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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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Francis - #71689

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.”

Yes. I already stated that, in #71662.

“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”

That is correct. It is also correct that the Pope is saying that every single human being who has ever lived or ever will live has one and the same great granddad, the Adam of Genesis. That is remarkable.

The Church, as always, protects and promotes the truth (1 Tim 3:15). Everything the Church officially declares for belief is true. However, this does not necessarily mean that everything that is true has been declared by the Church, yet. Understanding and doctrine can develop, and have developed, over time. This is to be expected. (cf. John 14:26). And whatever is developed will never contradict the truth previously proclaimed. Truth can not contradict truth.

The Vatican has a Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which wikipedia says was founded in 1603 A.D. and re-established in 1936. Pope John Paul II addressed the PAS on the topic of evolution in 1996. It’s not bad. 


Maybe someday the Church, in consultation with the PAS, will make a definitive statement on the falsehood of evolution. However, given that the PAS includes representation from atheists/agnostics (e.g. Stephen Hawking) and pro-evolutionists (e.g. Francis Collins), I’m not holding my breath.

“... 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.”

Correct. And we know that the Fall is in Genesis 3, and that the Catechism does not say the same for Genesis 1-2.

“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.”

No, Eddie. I’m not playing games. I honestly have no idea where Luther got the concept of sola scriptura. I just know he didn’t get it from the Bible. I just thought a man of your learning might know.

“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.”

I try to take under consideration all germane points in investigations, discussions and debates. However, and perhaps to my great fault, the feelings and emotions of my readers are not among my chief concerns. Neither did they appear to be for Jeremiah or Jesus.  

GJDS - #71691

August 4th 2012


I find, “Magisterium Is Concerned with Question of Evolution for It Involves Conception of Man” most informative and an excellent document for all of us interested in the subject. While not ‘in the same league, I would also recommend Alexander, “Models for Relating Science and Religion” (Faraday Institute of Science and Religion) for a general discussion.



Eddie - #71692

August 4th 2012


The discussion about “sola scriptura” got off on the wrong foot, first of all, because when I used the phrase, I was assuming that you were a conservative Protestant evangelical (which made your apparently hostile reaction incomprehensible to me), and second because your initial answer was, to put it plainly, flippant.  It was only after your flippant answer that you posed your question about where Luther got the term from.  Because we were by that time in an atmosphere of attacks (on Jon Garvey, for example) and flippancy, I assumed the question was rhetorical or in some other way a form of gamesmanship.  There was nothing in the conversational atmosphere at that point which suggested:  “Hey, guys, your collective knowledge of Christian history is greater than mine; does anyone out there happen to know whether Luther dreamed up “sola scriptura” on his own, or whether he had some traditional backing for it?”  That’s probably why you didn’t get—from me or anyone—an answer.  In a setting that seemed confrontational, no one would assume you were asking a naive question.
Now, I’ll give my answer to your question:  I don’t know whether or not Luther had read the phrase “sola scriptura,” or at any rate had discovered the position indicated by the phrase, in any earlier writers.  I can’t say for sure whether he was the first to use the phrase or to adopt the basic position.  That is the sort of question on which you should consult specialized works by Luther scholars.  You would be most likely to find such works in a university or seminary library.  If you don’t have a library card for any such institutions, you could probably obtain the books via inter-library loan using your public library card.
Regardless of whether the phrase or idea was entirely new, the use to which Luther put it was revolutionary.  He used it as a weapon with which to beat down traditions of the Roman Church with which he disagreed.  Later, Calvin and others were to do the same.  In the long run, as sectarian Protestantism developed the notion more fully than even Luther or Calvin had, the position became, to put it crudely, that if an idea wasn’t Biblical, it couldn’t be Christian.  Of course, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox and many Anglicans do not accept that principle; they give authority not only to the Bible but also to the Church, since the Church, which was founded by the Apostles, is grounded in the same Holy Spirit which produced the Bible.  So if your point is that “scripture alone” is not a self-evidently true Christian position, I agree with you.
My original remark about sola scriptura was not an endorsement of the position; I had been working under the impression—based on certain things in the style and contents of your remarks to others—that you were a conservative Protestant evangelical, and thought that *you* accepted the sola scriptura position, and was trying to get you to see that your cry for “authority” was rather pointless within a sectarian Protestant sola scriptura framework.  Had you said right up front, when you first started posting here, that you were Roman Catholic, I wouldn’t have taken that line of discussion at all.  (It’s extremely rare that Roman Catholics post here, and the few that have, have identified themselves unambiguously as Catholic from the get-go, so there has never been a communications snag of this kind before.)
In any case, now that you have acknowledged your Catholicism, you might further advance constructive discussion by explaining your apparent anti-evolutionism, giving us a short account of why you differ from most Catholics, and side with the majority of conservative Protestant evangelicals, in being openly opposed to evolution.  Your story might be interesting to hear, and knowing your personal position might make the meaning of a great many of your terse one-liners more clear to the rest of us.
Jon Garvey - #71696

August 5th 2012

Even Wikipedia, in this case, is not bad at correcting pastiches of the sola scriptura principle - which is more useful than attributing an origin to the phrase (I’m not sure it was coined as early as Luther):

Sola scriptura (Latin ablative, “by scripture alone”) is the doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. Consequently, sola scriptura demands only those doctrines are to be admitted or confessed that are found directly within or indirectly by using valid logical deduction or valid deductive reasoning from scripture. However, sola scriptura is not a denial of other authorities governing Christian life and devotion. Rather, it simply demands that all other authorities are subordinate to, and are to be corrected by, the written word of God. Sola scriptura was a foundational doctrinal principle of the Protestant Reformation held by the Reformers and is a formal principle of Protestantism today.

It is, of course, one of the five “solas”: scripture, grace, faith, Christ and the glory of God, which in itself indicates it is not to be considered an exclusive use of “only” but a handy Mnemonic. Scripture is the instrument God uses, grace the means, faith the response, Christ the one salvation, and God’s glory the purpose.

Even that needs to be qualified. As the systematic theologian Berkhof says “Strictly speaking it is the word as it is preached in the name of God and in virtue of a divine commission that is considered as a means of grace in the technical sense of the word, alongside of the sacraments which are administered in the name of God.” I would have thought that in itself would mesh well with much Catholic and Orthodox understanding - the arguments would come over who had the divine commission to preach and administer the sacraments.

Be that as it may, BioLogos was set up as a bridge between Evangelicals (at least nominally holding to Sola Scriptura) and evolutionary science. The argument “Evangelism is pure schism and heresy, and evolution is to be condemned in principle” is, I suspect, unlikely to gain much traction here without some very diplomatic and convincing argumentation. In the absence of that it’s likely, sad though that may be, to be regarded in the same way that the “Jebus Pixie Spaghetti Monster” school of atheist apologetic trolling is - an annoying interruption to potentially useful discussion.

Jon Garvey - #71705

August 5th 2012

For “evangelism” read “evangelicalism”. Mea culpa - I corrected someone on my blog just a day or two ago for the same mistake.

Francis - #71708

August 5th 2012

Jon Garvey,

“Strictly speaking it is the word as it is preached in the name of God and in virtue of a divine commission that is considered as a means of grace in the technical sense of the word, alongside of the sacraments which are administered in the name of God.” I would have thought that in itself would mesh well with much Catholic and Orthodox understanding - the arguments would come over who had the divine commission to preach and administer the sacraments.”

What would the arguments be for the non-Catholic ministers?

Francis - #71709

August 5th 2012


You say that sola scriptura is the foundation of your Christianity - “So it’s down to sola scriptura, and a humble exchange of opinons over what it means.” http://biologos.org/blog/science-and-the-bible-concordism-part-three

Yet, you also say you don’t know where Luther or Calvin or anyone else found sola scriptura

that ““scripture alone” is not a self-evidently true Christian position.”

And that this sola scriptura, whose source is mysterious (at least to you and me), was used “as a weapon with which to beat down traditions of the Roman Church.”

That’s a remarkable series of statements. Are you really comfortable sola scriptura?


“…the Church, which was founded by the Apostles …”

I assume that was an innocent mistake. Of course, we know the Church was NOT founded by the Apostles. The Church was founded by Jesus Christ. The Church was Jesus’ idea, His plan for the future of Christianity after He ascended.


“your cry for “authority” was rather pointless within a sectarian Protestant sola scriptura framework.”



“In any case, now that you have acknowledged your Catholicism…”

No, I did not.

Besides, acknowledging one’s Catholicism is rather meaningless, especially nowadays. You can find people who call themselves Catholic who abide by all kinds of things. Some approve of abortion rights, homosexual marriage, female priests, Barack Obama, etc.

No, I didn’t say I was Catholic. But in anticipation of your frustration, I’ll go one better.

I believe everything which the Catholic Church teaches, and try (with God’s grace) to abide by all of its teachings. I do this because I firmly believe the Catholic Church is the one and only true Church of Jesus Christ. I stake my life on it.


Francis - #71710

August 5th 2012


“you might further advance constructive discussion by explaining your apparent anti-evolutionism, giving us a short account of why you differ from most Catholics”

On this matter, whether I differ with most Catholics or agree with most Protestant evangelicals is quite irrelevant, or at least distantly secondary, to me. I’m attracted to the truth, not to popularity. The truth is not a servant to polls.

Regarding my “apparent anti-evolutionism”, I’ll save you a second time from future frustration. (I’m being particularly nice today.)

I am most definitely anti-evolution and anti-evolutionism.

As far as giving a short account of why this is so, first I’ll give you some background. The background is longer than the account, which will indeed be short.

1)      I started investigating evolution about nine years ago, and have continued since then, reading “evolutionary” science, science, and philosophy of science literature.

2)      In doing so, I tried applying whatever powers of thinking, reasoning and logic I possess. [I know I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I also think I’m not a complete idiot. Something in-between. I even have some formal education. I have a bachelor’s degree from a well-respected east coast university and masters from the Ivy League. Unfortunately, none of my degrees are in the hard sciences and, what’s worse, none in “evolutionary” biology. Such a waste! But then again, formal education counts for very little, in my opinion. You forget most of what you learned, and just hope the piece of paper known as a diploma will serve as an entrée, a ticket for a good ride to somewhere.]

3)      My investigation focused solely on the physical facts and on the science. The Bible and Christianity were out-of-bounds. [I retained my faith throughout, of course, and ultimately could see how evolution could negatively impact one’s faith. This is a very important matter, but a separate matter, entirely.]

So much for background. Now, my short account:

I got nothing.


[OK. Just a few more words.

In my approximately nine years of investigating I have never found




Thing which could convince me of the truth of evolution.

Actually, the situation is worse than that. I did not find evolution to be just a little off or have just a few problems/issues on some or even many fronts. I found it way off. I found significant problems and issues in every, single place I looked. And I looked everywhere (including into outer space with the Big Bang, etc). I have found evolution to be junk science of the worst sort.]


To recap: I got nothing. (Nice and short, yes?)



The Catholic Church, as we know, has not made any definitive pronouncements on evolution. If and when it does, it will be right. We have Jesus’ assurance of that. I’m disappointed that it has not yet made such a declaration. But I love and will be faithful to Christ’s Church. I would never be in any other.

Eddie - #71713

August 5th 2012


I did not say that sola scriptura was the foundation of my own Christianity.  You interpreted the quoted passage out of context.  I already explained, in my previous post, that I appealed to sola scriptura because I thought at the time that it was your position, not because it was mine.  I think that sola scriptura—understood as it is typically understood, i.e., by most Protestant sectarians, especially in the United States—is in fact an untenable position.  I think that in fact all branches of the Christian faith, even those who most loudly shout “sola scriptura,” tacitly rest on authoritative decisions which do not come entirely from Scripture.  

On another point:  You had previously implied that the Roman Catholic Church alone had the authority to interpret Scripture.  I took that to be an indirect statement that you were a Catholic—since who but a Catholic would take such a position?  But you have now added:

“No, I didn’t say I was Catholic.”
Right, because you insisted upon answering a question with a question, thus avoiding “saying” anything.  But you implied that you were Catholic.  I could do without the cavilling; it simply creates friction.
You have also now added:
“But in anticipation of your frustration, I’ll go one better.  I believe everything which the Catholic Church teaches, and try (with God’s grace) to abide by all of its teachings. I do this because I firmly believe the Catholic Church is the one and only true Church of Jesus Christ.”
I note that in this statement you have still not directly affirmed that you are a Catholic, and so, if I infer that you are, you will be able to cavil yet again about what you actually said.  But I will not worry about this, and will assume that, in this instance, you are not trying to be tricky, but are indicating that you are a member of the Roman Catholic Church and receive its sacraments.
Regarding the founding of the Church, I made no mistake.  The institutional Church was indeed founded by the Apostles.  Of course Jesus is the foundation of the true Church, the Church laid up in the mind of God, so to speak.  But the bishops and priests and deacons and the administrative apparatus and the development of liturgy and procedures for the initiation of new members, etc.—these belong to the institutional church, which did not exist in Jesus’s day, and came into being over several generations after Jesus had left the scene.  You can, if you wish, fancy that Jesus foresaw and endorsed all subsequent institutional decisions.  I would say it is more likely that Jesus foresaw all subsequent decisions, but wept and gnashed his teeth over three-quarters of them, and that the institutional Church has more often than not failed to incarnate the heavenly idea of the Church—even when its head has spoken ex cathedra.  (And to avoid any misunderstanding, let me say that I would apply this criticism with equal vigor to the Protestant churches.)   
Regarding evolution, I was not arguing that you should accept evolution because the majority accepts it.  I was just remarking that the tone and contents of your sideswipes regarding evolution are strongly reminiscent of conservative evangelical Protestant objections, not of anything that I have ever seen in a Catholic writer, and was wondering what sort of religious influences were operating in your rejection of evolution.  You have indicated that part of your objection to evolution is on the scientific side, but I’m more interested in the theological objections.  Is there a strong anti-evolution movement within the Catholic Church that has thus far escaped public notice?  Has that movement influenced you?  Or have your theological objections been largely drawn from Protestant evangelical sources?
Joriss - #71712

August 5th 2012

About the flood

Suppose I have a brother in Australia and I write him a sad letter in which I tell him that last week my precious little dog died at the age of sixteen. Since I never tell nonsense to my brother except in a way, obviously meant and understood to be nonsense, my brother would believe me, because he knows I’m not lying or making immoral jokes. He knows I’m telling the truth and that my dog is really dead.
What kind of truth is this? Scientifical? Theological? It is just truth.
I think you can’t separate between theological and scientifical truth as sometimes is done on this blog.
When something in the bible is true in the sense that it really happened, you can learn theological lessons from it. If something in the bible is meant to be a parable or an analogy you can also learn theological lessons from it. I don’t see how you can learn a theological lesson from something that is presented as history, and afterwards turns out to have not really happened. Santa Claus works as long as you believe in him, but it won’t work anymore as soon as it dawns upon you he is just a coca-cola icon.
Suppose I tell my 4-year old son: stay close to me, may be you get lost like your brother four years ago, he was lost and we never found him back!
When my son has become eight years old and he figures out that there was never an elder brother that was lost, he won’t trust me anymore and mock me if I try to warn him again for some matter.
Jesus warned the people of his days and reminded them of the horrible disaster of the great flood as God’s punishment that swallowed all of the sinners. This warning is as valid to this world today. If it did not happen this threat looses it’s power today, just as my story of the lost brother would.
2 Peter 3 says:
5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

So it is clear that the same word of God, by which the earth was standing out of water and in the water, by which the world perished, being flooded by that water, is the very same word that now preserves the earth, which is reserved for the fire of God’s judgement.
So God’s word is involved here.
If there has not been a flood that made the world perish, the threat of a future fire is an empty threat, not to be taken seriously, just as Santa Claus and my ” lost son”.
There WAS never a judgement of this world in the past, why would there be one in the future? Stories won’t frighten me, truth will.

Francis - #71714

August 5th 2012


I said I believe in Noah’s flood, and that it was a global flood (i.e. not local).

Believing “otherwise” would mean either a) local (not global) flood, or b) no flood at all.

I said the Church has not stated “otherwise.” Thus, the Church has not said it was local, and it certainly has not said there was no flood at all.

If you can find a reference which says otherwise, please let me know.


Regarding references on evidence of a world-wide flood, probably no end exists. Sedimentary rock is found all over, often with fossils. By definition, the sudden burial of millions of animals in water-driven sediment is catastrophic. And as I recall, different continents feature sedimentary rock with similar fossils and similar alleged dates. I just Googled “evidence of world-wide flood” and got over 5.6 million hits. Some hits will be from naysayers, no doubt. There always are naysayers. Anyway, the first was this: http://www.earthage.org/EarthOldorYoung/scientific_evidence_for_a_worldwide_flood.htm


“how should the Church (#1) go about examining its claim that the flood was global?”

First, as I’ve stated twice now in this blog, I did not say the Church authoritatively claimed the flood was global. I said it has not claimed otherwise. At least to my knowledge.

Second, the Church’s mission is not primarily to be the world’s arbiter for anything and everything, including matters geological. Can you imagine the uproar if it ever tried to be? The Church encourages people to act like adults, using faith and reason. Time to grow-up, folks.


“What happends if the evidence falls apart? It then seemingly contradicts the Bible and the Church.”

I don’t see how that ever could happen. Other than the witness of the Biblical accounts, we have no witnesses to interrogate about what happened 4,000 or 4 billion years ago. And no unedited video either.

If it comes down to believing X, because Christ’s Church says so, or believing not-X, because some scientists using models and measurement based on assumptions say so, I’m going with X.

Your choice of words – “seemingly contradicts the Bible” – may have been serendipitous.


“Does the Bible ever get reinterpreted in light of evidence (the Galileo discusssion becomes important here …”

I’m not aware of any Church doctrine or dogma that ever stated you must believe that the sun revolves around the earth. What difference would it make, even now, to how you live your life? Galileo was befriended, encouraged and possibly financed by the Popes of his day. Galileo got into trouble because he, a scientist, tried to tell the Church how to do theology, based on a theory which was unproven and in fact could not be proven with the technology of that time. And he had mocked Church officials for it. He deserved to be slapped down. Then poor Galileo was assigned to “house arrest” in palatial quarters, where he was free to continue his research and writing. That’s hard time.

Enough with Galileo already!


Back to the size of mustard seeds. OK. How about this.

1)      Jesus was ignorant on the details of His creation, or

2)      Jesus was not ignorant on the details of His creation but was ignorant on, or at least careless with, diction, or

3)      Jesus was not ignorant on any of the above but chose to deceive or confuse us, or

4)      Jesus was using the superlative the way someone might say “That grocer down on Main Street has the best produce in the world!”

I’m out of ideas. Which do you think it is?


As far as the flood being an analogy or some kind of fairytale to scare us, see Joriss’ post #71712. I like it.


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

Taught by whom and in what church? Ignorant and/or rebellious teachers can be found everywhere, even within the Catholic Church. (cf. Acts 20:28-29).



David, if your teaching is anything like your spelling, I pity your students. God bless.

David - #71749

August 7th 2012


Okay, so the church has not stated that the flood was global, nor have they stated that it was local. You say that the church is not the primary arbiter for geology (and I assume you mean science here) but in previous posts I seem to remember that you wish the church would take a stance on evolution. So which is it?

“Regarding references on evidence of a world-wide flood, probably no end exists.”

Google is not an effective way to find scientific evidence for anything. To say there are 5.6 million hits doesn’t mean anything. And then posting the first link that comes up is one of the worst ways of searching for *evidence.* What about actual scientific articles? And there are always naysayers? That means that you have an a prior bias and no matter how much evidence you find contrary to your belief in a global flood, you will never accept it.

So then if #1 (the Church) has not made an official statement (global or local, which you say they shouldn’t) and the evidence (#3 in your list) that you find is always affirming your views, then your views must come from #2 alone (the Bible) and are reaffirmed by #3, even if #3 is not evidentiary.

If your search for evolutionary evidence was similar, no wonder you *got nothing.* If that was the way science was done, there would be a lot of nothing out there.

“If it comes down to believing X, because Christ’s Church says so”

Did the Church say so? I thought you said it didn’t?

And my choice or words was purposeful, not serendipitous.

“I’m not aware of any Church doctrine or dogma that ever stated you must believe that the sun revolves around the earth. What difference would it make, even now, to how you live your life?”

So does it make a difference if you believe in a global or local flood to how you live your life? This doesn’t answer the question, it only adds more questions.

And the Galileo discussion is relevant to the interpretation discussion. In the end, Galileo was right, even if he *deserved to be slapped down.* Galileo’s behavior is beside the point scientifically and in relation to interpretation.

“4) Jesus was using the superlative the way someone might say That grocer down on Main Street has the best produce in the world!”

As far as the mustard seed, I would be closest to your #4.

So according to Joriss, we shouldn’t separate scientific and theological, nor should we separate historical and theological. So if Jesus’ statement is not true historically and the flood didn’t happen globally, then God doesn’t really judge us and we don’t need Jesus. Is that the point?  Using this analogy and applying it to the mustard seed would tell us that if the mustard seed is not scientifically the smallest, then faith doesn’t grow. That seems ridiculous! The separation of the scientific from the theological here is to emphasize the theological because the audience did not think scientifically! So are the theological lessons of the flood still true if Jesus didn’t intend for us to interpret it historically? Are the theological lessons maintained if the flood was not global and was local? The flood was part of God’s righteous and holy judgment on sinful man, whether it was global or local. And scaring people, either with stories or truth, is a poor to way draw anyone closer to Jesus.

I am not Catholic so I guess I am not in the right Church.


I am not a perfect speller. So what? You resort to personal attacks when you are unable to formulate a good argument. Because of this, I will end out conversation. Maybe you should review what the Fruits of the Spirit consist of (Gal 5:22-23).

Francis - #71715

August 5th 2012


“I was just remarking that the tone and contents of your sideswipes regarding evolution are strongly reminiscent of conservative evangelical Protestant objections, not of anything that I have ever seen in a Catholic writer”

Maybe I’m unique!


“You have indicated that part of your objection to evolution is on the scientific side”

I tried so hard (and honestly thought I had succeeded) to make abundantly clear that I found evolution to be an abortion of science – on physical, logical, and scientific grounds. Your statement makes me appear a little undecided on these grounds, with the straw that broke the camel’s back being Biblical issues. I guess I’ll just have to try harder next time.


“Is there a strong anti-evolution movement within the Catholic Church that has thus far escaped public notice?”

No, there is not. Your antennae are accurate, unfortunately. I know of only one Catholic anti-evolution website: http://www.kolbecenter.org/

It has some good stuff.


“… have your theological objections been largely drawn from Protestant evangelical sources?”

No. I pay no attention to such sources on matters theological.

Francis - #71716

August 5th 2012

“Regarding the founding of the Church, I made no mistake. The institutional Church was indeed founded by the Apostles. Of course Jesus is the foundation of the true Church, the Church laid up in the mind of God, so to speak.”

Jesus Christ!!

“And I tell YOU, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give YOU the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever YOU bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever YOU loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” [Mat 16:18-19]




Goodbye, Eddie.

Eddie - #71717

August 5th 2012

Francis (71716):

Of course, if you read outside of Catholic scholarship, you will know that learned Protestant scholars interpret this passage in a way differing from yours.  Have a look at what Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Bucer, Melanchthon, etc. said about this verse, and more generally about the relation of “Peter” to “Roman authority.”    

Also, even on the most generous reading of this passage, which would ground the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, and give him the specified authority to “bind and loose” (the meaning of which is nowhere near clearly elaborated in the passage, but let that go)—nothing is said about guaranteeing the theological correctness or moral correctness of all future decisions of the successors of Peter.  In other words, nothing in the statement of Jesus guarantees that the future institutional church will never make a mistake in theology or practice.  And of course we know that the church of Rome, like all churches, has been guilty of errors in both theology and practice, which it has had from time to time to modify and even apologize for.

You have indicated a wish to end the exchange, and I will accede to your wish, while offering this parting remark of my own:  I find it interesting that you resort so often in these conversations to Biblical proof-texting, without any accompanying exposition.  That is another of the habits which at first led me to infer that you were a Protestant fundamentalist of some kind.  Catholics are much less given to proof-texting than Protestant fundamentalists are, and when they do appeal to Biblical texts, they generally set the text within a discussion of a broader, systematic theological point.  You describe yourself as Catholic but you don’t argue like one.  Perhaps your appearance heralds the dawn of “Catholic fundamentalism.”  Saints preserve us!   

Jon Garvey - #71718

August 6th 2012

Time to abandon this thread or get it back on track. But Francis uses the “Upon this rock…” single proof-text on which to build the infallibility of Roman Catholicism, and questions the origin of Sola Scriptura. So his final authority is Scripture - odd, that.

As I’ve shown, SS is about the primacy and sufficiency of Scripture as the source of teaching, not about its exclusivity. It’s really not that hard to find Bible texts that speak to that (start with 2 Tim 3.15-16 and follow cross references), and the Reformers used them. But they also looked to the example of Jesus, who although confident in his own divine authority, backed it up for the sake of his disciples (ie, us).

Christ had several possibilities here. He could say:

“My teaching is backed up by what is taught by God’s High Priest.” (cf Matt 22.23-29)

“My teaching is backed up by the traditions and teachings of Israel and the elders.” (cf Mark 7.1-8)

“My teaching stands to reason.” (cf Luke 10-21)

“My teaching is backed up by the law and the prophets.” (What to choose? Try Luke 24.45 for starters. How many times does Jesus quote Scripture?)

This is written for “onlookers”, rather than for Francis, since I am a “Protestant Evangelical source”, and he” pays no attention to such on matters theological”. Which sounds like he has closed the door on contributing to dialogue about theology on the (Evangelical) BioLogos.

So back to the Framework view. this piece by Pope Benedict reads remarkably like Hyer’s approach, though unlike Hyers he commits himself to an Exilic origin for Genesis.

GJDS - #71720

August 6th 2012

Reply to Jon,

In addition to the Exilic origin, Pope Benedict’s discussion also points out the commonality that is shown by ‘Adam created out of the dust, or the earth’. It is here that we see origins in a spiritual and theological manner. I am also reminded by the ‘fine tuning’ discussion of the earth and indeed the Universe (the creation), which shows the staggering ‘probability’ for the earth to be what it is. We can be reminded that life originating on earth, and the capacity to human reason to access the creation as knowledgeable, are profoundly important is these discussions. 

Francis - #71729

August 6th 2012

Jon Garvey,

Before we leave this thread, will you answer the question I asked you in #71708 above (regarding an issue you broached)?

Francis - #71730

August 6th 2012

Jon Garvey,

You’re not very sharp but you are as slippery as a ser… Check. The word police may be watching. What other words could I use? Maybe words which have been used against me on this blog, like “smart-alecky”, “contentious”, “harping”, “sarcasm and condescension”, “you have jabbed at them”, “sly”, “flippant”, “terse”. Skip it. I don’t mind. I hope you don’t either.

“But Francis uses the “Upon this rock…” single proof-text on which to build the infallibility of Roman Catholicism, and questions the origin of Sola Scriptura. So his final authority is Scripture - odd, that.”

My final authority is NOT Scripture.

My final authority is the Church (1 Tim 3:15).

The only reason I believe that Scripture is divinely inspired (and so I read it, and quote from it) is because the Catholic Church (which authoritatively formed the canon of Scripture, 73 books) said so.

The reason I trust in the Catholic Church is because I first have faith in my reason and logic and in the witness of history (with special emphasis on the martyrs who went to their execution refusing to deny their witness of the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.).

The Lord often spoke in parables. I often “speak” to non-Catholic Bible-believers with words from Scripture, because they claim Scripture alone has the words they consider authoritative. (They just can’t agree on what the authoritative words mean.)

And so I quoted a famous verse from the Bible (Mat 16:18-19).

I suppose I could have just said “Because the Bible says so.” To which you’ll reply “Where?” And when I show where, you’ll reply “You’re taking it out of context” or “That’s not what it means”.

It gets pretty insane.

“SS [sola scriptura] is about the primacy and sufficiency of Scripture as the source of teaching, not about its exclusivity. It’s really not that hard to find Bible texts that speak to that (start with 2 Tim 3.15-16…”

I disagree. And so would the Church. Consider the following:

1)      The Scripture noted in 2 Tim 3:15-16 was the Old Testament. The New didn’t yet exist (and wouldn’t until the Catholic Church defined what the New Testament is.).

2)      If you said that “Inspired Exercise is profitable for health, for reproof of illness, for correction of bad posture, and for training in strength”, I don’t think anyone would disagree. But would that mean that Inspired Exercise holds primacy and sufficiency for leading a healthy life? What about food, clothing, shelter, education, health care?

 I’m encouraged that you’re reading PBXVI. I pray you’ll keep it up. The Catholic Church has virtually limitless resources, including literary ones, in which to reflect and revel.

Francis - #71731

August 6th 2012

Some seem to believe that the Catholic Church has been guilty of errors in theology for which it later has apologized.

If anyone out there is aware of such an instance, would you please let me know?

[I don’t plan on responding to certain people, but feel free to parrot their platitudes. But please be specific. Also, consider that theology is not the same as dogma and doctrine. (One might say that all dogma/doctrine is theology, but not all theology is dogma/doctrine.)

Thanks in advance.

Eddie - #71737

August 6th 2012

This website is not the place to debate church doctrine, except where that doctrine touches directly on faith/science concerns.  I’m certainly not going to get into a wrangle of Protestant vs. Catholic, especially since, in my view, both Protestants and Catholics have serious blind spots and neither is in a position to claim to be fully faithful to the teaching of Jesus or about Jesus.  The image of the mote and the beam should be kept in mind by all theological partisans.

Regarding Francis’s words in 71731 above, the statement of mine apparently referred to is this:

“the church of Rome, like all churches, has been guilty of errors in both theology and practice, which it has had from time to time to modify and even apologize for.”

To clarify my meaning, I will restate this as:  ”the church of Rome, like all churches, has been guilty of errors in both theology and practice; its errors in theology it has from time to time modified, and its errors in practice it has from time to time apologized for.”

Errors in practice which the Church has apologized for include its treatment of the Jews.

By “theology” I meant not necessarily official “doctrine” or “dogma” but teachings which have been endorsed for all practical purposes by every level of the hierarchy, sometimes for hundreds of years.  A recent example of a theological change is the official dropping of the teaching about limbo, which, though it never constituted “doctrine” in the official Roman sense, was doctrine in the normal English sense of the word, i.e., teaching accepted by the Catholic masses and, not only not contradicted by their priests, but in many cases promoted by them, with the lack of official statements by Popes encouraging the status quo.  So operative Catholic theology has changed, even if official dogma has not.

And now I exit.

Francis - #71740

August 6th 2012

Francis - #71761

August 7th 2012


“I am not Catholic so I guess I am not in the right Church.”

You’re right.



I’m happy for you that you improved your spelling somewhat. But I still pity your students.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #71764

August 7th 2012


If you know that Jesus is the foundation of the Church, you should also know that the Church is not limited to the Roman Catholic Church, or the Eastern Orthodox Churches or the Protestant Churches, but is the Body of Jesus Christ inspired by the Holy Spirit active in the world today regardless of label.

Paul Seely - #71773

August 7th 2012

G. R. Driver and John Skinner recognized the same literary framework in Genesis 1 which Evangelical proponents of the FH recognize. It should be noted, however, that the thrust of the Evangelical FH is that since the days of Genesis 1 are arranged in a literary pattern, the author did not intend for them to be understood as a literal succession of normal (24-hour) days. Driver (xxviii, n. 1) and Skinner (5, n.*), on the other hand, recognized that the text was describing the creation of the world as occurring in six normal days. Since I agree with Driver and Skinner on this point, I regard the Evangelical FH as a concordist theory. 

Eddie - #71775

August 7th 2012

Paul Seely:

I don’t have Driver here, but I have Skinner. The note on p. 5 you are referring to focuses on showing that interpreting “days” as geological eras, in order to harmonize with the results of modern science, doesn’t work on exegetical grounds, because even with longer “days” the harmonization fails due to other things stated in the text. The note doesn’t defend 24-hour days per se. Skinner may say something decisive about 24-hours days elsewhere in his commentary, but I don’t see any general pronouncement in that note.

In any case, regardless of what Skinner thought, there actually is no conflict between saying that the text is depicting 24-hour days and that the days are not meant historically. The image of a sequence of 24-hour days is very appropriate for an account in which there are sharp divisions and distinctions between created things, and that is the sort of account that Genesis 1 is.

Both day-age and gap theories are artificial because they are based on the need to harmonize Genesis with 19th/20th-century science; no such goal would have been in the mind of the Hebrew writer. But an educated Hebrew writer might well use “days” as structural units in a non-historical account which is meant to portray the distinctness of things.

It needs to be emphasized that the interpretation of Genesis 1 and the interpretation of Genesis 2-3 must be treated as separate questions. For those who believe that Genesis 2-3 must be interpreted historically in order to preserve the traditional understanding of the Fall, it still does not follow that Genesis 1 needs to be interpreted historically. They are quite different stories, written in different styles, and, even if we suppose Moses to have been the final compiler of all of Genesis, he could easily have made use of stories originally written by different people, at different times, for different purposes.

Regarding your last sentence, I agree that the motivation for accepting what evangelicals call the “framework hypothesis” is usually concordist, i.e., to make room for organic evolution and billions of years of cosmic development.  Because of this obviously extrinsic motivation, the hypothesis should be regarded critically.  On the other hand, if there is a good intra-textual argument for accepting that the author’s purpose in Genesis 1 was non-historical, then the question of motivation no longer matters as much.  I believe that the intra-textual arguments are sound, and therefore, while I don’t speak of a “framework hypothesis” as evangelicals do, I don’t read Genesis 1 historically.  The side-benefit of my non-historical reading (if one calls it a benefit, which some commenters here wouldn’t) is that it makes room for evolution, but that’s not the justification for the reading.  The justification has to come from the text alone.  It’s not the job of a Biblical interpreter to make sure, at any cost whatsoever, that his reading never falls foul of modern science.  It’s the job of the Biblical interpreter to honestly convey, to the best of his ability, what the writer of the text intended.  That’s why I don’t like concordism in any form, because it introduces extrinsic motivations which can contaminate exegesis.

Jon Garvey - #71787

August 8th 2012

If the Genesis account is indeed a functional cosmogony, modelled on temple dedication texts, then as (Evangelical) John Walton says there is no problem at all with a literal 6-day pattern.

If one can further break oneself away from the modernist idea that a functional account is somehow a fiction hidden in front of the scientific “reality”, then the world could have been so created in a literal 6 day period. Just the time it takes to bring humans into covenant relationship and show them their role in the cosmic order. Radical literalism with not an ounce of concordance in sight!

Eddie - #71792

August 8th 2012

Hi, Jon.

God is of course powerful enough to create the world in six literal days, and clever enough that, if he had wished, he could have arranged the order of creation of things so that, when latter narrated by Moses, it would make for a great pattern to be noticed by literary-minded readers.  Of course, to do this, God would have to suspend what we now call “natural laws” during the six-day period—since the ecological and other physical relationships between things couldn’t be sustained given the literal order in the text—but that is no problem for an omnipotent God.  So six-day literalism and the literary structure noticed by the “framework hypothesis” are logically compatible.  But the combination of the two is not a parsimonious explanation.  The more parsimonious explanation is that Genesis 1 was never intended to be a chronological narration of exactly what happened.  (I say, never intended, referring to the writer; I of course acknowledge that, centuries after the composition of Genesis 1, the majority of readers took it as a chronological narration of exactly what happened.  But the Biblical scholar isn’t obliged to go along with the majority of readers, even readers with famous names.  The Biblical scholar is trying to uncover the intentions of the writer.)

As for Walton, I have not read his book, and therefore cannot comment on what he says about covenants, temples, etc.  I’m also not sure if he means by “functional account” what I would mean by the term.  I would mean by that term how each created thing “functions” in the whole—what role it plays.  Thus, vegetation is to feed the animals, the firmament is to keep out the chaos waters, the stars and planets are to rule the day and night, man is to have dominion, etc.  I see Genesis 1 as a functional account of the world dressed up as a cosmogony, with the only actual “chronological” element being that at one time the world did not exist, and then God acted, and after God acted, then the world existed.  Thus, the only part of Genesis 1 that Christians need to defend as chronological is the passage from the non-existence of the world to the existence of the world—a temporal transition guided by the plan and intention of God (and therefore the result of design, rather than solely of chance or randomness plus necessity or natural laws).

The other parts of Genesis 1 that Christians need to defend, e.g., the special status of man, are not inherently chronological claims.  (E.g., man would have the same special status if God had created him on day 1 or day 3 instead of day 6.)

My position thus puts me at odds both with literalists/inerrantists and with many TE/EC people.  I don’t agree with the literalists/inerrantists that Christian truth depends on “Genesis 1 as news report”; but I don’t agree with those TE/EC people who are non-committal on the question of design vs. chance.  I don’t see why Christians should have to choose between two such camps.  It should be possible to deny both that Genesis 1 is a literal chronicle and that evolution is driven by random changes which might just as well have produced a smart dinosaur as a smart hominid, or no rational creatures at all.  Neither mechanical notions of reading the Bible nor tentative scientific judgments about biological mechanisms of evolution should be driving Christian theology.  Theologians need to recover the independence that they formerly had from (a) the popular conceptions of the masses; and (b) currently dominant scientific theories.  The question is whether there will arise in our time a theologian of sufficient stature to resist the siren calls of these two culturally powerful forces.  I’ve not yet seen one.

Jon Garvey - #71793

August 8th 2012

Eddie, if you haven’t got your head round the difference between a functional and a material account of creation, you won’t have understood my post at all! I’ll have come across as a mad young earth literalist.

The key is in getting a feel for how bara is actually used (and its cognates in the other ANE languages) together with its antithesis tohu/bohu, and what the ANE mindset understands by “creation”, which (Walton argues) is never how stuff appears from nothing, or even from other stuff, but how chaos is brought to useful order. Very much along the lines of Hyers article.

In an anthropocentric account like Genesis 1, the way in which God organises the world in relationship to man is that order. It’s not that the material creation isn’t included, but that it’s not relevant to the discussion. One might instructively look at our modern reaction to Gen 1 - we naturally see it as “old science”, but if pressed, we would admit that it necessarily includes God’s care in providing food for us, that the stars that map out the seasons actually enable us to do agriculture, etc. But that seems like irrelevant detail to us.

But in fact such things are what the text’s about - it’s the material world that is just the assumed detail: you can have a universe full of stars , but until they function as calalender markets for man, they’re not created. Land that is wild and uncultivated is tohu.

So that’s how the universe can be both13 billion years old and created in six days a few thousand years ago.

Eddie - #71795

August 8th 2012

No, Jon, I never took you as a mad young earth literalist.  I took you as saying that the world *might have* in fact been created in six literal days, but that this, if true, would not alter the literary analysis of Genesis 1—the parallel columns work out by plan, not by accident.  However, based on other things you have said, I took it for granted that you personally do not believe that the world was created in  six literal days.

I don’t understand why you think I would disagree with what you’ve written in paragraphs 2 through 4 above.  Indeed, I’ve made clear that Genesis 1 isn’t “old science” but a description of the arrangement of the world in terms of the function and useful interrelationship of its parts.

As I said above, I haven’t read Walton, so I’m not pretending that I’m using his vocabulary correctly.  But it sounds as if I would agree with much of what he’s saying.

As for your last sentence, I find it incomprehensible.  The only sense I can make of it is that the word “universe” is being used equivocally, to mean one thing in the first part of the sentence and another thing in the second part; i.e., the raw matter of the universe (say, hydrogen atoms) is 13 billion years old, but the coherent “world” didn’t exist until a few thousand years ago, when God organized the raw matter.  That would make sense to me.  But I don’t think for a minute that you believe that God first organized the raw matter a few thousand years ago, in six 24-hour days—as far as I can tell, you are a theistic evolutionist who believes that God organized the raw matter of the world through an evolutionary process (both cosmic and organic) that stretched over billions of years.  So I’m struggling to grasp your point.

If you are saying that Genesis 1 doesn’t mean to provide the actual sequence of creative events, but is an account meant to teach function and the dependence of the order of things on God, then we are in complete agreement.  If you are saying that the world was in fact ordered only in very recent times, and was ordered in the sequence of steps narrated in Genesis, we aren’t.  I’d be surprised if you meant the second, but do clarify.

Jon Garvey - #71808

August 9th 2012


We’re basically agreeing, of course. Re your last two paragraphs (and my previous last sentence) the key is in “raw materials”, where I think we still have slightly differing ideas.

It seems to me that in Genesis “raw materials” (or strictly, tohu and bohu, functionless and empty) is also a functional description. So in mind is not a pile of molecules, or a heaving maelstrom of volcanic magma, but simply a material world not functioning for (in this case) man in relationship to God.

Hence elsewhere in the Bible, desert places are described as “tohu”, though they even contain owls, vultures etc. Not that weird - even in Europe before the Romantic movement, mountains and wilderness were not seen as “sublime” but as “terrible”. Nobody went there.

That fits very much with other ANE cosmogonies, where the aim in view is not “a world” but the world of the writer’s city, where the king is secure, the harvests regular, the gods well-fed and so on.  Before that pertained, as far as your average guy from Erech was concerned, the world was uncreated, even though he’d have admitted there had been mountains, seas - even maybe people, though not proper people, just as we used to consider British history started when the Romans tamed “the savages”.

It reminds me of an old Gerard Hoffnung concert, in which German avant garde composers were lampooned as saying, “Before ze 12-tone scale, all vas CHAOS.” The fanatic acknowledged no music  as music before his own. The ANE writers were not fanatics, but they did have a different view of chaos/creation, revolving around “civilised life”. In the case of Genesis, the scope of that “civilised life” is theologically highly developed.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #71794

August 8th 2012


I am in basic agreement with you, however I would like to make additional comments.

While the Framework does excellently explain the content of the 6 days of creation, it appears to me from the text and the context (found in the 4th Commnadment) that is  the Sabbath that is the Key to the understanding of the Week of Creation.  This is the best reason for having a week of 7 separate days. 

The Sabbath also brings the Gen 1 into the perview of the NT because it was the major source of conflist between Jesus and the Jewish leaders, it makes the passage an important theological one, rather than scientific statement. 

As I have said previously while the Temple Framework might have informed the sex days, the real story is the Sabbath which sealed the universe as God’s and Good.    

Jon Garvey - #71809

August 9th 2012

Roger, as I said further up the sabbath and temple imagery are intimately intertwined: God’s work of establishing and organising his cosmic temple ceases as he moves in to enjoy possession of it on the seventh day, in relationship with the humankind he has created as his priests/viceregents.

The relationship of that to the Hebrew sabbath is rich - they are honouring God’s reign on the sabbath, and they are also remembering that he has liberated them to enjoy possession of the land with him. The sabbath rests of the land, the sabbatical years etc all link the worship of God by Israel to the creation itself, to the social order, and to personal faith.

Joriss - #71799

August 8th 2012


“So if Jesus’ statement is not true historically and the flood didn’t happen globally, then God doesn’t really judge us and we don’t need Jesus. Is that the point?”

That’s not what I meant. My point is not about local or global, but that anyway there must have been a major flood as a disaster in this world, as an example of God’s future judgement. Thus it is clearly meant in Genesis, in the gospel by Jesus and by Peter in his second epistle.
Even if it has not covered the whole earth, it still must have swallowed the greater part of the living world of these days, a very great community of humans and animals. This flood must have been very very large, because God promised that He would never again have the world covered by such a big flood. So even the awful tsunamis that struck the world some years ago, with their hundreds of thousands of people that lost their lives cannot have been that large, because God doesn’t break his promise.

“So are the theological lessons of the flood still true if Jesus didn’t intend for us to interpret it historically?”

Not a few TE’s consider the flood  a parable, a kind of sanctified version of an ANE  myth, given by God to the Israelites and say that even so you can learn spiritual lessons from it. I don’t believe that. Because these lessons absolutely derive their power from reality, for as such it is presented, as such Jesus speaks about it and also Peter does so in his epistle. Made a parable or myth it has lost its power and impact.

“And scaring people, either with stories or truth, is a poor to way draw anyone closer to Jesus.”

I agree with you that scaring people is a poor way of drawing anyone closer to Jesus. That is not His way. But before we can be drawn closer to Jesus, we must first become children of God. We have to repent and confess our sins. The threat of a future judgement is not meant for us, that have become his children, but for them that don’t want to repent, and harden their hearts. For them is this warning and we cannot invalidate it by taking away it’s reality. Threat is used indeed sometimes by God as a final means to bring a nation or individuals to repentance

So it’s not about global or local, but about reality or myth/parable.

David - #71816

August 9th 2012


I think we actually agree on most points. My questions are a little more nuanced so I will elaborate further.


“That’s not what I meant.”

I made this statement because I find that this is where many Christians go with it. Here are the questions (and line of questioning) that I find many Christians ask in regards to this: Did Jesus think the flood was local or global? The audience that the text was written to would have assumed that the flood they experienced was global. If Jesus was a part of the culture, wouldn’t he have thought the same (so shouldn’t we think the same)? Or was Jesus just speaking in a way that the audience would understand (that the flood was global but does that maintain its theological importance)? If the flood was local, then was Jesus deceptive (to our modern ears) in making it sound like it was global? If Jesus meant global to his audience, how do we know that what he says he means elsewhere? So, if the scientific data demonstrates that no global flood occurred, and we interpret the flood as local (which is different than the audience would have interpreted it), how does that effect how we interpret other “stories” in the Bible and does that cause us to question their truth? Then do we question the whole Bible?

 These are all the types of questions that I get from regular church-goers when I have these discussions. I feel confident that the importance of the flood is theological and is maintained if the flood was local. However, most Christians (especially in the US) think that if the text is not literally true to our modern ears, then it causes us to question the entire bible. I think that is what makes YEC so appealing.


“My point is not about local or global, but that anyway there must have been a major flood as a disaster in this world, as an example of God’s future judgement. . . .”

I absolutely agree with this paragraph. There must have been a flood. I think that is evidenced by the multiple flood stories in ANE.


“Made a parable or myth it has lost its power and impact.”

I don’t see the flood as a parable (I am an EC/TE). I again agree with this paragraph. That was the point I was making with the mustard seed. My main point in discussing with Francis was that we should be consistent in our interpretations. If we shouldn’t hold Jesus to being truthful (scientifically) in the mustard seed statement (but still maintain theological truth), then why must we hold Jesus to being truthful (scientifically) about a global flood (but maintaining that there was a flood and therefore, the theological truth)?


On a side note, that is one way in which I think Biologos has improved things through its infographics. Many of the articles are above the understanding of laypeople (at least that is the response I have gotten from friends) and therefore, the site is not appealing. Educating the masses about the compatibility of science/evolution and faith will take more than debates among scientists or theologians. It will take hours and hours of loving discussion among brothers and sisters in Christ.


Paul Seely - #71801

August 8th 2012


I understand  Skinner to be saying  he interprets the days in Gen 1 as normal and immediately sequential because in the note on p. 5, he rejects the day = geological period because it is exegetically indefensible (hence sees the days as 24-hours). His point (2) accepts that the events in Gen 1 are sequential, and his point (3) that the sequence is one of immediately sequential days in the sense of 24-hour days. Also by referring the reader to Driver, he implies agreement with Driver.

After mentioning a writer who held the idea that the days could be long periods of time, Driver said, “There is however little doubt that the [biblical] writer really meant “days” in a literal sense, and that Pearson was right when he inferred from the chapter that the world was represented as created 6000, or at farthest 7000 years from the 17th century A.D.”  

Eddie - #71802

August 8th 2012


The first part of your comment on Skinner’s note, I agree with.  I think you may be over-reading the rest, but possibly the link with Driver strengthens your case.

In any event, whatever Skinner and Driver would say, I maintain my own view, i.e., that  the image conveyed is that of a 24-hour day, not an age or era, but that the writer did not mean to say creation took place in 24-hour stages.  There is a difference between “vehicle” and “tenor” or “image” and “meaning.”  I don’t think the account in Genesis 1 was ever intended to be a blow-by-blow report of what happened.  I can’t defend that in this sort of forum, but anyone who is familiar with the narratological school of Biblical exegesis (Alter, Sternberg, etc.) and who has studied Jewish approaches, and who knows what the Sheffield school does, will know the sort of arguments that can vindicate such a conclusion.  And I stress again that my motives are not concordist.  I am not determined to make Genesis square with evolution.  I just think that the literary details are a dead giveaway that the piece was not intended as “history.”  I realize that Christian interpreters have largely disagreed.  However, Augustine grasped the pedagogical significance of the “days.”  He was on the right track, though nowhere near in possession of a full understanding of the literary sophistication of Genesis 1.  And indeed, until Christians get the modern category of “history” out of their heads, they will fail to understand not only Genesis 1 but a good deal of the rest of the Bible.  

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