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Thinking Aloud Together, Part 3

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April 26, 2012 Tags: Christian Unity

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

Thinking Aloud Together, Part 3

Note: At the Biologos Theology of Celebration workshop in New York City in March, Scot McKnight was one of the featured speakers. This is the third of a three-part series from his lecture.

Where do we go from here?

As a professor I teach my students at least two things about method: face the facts and do not fear the facts. I believe this means we have to face both what the New Testament teaches and what science teaches. So we are right back with our two facts: science’s view that human DNA goes back to more than two people and the Bible’s view that sin goes back to Adam (and Eve).

So we face the facts. The Bible really does make it look like Adam and Eve are humans from whom we descend, sin and death entailed. But scientists are going to tell us straightaway that Adam and Eve themselves had ancestors, one of whose millions of years old grave I walked into just outside Johannesburg South Africa in what is called “The Cradle of Humankind.” Here I encountered hominid fossils dated at 2-4 million years. (Well, not the fossils themselves but the places they found them and the pictures.) Others are going to tell us that the DNA make-up of humans today goes back to thousands and on and on… so we come to this point and it is for me the most significant pastoral question pastors need to ask in tandem with scientists is this one: What if we are wrong in our interpretations of the Bible?

In other words, if the common hypothesis that our DNA owes to more than two people, the original couple, Adam and Eve, then maybe we have been reading “Adam” wrong for a long, long time. In other words, what if Adam and Eve are understood more in archetypal terms, as we find in the work of John Walton, the way the writer of Hebrews reads Melchizedek? Or, what if Jonah’s whale is a parable for the captivity of Israel (or Judah) and that when Jesus uses the analogy of Jonah he implies “Jonah as we know the story of Jonah”? Surely the “Enoch” of Jude 14-16 begins with the biblical text – seventh from Adam – and then incorporates the developed narrative history in the pseudepigraphical Enoch. To whom did “Enoch” refer when Jude used that name? Now to Adam: what if when the New Testament speaks of Adam it is simply referring to “Israel’s story about Adam” as the representative human who does/did what we all do – sin and die? What if, a la Hans Frei, Paul and Luke mean the “narratival Adam” who happens to have been an “archetypal” Adam? Is this interpretation viable? I’d like to suggest it is at least viable. Is it what Jews in the 1st Century thought? Maybe not. They thought their Story was the Story because that is what they were taught and how they thought.

We are pondering our mode of conversation. The one thing we theologians need to be wary of and that we need avoid with all our might is to say “If you don’t believe this the whole gospel comes crumbling down.” Really? The gospel comes crumbling down if we don’t believe in the so-called “historical Adam (and Eve)”? Really? Resurrection? Yes. Atoning death? Yes. Historical Adam? Slippery slope arguments don’t work for me. We might need to think about this again and maybe we theologians need to embrace our theological beliefs with what Polkinghorne called the “boldness of provisional commitment.”1 We need to have the courage to face the facts and not fear the facts and be able to ask ourselves What if our interpretation is wrong? because our framework has such a bold, provisional commitment.

Who will do this if it isn’t done in cooperative contexts of churches and scientists? Until heavy weight pastors, like Tim Keller and the good (former) Bishop Tom Wright and John Ortberg announce they are at the table, this discussion cannot gain credibility. When they do, the conversation might work.

In my own lifetime I have found science to be something that on more than one occasion has taught me to rethink a reading the Bible. A naïve reading of Genesis to Chronicles might lead to Ussher’s dating, but no one really believes that any longer. A naïve reading of pillars holding up the earth might lead to ancient cosmology but no one believes that any longer. And the reason we don’t believe such things is not because of careful consideration of ANE evidence but because science told us to look again. But hear this: if pastors join this conversation, we’ve got a chance to influence a young generation of scientists, too.

So what becomes of Adam if science tells us to look again? That is, what becomes of Adam if our DNA pool, the genetic material, could not have come from just two individuals but needed to be from thousands? Is it possible for us to reconsider what Paul meant in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 and at least wonder if we have a theology constructed on a mistake? Is it possible for us to see Adam and Eve as King and Queen of a herd of homo sapiens? Or, is it possible for us to see “Adam” as the one who represents us all, sin and death and all, and still be faithful to the Bible, to Paul? The one thing we don’t want to do is lock ourselves down to some reading that science not only denies, but that science may well blow apart. That is, when the student suddenly encounters some unassailable scientific fact, the logical webs we spin as we construct our theological interpretations suddenly falls into pieces. If we are not wise we will have more than tears in the eyes of our students.

Notes

1. J. Polkinghorne, Science and Religion in Quest of Truth, 9.


Scot McKnight, a New Testament scholar who has written widely on the historical Jesus and Christian spirituality, is Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard Illinois. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Cornerstone University, a masters from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a doctorate from the University of Nottingham. He has written fifty books, including the popular The Jesus Creed, which won an award from Christianity Today in 2004, and his latest book The King Jesus Gospel. You can read more from McKnight at his blog Jesus Creed.

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paul.bruggink1 - #69569

April 26th 2012

Another excellent post worthy of sharing on Facebook, for which there was one minor problem: the FB Thumbnail deleted the portions of the quoted text that were in italics in the original post, making the thumbnail a tad confusing. I was able to fix mine manually, but you might want to consider an alternative solution.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #69572

April 26th 2012

As I have said before, there are many things about human prehistory that we do not know, for instance who made the first wheel and when.  However that does not mean that no one created the wheel and therefore the wheel does not exist. 

History is about more than facts.  It is primarily about ideas.  We know that awareness of sin came into existence, but surely we do not know exactly when.  We can give the first sinners the names of Adam and Eve, but unless they spoke Hebrew which was mostly not the case, that was not their names.  What we do know is the story rings true and it is the best explanation we have for the origin of sin and of us sinners.   


Merv - #69573

April 26th 2012

Nice parallel, Roger, between the wheel example and sin.

Regarding Genesis being the “best explanation” for the origins of sin, I wouldn’t phrase it that way as if it were competing with other explanations about the same events.  I would call it, rather, the “necessary” explanation—the one we are given to do theology with, whether or not we insist on the violence of forcing it into other (modern scientific) arenas not native to its author or context. 

McNight, in his essays—especially (but not exclusively) this latter one seems inadvisedly flippant for somebody eager to have others at the table to be thinking aloud with.  If I were trying to connect with YECs to help ease their antagonism about evolution or ancient time scales, I shouldn’t announce about their convictions that “nobody thinks that way any longer.” as if they were nobodies, and then add insult to injury by putting that in parallel with beliefs in pillars holding up the earth.  While the sentiments may turn out to be accurate, it’s still bull-doggish and as such strikes me as a counter-productive role.

—Merv


Darrel Falk - #69584

April 27th 2012

While the sentiments may turn out to be accurate, it’s still bull-doggish and as such strikes me as a counter-productive role.

Merv,

Keep in mind that this was given as an after-dinner talk at the Theology of Celebration III workshop. it was said “twinkle-in-eye.”   Keep in mind also what he wrote earlier in his essay about his own naivete about science and how our friend, scientist, RJS had helped to straighten him out on certain things not very long ago.

Those who follow the work of  Scot McKnight know that he models respectful dialog.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #69586

April 27th 2012

Merv,

It seems to me that if we take seriously the two books (or two gospels) concept, then we are compelled to contrast our view (in particular of human) nature as found in the NT with those proposed by science.  If God speaks to us about Jesus through both the Bible and the universe we must take them both very seriously, and only the NT a little more than nature.  Of course we must always remember that we are always growing in our understanding of God, the Bible, and the universe, so none of these is set in stone so to speak.  

If Jesus indeed is the Logos through all of the universe was created and humans are created in God’s Image which is almost saying the same thing, then there needs to be a corelation between the two the character of God as found in Jesus Christ, the Incarnate God and the universe which includes humans created in God’s Image.  This is the importance of maintaining that the Bible is an important historical document that informs our understanding of God and nature, but not a scientific textbook that fills out the details of this understanding.   

I agree that this goes against much of traditional thinking, but it does take seriously the view that Jesus Christ, the God/Human, is the Mediator Who reconciles heaven and earth and is God with us.   


Jon Garvey - #69587

April 27th 2012

 A naïve reading of pillars holding up the earth might lead to ancient cosmology but no one believes that any longer. And the reason we don’t believe such things is not because of careful consideration of ANE evidence but because science told us to look again.

I’m glad there’s a twinkle in the eye here, as this is factually plain wrong. The reason Christians don’t believe pillars hold up the earth is because they never have, even when science was 1800 years in the future.

Augustine knew the world was round - and on first principles thought that it was more likely the Lord created everything instantly than in an allegorical 7 days, though he wouldn’t press the point. He was the first (that I know) to say “leave natural philosophy to the natural philosophers, and spiritual truths to the Bible.” Galileo, as Ted Davis’ excellent post directs us, said the same thing from the Christian natural philosopher’s point of view: to him as a Catholic the authority to say how we go to heaven was vested in the Church (how the heavens go being his department, but of less eternal importance).

But there’s a significant difference in those two from what is advocated here. They said, “God’s people are not necessarily experts in nature, but by the Spirit of God and the Scriptures they know much more than the philosophers about the nature of God, of man, of sin and of salvation.”

Scot says, “I’m a bit naive about science, but I accept the scientists conclusions about nature on authority. Therefore our theology of man and sin may well be based on a mistake.” He puts it in terms of our having misunderstood Paul - others have extended the scope to say that Paul must also have got his theology wrong because he, too, was ignorant of nature. And Genesis got it even more wrong. 

Then again, the same argument from the authority of science has led many TEs not only to redefine or abandon original sin (after, presumably, regretfully abandoning their previous long-held belief that the earth is supported by pillars), but also to rework their theology of God from Creator to Cooperator. The nature of salvation hasn’t always been left unscathed, either.

It’s not just that nature dictates theology - its that the authority of those who study nature is allowed to dictate theology; even by those whose own knowledge of science may rely almost entirely on others. And in all this, there is seldom any serious attempt to examine to what extent the metaphysical presuppositions of (a majority of) scientists may have coloured their conclusions about nature.

On the other hand, if the challenge of science on, say, Adam and Eve leads us to careful consideration of the ANE evidence, we may actually find that we’ve misunderstood (yet without affecting the theology much) both Genesis and Paul’s exposition of it under the inspiration of the Spirit. Paradoxically, if John Walton really is on to something, that might lead us to conclude that Archbishop Ussher wasn’t so far out in his dating of creation, because we swallowed a scientific definition of creation rather than a Biblical one.


Merv - #69588

April 27th 2012

Roger & Jon, I think I loosely read in both your posts the exhortation that neither “side” is in a position to dismiss the other.  And while I agree, of course, let me tug a bit more on that in the other direction.

I just don’t see what science has to say (in any way or form whatsoever) about sin or salvation (two twin concepts that stay together in this.)  Science can talk about predatory behaviors, about natural selection, and even about how humans as animals are part of all that.  But in the discussion of sin and our salvation from the same just what is it that you see science bringing to the table?  If a murderer kills somebody science can talk all over the map about what caused the victim’s physical life functions to cease and even about any or all sorts of “psychoses” or apparent contributing causes for the murderer’s behavior, but the one thing it cannot do is give it the label “sin”.  It can call it aberrant.  It can show how it contributes to community or societal dysfunction detracting from some arbitrary vision of where society “should” be going.    But it has nothing in the way of calling any of this “sin” or “rebellion”, and therefore nothing to offer in the way of spiritual salvation from sin either.  If you disagree then I would be most curious to hear an example of what you think science does bring into that. 

The sense in which I agree with you is that, yes, the whole world: natural and spiritual is all under God’s dominion and we learn from both God’s books which make up one seamless truth.  I agree totally.  I just don’t see science as having as big a role other than in helping correct a few mistaken beliefs that do intersect with things science can weigh in on.

—Merv


Jon Garvey - #69589

April 27th 2012

Merv, I actually agree with you 100%. What I see science bringing to the table is an agenda that deals (by choice) only with the natural, not the spiritual. In biology, in particular, that is often (as in the presupoosition of it’s leading theory and the faith commitments of a large majority of its main practitioners, according to the stats) linked to a metaphysic that won’t let God get a foot in the door. That gives it absolutely no input into Pauline theology (for example), and still less should our view of God’s nature be guided evolutionary theory.

Theologians and pastors, as well as Christians in science, should be very careful indeed to examine how those presuppositions influence the scientific consensus even when the mistaken beliefs in question are matters of the physical world.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #69590

April 27th 2012

Merv and Jon,

I guess my point is that God created a Cosmos, not a Chaos.  The problem is that I see Science is heading is toward Chaos.  I think in large part theology and theologically trained scientists and philosophers need to pull Science back toward Cosmos.  We need to feed into Sceince as well as Science feeding into theology. 


Merv - #69596

April 27th 2012

Very poetic, Roger.   I like the Cosmos / Chaos contrast and I agree with you that God brings order to chaos.  It is too simplistic, though, to push that dichotomy as far as you seem to on both ends.  I don’t think science - even secular science - has pulled away from its ‘cosmos’ philosophical underpinnings, and nor do I see the chaotic aspects of nature that science has come to recognize as being particularly  alarming from any Christian point of view.  We’re just trying to see what it is and then to make sense of what we see (the ‘cosmos’ shining through in what might appear to be chaos.)  

Jon, I may have already swallowed a definition of science that you’re still holding at arm’s length for critique.  Where you speak of science that “deals (by choice) only with the natural, not the spiritual” I’m thinking to myself “What choice?”  as in how *could* scientists deal with the spiritual even if they wanted to choose that?   But I’ve read enough of your posts to have an idea (and respect) where you’re going in this.  You’re thinking:  Scientists *choose* philosophical naturalism which then precludes interpreting anything as evidence for design (i.e.  the ‘foot in the door’ for potentially spiritual matters), and then as they dismiss I.D. for lack of evidence, you smell a rat.  Is that a fair assessment?  I’m not quite there, but maybe I should be.  I don’t want to be an enemy of I.D. even in its strong form, but I guess I’m just not convinced by I.D. proponents yet (the ones I’ve encountered—and to be fair I’ve not read all that I could about it.)  Nor am I yet persuaded that MN pushed by TEs is ideologically dangerous or theologically bankrupt.  But be that as it may, I keep reading here knowing that I might be persuaded otherwise yet.     Off for now!

-Merv


Jon Garvey - #69604

April 28th 2012

Hi Merv

I’m not primarily concerned with an ID agenda - that has strengths and weaknesses of many kinds, both conceptual and practical. But I do note a tendency, even amongst Christians influenced by science, to move from “looking for natural cause and effect is the easiest way to do our job” to “God would never demean himself [read ‘cheat on us scientists’] by acting in some direct way.” Science’s philosophical assumption dictating theology again.

Secondly I relate to Siggy Scott’s (a humanist’s!) argument on another thread, that the fear that abandoning methodological naturalism would destroy science is misplaced. It would just mean being discerning, as all the Christian scientists were before methodological naturalism came in in late 19th centurt. Example (raised by another poster there): you go to the doctor expecting methodological naturalism, not prayer for miracle. Well, yes - I was a doctor for many years, and seldom found it appropriate to pray with patients. But the parallel is more the guy whose back pain resisted my treatment for many months, who goes to a Christian conference, has prayer, and comes back healed. Do I investigate the psychosomatic cure, or thank God for healing? A few other examples I could cite there.

But on this thread, my main point is that biology has the highest rate of unbelievers of all, and it is the only science to market itself on the claim that having a naturalistic explanation, we don’t need God - Lewontin etc. If that presupposition has not influenced the science itself, then I’m Yogi Bear. TEs are quick to note the biasing presuppositions of Creation Science - the same discernment is less evident (like, one never sees it) for naturalistically-motivated science.


David - #69611

April 29th 2012

Hi Jon,

Thank you for commenting on my comment about methodological naturalism in the practice of medicine. Your points are well taken and I agree with you to some extent (I also relate to Siggy Scott’s argument) but have a difficult time identifying how we cannot rely on methodological naturalism in practice (versus a discussion of semantics). I will continue your narrative of the sufferer of low back pain (my area of practice as a health care provider is in rehabilitation so I know a bit about this topic). Yes, I think we should both investigate the psychosomatic cure and thank God for healing since in reality it is our image in God’s image that allows us to utilize science and heal people. So let’s say we deem it a miracle. What happens when it returns (as LBP often does)? Then did God make it return to the patient? Was it a matter of their sin? Or should we investigate the possible causes and search for the best way to treat the individual (again)? Isn’t there a danger in saying something is a miracle and then finding out it was not? I’m not saying that miracles don’t happen, I’m just saying that I think we are often too quick to judge them as so.

To your point about naturalism influencing belief of biologists, I agree completely! This is why Dr. McKnight’s post is essential to the Church. If we are not discussing these things in Church, then they will be discussed in science classrooms (wrong or right) or they will be inferred through the scientific method by believers who are too afraid to approach their pastor or Christian friends and have real discussions. Real, honest, and respectful discussions in community is the way the Church was designed by God to work (in my view). Young, Christian scientists must be taught the difference between what science can and cannot tell us and the best place to do this is in Church.


Jon Garvey - #69666

May 4th 2012

Hi David - thanks for drawing my attention to your post, as I thought the thread had died. We seem to share a common interest in back pain - before I retired I ran a multidisciplinary back clinic for a while, having “specialised” in back pain within general practice for many years.

I think my point is that “methodological naturalism” is an unnecessarily exclusive term for what people have done instinctively for ever in distinguishing the ordinary and the extraordinary. In medicine it might be, “I find my back pain usually gets better if I take this herb or hang from this tree. And I pray for healing, too.” And the educated believers say, “The herbs and the tree and the healing are all ultimately from him.”

In my “case study” would one really investigate? The guy’s now functioning well, and doesn’t want the bother of scans etc, which aren’t going to affect the outcome in practice. So one is left (as in so much medicine!) uncertain, but with the improvement having coincided with prayer. A “miracle”? Why ask? Are we qualified to differentiate? “Natural”? How natural is medicine as a discipline anyway when, quite apart from God’s sovereign activity and human faith in him one always has other psychosocial factors up to the ceiling?

In the case I was thinking of, the patient got a mother-and-father of a disk lesion again, but not for about 15 years. He got scanned, referred etc and had an entirely unmiraculous outcome. From the start (being a GP) I was alert to any possible stress factors and so on, and if it had coincided with leaving his wife or something I might have explored that with him. In fact it coincided with his return from Eastern Europe as a missionary. Work that one out. But sin as a cause? Apart from being a theologically dubious line to take, assessing that is outside my job description (nil to do with methodological naturalism, just expertise and situation). Call in the pastor… that act in itself is an acknowledgement that nature is not everything.

To take a contrasting example, say a patient comes in quite sure that herproblem is due to sin, or Satanic oppression or something - and say, as I would be, you’re extremely skeptical because it has all the signs of a straight mechanical injury. You’ll have to take a holistic approach anyway if only to win over the patient, so you open up the physical explanations/investigations whilst dealing seriously with the patient’s own viewpoint. If the invests showed surgery was indicated, I’d want to make sure somebody (probably not me in the end) had worked through the other aspects, given how much patient expectation affects surgical outcomes.

Is it not the myth of objectivity (MN) that has tended to lessen  the value, and the status, of medicine in our culture? We exclude the placebo effect in drug trials (which is a necessary part of asking if the stuff actually does anything), but then treat that placebo effect as something imaginary instead of working out how to harness it - since it’s actually stronger than many of the drugs themselves. We have historically sought answers in objective science, losing sight of, for example, the therapeutic role of the interaction of the doctor and the patient, which of course cannot be effectively measured, any more than supernatural intervention.

This post’s too long already, but a brief word on your last para. I agree - but in countries where Christians in science are a minority (all?), I feel there also needs to be an effort to show the limitations of naturalism within scientific education itself, through more PoS etc.


David - #69763

May 8th 2012

Jon,

I apologize for my delay. I was out of town and now just have a chance to respond in the midst of the end of the semester.

In my “case study” would one really investigate?

Well, I guess my interest as a scientist would make me want to investigate but no, we would not expose a patient to unnecessary tests just for the joy of investigating. However, when the person comes back, you end up investigating it again anyway (though 15 years is a pretty good time frame!).

My point about sin, miracle, etc is that they are all dubious lines to take. We should not say something was a miracle when it wasn’t (just like sickness is not a result of sin IMO). But are we able to tell what is and is not a miracle? In science, if we call something miraculous (which usually means does not have an explanation, currently), we run the risk of coming back to it and explaning it with natural mechanisms. The problem being that then some scientists insist that we can explain away God because we can explain away miracles (when we should never have explained it as a miracle in the first place). I would venture to guess that if we allowed for miracles, they would hardly ever turn out to be miraculous once investigated and with enough time.

I completely agree that we must take a hollistic approach to patients because they are more than a list of signs and symptoms; however, we are ethically responsible to provide the best treatment. Now what consititutes best treatment (or evidence based medicine as the new million dollar word is)? It is a combination of research evidence and professional opinion. But we must use the research evidence to guide treatment. Research is performed on large groups and statistics are used to comment on how that treatment “works” on many people, not just the minority (i.e. those healed through prayer). For many people, the research recommended treatment would/should be the best.

In regard to the placebo effect, I would argue that a drug should work better than a placebo for it to be approved and recommended. However, the placebo effect is strong and I agree that we should investigate how to harness it. However, you can investigate it by identifying those individuals who are more likely to be influenced by social interaction and/or touch. This is not the same as supernatural intervention.

And I absolutely agree that PoS needs to be taught in scientific education. In the US, I received very little training on PoS and most of that was in the context of ethics and human protections. I have had to search out the rest on my own (hence my interest in the MN discussion). But I do think that this is why we must encourage our young people in the church to pursue vocations in science and teach them what the limitations of science are so that they can be a candle.


Jon Garvey - #69606

April 28th 2012

Addendum - Merv, I see that a thread specifically discussing methodological naturalism, definitions and implications, has just started at Uncommon Descent here. Nick Matzke was an early contributor, so it should get interesting…


Roger A. Sawtelle - #69607

April 28th 2012

Merv,

The can minimize the possibility of chaos all you want, but that does not diminish the fact that the world was brought into chaos in the last 100 years by Nazism and Marxist-Leninism.  Even Muslim fundamentalism is a serious threat to the concept of order in the universe.

I would also draw your attention to liberitarism ala Ayn Rand which has developed a small, but influential following in the USA.  So we can’t say that an ideology of chaos can’t or won’t take over again.    

Again the problem I have with naturalism is that it is false in that it indicates that the universe is made up of purely matter and energy, when it includes structure and purpose.  In fact my concern is the loss of meaning and purpose in science as indicated by banishing ot Teleos and teleology.  Science can see that the universe was structured so that life and even human life is possible, but goes out of its way to say that this does not indicate that God is responsible or even might be responsible for this.   

The question concerning evolution is, Does life have a purpose?  Darwinism and Darwinists say No!  I see ecology as more in tune with Christianity and saying Yes!, so the question is not of science vs religion, but which science, ecology or Darwinian biology, gives a better answer to the creation of diversity of life and the purpose of life.

Ther other question which philosophy, science, and theology need to discussion is how nature is more than matter and energy, but also laws and purpose-seeking life.  The problem with Scientism is that it seeks to reduce nature to only matter/energy, while Christians and other non-materialists do not have a viable alternative to this view which is being aggressively advocated.  


Merv - #69614

April 29th 2012

Thanks for the UD link, Jon.  It was good to read a lively discussion over there about MN, and I even registered and tried to add a comment of my own.  But my attempt at the MN definition that the thread leader, “null” was requesting of MN supporters apparently didn’t make the moderation cut.  I didn’t think I was being offensive or hostile.   I’ll paste below exactly what I had tried to enter on that site in case anybody here is interested.

—Merv


Merv - #69615

April 29th 2012

Sorry I promised another post above which I now can’t find—if I saved it at all.  It wasn’t anything I haven’t said before over here numerous times.

—Merv


Jon Garvey - #69617

April 30th 2012

That’s a shame Merv - but I’ve known it take a while for initial posts to get checked by a mod there, so I suspect you’ll appear (though not yet!). Someone even won a competition that way recently, denying a former BioLogos poster of his prize once his answer got through!


Jon Garvey - #69624

April 30th 2012

Merv - you’ve appeared on UD at last!


Merv - #69630

April 30th 2012

Ah - Jon; thanks for the heads-up!  I now repent of my negative thoughts of being rejected in that thread.  I did post another response there, but I’m not sure I’ll keep up.  Posting volume seems to be set to ‘fire-hose’ level.

-Merv


Larry G. Himes - #69631

April 30th 2012

   I’m new to this site and my personal “faith journey” started with my questioning of classical Darwinism. (I as told by my atheist high-school science teacher that I was “blasphemous” to have questions about evolution - THAT got me thinking!)

   Several things over the years. We really do NOT have any good answers for much of physical law/physics: i.e. transcendental numbers, gravity, sub-atomic physics. Personally I have a serious doubts about science explaining the causality of anything.

   What about recent finds of soft tissue in tyrannosaurus-Rex fossils, the speed of geological formation after the Mount St. Helens eruption.

   Earlier I read the argument (somewhere else on this website) that a literal reading of Genesis would somehow make God seem deceptive. How “old” was Adam when he was formed of the dust of the earth? Baby, fetus, toddler, boy, 20, 30?

   I know there is the old “allegorical account” argument waiting to spring – OK; How old was the bread and fish Jesus fed to the 5,000 men? Was it just expansively multiplied from the existing loaves and fishes? Was it newly created “ex-nihilo”? (Or did that not “really"happen either?)

   When people were healed and made whole what process did Jesus use? The skin of the leper was “whole” - in the Old Testament, was the curing of Naaman (whose skin was like a baby’s) ex-nihilo or from existing cells?

   These “smaller"examples of “special creation” are no less (or more) mystifying than the Genesis account.

   I just start from the premise that eye-witness accounts, from apostles, prophets, the Creator himself via Moses are what God has, in His sovereignty, given and preserved for us. Does that make Him deceptive? OR - is “science” incomplete? I think “science"is woefully inadequate and that the given accounts are sufficient. Ultimately I am confident that science will continually prove the Biblical account. We just don’t know as much as we like to think we do!  

  Interesting discussion though.

Eccl. 12:9  Besides being wise, the spokesman also taught the people what he knew. He very carefully thought about it, studied it, and arranged it in many proverbs.
10  The spokesman tried to find just the right words. He wrote the words of truth very carefully.
11  Words from wise people are like spurs. Their collected sayings are like nails that have been driven in firmly. They come from one shepherd.
12  Be warned, my children, against anything more than these. People never stop writing books. Too much studying will wear out your body.
13 ¶  After having heard it all, this is the conclusion: Fear God, and keep his commands, because this applies to everyone.
14  God will certainly judge everything that is done. This includes every secret thing, whether it is good or bad.” (GWV)

   Viva la science! I think it will keep finding SOME of these “secret things”.


Merv - #69634

May 1st 2012

Hi, Larry—and welcome to the forum.  (I’m not official here or anything, but I think I’ve lurked and chimed in here long enough to be a ‘welcomer’.)

I really like Ecclesiastes as well.  And what about that gem: Ecc 9:11,  ...the race not being to the swift nor the battle to the strong, etc. ... but time and chance overtake them all.

Modern ears can appreciate the prescient depth of that in more detailed ways than the original author could have known about.

I also like Job 28 where the writer speaks of Man searching out the secrets of the depths, bringing light to darkness, etc.   and then going on to relate that wisdom was not found in any of it—but only in the fear of the Lord.  That entire chapter bears a lot of rereading for Christians who revel in science as an exploratory avenue to see God’s glory.

You ask good questions regarding miracles.  I’m sure you’ll get lots of opinions in places like this. 

—Merv


jess.jorgensen89 - #69731

May 7th 2012

I’m new here as well and just read through all parts (1-3) of this article.  I have a thought about the history of Adam.  It’s just a thought, something I wanted to put out there.  What if Adam is historical to the Hebrew tribes specifically (instead of Adam and Eve specifically being the parents of all mankind)?  Is it possible that Adam could be the remotest ancestor that they were aware of?  I know it probably seems like a shot in the dark here.  For me, this issue hangs on the fact that Adam is included in the genealogy of Jesus so if Jesus is real I would have to think that Adam was also real.  Why would Adam be included in his family tree if he was not an actual person?  I don’t think we have to say that Adam and Eve as persons were allegorical.  I also don’t think we have to assume that Adam and Eve were the parents of all mankind, either. Thoughts?


Jon Garvey - #69745

May 8th 2012

Jess, there’s a lot of fruit to be grown from that idea - and some dangerous stuff as well. Theologically, the task is to see how Scripture would move from Adam as purely related to Israel’s history and salvation history, to Adam as the source of sin and death in the whole human race. There’s no space on this thread to go into that.

If that isn’t done, people have ended up, for example, excluding certain races from mankind because they’re supposedly not descended from Adam, doing spurious history to prove that they and the people they happen to favour are the lost tribes of Israel and things like that.

One argument that is seldom made against those who see Adam as “allegorical” is that, as far as I know, no ancient middle eastern text ever uses an individual as a mythical representation of the whole of mankind. It’s quite a sophisticated and specialised idea if you consider. The ANE had gods, legendary figures, personifications of virtues like wisdom, allegorical representations of individuals - but representing the whole human situation in the story of an individual? I’d be interested to hear if there’s a shred of evidence that anybody ever thought of it back then.

If they didn’t, the original readers wouldn’t have understood it had the writer used it - even John Bunyan had to explain his “Christian” was an allegorical figure to avoid misunderstanding. Which means Allegorical Adam is as much a modern misinterpretation as trying to understand Genesis 1 as science is. Though that doesn’t stop it being popular on these boards!


jess.jorgensen89 - #69753

May 8th 2012

Jon,

Thank you for your response!  I agree with you that the allegorical Adam is a misinterpretation.  I can see how Adam would be historial to Israel as well as the source of sin and death.  If Adam and Eve were the first to sin, it is likely everyone else followed suit, like yeast in dough.  The sin of trying to do life without God is probably the most universal sin and one we commit almost in ignorance daily.  That’s why we (or I, at least) have to make a conscientious effort to sacrifice my will for God’s.  The dangers you listed are definitely serious.  I don’t see how any sane person could think that anyone else could be excluded from mankind because they aren’t directly descended from Adam.  Humanity isn’t, in general, recognized as such simply because of descent from Adam, but because of the characteristics of reasoning and conscience that we share.  Also, I don’t know how any sane person could come up with the idea that they or their loved ones are the “lost tribes.”  They’d have to ignore a lot of Scripture to come up with that.  These are just such big leaps that there are no grounds to make them.  But of course, the dangers of it are there regardless, and the keywords in my response to it are “no sane person.” 

I just think it seems really unnecessary to think Adam and Eve weren’t real individuals even though the creation story in Genesis isn’t (in my opinion) literal.  No one (Christian) thinks sin isn’t literal as a result of not thinking the creation story is literal, you know?  You’re point that no ancient middle eastern text ever used an individual as a mythical representation of the whole of mankind is a good one.  Adam and Eve don’t have to be seen as mythical to say what they experienced represents the whole human situation. Again, thanks for your response and thoughts!  I really enjoy learning about this.  I’m new to the idea that creation story isn’t literal and I’m finding that not seeing it as literal is matching up much better with reality.  


Jon Garvey - #69774

May 9th 2012

Jess

“Literal” is used in a modernistic way, usually, by both sides in this argument. William Tyndale defined “literal” as “what the author intended to convey”, be that history, parable, or whatever. So the question is, “What really is the literal sense of Genesis”?

The “universal allegory” thing, as I said, seems doubtful.

The most useful line of thought I’ve come across to suggest what that “literal” sense of Genesis might be, and why it shouldn’t be threatened by science, is John H Walton’s “Lost World of Genesis 1”, or his NIV Application Commentary on Genesis.  His suggestion seems completely left-field when you first look at it, but I’ve come to see that our modern way of looking at creation is just that - modernist. Walton would have made complete sense to, say, mediaeval Europeans.


Scott Keltner - #69984

May 17th 2012

The topics discussed in these articles are at the heart of what has nearly driven me to atheism on multiple occasions.  I can’t explain the pain associated with that process, going through no longer recognizing the world and your place in it, having no hope for the future, and feeling (all at once) the misery of every loved one you’ve lost, all over again in the context they are gone forever.  It is spiritually depraved, void of purpose and nihilistic.  All that in addition to feeling your beloved Savior, slip through your fingers, into the realm of myth.  There are few more hellish experiences in this life, that I can conjure up in my mind.  So, it is no small comment for me to say, I am fighting for my spiritual survival this very night, assuming there’s any spiritualism to fight for.

A good deal of the problem for me, in science vs. Genesis, is to ask if Genesis is proven to be narrative via evolution, what other parts of the Bible will we be forced to backtrack on? How many other scriptures and teachings, will we excuse ourselves from on the basis of interpretation?  What other tenants of faith are reduced will be reduced to pick and chose what is literal and what is not?

We’re 2000+ years into this epic, and still trying to figure out what exactly the Bible is telling us.  And, we practice our faith on a reactionary basis, adapting it to scientific discovery once we find ourselves undeniably forced to do so, or face the possibility that our holy texts have been complete myth all along.  We’ll gladly scoff at that concept, and defend our faith because the alternative is unthinkable.  However, every time the wrong interpretation “get out of jail free” card is played, our message is diluted that much further, until the dependability of the scriptures are called into question.  Will we at some point, be forced to consider Jesus a use of narrative of some sort as well?  If our story of the God of the universe is so undeniable, infallible, and inspired, how does it so often need this sort of defense the church once again finds itself taking on?

Two months ago,  I wouldn’t have remembered very much from my school teachings of evolution.  I had no idea the scientific discoveries had put it so far into accepted fact, and it had been so well defined.  It was when a friend announced he had become atheist, but that he wished he could still believe, that I started to wonder what could have rocked someones faith to the point they wished they could believe, but couldn’t.  I found out.  I found out how unprepared I was to face this new world of science and the logical onslaught of atheism, from a theological perspective.  I found out how weak our arguments have become, as we have been so complacent in preaching the gospel message, that we have allowed ourselves to become so out of touch with the natural world, in a way that we prove our ignorance in intellectual debate.  And now, we’re again having to play catch up, and realign the integrity of our long regarded infallible scriptures with tangible scientific discovery.

CONTINUED….


Scott Keltner - #69985

May 17th 2012

I know I sound angry, and honestly I am.  I’m angry that I even started to look into these questions.  I’m angry the church doesn’t have very good answers to them.  I’m angry that we’ve ignored it for so long, and still do in some ways.  I’m angry, that my Bible, and my God is now in question in my heart as I try to reconcile the misinformation I was given by my church, and if I can make the jump to redefining Genesis creation as if that was the way it always was.  There’s not much if any evidence of the Exodus either.  Shall we queue that one up for reinterpretation next?  How about Noah, considering there’s no geological evidence of a world wide flood, and a local flood has been somewhat elusive too?  At what point do apologetics become nothing more than excuses?

I’m sorry if I have offended anyone.  I really don’t mean to.  I find myself in unbearable spiritual pain right now.  I’m confused, disenfranchised, emotionally drained, and fearful for what the implications mean.  I work for a major denomination, how can I keep my job if I lose my faith?  My wife, who I have tried to protect from my spiritual struggle, is a strong believer.  My parents, and siblings are believers.  This struggle has the potential to isolate me from everything in my life right now, puts my employment at risk, and leaves me completely alone at heart, and adrift on a sea of pointlessness.  Right now, if there is no God, it would have been better to have never lived than face a universe so cruel and so void of any semblance of morality as to let ANY creature ever evolve to be aware of its own mortality.  But, even in the face of all that, I find it increasingly difficult to believe . I try to look for evidence to fill the gaps in scripture, and end up with more questions.  Is our faith so weak as to crumble at any intellectual rationalization, that it requires us to go to church and ignore the world around us?

If there is a God in heaven that answers prayer, I covet all I can get right now.


Scott Keltner - #69986

May 17th 2012

By the way, if Adam and Eve are reinerpreted as metaphors for the original sin of man, and that they could represent a larger population of early man, why does the Bilble go to the trouble of telling us how long they lived?  Adam was said to die at the age of 930.  We base Biblical timelines on this sort of thing.   Only individuals die at certain ages, population metaphors do not.


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