Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Was the real Adam historical or a convenient fiction in a Mosaic fantasy?

There has been a fascinating debate a post or two below about Adam and Eve and creation v evolution (at time of writing there are 89 comments, so a bit to work through, and many are not about Adam). Some of it is beyond my pay grade as a scientist and as a theologian. But here in response and riposte is an excerpt from a book I am working on.

"I am given a beautiful woollen jersey for my birthday by my aunt. I am rapt with the gift – next winter will be easier to live through than this one! Initially I have no idea where the jersey came from. Perhaps she bought it at a shop and cut the label off – maybe too ashamed to admit it was bought from a cheap store or embarrassed to admit that it was bought from the most expensive store in town. Later my cousin tells me the story of the jersey. My aunt was staying with a farming friend at shearing time. At short notice she found herself needed to help out in the shearing shed. She worked hard for several days. Though she did not actually shear the sheep she more than earned the fleece of wool which was given to her when she left to return home. An old spinning wheel in the garage was brought into the lounge and the wool spun into a yarn. Then an idea entered her head. Knit a jersey for her beloved nephew. Out came the knitting needles and a pattern. What with this and that happening, it took a month or two to complete. But all her family were pleased when they saw the finished product, and they were glad that by giving it to me it would ‘stay in the family’.

My joy at the gift of the jersey, my appreciation of its usefulness is no different whether my aunt bought it at a shop or spent hours of patient toil on it. But the value I place on the jersey deepens when I learn of the time and effort which has gone into its production.

The point of the parable is obvious in relation to the ‘creation versus evolution’ debate. Creation is not less impressive, nor represents any less graciousness on God’s part for taking a longer and more complex developmental pathway than the seven day scheme implied by a literal reading of Genesis 1. 

A number of evangelical Christians seem to get stuck in a mode which cannot read Genesis 1 other than literally and have been drawn to a detailed account of the origins and primeval development of life which seeks to explain everything as having been worked out in a chronological scheme which fits both with the ‘six days of creation’ in Genesis 1, and with the deduction from the genealogies of the Old Testament that the earth is thousands rather than millions of years old. This explanatory approach is variously know as ‘creation science’ and ‘creationism’, and in recent years has been linked with a specific questioning of standard evolutionary theory through a notion called Intelligent Design.

In what follows it is important that we separate two questions which do not necessarily have a connection. First, the question of whether theories about the origins and development of the universe and life within it account for all evidence satisfactorily. If ‘creation science’ or ‘Intelligent Design’ have discovered evidence that theories of evolution, cosmology, geology and paleontology need revising one hopes that scientists will do so, without allowing bias against the theology of the creation scientists or Intelligent Design proponents to influence their scientific objectivity. As a matter of fact one does not need to be a theologian or even a believer in God to ask searching questions of science. That is good science methodology since scientific theories gain strength from answering questions and resolving problems.

Secondly, the question of whether the opening chapters of Genesis constitute evidence that science should consider. For example, if we had some certainty that God was directly telling us that in six measurable time periods (whether of, say, 24 hours each or 1000 years each) the world was created in a specific order, then we could have some evidence for science to assess.

In fact, the problem of whether or not we are to read Genesis 1 as ‘literal’ or ‘scientific’ truth is readily solved by reading Genesis 2 as well! In Genesis 1:1–2:3 we have an account of the creation of the world which is spread over seven days (strictly speaking six days, since God rests on the seventh day) and describes two stages of creation. In stage one, with the heavens and the earth and water already created, during the first three days, God creates light (and darkness), sky and rain clouds, sea and land and vegetation. In stage two, over the next three days, God creates the sun, the moon, and the stars, fish and birds, land based animals and human beings together, male and female. The creation of humanity is specifically described as being ‘in God’s image’.

In Genesis 2:4-25 we have another account of creation (that it is another account is made clear by 2:4-5).[1] In this account the emphasis falls on one single day of creation (‘in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens’). On that day, after the making of the earth and the heavens, and before either plants were made or rain fell, there was a mist which watered the land. The first living creature of any kind is man, made separately (and definitely not simultaneously) from woman. Then man is placed in a garden in which plants grow and a river flowed. After which the man is deemed to be in need of companionship and so land based animals, and birds (no mention of fish) are made for the man. When none of these proves a fit helper for the man, a woman is formed from the man and brought to him. The creation of humanity is specifically linked to marriage (2:24).

There is simply no question of both accounts being compatible and non-contradictory if read literally. One day does not equal six (or seven) days. Humanity cannot be created both before and after plants and animals. Thus Genesis 1 – 2 tells the story of creation in a non-literal manner via the medium of two accounts told sequentially. Common to both stories is the conviction that it is God who created the world and that humanity is the most important part of creation (being the culmination of the acts of creation in the first story and the first act of creation within the created world in the second story). Alternatively, we could say that in the first story humanity is the goal of creation and in the second story humanity is the centre of creation. That is, the messages of the accounts are compatible and non-contradictory. The first emphasizes that God deemed creation to be good, an emphasis lacking in the second. The second account emphasiszes that God gave the man the task of ‘working and keeping’ the garden, the first account tells us that God commanded humanity to ‘have dominion’ over the earth and the life on it.

The first account, as noted already, conveys a striking theological understanding of the relationship between God and humanity,
            ‘So God created man in his own image,
            In the image of God he created him;
            Male and female he created them.’ (1.27)

Of nothing else in creation is this said. The supreme value of human life, the equality of male and female are laid down forever in this statement.

By contrast the second account, describing the creation of woman as an act of creation derivative from the creation of the man, leads to a different message, a theology of marriage. In marriage a man and a woman become one flesh, a reunion so to speak of what they were in the one flesh of the original human being created by God. (Unfortunately this story has also led to the message being given that woman is inferior to man). Again, we should estimate this account’s importance correctly. Genesis 2 places marriage, with sexual intercourse as the primary means of enabling union between male and female,[2] as both a foundational and distinctive human relationship deriving from the creation itself. Combined with the command in Genesis 1:28, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’, we may deduce that marriage is both a relationship of union between humanity differentiated into male and female and a relationship for reproduction of humanity.

What then of history and science in respect of creation and the two-story account given in Genesis 1-2? 

First, Genesis 1-2 was not written as history or science. To some this will be heresy. But look again (and, if necessary, again) at the two stories in these first two chapters of Scripture. On key matters relating to both history and science, namely, consistent chronology and coherent non-contradictory sequences of events, Genesis 1-2 are more parable than documentary. They are story rather than history or science. 

Of particular importance is the observation that two differing time spans, one week and one day are employed in each story. The time periods are symbolic. In particular the time period of seven days in Genesis 1:1-2:3 is confirmed as symbolic because the conclusion drawn emphasizes the establishment of the Sabbath day of rest (2:2-3). That a ‘day’ does not equal a twenty-four hour period becomes clear with reflection on the second story. If God creates Adam at the beginning of one day, and later creates plants and animals, it seems an extraordinarily busy day, what with the naming of livestock, birds, and ‘every beast of the field’, then the realisation that ‘a helper fit for him’ had not been discovered, and finally a ‘deep sleep’ falling on Adam in order for the female-creating operation to be accomplished. The ‘day’ is simply a symbolic period for the actual time in which the accomplishment of creation was achieved. Thus it is a complete waste of time trying to resolve whether one day equals twenty-four hours or a thousand years or some long primeval aeon.

It is tempting to treat Genesis 1-2 as a single undifferentiated account and explain the ‘day’ of the second account as an excerpt from the ‘week’ of the first story. But this will not do. Genesis 2:4 says ‘in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens’, 2:5 says ‘when no bush of the field was yet in the land (or earth) and 2:18 describes man as ‘alone’ prior to every beast and every bird being made (2:19). This is an alternative account of creation which sits alongside, indeed has been brought alongside the first account.[3] Presumably as a compliment to both beautiful and profound stories, restraint has been exercised over the possibility of rewriting both and merging them into one. Together the two accounts may be treated as one whole story of creation in the sense that (a) nothing in each account is theologically contradictory, (b) both accounts have been included in Genesis (and thus in the Old Testament and the whole canon of Scripture) as one coherent narrative, and (c) Jesus himself draws from both stories together when articulating his theology of marriage (see Mark 10:6-7 which cites both Genesis 1:27 and 2:24).

Yet, this does not mean the two stories have no historical or scientific traits, just as parables often convey sound information about geography, economics, and social history. Both evolutionary biology and common sense tell us that light was necessary before plants were formed, and plants were needed before there could be animals (and this sequence is found in Genesis 1). Chemists tell us that the human body is made up from a couple of dollars worth of chemicals and lots of water (and in Genesis 2:7 God ‘formed the man of dust from the ground’, ground which was being ‘watered’ by mist, 2:6).

History is about the people who inhabit the past. At some point in distant time there must have been ‘the first’ people – at least in the sense that as humans talked about their past they located the beginning of humanity with one specific man and one particular woman. (It couldn’t have been two men or two women!) Naturally the argument arises that since the New Testament treats Adam and Eve as two ‘historical’ people therefore Genesis 1-2 must be ‘history’. But this argument misses the subtlety inherent in the situation. If Genesis 1-2 is ‘history’ then it is internally contradictory in its description of the origin of the first man and the first woman.

As a unified story combining two stories or versions of the creation of humanity, the account in Genesis 1-2 leaves the actual process of creation as both a scientific and historical mystery. That is, we have no way of deciding from the text whether ‘the man’ and ‘the woman’ of the story are created with or without evolutionary ancestry. Further, we have no means of deciding whether ‘the man’ and ‘the woman’ of Genesis 1-2 are a particular couple or representative of unknown generations of human beings who inhabit the earth beyond the descriptive range of the genealogy of Israel exemplified in the genealogy of Jesus which concludes with ‘the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God’ (Luke 4:38). That is, the character of the account in Genesis 1-2 means that ‘Adam’ can be referred to as a specific human being, the father of Seth, the husband of Eve, the originator with her of human sinfulness (as we find in the New Testament) while also being referred to as the original or we might say originating ‘man’.[4]

Thus we can approach Genesis chapter 3 relaxed about its role in history! If Genesis 1-2 tells the story of the origin of ‘good’ creation, then this chapter tells the story of ‘wrongdoing’ and ‘suffering’ entering into and distorting the goodness of creation. Together these chapters tell the story of the origins of human life as we experience it in every generation, an experience of pleasure and pain, goodness and evil, and health and sickness. Again, it matters little whether the actual history of sin began a thousand generations before Seth or with his biological father and mother. Sin entered into the story of ‘the man’ and ‘the woman’ from the beginning and became the great problem of humanity both in relation to God and to each other, the problem Jesus came to solve once and for all through his death on the cross.

Naturally, the question arises when this ‘story’ becomes ‘history’ since undoubtedly there is a point between Adam and Eve and Jesus when what Scripture tells us about the deeds of his ancestors is reliable history. For some biblical historians this point is around the time of David, others push further back to, say, Moses, and some go back to Abraham.[5] However we need to note that ‘story’ can incorporate ‘history’. There undoubtedly was a ‘first couple’ who were both fully human (defined as both ‘made in the image of God’ (1:27) and having ‘the breath of life’ (2:7)[6] and were the ancestors of Israel. Sin became a sad feature of human history from the very beginning. The story in Genesis 1-3 testifies to these historical facts. Rather than advance a thesis that the Old Testament is fabulous or mythological or legendary at the beginning and at some later point becomes history, it is truthful to speak of history and story intermingling in the Old Testament from Genesis 1:1 onwards. We have argued that on some matters Genesis 1-3 is clearly telling a story without historical factuality, for example, when it offers two differing descriptions of the act of creating man and woman, but on other matters it tells a story which incorporates historical factuality, for example, when it explains the creation of the world as an act of God or the fall of humankind as an event occurring at the beginning of humanity.

Care should be taken in responding to the word ‘story’ used here, along with talk of ‘without historical factuality’. It would be unhelpful to then introduce the term ‘fiction’ into the discussion since this can be understood as a synonym for ‘untrue’. Thus the term has been avoided deliberately. For example, below we talk about the grace of God in the creation story. To characterise the story as ‘fiction’ could be to mislead readers into thinking that perhaps the grace of God is also a fiction, something which is not true, did not happen, just the wishful thinking of Moses! No, quite the opposite is the case. The story tells in an imaginative and poetic way how life was created, and includes some things which did happen ‘as told’ and some things which did not happen ‘as told’. But in every part the story truthfully tells us of God being creator and giver of life.

One advantage of supposing that ‘man’ and ‘woman’ are created utterly new is that it provides an explanation of the equality of all human beings, no matter which tribe or race or nation we belong to. One disadvantage of evolutionary explanations for the origins of human life which conclude that human life arose in different parts of the world at different times is that, potentially, they can serve the cause of theories of tribal, racial and national superiority.[7] The kind of explanation advanced here implies that, if evolutionary development lies behind human life, and even if this development led to several different points in which human life came into being, at a certain point God deems that humanity is (a) distinct from the plants and the animals (b) of one single class of creature in which all are equally human, and (c) recognises humanity as made in the image of God. In terms of Genesis 1-2 this point is referred to in 2:7 when God breathes the breath of life into ‘man’, that is, ‘man’ is consciously distinct in spiritual, emotional, and mental characteristics from any other creature. A not insignificant point favouring the kind of explanation given above is that it readily copes with the origin of Cain’s wife (Genesis 4:17), and avoids the need to suppose that hitherto unmentioned sisters of Cain and Seth became their wives!

In other words, absolutely no questioning of the ‘truth’ of Genesis 1-3 is involved in concluding that these chapters are best categorised as theology rather than history or science, and best defined in terms of literary genre as story rather than historical description or scientific report. Indeed, to the extent that these three chapters tell us who created us, what value we have before God, the significance of marriage from the very beginning of human life, and the propensity of human beings to do wrong, we have more valuable truth here than in all the scientific and historical accounts of origins of life put together. ‘I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation’ (Psalm 119:99).[8]

Sadly, a huge misunderstanding is bound up in the efforts of sincere Christians who seek to teach ‘creation science’ alongside or even in place of evolution in school science curricula. The misunderstanding concerns the kind of information conveyed in Genesis 1 (in particular).[9] According to the explanation given above there is no attempt in that chapter to convey anything other than a symbolic chronology for the creation of the world, nor is there any attempt to convey any specific information about the actual order of placement of natural phenomena in this world. That Genesis 1 gets the order of some things correct (e.g. water, light, land, plants then animals) is simply common sense (perhaps especially clever common sense given the antiquity of the story or entirely unsurprising insight if we emphasise the divine inspiration of the story). It is hardly the basis for a new scientific paradigm, especially given the way the account places the creation of the sun and the moon and the stars after vegetation and fruit trees began growing (1:11-19)!!




[1] Claus Westermann, Genesis: A Practical Commentary Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987, p. 16, ‘Scholars are virtually unanimous in regarding the second chapter [of Genesis] as the work of an earlier scholar and theologian than the first.’
[2] Thus the first specific reference to sexual intercourse in the Bible describes how Adam ‘knew Eve his wife’ (Genesis 4:1), ascribing to sexual intercourse an interpenetrative engagement of two people involving more than physical intimacy.
[3] Incidentally, maritime nations of the world (such as Aotearoa New Zealand where the author resides) see themselves accounted for in the first story but not the second which has no concept of ‘the sea’ and does not described the creation of fish. This is supportive of the conclusion drawn from other details in the second account (such as the rivers) that its ultimate geographical origins lie in Mesopotamia rather than Palestine. See, e.g. Clare Amos, The Book of Genesis Peterborough: Epworth, 2004, pp. 15-16.
[4] It is necessary to acknowledge that we have different knowledge at this point to Jesus and Paul. In their Jewish upbringing there was only one whole story of creation woven into the history of Israel (i.e. the Jewish Scripture we know as the Old Testament), thus this story was indistinguishable from ‘history’ in their conception of it, and consequently they naturally talked of Adam and Eve as historical figures. We recognise, particularly through scientific discovery, that the story of creation in Genesis 1-2 cannot be ‘history’ as we understand it, and thus we are forced to acknowledge the dual role of the human figures in these chapters, both as representative man and woman, and as Adam and Eve, parents of Seth. As a footnote to Genesis 1:26 for the English Standard Version carefully says, ‘The Hebrew word for man (adam) is the generic term for mankind and becomes the proper name Adam.’
[5] C.S. Lewis, for example, responding to a question about the fabulous elements in the Bible says, ‘Jonah and the Whale, Noah and his Ark, are fabulous; but the Court history of King David is probably reliable as the Court history of Louis XIV.’ (God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970,  p. 58. An attempt to summarise the course of the debate in biblical scholarship about the reliability of the Old Testament as history is beyond the scope of the present work.
[6] Note the interesting description of the effect of God’s breathing the breath of life: ‘the man became a living creature’ (2:7). This is entirely consistent with the origin of humanity being an evolutionary process which yields a ‘living creature’ distinct from its predecessors which is recognisable biologically as ‘a human being’ and theologically as ‘man created in God’s image’.
[7] The word ‘potentially’ needs to be stressed. Patterns of ancient travel mean that humanity for countless generations have been thoroughly mixed and in no sense can we say of known human history that one part of humanity has been ‘more’ evolved than another.
[8] Here we barely scratch the surface of all the theology conveyed in these chapters. The reader is referred to solid commentaries on Genesis.
[9] Creation science surveying Genesis for explanations of phenomena of the ancient world goes beyond the first chapter and has a special interest in the story of Noah and the Great Flood (6:9-9:17) since this ‘shock’ to the earth may explain some features of geology and palaeontology."

154 comments:

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Peter,

May I suggest a few points that may help.

I think your simplifying the creationist movement in a way that is a little, accidentally, misleading. There are in fact at least two major wings to this movement, young earth creationism, which is what your refer to, and, and old earth creationism, which accepts the current speculation regarding the age of the universe, and of the two, the latter may be the larger. Reducing all creationism to YEC does not make for a good critique.

It is very inaccurate imo to suggest that the ID movement is closely related to and allied with YEC. That simply is not the case. I know of no ID advocate who is also a YEC.

I disagree that a "literal" reading of Genesis leads to a six solar day creation account. This ignores the fact that the sun and moon are not created till the fourth "day" so how can reading it "literally" lead to six-seven solar days?

The issue of what is taught in the State schools is important, because much of what is taught regarding evolution has little to do with science. NZ's own Ian Wishart, in his book 'Eve's Bite' about the influence of Cultural Marxism in NZ has a chapter on this regarding NZ science teaching in high schools which is very disturbing. He found that much of what was being taught was deeply inaccurate, and outright deceptive by the standards of real science. This is not surprising as State schools exist not to educate, but to allow the foot-soldiers of Cultural Marxism to form young people's minds. So I understand that people who are awake to this justifiably think that if science classes are deliberately teaching propaganda rather than science then it should be a level playing field.

Of course, my solution is that rather than trying to get schools to be more open to various theories and understandings, simply abolish State schools outright and get the State out of any involvement with education. State schools are a joke anyway. Ask any employer who has taken on someone straight out of High School. It takes a year at least just to teach them a work ethic, assuming they turn up at all, or turn up sober and straight.

Shawn Herles said...

Forgot to put this in my last post.

There is no scientific problem with the Biblical teaching that we came from two original parents. Geneticists have discovered that all human beings can be traced back to a single mother, which is discussed in the book 'The Seven Daughters of Eve.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn
Your comments are appreciated and will have an impact on the final shape of this particular chapter!

(I do not share your criticism of state schools. To share in it would be to deny that many good people I know with fine work ethics have been to state schools!)

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you Peter. A very good catalogue of Creation as we are humanly enabled to understand it. The word 'myth' I find adequately describes the complication of both the chronology and the theology of the Book of Genesis.

Thank you for honestly exposing some of the problems of literalism - as opposed to the benefits of poetic licence.

Another point: If science really means knowledge, then all of us have to bow to the supreme wisdom of the Creator - not pretending we humans can discern everything. I guess this is where humility, in the form of kenosis, comes into the equation. Even the God/man Jesus had to practise it:
(Phil.1:6-8) :

"His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are, he was humbler yet.."

God's foolishness really is 'wiser than human wisdom', and until we understand that truth, we can flounder in our interpretation of both Scripture and Cosmology.

Anonymous said...

"It is very inaccurate imo to suggest that the ID movement is closely related to and allied with YEC. That simply is not the case. I know of no ID advocate who is also a YEC."

I agree. Doug Groothuis is a strong advocate of ID and accepts the 'big bang'. Some advocates of ID believe in evolution - I think Michael Behe does. Not sure about Bill Dembski, but possibly - he's a Catholic, IIRC.
Theories of human origins (or at least dating them) are swinging around a little wildly at present, following the discovery of what looks like a metacarpal in Africa.

Martin

Kurt said...

“The word 'myth' I find adequately describes the complication of both the chronology and the theology of the Book of Genesis.”—Fr. Ron

Exactly. Well said, Father Ron.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Tim Chesterton said...

Thank you very much, Peter. I have rarely come across such a well-written explanation of how we can combine respect for the scriptures as God's revelation to us with respect for the (ongoing) discoveries of science. I'm going to link to this on my own blog.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Tim!

carl jacobs said...

Peter

[Sigh.]

Back before Stand Firm consumed itself in the arrogance of its moderators, I used to comment there a lot. There was a commenter there named David Handy with whom I frequently crossed swords. He claimed to be conservative. In fact he was a liberal who was arbitrarily orthodox. And he used to make this exact same "theologically true but historically false" argument. I couldn't find an event in the OT that he would affirm as historically real.

Of course Handy would never apply to same logic to the Gospel accounts because he understood the implications. If the Passion is "theologically true but historically false" then Christianity is a lie. It is a religion that makes specific historical claims that must be true. David Handy could never explain why the logic of his position should be isolated from the Gospels - other than by special pleading. After all, naturalistic science rejects the idea of the dead returning to life with more certainty than it rejects the burning bush or creation ex nihilo. Why shouldn't we show respect for science in this case as well? David Handy wouldn't answer because he couldn't. I doubt you will fair any better.

You can play these clever intellectual games in post-modern theology classes. You take that stuff into your church and your laity is going to have a much different reaction. They will reach the very obvious and natural conclusion: "False in one, false in all." They won't make these fine philosophical distinctions. They will decide you are peddlibg myth to no purpose and drift away. "It's all just a story after all" isn't a credible foundation for a religion. "It's all just a story except for when I say it isn't" is even worse.

Genesis presents as history. There is no textual reason to read it any other way. Except we are afraid to be called ignorant by learned men who view the world with materialist eyes, and reach materialist conclusions based upon their prior commitment to their materialist presuppositions. And the church fears them. So it tries to reconcile Materialism with God in a way that doesn't offend Materialism. It won't work.

I said earlier that the Liberal enterprise was to rescue Christianity from the falsehood of its revelation. That is all this amounts to. "Science" says X. God says not X. Whom do we believe? Which is the greater authority? If you follow this road you might as well buy the grave plot now because you will plant your church before you yourself die.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl,
I think you are being unfair!
My resort to intellectual cleverness (or at least attempting so) is to try to take with the uttermost seriousness the Bible, science and history, without for one moment losing the essential truth of the Bible.

I would be the first to be delighted if science and history pointed to each and every aspect of Genesis 1-3 being both accurate theology and science and history. At this stage in our learning this does not appear to be the case.

Indeed the very attempt by Christians to propose that Genesis 1-3 is exact science highlights internal controversy of what kind of science. As Shawn above notes, some read the text as positing a young earth and some do not. Who is right, Carl?

Genesis 1-3 is not clear on such a matter. Does that not, at the least, raise the question of how we read Genesis 1-3 with integrity both as theologians and as scientists/historians?

As for losing one's congregation. I am far from persuaded that most Anglicans in NZ are open to (say) a young earth creationist approach. I should think the way to lose a congregation here would be to earnestly espouse such a view.

(I recognise a much more divided North American context re creation v evolution than we find Down Under.)

Father Ron Smith said...

"This is not surprising as State schools exist not to educate, but to allow the foot-soldiers of Cultural Marxism to form young people's minds. So I understand that people who are awake to this justifiably think that if science classes are deliberately teaching propaganda rather than science then it should be a level playing field."

Are you seriously suggesting that State Schools are deliberately misleading their students in the field of science?

This sounds rather like a troglodyte understanding of what modern education is all about, and should be resisted by all thinking Christians.

What must be understood is that 'The State' is involved in the business of education - not myth. That is the prerogative of the Church - as, and when, it really does coincide with objective truth

Peter Carrell said...

Hmm, Ron, "troglodyte" cuts both ways: do you yourself have close experience of current state school education?

I can assure you from some of my own experience that many of our teachers are trained in a left-wing atmosphere that promotes its own 'myths' about how the world works (e.g. that NZ would be better off if we were a socialist, gender-free republic which had never undergone the 'revolution'of 1984).

But the point about evolutionary biology is that it is a mixture of science and "theology" (i.e. "anti-theology") when it strays into thinking about causation. Dawkins being the High Priest of this new religion and its myths!

Kurt said...

"I would be the first to be delighted if science and history pointed to each and every aspect of Genesis 1-3 being both accurate theology and science and history. At this stage in our learning this does not appear to be the case."--Fr. Carrell

Right on, Peter! Well said!

Shawn Herles said...

Ron,

"Are you seriously suggesting that State Schools are deliberately misleading their students in the field of science?"

Yes. And in most other fields as well. That IS what is happening, because they are not teaching up to date science, and in some cases not science at all. You have obviously misunderstood my point however, again.

Ian Wishart found that NZ science classes were still using material that was many years ago dismissed by actual scientists, including "fossils" that the scientific community itself have proven to be fraudulent fakes.

Can you explain that Ron?

"What must be understood is that 'The State' is involved in the business of education - not myth"

Rubbish. State schools teach a great many myths, and States themselves promote myths all the time. Seriously, do you think governments and States never lie?

And Maori creation myths are a mandated part of the education curriculum, so you claim about what the State does is quite wrong.

Carl,

I agree. "myth" is not a word I would use for any part of Scripture. It's just a convenient way for those blinded by the ideology of modernism to dismiss part's of Scripture that do not fit their Liberal religion. And Darwinian Macro-Evolution is a Liberal creation myth. Cripes, serious scientists don't even use the word evolution anymore. Discoveries in genetics, paleontology and quantum physics have blown Darwinian evolution to pieces. But the mainstream media and our high schools have not kept pace with real science and changed what is promoted and taught. Gee, I wonder why? :)

Shawn Herles said...

Here's an example. How many people think "evolution" means we evolved from monkeys? Most lay (non-scientist) people. Why? Because that is how State schools and the mainstream media present it.

Now, go say to an actual scientist who works in the field and tell him that. He'll laugh at you. Why? Because real evolutionary biology does not teach that, it teaches that while humans did evolve, they were always a totally separate species.

How many people think we evolved from Neanderthals? Yet up to date science no longer does.

Real science, and what Liberals, including Liberals in our schools teach, are not the same thing.

Shawn Herles said...

The claim that the Bible is myth in one place, but not in another, is unsustainable, an intellectual shell game that few are fooled by. This is one of the reasons Liberal Christianity has failed to grow, and is shrinking so fast. People outside the Church know perfectly well that if you claim Scripture is myth in one place (Noah's ark) but not myth in another (a man rising from the dead), your just being conveniently selective. It is not remotely an intellectually respectable position that fools anyone, so they don't buy it and either stay away or go to Churches that are at least consistent on the Bible. Hence, Liberal Christianity is dying.

The irony is that when it comes to Genesis Liberals and Young Earth Creationists (six solar day creationists) are equally as bad as each other. Both groups treat Scripture in general and Genesis in particular in a very superficial manner, imposing abstract ideologies and pre-determined philosophical constructs onto Scripture, rather than reading it carefully, deeply, humbly, and allowing Scripture to speak for itself.

mike greenslade said...

"I can assure you from some of my own experience that many of our teachers are trained in a left-wing atmosphere that promotes its own 'myths' about how the world works ..." (PC)

Could you expand on that Peter? It would be good to know the evidence you have of what is happening in teacher training institutions. What responses do educational theorist have to that evidence? How does it differ from indoctrination in theological colleges?

Mauri ora,
Mike

Tim Chesterton said...

Carl said: 'You can play these clever intellectual games in post-modern theology classes. You take that stuff into your church and your laity is going to have a much different reaction.'

My experience is exactly the opposite of Carl's. I teach 'Christian Basics' classes on a regular basis at our church, and we often discuss the interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis. I have been doing this now for fourteen years, and with absolutely no exception, inquirers, unchurched people, people who are on their sway into faith, as well as lifelong Christians, have breathed a sigh of relief when they realize that they don't have to buy into the whole creationist project to be faithful Christians - that there is a perfectly respectable way of understanding the scriptures that does not require us to abandon the modern scientific project altogether.

I also see people leaving Christianity for exactly the opposite reason Carl describes. Over and over again I meet bright young people who have been raised in fundamentalist homes where they have been taught the 'if you can't believe all of it, you can't believe any of it' line. They try really hard to go along with it, and for years and years they struggle to be faithful to the Christianity their parents have taught them, but sooner or later, many of them just can't dismiss the overwhelming scientific consensus any longer. And then they do exactly what their parents taught them: they dismiss the entire Christian faith lock, stock, and barrel, simply because they find creationism unbelievable.

I understand that the U.S. has far higher levels of belief in young earth creationism, and dismissal of the theory of evolution, than any other country in the western world. Carl may well be right in what he is saying in the U.S. context. But here in western Canada, it doesn't cut the mustard. And as for describing everyone who doesn't accept creationism as a materialist - well, I guess you've just written C.S. Lewis off as a materialist. But I know whose company I'd rather be in on this issue.

Tim Chesterton said...

Shawn, I would describe Francis Collins as a serious scientist, and he certainly uses the word 'evolution'.

Peter Carrell said...

HI Mike
When someone I am close to trained as teacher a few years ago in one of our government run teacher training colleges I was amazed at the one sided reading provided.

What would the educational theorists make of it? These were the educational theorists providing the readings, in some cases written by themselves.

Not all teacher training colleges will be the same; life has moved on from a half dozen or so years ago ... perhaps required reading now includes peons of praise for the National government!

Shawn Herles said...

People voluntarily choose to go to theological colleges. Most people have little choice but to use the State "education" system. Thus the former is legitimate, and the latter is not. "Indoctrination" should be a choice made by individuals and families, not imposed on people because the State operates a monopoly and rigs the system in it's favour, then lies about what is really going on.

Two years ago my neighbour's 11 year old daughter started saying "Donkey! Donkey!" when she heard John Key mentioned. I asked where she heard that, and she said that's what her teacher calls him.

Last week I went to my wife's Otago Uni graduation ceremony. The guest speaker gave a speech saying, quite openly, that he hoped the graduates did not waste their degrees but use them to help create a socialist economy, and praised a certain well known Communist for doing just that.

I am part way through a theological degree at Otago, and while the Otago Theology Dept. is pretty good, the bias in favour of socialist economics and "liberation" theology is blatant and consistent.

Peter Carrell said...

To be fair Shawn, to socialism, I think we ought to check things out first hand.

Anyone for a trip to North Korea to check out the nearest (to Down Under) proper socialist state?

:)

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Tim,

my mistake, I should have said Darwinian evolution. The current understanding of evolution has, umm, evolved, so to say, from the original forms proposed by Darwin to quite different understandings.

The whole field of science is in such a state of change that saying "science says this and science says that", which is often what I hear from atheists and Christian Liberals attacking Scripture, is just ludicrous. In the last year alone theories once held to be pretty firm have been tossed out the door, and who knows what will come out of CERNE. The apparent discovery of the Higgs-Boson particle may well, if it hasn't already, radically change once again our understanding of the universe.

Shawn Herles said...

Sorry, this should have gone in my last post. The issue of the constant change and flux within science can be illustrated by a recent discovery. Until recently, it was almost universally held as a fact that Native Americans were of Siberian origin who came to NA over the Bering straight ice bridge.

But new DNA testing has turned up some very radical challenges to that theory. Specifically, DNA testing on Cherokee peoples has shown that Cherokee share little DNA markers with other Native Americans, but instead have DNA markers from the Middle East, and in fact, Cherokee share far more DNA makers with the ancient Hebrews than European Jews do.

Oh cripes, maybe the Mormons were right after all! :)

Peter,

Bit of a purge going on there at the moment, might not be safe!

I had a High School teacher here in NZ who made no secret of the fact the he was a Communist, and made regular trips to the Soviet Union, and regularly lectured the class on the evils of capitalism.

Peter Carrell said...

Yes, well, Shawn, there are aspects of capitalism in the "Soviet Union" these days which are pretty evil :)

Re North Korea: I feel pretty safe. Last time I heard what my nephews are up to, none are in charge of NK!

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Peter, yes there are some very evil aspects to the economic situation in Russia, as there always are with any form of crony capitalism, including ours!

Yup, you really wouldn't want to be a member of the ruling family in NK!

MichaelA said...

"Anyone for a trip to North Korea to check out the nearest (to Down Under) proper socialist state?"

Scene: The Presidential Palace, Pyongyang:

Kim Jong Il: Hans Brix? Oh no! ... Oh, herro. Great to see you again, Hans!

Hans Blix: Mr. Il, I was supposed to be allowed to inspect your palace today, but your guards won't let me enter certain areas.

Kim Jong Il: Hans, Hans, Hans! We've been frew this a dozen times. I don't have any books teaching evorrution, OK Hans?

Hans Blix: Then let me look around, so I can ease the evangelical movement's collective mind. I'm sorry, but the church must be firm with you. Let me in, or else.

Kim Jong Il: Or else what?

Hans Blix: Or else we will be very holily wrathful with you... and we will write you a letter, telling you how wrathful we are.

Kim Jong Il: OK, Hans. I'll show you. Stand to your reft.

Hans Blix: [Moves to the left]

Kim Jong Il: A rittle more.

Hans Blix: [Moves to the left again]

[Next bit deleted, in case it offends sensitive minds...]

Shawn Herles said...

Regarding Russia, it at least has a leader who understands what the word Conservative means, unlike the closet Cultural Marxists who run the National party.

http://news.yahoo.com/putin-defends-russian-conservative-values-102033416.html

Obama will apparently boycott the winter Olympics over Putin's speech, which, if I were Putin, I would count as a blessing.

Janice said...

Years ago I read that Newton was having trouble with irregularities in the orbits of Saturn and Jupiter. He reckoned that eventually they would cause the solar system to break apart and suggested that God was making regular adjustments to the orbits to keep things going. Someone, I can't remember who, told him that God doesn't act that way and eventually Newton worked out that the irregularities cancel each other out.

To me, saying that God guides evolution is like saying that God adjusts the orbits of Saturn and Jupiter. So maybe God predetermined the course of evolution. Maybe he set everything in just the right place at the moment of the Big Bang (presuming it ever occurred) that all those supposedly spontaneous collisions of atoms over billions of years would necessarily result in precisely this universe and this earth, with all its life forms, that has been going to the dogs since the Fall. That sounds more fantastic than the idea that God created everything in 6 days just by speaking it into existence. It also raises the problems of determinism.

As for the idea that, read literally, the 2 creation accounts are incompatible and contradictory, well, we're back to translation, treason and the question, "Did God really say that?". In The Wayyiqtol as 'Pluperfect': When and Why (Tyndale Bulletin 46.1,(1995) 117-140) C. John Collins argues that there is, "good reason, both from Hebrew grammar and from the structure of the first two chapters of Genesis, to support the pluperfect interpretation in 2:19." That is, there are good text-linguistic reasons to translate the verse as saying that the Lord God had (already) formed "every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens" before he formed Adam rather than saying that he formed Adam before he formed the beasts and birds.

So, no. If there aren't good reasons for assuming the stories are contradictory then there aren't good reasons for assuming they are "without historical factuality" or that they include "some things that did not happen 'as told'".

Anonymous said...

Shawn - things evidently haven't changed much from the days when Comrade David Benson-Pope had Marxist posters in his classroom (as well as tennis balls): 'for teaching German, natuerlich!'

NZ education: where every year is still 1968.

Martin Menshevik

Father Ron Smith said...

One thing I think we might all agree on,here; is that a little bit of education can be a very dangerous thing! And too much of it, sometimes equally dangerous.

Kurt said...

"Martin Menshevik"...?

Sorry, Martin, you appear to me to be far to the right of even the right-wing of the Mensheviks who actually were not very "right-wing" at all).

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

David Wilson said...

I would like to add my thanks to Peter for the article.

To those who say "Genesis presents as history", please then address the point that Peter makes in the article when he makes the obvious point that there are two incompatible creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2. Which of these is the true history and which of them is false history?

I don't think Peter is the first to make this point. I believe that Augustine of Hippo also noticed this, and so came to the same conclusion.

Michael said...

"... the point that Peter makes in the article ..."

No, he doesn't.

"Which of these is the true history and which of them is false history?"

Why should either be false? Be careful of unsupported assumptions!

MichaelA said...

"I believe that Augustine of Hippo also noticed this, and so came to the same conclusion."

St Augustine did not come to the same conclusion, or anything like it.

MichaelA said...

"... the point that Peter makes in the article ..."

No, he doesn't.

"Which of these is the true history and which of them is false history?"

Why should either be false? Be careful of unsupported assumptions!

Anonymous said...

My most important question is:

Where exactly do you see the boundary, Peter, where you see the unhistoric Genesis switch to historic? And why?

You mention where some “biblical historians” randomly draw the line, not agreeing with each other as you indicate. There are others who would not accept the Acts of the Apostles as history and use your approach throughout the Bible.

You say “I would be the first to be delighted if science and history pointed to each and every aspect of Genesis 1-3 being both accurate theology and science and history. At this stage in our learning this does not appear to be the case.” How is this different from what others would say, for example, about Christ’s resurrection? People can find just as many contradictions there as you can here, and come to your conclusions, but for the resurrection.

Why do you have this as being written by Moses?

How do you conclude there is undoubtedly a first couple? How do you discern that from the Bible when you toss out the history of the rest of the account? Why keep that but not the rest? Are you not starting from certain presuppositions which you must wrest from the text rather than allowing the text to speak for itself?

Neil

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Neil,
There is an important sense in which I am saying that the line re history and Genesis is actually drawn through Adam and Eve: they stand as much for all humanity coming into being (and then also as two people beginning the line which leads to Abraham to Israel and to Jesus.

I think there is a huge difference between working out what Genesis 1-3 is saying about history and what Acts is saying. I understand that some people treat both Genesis and Acts as (say) 'theological fiction'. But I don't: Luke writes Acts, whether in about 62 AD or later in 80 AD with plenty of historical materials at his disposal (eyewitnesses, documents, personal knowledge of society and geography) unlike Moses who had little in the way of similar resources to tell his narrative.

Why Moses? He is ascribed as the author of the five books of Torah. Almost certainly, not least because of the ending of Deuteronomy after Moses departs this earth, the actuality of the process of composition of the five books was more complex than we might suppose by naming a single author(ity) over the five books.

Why might I approach Genesis differently to the resurrection? Ordinarily I think one might approach claims of a resurrection with a degree of scientific scepticism as the general evidence of life and death points to death being death/end of life. But in the case of Jesus we have an extraordinary array of eyewitnesses to the reality of the risen Jesus.

With the account of the creation and initial development of the world in Genesis 1-3 we have quite a lot of evidence pointing to at least a more complex story, if not a contradictory one. Geology, for instance, points to the earth being older than initial readings of Genesis (by all) granted and to an older existence for the earth than current 'young earth' creationists read the account. The geology might be wrong (ditto evolutionary biology) but in the absence of eyewitnesses to creation it seems something we should take into account as we read Genesis 1-3.


All this is way too brief for the importance of the questions you ask! I might be wrong about presuming there must have been just one initial human couple ...

I do not think what I have written amounts to "toss out the history from the rest of the account." I am trying to take seriously the Bible's account of creation which if true cannot contradict what science/history has to also say truthfully.

As a commenter or two has observed here: people actually seem more likely to walk from the faith if we deny the validity of truthful science than if we try to find a way to understand the Bible as truthful alongside the science.

Anonymous said...

Kurt, you're a Unitedstatesian, one of the peoples of the Americas, but not one renowned for irony.
However, you do know that 'menshevik' means 'minority party', which was the second layer of my irony.
As for 'right' and 'left', these terms derived from the old French assembly, though difficult to avoid, are often very unhelpful and misleading today. The Communist Party in Russia today is bizarrely called 'conservative' or 'right-wing' by some illiterate commentators.
My belief in Christian freedom, classical education, personal dignity and personal responsibility, along with the duty to care for the weak and promote marriage and the family and reject drug-taking and mindless "entertainment", marks me out as a radical in the corporatist, conforming world today: the alliance of the super-wealthy with Hollywood and liberal statism, and the State-sdponsored ignorance that masquerades as public education today. This is the status quo that this Christian Menshevik despises deeply.

Happy Holidays as you gather round the Holiday Tree in Obamaland!

Martin Menshevik (piscis vivus contra aestum)

Bryden Black said...

I am intrigued that so far this thread has demonstrated with great clarity what CS Lewis called “chronological snobbery” - aka “the latest is the best”, or even “the latest is not only correct, the past is oh so wrong”.
That is, no-one so far has cited any of the countless voices from the past 2000 years of Christian thought: classically e.g. Augustine’s Confessions, Books 11-13 especially; but by no means only him, e.g. Basil of Caesarea’s Homilies on the Hexaemeron (literally, in Greek, “the six days”!).
If I start my own tuppence worth here it is to ask ADU bloggers to ponder why this “chronological snobbery” should rear its head even here?!

Then a few literary points not so far covered, despite Peter’s otherwise excellent introduction. It has long been pointed out that heading Gen 1 is the description “without form and void”, so that thereafter the pattern of six days addresses precisely this ‘problem’: days 1-3 provide the form, and days 4-6 the content; so that furthermore, days 1 & 4 pair up, days 2 & 5, and 3 & 6 likewise. Westermann in particular points out how the first 3 days offer the most basic sequence of all form: day 1 = time, day 2 vertical space, and day 3 horizontal space.

Then finally for now, John Walton has tweaked this way of viewing Genesis 1's literary structure by asking an even more basic question: Gen 1 is not about ‘origins’ exactly, the approach so beloved of us westerners ever since Charles Darwin cornered the market with his On the Origin of Species, first published in 1859, and running to six editions by 1872. Here we see the agenda firmly set for us, by his providing the predominant mood and mind-set. Walton however quietly points out the Ancient Near East simply did not think like this. They on the other hand were into trying to grapple with all those gods and spirits who were the cosmic functionaries that kept things going ... Gen 1 addresses this mind-set by demythologizing this view: no; these are not gods and spirits to be worshiped and appeased etc.; rather, there is only ONE GOD and he has created effortlessly and freely all these various functions (days 1-3), performed by these material functionaries (days 4-6). The end result is a cosmic temple - something the ancients were deeply appreciative of - where the God of Israel, who is Lord of heaven and Earth, may dwell (day 7). See The Lost World of Genesis One.

As my teachers of old used to say: unless you ask the right question(s), you will never ever even approach the better sorts of answer(s). So; what is the right (form of the) question, folks?!

Peter Carrell said...

Great points, Bryden!

Anonymous said...

Well, I was thinking of weighing in, Bryden, especially when I read the misunderstanding of Augustine above, but I also fancied a Christmas truce ....
Briefly, Augustine didn't believe in a literal six-day creation; as a literary man reared on The Aeneid (Augustus' gift to Roman schoolboys' education!), Cicero and other classics, he was always sensitive to literary matters and needed Ambrose's direction to help him overcome his prejudices in reading the OT. Augustine in fact thought that creation was simultaneous and Gen 1. was a literary form, not a temporal sequence. He did however believe in a historical Adam and Eve.
The literary reading that Bryden alludes to has a lot of support among evangelicals. It's in the NIV Study Bible and Gordon Wenham's Word commentary, but is expounded most thoroughly of all in Henri Blocher's 'In the Beginning' (1984). (I did share a taxi with Henri Blocher once, but I was too ashamed to tell him I had his book but hadn't read it. I have done so now, and recommend it for people interested in a post-Wellhausenist way of seeing how Gen 1 and Gen 2 can relate canonically.) I agree that John Walton is a good read too - I enjoyed his 'Ancient Israelite Literature in its Cultural Context'.
Back to the truce!
Kurt, Ron, Carl and I will be singing 'Stille Nacht' on Christmas Eve, then a game of football in the morning. I don't expect Kurt and Carl will know the rules.

2nd Lt. Martin Blackadder,
The Somme

Kurt said...

I played soccer in high school, Martin.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

carl jacobs said...

Martin

Here I had resolved to henceforth stay out of this thread. Why do you tempt me so with your wanton accusations? Of course I know the rules of football.
They may be found here. Notice the word 'Football' in the title.

I was quite excited earlier this year when I discovered ESPN was carrying EPL soccer on Saturday morning. But then ESPN lost the contract to a network that I don't receive. I figure eventually I will be able to watch it. And it would be nice if someone decided to show Rugby here as well.

carl

Tim Chesterton said...

Beautiful allusion to the Christmas truce, Martin Blackadder! Nicely done! I used to be a pretty good soccer player myself in my younger days, but I don't go back to 1914 as you do!

Speaking of literary matters, Walter Brueggeman's excellent commentary on Genesis also brings out the possibility that Genesis One may have taken its final form in conscious opposition to Babylonian creation myths at the time of the exile. Intriguing.

A blessed Christmas to all the brothers and sisters here at ADU.

Bryden Black said...

Extensive throat clearing required ahead of this response!

Then: THIS IS A KIWI BLOG FELLAHS! THERE IS ONLY ONE RELIGION HERE - IT IS CALLED RUGBY UNION!

And all alternative games are reduced to the Rules of the Annual Tributes of the Hunger Games - there can only be one winner!

Let the Games begin; and may the odds be with you!

carl jacobs said...

It's a conspiracy. That's what it is. My perfectly good link was corrupted by a nefarious person or persons unknown with a bias for obsolete usages.

www.nfl.com/rulebook

carl

Anonymous said...

"Kurt said...
I played soccer in high school, Martin."

I bet you were their leading left-winger!

We still need a neutral ref.... Yes, I have a cunning plan. Shawn?

Happy Hol- no! Merry, Merry CHRISTMAS!

L/Cpl Martin Baldrick

Anonymous said...

1) So the “huge difference” between Genesis and Acts is due to “plenty of historical materials at [Luke’s] disposal (eyewitnesses, documents, personal knowledge of society and geography)”. In one swoop you have eliminated the possibility of all Biblical prophecy.

2) I have no idea what you mean, Peter: “I am saying that the line re history and Genesis is actually drawn through Adam and Eve”. Can you expand on this in a straightforward way?

2) “It is necessary to acknowledge that we have different knowledge at this point to Jesus and Paul. In their Jewish upbringing there was only one whole story of creation woven into the history of Israel (i.e. the Jewish Scripture we know as the Old Testament), thus this story was indistinguishable from ‘history’ in their conception of it, and consequently they naturally talked of Adam and Eve as historical figures.” This refers back to the discussion this post is based on. So can Jesus and/or Paul be mistaken? Are they bound by their times? Is Paul wrong: was there death before Adam’s sin?

Neil

Janice said...

Hi Peter,

people actually seem more likely to walk from the faith if we deny the validity of truthful science than if we try to find a way to understand the Bible as truthful alongside the science.

Who would want to deny the validity of 'truthful' science? But here is the thing; there is no truthful 'science' about anything that occurred prior to the implementation of the scientific method(s). There is only more or less plausible story telling. The stories are based on circumstantial evidence, sure, but how plausible they are to us is a function of our level of ignorance and/or desire that the story be true. Remember that Lindy Chamberlain was convicted of the murder of her baby Azaria on the basis of circumstantial evidence combined with ignorance of all the properties of the reagent used to test for foetal blood, a desire to see the dingo get off and a desire to punish Lindy for being who and what she was which, therefore, led to a desire to ignore evidence supporting her innocence.

A story isn't scientific just because it presupposes naturalism and it isn't true just because a lot of people, including scientists, want to believe it's true. It's not enough to say that we're here, there is no God, therefore we must have evolved. A properly scientific story has to accord with what is known from empirical science and what we do know now is that there is a limit beyond which we cannot go in trying to change some creature into something else. Therefore it's more likely than not that neo-Darwinian progressive evolution is false.

But anyway, have a happy Christmas playing cricket or soccer or whatever.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Neil,
I haven't eliminated the possibility of biblical prophecy in one fell swoop. That is just silly. What I am trying to do is to make sense of the way history is conveyed to us in the Bible when a writer is trying to be historical (rather than prophetic). For example, there is a historical question of how to explain Kings' account of Manassah as a straightforwardly wicked king and Chronicles' account of the same king as one who repented of his wicked ways. It is not a sweeping away of the possibility of biblical prophecy to ask the questions whether one history is more accurate than another, even whether one contradicts the other, and whether one is going about its work with one theological agenda and the other with another agenda. To take another example: is Luke sweeping away the possibility of biblical prophecy when his preface, 1:1-4 effectively calls into question how good the gospel accounts of Matthew and Mark are?

The line through Adam and Eve: on just about any reckoning, except that of Bishop Usher who argued that the world was created in 4004 BC and all young earth creationists following him, it is accepted that there is more to the history of humanity, i.e. it extends back further, than the generations of the Bible actually say. But this also raise the question, especially in the light of dating of ancient human remains going back a very, very long time ago, longer than human memory seems to have actually remembered, whether 'Adam' and 'Eve' can reasonably refer to a literal first man and first woman as remembered via genealogy or to an unremembered first man and first woman with Adam and Eve being a kind of collective of all men and women before Cain, Abel and Seth, including the very first male human and first female human: in that sense the story of Adam and Eve is both 'mythical' ( offering an account of the origin of humanity) and historical (it is a reasonable deduction from the known history of humanity via genealogy) that before the historically known first humans there were prior humans.

Another way of putting this is that with the biblical account of Adam and Eve we have the myth of human origins meeting the history of human origins meeting the beginning of the genealogy which formed the backbone of Israel's history.

Language about mistakes is tricky. Is a person in (say) 30 AD who says that the world was destroyed in a flood mistaken if a person in 2030 can (using geology, oceanography) can say that the world was not so destroyed? In both cases each claim would be made using the best knowledge available to them. What are we claiming if in (say) 3030, in the then state of knowledge, we said that both were wrong or both were right ...!

To take another matter, of around 30 AD: when Jesus speaks about Jonah, is he speaking about an historical character or a fictional character? Would he have known? Would it have made a difference to the way he spoke about Jonah? [In my view what Jesus says about Jonah is consistent with either possibility of Jonah being an historical or a fictional character!]

Paul/Adam/death: I do not think Paul is mistaken. Genesis (on my reckoning] is telling us that from the very beginning of humanity there has been a fall, sin has co-existed with humanity's history and thus death has been a feature of history, always since the time of Adam and Eve.

On this understanding, Paul is referring to death in human experience rather than death as a general feature of nature ... see discussion above.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Janice
The scientific method (or methods) is not a guarantee of truthfulness, as you rightly observe, using a tragic example.

But the scientific method (or methods) are extraordinarily reliable (cf. our dependence on science whether flying a plane or taking many (but not all) drugs.

I ask myself whether I am consistent in trusting science, both when it suits (hopping on a plane) and when it does not suit (discussing life in the past).

Janice said...

Hi Peter,

Obviously, I haven't made my point clear.

There is a big difference between the science of flight and talking about events that occurred in the past. The former is based on empirical testing whereas the latter is more or less speculative and, depending on how much we know about how similar events occur in the present, more or less likely to fall victim to the perils of abductive reasoning.

For example, when Barringer (Meteor) Crater in Arizona was discovered no meteorite had ever been known to produce an impact crater. People theorised that if one did the crater should be elongated. They thought that the only way a circular crater could form was through volcanic activity. They also theorised that if a meteorite did form the crater it should be about the same size as the crater and therefore the volume of the ejected material should be greater than the volume of the remaining hole. On investigation it was found that the volume was not greater and, therefore, despite the lack of volcanic rocks in the area the crater was attributed to volcanic activity. Then Barringer came along. He had evidence for believing it was an impact crater but he also thought the remains of the meteorite should still be at the bottom of the crater because, at that time, nobody knew that meteorites could vaporise on impact. So he started mining for the iron but didn't find anything like the amount he expected. It wasn't until Eugene Shoemaker came along and identified shocked quartz crystals in the crater (which he recognised because he had examined craters formed by nuclear explosions) that it was confirmed that it could not have formed by volcanic activity and had to be an impact crater.

Now, the evidence that a wing of a certain shape and size will produce a lift of a certain amount at certain air speeds is discovered by subjecting the wing to testing, taking measurements, doing calculations and so on. That is doing science.

The proposition that life developed from simple to complex forms is based on certain observations that in themselves can be called scientific, e.g., this fossil was found in a rock layer below the layer in which a fossil of another type was found. However, the reasoning that takes these observations and weaves them into a story about the development of life is not doing science. It is merely talking about science or making an argument. It has nothing to do with the scientific method. It is analogous to what police and lawyers do when they link bits of evidence to build up a story of guilt or innocence in a court room, except that in the court room the scientific meaning behind each bit of evidence that is linked to make the argument (fingerprints, DNA, blood spatter patterns, etc.) is generally firmly established whereas we really have no clue how a single celled creature could turn into an elephant or a fish or a human being. To say it happened by (random? God directed?) mutation plus natural selection is just to make an assertion based on no evidence that really compels belief. That is a very different situation to the amount of evidence available that it is safe to take a ride on a plane.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Janice
I understand you very well and certainly recognise the difference between aspects of the past which are unrepeatable and possibilities for repeated testing re present circumstances.

Yet your own example of the crater speaks of good science being used to accurately deduce what happened in the past.

Is it poor science to propose the tectonic plate theory in order to explain the separation of the continents, or the levels of fossils in NZ mountains to explain past incidence of rising and falling sea levels? If it is not then we have a basis for thinking that the earth and by extension the universe is very old.

What are we to make of fossil evidence for old humans in the Rift Valley etc? Sure, it may be making too much to posit some of the theories of human development that have been shown to be flawed when the next significant fossil is discovered. But is it making too little of this evidence if, say, we deny evolutionary development towards Homo sapiens as we know ourselves today?

Father Ron Smith said...

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio.." - William S. - a great philosopher, humanitarian and pseudo-historian.

MichaelA said...

"For example, there is a historical question of how to explain Kings' account of Manassah as a straightforwardly wicked king and Chronicles' account of the same king as one who repented of his wicked ways. It is not a sweeping away of the possibility of biblical prophecy to ask the questions whether one history is more accurate than another, even whether one contradicts the other..."

Why on earth would you want to, Peter? The Manasseh accounts aren't in conflict. Not even close.

"To take another example: is Luke sweeping away the possibility of biblical prophecy when his preface, 1:1-4 effectively calls into question how good the gospel accounts of Matthew and Mark are?"

Again, why would anyone think that Luke is doing anything of the sort? Rationally, I mean. He says nothing to that effect, doesn't even imply it.

This is just appears to be regurgitated 19th century liberalism - "let's find contradictions in the bible even though we have no rational basis for doing so, because it fits in with our zeitgeist". Yeah, whatever.

"But this also raise the question, especially in the light of dating of ancient human remains going back a very, very long time ago ..."

So is this based on the same flimsy basis as your first two examples? Really!

I don't much care about evolution - I have never heard an explanation for it that sounds rational, and I am yet to be convinced that any of the so-called dating experts have a clue what they are talking about. So why does it matter? I am certainly not going to alter my reading of the bible based on guesses and pseudo-science, which much of paleontology appears to be.

The only reason evolutionists demand incredibly long dating is because they have never found any clear evidence that macro-evolution actually happens - as opposed to micro-evolution, which is simply breeding, and can happen in a few generations - but micro-evolution will never lead to a dog becoming anything but a dog. With hugely long dating periods, macro-evolution can sound plausible. But there is still no evidence it has ever happened. So why waste time on it? The average person in the street doesn't care.

"whether 'Adam' and 'Eve' can reasonably refer to a literal first man and first woman as remembered via genealogy or to an unremembered first man and first woman..."

Yes, yes, standard liberal guff. The person who is doing the "remembering" is God, remember? If Genesis contains blatantly wrong information then the Bible is not the word of God and we shouldn't be obeying it, and you shouldn't be requiring anyone else to obey it. .

Could God have created other human beings? Sure. But the whole course of the Genesis narrative implies that Adam and Eve were the first. The Bible tells us that sin and death entered the world through them. Ever since then mankind and the whole creation has groaned in anguish. How long ago did they live? Probably a lot more than 4004 BC - the Hebrew leaves plenty of room for that. But that still to me is not a reason to accept the theory of evolution - its a theory that has to be proved, like any other, and I don't regard it as credible, even when you can reconcile the different versions of it.

"in that sense the story of Adam and Eve is both 'mythical' ( offering an account of the origin of humanity) and historical (it is a reasonable deduction from the known history of humanity via genealogy) that before the historically known first humans there were prior humans."

"Mythical" does not mean "offering an account of the origin of humanity", so lets not mince words - mythical carries clear overtones in ordinary speech of "not true" or "fantastical". And Jesus doesn't speak of Genesis as being based on "reasonable deduction", but as the word of God.

MichaelA said...

"Is a person in (say) 30 AD who says that the world was destroyed in a flood mistaken if a person in 2030 can (using geology, oceanography) can say that the world was not so destroyed?"

Since that person is Christ and his Apostles, the chap who uses modern geology and oceanography to say it didn't happen is wrong. Anyone can twist science to say they have proof that this or that did or did not happen tens of thousands of years ago (and even more easily when its millions of years ago), with the absolute certainty that they can never be proved either wrong or right. Its perfect for sellers of snake-oil.

We have seen this throughout history - all the people who said that the biblical accounts were total rubbish, and they are regularly proved wrong. If an academic says they can see no evidence that the flood occurred, then I can live with that. But anyone who says that they know for certain that the biblical flood didn't happen is a fool - and I do mean that in the sense used by the apostles!

"To take another matter, of around 30 AD: when Jesus speaks about Jonah, is he speaking about an historical character or a fictional character? Would he have known? Would it have made a difference to the way he spoke about Jonah? [In my view what Jesus says about Jonah is consistent with either possibility of Jonah being an historical or a fictional character!]"

Really? Consider the following: "The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here." [Luke 11:32] It sounds to me like Jesus views Jonah as every bit as historical as himself. Alternatively, if he regards Jonah as myth, then he regards himself as myth also. As I wrote above, the view you espouse is just garden-variety liberalism from the school of Tuebingen in the 19th century. And its no more convincing now than it was then.

"Paul/Adam/death: I do not think Paul is mistaken. Genesis (on my reckoning] is telling us that from the very beginning of humanity there has been a fall, sin has co-existed with humanity's history and thus death has been a feature of history, always since the time of Adam and Eve...."

That's not what Genesis says. It says that there was no sin and no death until the moment of man's disobedience.

Hence why Paul speaks about Adam as an historical person.

"On this understanding, Paul is referring to death in human experience rather than death as a general feature of nature ... see discussion above."

Since that is not what Paul says, why read it in there? Unless avoiding the mocking of pro-evolutionists is your overriding goal, in which case good luck to you!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi MichaelA
I have no particular interest or motivation in finding contradictions in the Bible but I am trying to make a point, to which your own thinking is resistant!, that the Bible is a complex set of books as it tells the history of God's people.

I do not think myth boils down to fantasy and untruth, though I understand that the word 'myth' is often understood in that way.

For what it is worth I think you breeze past the difficulties created by the differences in Kings and Chronicles over Manassah. Is it not extraordinary that Kings would avoid telling us of the grace of God in leading this evil king to repentance? Is it not playing with the facts of history for Kings to omit his repentance in order to shape its history of Israel towards a simple binary good kings/bad kings model? (If that is good history telling, without the intrusion of any kind of 'myth' making then you are the propagator of a vulnerable approach to apologetics!)

I don't think one has to believe in a theory of macro evolution in order to take seriously the many fossil records of 'old' humanity with its complexities between Africa, Europe and Asia. Even Genesis itself, with reference to the wives of Adam's sons alludes to a more complex origin of humanity than one moment no humans, 'nek minit' Adam and Eve.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi MichaelA (responding to your 12.55 comment above)

I do not think it helpful of you to invoke avoiding "the mocking of pro-evolutionists" - that is neither a worthy thought from one brother in Christ to another nor in any way fair to what I am attempting to do in this post-and-thread.

If evolution has no bearing at all on the story and history of human origins then you and I are on the same page and Genesis and Paul can be read together as a coherent theological interpretation of reliable history. If evolution has some bearing then I am trying to find a way to read the Bible and the pages of science. That is all.

Rightly you point out difficulties in my brief elucidation of the biblical accounts in my comment above. Clearly I need to improve that, but I am not going to attempt that in a comment (and so close to Christmas!)

One point about the flood I am trying to make is not whether it occurred or not but whether the whole globe was covered in all that water or not. Can we contemplate Jesus being a man of his time in thinking that the flood covered the whole world when likely it did not?

As for Jonah, you make a good point re the way Jesus talks about the men of Ninevah: chalk one up for the historicity of Jonah. You may be aware that nevertheless there are other problems to consider re the historicity of Jonah.

I am not sure that it follows that if Jesus did regard Ninevah as a myth that he then regards himself as a myth.

Bryden Black said...

Hi Michael! As with the Fourth Gospel on another thread, so too now re your comments about "Jonah".

I really think it might advance this discussion if you were to read the likes of Alister McGrath's recent The Intellectual World of CS Lewis. For here you will see how an immersion in the LITERARY world of Scripture helps to avoid certain basic mistakes.

Another example: I can readily see Hamlet, the character of the Shakespearean drama, as a real person, and in some circumstances wish his voice and presence to make key observations about the reality of the world.

Similarly, it may be claimed the Book of Jonah is a Hebrew drama; the Book of Ruth almost certainly is one such - in 8 brief acts. Which most certainly does NOT undercut the Gospel genealogies, nor deny that 'once upon a time' there was this individual woman. Rather, her 'reality' is now couched in a form that is way larger than her own persona - as is Hamlet's.

Last but not least: if you really want to delve into who we humans are before God, I suggest a read of Jean-Luc Marion's In the Self's Place: The Approach of St Augustine. It is quite simply the closest reading of the Confessions I have ever encountered. An utter tour de force! And one that undercuts many a reading of who you and I 'are' ... Let alone Jonah or Ruth - or even the Logos-made-flesh, for that matter!

Anonymous said...

"One point about the flood I am trying to make is not whether it occurred or not but whether the whole globe was covered in all that water or not. Can we contemplate Jesus being a man of his time in thinking that the flood covered the whole world when likely it did not?"

Ah, careless talk costs lives, as they used to say in the first half of the 20th century. I'm afraid you're back with the same problem I tasked Bosco with in his arbitrary interpretation of Chalcedon and the infallibility of Christ. Of course you can "contemplate" this - as long as you "contemplate a man of his time" also believing in angels, demons, the existence of hell, the cataclysmic 'end of the world' and his personal return as King (pace Bultmann). What makes some things believable and other things so much cultural detritus? Is it our personal investment in them being true?
Was Jonah a historical figure? Our Lord's words suggest so, but whether we read everything in the Book of Jonah as historical, parabolic or a mixture of both must be determined in the first instance by discerning what kind of book this is. (I take the same approach to Genesis 1-11.) Of course the book was well known in first century Jewish circles; was Jesus appealing to popular knowledge of the book without commenting on its historicity? That's a genuine question from me, not a rhetorical one. That's why I avoid using the word 'myth' in such discussions: it's laden with too many conflicting assumptions about history, truth, symbolism and value to be of much use. But I do know that when we use evident fiction in preaching (as I have done in referring to 'Les Miserables'), the point only carries conviction if it resonates with real life. If we never met a 'good Samaritan' in the flesh, I don't know what we would make of the parable.
I don't imagine anyone is going to stand up at midnight on Christmas Eve to tell us, 'This is a beautiful story, but it's secondary and of course nowadays science tells us ....' - but who knows what St Matthew's-in-a-Quandary will discover this year? :)

Gloria in atlissimis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis

Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Er, Martin, a few years ago, when perchance it was a matter of convenience to attend a Presbyterian service for Christmas, it happened that one of the "Lloyd Geering is my spiritual grandfather" kind of Presbyterians was preaching and we got something akin to what you think would not happen!

Briefly as the welter of Christmas duties and pleasures bears down upon me like a mythical train from a movie about out of control locomotives ... I am not quite sure how Jesus the man from Nazareth talking about the flood as global when it was more Middle Eastern and surrounds is some kind of unreasonable constraint on his knowledge as a man of his times which then leads to jettisoning talk of angels and demons ... last time I checked in on such matters, they remain real, present and truly global.

The fact is that science does teach us some things. Including the value of taking penicillin as well as praying when we are sick. Or are meant to ignore science at that point and only pray?

In short, I wonder (as a reflection you do not need to respond to, given the season and its many responsibilities) whether you drive to strong a divide between science and faith?

Bryden Black said...

Happy Christmas Peter!
One thing: science, faith and society, written by Michael Polanyi, and published in 1947, notes there is no necessary conflict or divide between science and faith! For science too is an act of faith and Christian faith a due exercise of reason; and both communal phenomena.

Father Ron Smith said...

There are some benefits in observing the non-proliferation of new blogs in the Advent/Christmas Season. This has enabled me to more closely study what our Host has already written on this thread:

"Luke writes Acts, whether in about 62 AD or later in 80 AD with plenty of historical materials at his disposal (eyewitnesses, documents, personal knowledge of society and geography) unlike Moses who had little in the way of similar resources to tell his narrative." - Dr. Peter Carrell -

This begs the question:

Was God communicating factual and historical information to Moses, after which the Old Testament came into being?

Or was Genesis, in fact, myth?

OR, is it a bit of both? And does the answer give us any insight into the the aetiology of the Old Testament Scriptures?

Perhaps either Peter or Shawn could give us THE answer.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS ALL!

(What I DO know - in my heart of hearts - is that God became Fully human at the Incarnation. How do I know that? I don't really know. But that I Do Know it, I know.)

Christus natus est! Alleluia!

carl jacobs said...

Peter

You speak as if scientists have no preconceptions but simply follow the evidence wherever it leads. That's nonsense. You must differentiate between legitimate acts of science (which require controlability, repeatability, and falsifiability) and the philosophy that undergrads so much of modern scientific thought. What is that philosophy? That all things can be explained within the confines of the natural universe.

It is not science to assert that life must be chemistry because chemistry is all we can observe, and naturalism cannot explain a ghost in the shell. It is not science to assert that the 'initial state' of the the universe must be the state at time equals zero because anything else would require a discontinuity that Naturalism cannot explain. It is not science to assert that evolution is true when no one has ever observed like begetting unlike. There are no experiments. There is no controlability. There is no repeatability. There is inference based upon evidence sifted through the philosophical filter I mentioned above. It is not science to assert that all of existence consists of matter and energy without explaining the existence of matter and energy. Musings into this question have produced what can only be described as a non-theistic metaphysic, and reveals the true animosity of an towards the idea of divine authority.

This is the problem. Men are being sold a philosophy and being told it is science. And then God gets called a liar (ever so politely of course) as men genuflect towards this new authority in the temple. I won't bow before that god or pour libations on its altar. But that is what is being demanded of me. You want me to meld the conclusions of philosophical naturalism into a divine narrative on subject matter that science doesn't even have the ability to investigate. Why would I do that?

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
I do not want you to combine philosophical naturalism with theology and I hope I am not making that error myself.

I have studied the philosophy of science and thus agree with you on much of what you say in your comment.

Where I disagree is over the ability of science to investigate the past. A tricky subject, to be sure, but one which is possible: see just about any murder crime scene, or, in a different direction, note that much of astronomy is ancient history!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
I do not want you to combine philosophical naturalism with theology and I hope I am not making that error myself.

I have studied the philosophy of science and thus agree with you on much of what you say in your comment.

Where I disagree is over the ability of science to investigate the past. A tricky subject, to be sure, but one which is possible: see just about any murder crime scene, or, in a different direction, note that much of astronomy is ancient history!

Anonymous said...

Carl, thank you for summarising succinctly the methodological problems I have with the theory of macro-evolution by natural selection, when compared with the repeatable, controllable and falsifiable sciences of chemistry and physics, as well as most biology.
Bryden has referenced the great Michael Polanyi, who above all us reminded us that 'facts' are always theory-laden and always involve the observer as much as the observed. That goes as much for Neo-Darwinism as for literary criticism of the Bible.

Martin Fitzroy

MichaelA said...

"but I am trying to make a point, to which your own thinking is resistant!, that the Bible is a complex set of books as it tells the history of God's people."

Why would you think that I don't view the bible as a complex series of books - just because I don't agree with some of your conclusions? :)

"I do not think myth boils down to fantasy and untruth, though I understand that the word 'myth' is often understood in that way."

Duly noted, fair enough.

"Is it not extraordinary that Kings would avoid telling us of the grace of God in leading this evil king to repentance?"

That depends entirely on what you think the point of Kings is. Look at any two biographies of Napoleon, and you will find numerous facts in one but not the other. Sometimes entire battles or campaigns are omitted from perfectly respectable histories. Some emphasise his infidelities, some his relations with the Jacobins, some emphasise his legal reforms, others concentrate on his contribution to logistics etc etc. The account of Manasseh's reign in Kings is just over 500 words long - for a 55 year reign! Of course it left things out - it left most things out.

The main point of the Kings account is the curse pronounced on *Judah* in verses 11-15 - more than one quarter of the whole account. And Manasseh's personal repentance did not affect this curse, just as it wasn't Manasseh's personal sin that was solely responsible for it - so why would the author of Kings need to mention his repentance? Its just not relevant.

"Is it not playing with the facts of history for Kings to omit his repentance in order to shape its history of Israel towards a simple binary good kings/bad kings model?"

Not unless you can show that it was relevant to Kings' point. Anyway, why do you think that Kings is all about "a simple binary good kings/bad kings model"?

"(If that is good history telling, without the intrusion of any kind of 'myth' making then you are the propagator of a vulnerable approach to apologetics!)"

My view is that the writer of Kings is a much better historian than you seem to appreciate, even by secular standards. But we can agree to disagree!

MichaelA said...

“I do not think it helpful of you to invoke avoiding "the mocking of pro-evolutionists" - that is neither a worthy thought from one brother in Christ to another nor in any way fair to what I am attempting to do in this post-and-thread.”

It wasn’t a serious suggestion Peter, as should have been clear. But if it is a sensitive issue then I will not mention it again.

“If evolution has no bearing at all on the story and history of human origins then you and I are on the same page and Genesis and Paul can be read together as a coherent theological interpretation of reliable history. If evolution has some bearing then I am trying to find a way to read the Bible and the pages of science. That is all.”

To me that is simply a false dichotomy – I don’t equate evolution with “the pages of science” as you do – I view it as a huge assumption on your part. Evolution to me is a bunch of half-baked and semi-consistent speculations, a very small part of which are supported by some sort of evidence. So why waste time on them?

“Can we contemplate Jesus being a man of his time in thinking that the flood covered the whole world when likely it did not?”

Who says it did not? The Old Testament narrative seems consistent with it covering most of the earth if not all of it, and flood narratives are found all over the world. The evidence that it did not appears to be more lack of evidence than any positive reason.

As for Jesus’ words, what reason do we have to think he would be mistaken about what the OT scriptures said and what they did not? The same goes for Peter when he says that “the world at that time was deluged and destroyed”. I haven’t so far seen any cogent reason to doubt either of them.

MichaelA said...

“Hi Michael! As with the Fourth Gospel on another thread, so too now re your comments about "Jonah".”

Hi Bryden. I am sorry but I just have no idea what you are getting at.

“I really think it might advance this discussion if you were to read the likes of ...”

I appreciate that every one of us have read books that others have not, and it’s a very human trait to think that if others would only read exactly the same books that we have, then they would believe the same as us… ;) However, for the purposes of a blog discussion, it should be possible to summarise good points for the edification of others!

“For here you will see how an immersion in the LITERARY world of Scripture helps to avoid certain basic mistakes.”

If you think I am making basic mistakes, then say what they are. No need to be coy! ;) And who knows, you might just find that others do know a little about the literary world of scripture…

“Similarly, it may be claimed the Book of Jonah is a Hebrew drama; the Book of Ruth almost certainly is one such - in 8 brief acts.”

Of course they are drama. That doesn’t mean either is in the least inaccurate.

“It is quite simply the closest reading of the Confessions I have ever encountered.”

Apart from actually reading them oneself, of course – something I would recommend to anyone who wants to get to know Augustine. Along with his other works. Many are available in English which is good for me because I have small Latin (although rather more Greek than Shakespeare, at least according to Jonson).

carl jacobs said...

Peter

How does a police officer investigate a crime scene? He begins with the logical inference that the criminal is a man - as opposed to a zombie or a ghost or a Daleck or any of these other creatures we know do not exist. He knows a priori the nature of the actor. This is important. To accurately understand the action you must understand the actor behind the action. Assume for example that a police officer finds a dead body almost devoid of blood and exhibiting two puncture wounds on the neck. Does he assume a vampire did this? No, he knows the actor was a man because there are no vampires. He begins with a bounded problem.

Scientific naturalism also wants a bounded problem. It demands that we make that same kind of inference regarding the actor behind the origin of existence. Why? Because it "knows" that angels and demons and gods do not exist. What is more important, it knows they couldn't be slapped into test tubes and examined. So to begin this investigation of the origin of the universe, we have already made a critical assumption. We have assumed that we can observe the actor behind existence. What is the rationale for this assumption? That anything else is 'magic thinking' and beyond the realm of science. If it "just happened" then it can't be investigated because the cause is not observable. Science has to assume immanent cause to be able to make observations. But that doesn't make the assumption valid in every case.

The assumption that every cause is observable drives all of our investigation of origins. The conclusions reached will inevitably fit that assumption and only be as accurate as the assumption itself. But the unique acts of God cannot be reduced to a math model. They are not observable in a laboratory. Creation ex nihilo demands a non-observable cause. Can we pick through the light shifts and radio active decay and planet orbits to see God saying "Let there be...?" That statement comes from the testimony of the one actor who was around at the origin. The one reliable witness who was actually present and so can give a reliable account. His testimony is in Genesis. Why should we dispute that testimony of the basis of philosophical conclusions that were reached by assuming that Actor doesn't exist?

carl

carl jacobs said...

Peter

To return to the police officer at the crime scene. Forensic science is possible because the elements of the crime are observable. For example. To determine the victim's time of death you examine the state of the corpse: temperature, state, decomposition, insect presence. Then you compare your observations to the extensive detailed models that have been developed by prior observations of decomposing corpses. You can do the same for blood spatter and ballistics and fibers and fingerprints and DNA. Your observations don't stand alone in the naked dead crime scene. They rest upon extensive research and documentation that delivers scientific legitimacy to the conclusions. That research has been subjected to the criteria of controlability, repeatability, and falsification. That's why you can reconstruct events. Even so, you can't reconstruct them perfectly with forensics alone. A witness is a the only (theoretical) way to perfectly reconstruct the crime.

So what validated math models do you have that allow you to investigate the origin of the universe? Where is the extensive documentation that has been subjected to the same criteria that allows for successful forensic science? There are very few processes that men have observed for even a few centuries (say the orbit of the planets) let alone ten billion years. To extrapolate a process over such a time period you must assume continuity. The process as observed over a short period of time is assumed to be representative of the same process over a long period if time. Is that assumption true? We don't know and we have no way of ever knowing. But if that assumption is false, then every conclusion based upon that assumption is invalidated.

carl

carl jacobs said...

Peter

"But Wait! We have such a model." will come the objection. "The speed of light is constant. If we can see stars from Earth then the universe must at least be old enough to allow for light to traverse the intervening distance. Some of those stars are billions of years distant at the speed of light." A reasonable inference. The Universe then must at least be billions of years old. Correct?

But what was the initial state? There is, you see, a hidden series of assumptions in the above argument. It is assumed that for star light to be seen on Earth, the star must first form. The star must then emit a photon. The photon must then traverse the intervening distance before it could be seen on Earth. These assumptions are driven by a naturalist presupposition of events. The photon can't exist between Earth and the star unless it was first emitted by the star. Any other assertion requires an unnatural discontinuity. It would require that something caused the existence of the photon other than the star.

But of course creation is the ultimate discontinuity. And we know from the testimony of the Creator that the universe was created fit for purpose. Just as Adam was created with apparent age so that he would be fit for his purpose, so also the Universe. Adam was a functioning adult. He was not created as an infant. The first commandment after all was go have sex and produce children. The universe was likewise created as a functioning 'adult' system showing apparent age.

This is why I ask about initial state. The universe may display old age because all systems at steady state show age. The stars could be seen from Earth from the moment of creation because they were created to be seen. They exist to reveal something of God to men. God then is the source of the discontinuity in the existence of the photon. And His revelatory purpose explains the initial condition of the Universe at the moment of creation.

Of course none of this is science either. I can't prove any of it according to the scientific method. I simply begin from a different starting point. I begin with God and not the absence of God. I begin with the assumption that his testimony is true. I follow my presuppositions to their logical endpoint. The important point is that my naturalist opponent is doing exactly what I am doing. He is not compelled to believe by science. He conforms his science to his unbelief.

Thus it is written "Let God be true and every man a liar." Belief and unbelief are the determining factors here.

carl

carl jacobs said...

The Incarnation is the beginning of the center of the history of man. The Passion marks its exact center. And the Assumption marks its end. We look forward to that day when he comes again - not as a lamb but as a Lion.

Merry Christmas, Peter. And to all here assembled.

carl

Father Ron Smith said...

"I appreciate that every one of us have read books that others have not, and it’s a very human trait to think that if others would only read exactly the same books that we have, then they would believe the same as us" - Michael A -

My thoughts exactly, Michael. The trouble is, some people who recommend books are more reliant on other people's opinions than they are on doing the work of finding things out for themselves. And we all know where that leads.

Francis of Assisi, who was a great Saint, did not exactly appreciate any books other than the Bible. I guess that should say something of value to would-be didacts.

Remember, The Word had to become flesh before anyone could really understand what God was up to 'en Christo'.

Happy Christmas.

Peter Carrell said...

Merry Christmas Carl, Michael, Ron and others

I can snatch a moment here and there to post comments but festivity and family obligations through the holiday season mean I can offer no sure prediction when I might reply properly to your comments!

MichaelA said...

Good point Fr Ron.

Happy Christmas to all.

Bryden Black said...

“No need to be coy!” Gotcha Michael!

When in another thread you made the comment that John 6 was seemingly “two years” before the event of the Last Supper, and drew certain conclusions from that, you displayed an extraordinary lack of literary appreciation of how the FG was constructed and to what purpose(s). Likewise, when ‘reading’ either Ruth or Jonah it is “inaccurate” to view them apart from their literary genre(s), imposing on them kinds of “literalism” which are unwarranted by the novella form. But that’s the trouble with post Enlightenment rationalists, those brought up in the wake of it all: what’s deemed ‘natural and obvious’ just ain’t so from another/other perspective(s).

As a possible antidote, if I mention Lewis and AEMcG’s collection of essays, it’s on account of his ch.3 notably, though not exclusively, “A Gleam of Divine Truth: The Concept of Myth in Lewis’s Thought”. Here he recounts the role Tolkien, another literary master, played in Lewis’s conversion, especially with regards to the relationship between myth and history, and between mythos and logos. All of which I too am familiar with having encountered the classics as a primary and secondary schoolboy - though we need to add as well the triangular relationship among these last two, mythos and logos, and “drama” in Hellenistic culture. All of which again has huge significance for how one ‘reads’ parts of the OT & NT (though of course some have overplayed the role of so-called “redeemer myths”!).

Everything therefore depends upon what we think we are looking at or reading - even or especially the likes of Augustine’s Confessions. For to what genre does IT belong, pray tell?! What sorts of moulds does he break/pioneer?! I am more than happy to sit at the feet of not only Augustine as master/magister, but also Jean-Luc, whose wise insights I am most happy to be imbibe: he has initiated me into seeing aspects of this classic of Christian and world literature I had simply missed before. For, finally, I also wish not to be on the receiving end of Jn 9's frightful judgment! And an antidote for that is to foster the posture of a disciple - just so Lk 10:38-42.

Peter Carrell said...

Hello Commenters on Evolution/Creation

Now that I have some spare moments I am not sure that I have the energy to pick up the multitude of issues which inevitably arise from consideration of such a complex matter such as the history of life and the universe, short or long though it may be.

In general terms I think what I am asking is whether some theory of evolution can co-exist with the creation of the world from nothing (as attested in the Bible). It appears that some here are saying no theory of evolution can so co-exist while others are saying that some theory can.

The question also arises whether some theory of evolution can co-exist with the salvation of the world connected as that is with the fall of humanity. Again, some seem to think it cannot and some that it can. For me an important point to reflect is whether Genesis 1-3 constitutes a revelation from God telling us the accurate scientific/pictorial account of creation and the fall or a revelation from God through his servant Moses and later editors as they compose and then revise an Israelite account of creation by the one and only one YHWH, with no other rivals, which stands fit to compete with competing Egyptian and Babylonian accounts of creation and the beginnings of humanity (cf. comment above by Bryden Black).

A question for all to consider is what kind of account of the world is Genesis 1-3?

Bryden Black said...

Yes; a good specific question. As posted previously: from Basil and Augustine to John Walton we have various attempts at an answer.

For my money: I see a wholesome triangular set of answers among - the mythological, the historical and the existential. For which approach Betz gave me an A decades back! For what it's worth!

Janice said...

Hi Peter,

The problem with your question, "what kind of account of the world is Genesis 1-3?" is that people tend to answer on the basis of what they believe about other things. So people who believe in the Documentary Hypothesis and believe the OT was put together during the Babylonian captivity might say it's a polemic against ANE religions. Someone else who believes in progressive evolution might say it's poetry, or myth, or as I once heard someone say, a song sung around a campfire. Someone who doesn't believe in progressive evolution and believes that the Documentary Hypothesis has gone into an ever narrowing spiral until it has largely disappeared up its own fundaments might say it's historical narrative with, perhaps, literary features that make it easier to remember and pass along in an oral culture. I think <a href="http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2007/03/the_genre_of_ge.html>John Hobbins' treatment of the subject is interesting.</a> He says of Genesis 1 that it might be called a cosmological treatise and that, "It is not too much to say that the text has a scientific cast [but is not] meant as science as the term is usually understood. It aims far higher than that. It seeks to answer questions that are beyond the purview of science as conventionally defined."

I've never come across anyone who thinks it's a scientific text, not even among young earth creationists and I would put myself in that category. (There goes any credibility I might ever had had.) But anyway, I'd go with historical narrative with literary features and a scientific cast.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Janice
My own experience of 'young creationism' is that the exponents I have come across have not seemed as sympathetic as you to the historical narrative with literary features and a scientific cast approach to Genesis.

You make a good point about people reading into Genesis the kind of account they would like it to be.

Putting that in a positive way, I want to read into Genesis all that is theologically true about God the Creator and also read into it all that is consistent with what (controvertible) science is telling us about the cosmos and its origins.

Janice said...

Hi Peter,

First I'll fix that link, I hope.
John Hobbins' treatment of the subject is interesting.

And here's another problem; the word "evolution" is too imprecise. G. A. Kerkut said there was a Special Theory of Evolution (aka microevolution) and a General Theory of Evolution (aka macroevolution). Broadly speaking, the special theory says that change/adaptation can occur, the general theory says that change can occur to such a degree that life can arise from non-living matter (well, that's changed since Kerkut's day, no pun intended) and that it can then change into every kind of creature that has ever lived on the face of the earth. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the age when all these ideas gained currency, the change was considered to be in the direction of ever onward and upward progress - from simple to complex, from less fit to more fit and, in Darwin's eyes, from small brown people to that pinnacle of the human race, i.e., blokes like him. Yes, we can fairly call Darwin the Father of Racism.

But evolution of either sort has nothing to do with the problem atheists have with the creation of the world from nothing. When Big Bang theorising was in its early days atheists wanted the universe to have been eternal because that would have made God completely superfluous. When it became successful they wanted the 2nd law of thermodynamics not to apply so you could have Big Bangs and Big Crunches eternally and make God completely superfluous. Hawking is trying to introduce i (the square root of negative one) into the equations so the Big Bang will start at a curve rather than at a point. I'm not mathematically au fait enough to know how that might benefit the atheists' position. And now quantum physicists are saying that a quantum fluctuation in the nothing that was there resulted in something even though it's impossible for normal, open-minded people to imagine how there could be anything in nothing to fluctuate, quantumly or otherwise. From nothing nothing comes seems a fair proposition to me.

As for the salvation of the world and its connection to the fall of humanity, for me, if there was no actual Adam and Eve who actually, wilfully, disobeyed God and thus brought death into the world how could Jesus, by dying on the cross without having disobeyed, save me from a death penalty I owe for disobedience? It might be "loving" in the way that some parents let their kids get away with all kinds of bad behaviour (though I'd say that's not loving at all) but it's not just. There is punishment but no actual crime. And if God is not just how can he be good? Why should we trust him about anything?

MichaelA said...

Hi Bryden, just because you disagree with someone is not a reason to throw around accusations of "extraordinary lack of understanding". When coupled with your lack of reasoning or content in support, such an accusation says far more about you than about me. :)

So far i haven't seen any sign that you understand how the literary structure of the gospel according to St John relates to the issue on the other thread, so there's really nothing on which I can comment.

Re Ruth etc, I do not understand your difficulty: I have simply pointed out that the fact that a book follows a certain literary style does not in any way indicate that its contents are not accurate or were not intended to be so.

MichaelA said...

Hi Peter,

To Janice's very useful focus on a person's presuppositions about the nature of the biblical account, I would add another complementary aspect: what is the reader's presupposition about evolution?

Because I regard evolution as no more than an unsupported hypothesis that creates as many questions as it answers, I don't spend time wondering if Genesis is compatible with it. Someone who takes evolution more seriously, elevating it to the level of theory or even something higher, will obviously be more concerned about compatibility.

Anonymous said...

Members of the ADU family might be interested in listening to this lecture by Jim Packer on 'Creation, Evolution and Problesm' while they enjoy a cold drink on a balmy summer evening - or roast chestnuts by an open fire:

http://www.monergism.com/legacy/mt/mp3/attributes-god-j-i-packer

Martin Fitzroy-Rees

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Janice, Martin, Michael

A few observations:
1. Whether or not there are problems with sustaining let alone supporting a/the/some 'theory of evolution', there is a range of evidence within the crust of the earth and beaming to us from the outermost stars which challenges any attempt to read Genesis 1-3 in a manner which correlates the narrative there with actuality of development of life and the universe via some form of literal reading of those chapters.
2. Conversely, and in agreement with a comment by Janice above, any attempt by scientists to push the available evidence towards the conclusion that no Creator created the world from nothing is fraught.
3. Without drawing a conclusion as to whether or not there was a literal first man named Adam and first woman named Eve who ate a fruit from a tree etc, I do not see an incompatibility between Genesis 3 being understood as a theological narrative explaining the fall of humanity (of each and every human in each generation) from obedience to God and all that is subsequently important within Scripture about the deadliness of sin and urgency of God's rescue operation of humanity through the incarnation of the Son, his death and resurrection. Put another way, the reality of sin is a real reality, and the impossibility of humanity resolving the problem of sin is a true impossibility, thus a Saviour from beyond our own ranks is required for our salvation. Genesis 3 tells us how that reality originated but in doing so it is attesting to the fall occurring in each human (and, of course, cue on-going debates between West and East over 'original sin.') I would go so far as to say that I do not need Genesis 3 to tell me about the fall ... I just need to read today's newspaper!

Anonymous said...

Up to a point, Lord Carrell.
Unless you posit a historical "fall" that somehow has corrupted human nature, you will find it hard to evade some kind of Pelagianism, and hard to avoid the belief that the human race is perfectible through education. WWAS? - What would Augustine say? (OK. I'll let Bryden answer that one - still reading 'City of God' one year on.)
Interestingly in 'Perelandra' C. S. Lewis imagines a race of humans that had not fallen.

Martin Heidegger (tief in seiner Verfallenheit)

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Heidegger,
I find Pelagianism is easily avoided through the simple exercise of apathy, laziness, sloth and procrastination ... whenever the temptation to good works rears its enticing head.

However, being as depraved as I totally am, the enticement to good works is but momentary.

Yours,
E. V. Eryhuman

Father Ron Smith said...

"My ways are not your ways; nor my thoughts your thoughts" - God!

Whenever did the Church give up on the imprecision of 'divine mystery'

I suspect that the sheer activity of worshipping the Persons of the Most Holy Trinity might rid some of the academic worriers of their existential angst.

"Do you not see how God has shown up the the foolishness of human wisdom? If it was God's wisdom that human wisdom should not know God, it was because God wanted to save those who have faith through the foolishness of the message that we preach" 1 Cor.1:21ff.

Why do so many would-be modern theologians want to constantly back up their own theories with so much huff and puff?

The older I get, the less I have come to depend on human wisdom. I am content to let God be God. My heart tells me that, in the end, with Mother Julian: "All shall be well, all manner of things shall be well".

"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory - the glory of the only-Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." Thanks be to God

Kalo Epipiphiana!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Your sunny optimism is a tonic!
However I think it fair to worry that misinformation about science, hermeneutics and such might be detrimental to people's faith.

Anonymous said...

"I find Pelagianism is easily avoided through the simple exercise of apathy, laziness, sloth and procrastination ... whenever the temptation to good works rears its enticing head.

However, being as depraved as I totally am, the enticement to good works is but momentary."

It wasn't news to Pelagius that the 'Christians' he saw in Rome were apathetic and lazy. In fact, for him this confirmed his argument. He believed people could be shaken out of this state by moral exhortation. Of course his grasp of the grace of God and regeneration was deeply deficient. And he would deny that you were totally depraved. 'but then he was British, wasn't he? The father of Anglican theology.

Martinus Aurelius

Peter Carrell said...

Far be it for me, Martin, to speak of either Roman or British Christians!

Speaking only for my depraved self, I can assure you that moral exhortation is useless.

:)

Bryden Black said...

It is evident, Michael, you’ve had a slip of the old memory: shall put it down to all the Christmas jollification! And to assist you, I repeat verbatim those questions that address your literary oversight:

“A series of opening questions for Michael. What do you think the literary structure of chs 5-10 in FG are about, with regards to the Feasts? What similarly are the miraculous “signs” about in the first part of the FG, chs 1-12? Lastly, why do you think there’s no Last Supper narrative in FG as there is in the Synoptics? How do you read the omission?

Next: “I am the true Bread from Heaven; I am the true Vine”. How do these two crucial statements, coming where they do, again vis-à-vis the literary structure of their respective sections, as well as the whole, colour our perception of the Eucharist (if at all)? For we need to factor in also the answer to an old hoary question about the relationship between “signs” and the sacramentality of FG.

All this bears upon the second part of your response re “two years” - which frankly is utterly irrelevant! I am sure the writer of FG would be most puzzled by the remark! Or are you unaware that times and/or timings in FG are fascinatingly and ‘awkwardly’ contrary to Synoptics and Acts. E.g. only: Temple cleansing (ch.2) and giving of the Spirit (ch.20). For what IS meant by “the Hour”? But more crucially, the answers to my earlier questions are important, bearing upon the timing dimension, being precursors to any kind of answer.”

Answers are of course addressed by the likes of Raymond Brown, Alan Culpepper and Frank Moloney, who is of course also an Aussie. Martin has already cited that other Johannine Aussie, Leon Morris. Enjoy the search!

Anonymous said...

"Speaking only for my depraved self, I can assure you that moral exhortation is useless"

I am sure that is not true, since the NT is full of moral exhortation (paraenesis) - to regenerate Christians. But the question that concerned Augustine in his dispute with Pelagius when he came to Carthage after the sacking of Rome was why men in their 'natural state' are unable to please God and keep His law. Pelagius believed we are born innocent and have a natural ability to obey, but Augustine replied that our nature is 'infected' by Adam. If this idea is mythological and historically untrue, why doesn't every human being start off with a clean sheet? The evolutionist explanation - which is fundamental to modern secular education - is that we and every other species are (a) only material (there is nothing non-material about humans); (b) incomplete and changing and have to be educated/conditioned for maximal social functioning. Furthermore, some errors in the program were copied at the genetic level.
I think it comes down to whether you have a dualist or monist understanding of human beings. Evolutionists are material-monists.

Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin
Humans do not start off with a clean sheet because the fall has taken place: to that Genesis 3 bears faithful witness. Whether it took place in precisely the way Genesis 3 says, and in 4004 BC, is something which can be discussed. One reason for believing that Genesis 3 bears faithful witness to the fall as part of human history is writ large in the daily newspaper.

Anonymous said...

We can also add D. A. Carson and Craig Bomberg ('The Historical Reliability of John') to Bryden's list. Since the different 'answers' don't all agree, some of them at least must be wrong. As one who had indulged in this art (in the First Testament), I would also say that 'literary' readings of the Bible, determining structure as if we were reading a play or some other genre, has its values but also runs the risk of being something of a Rorschach test: it may tell you more about the mind of the interpreter than the interpreted. Where one person sees vagueness and imprecision, another discerns intricate structure. But that's a risk in all interpretation. I'd say there is also the need to sell a new book or write a dissertation, but one of my resolutions for 2014 is to be less cynical!

Martinos Diogenes

Bryden Black said...

Grüße Herr Doktor Martin Heidegger!
Of course we humans are thrown into this world as beings unto death, as you say. And of course we all derive from Biological Eve approx 200,000 years from the heart of Africa, as any geneticist will now tell us. The difficulty is how to marry the two! And whether we may use the story of Gen 3 to tie that particular knot.

I have of course my own take on Living in the Shadow of the Fall. But that wld take an entire talk (which I have given) and not a brief blog post. But if you are interested, I can arrange it. Or better still, if you can untie that knot for us, show us how ...!

Anonymous said...

Bryden: yes, I am always interested in your thoughts on the subject du jour! Maybe Peter could post a link?

You might be interested as well in this perceptive piece from an American philosophy teacher on Heidegger's debt (not fully paid) to Luther, and the strength's and limitations of philosophy not done sub specie aeternitatis.

http://www.davevessey.com/Vessey_Heidegger_Luther.pdf

And in that light I cannot wish you a secular Happy New Year (the Christian New Year having already commenced) but I wish you a blessed celebration of the Circumcision!

Martin Heide-Luther

MichaelA said...

Hi Peter, its a little difficult to respond at present as I have to work entirely from a very small screen. On the bright side (for me) we are in Edinburgh for Hogmanay and the party is just starting to crank up.

Re your numbered post above, I simply do not agree with your point 1, and the rest of your post rests on that.

MichaelA said...

Bryden,
I didn't forget anything. I am simply unimpressed by you stringing together a series of open-ended questions and considering it a substitute for reasoned argument. The same goes for your make-dropping.... :)

To respond to the one point of substance in your post, no, I do not think that John's gospel is inconsistent with the others. He is reporting the same events, although like each gospel writer, he picks which ones to report.

Those commentators who purport to have found inconsistencies simply put their own inadequacies on display.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Michael
Commiserations re small screen!

Yes, my "1" above re scientific account of origins and literal reading of Genesis being challenged is, I think, the crux of the differences.

But then I am more with Bryden than with you re John and the synoptics...

Bryden Black said...

Well Michael; if, as you allege, Jn 2 is not “inconsistent” with Mk 11, nor Jn 20 with Acts 2, then clearly my Irish mother-in-law is from the Kingdom of Fife (my grandmother’s birth place)! Meanwhile, enjoy the haggis! And don’t forget to make a toast to Robbie Burns (in anticipation)!

PS Your failure to address my Johannine questions denies neither their rationale nor the key theological conclusions to be drawn from them. But then their scope genuinely takes one beyond a literalist, rationalistic reading of FG - which observation certainly does not deny, say, Leon Morris’s rationale in collecting together his Studies in the Fourth Gospel (1969). On the contrary, they provide an intriguing foil to Richard Bauckham’s seminal Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, a generation later (2006). Tolle! Lege!

Anonymous said...

Bryden, do you think it impossible or absurd that there could have been TWO cleansings of the temple - or that Jesus might have raised TWO (or more) people from the dead?
In John 2:20 the Jews refer to the temple rebuilding project having begun 46 years earlier. This would mark the date of the cleansing at around AD 27 or 28, since Josephus tells us the rebuilding began in 20-19 BC (Ant. XV, 380). But Jesus was almost certainly not crucified until at least AD 30.
Why do the words in Mark 14.58 bear a garbled similarity to John 2.19 but have no parallel in Mark? Could it be the slightly mistaken memory of words spoken 2-3 years earlier?
To judge from surface impression of the Synoptics alone, you might think Jesus as an adult went only once to Jerusalem - which is an absurd thing to think of a pious, feast-attending Jew and is implicitly denied by Matt. 23.27. No, this man was often in Jerusalem, often in the Temple precincts, and often in dispute with the religious authorities. He had
The cross-connection between John and the Synoptics are frequent - as John Robinson recognised in 'The Priority of John' and as Bauckham has in his essays. Time to break free from 19th century German historical scepticism!

Martin Kahle

MichaelA said...

When there is an actual proposition to be addressed, I will be more than happy to do so. As noted above I do not see the point in academic name-dropping - those with a sound ubdestanding of the issues debated by the academics don't need to do it.... ;)

Now to all, from a place where New Year is far more important than Christmas, bliadhna mhath ur agus beannachd Dia dhuit - happy new year and all God's blessings on you.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin
Bryden can answer your questions to him directly etc.
But I would like to weigh in with the observation that John writes an unusual gospel relative to the Synoptics (e.g. no parables; the Synoptics have no "I am" statements; apart from a couple of references to the kingdom of God, John's Jesus says little about the kingdom and lots about eternal life; then there are differences over the last supper and eucharistic theology ...) do prima facie there is a case for considering that John does some unusual things with time relative to the Synoptics. (Or, of course, it could be vice versa, with, say, the cleansing happening early as John depicts and the Synoptics connect it with Jesus' death both causally and chronologically.)

I can think of no intrinsic reason why John could not have (a) shifted the cleansing of the Temple relative to the Synoptic chronology while (b) accurately telling us that Jesus made several visits to Jerusalm when the Synoptics compress all visits into one visit (or simply ignore visits previous to the final one).

That is, one does not need to be enveloped in 19th century German skepticism re the historicity of John's Gospel to have questions about how history is being worked out across the four gospels.

Anonymous said...


"I can think of no intrinsic reason why John could not have (a) shifted the cleansing of the Temple relative to the Synoptic chronology while (b) accurately telling us that Jesus made several visits to Jerusalem when the Synoptics compress all visits into one visit (or simply ignore visits previous to the final one)."

I can think of at least three.
1. If the time notice in John 2.20 is accurate (and why shouldn't it be?), this incident occurs no later than AD 28, possibly as early as 26. John Robinson recognised this ('Priority of John', pp. 127-131).
2. The charge against Jesus is Mk 14.57-58 reflects nothing in Mark but strongly echoes John 2.19, albeit in garbled form.
3. There are quite a few differences in detail between the two accounts. Jesus' words in both accounts are totally different as well and address different concerns.
Here's another oddity. The charge against Stephen in Acts 6.14 reflects nothing recorded in Luke's gospel but again echoes John 2.19.
I think we are dealing with two different traditions that are intersecting at numerous points.
Like it or not, the shadow of 19th century scepticism about John (and even more, Bultmann in the 20th century) does still hang over gospel studies, even among evangelicals, and is only slowly lifting. I think some of this scepticism was due to the evident high Christology in John, which was wrongly contrasted with the Synoptics.

Martin Scorcese

PS I'll start spelling 'sceptic' with a k when orthographically pedantic (or challenged) Amerikans begin to write about Sokrates and teleskopes! :)

Father Ron Smith said...

I am glad that some evangelical scholars are having difficulty promoting and trying to justify their literal interpretation of biblical scenes, happenings and timings. This validates the more eirenically catholic understanding of the Bible as mystical guidebook rather than empirical history.

This allows the Christian story to remain all the more interestingly "His Story" and more mystical, which I guess God meant it to be. What scholars need to remember is that Christ can be devotionally accessed by the poorest of God's children. God is not the special possession of wordy academics. Nor have they the right to arrogate the mystical to themselves - except that often they don't keep it to themselves, they want to boast about it.

God reveals God's-self to the simple, and sometimes confounds the wisdom of the wise. "God's foolishness is wiser than man's wisdom" - so that no-one can boast of superior intimacy with God because of their great intellect.

Deo gratias!

Bryden Black said...

Happy New Year to you Martin!

It’s very likely Jesus brought more than one person back to life, I agree. Firstly, because the 4 Gospels record for example both Lazarus and ‘talitha’ (& Jn 4?); and secondly, because we know the “signs” of FG are highly and significantly selective for his unique purposes. But why link such to two possible cleansings?!

I sense it is highly unlikely that Jesus took on the Temple authorities, to the degree we see depicted in both John 2 and Mk 11, twice. Recounting the deed in John 2 fits well with the early themes of the FG: 1:14 - tabernacled; 1:47,51 - guile/Jacob/bethel; from Cana to Cana, and the nature of these two signs; night/day, Nicodemus and Samaritan woman, ch 3-4, climaxing 4:24; back to Cana. And all this to set up the pattern of Feasts, chs 5-10, all of which Jesus ‘fulfils-&-transcends’, being their archetype, just as he is Torah’s fulfilment and archetype, 1:1, 14:6. For Jesus as the ‘place’ of Yahweh’s Glory, the locus of the Divine Presence, the ‘meeting’ between God and humanity is the golden thread of FG. No; the very theodrama of FG can only have such a dramatic encounter as Jn 2 ONCE and once only. FG is that faithful to ‘history’!

Mk’s sense of the drama and its conflict is constructed differently. He places the cleansing most appropriately ahead of the Rabbinical four-part exegetical debate we have as ch.12, set up by the JBap authority debate (recalling that Mk begins with JBap!) in ch.11. All of which paints the clash and its ultimate crescendo between this Messiah and the Jewish authorities, conflict being absolute in Mk’s appreciation of the kingdom of God, and conflict not least about Scripture’s interpretation and fulfilment. Mk too is faithful to ‘history’.

It’s just a case of what constitutes “history” at all at all. In ch.3 of my PhD thesis, in the section “The Trinity and History”, I used John Montgomery’s work as a springboard, riffing thereafter his six options over against post Enlightenment theological options actually taken (where Martin Kähler indeed gets a look in!). All of which is far too rich and complex for a mere blog ... But by now you’ve probably caught my drift - unlike those of Jn 9 ...

Anonymous said...

Peter,

I’ve made a couple of observations on your commentary on Genesis – or is it a commentary on Evolution?

Firstly, however, greetings - especially since it is the Christmas period.

My first comment concerns Gen 2:4 and the other addresses your seeming greater faith in the current evolutionary paradigm (Big Bang to big brain) than you have in the ancient and immutable biblical account of origins.

Now don’t yawn – I’m not concerned here with the ‘day’ of Gen 2:4. That has been dissected ad tedium. No, it is the very end of the verse where it says “the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.” You may note that this is the first time that the 'earth' has been named before the 'heavens' so giving it precedence and signalling that from hence forth the narrative will be told from the earth and mankind’s perspective. So, the so-called second account of creation is merely the same account told from a different perspective and, even taken as true history, in no way contradicts the profound story of Gen 1. You will no doubt have heard the analogy where the surgeon and the engineer describe the building of a hospital. The engineer starts from the foundations and proceeds in a chronological manner, while, from his wholly different emphasis and perspective, the surgeon seems to hang the surgery in mid-air on the third floor!

In the interests of brevity I must forego comment on the second point. Perhaps I will take it up with you another time.

Regards,
Larry (Petterson)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Larry
Nice to hear from you!
Yes, the Genesis 2 account is th story of creation told from a different perspective. Whether it is as different as the surgeon's and the engineer's perspective ... or even more different (say, the difference between a patient's perspective of a hospital and a visitor's perspective) is an interesting question.

Anonymous said...

Bryden, belated blessings on the Feast of the Naming and Circumcision of the Lord!
I fear you fall into the trap of petitio principii. You think it ‘highly unlikely’ that Jesus would confront the temple authorities twice, therefore he didn’t, therefore John switched things. (How often do you think Peter Tatchell has disturbed church services? :) ). An incident in AD 27 or 28 (involving a yet-unknown man from Galilee) and one in 30 (when he had gained some notoriety or fame) have quite a gap between them. Or do you consider the time reference in John 2.20 as fictional? We know (and John agrees) ‘there were many other things Jesus did and said which are not written in this book’. Remember this when we think of John and the Last Supper! The work is highly selective and overtly theologically focused (no question of that), but it also covers a broader geography (repeatedly in Jerusalem, Samaria) than anything you find in the Synoptics. The traditions are parallel but different, and we must not think that John has chopped up one of the Synoptics and rewritten it. From the Synoptics we know that Jesus healed many blind people, but only one such case is recorded in John – and in Jerusalem! – where it is made the subject of an extended discourse. Putting it a bit crudely, John is based on a knowledge of Jesus which is largely Jerusalem-focused, while the Synoptics are overwhelmingly Galilean in their focus.
I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the textual data that so impressed John Robinson, on the time reference in John 2.20, and the fact that John 2.19 seems to be recollected in a garbled way Mark and Acts (but no such words of Jesus can be found in Mark or Luke). That’s what I mean by the intersection of traditions, on which Bauckham has made some interesting comments (in his essay in ‘The Gospel for All People’). And you are quite right that John presents Jesus as the locus of the divine presence replacing the Temple. But that isn’t the issue of dispute in Mark 11.17 (‘You have made it a den of robbers’).
Is the John Montgomery you refer to John Warwick Montgomery? If so, I recall meeting and chatting with him some years ago.
Martin

MichaelA said...

Father Ron, there is no reason whatsoever why the scriptures cannot be simple enough for a child to read, mystical, profound, and accurate, all at the same time.

On the other hand, it is always interesting to watch the mental contortions of the liberals who have decided a priori that the scriptures cannot be accurate, as they desperately try to justify the inconsistencies in their position.

Those of us who hold to the simple, profound and mystical evangelical faith have no need of such sophistry. We see the gospel story as it is meant to be, profound yet elegant, equally accessible to the least educated and intelligent as to the greatest scholar.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
It is no part of my understanding of catholic use of Scripture that it fits with your (romantic?) view, "eirenically catholic understanding of the Bible as mystical guidebook rather than empirical history".

What is the catholic doctrine of the eucharist based on if not on the empirical history that Jesus actually presided at an historical last supper, commanded "do this" and gave words to be understood LITERALLY (this is my body etc)? I know of no catholic understanding of Scripture which treats Jesus words to Peter about building the church on this rock as merely 'guidance'! Nor can I think of any catholic approach to understanding Scripture which treats the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus and the Acts of the Apostles (which begins the great tradition of saints, cf. the recent commemoration of St Stephen) as 'mystical guidance' rather than 'empirical history.'

I very much hope that the reality of the way you read Scripture does not involve "pick n mix": mystical guidance when it suits, otherwise empirical history as the sure foundation of catholic understanding!

MichaelA said...

Peter, I am not sure what 'literally' means, but as a matter of common sense, Christ at the last supper did not mean that the bread he was holding was his earthly flesh and blood, since that in its entirety was there holding the bread and wine. Hence why the articles state that we feed on him in a spiritual and heavenly sense - they are true to the obvious sense of Jesus' own words.

MichaelA said...

Sitting in a pub in the shadow of Lincoln Cathedral. This was once the seat of Robert Grosseteste, not only a great theologian who used the term 'sola scriptura' before Thomas Aquinas, but also one of the greatest scientists of his day.

A godly combination!

Kurt said...

You do know, don’t you Martin, that some of us believe that Pelagius got a bum rap…?

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Michael
By 'literally' I mean that catholic understanding of the eucharist invests strongly in promoting an understanding of the words 'This is my body' to be 'This bread IS my body' [however that might then be explained] rather than 'This bread symbolises/represents/is a token or emblem of my body.'

My own understanding is in line with the 39A.

Anonymous said...

MichaelA - you are right about Robert Grosseteste, and IIRC, he had probably arrived at the doctrine of justification by faith alone, in a way very similar to Wyclif - you may be interested in these lectures from an ecumenically-minded Baptist in Scotland who doesn't think church history began in 1517! I think the lecture on Wyclif references Bishop Big 'ed, and you'll find a belief in sola scriptura in Bernard of Clairvaux too!

http://www.wicketgate.co.uk/p10.html

Peter: I have been taught to approach sacramental questions with the awareness that there are at least 5 meanings to the word "is" in the Bible. Context is everything! It is significant for me that the 39A never say the Eucharistic bread IS the body of Christ, but rather in Articles 28 and 29 talk of participation by faith in the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Martin

Father Ron Smith said...

"I very much hope that the reality of the way you read Scripture does not involve "pick & mix": mystical guidance when it suits, otherwise empirical history as the sure foundation of catholic understanding!" - Peter Carrell -

Not exactly Peter. This is my very gripe about certain (usually, S.S.) clergy who doggedly select moral aspects of the Scriptures (often from the O.T.) to deal with today's very different situation; while yet not believing in the existential reality of the Presence of Christ - as He defines it - in the Celebration of the Eucharist. This definitely is what you deem to call 'Pick and Mix'.

And again, in Martin's last comment, he puts the authority of the 39 Artifacts as being more authoritative than the Gospels. What does this have to say about the 39-articular understanding of Scripture, vis-a-vis the catholic understanding of reported Dominical sayings?

My focus in Scripture is primarily on the teaching of Jesus. He, after all, IS the Word-made-flesh of John's Gospel and, therefore, the crux of salvation history. If Christ is not alive for us today, then, as Paul says, is our mission vain. This is why the Gospel reading receives such a dignified setting in the Eucharist.

What we all need in our reading and exposition of the Bible, is to understand the context and inner message that points to Jesus. All else is either supportive of our relationship to Jesus, or it is practically useless.

Kalo Epiphania!

Bryden Black said...

Au contraire Martinus; it’s only a case of how to view the textual-historical interface, as always. I fear you have not quite appreciated the powder-keg nature of Roman Palestine (Judea, Samaria and Galilee) in the 20s ... More of that to close.

The texts: interestingly and not unimportantly there are some differences (I do not say inconsistencies or discrepancies, to avoid the false 19th C liberal label!) among the three Synoptics worthy of attention, even before any comparison with Jn 2. So; I do not put too much weight (initially) on textual variations among the four Gospels (or Acts) before having to conclude we’ve two discrete events.

Thereafter: what dating might one wish to follow? The conclusion of Passover 28 AD for Jn 2:20 is based on Josephus - but which one? For there are important differences between The Jewish War and The Antiquities - typically! (See only Brown or Barrett for details, and extensive cross textual matters as well; and of course I consider Robinson’s last book, Redating, to be seriously underrated, his copious footnoting delightful, e.g. on Lighfoot & Jn 2:20; so let’s not forget him indeed!) Even the concluding building date of 63 is only an approximation. The ABD has a great article on Josephus and history in general. Last: we must not forget CSL’s warning in De Incarnatione which you’ve cited once before!

The crux however is a general failure to read the politics of the time, on which I’ve done quite a bit of work ... It’s just far too easy for contemporary westerners to not appreciate the volatile nature of most of the world most of the time (and I have lived a good third of my life in the Majority World). It takes an ex Marxist, MacIntyre, to show clearly the benign totalitarian nature of present day managerial bureaucratic rule - although perhaps Snowden has helped here! The tragedy - one of the tragedies - of Michel Foucault was his failure to conceive of an antidote to the “ubiquity of power”, 1 Cor 1-4 being so discredited in his French intellectual eyes. All in all, I am convinced, in the light of the realpolitik of the day, it would have been absolutely impossible for there to have been two confrontations with the Temple rulers during the course of Messiah Jesus’ ministry, of the type we see in either John 2 or Mark 11. To ignite the touch paper once would be more than enough; twice, given both many allusions in the Gospels, and what we now know from contextual studies generally, would be just too great a stretch politically, frankly.

Conclusion: only if one approaches the four Gospels with an a priori of a particular kind of historical literalism will the ‘inconsistency’ of Jn 2 versus Mk 11 be an ‘affront’ to be ‘reconciled’. Rather, let us rest content that the entire notion of “history” and “history writing” - especially for the God whose first act is to create not just a world but a history [“God does not create a world that thereupon has a history; he creates a history that is a world, in that it is purposive and so makes a whole.” & “God takes time in his time for us. That is his act of creation.” RW Jenson] - demands forms (plural!) of writing that will ever stretch our appreciation of time and times. Just so Confessions Books 11-13 one more time! And when we contemplate the rich resonances of the FG’s Prologue, then it’s a necessary case of game on. The timing of Jn 2 and Jn 20 are no affront when we learn to contemplate the scope of the FG’s theodrama: the Hour of Divine Glory is realized among us; dwell - learn to dwell - in that life and light and love ... Hallelujah!

Bryden Black said...

Re “signs” and sacramentality. Donald Gelpi SJ years ago helpfully suggested we think on three sorts of “appearance”.

1. Reporting to a copper after an accident: “the car just appeared out of the side street, officer, and hit me, T-Boned me even!”

2. The sun appeared over the horizon (A1), and in that appearance, the solar system in action appeared/was manifested (A2), for those in the know.

3. When one places a stick into water, it appears (A3) bent. But to those in the know, what appears (A2) is an example of light’s refraction when passing through a change of medium.

Just so, with the Eucharistic rite, given both Jesus’ Institution and the role of the Holy Spirit (both the Eastern Orthodox and Calvin are helpful here, as well as the 20th C liturgical renewal movement), the triune God has promised to genuinely Appear among his People and become Present in a unique and utterly special Way. What the sacrament of baptism initiates, the Eucharist maintains: our dwelling in Him and His dwelling in us. And it is the role of using the bread and the wine specifically in this Way that realizes all this among us, as we look back and look forward [yes folks; once more time the time issue is crucial!]. How? God alone knows!

It is only during the debates of the 9th-12th Cs, climaxing with Lateran IV in 1215, when the Latin Church sought to identify “how Grace is Communicated”, that the “how” seemingly required nailing down ... BUT that entire debate was set in the context of the anti-Arian backlash now identified by the likes of Josef Jungmann. See my paper given last year at STAANZ https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/40623476/The%20Solution%20of%20the%20Church.pdf
I.e. The triune God has already himself established the means, and the Eucharist is most surely “The Sign” - and promise and pledge - of that means. Once more, we need to reframe our basic questions to get more closely to the real heart of the matter: the realization of the true God among us.

Bryden Black said...

PS For those who need the dots joined ... When the bread appears (A1)/is brought to the table for the Blessing etc, after the consecration, it still appears (A3) to be bread, but for those in the know, what appears (A2) is the triune God’s redeeming life and love in specific action.

Bryden Black said...

PPS Many thanks Martin H: loved http://www.davevessey.com/Vessey_Heidegger_Luther.pdf Reminded me of two cranky Californians whose version of spiritual warriorship utterly and brilliantly secularised Luther - for lots of money of course! A friend of my sister’s was trying to get me interested with a freebie. It lead to three working lunches - and no conversions either way ...

MichaelA said...

Martin, he doesn't believe history started in 1517?! I think they'll let him off with crucifixion ... first offence. :)

Thank you for the link, I will read it with interest on my return. Grosseteste is under-appreciated by the general public, but a towering figure in medieval history.

He strongly influenced Bradwardine, who scourged the creeping influence of semi-pelagianism in English theology, also Roger Bacon the great scientist and theologian who scourged the clergy for lack of knowledge of scripture in the original tongues, and Wyclif who sought to bring theology to the ordinary person.

Good point about St Bernard also, much appreciated by the protestant reformers - who did not think history began in 1517! ;)

Anonymous said...

Bryden: charis kai eirene soi.
1. There is a contradiction between Jewish War 1.21, ‘Accordingly in the fifteenth year of his reign, Herod rebuilt the temple, and encompassed a piece of land about it with a wall, which land was twice as large as that before enclosed’ and Antiquities 15.380, ‘And now Herod, in the eighteenth year of his reign, and after the acts already mentioned, undertook a very great work, that is, to build of himself the temple of God’. Obviously the temple took more than a year to build. Antiquities was written later (c. 94) than Jewish War (75) and may rely on court archives for Herod’s speech. I think Ant. is correcting JW here. Ant. gives a much more detailed account of the temple rebuilding/expansion. The 15th year of Herod’s reign is 23/22 BC, and 46 years after takes us to AD 23/24 – much too early by any reckoning. Since Herod captured Jerusalem with Roman help in 37 BC, the latest Ant. 15.380 can mean is 20/19 BC. 46 years later takes us to AD 27.
2. You assert: “All in all, I am convinced, in the light of the realpolitik of the day, it would have been absolutely impossible for there to have been two confrontations with the Temple rulers during the course of Messiah Jesus’ ministry, of the type we see in either John 2 or Mark 11. To ignite the touch paper once would be more than enough; twice, given both many allusions in the Gospels, and what we now know from contextual studies generally, would be just too great a stretch politically, frankly.”
No, that doesn’t really convince me, again because of Josephus, who recounts the strange (and startlingly parallel) story of the prophet Jesus (Yeshua) ben Ananias who, beginning in AD 62, preached against the Temple and Jerusalem, was flogged by the authorities, and still kept it up for 7 years until he died in the siege:
“This cry of his was the loudest at the festivals; and he continued this ditty for seven years and five months, without growing hoarse, or being tired therewith, until the very time that he saw his presage in earnest fulfilled in our siege.” – Jewish War 6.5.3
I would caution against speaking too hastily about what ‘would have been absolutely impossible’!
3. Raymond Brown (whom I was privileged to hear not long before he died) actually thinks John 2 preserves the correct order of events and Mark 11 is dischronologised! (‘The Death of the Messiah’). His argument was that no good witness could be brought forward to verify the saying of Yeshua about destroying the temple in Mark 14.58. Why not if he had just uttered the saying that very week? I ask again: what is this statement doing in Mark when there are no words of Jesus (in Mark) of such a thing?

Flavius Martinus

Bryden Black said...

Ave Flavius! A bit like dear MA, I'm off travelling and so cannot check "Death of Messiah" just yet. I'd forgotten that line of argument. Tho as you will know, much depends upon what sort of 'trial' it was ... See you later

Janice said...

the reality of sin is a real reality, and the impossibility of humanity resolving the problem of sin is a true impossibility, thus a Saviour from beyond our own ranks is required for our salvation. Genesis 3 tells us how that reality originated but in doing so it is attesting to the fall occurring in each human

Ro 5:12-14 "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned - for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come."

The problem here is that if there was no Adam who was told to do something but disobeyed and therefore transgressed, how did death get to reign over the rest of us? If we're only subject to death because each of us, individually, falls into sin how is it that so many children die, not only before they're old enough to know right from wrong but even before they're born?

Or should we assume that God spoke to each early hominid giving them the choice to obey or disobey and telling them they would die if they made the wrong choice, they all made the wrong choice and their children, having been exposed to all the miseries that ensued, kept on making wrong choices and so died too, and so on, ad infinitum? And can we assume that God managed to convey thse sophisticated moral concepts in grunts or would he have used some sort of mental telepathy, or did he wait until the hominids had managed to develop a fairly sophisticated language? Or do we assume that, without such a language, the hominids could not be considered human?

Or is it that death is not really due to sin but is just a normal part of life? In which case how can Jesus, by not sinning, save us from a penalty that is not due to sin?

Anonymous said...

This is becoming one of the more interesting discussions on ADU [congratulations, Peter, at 128 comments!]. Like Michael, I hope it doesn’t deteriorate to merely name-and-title dropping at ten paces. Nor become so obscure in expression that no one can understand if a person is actually for or against a simple proposition.

I value Bryden’s more careful revisit to Michael’s straightjacketing of Jn 6 from which he would not resile.

I do hope the core of the evolution debate will be picked up again – including Bryden’s “of course (sic) we all derive from Biological Eve (sic) approx 200,000 years from the heart of Africa” tied to Peter’s much more recent Eve.

Martin previously castigated anyone who even so much as suggested that Jesus was like us in all things except sin and hence able to make a mistake. Now he would have the inspired and inerrant Word of God contain “slightly mistaken memory of words spoken 2-3 years earlier”. Does he change his position as regularly as his name depending on whom he is attacking?

Happy New Year

Alison

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Janice
You raise important questions. Nothing is quite as straightforward as we might like, whatever approach we are taking.

Two thoughts:
1. The death Jesus saves us from is not physical death (after all, Christians still die) but death as separation from God and the 'second death' which is the end of life.
2. Paul refers to Adam as an individual and likely thinks of Adam as an individual human being. But does that rule out Adam being a kind of 'corporate individual', a human figure who stands for humanity at its beginning (however that beginning is determined)? After all, even Paul is being economical with the truth here in the sense that 'Adam' is actually 'Adam and Eve' (who corporately are responsible for the fall, as 1 Tim 2:13-14 makes clear). It suits his soteriology to match the single saviour Jesus with the single sinner Adam, but the reality is that Adam and Eve, two individuals, sinned, not one, at the beginning of the history of sin according to Genesis.

Father Ron Smith said...

Interesting, isn't it, in the light of problems about women in the present-day Church, that Eve was considered - even early on in salvation history - to have been important enough to have changed the course of God's treatment of God's human children. I suppose some male patriarchalists still think that Eve was more culpable than Adam!

Father Ron Smith said...

" It suits his soteriology to match the single saviour Jesus with the single sinner Adam, but the reality is that Adam and Eve, two individuals, sinned, not one, at the beginning of the history of sin according to Genesis."
- Peter Carrell -

It also suits, Peter, the current soteriology of those who think that women are not equal to men in the matter of redemption - or capability of presiding at the Eucharist.

Jesus was representatively human - not merely male. This might help us all to better understand the complementarity of human sexuality

Anonymous said...

Alison comments: “Martin previously castigated anyone who even so much as suggested that Jesus was like us in all things except sin and hence able to make a mistake. Now he would have the inspired and inerrant Word of God contain “slightly mistaken memory of words spoken 2-3 years earlier”. Does he change his position as regularly as his name?”
What a schoolgirl howler to make! The Word of God “contains” all kinds of things – like Noah’s ark – or the church. The inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture doesn’t mean that *every statement recorded there (including those by liars and demons) – severed from its context and commentary – is correct. Otherwise the atheist could quote Psalm 14.1 in his or her defence.
Which reminds of an apocryphal but brilliant story about the atheist who sued the State of Florida for not providing a public recognised day for atheists. The judge threw out the suit, saying they already had their day, April 1st, as referenced in Psalm 14.1.
Martin Lloyd-Jones

MichaelA said...

Hi Alison, I have no more idea what you mean by 'straitjacketing' than I know what Bryden's actual opinion is about John 6! No doubt all will become clear some day when we are each back home and with full resources. Regards

Peter Carrell said...

Hmm, Martin, it seems to me that you are exhibiting a larger side-step than even I am capable of as you swerve past the true import of the point Alison is making ...

- Dan Carter

Bryden Black said...

Until That Day Michael: I do meanwhile think there are more pieces of the jigsaw, more dots available to be joined than when Jn 6 first emerged as an item of comment. But like my PS above, some get it more easily than others, who still need to have those pieces and dots set before them with flashing neon colours. No worries; most of the parties in the Johannine dialogues took ages to get it. That's also much of the point of the way FG is written: to force us to Learn how to learn the discipleship of becoming the Father's children ...

Anonymous said...

"Hmm, Martin, it seems to me that you are exhibiting a larger side-step than even I am capable of as you swerve past the true import of the point Alison is making ..."

Which is what? I'm rather slow- explain, please

Martin Hanson

Father Ron Smith said...

"No worries; most of the parties in the Johannine dialogues took ages to get it. That's also much of the point of the way FG is written: to force us to Learn how to learn the discipleship of becoming the Father's children"

Such certainty is quite amazing.
Learning how to learn. Now that's something. Or should we insist on learning how to learn how to learn? No wonder modern education is so expensive.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin
I understand Alison's point to be that if Jesus never made mistakes then we should have gospel records which are accurate records of Jesus' mistake-free speech (if not of his deeds).

If, alternatively, we have gospel records which are inaccurate records of Jesus' speech (and deeds) then it is irrelevant to claim Jesus' spoke 100% truthfully because what we have is the equivalent to Jesus not being 100% truthful.

I do not think your drawing attention to the biblical records containing speech by Satan etc at all engages with the point Alison is making (if I am understanding that point correctly).

Anonymous said...

I still don't get what you are saying, Peter, or what Alison may have been saying - but I will allow her to clarify what she means.
I cannot think of any reason at all why *the ENEMIES of Jesus being quoted in Mark 14.57-58* should remember accurately what Jesus had said 2-3 years previously - not least when Mark himself calls it 'false testimony' (v. 57). Are you confusing what the false witnesses said and what Mark reported? If so, you are making the same mistake as Alison.
Your first two paragraphs are logical no sequiturs.
Your third paragraph misses my point as well: that the gospel writers report accurately the words of false witness (and label them as false).

Martinos en aporia

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin
Yes, your response stands if we are focusing on reporting what others may have (falsely, mistakenly, lyingly) said.

I guess - but, agreed, confusedly - I am thinking about worrying about Jesus being mistake-free and not worrying about the gospels being accurate: if there was only one temple cleansing then there is a playing around with chronology between Mark and John which, arguably, is no more or less a problem than Jesus, being a man of his time believing Genesis 1-3 in a fairly literal manner, even though (arguably) creation-and-the-fall was more complicated.

Anonymous said...

That's a different question and I wouldn't conflate the issues. If there was only one 'temple cleansing', then presumably either Mark or John gives the actual chronological order of envents:
1. Passover, c. AD 27/28 (thus Raymond Brown) or
2. Passover AD 30 or 33 (most commentators).
If (1) is correct, then Mk 11.15 can't be correct, nor the statement in v. 18 that the temple cleansing was the catalyst for the plot against him.
I never thought about this much until I considered the internal details in John 2 seem to point to an earlier date. However ....
in Mark 3.6 we read that after healing in 'a synagogue' (not located), the Pharisees began to plot with 'the Herodians'. Who are these 'Herodians' and what are they doing in Galilee - if 3.1-6 is indeed set in Galilee? This is something I have to investigate further. Looking at the intertextuality of Mark and John raises lots of interesting questions.

Martin

Bryden Black said...

Interesting indeed Martin. But the sorts of answers that emerge are governed by the kinds of questions posed. And it's at that point that each and all of us need Hermeneutical clarity and honesty. And it's at this point that so far I remain a wee bit apart from yourself. Previous comment will Illustrate this ...

MichaelA said...

This is feustratung as I think it is clear that there is no error by gospel writers, just defective analysis by moderns, however not in a position to respond from 10 degrees north of arctic circle. Eventually... :)

Janice said...

Hi Peter,

The death Jesus saves us from is not physical death (after all, Christians still die) but death as separation from God and the 'second death' which is the end of life.

No. I don't think that will do. Yes, Christians still die, but that's because of the now-but-not-yet character of the salvation story. 1 Co 15: 51-52 "Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed - in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." So not all Christians will die.

If it is not physical death that was the punishment for sin why did God tell Adam in Ge 3:19 "you are dust, and to dust you shall return"? If it is not physical death that was the punishment for sin why was blood sacrifice necessary to atone for sin? If it is only "spiritual" death that we are saved from why do we (and why did the ancient Israelites) look forward to the resurrection of our (changed) physical bodies? In any case isn't it true that we don't have souls/spirits but are souls/spirits? So when we die our death is of us - our body complete with its life and its breath, not just our bodies.

the reality is that Adam and Eve, two individuals, sinned, not one, at the beginning of the history of sin according to Genesis.

Yes. Adam and Eve were two individuals, but those two were one flesh.

Father Ron Smith said...

Are you guys saying that Scripture cannot be taken as literally true?

Anonymous said...

And I think I've tried to be clear and honest. Bauckham already hinted at the relationship between Mark and John in his essay in 'The Gospels for All Christians'. Now what do *you think Mark 14.57-58 is about? A complete fabrication or a distortion?
On this Epiphany let us pray for three (or more) wise men (or women) to bring us illumination.

Martinus Magus (not)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Janice and Martin
Thanks for recent comments which I take 'on board' - excellent thoughts.

I am now in the midst of a house shift and am too tired to respond properly (if that means 'arguing the toss'!) ...

Anonymous said...

A stressful time, Peter - prayers for you and your family!

Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks, Martin!

Bryden Black said...

Re your reply January 5, 2014 at 11:01 PM, Ron.

I am a little surprised to see you dismiss the significance of my remark the way you do, given your avowed and often mentioned membership of such an esteemed Order as the Franciscans.

Religious Orders, and any involved in intentional Christian formation, surely know that it’s not just a case of learning, but learning how to learn. For optimal catechesis cannot afford hit-&-miss learning. Rather, there’s the need of constant evaluation of understanding of experience, to ever purify the ongoing process of learning, of formation, of discipleship. That’s the import of the very notion of an Order!

Perhaps we might hazard the diagnosis that western Christianity is so luke-warm on account of not enough scrutiny of the very processes of formation. I know Bosco has often bewailed this lack in even the so-called formation of Christian leaders. And if in the leaders, then what hope is there in the lives of ordinary Christian folk?!

A more insightful appreciation of the FG, and its style and scope (σκοπός), notably its multilayered approach with oft used double entendres, would help to address this serious catechumenal lack, I venture.

MichaelA said...

Thoughts and prayers re the moving Peter - always frustrating!

Anonymous said...

Is it possible to restart this discussion, even with Peter moving (all the best, Peter!)?

Position 1) The Bible is accurate history. Luke’s genealogy is a real genealogy. Adam is the historical ancestor of all. Jesus is correct in presenting Adam and Eve as historical persons. Death etc. is the result of the real Adam and Eve’s sin. Christ redeemed us from sin and death just as the Bible teaches.

Position 2) The Big Bang and evolution are correct. Luke’s genealogy cannot be taken literally. Jesus was incorrect if he thought Adam and Eve are historical persons. Death was there before humans evolved.

Position 3) You can find connections between any primitive creation myth and contemporary science: look darkness… look energy… look land before plants… This seems to be Peter’s approach (is it Bryden’s - I find navigating Bryden’s approach even more difficult than understanding Peter’s)? A relatively-recent historical Adam “standing for” humans who evolved in Africa 200,000 years ago. Death is a metaphor. Jesus is correct in holding to Adam and Eve as real people – but not as the ancestor of all (as per Genesis, or even Jesus), but “two people beginning the line which leads to Abraham to Israel and to Jesus” (December 20, 2013 at 4:53 PM).

Alison