Posted by: Timothy McNinch | October 27, 2009

Could the Bible just be wrong?

OK. One more preliminary post before we get into specific issues/questions. I think I should try to articulate my approach to the Bible and to Genesis. Otherwise, we might end up talking in circles about whether a particular theological avenue of inquiry is “legal” in light of the Bible’s plain teaching.

I’m an evangelical Christian, and with most of my fellow evangelicals I highly value the Bible as a unique piece of literature. I believe it has (mysteriously) a dual authorship: it’s books were written by men, but there is some sense in which these writings are also from God. So the canon of Biblical Scripture comes to us as the “inspired word of God”. It’s teachings are “authoritative” in the lives of believers. And the Bible, as a whole, is categorically “true”. I believe these things about the Bible not because I can empirically demonstrate them, but I take these statements to be accurate on the authority of a tradition I choose to trust.

On the other hand, I don’t go as far as some of my evangelical brethren, in that I don’t claim that the Bible is “inerrant”. In fact, I think the Bible contains many errors. My justification for this perspective comes from that same doctrine of “dual authorship”. The Bible’s human authors wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, but they wrote from their own perspective, out of their own worldview, and in their own words.

Why would God allow human authors to include factual errors in their writings? Wouldn’t he ensure that everything they wrote was accurate? Well, maybe. But I don’t see why that has to be the case. I think it’s just as plausible that God chose to allow factual errors in order that the didactic truth of these writings would be recognizable to those who heard and read them in the cultures of their writing. In other words, God may have allowed theological truth, theological reality, to be embedded in communication that was culturally recognizable to the ancient world, even if scientifically inaccurate. God gave them the truth they needed in order to worship God rightly in their world, and allowed them to remain in error about matters that were not of consequence to them. This is what I mean about the Bible being “categorically true”, while containing errors of fact.

As this applies to Genesis, and to the story of origins there, there are a couple things to say. First, I think we should allow that the author(s) of Genesis didn’t know how the cosmos really is, and may not have been given special insight by the Spirit of God to understand it. The general cosmology, geology, and biology of Genesis could very well have its origin in the inherited worldview of the ancient middle-east.

Secondly, I think we should appreciate that Genesis is a contribution to an existing ancient conversation about the origin of the world and the place of humans in it. So we shouldn’t be surprised to see the language of Genesis crafted in response to existing ancient creation myths. And we should give the author(s) of Genesis room to be literary: to co-opt and twist those existing stories, to parody and debate the existing theologies of their day through their writings. In other words, it’s too simplistic to take Genesis as an impartial, disinterested, independent history of events as they happened, as if someone was taking notes while events transpired, or as if God dictated them in the narrative of a theophanic interview. We need to allow for Genesis to be in dialogue with other literature, and to employ various genres (beyond simple description) in order to do so effectively.

I guess what I’m getting at is that I think it’s unfair to the human authors of Scripture, and presumes too much about how God inspired them, to talk about the “plain meaning” of Genesis. Taking the surface meaning of the Genesis creation story is, well, surfacy. I submit that there is depth to this narrative! And we owe it to God and to those brilliant human authors to do the hard work of interpreting their opus with the attention to context, literary analysis, and nuance that it deserves.

I realize that this has been a mere string of assertions. Take them for what they’re worth. What I’m really curious about are the implications of these assertions. Now, as we go forward, let’s see what kind of theological corners I’ve painted myself into 😉 and whether I need to backtrack or press forward…

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Responses

  1. Hey man, this is your old neighbor
    Conor. I think Genesis can be compellingly accurate in its steps of creation, if we step away from the more dated evolutionary view of science. When looking at the creation theory from a modern String Theory standpoint, considering that all things start as a form of energy, the science of the Bible start to look compellingly accurate again (all things existing in light, ect.) Looking at the different steps in realization of that energy, the steps of creation begin to look like an insightful piece of scientific work beyond our current understanding. I’m not denying evolution has taken place, I think its part of the magic, but there is far more to consider as is being shown by the realizations which are beginning to take place from cutting age science. It is erroneous to think we have reached the pinnacle of scientific understanding and apply that uderstanding to say certain things are wrong, we’re barely scratching the surface, and the things we are discovering today about what make us (atoms ect.) are already making it look like the atom we learned about in school was the equivalent of the world being flat.

  2. Hi Conor – it’s great to hear from you! I hope you and your family are well. I saw your dad briefly a few weeks ago…

    I’ve also wondered in the past about the point of view you express in your response, and it has the merit that it seems to give a fair shake to both science and the Bible. I think you’re suggesting that Genesis actually does describe the process of creation accurately, and where it differs with our present scientific understanding, well, that’s just because it’s describing scientific realities we have yet to discover (but have hints of in the latest work, like String Theory).

    I suppose that’s possible. But to be honest, it seems like a lot of back-bending to make the Bible and science fit. It presents a lot of scientifically and logically sticky situations. For example, is it really possible that we’ll someday discover an error in our scientific paradigm that would allow for the earth to have existed (with land, seas, and vegetation) before the sun existed (day 4, according to Genesis)? You could make the case that anything’s possible, that we don’t know what we don’t know, but it seems very very unlikely.

    I still think the simpler explanation is to credit the discrepancies to God’s providential decision to allow inaccurate human worldviews to be preserved in the Biblical account.

    Hey, I really appreciate your perspective, and it’s worth thinking about. Thanks for commenting, and let’s keep the conversation going!

  3. Awesome. I love this game. Christians picking and choosing parts of scripture in their holy book that are true and others that are not.

    I guess it should come as no surprise that you choose to question the parts of your holy book that would make you look stupid in the eyes of the world if in fact you believed in your own holy book. So instead of believing your holy book, you create your own, confessedly unsubstantiated version of assertions (“I realize that this has been a mere string of assertions”). Hilarious.

    I am so glad my friend referred me to this page.

    This is why I have such a problem with you Christians. Your own intellect rebels against the idea that the Genesis story could be true so you make up a new belief that just the parts of the bible that offend your notions of “truth” cannot be true. So instead of following your own intellect and denying that there is some man in the sky listening to the world’s prayers, you instead just make up an equally implausible theory.

    The implausible theory is not that Genesis is possibly incorrect (that is entirely plausible), but rather, the implausible theory is that you still believe in a god, but will yet so easily scrap the easiest interpretation of Genesis because to admit that it might be true would cast into doubt the idea that your God’s written word might be true and therefore antithetical to your own intellect.

    I just dusted off my bible and read the creation story. You really think the writer sat there and said to himself “I was just inspired by God to write a beginning to all things. How can I best repay Him for giving me this wonderful opportunity to give him glory. Hmmmnn. I will make this the most nuanced, confusing story ever, my main purpose in writing this will be so that people down through the ages will wonder about my commentary and parody of other creation stories existing at the time. In fact I will make this writing so incomprehensible, the true meaning of what I am writing, will be debated forever. I do this because I am more interested in nuance and confusion THAN JUST WRITING DOWN WHAT I ACTUALLY THINK HAPPENED because I am just too stupid to really grasp the ‘The general cosmology, geology, and biology’ of the universe’!!!!!”

    Yeah, you are right, your version of what was going on in the writer’s mind is much more believable than the simplest and most reasonable explanation that the writer actually believed what he was writing IN THE MOST IMPORTANT THING HE EVER DID IN HIS LIFE. Hysterical.

    A few closing comments, Connor, you seem like a great guy. I feel like we would probably get along if we ever met. We could have a real interesting conversation or two. But String theory? Not likely as sustainable. I just cannot get on board with it. A scientifically unverifiable idea that is losing ground in academia every day. See DISCOVER MAGAZINE’s interview section in last month’s issue. The mere fact that the only explanation for it to work is that a multiverse is out there and that a cat can be dead and alive at the same time. It’s a little hard to swallow.

    And to Tim, a quick google search reveals you pastor a Vineyard church in Kalamazoo Michigan. Let me get this straight: you pastor a church that actively believes in miracles, deliverance from demonic forces, and speaking in tongues. I assume you adhere to the basic dogma of the National Vineyard church. So, you can believe in miracles, demons, and people speaking in an unknown language but yet it is too much of a stretch for you to believe that Genesis is true?

    back track or press forward . . . it’s up to you.

    • Hi, Hypocrite Hater. I think you might be a bit confused.

      Tim was pretty clear in the first post that he’s a theist. That means he’s not a bibliolator, so I don’t know what it means for a him to “believe in [a] holy book”.

      • Hey Pseudonym,

        Yeah, I guess you are right, I must be really confused. That part in the second paragraph where Tim talks about the bible as being “true” because he is an evangelical and that he bases his life off of it because it’s the tradition he follows. Clearly that means he is only a theist. You got me, congratulations.

        As someone intimately familiar with theists, I know of not a single theist who would make such a statement. If anything, Tim’s view is much closer to Bibliolatry (though,not the same) than that of a theist.

        You may want to read Tim’s second paragraph again and define your words better in the future before you try and rip someone. Just a thought.

  4. Hypocrite Hater, welcome to the conversation! I too am glad your friend referred you to the blog. I hope you stick around.

    I think I hear you calling Christians to be consistent: to either take the Genesis story (and the rest of the Bible) at face value–which you think is nuts anyway; or to follow our intellects and give up on the whole thing–which you advocate.

    Here’s the thing that I think needs further consideration, and what I was trying to get at in my post. I think that in order to take the Bible seriously, I need to go beyond a face-value reading. You might interpret that as squirmy equivocation, but I’m actually “following my intellect” here. I’m slightly disappointed that you think the most faithful reading of Genesis has nothing to do with its context. You’re reading the Bible in the same way as some fundamentalist Christians, as if it’s a holy book that dropped out of the sky that tells us what we would have seen at Creation if we had a video camera to capture it. You shouldn’t read the Bible that way–especially you, Hater, if you’re an atheist. If you want to understand what’s going on in Genesis, you HAVE to consider the historical context, the cultural influences, and the literary conversation it’s a part of. Any run-of-the-mill atheist scholar of ancient literature would tell you that. Otherwise, you’re not treating it as a work of literature, but as an untouchable holy book. You of all people shouldn’t force yourself to do that.

    Remember, what confuses us about Genesis (if we try to approach it thoughtfully) are the things that would have been plain to it’s original hearers. They didn’t have to research the context and extant literature, or need to exegete the culture. They just heard or read Genesis and got the point. But we, who live perhaps 3000 years later in a vastly different world, may find what was plain to them to be hopelessly opaque to us, without a lot of hard work and scholarship. Again, this isn’t a religious perspective. A thinking atheist would tell you the same thing. Too many people, in my opinion, aren’t willing to take a thoughtful approach, and so treat Genesis as if it were written yesterday. They assume all of OUR culture and context, and project it onto the text. Don’t follow that route, Hater.

    One other theme of your comment that I’d like to push back on, just a bit, is about human intellect. This may be a bit off topic, but I don’t think you should give your intellect so much credit (I don’t mean your intellect, I mean anyone’s). From the perspective of evolutionary theory, our intellect is nothing more than an adaptation to help us survive and pass on our genes to the next generation. In other words, we only know enough to make us successful reproducers. A frog has an intellect too, enough intelligence to survive and reproduce. I’m happy to admit that we are much more intelligent than a frog. But if we’re right about the nature of intelligence, we must also admit that our own intellect is severely limited. And there is possibly, even plausibly, much that is true about the nature of our world that has not been grasped by our human intellect because there is no evolutionary need for us to know it. We may be blind to some of the fundamental realities of our world. Does that make sense? I don’t think intellect can lead us to dismiss god. That question is not within intellect’s jurisdiction.

    I hope you’ll continue to be part of the conversation, Hater. I obviously struck a nerve, or a funny bone (I’m not sure which). And if you’re ever in Kalamazoo, look me up (I know you can use google), and I’ll buy you a beer and you can ream me out for my lack of intelligence in person.

    • Funny bone. No beer. Wouldn’t ream you out, you would be surprised at the welcome you would receive. I like sarcasm.

      Your assumption on me advocating that you should take Genesis at face value and literally true is incorrect. There are some alternatives to that I was actually thinking of. Here is one, although it seems no one commenting on this blog would be willing to even consider it because everyone seems to be too smart for it. It seems no one is capable of saying “I don’t know.” Because no one is able to admit they don’t know how it all started or that it’s at least unknowable at this point, it seems like many of the commenters (and author) would rather create their own companion myth to make sense of it all and then call it their interpretation. By calling it their interpretation, it has now been insulated from attack and argument.

      Why is it so hard to read the Creation Story and then say “I know it did not literally happen that way, but I don’t know and can’t know (yet) how it really did happen.” Why the need to invent so much to mask that which you really do not know and cannot know?

      • You’re right. I mean, I don’t really know how it all happened. And I’m not a practicing scientist (though I have a degree in Physics–full disclosure), so I don’t bring a lot of real scientific expertise to the conversation.

        I’ve just got a hunch (given the evidence I’ve read about) that the current evolutionary model is probably pretty close to how it all went down. As a Christian who wants to be intellectually honest, I don’t feel like I can simply leave it at “I don’t know”. I need to pursue it a bit further and see whether this really conflicts with other teachings and traditions I value (beyond Genesis alone), or whether the conflict is all hype and no substance. I don’t have any interest in twisting things around to make myself feel better, picking and choosing errant and inerrant texts, bla bla bla. I just want to make an open honest inquiry, and if in the end there are aspects that remain unknown or unknowable, so be it. I can deal with that.

        I just don’t want to claim agnosticism so early, when things seem so at odds and there seems to be more we could discover about this. If I stopped now and said, “I just don’t know”, I’d feel like a hypocrite. And I’d hate that too. Hence the blog. You can understand, right?

  5. Tim, I’m glad you started this blog, and I hope to follow it. It’s good to see someone tackling these issues the way you’re doing it. As a christian and an engineer, I’ve studied both the Bible and science and had to reconcile the two. Even as a child I saw that Genesis 1 disagreed with chapter 2, and struggled to understand how they could both be true. Now I know that the two stories were meant to communicate theology, not science. It is important to use the Bible and science for what they were meant for. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on this subject.

  6. Hey Tim. Good idea for a blog. In the engineering student world there are infinitesimal opportunities to apply evolutionary science to what we study. Newton’s ideas not Darwin or Wallace’s lay the foundation for everything. Studying animals and trying to prove all those connections is far from our minds. Someone’s got to do that stuff I guess but not me. Trying to assert and prove that humans are merely animals generated from organic slime with no moral obligation is not why I came into higher education . Unfortunately some people do…and that’s just sad…my opinion! Thanks for starting this up.

  7. I’m a K-college graduate and I’ve been reading these entries since this blog was created. There’s a lot to think about here…so let me start by just saying that at K-college I dont think students were really given any time to think about how what they were handed by professors (especially in the “hard” sciences) could even be integrated with one’s faith. We were forced to concentrate on stuffing ourselves rather than any digestion. Now that I’m graduated, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect/digest…and I think my stomach’s a little upset.

    Maybe it’s because I’ve seen many people view this issue as a choice (option 1 or 2 of Tim’s post in a different string). I’ve had one of my best friends, on a quest to attend med school, slowly let involvement in anything religious fall away. Maybe my stomach is upset because All I keep hearing are two sides. “Conservative” Christian versus Secular Scientist. The dialogue needed is for careful integration on both sides, not the building of defenses. I think we’ve come to a point where in my view, Evolution is difficult to deny (more on the micro than macro level). Nothing a biologist learns would make sense without this framework anymore.

    And to Hypocrite Hater: I don’t think I’m picking and choosing what parts of the Bible I like. For me, this is an issue of interpretation. Some Christians take the creation story at face value, some hold only to a loose interpretation, others attempt to reconcile both levels of interpretation into a belief. I personally think science and religion seek to provide answers to different questions. To me, using science to answer questions of a religious nature doesn’t work very well. Forcing the Bible to explain science also doesn’t seem particularly constructive to me. This is what I see people doing though.

    Anyway, I am just now beginning to explore the topics that are being discussed here. I do think there is much more room for a synthesis of a Christian Worldview and certain touchy topics from the world of Academia than many people might believe.

    The question to which I am seeking an answer for currently are, why exactly does it matter whether we’ve evolved or not? Also, could this really just be a compromise to avoid intellectual conflict? Is there really compatibility? Do I even have to choose? Anyway, I’ve just finished “The Language of God; A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief” by Francis Collins. Any suggestions on what to take a look at next?

  8. I object! [of course]

    The Bible is in fact inerrant. What errors do you refer to?

    Too often I’m seeing this whole “evo is true; well, more on the micro than the macro level” The problem is that mic-evo aka horizontal changes within a kind of animal via natural selection, sexual selection, etc is observable fact. But mac-evo, aka vertical microbes-tp-man darwinism ala common descent is not. The fossil record evidences sudden appearance with no acentral forms evident and stasis [a dog is still a dog is still a dog and recognizably so, whether a wolf, bulldog or chihuahua]. Dobzhansky, admitting that we could not bserve mac-evo, was forced to conflate it with mic-evo and to profess that the small changes must eventually add up to big changes, but this was taken on faith.

    Dobzhansky, btw, is the same guy who also said that nothing makes sense in biology except in light of evolution, which is just, well, hubris:

    http://siriusknotts.wordpress.com/2009/10/18/so-much-depends-on-evolution-really/

    On a more broad note: Jesus said, If you can’t believe what I say about earthly matters, how shall you believe if I speak of spiritual? NOMA was Stephen J Gould’s suggested compromise position. Others have noted that it allows for a God to wind it all up, but nothing like the personal Creator of Christianity. Collins’ biologos is a little better, but inconmsistent. he strains gnats and swallows camels, allowing for miracles and the Resurrection which 21st science also dispute while denying a literal Genesis account based on, once again, acceptance of 21st science. he picks and chooses what he’ll believe of the Bible. Ever notice that it’s almost always the Bible that gets edited when 21st century science and the Bible are in dispute. I think we ought to trust the inspired, inerrant revealed Word of a holy God who was there over the finite graspings of mere men who weren’t.

    -Sirius Knott

    • Sirius,

      Congratulations on being the only “believer” here to man up and fight for the authenticity and inerrancy of your Bible. I really mean it. Even if we may fundamentally disagree on the idea of God to begin with, it is nice to see someone actually protect the integrity of the entire work. You sir are a learned, breath of fresh air.

      Fighting for the whole book > than picking and choosing what parts are inerrant because some of them offend my intellect.

      I noticed no one took you up on your offer to prove the Bible’s errancy too.

      • Undertake to prove the non-inerrancy of the Bible on a comment thread? Now I know you’re not serious.

        (Any resemblance between the end of the previous sentence and the tag of a commenter here is entirely accidental and coincidental, at least on my part. I mean what I said, in addition to having said what I mean.)

  9. Having barged in here, I’d really like to avoid taking the discussion off topic, but Sirius has raised the old “no intermediate forms” argument with such vigor and confidence that I’d like to make one comment about that, which may be of interest to those not sure about the matter. Then, I hope, we can get back to the subject that our host has set up the blog for.

    The snarky answer about intermediate forms, which is relevant and by no means just snark, is this: Suppose we’ve found two fossil forms, A and Z, and we say that Z is descended from A. Well, there’s a gap between them. Where is the intermediate form? Then we find M, an intermediate form. Now things are twice as bad, because there are two gaps! And two intermediate forms to worry about.

    This no silly hypothetical. Happens all the time. Surely the words “missing link” are still familiar? To the Victorians, it meant the important one, the link between Ape and Human. We have filled that gap with a lot of intermediate forms and are still looking for more. And now we know more about what we’re looking for, which is not the same that the Victorians expected; that happens when you start finding things.

    But we have a better example right in this decade, and if you can stand to look into a book that’s full of evolution stuff, you can see a first-hand account in Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin.

    They had two forms that were between fish and land animals — a lot more intermediates than were known 50 years ago, again what you’d expect in science — and he wanted to fill the gap. He knew when they had lived, and under what conditions, because other people had worked this out from the fossils. And they’d published their work and their evidence, so interested people could examine and criticize and decide whether they had a good case; Shubin didn’t have to take much on, pardon the expression, faith. And he had access to maps and descriptions of the geology of pretty much everywhere in the world, thanks to 200 years of careful work by thousands of people we’ve never heard of.

    (I mention this because hardly anyone knows, or can begin to imagine, the incredible mass and variety of data that modern evolutionary science is based on.)

    So, he looked over the books and found that there was a place where the right rocks, of the right age and formed under the right conditions, would probably be accessible and not buried under yards or miles of other sediments. It was in a ghastly uninhabited bit of the Canadian Arctic. The cliche here would be “godforsaken”, but that’s inappropriate here. So he started raising money and finding people, and the result is Tiktaalik, which made the news prominently a while ago by filling the gap exactly as he predicted.

    When you can make good predictions, it increases your confidence that you know the subject. Philosophers have argued about whether this is valid, but human beings simply living their lives and/or doing fancy science rely on it. Some of the smarter sort of philosophers still work on why it is valid.

    And now, there are two new gaps.

  10. Porlock, even without intermediate forms in the fossil record, the genetic evidence (and if you’ll allow, ‘proof’) for homonid evolution is enough on its own.

    • Phil_style —
      Oh, I couldn’t agree more. It just seemed a good opportunity to take up that long-standing very poor argument and show both the logic and the empirical evidence in a way that doesn’t seem to show up very often. The specific case of Tiktaalik is a real beauty, with recent news value and some name familiarity to boot.

  11. Closer to topic, I believe: Hypocrite Hater finds it most plausible that the author of the first chapter of Genesis “actually believed what he was writing IN THE MOST IMPORTANT THING HE EVER DID IN HIS LIFE.” Not only that, anything else is laughable.

    Well, I don’t find that position plausible at all. If he is supposed to have believed the all-caps part of that quote, it seems to presuppose that something was also going on in his mind, to this effect: “I am writing the history that will forever underly the sacred teachings of the Hebrews, and in 1,000 years will inform the understanding of the Son of God, and 2,000 years later will be revered by Christians of whom there will be Billllions.” I mean, is there some other reason than this, in general terms, for his thinking what HH says he thought?

    Since I do not believe in an overt explicit verbal inspiration of Genesis, in which the angel would have told him of all this, I don’t find that whole story plausible. What seems reasonable to me is that the author was filled with awe and wonder at the amazing work of G-d, and wrote an immortal hymn in praise of Being and of the Author of all being.

    I came to this conclusion only a couple years ago, when someone on a newsgroup was explaining a new account that tried to justify the detailed literal scientific truth of Genesis 1 in terms of modern science. So I needed to go back and read the thing again to be sure of what it said — and I was hit by this epiphany. I thank him, because I really love that poem now that I know how to read it.

    C. S. Lewis asked rhetorically, “Is theology poetry?” and concluded that it was not. I take his word for it, and in any case am not equipped to argue; but Genesis 1 is great poetry. Lewis is also the one who said, answering all the people who are too pure for mere existence, “God loves matter. He invented it.” Which seems to me exactly what Genesis 1 is about, even though I don’t know whether Lewis’s assertion is true.

  12. Porlock, my question for Hater would be, who is the person he is referring to that supposedly wrote this ‘creation’ story. That’s a bit of an assumption that one single person wrote the (probably) two stories in genesis, let alone the other “beginnings” accounts in the christian bible. .. The little anecdotal story about our write falls over, once we realise their was probably more than one of them .. ..

  13. This is true. In fact, I’m well hedged against that, having said “Genesis 1” consistently 🙂 It surely is not plausible that both 1 and 2 were written by the same person. But it’s not clear to me what HH’s position on that question is.

    In fact, as I recall , the textual experts who have identified about three quite distinct styles of language and theology in the Pentateuch have found 1 and 2 to fit two of those authors quite nicely. This I get from the book “Who Wrote the Bible?” which I found rather fascinating, since it at last told me specifically what all that stuff about the multiple authorship is based on, and what the relevant history is. The author, whose name slips my mind and I haven’t time to look up right now, seems to be well qualified to write on the subject, but I don’t know what his reputation is in his field.

    • Porlock and Phil,

      My only point was that anyone (whether one author or more) writing the creation account would not have been thinking about how to make it so nuanced that no one would be able to comprehend it. Tim tried to argue that the author (or authors) tried to write a story that would mystify us and stir debate for future generation upon generation about the origin of all things in response to other competing myths at the time.

      I mean, seriously, there is absolutely no evidence to that effect. My point was to address the ridiculousness of that idea because there are so many other, more logical assumptions one could make about the authors’ mind set, the last of which would be what Tim is trying say is true (whatever that means). And the fact that Tim would shape his entire understanding of Genesis on an idea without any evidence and with so many other reasonable explanations out there (one of which you detailed above), only serves to reinforce my overall point that it seems like he is merely picking and choosing what parts he really believes are true and making up whatever he thinks sounds good to explain away all the stuff he cannot intellectually reconcile.

      I really have zero desire to know or contemplate who or how many people authored what. People really spend a lot of time on this? On purpose?

      • HH, I don’t mean to belabor the point… I think I get what you’re saying. And I too consider it ridiculous to suggest that the author or authors are intentionally messing with us for the fun of screwing with our minds. That would be an illogical stance to take.

        But just to clarify, I don’t think the author(s) of Genesis intentionally nuanced their account in order to mystify us and stir up our debate. They just wrote what they believed. It only mystifies us because we aren’t ancient near-easterners. When we perceive it as crystal clear, we need to be careful we’re not unintentionally reading our own anachronistic perspectives back into the text. That’s all. And, for what it’s worth, I feel the same way about the whole of the Big Book. By now it’s ALL ancient literature, and needs to be read with a sensitivity to its own context. No picking and choosing here.

        Thanks for continuing to comment!

  14. This is the classic mistake of trying to mix analyze theology with logic.
    Science and faith have no place of crossover.
    Not to mention all the politics that have shaped the book you are choosing to base your disputes over.
    lastly none of the stories, philosophies or texts are original to the bible but come from older societies and religions that came before.

    • Bryan! Welcome to the blog!

      Those are some pretty sweeping statements, my friend. I think each sentence could be a conversation all by itself. Hopefully we’ll get to address some of those issues as the blog develops.

      I will say, though, that you’ve made the classic mistake of saying it’s a classic mistake to mix theology and logic… theology = theos “god” + logos “logic”. Theology is logical by definition. …Doesn’t mean it’s always good logic 😉

  15. Again it is the classic mistake brought to us by the Greeks in vain attempt to define everything.

    Your argument is semantics not logic.

    Also a bit of a red herring and I will say it again science has nothing to do with religion, or should not.

    One is a spiritual pursuit and the other is a material one.

    It is like the guy who has written the Science of Zombie Movies. He is a real Scientist and it is all for fun.

    Lots of speculation but the premise by itself denies any further logic.

    • Well, yeah, that was mostly just a semantic jab on my part… Sorry Bryan.

      I half agree with your axiom that science has nothing to do with religion. I think the supernatural is by definition outside the empirical observation of science. And on the flip side, I don’t think my religious texts are intended to provide scientific knowledge.

      However, the problem that remains for me with demanding that faith and science be categorically separated is that my faith describes a God who is intimately involved in the material world. The place where I interact with God is in the material world. I do spiritual things with nothing except my material body. I can’t do otherwise. (Other faiths, like those based on Greek dualism may be able to separate the spiritual and material, but mine demands integration.)

      So if the findings of my ‘spiritual pursuit’ tell me that my God spoke the world into being 6000 years ago, but the findings of my ‘material pursuit’ tell me the world is 14000000000 years old, what do I do? Do I lean on my faith to correct my science, or vice versa?

      One might say, “Well, faith shouldn’t make that kind of claim.” But it’s a losing battle because even this criticism itself commits the same crime it bemoans, by judging faith on the standard of a higher (scientific) logic.

      So I’m not willing to say “faith and science have nothing to say to each other” unless I’m also willing to say “the world is both 6000 years old AND 14000000000 years old, depending on whether I’m looking from a spiritual or material perspective.” Yeah, I’m not there. Not that I have all the answers. I just don’t like that one.

      True religion and true science may not overlap much, but I want them to at least be compatible. If they’re not, something has to give. That’s the inquiry of this blog.

  16. Another consideration (from a sometime Bible professor and one-time creationist): the Bible has several episodes of creation outside of Genesis. The myth of the god slaying the water monster, very prevalent in the Ancient Near East, is clearly behind several psalms, several chapters in Job and a good part of Second Isaiah. We all think Genesis contains the creation story since it is first. This is a modern, western concept and it simply does not fit the biblical world.

  17. Thanks Steve. All the stories in the bible predate the bible.
    Not that that is importantjfrom a proof of God’s word point of view.
    It is important from an eternal human point of view.
    The mythic, the iconic span all religions and God comes across in all religons in a similar fashion because we are all human.
    Not evolution but sociology, anthropology, psychology, internal not external.
    Jung not Hawkings.

    • Quite so. I’ve done a fair amount of research in prebiblical material and much of what the Bible says has already been said before. I quite often address this on my blog as well (sawiggins.wordpress.com).


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