Re: Origins: reply to George Murphy

Juli Kuhl (
Sun, 8 Sep 1996 18:10:04 -0400 (EDT)

Doesn't the identity of the author have a bearing on some of these

Or the intent of the writer? To me it makes a big difference if someone
is trying to create a following (a group loyal to him/her) or is trying to
convey truth - whether that "person" is God or humankind.

C S Lewis was intending to convey spiritual truth, similar to Jesus'
intent with His parables. Genre seems significant mostly for
purposes of accurate interpretation, too, I think. How one categorizes
a biblical text matters; we need to decide if a text is poetry,
historical narrative, fact, figure of speech, quotes of human origin
(such as excerpts from the "helpful advice" of Job's three friends or
accusations of Satan himself), specific proclamations to a specific
audience (Gabriel's pronouncement to Mary, Jeremiah's promises to the
remnant), etc. etc. etc.

No end to the dialogue, is there? (sigh) I just hope all this
cyberchatting strengthens our faith and makes us more godly
(ie, more willing to set aside "self" while continuing to develop
the gifts we were loaned of intellect, time, money, desire to study,
willingness to serve others, etc.)

Juli Kuhl

On Sat, 7 Sep 1996, Murphy wrote:

> Glenn Morton wrote:
> >
> > George wrote:
> >
> > >Glenn Morton wrote:
> > [snip]
> > >>I glean no truths of the human condition from the portrayals of the
> > >> hobbits.
> > >>
> > >>Why do I not draw truths from these characters about God,Satan and the human
> > >> condition? Because they are not TRUTHS, they are OPINIONS. The opinions of
> > >> J.R.R. Tolkein, which happen to be very interesting but opinions
> > > none-the-less.
> > >>
> > >> If the events of Ex. 1-20 and Gen. 6-9 are not historically true, then any
> > >> truths I draw from them are somebody's opinion. No matter how interesting,
> > >> entertaining or whatever, opinions are opinions.
> >
> > > Being uninterested in novels because they seem boring and (if I
> > >remember correctly from an earlier post) not wanting to bring the poetic
> > >parts of the Bible into the discussion seem to me not to prepare one
> > >very well to discern the different types of material found in the Bible.
> >
> > Probably true. But I do know logical inconsistencies when I see them. An
> > example below.
> >
> > One further thing, poets are well known for not paying attention to factual
> > details. So my rejection of bringing the poetic parts of the scripture into
> > this discussion is based entirely upon their track record on factual data.
> >
> > Psalm 17:8 says "hide me in the shadow of your wings". Is God a chicken?
> No? Is the psalmist therefore in error?
> > Psalm 18:10 says, "he soared on the wings of the wind". Since when does wind
> > have wings?
> >
> > Psalm 104:5 "He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved"
> > Where are these foundations?
> >
> > Ps 139:9 "If I rise on the wings of the dawn..." I have never seen these
> > wings.
> >
> > My point here is that while I may not be an expert on literature types, I do
> > know where NOT to go to get my science. The Genesis stories may not be
> > historical but that is what one must examine because they are not written like
> > the psalms.
> Of course not all poetry conveys truth. But in order to find
> out, one has to be willing to enter into the poetry. As the German puts
> it,
> Wer den Dichter will verstehen
> Muss in Dichters Lande gehen" -
> "Whoever wants to understand the poet must go into the poet's country."
> This is part of the reason Jesus' parables function as they do. Some,
> even though they "don't get it", will stick around and listen again.
> Others won't.
> In fact, if you get rid of all poetic language, in the broadest
> sense, in the Bible, you don't have much left. Metaphor etc. is
> pervasive - in science as well, I might add. C.S. Lewis says something
> to the effect that, "We can make our language duller, but we cannot make
> it less figurative."
> > >Everything will be considered as more-or-less historical accounts.
> > >But stories can convey truth. When Jesus told the story of the Good
> > >Samaritan in answer to the question "Who is my neighbor?", it brought
> > >his questioner to the true answer, and not simply an opinion.
> >
> > This example is not the most difficult one can cite.
> Perhaps so, but why not deal with it? Did Jesus story convey
> the truth or not? Would he have been better advised to give an answer
> in the form of a legal ruling?
> Take a recent article
> > (John C. Munday, Jr., "Eden's Geography Erodes Flood Geology," Westminster
> > Theological Journal, 58(1996), pp. 123-154). Munday, in getting to his major
> > point, the inconsistency of local, mesopotamian geology with the YEC position,
> > discusses the interpretation of Eden's story. What his analysis revealed to me
> > was the absolute lack of agreement among those who interpret the Bible by a
> > non-historical methodology on what the meaning of the story really is.
> >
> > In this article he talks about the various meanings (read "truths") gleaned
> > from the Eden story. The various interpretations he cites are:
> >
> > * a picture of paradisal beatitude.
> >
> > * a recollection of the conflict between Neolithic farmers and Paleolithic
> > hunters.
> >
> > * an allusion to the gardener-kings of Sumer/Akkad
> >
> > * a political allegory describing the conflict between the economic elite and
> > the peasants
> >
> > * A sexual allegory
> >
> > * A polemic against the Caananite religion
> >
> > * A a parable of the deportation of a king to Babylon
> >
> > * A story to tell us that we are human not gods
> >
> > * an old story of a Garden-Dwelling-God
> >
> > To this I might add the possibility that the Eden story means:
> >
> > * an explanation of the source of all troubles, rebellion against God
> >
> > * an example of God dealing with Adam and Eve in actual, historical
> > space-time; like God dealt with 1st century society in actual, historical
> > space-time in the form of Jesus.
> >
> > Consulting Bernard Anderson's _Understanding the Old Testament_ Prentice Hall,
> > 1966, p. 173). Anderson writes of the origin stories:
> >
> > "These stories are 'historical' only in the sense that, as used by the
> > Yahwist, they communicate the *meaning* of history."
> >
> > Might I ask, "Which meaning?"
> >
> > These "truths" that the various authors cited by Munday saw in the Eden story,
> > are mutually contradictory. Thus all these "truths" can not be TRUE at the
> > same time. This is a logical contradiction. To believe all these "truths" is
> > impossible. To quote Carroll:
> >
> > "There's no use trying," she said: " One can't believe impossible things."
> > "I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen, "When I was your
> > age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why sometimes I've believed as
> > many as six impossible things before breakfast."-Lewis Carroll, _Through
> > theLooking-Glass_ Chapter 5, cited in Bartlett's Familar Quatations, (Little
> > Brown and Co., 1990), in Microsoft Bookshelf, 1993, CDROM Reference Library,
> > (Seattle: Microsoft Corp. 1993).)
> >
> > So the question is: Without objective evidence, how does one tell the true
> > "truths" from the false "truths"?
> OK - some of the above explanations of Gen.1-3 aren't helpful.
> Since we're dealing with the Bible, we need to look - after all the
> literary, historical, etc. work is done - for THEOLOGICAL meaning. Some
> people will come to wrong answers about that. Some won't.
> > > Even a blind pig finds an acorn once in awhile. More
> > >profoundly, a "true" statement can in an important sense be false if it
> > >functions to support false beliefs and actions. "Jesus is Lord"
> > >functions as a falsehood if used as a justification for killing
> > >non-Christians. Smith copied large parts of the Gospel of John into the
> > >Book of Mormon, but in that context they help to convey false ideas.
> >
> > I agree with you here, but let me ask. Is Genesis 1:1 an example of a blind
> > pig finding an acorn?
> No. The Book of Mormon is.
> > If as you say the early part of Genesis is not historical, I would presume
> > that that means that Genesis 1:1 "In the Beginning God created the Heavens and
> > the Earth" is also not historical. Who did create the world?
> >
> > I would contend that if God can not be creator, I fail to see how he can be
> > Savior. And since all religions claim their God or one of their gods created
> > the world, how can I tell that Jehovah was the real fellow and not a fraud?
> > The only way I can figure out how to decide who created the world, is by who
> > told the true account of the creation. And I do believe it was Jehovah. I just
> > don't believe any of the Genesis interpretations I have seen published. I had
> > to come up with a new one or conclude that Jehovah didn't have a thing to do
> > with creation.
> > For a start, Gen.1:1 is a theological statement. The world
> depends entirely, and always has so depended, on God alone. When
> considered in connection with a possible temporal origin of the universe
> (as I think is appropriate), the world is to be understood as having
> been made not IN time but WITH time (Augustine). Thus while Gen.1:1
> refers to a beginning of cosmic history, it is not a beginning IN
> history.
> Psalm 104 is another of the great biblical passages on creation.
> Of course it is manifestly poetic. Does that mean it's "less true" than
> Genesis 1? If so, is Psalm 104 "false"?
> George