Re: Apologists and other salesmen

Murphy (
Wed, 30 Oct 1996 18:27:11 -0500

John Misasi wrote:

> While i agree Christianity is not based on the literal interpretation of
> Genesis, you must be careful when you are claiming to understand which
> sections of the bible are to be read as fiction and which sections are to
> be read as non-fiction. I would say that the majority of the bible is
> not fiction, and where it is fiction it is in the form of allogory or
> parable, that is to be used for the teaching of God's people. If Genesis
> 1-5 are supposed to be allogorical then what are we to learn? We learn
> that some men have a tendency to sin and that God punishes them for it.
> But, how does that affect me, where is the concept of original sin (the concept that
> we are in need of salvation because of the the original sin). If genesis
> 1-5 are a myth then the need for salvation comes into question.
> Barring Roman 3:23 (for all have sinned...), i could grow up perfect
> without need the need for salvation.
> I would suggest another hypothesis, which i mentioned about a
> month or so ago, and that is that maybe genesis 1:2 through chapter 2
> is not discussing the creation of the earth, but the creation of the
> promised land. This is the hypothesis written about in John
> Sailhamer's book, 'Genesis Unbound'. His argument essentially says
> both sides YEC and OEC are wrong to espouse beliefs that Genesis 1 and
> 2 have anything to so with creation of the Universe (with the exception
> of Genesis 1:1). That they are actually the description of God's creation
> of the promised land and the first people he placed in it. He argues
> that we must not forget the first five books are meant to be read
> together and that they eaach focus on different aspects of Jewish history
> and that the role of genesis is to set up the peoples expulsion from the
> promised land, its subsequent promise to the jewish people and how they
> ended up in eygpt. (I know that i am not doing his book justice, i am
> paraphrasing it from my memory).
> We must therefore be very careful in deciding which books are to
> be placed in the fiction section, because if we place Genesis 1-5 in the
> fiction section, all of Genesis should be in te fiction section, as well
> as the rest of the Pentetauch. And i don't think that we would ever mean to
> say that the first five books of the bible are merely fictional
> childrens stories.

I recognize that you can speak for Sailhammer only in a limited
way, but it seems to me that this hypothesis about the earliest chapters
of Genesis (for which I can see no positive basis) quite fails to do
what you yourself want - i.e., connect the creation story with your own
life. It would apply only to descendants of those original
inhabitatants of the promised land.
On the contrary, consider the following:
Gen.1-3 speak of the creation of the human race and the willful
sin of humanity. They of the situation of every human - cf. the
meaning of the name _adham_. While these accounts do not give a
chronicle-like description of past events, the fact that they are placed
canonically at the beginning of the story of humanity on earth means
that human disobedience, the transgressing of the limits God has set
and the desire to be like God, have been a problem for humanity from its
Genesis 3 does _not_ set out an understanding of "original sin_
or "sin or origin_ as it later came to be understood in the Christian
church. But Genesis is not the whole of Scripture. It is only in the
context of the whole of Scripture, including Romans, and, in fact,
reflection by the Christian church beyond the formation of the canon,
that a doctrine of original sin was set out thoroughly. And at that,
the eastern church, while rejecting the straight denial of original sin
by Pelagius, has never taken the strong position on original sin
accepted by the western Christians.
Note also that while Paul refers to Adam in Rom.5, he does _not_
in his very strong statement about the universal character of sin in
Chapter 1.
So - accepting Gen.1-3 as a literal historical account is
neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for a doctrine of
original sin.
George Murphy