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Science and the Bible: The Framework View

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July 31, 2012 Tags: Creation & Origins
Science and the Bible: The Framework View
Workshop of Lucas Cranach, from Martin Luther’s German translation of the Bible (1534), showing “the greater light” and “the lesser light,” placed by God “in the firmament of heaven.” The wavy light green envelope above the stars in a geocentric cosmos represents the “waters above the firmament.”

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

Originally published July 31, 2012; revised mainly on the basis of helpful comments from readers, September 30, 2013

Although the Framework View has existed longer than a century and I’ve been familiar with the main idea since the mid-1980s, I didn’t know it even had a name until just a few years ago. The circumstances in which I learned it add some real-world flavor to a discussion that might already seem a bit too abstract for some readers, so I’ll tell you about it. I was in Manhattan, Kansas, for a few days, lecturing at Kansas State University, when I received an invitation to walk literally across the street and visit a class at Manhattan Christian College—a combination of words that may seem somewhat humorous, given that there is no Wall Street or Broadway anywhere in town. The students had on their desks copies of this book: The G3N3S1S Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation. According to the front cover, three views on origins were presented inside, with the final one being “The Framework View,” written by Lee Irons and the late Meredith Kline. Not recognizing the term, I asked if I could look at the book, whereupon I realized that something I’d been telling students about for many years actually had a name.

No Football Coaches

When I explain this position to students, I like to start with a little puzzle. Many years ago, after attending an academic conference in a major city, I was driving through the rural countryside some distance away, en route to an historic house that wasn’t well marked. As I got closer to where I thought I might start seeing some signs directing me to the house, I noticed a fair-sized hotel, restaurant, and bar off to one side of the road. What really caught my attention was a sign, prominently displayed at the start of the driveway, warning off a certain clientele: NO FOOTBALL COACHES, it said. Unfortunately I’d forgotten my camera, but this is pretty much what I saw.

When I show it in class, I ask the students to guess what this was all about: why such a sign outside of such a place? The stories they come up with are pretty good. My favorite involves two neighboring high schools, arch rivals, with the football coach at one having an affair with the wife of his opposite number, resulting in fist-fights in that bar every fall, when friends of one man or the other would go at each other in the bar, which was on the highway connecting the two school districts. After a few students have tried their luck to no avail, someone asks, where did this take place? Was it maybe in England, where football means soccer and coach means bus? Give that student an A, I say. It was England, on a highway running between York and Manchester. Now, who can fill in the blanks? Almost right away, a student will explain that soccer fans in England can be pretty rambunctious, and that a busload of them might not make the best impression on the rest of the clientele at a respectable country inn and pub. Thus, the manager would rather not have their business.

The take-away message, of course, is that there is always a context in which the meaning of a text is embedded. Unless you know something about the time and place in which a text is composed, you aren’t going understand what it actually says. The same is true for any part of the Bible, including the opening verses of Genesis. That’s the bottom line for the Framework View: if you don’t know anything about literature and culture in the Ancient Near East, you won’t understand what Genesis is really saying.

Core Tenets or Assumptions of the Framework View

(1) The “days” in Genesis have nothing to do with historical time; they are literary devices, employed by God in order to communicate the story of the creation in terms that we can understand.

This sounds like an example of the principle of accommodation, and it should. The activities of the six days of creation are arranged into a “framework” of two triads (days 1-3 and days 4-6), with parallel types of activities in each triad.

Thus, light is created on the first “day,” and on the fourth “day” God makes the Sun and Moon, the two great lights in the firmament that produce light and “rule over” the day and the night. The air and sea appear on the second “day,” and on the fifth “day” God fills them with birds and fish, etc. In other words, the order of events seems to be more logical than chronological. The key element is the fourth day: as we noted in our discussion of Concordism, the Sun was not made until the fourth day, yet it was expressly given the task of producing the day and the night and we’ve had “evening and morning” since the first day. What’s going on here? How can this be taken “literally”? Advocates of the Framework view see a solution in the parallel triads.

Another way to see this focuses on the second verse in the Bible, which reads (in the American Standard Version, a translation that follows the Hebrew closely), “And the earth was waste and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” God is confronted by darkness, a watery abyss, and a formless earth—each of these features posing a problem for God, who deals with them in the subsequent six “days.” First, on “days” 1 to 3, God prepares the heavens and the Earth to be a home for the great creatures to come, by separating light from darkness, separating waters above the firmament from waters below the firmament, and causing the dry land to “appear” and to “put forth” vegetation. Then, on “days” 4 to 6, God makes the creatures and puts them in the places God has prepared—the Sun and Moon in the “firmament of heaven (day 4), birds in the air and fish in the seas (day 5), and finally “the beasts of the earth” and “man” on the land (day 6).

We emphasize that the Framework View is simply about the Bible, not about science. The Earth and the universe can be as “young” or “old” as anyone wishes to claim, because the literary form of early Genesis leaves this an open question. The “days” were probably meant to be understood “literally” as ordinary days, but only in the context of a literary form that was not meant to be understood literally, when taken as a whole.

What about the seventh “day”? Because it lacks a “morning” and an “evening” in the text (have you ever noticed this?), some authors interpret the seventh “day” as a prophetic reference to God’s own eternal rest, which has not yet begun and which we will share with God in the eschatological future. An OEC book I discussed in my column on Concordism, Robert Newman’s Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth (1977), advocates this interpretation (see pp. 65-66), and so do some advocates of the Framework View.

(2) When seen against the cultural and literary context of the Ancient Near East (ANE), it is clear that Genesis was written to combat the polytheism and pantheism of other creation stories. It was not written to provide a scientifically accurate account of the creation.

This is why the Sun and Moon are not even named on the fourth day: they were worshipped as divine beings by many people in the ANE, and the Hebrew author(s) of Genesis intentionally omit their names as an act of defiance against worshippers of those two false gods. (Remember: for the ancient Egyptians, the Sun was the chief god.) Furthermore, the stars are mentioned simply as an afterthought, at the end of verse 16: “And God made the two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.” This was done deliberately, as a way of belittling the Babylonians and others who worshipped them. Indeed, the whole creation account stands in the face of polytheism, by affirming that the one true, invisible God has actually created all visible things, including the heavenly bodies. Nothing we see is divine: this is the essence of monotheism, stated bluntly and boldly.

(3) It is not possible to find a close match between what is proclaimed in Genesis—that God is the creator—and the details of natural history. We should not approach this text with inappropriate expectations.

For many readers, the crucial question awaits: according to the Framework View, is Genesis 1-3 historical in any meaningful sense? Here there is a division of the house, with authors falling into either of these two camps:

(1) Genesis 1-3 is an historical narrative (though not strictly chronological), not a creation myth. As Lee Irons and Meredith Kline emphasize in The G3N3S1S Debate, “The framework interpretation does not teach that creation was a nonhistorical event” (p. 220). The universe was actually created, Adam and Eve were the first humans, and the Fall was a real historical event. Some OECs like this approach, which can be seen as a looser type of Concordism than the day-age theory; Bernard Ramm’s “moderate concordism” might be understood as fitting into this category, even though he did not discuss the Framework View per se.

(2) Genesis 1-3 is not an historical narrative; it resembles some other, older ANE creation stories. Conrad Hyers advances this view in his book, The Meaning of Creation: Genesis and Modern Science; see below. Some aspects of the story reflect this: the days, the progression from chaos to order, and the creation of humans from mud or clay. These are common to other ANE stories, and they are present in Genesis because that’s what hearers in the ANE expected such stories to include. Other aspects of Genesis, however, are profoundly unlike other ANE stories: the transcendence of God and the de-deification of nature. These constitute the crucial, timeless, substantive message that God has revealed to us. Theistic evolutionists tend to like this non-historical approach, which is not usually seen as a kind of Concordism.

Historical Comments

Antecedents to the Framework View are not difficult to find. As Victor Hamilton notes, “The parallel between the first three days and the last three was noted at least as early as the church father Augustine (City of God 11.6), and many writers have since drawn attention to it” (The Book of Genesis, p. 55). As I explained in an earlier column, Augustine taught that God created all things at once and told us about it in the pattern of six days, in order that we could understand it. The days themselves, however, were “unknowable” and not meant as a “literal” description of the passage of time.

In the 19th century, the German scholar J. H. Kurtz put forth an interpretation that Ramm later called the “pictorial day” view, which he considered to be a type of “Moderate Concordism,” the overall position that Ramm himself favored. Kurtz described the creation story as “prophetico-historical tableaux, [in] which are represented before the eye of the mind, scenes from the creative activity of God, each one of which represents some grand division of the great drama, some prominent phase of the development” (The Bible and Astronomy, 1861 Philadelphia edition, p. 110). His Scottish contemporary Hugh Miller, one of the most prolific and influential evangelical writers of his day, endorsed Kurtz’ interpretation, holding that “the form and nature of the revelation” in Genesis was “conveyed by a succession of sublime visions” (The Testimony of the Rocks, 1857 Boston edition, p. 180). Neither Kurtz, Miller, nor Ramm actually taught the Framework View, but their overall attitude toward interpreting the six days as literary devices was not much different.

Scan of book page

The creation days in two parallel groups, from W. H. Griffith Thomas, Genesis: A Devotional Commentary (1909). A leading British advocate of dispensationalism, Griffith Thomas also had large following among American fundamentalists. Many fundamentalists today, however, follow the YECs and vigorously reject any interpretation that does not insist on consecutive solar days. (Source: archive.org.)

The Framework View as I’ve presented it, with the “days” explicitly arranged in parallel “triads” characterized by different types of creative activity, has been around since at least 1862, when G. Rorison spoke of “the preliminary triad” and “the complementary triad” (Replies to “Essays and Reviews”, p. 248). In 1909, the great English scholar Samuel Rolles Driver divided the six days “into two sections of three days each; and the third and sixth days have each two works assigned to them. The first three days, moreover, are days of preparation, the next three are days of accomplishment” (The Book of Genesis, citing the 15th edition of 1948, p. 2). At the same time, at least one prominent conservative scholar, W. H. Griffith Thomas, took the same approach. The Framework View has a sizeable following among evangelicals today, especially in Reformed communities, mainly owing to the influence of Kline and the French theologian Henri Blocher.

An Assignment: It’s Your Turn to Read and Write

I’ve done most of the heavy lifting in this series, but now it’s your turn. As a way of getting into all three of the views we’ve studied thus far (not simply the Framework View), I’d like everyone to read an article by Conrad Hyers, “Dinosaur Religion: On Interpreting and Misinterpreting the Creation Texts,” Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation 36 (September 1984): 142-48. The questions below are intended as helpful suggestions; feel free to discuss other matters as well!

1. What does Hyers mean by “dinosaur religion”?

2. What is Hyers’ most basic objection to “creation science,” the YEC view?

3. What does Hyers believe to be the true message of Genesis One?

4. Overall, do you agree with what Hyers says? Why or why not? Whether or not you agree, do you have any critical comments?

NOTE: Hyers wrote a sequel, “The Narrative Form of Genesis 1: Cosmogonic, Yes; Scientific, No,” Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation 36 (December 1984): 208-15, in which he employs an interpretive scheme highly similar to the Framework View, although that term is not used. I encourage you to read this also, but our discussion will focus on the first article.

Looking Ahead

In our next column on August 14, we begin a lengthy discussion of Theistic Evolution. Although that is the view advocated (under an alternative name) by BioLogos, I will approach it no differently. After explaining its central tenets, we’ll examine them critically and outline its history. Between now and then, I’m keen to see your responses to the assigned reading. If you gotten this far, you’re more than just a casual reader. Tell us what you think of Hyers’ ideas.

Ted Davis is Fellow of the History of Science for the BioLogos Foundation and Professor of the History of Science at Messiah College. At Messiah, Davis teaches courses on historical and contemporary aspects of Christianity and science and directs the Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science.

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GJDS - #71596

August 1st 2012

Ted, Yes Hyers comments on the Sabbath are correct. A few points that may be of interest:

Gen 1: The beginning and God as creator (six days), and (v27) male and female He made them.

Gen 2: The garden, man placed there, woman made from man; (v 4) in the day the Lord made the heaven and earth….. (and so on) (literists may find the last sentence difficult to rationalise, as this would mean God made it all in the day

  • The distinct account is to ensure Israel maintained its unique position as chosen by the One true God, and setting the background for this selection.
  • I find it difficult to detect a Cosmogony or Cosmological intent with the exception of Gen 1:1 which affirms that God is creator. Perhaps it is a question of terms that are currently used in these discussions. I feel the imagery and language is more to do with the major aspects of what people commonly would consider the creation (Hyers also notes this), although I agree the language also negates all notions of pagan gods associated with the sun, moon, etc.
  • This approach to great writing is not unique to the Hebrews (The Divine Comedy, for example, is based on a view of the Cosmos held by Dante).
  • What is profound is the teaching that can be found in Gen1-3; the Christian faith however,  adds an additional criteria, in that the meaning requires guidance by the Holy Spirit, and I think it is here that we can have so many different opinions (just how can we determine who is properly guided and who is not, who has the authority etc ?).

It is difficult for me to adopt the problem-solution approach shown in Table 1. Gen 1:2 gives and the earth was…; a problem may be inferred if the author wrote but the earth was without form and void… . My understanding is Genesis is showing that God made the earth and its constituents His concern… and the Spirit of God was moving over …continuing with the theme that this account is specific in that it is God is making this matter His personal concern, as He made Israel His concern (also Augustine regarding spiritual meaning). Hyers clearly recognises the six day week and Sabbath.

On the scientific vs religious matter, I can see that the Greek philosophy vs religious debate from the early days of Christianity (e.g. Neo-Platonic thinkers) has morphed into the  clock-work universe and then into the present day debate science and biology. I am intrigued by the recent discussions on the notion of law. It may be that conflating the law of God with the laws of nature (with all this would imply), may underpin the current debate. The imperial outlook especially for the sciences is a very good point; scientific laws are often seen as regulating the Universe and by default humble(?) scientists may regard themselves as the legislators and regulators of the Universe and of life (e.g. Dawkins).

Paul Seely - #71602

August 1st 2012


The Framework Hypothesis is biblically valid in its division of the 6 days into two sets of 3 days each: 3 for the creation of heaven and earth, and three for the creation of “their hosts” (Gen 2:1). The author, however, did not intend to make the alleged parallels of day 1 with day 4, day 2 with day 5, and day 3 with day 6. These parallels are either accidental or a matter of selective perception. For example, the parallel of Light (Day 1) with light-bearers (Day 4) is accidental; Tablet 1 is about forming habitats; and tablet 2 is about filling them. Light, however, is not a habitat. The habitat of the light-bearers, according to the author, is the firmament (Gen 1:14, 15, 17) which was made on Day 2. Another example, the habitat of the fish according to the author is the Sea (1:22), which did not exist until Day 3. As Hyers rightly says Gen 1 is a story of chaos going to organized cosmos; On Day 2 the waters above the firmament had gone to organized cosmos; but the waters below the firmament were still in chaos, still covering the earth as at the beginning.  Only on Day 3 do they become a fully organized part of the cosmos. Before that they were not a fitting habitat for fish.

Also, the account is not just literary or apologetic. The work of Day 1, for example, is geared into what we would call scientific law. It is the Day God made a covenant with the day and the night that they would alternate. (Jer 33:20). The evenings and mornings mentioned on each day go back to this work on Day 1, and would have been understood by the Israelites as marking a sequence of normal 24-hour days. Science, that is, the physical structure of the universe, is also set forth on Day 2. The firmament is a solid divider which divided the primeval waters of Gen 1:2 into two oceans, one above the firmament (so above the sun which is in the firmament), and the other below the firmament. These are real, literal, physical oceans, which supplied the water to flood the entire earth (a flat disk, not a globe) in the time of Noah. As most commentaries note, the Flood is a reversal of the work of Day 2.

For a number of reasons I do not accept the FH, but even if it were true, it would only allow one to move the works of the creation days into a different order. That would solve the problem of having the sun made after vegetation, but it would leave intact all the the rest of the ancient cosmology which has been accommodated in Gen 1: the earth beginning covered with a flood and darkness, the solid firmament, the ocean above the firmament, et al. The only lasting solution to the Bible-Science conflict is to recognize that the “science” in the Bible is the “science” of the day, and that the divine revelation is of theological truths.



Jon Garvey - #71604

August 2nd 2012

I disagree with Paul that the “science of the day” is the concern of Genesis, being persuaded both by the ANE predominance of a functional approach to cosmogony and by the cosmic temple imagery therein.

We don’t have to explore the ANE to find a parallel to this - moderns are disparaging about the “ignorance” of mediaeval European descriptions of the world (examples - Mappa mundi, bestiaries, city planning, church architecture) because they fail to realise that the overwhelming concern of those times was how everything was ordered in relation to God, rather than what it was made of, what shape it was and so on.

I see the same general approach, with obviously different aspects, in Genesis - it makes little sense to me for the final author of Genesis to be overly concerned with a “pre-scientific” cosmology when his subject is the establishment of Israel as the people of the God of all men.

When Jesus ascended to heaven, did the disciples believe he had to pass through a solid raquia, that he was still physically directly above them etc? There’s no indication they gave such considerations a moment’s thought - Jesus was with God, and would return to them. To read Genesis we need to think ourselves into a way of seeing the world in which its physical shape and structure are pretty irrelevant comparted to its spiritual shape and structure.

Ted Davis - #71613

August 2nd 2012


I don’t see where Paul says that “the ‘science of the day’ is the concern of Genesis. Quite the opposite. I see him saying that the “science” in Genesis is the “science of the day,” but that the writer’s concerns are theological, not scientific.

I’m glad Paul dropped in to explain his position at some length. I’ve presented the Framework View as a specific position in itself, but in the context of this “course” I’m using it to represent a host of non-“literal,” non-concordist views (even though some advocates of the Framework View may be concordists), whether or not they agree with all of the details of the Framework View as I explained them here. The essence of such views is well captured in Paul’s final sentence: “The only lasting solution to the Bible-Science conflict is to recognize that the “science” in the Bible is the “science” of the day, and that the divine revelation is of theological truths.”

Amen to that.

Jon Garvey - #71615

August 2nd 2012

Infelicitous phraseology perhaps - but surely that is what Paul implies in his 2nd paragraph? I’d argue that the picture of ancient cosmology given by describing flat earth, solid raquia etc may not have been how they conceived the earth physically at all, because they (ie all the ANE people) never wrote with physical structure in view, but with spiritual symbolism, as the mediaevals did.

Let’s face it, the Egyptians conceived the sky as a goddess doing a press-up over the earth, but clearly had no expectation that what they painted on their tombs could actually be seen overhead, though the sky was in full view. The Greeks believed that Typhon (akin to Babylonian Tiamat) was still confined under Mount Etna and active in causing volcanic eruptions elsewhere - but do we really know that that was a material, rather than a mythic, conception?

If the seventh day of creation represents the sabbath in Genesis, why cannot the raquia represent the curtain separating the holy place from the world? If the first is theological, why not the second?

Even now most Christians have some deep-seated concept of God’s heaven being “up” (and hell being “down”), yet none of us seriously believes that’s a topographical description - even in a scientific age we hold our spiritual concepts in some kind of physical frame that sits alongside the material quite comfortably.

Jon Garvey - #71605

August 2nd 2012

PS Does anyone else agree with me that suggesting the parallels in Genesis 1 are “accidental” fails to do justice to the literary sophistication of the author?

Roger A. Sawtelle - #71607

August 2nd 2012


Again I egree with you, but I think that focusing on the literary aspects of Genesis seems to take away from its theological sophistication.

Hyers buries the importance of the Sabbath deep in his article, when it should be imho first or second.  We know that some scholars have labeled the final editor of Gen 1 as a priest because of his concern with the Sabbath.

As theology Gen 1 makes excellent sense, while as a literary or scientific product it does not.  The problem today is that science seems considered more important than theology, which it is not.

An important issue which has not been addressed here is cosmology and world view.  Monotheism one would thank would lead to monism, but the Creation means that the universe is separate from God. 

This leads to dualism which was already evident is Greek philosophy and Manicheism.  But Judaism and Christianity are not dualistic either.  For Christianity the reason is clear because the Holy Spirit unites the Father and the Son, the Logos and the Holy Spirit link the Creator with the Creation, the the Holy Spirit and the Son link the Father with humanity. 

This triune cosmology is basic to the proper understanding the the universe and ourselves, and is only found in in Gen 1 and John 1, and clarified in other parts of the Bible, especially in the NT.  Until we understand this all else is unimportant.       

Jon Garvey - #71608

August 2nd 2012


Quite so. I’d suggest that there’s no real dichotomy here between “theological” and “literary” if one supposes that a great theological mind was writing great, theological, literature (or two great theological minds, if one supposes that the creation account was adopted by a final author).

The Christian in me believes that the Trinity is inherent in Genesis, but consideration of its origin suggests it’s not explicit - that is the author didn’t have it in mind, though the Spirit did. Nevertheless, dualism seems to be countered throughout the Old Testament by the stress on God’s immanence alongside his otherness. I was struck greatly in one of Hyer’s essays by one phrase to the effect that such immanence presupposes radical transcendence. Getting ones hands dirty in the world is only noteworthy if they start off clean.

The revelation of Christ opens up new insights into just why the Genesis creation account is on the money.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #71617

August 2nd 2012


The problem with the analogy of “dirty hands” is the dualistic implication that dirt is “unclean” in the sense of the Jewish Cleanliness Laws.  We already have the NT voice of God saying, “What God has called clean, you must not call unclean.” Act 10:15   

Of course God called the Creation “Good,” and since there is no need for God to do anything, God went out of the way to create a home for humankind (and whoever else might live in it) so there is no way we can call it evil, or God’s presence in it anything less than good.

The universe is physical, because God made it that way and it is good.  Humans have physical bodies, rational minds, and relational spirits because we are created in God’s Image.  Because we are physical in part we can live and we must face physical death. 

It is all part of God’s plan.  We can go with God’s plan and live together in peace and harmony, or we can rebel against God’s plan and try to make ourselves immortal like original humans, “Adam and Eve,” did.    

I do not understand how God can be radically transcendent.  Since God is Three as well as One, God is immanent, transcendent, and united.  I do not see how God can be basically transcendent anymore than God can be basically the Father or the Son.   

Jon Garvey - #71623

August 2nd 2012


I’m an enthusiast for the goodness of the material creation from beginning to end. So “dirty hands” was a mere analogy - as far as involvement in creation goes. But Acts 10.15 actually says, “What God has made clean…” It was not that the uncleanness laws were mistaken, nor that Gentiles had been wrongly excluded from Israel.

It was the coming of Christ into the world that rendered the uncleanness laws obsolete and the Gentiles clean. And in the Incarnation I hope you’ll agree Jesus got more than his hands dirty.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #71625

August 2nd 2012


In discusing the cleanliness laws Jesus was clear that it is not what goes into a person that makes him or her unclean, but what comes out of the person’s heart. 

In other words, sinning makes one “unclean,” not blood or unclean hands or being a Gentile.  Again this is one of those important issues that separated Jesus from his opponents.  Jesus mixed with “sinners,” they did not.

Certainly through the Incarnation Jesus became fully involved with the world, just as God the Father is fully involved through the governing of the world if that is what you mean.  However I would still avoid analogies that seem to suggest the widespread idea that the world per se is unclean, dirty, and a carrier of sin.  Sin comes from the inside, not from outside exposure.     

Eddie - #71619

August 2nd 2012

I do.

Ted Davis - #71630

August 2nd 2012

I also agree with Jon, that the parallels are intentional rather than accidental. But, it’s fair to point out that Paul is a biblical scholar and I’m not; then, it’s also fair to say that I could find several biblical scholars who agree with Jon. My overall agreement with Paul about the approach we should take to “science and the Bible” has already been indicated.

GJDS - #71632

August 2nd 2012

Jon, I agree the gradeur of the labguage in Gen 1-2 cannot be described as “accidental” and I also point out that whatever the literal genius, the meaning is clear. I am intrigued by your suggestion regarding the Temple. I would add to your comments, in that this language (Genesis) has a dimension that I think is unique, in that whatever physical context and times it is read, the eternal truth shines through. I understand the Church (particularly Orthodox) are designed along the lines of the Temple in Jerusalem, with the inner sanctum the priest would enter and the congregation ‘seperated’; however the liturgy now shows Christ has made it possible for the congregation to participate with the Priest as he brings the bread and the wine from the ‘heavenly’ inner sanctum… and we can go on… 

Jon Garvey - #71637

August 3rd 2012


The same “temple” division occurs in the Catholic tradition too, and was pervasive enough in Anglicanism for the Puritans’ attempt to move the communion table to the sanctuary to be reversed by Archbishop Laud, so the present altar-with-rails is a kind of atheological compromise of Old and New Testaments.

But it goes further than church architecture and liturgy in mediaeval thinking - towns were planned with respect to biblical temple imagery, especially Revelation (which is the other piece of bread of the Bible’s temple sandwich - again, often not really appreciated). Moscow was famously laid out along such lines.

Quite a challenge, then, to create a truly New Testament symbolism! Maybe it’s not such a bad idea to give up the attempt and realise the Lord is present in his people even meeting in a factory outhouse ... just so long as we understand these things at the spiritual level to appreciate what a privilege we have.

GJDS - #71644

August 3rd 2012

Jon (#71637)

Agree completely - yet we are again discussing meanings and ways the Gospel is discussed and understood by us. It is an extraodinary aspect of the Christian Faith that we can all discuss matters and communicate in various (written and symbolic) ways, yet the message is unchanged and eternal.

Eddie - #71620

August 2nd 2012

Jon Garvey:

Re: 71605— I do.


wesseldawn - #71621

August 2nd 2012

What is profound is the teaching that can be found in Gen1-3; the Christian faith however,  adds an additional criteria, in that the meaning requires guidance by the Holy Spirit, and I think it is here that we can have so many different opinions (just how can we determine who is properly guided and who is not, who has the authority etc ?).

That is also my question!

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26)

But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. (1 John 2:27)

It’s the Holy Ghost (Comforter) that is supposed to do the teaching! “You need not that any man teach you” If people teach others, isn’t that usurping the position of Christ as believers rely on other believers to teach them?


GJDS - #71633

August 2nd 2012

I have stated this as a question not to instigate argument regarding authority, but to point out the additional dimension regarding meaning and understanding when reading the Bible. I point out the early Christians did not have a NT to consult; yet they also relied on Faith in Christ - our meaning (or what we are taught) and what we believe ultiamtely rests on ourselves in that we are guided by faith. This does not negate authoritative opinions and insights brought by those who have knowledge and resources that would add to our understanding.

Jon Garvey - #71641

August 3rd 2012

“This does not negate authoritative opinions…”

Nor, of course, the fact that Scripture says in several places that teaching is a specific gift of the Holy Spirit to some. It is the body of Christ as a whole that is taught by the Spirit, not each person as his own Pope.

wesseldawn - #71677

August 4th 2012

The Bible clearly contradicts the notion of submission to human authorities in the churches:

But be not you called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all you are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be you called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. (Matt. 23:8-10)

*“you are brethren” means “you are all the same/equal”

Rabbi, father, masters are interpreted as “titles” - the Jews gave titles to their synagogue leaders, which produced ‘positions’ of leadership. It is “the way of the world” - a top on down form of leadership and it creates hypocrisy.

“You know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them, but it shall not be so among you...” (Matt. 20:26a, Luke 22:26)
The Apostle Paul taught this same principle:
”...everyone of you says, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ ...(1 Cor. 1:12 *note: Apollos was not called an apostle but was considered a leader with them)
You can hear the same thing today: I am of Billy Graham, I am of Benny Hinn, etc. etc., etc. 
“it shall not be so among you” For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are you not carnal?  (1 Cor. 3:4) carnal = the flesh
Paul Seely - #71631

August 2nd 2012


Ted is right. I did not mean to infer that the “science of the day” was the concern of Genesis. Rather, that Gen 1 is not just concerned with literary issues as FH type thinking supposes, but that the ancient views of the real physical world are inextricably interwoven with the divine revelation of theology in Gen 1.

Your idea that ANE people “never wrote with physical structure in view,” is not what I find in the ANE. The Babylonians not only wrote of the solidity of the firmament, they even named the kind of stone it was made of. See more examples in Walton’s book, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament, chapter 7, “Cosmic Geography” This is not to deny that their views were saturated with concern for spiritual entities, but it is a both-and, not an either-or.


Jon Garvey - #71638

August 3rd 2012

Thanks for replying, Paul, and for correcting my misapprehension.

I’ve not read Walton’s “ANE Thought…” but gain the impression of a distinct shift in his thinking between “Ancient Israelite Literature in its Cultural Context” and his recent writing, with respect to the functional nature of these accounts, and particularly of Genesis 1 as “designating sacred space serving humans who are in the image of God.” He certainly maintains that such cosmic temple imagery is common amongst ANE texts.

I wouldn’t see that as contradicting your approach above, but as adding a specific dimension to the goal of bringing order to chaos.

However, the further development of that idea towards understanding even the “architecture” of these accounts in such terms I owe more to G K Beale. If ANE writers, including the Genesis author, were indeed reflecting back earthly temple architecture into their cosmogonies, one would expect to see the type of stone named, just as one would expect the earth to have pillars, a roof, foundations and so on.

If the type of stone is what one would ideally use for the earthly temple, its use by the gods is rational. Beale, if I remember, discusses the lapis lazuli floor of the audience-chamber where the elders of Israel meet with God on Sinai - it’s blue because the sky is blue, but equally because lapis lazuli is used in temples to represent the blue of heaven - who’s to say which is modelling what?

But if cosmogonies name such materials purely speculatively, it is harder to see their rationale for doing so.

The earth is more than once described in the Bible as God’s footstool. That fits cosmic temple imagery perfectly - but do we assume the Israelites imagined the earth as square, with wooden legs, or that they lived in fear that God’s feet would crush them?

Scott Jorgenson - #71634

August 2nd 2012

Hi Paul. You and I have corresponded a few times over the last decade and I’ve appreciated your insights and am convinced by much of what you say, but I don’t see how your thesis is advanced by denying that the 2nd triad of days in Genesis 1 parallels the 1st in the way described. The pattern seems clear enough to me and unlikely to be accidental:

- The heavenly bodies (Day 4) “rule over” light and darkness, day and night (Day 4). Note: It is not that day and night is their “habitat”; it is that they “rule over” day and night. Here, and elsewhere in the parallelism, it is not a parellelism of “habitat/inhabitant” but “dominion/ruler”.

- The fish and sea creatures (Day 5) similarly “rule over” the waters below, whether fresh or salt, ie the waters that have been separated from the waters above (Day 2). Note: As far as I can tell, those waters are fitting and suitable for these creatures after having been separated from the waters above, because that separation is what makes them “earthly” rather than “heavenly”. No need to wait for the separation of the dry land from the waters beneath the sky in Day 3; while prior to Day 2, the primordial co-mingled waters would have been unsuitable since the heaven/earth separation had not yet been made, and the fish are earthly and not heavenly beings. So Day 2 is the proper referent in the parallel structure, as I see it.

- Likewise the birds (Day 5) “rule over” the sky (Day 2); and the animals (Day 6) “rule over” the dry land (Day 3). And of course the humans on Day 6 rule over the whole earth - all the separated earthly things beneath the heavens- as their dominion, which is why they come last in the structure. As for the plants

Anyway, as I said, not only does it seem to me that you’re missing this parallelism; but I am also missing the point as to why you think it matters to your thesis. It doesn’t do any harm to your thesis of Genesis as utilizing the science-of-the-day, to say that elements/motifs from that ancient science have been arranged artfully in Genesis 1 as literature, both in the ways you accept - and I think you would agree with that - as well as in this parallelism which you don’t accept. So that’s why I have a hard time seeing why you have a problem with it.

Thanks for your thoughts, and best to you!

Scott Jorgenson - #71635

August 2nd 2012

BTW the bit “As for the plants” above should have been edited out - please disregard.  (I guess this blog software does not allow commenters to edit their stuff.)

Paul Seely - #71636

August 2nd 2012

Hi, Scott, it’s great to hear from you again.

You are right that my thesis that ancient “science” is being used in Genesis is not affected by whether or not “elements/motifs from that ancient science have been arranged artfully in Genesis 1 as literature.”  The context of my statements is Ted’s presentation of the Framework Hypothesis, and to a small extent the articles by Hyers which he mentions. I accept the basic Framework of two tablets with three days each because I think the biblical text (“author”) supports that pattern, but not the alleged parallels betweeen the individual days: 1 to 4, 2 to 5, 3 to 6.  It is all a matter of trying to understand the context and purpose of the author. I think the famous parallels are rooted in the mind of the readers (the human mind loves patterns) and in years of hearing them repeated. I am arguing that the choice of the work done on each day was determined by factors quite other than any intention to make an artful arrangement. Hence I say the presence of the first parallel is accidental. I presented my case at the ASA annual meeting two weeks ago. It took 3000 words and only covered about one third of my data. I do not believe I can set forth a really convincing case on a blog, but I might be able to open a few minds to at least question the Framework Hypothesis.

You have offered the FH in the same terms that Meredith Kline used (dominions and rulers or kingdoms and kings), but most scholars take their starting point from the statement in 1:2 that the earth was without form and void. The first three days are then works of forming, and the second three days of filling, although those particular words are not always used. The same idea occurs in 2:1, where the creation of heaven and earth is set beside :”their hosts.”

To use the first part of the first parallel as an example, I would ask, Why did the author place the creation of daylight on the first day? Was it because he wanted to make a literary parallel with the light-bearers on day four? I think not. He had more weighty reasons for the placement. (1) He wanted to solve the problem of the all pervasive primeval darkness. (2) He wanted to set forth the work of God as an example for humans to work six days (and rest the 7th); and in the ANE humans only worked during the day; so day-light had to be in existence to start the lesson. (3) He wanted to set forth working six consecutive days, so he needed the alternation of light and darkness to separate one day from the next. If the above are the real reasons he placed the creation of light on the first day, then it was not done for artistic reasons. The same sort of arguments apply to the placement of the other works. Thus, I see the first parallel as accidental, and the following ones as resting on selective perception. Of course, you need the whole argument; and we just cannot do that here. I will try to work up a publishable paper, even if I just put it on a website.




Francis - #71639

August 3rd 2012


“I have stated this as a question not to instigate argument regarding authority, but to point out the additional dimension regarding meaning and understanding when reading the Bible. I point out the early Christians did not have a NT to consult; yet they also relied on Faith in Christ…what we believe ultiamtely rests on ourselves in that we are guided by faith.”

Aren’t you forgetting the early Christians’ reliance on the Apostles? And on their successors? (e.g. Acts 1:15-26; Acts 13:1-3; 1 Tim 4:13-14; 2 Tim 2:2.)

GJDS - #71645

August 3rd 2012


If you are suggesting the Apsotles were the authority for early Christians and ouselves, than I agree with you completely, since Christ granted them this authority, which God granted to Christ. I am attempting to show that authoritative information and input in discussions such as these is also relevant for our understanding. The authority of the Apostles is critical for our salvation, just as our faith. It is also clear however, that the early Christians could not pick up the phone and ring up Paul when they wanted to discuss how days, or how the light, in Genesis may be understood. Data and informaton about texts and past cultures is not critical but certainly interesting and instructive on some matters.

wesseldawn - #71679

August 4th 2012


The Bible teaches against having human authorities, the only authority is Christ:

For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are you not carnal? (1 Cor. 3:4)

carnal = the flesh

GJDS - #71690

August 4th 2012


The distinction is between authority and scripture, from that of authoritative opinions on matters given by others with learning in these. By the way, I do not think that quoting the Bible, or any other quotes, gives the ‘quoter’ any athority - often it detracts as anyone is free and able to consult the Bible; so why select yourself as the source of Biblical quotes?

wesseldawn - #71825

August 9th 2012

So then, you don’t regard the Bible is your authority - or as having any authority?

Which must also mean that you don’t think that God is the author of it?

Francis - #71640

August 3rd 2012

Ted Davis,

“While many [church fathers] took a “literal” approach, a significant minority held that creation happened all at once, with the “days” basically literary devices employed by God to communicate mysteries to us.”

So the church fathers agreed that creation happened suddenly, within six days. An authoritative and apparently universal (“many” plus a “significant minority”) consensus.

Ted Davis - #71648

August 3rd 2012

NO, Francis, you didn’t understand what I said. The “minority” view here denies that the “days” refer to real time at all; they are literary devices. In other words, Genesis (for them) cannot be taken “literally.” If you go back to http://biologos.org/blog/science-and-the-bible-concordism-part-three and read what Calvin said about this in the quotation near the start of that column, you will see that for him the differences between the two main views were not trivial: “For it is too violent a cavil to contend that Moses distributes the work which God perfected at once into six days, for the mere purpose of conveying instruction.” You’ve lumped the two main views together in an inappropriate way, since the fundamental difference between them—not the time scale, but the overall attitude shown toward the text—is obliterated.

On that (the attitude), there was no “apparently universal consensus” as you put it. Nothing of the sort.

Francis - #71642

August 3rd 2012

Ted Davis,                                                            

On page 1 (#71591), I asked you if you believe in Noah’s flood.

In your response (#71611), you did not answer my question, saying it was not relevant to the discussion of Genesis 1-3.

A simple “yes” or “no” would have spared me having to respond again now. But so be it.


I think my question is relevant for the following reasons:

First, the title of your article is “Science and the Bible: The Framework View” - not ‘Science and Genesis 1-3 …’.  On BioLogos’ home page, the first thing we see regarding what this website is about is “BioLogos is a community of evangelical Christians committed to exploring and celebrating the compatibility of evolutionary creation and biblical faith…” – not ‘Genesis 1-3 faith’.  My question about Noah’s flood is a biblical question and, as we know, relates to an event in the very book on which you’re focusing – Genesis.

Second, the Biblical discussions on this and the other BL blogs are ultimately just exchanges of points of view/opinions. [I think it safe to say that virtually every blog manifests disagreement among the commentators regarding Biblical truth. Divergent opinions are voiced back and forth, without any “authoritative” resolution, because no authority exists here.] Just points of view. But understanding another’s point of view is aided greatly, I think, by first understanding the other’s “religion” (i.e. one’s worldview, which includes spiritual beliefs, if any.). I want to understand your “religion”. But right now I don’t want a thousand-word or even a hundred-word explication of your “religion”. Right now just one word will tell me much. A one-word answer.

So, I’ll respectfully ask again.

Do you believe in Noah’s flood?

Eddie - #71646

August 3rd 2012


This may be news to you, but Christians primarily “believe in” Christ or God, i.e., persons, not things.   And to the extent that they also believe in some ancillary “things”, those things are summarized in the Apostles’ Creed, which does not mention Noah’s flood—or the Garden of Eden, or even the Bible.  So what is “belief in Noah’s flood” supposed to be a test of?  Our knowledge of geology?

I agree with Jon Garvey’s comment below.  I find your contributions here contentiously expressed, and largely negations of what other people say, or rhetorical questions to which you never supply your own answers.   Perhaps, instead of belittling other people’s contributions and circling endlessly around the question of “authority,” which you keep raising but never speak to, you could state your own creed, along with a list of some of the people or institutions who, in your view, have the “authority” to interpret the Bible.

Ted Davis - #71647

August 3rd 2012


The best answer I can give to your question is to say that I like what Paul Seely says here: http://biologos.org/blog/series/the-flood-not-global-barely-local-mostly-theological. I also like this: http://biologos.org/questions/genesis-flood, but I especially like this: http://biologos.org/blog/gilgamesh-atrahasis-and-the-flood.

There is no single view presented in these places, Francis, and I offer them all b/c I don’t find a single view fully persuasive. It’s not that I have no opinion; rather, IMO there are several possibilities that make sense. However, the YEC view (“flood geology”) does not make sense and I do not hold it.

Does that answer your question?

Ted Davis - #71649

August 3rd 2012

If you are frustrated by my response, Francis, I can relate. Physicist Robert Millikan relates a story about his friend, the modernist theologian Shailer Mathews. Somone (perhaps it was Millikan) asked Mathews whether he believed in God, and Mathews said, that sir, requires an education rather than an answer. My answer to that question would be one word: Yes.

Your question is not as simple, Francis. Someone once asked an archaeologist and expert on the Old Testament (this person is a former evangelist but now an unbeliever), whether he believed in the Mosaic authorship of Genesis. The quesiton was given verbally, not in writing, and the archaeologist’s answer was, Yes. However, the archaeologist chose to hear the question with a small “m,” as follows: do you believe in the mosaic authorship of Genesis? And, since he believes that Genesis is basically a mosaic, assembled from several documents by different authors, he gave a one-word answer. He knew what he was doing, of course: he was answering a complicated question with the one-word answer that was sought. So, he got the complications into that answer in a very humorous and clever way.

I’m not trying to be humorous, or clever, in my answer to you. It’s just more complicated than your question allows, for me to answer that one with one word.

Jon Garvey - #71643

August 3rd 2012


Your question to Ted comes across less as an enquiry about worldview or religion (which? They’re not the same thing), and more as a shibboleth. An enquiry seeks further understanding from a discussion partner in order to enhance fruitful dialogue. A shibboleth seeks to trap an enemy in order to destroy him.

At least in the original Bible story the soldiers were quite upfront about their own tribal identity before they tried to pin one on others by demanding a one word answer.

Francis - #71652

August 3rd 2012

Ted Davis,

Despite my plea, you answered with many words (over 300). (And your defenders supplied over 200 more.)

As I expected.

Just as I likewise expected that the word-filled responses would not be positive, regarding the answer to the question.


Hypothetically, how many words do you think you might use in challenging, or at least questioning, Jesus Christ and Peter in Mat 24:38-39, Luke 17:27, 2 Peter 2:5?

Eddie - #71653

August 3rd 2012


Why should Ted Davis have to answer to you, as if you are the head of a theological Inquisition, when you will not answer the questions of others regarding your own theological position?  

Let’s try again:  Who, in your opinion, has the authority to interpret the Bible today, and from where does this person/institution or these persons/institutions derive that authority?  In your answer, please avoid generalities and provide names of specific persons and institutions.

If you don’t answer this question, I will take it that your constant harping on the theme of “who has authority?” is nothing but a rhetorical device for complaining about views that you disagree with, while concealing your own views, and therefore lacks both intellectual principle and theological substance.

David - #71659

August 3rd 2012


Two questions for you.

Do you believe in the flood? If so, do you believe it is global or local and why? I would say that most Christians believe in Noah’s flood in one of those two ways but that is not a simple answer. I agree with Ted that you can have easier answers that get distorted or you can have answers that lead to greater discussion (and hopefully understanding). I prefer questions and they are a much beter teaching method to develop critical thinking instead of blind acceptance (at least I have found in the courses I teach).

Also, could Jesus have been speaking to his audience when he spoke of Noah’s flood since it was theologically important (and maybe historically important) to the Isrealites? Are you consistent with your requirements of Jesus’ words in Matthew 13:32, Mark 4:31, and Luke 13:19 given that the mustard seed is not the smallest seed nor does it become overly large. Does that make Jesus ignorant, a liar, or do we need to have a different interpretation of the text (instead of treating it like a history or science text book that our modern eyes prefer). I would be curious to hear how you interpret those texts to be consistent with your style of interpretation of the texts you cited.

I look forward to your reply.


Francis - #71660

August 3rd 2012

Jon Garvey,

“It is the body of Christ as a whole that is taught by the Spirit, not each person as his own Pope.”

I think you’re right in saying each person cannot be “his own Pope”.

However, if the present-day “body of Christ” holds diametrically opposed views (e.g. on sacraments, on divorce and remarriage, on contraception, on assurance of salvation), then

a)      Is the Holy Spirit falling down on the job, or

b)      Are some parts of the body not getting the message, and

c)      If b), then how exactly does one determine which body parts “got it” and which don’t?

Francis - #71661

August 3rd 2012


“Why should Ted Davis have to answer to you… ”

Of course, Ted Davis doesn’t have to answer me.

I try to answer every question posed to me, unlike some others at BioLogos (e.g. http://biologos.org/blog/becoming-human-new-insights-from-genome-wide-functional-genomics  http://biologos.org/blog/the-vision-lives-on-.-.-.-and-on/  ).

Sometimes, my answer is another question; I find the Socratic Method to be sublime.

“Let’s try again: Who, in your opinion, has the authority to interpret the Bible today, and from where does this person/institution or these persons/institutions derive that authority?”

I was wondering if you’d give me a tough question. But this one’s easy. The answer is the Church, which received its authority from Jesus Christ (cf. Matthew 16:18-19; Luke 10:16; 1 Timothy 3:15). The setup usually works well (cf. Acts 16:4-5).

“In your answer, please avoid generalities and provide names of specific persons and institutions.”

Now I’m going to play Socrates again. You may have to think hard for this one.

Of the tens of thousands of denominations and independent congregations, which Christian church has been around for 2,000 years, has always laid claim to continuous apostolic succession, and has had the “audacity” to proclaim certain of its pronouncements “infallible”?

GJDS - #71665

August 4th 2012


I also like the discursive approach (Socratic) because it is discussion that involves people reasoning together. Plato has always (from memeory with the excption perhaps of the young Socratis with Zeno) portrays his characters engaged in question-answers that follow a reasoning course.

I think you approach may be more combative rather than discursive. I have been brought up in the Orthodx tradition where the Church is correctly believed to be the body of Christ and has the responsibility to faithfully teach the Gospel; I and others in our community also reserve our strongest criticism for this institution when it falls down on the job - when great responsibility is give, so is great accountability. However, at the end of the day, each member of the Church will depend on Christ for his/her salvation, because I think we all come short of the Law before God.

This is a comment on your questions/approach and not to anything you have posted or any of your arguments.


Eddie - #71670

August 4th 2012

Francis (71661):

Your continued sarcasm and condescension would not be warranted even if you had more academic training than you appear to have.  As it happens, I’ve translated Platonic dialogues, and taught both the Greek language and the Socratic dialogues at the university level, so I know that what you are doing has nothing to do with the Socratic method.  Socrates never asked questions purely for the sake of frustrating his conversation partners.  Answering a question with a question is *sometimes* justified, but it has to serve a pedagogical purpose.  Withholding information about one’s theological position, when asked, does not serve a pedagogical purpose.  It merely frustrates one’s conversation partner.

If you hold that the Church of Rome, and only the Church of Rome, has the authority to interpret Scripture, then you should just say so.  But if that is your view, as your rhetorical question implies, your emphasis on Noah’s flood—your attempt to press Ted Davis to confess a belief in Noah’s flood as an historical event—makes no sense.  The Roman Church does not make a big deal out of Noah’s flood.  Noah’s flood is not mentioned in any of the three great Creeds accepted by the Roman Church.  And literalism about Genesis 1-11 is not the current doctrine of the Roman Church, whereas your whole line of interrogation appears to suggest that Genesis literalism is where you are coming from.  If you are a Roman Catholic, I would suggest that you do some more research, and learn the current teachings of your Church, before claiming to speak for it.

In any case, even for a Roman Catholic, many of the things said here by non-Catholics, such as Ted Davis and Jon Garvey, should be unobjectionable, but you have jabbed at them about some of their statements, without showing where those statements violate either Scripture or Tradition.  It’s time to produce the goods.  If you are going to criticize someone’s theological position, the proper way to do it is to say:  “That is not the orthodox Christian teaching because ...” and provide an explanation.  That’s how respectful dialogue is conducted, not by means of endless questions followed by “nudge, nudge, wink, wink.”  No one wants to try to grasp your obscure and indirect criticisms because you enjoy mishandling the Socratic method. 

Francis - #71662

August 3rd 2012


“Francis, Two questions for you. Do you believe in the flood? If so, do you believe it is global or local and why?”

Yes, I believe in the flood. And I believe it was global for three reasons, in descending order of importance:

1)      the Church has not claimed otherwise,

2)      the Bible says so, and

3)      evidence of catastrophic and contemporaneous flood is found throughout the world


With the mustard seed, Jesus is clearly using an analogy to communicate how something small (one’s incipient faith) can become great. His listeners apparently got it, and so do I. Nobody was caviling about how small “smallest” must be. Conversely, the account of Noah reads as history, not as analogy or metaphor. Noah was real (Luke 3:36) and he wasn’t any old seed or bush. He had a unique and important part to play in salvation history.


Does anyone think Peter pulled out his abacus after Mat 18: 21-22?

David - #71704

August 5th 2012

Hi Francis,


Thanks for clarifying your views. I have a few follow-up questions.

You indicate that the church has not claimed otherwise. Have they claimed a global flood? I would love a reference as I enjoy reading source material firsthand. If they have not officially claimed, then I would guess that you defer to #2. Is that correct?

Regarding number 3, I would love for you to reference some of your sources that demonstrate *evidence of catastrophic and contemporaneous flood* that is *found throughout the world.* Again, I really enjoy reading material that I have not previously found. I just was in an 8-week creation class at my church that was taught by a YEC. He presented some *evidence* but it was not overly convincing. I would be interested in how you have been convinced.

Now I would like to ask a hypothetical question. Given the order of importance for reasons why you accept a global flood, how should the Church (#1) go about examining its claim that the flood was global? Obviously you believe that we should read the Bible but you also rely on evidence in nature to help your beliefs. What happends if the evidence falls apart? It then seemingly contradicts the Bible and the Church. So at what point (how much evidence, what kind of evidence) should the Church re-examine its claim? Does the Bible ever get reinterpreted in light of evidence (the Galileo discusssion becomes important here: http://biologos.org/blog/galileo-and-the-garden-of-eden-part-1)? I would be interested to hear you summarize if and/or how these types of changes are possible from your view.

Now with the mustard seed, I completely agree that Jesus was making a point (I get it too). However, for an analogy to make sense, there has to be truth to it. If I say that faith is like a pig, the smallest of all mammals when it is born but large when it is full grown; that doesn’t hold up. It is pure gibberish because we know that there are smaller mammals at birth. So why would Jesus say that they mustard seed is the smallest seed in all of the earth when even in Palestine, the black orchid was cultivated and was smaller. He used the mustard seed (known to most of his audience since they got it) as a small seed that grew into a relatively large plant (Jesus was smart and didn’t pick any old seed or plant to make his point on salvation). So his statement that the mustard seed is the smallest in the earth should not be interpreted as Jesus thinks that it is scientifically the smallest seed. Would you agree?

So if we then examine the texts you cited, could we not make the same determination? In Luke 17 and Matthew 24, Jesus is talking to his disciples about the coming judgement. He uses Noah and the flood as an anology to make a point about the judgement, not a historical determination that the flood was global. Peter is speaking similarly about the flood. Context is so important to proper interpretation. Saying that Jesus was making a historical statement about the flood is to miss the point, just as saying the Jesus was making a scientific statment about botany or spermology.

I am no biblical scholar so this is only based on my readings and a lifetime of being taught by the Church.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #71669

August 4th 2012

I think that we must look at the Creation narrative and the Flood narrative as examples of the way that God works through God’s people through the Holy Spirit.

The task of the Biblical writers is to make sense of God and God’s actions.  God led them to do this in time and history, so these works are all historical.  However they are not scientific in that they are seen as the work of God and not of nature, thus they are theological as opposed to scientific.  They are scientific only in that the Creation is foundational to all science.

The Creation which as far as we can determine is basically consistent with the Big Bang and evolutionary science is described in Gensis 1 within the theological framework of six days leading up to the Sabbath.  The framework is not scientific, but the event is scientific and theological and philosophical, since the Creation is the basis of everything.

The Flood is not consistent with natural history as we know it, but it was a very real part of the past as the Hebrew people knew it.  Thus it demanded an explanation beyond the pagan sources which recorded it. 

Instead of trying to somehow correct the record of the past that the people knew, God gave the people through the Holy Spirit a theologically sound explanation for what happened in the Flood.  Again the issue is not scientific truth, as if science is the only kind of truth, but theological Truth, which is needed to correctly understand Reality.

Don’t read the story of the Flood if you want to understand science.  Do read it if you want to understand God and salvation.   

God uses people as they are, not as we want them to be.  God works through history.  Maybe God worked through a local flood, but not a world wide flood.  Even so we still have a valuable source of information of how God can work to bring salvation to God’s people.  This what we need to discuss rather than whether it is scientifically accurate or not.


HornSpiel - #71674

August 4th 2012


I have not had the time to visit BioLogos as often as I would like. I always enjoy your post. Likewise I have not the time to do the homework. However for the record here is my answer to question one:

1. What does Hyers mean by “dinosaur religion”?

No, Hyers does not mean by “dinosaur religion” a belief that is relic of the past. He is actually referring to philosophy or religion based solely on science, especially on inferences from evolutionary theory. He cites a number of features of dinosaur religion.

  • Evolutionary ways of interpreting history or existence are seen as better than biblical and theological ways because they are truer and superior accounts of the same things 
  • Alternative metaphysical conclusions drawn from naturalistic explanations are seen as self-sufficient and adequate knowledge of the knowable.[emphasis mine]
  • Religion is seen as subservient or teacing the same thing as science
  • Science is taught without any acknowledgement of the above
  • Scientists that presume, based on the above, that religion is now superfluous

“Dinosaur religion” limits what can be known to what science can study but, based on non-scientific assumptions (blind spots), affirms certain metaphysical or religious conclusions.

Francis - #71676

August 4th 2012


If I’m not practicing the Socratic Method, let’s call it the Francis Method.  Maybe that would be more acceptable to even such an authority as you (who “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” taught Greek and Socrates at the university level).

With alarming frequency, I have found that when a certain type of “conversation partner” is “frustrated”, he will primarily resort to attacking the arguer but not the argument, and focus on perceived style (“continued sarcasm and condescension”) but not actual substance.

“I would suggest that you do some more research, and learn the current teachings of your Church, before claiming to speak for it.”  “And literalism about Genesis 1-11 is not the current doctrine of the Roman Church”

I would suggest you read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Among many other things, you would find this:

“After the unity of the human race was shattered by sin God at once sought to save humanity part by part. The covenant with Noah after the flood gives expression to the principle of the divine economy toward the “nations”, in other words, towards men grouped “in their lands, each with [its] own language, by their families, in their nations”. [Paragraph 56]

I would suggest you read the papal encyclical Humani Generis, in which, among many other things, you would find this regarding Genesis’ Adam:

“When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.” [Paragraph 37]

I would suggest you do much better research before criticizing someone about something you apparently know little about.

I would suggest that you, in your words, “produce the goods.”



In #71661 above, I provided some examples of where others at BioLogos failed to respond to my questions. I could have added another: http://biologos.org/blog/science-and-the-bible-concordism-part-three

Where I asked “Where did Martin Luther get the idea for sola scriptura?”

Eddie - #71683

August 4th 2012


On the issue of substance, yes, the Catechism mentions the Flood, but does not discuss it in the manner of Young Earth Creationism.  It does not rule on whether the Flood covered Mt. Everest, for example.  It does not endorse Flood Geology.  It does not insist that all the details in the narrative are to be read historically.  So when you press Ted Davis— on a site like this, where there is an American historical context of intra-Protestant quarrelling over Biblical literalism, creation vs. evolution, etc., a context you as a Catholic may not know much about— on “whether or not he believes in the Flood,” you are liable to be understood (especially since you hadn’t at the time, and still haven’t explicitly, identified yourself as Catholic) as a Young Earth Creationist of the conservative evangelical Protestant type.  Ted may well have thought you were asking if he believed that all the animals filed in two by two, and were making that belief a prerequisite for Christian faith.  That’s why being explicit about where one is coming from, instead of dropping hints and asking sly questions, saves everyone here a lot of time, and reduces unnecessary friction.  I suggest that you fall into line with this practice, and save the “I’m not going to tell you directly what I think; I’m going to make you work for it” routine for venues where it will be more appreciated.

As for the passage about Adam in Humani Generis, note the words “true men.”  That phrase does not rule out the evolution of pre-human, hominid forms, which are later endowed with an immortal soul in the case of Adam and Eve.  And note that since 1950 (when your quite old document Humani Generis was published), there has been much discussion on evolution and creation within the Catholic Church, with Popes and Cardinals and various committees weighing in.  The overall direction of these discussions has been to endorse an old earth and a chronology which is incompatible with that of the Protestant Young Earth Creationists.  The main thrust of Catholic thought has been toward accepting evolution, but with certain qualifications and reservations.  Your comments, on the other hand, sound as if they are coming from a position quite outside of that main thrust of Catholic thought.  They sound as if they are coming from a literalist and anti-evolutionary reading of Genesis.  Of course, one cannot be sure, because you write elusively.

That unqualified Genesis literalism is not the current Catholic position is clear from the Catechism, Part I, Section 1, Chapter 1, 390, where it is affirmed that some of the details of the Fall story are written in “figurative language.”

As for Luther and the origin of the phrase “sola scriptura,” you obviously have some point you are just dying to make about it, so instead of making us play the guessing game as to where Luther got the phrase, why don’t you just *tell* us where—according to your research—Luther got the phrase?  And then go on to prove whatever you were intending to prove?  Your conversational “gamesmanship” is counterproductive, and tends to irritate rather than illuminate.

As to the question of your “perceived” style, if I were the only one who noticed it, it could be just a misreading on my part, but several people have commented on it, so I would suggest that you take these perceptions under consideration.   

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