbreeding resulted in both t-men and t-women who were reproductively viable.  In this case Mitochondrial Eve was the matrilineal MRCA of BOTH Biblical Eve AND all the q-women that t-men mated with.

This framework clearly satisfies C1, C2 and C3 by design. Satisfaction of C1 implies satisfaction of C5.  C6, though a much more loose constraint than the others, is also satisfied.  Whereby we can now focus on C4.

Since we have already shown that this framework fully agrees with the account in Genesis 2: 4-8, we will now focus on another passage, Genesis 6: 1-4, where we add between parentheses the corresponding elements of this framework, to show their remarkable (and quite unexpected by this blogger) degree of concordance:

 

When human beings (q-people) began to grow numerous on the earth and daughters (q-women) were born to them,

the sons of God (t-men) saw how beautiful the daughters of human beings (q-women) were, and so they took for their wives whomever they pleased.

Then the LORD said: My spirit shall not remain in human beings forever, because they are only flesh. Their days shall comprise one hundred and twenty years. (Therefore the interbreeding was against divine will, as would be expected.) 

The Nephilim appeared on earth in those days, as well as later, (could “later” refer to the much less frequent intercourse with Neanderthals and Denisovans after Out-of-Africa?) after the sons of God (t-men) had intercourse with the daughters of human beings (q-women), who bore them children. They were the heroes of old, the men of renown. (this seems to imply that those “children” born by q-women were only male, which would support I1 above.)

At this point some shocked Christian could argue: How could it be that God would have planned that the formation of mankind, at least at the level of its genetic diversity, be carried out through immoral actions?  And the Christian answer is quite straightforward: Did not God plan that the redemption (new creation) of mankind be carried out through evil human actions like the betrayal of Judas and the condemnation of Jesus by the Sanhedrin?

In neither case did God positively order or even approve the respective evil human actions.  Rather, from eternity, He foresaw them, permitted them, and included them in his creative/redemptive plan.

 


johannesargentus - #68636

March 21st 2012

As a last note, the alternative to the conceptual framework presented above to fulfill constraint C3 is to posit that Adam & Eve and their first N generations of descendants were miraculously provided with genetic diversity in their sperm cells and oves, so as to enable mankind to achieve a healthy level of genetic diversity without having to resort to mating with beings that, while physically humans, were metaphysically animals.  In this case, mankind would look as if there has never been a population bottleneck smaller than a few thousand people while in fact we are all descended from only two people.  Also, in this case the creation of Adam and Eve could have involved both a spiritual and a physical leap, the latter being a brain-enhancing macro-mutation perhaps making a whole speciation event.


beaglelady - #68659

March 22nd 2012

Good one, johannesargentus. The plight of the concordist…

 


kevin.byrd25 - #68638

March 21st 2012

I guess we need to get on the same page first? are we stating that the bible is the word of GOD? or that it is the word of man? if you believe it is the word of God then what other way is there than to interpret the bible other than literal? but if we believe that it is the word and stories of men, then how did you come to believe that these were just stories and not to be taken literally and when do we draw the line in the sand as; these books are the word of God and must be taken as such or these books were meant for us to interpet. I look forward to everyone thought on this!! Thank you


beaglelady - #68648

March 22nd 2012

So do we have to literally eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus, just like the bible says?


KevinR - #68665

March 23rd 2012

Did Jesus literally walk on the water or was that little verse  just an allegory?

You try walking on water to see if it’s scientifically possible - just going by the “scientific FACT of evolution”.....which all evolutionists believe in.

If the scientific facts of evolution takes precedence over the word of God [as you claim regarding Genesis 1] then you should apply such precedence consistently.

 


kevin.byrd25 - #68724

March 27th 2012

lol uhhh kevin, good name by the way, I was absolutely not claiming anything lol. I am a scientist and just wanted to see how other people rationalize this in their faith. I just don’t understand how peole can question and criticize certain parts of the bible but not question it as a whole. You seemed mad there buddy calm down were all on the same team, but you should know that evolution is just a theory it is by no means a scientific law such as gravity and the other laws of nature, which I’m sure you know but were just angry and trying to prove your point that we actually were on the same side of.


beaglelady - #68740

March 28th 2012

You need to learn what theory means in a scientific sense. It doesn’t mean a hunch or a guess.


kevin.byrd25 - #68723

March 27th 2012

I was opening the discussion on that point…I definitely do not believe that we have to literally eat the flesh and drink the blood of any man. I don’t agree with christianity at all let alone any other religion who claims to know the mind and will of god. I wanted to open up the discussion to see how other people rationalized this belief because to me it seems so simple…if you accept the bible as god’s word but then are willing to interpert certain parts differently, which is in essence believing that you know the mind of God more than who ever is interpreting it differently, then how can those people not question if jesus is really the son of god let alone all the miracles. Just a question that I find myself not being able to overlook.


Ashe - #68651

March 22nd 2012

I look at stories like the one where Jesus was taken to a high mountain so that Satan can tempt him with all the kingdoms of the world, I see that the point the author was making was not that that actually happened (the world being round and all) but that Jesus couldn’t be tempted into evil, no matter what.


Peter Hickman - #68655

March 22nd 2012

What do you mean by the phrase ‘word of God’?


KevinR - #68666

March 23rd 2012

Same phrase as used in John 1:1, I guess. Also refers to the whole of the bible, I believe.


kevin.byrd25 - #68722

March 27th 2012

sorry, you have to love when finals close! by word of God I meant to open for discussion do people believe this to be literally the word of God, I’ll compare it to Islam where they believe the Qur’an to be the word of God spoken through muhammad but nevertheless still the word of God.


beaglelady - #68736

March 27th 2012

I would say that the Bible is inspired not dictated. Muslims claim that the angel Gabriel dictated the Qur’an to Muhammad, and is therefore more accurate than Christian scriptures, which they claim have been corrupted through the ages. 

However, the angel Gabriel apparently had his sources also, including Gnostic traditions and later “gospels” that never made it into our canon of scripture. These can be clearly seen in the Qur’an. One example is the legend of the child Jesus making clay pigeons fly.  So much for the credibility of the Qur’an. 


beaglelady - #68660

March 22nd 2012

“I guess we need to get on the same page first?”

 

Has kevin.byrd left the page?


kevin.byrd25 - #68725

March 27th 2012

sorry finals are close and literally no time for anything other than research then study…such is my life. but same page first as in does everyone take the bible as coming from god or do they accept that it might have been man made and made up? if we can conclude that one book was made up by someone to explain creation can we not assume that the other books were just fabricated in the same manner?


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68728

March 27th 2012

Kevin, Kevin, Ronnie, Peter, and whoever,

First I want to make it clear thet there is ONLY ONE WORD of GOD, and that is Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Second Person of the Trinity.  The Bible is Holy but it is not God, and to claim that it is is an error of the worst sort.  You cannot claim that Bible is inerrant, because only God is perfect and the Bible itself in no way claims to be divine. 

To further emphasise this Hebrews 1:1-2 says

(Heb 1:1 NIV)  In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, (2)  but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, Whom He appointed Heir of all things, and through Whom He made the universe.

Please note that it says that God spoke to us (the Hebrews) indirectly through the Bible, but in these final days God speaks directly, not through a Book, but through the Son.  It also says that God does reveal Godself through the universe which the Father created through the Son.

The Bible is inspired, but not dictated by God.  I am inspired to preach a great sermon, the spoken word of God.  I am glad to give God all the praise and credit for the sermon, but God does not dictate to me exactly what to say and how to say it.  

If the sermon contains some problems, they are my problems and not God’s.  I trust that the Holy Spirit will correct these problems and the hearers of the sermon will understand the messege in the way the Spirit intended it, not in my flawed effort to communicate it.       

When you put all the emphasis on the Bible which is not God, you lose the power of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Who are God.  The Bible is God’s attempt to communicate with humanity.  The problem is not with God, but with our inability to understand God directly.  God did not send Jesus the Logos to reveal the Truth at the beginning of the process, but at the end of this process, because that is when we humaqns were ready for Him. 

The same with science.  Genesis is true, but not true in every detail, because there is no way God could then and God can now explain to us how God created the universe.  The important thing about Genesis is that it says that God created the universe.  Creationists want to say the story must be all true or all false, which means that if God did not create the universe in 6 days then God did not create the universe at all and the whole Bible is false.  

It is ridiculous to throw out the Bible over unimportant details and give unbelievers this rationale to attack our faith and the Bible, which is totally unBiblical as I have said.     

 

 


kevin.byrd25 - #68735

March 27th 2012

Roger, when you say, “ridiculous to throw out the bible over unimportant details…,” are you admitting that there are unimportant details in the bible? and when you say that, “genesis is true, but not true in every detail…,” are you not admitting that the bible contains fallacies? I will admit that I have not read all the posting here but I will speak for myself, I never once said or every implied anything about “throwing the bible out” but I would like to ask you how you can say that it is ridiculous for me to question then if Jesus was resurrected, or performed miracles or anything else of the sort that one could misinterpert? Roger this is why I asked my original question to begin with. Why is it ok to just write off some parts of the bible as “unimportant details,” and why is it so easy for you and others alike to say that “genesis is true, but not true in every detail…” who made these details, in the only book we have that allows us to know god his son and his will and his relationship with us through the ages, unimportant but makes all the others more important? And a more direct question to you Roger that I would like hear you answer is, do you really hold those as unimportant? because an entire field of science and many other subdisciplines within it would be considered false and obselete along with all the discoveries that we’ve made from this aquired knowledge. And Roger I do not know your backgroud or anything about you and am not able to ask you in real time so I mean you no disrespect or discredit when I assume that you are not educated in the sciences because I would have to completely disagree with you when you say 2 things: first, you say that, “it is the same with science.” when no it is not at all the same with science because if a detail is not shown to be the way it is when it was published in the literature we have a peer-review system that will allow others to replicate the experiment and compare their results and if a single detail, even on the smallest scales of smashing particles together or the largest scales dealing with planetary motion, is found to be incorrect then our pride might be hurt but our understanding of it has increased by orders of magnitude because unlike religion science grows more when we find come to conclusions that things cannot be a certain way because it narrows the gap, if not just a tiny bit, of the many possible ways that it can; and also unlike religion science will admit to, “ok here is what you would have to show me for it to not be true,” and if shown then we are open to changing our views on it and even better, exploring the new possibilities that the new way of thinking opened. And second, you say, “...because there is no way god could then and now explain to us how god created the universe.” Roger you truly hurt me on this one…we are understanding how the universe and everything in it was created and how everything interacts with each other at an unbelievable rate; with discoveries being made and published, or at least submitted for peer-review before being published, everyday. The only way we are even able to grow our understanding and knowledge of this are from these constants that god created that are the same here on earth and throughout the universe, as they are with the unimaginably small and the unbelievably large, that can be quantified with mathematics and experimentation just waiting for the next step in the process to be discovered bringing us one step closer to understanding just how the universe was created. Roger, I say that it is not the people; who are afraid to question, criticize, study, grow and constantly seek more understanding in their beliefs and their truths as the attackers or unbiblical ones my friend, but it is you and others alike who are so definitive in your beliefs and truly believe that you have it all figured out and there is nothing new to be learned or discovered. I hope Roger that you are not spreading your way of thinking or point of view to your congregation or anyone else…


beaglelady - #68738

March 27th 2012

Kevin,

If you truly take the Bible as literally true in every detail, Tell me:

  • Did Sons of God (divine beings) literally impregnate female humans who then gave birth to baby giants and heroes?
  • Do we literally eat the Flesh and drink the Blood of Jesus at the Eucharist/Holy Communion/Last Supper?

beaglelady - #68741

March 28th 2012

kevin.byrd25,

Just how much of the Bible are you familiar with? Have you really read it, or most of it? Are you familiar with biblical scholarship, and how the different books came to be written, and so forth? 


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68755

March 28th 2012

Kevin Byrd,

Calm down, relax.  This is a discussion among resonable persons, not the end of the world.

First of all you need to make the distinction between writing inspired by the Holy Spirit and the divine Word of God.  As the BIBLE says Jesus Christ is the divine perfect Word of God, not the Bible, which is a holy book written by humans and inspired by the Holy Spirit. 

Second the Bible is divided between the Old Testament or Covenant and the New Testament or Covenant.  This should tell us that the Bible is about God’s covenantal relationship with God’s people before and after the coming of Jesus Christ. 

The Bible is about theology and not about science.  When the science found in the Bible, conflicts with the theology found in the Bible, the theology should win out.  These are the details which are unimportant because the Bible is not about science, but about God.

Third, humans can see what God has done and to some extent understand how God works, but we can never really get inside God’s Mind, because we are not God.  That is the point I was trying to make.  I do not know of any theologian that would disagree with this, but maybe you do.

Fourth, you need to consider how Genesis was written.  I was reading a conservative description of how Genesis was written.  It said that Moses, who was educated in the Egyptian court, used his education, traditional history, and inspiration of the Holy Spirit to write this special book.  It really does not make much difference if it were Moses or the Priestly Editor o r whoever who made the final drawqft of Genesis, the process is the same.  

The inspiration from the Spirit is true.  The learning of the day is flawed.  The traditional history might also be, but all together they tell us that God cares about humanity and has made a plan for our selvation through Jesus Christ.  That is the real Truth.         

  


Ronnie - #68756

March 28th 2012

Roger

You are right, Jesus is the Word of God, the living Word, who is God, who is spoken of in the bible as a distinct person. The written words that make up the bible are Gods words. Inspired or dictated, I don’t think it makes any difference, they are the words of God. Just as if you wrote a book, or had someone else write the book for you, they are still your words. I never claimed the bible to be God, only the words of God. God is perfect, and I accept his words to be perfect. If there is something I don’t understand, or I think is contradictory, I attribute this to my inability to understand, not Gods inability to communicate through his word (the bible).

Case in point: the creation/evolution issue, God says in Genesis the he created all things in 6 days roughly 6000 years ago. Evolution states that the earth is what, 4 and a half billion years old and the universe 14 billion? How on earth can 6 days equal 4.5 billion years. If God wanted to say he used evolution as his means of creation he could have easily said so. God is not the author of confusion. He wants us to have faith that what he says is true, not try to jam a theory contrived by man into the straightforward creation account in Genesis. I’ll say it again, If the 6 day creation account can be shown to be incorrect, then the accounts of Adam & Eve, original sin, the flood, the virgin birth of Christ, his death and resurrection, and our gift of salvation and eternal life can be shown to be incorrect as well. Take God at his word!


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68758

March 28th 2012

Ronnie,

How can I convince you that the Bible is the Book of theology and not the Book of science.  If you make Science the yard stick by which the Bible is judged. then the Bible is false as I said before and you give Scientism the upper hand.  The Bible can only be judged by theological standards and to say that the Bible is the Word of God equal or superior to Jesus Christ is false.

One doesn’t, I hope, throw the baby out with the bathwater.  The bathwater was needed to wash the baby, but after the baby is clean, one needs to throw it out.  Thus the old cosmology of the ancient Near East was necessary for the ancients to make sense of their world, but now we modern folk have gone beyond these ideas, largely because of ideas found in the Bible. 

We need to move beyond the old to the new ideas of science without throwing out the baby, which is God’s covenantal relationship with God’s people. 

God could have done many things differently.  He could have sent Jesus at the beginning of the salvation history process rather than at the end.  He could have given Jesus all sorts of scientific textbooks so humans would not have to discover how nature works for themselves.  God could have left Jesus on earth as the eternal Caeser and/or Pope.    

Again, God wants us to have faith in Jesus Christ, the rational Logos, not the Bible.  Please I beg of you, take God the Father at God’s Word, the LOGOS.


beaglelady - #68737

March 27th 2012

Scriptures are God-breathed, and inspired, but not dictated.  The quality of the Bible speaks for itself.    We have to look at genre and other factors to interpret God’s word. 

” if we can conclude that one book was made up by someone to explain creation can we not assume that the other books were just fabricated in the same manner?”

This is a false dichotomy and very fundamentalist in approach.  


KevinR - #68667

March 23rd 2012

This will probably get removed:

Try reading this http://creation.com/autopoiesis-2 and see what your reaction is.


Ronnie - #68675

March 23rd 2012

Kevin

As much as I agree with it, I’m afraid the article you cited will fall on deaf ears.

I do think you are correct in your above comments about being logically consistent, if the creation account in Genesis cannot be believed, then how can the resurrection, or other miracles be believed. I would take it one step further, IF evolution were true, meaning life evolved from non life, or if the diversity of life today evolved from a single ancestor, THIS would be even more miraculous than God creating all things in 6 days, but I would expect this to fall on deaf ears as well.

The religious component of evolution is obvious, if we have eyes to see.


kevin.byrd25 - #68726

March 27th 2012

Ronnie, not sure if you were talking to me, Kevin, or the other KevinR, but you literally hit the nail on the head of what I was trying to get at!! thank you my friend either way because that was the main point of my question.


Ronnie - #68729

March 27th 2012

Thanks kevin.bird

I did respond to KevinR, but I suppose it could apply to your post as well. Funny how trying to shoehorn evolution into Genesis ends up skewing much more than Genesis.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68676

March 23rd 2012

Ronnie wrote:

if the creation account in Genesis cannot be believed, then how can the resurrection, or other miracles be believed.

The Pharisees and the Saducees believed in the Creation account in Genesis, yet not the miracles of Jesus or the Resurrection, so how can there be an automatic corelation to these two kinds of faith.  “I believe in the God the Father Who created heaven and earth” ex nihilo and through evolution and other natural laws.    

 IF evolution were true, meaning life evolved from non life, or if the diversity of life today evolved from a single ancestor, THIS would be even more miraculous than God creating all things in 6 days,

This is 100% right, so why don’t conservative Christians embrace God’s evolutionary Creation of life as an excellent example of God’s supreme power and wisdom.  Yes, evolution does have a very obvious Christian aspect. 

 

 


Ronnie - #68678

March 23rd 2012

” This is 100% right, so why don’t conservative Christians embrace God’s evolutionary Creation of life as an excellent example of God’s supreme power and wisdom. Yes, evolution does have a very obvious Christian aspect.”

But that’s simply not what God says in Genesis.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68679

March 23rd 2012

I thought that Moses wrote Genesis.


Ronnie - #68680

March 23rd 2012

He did, as he was inspired by God. See 2 Timothy 3:16.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68682

March 24th 2012

So the words in Genesis are not God’s words, but the words of Moses inspired by God, correct?


Ronnie - #68689

March 24th 2012

They are the words of God as Moses was inspired to write them.

Do you not believe they are Gods words?


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68694

March 24th 2012

Ronnie,

If the Bible meant that they were God’s words, it would have said that they were words dictated by God, rather than inspired by God.  If God wrote them, there is no need for Moses.  We are not Muslims who believe that their Book, the Quran, has existed from eternity.

Furthermore Peter is right, John 1 specifically says that Jesus Christ is God’s Word and a divine/human Person is very different from words in a book, so it would seem that they are not God’s Words.   

Finally if the OT is God’s Word(s), how is it possible for Jesus Christ to replace it with the New Covenant based on His Body and Blood?  


Peter Hickman - #68683

March 24th 2012

Kevin, Roger, Ronnie,

Kevin - as I am sure Roger would be keen to point out, Jesus is the word of God and so the Bible cannot be, can it?

Roger - what evidence is there that Moses wrote Genesis (apart from tradition)?

Ronnie - 2 Timothy 3.16 makes reference to writings that are inspired by God. But it does not reveal to which writings it is referring. Why do you think that it refers to Genesis?

Roger - How would you set about identifying which are ‘words of Moses inspired by God’ and which are ‘God’s words’ and how would you handle them differently, if at all?


Ronnie - #68686

March 24th 2012

It says ALL scripture. I should ask do you not consider Genesis a part of scripture?


Peter Hickman - #68699

March 25th 2012

Ronnie,

To say that ‘all scripture’ is inspired by God and thus Genesis is inspired by God is to engage in circular reasoning.
The word translated as ‘scripture’ means writing (Greek: graphe). Religions other than Christianity have sacred writings that they refer to as ‘scripture’. Do you believe that ‘scriptures’ other than the Bible are similarly inspired by God? I suspect not.
Furthermore, if in 2Tim3.16 the word ‘scripture’ means ‘that which is inspired by God’, then to say ‘all scripture is inspired by God’ is a tautology. Some translations say, ‘All scripture [writing] that is inspired by God is profitable ... etc’. This helps overcome the tautology but still begs the question, “Which writings are inspired by God?”
If you take it for granted that the writer of 2Tim3.16 believed that Genesis was inspired by God how do you establish that he was correct in believing this?
Indeed, since 2Tim3.16 cannot validate itself, how do you know that 2Tim3.16 was inspired by God?

Ronnie - #68706

March 26th 2012

Peter

Of course ‘scripture’ in Timothy refers to the Holy Bible and not any other sacred writings.

As far as determining which parts of the bible are inspired by God and which parts may not be I don’t think there is any conclusive test or proof to make this determination, it becomes an issue of faith for each individual, which I think is purposely planned this way by God. If there were absolute proof the bible is the word of God and not words of man then faith would not be needed, and God would not be pleased (Heb 11:6).


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