RE: Something must change

Howard J. Van Till (
Tue, 18 Aug 1998 11:54:57 -0400


Some of your comments indicate that we are having a communication problem.
The "concordism and harmonization" that I characterized as something thet
"simply won't work" is the familiar sort that takes something like Genesis
1-3 and simply _assumes_ that this is a _chronicle_ that specifies what
happened when. Concordism and harmonization efforts have led to such
proposals as 1) Creation Science and its attempt to reinterpret selected
empirical data to fit a literalistic, young-earth reading of Genesis
already in place, or 2) various day-age propositions that attempt to
harmonize the chronological structure of the Genesis 1 narrative into the
timescale derived from empirical science.

In contrast to both of those "concordistic" approaches, your eloquent
rearticulation of the fundamental message of Genesis 1-3 and of Psalm 8 in
the conceptual vocabulary of the late 20th century is an example of what I
am calling for. Keep it up.

On the matter of general procedure you offered this: "I think that it is a
far better (more conservative) assumption to start out my search for truth
in the Bible by taking what it says as a historical fact, and then test it
for its historic accuracy."

The key phrase there is "what it says as a historical fact." Discerning
what the Bible "says as a historical fact" requires far more informed
judgment than many Christians are willing to recognize. One of the very
first steps, it seems to me, is the expenditure of a great deal of effort
to become acquainted with the historical, cultural, religious, and literary
contexts in which a particular portion of the biblical text was written.
Following closely would be the expenditure of a comparable effort to
identify the literary genre of the particular text in question and the
manner in which that text functions in the context of the whole of the
biblical canon.

Therefore, rather than beginning with the assumption that all biblical
references to historical events are _chronicle_ in genre, I would rather
begin with the assumption that there is in the Bible a rich diversity of
forms of historical literature, and that one important way of respecting
the biblical text is to discern the genre before formulating an

I have a suspicion we are not too far apart on these matters.

Howard Van Till