Re: Natural Theology, Unguided Processes and Apologetics

Jack Collins (
Wed, 17 Sep 1997 14:47:19 -0400

A couple of comments on linguistic matters:

Several have discussed the meaning of Hebrew _bara_, and whether it refers
to _ex nihilo_ or not. Also, Jan de Koning has (again), in quoting a
theologian, referred to the Biblical idea of "truth" as "faithfulness"

Linguists know that you should not confuse the word and the concept. That
is, it is quite possible that the same word (e.g. _bara_) refers in one
case to "intervention" and in another case to what we'd call "natural
process"/"providence". We make a mistake if we conclude that the
(apparent) lack of distinction at the lexical level means there is no
distinction at the conceptual level. For example, in 1 Sam 6:7 the word
translated "calves" even in a literalistic version like NASB is in Hebrew
"sons", i.e. the same word used for human children. No one is serious who
supposes that Hebrews nevertheless couldn't make the conceptual distinction
just because the lexical distinction isn't there!

I would argue that Gen 1:1 strongly favors creation _ex nihilo_, and a
number of other passages quite clearly endorse the doctrine. On the
historical question of the church's acceptance of the doctrine, there's a
very good study by Paul Copan in the _Trinity Journal_ from 1996 (?, I
think), refuting the idea that this doctrine was historically a response to
gnosticism. Whether _bara_ refers to intervention in other passages must
be taken on a case-by-case basis: there are places where I think it
certainly does, e.g. Ps 51:10 (in the English); but I think so, not because
of the word but because of the thing talked about and how that relates to
OT theology.

Also, the Biblical "concept" of truth is not the same as the lexical
semantics of Hebrew words from the root _'-m-n_ or from Greek _aletheia_.
(See James Barr, Semantics of Biblical language_, or Donald Carson's
_Exegetical fallacies_.)

Oh, well, I've stayed too long. See ya's!

Your servant,

Jack Collins