Re: Inconsistency on Shroud vs. Genesis.

George Murphy (
Wed, 11 Aug 1999 08:54:00 -0400 wrote:
> I acknowledge that I am fighting for historicity. I do it for two reasons.
> One I just posted to another list I am on. First, I see no hope to stop
> the YEC paradigm unless a historical scenario is presented. I see only one
> long-term solution. There are no short term solutions. A
> view of the Bible will not be widely taught among conservative Christians
> in their Sunday Schools unless that view teaches that the Bible is
> historical. THat is the sine qua non of their theology. So the only long
> term solution is to replace the present scientfically naive YEC scenario
> with something that makes the Bible historical. Then it can be taught
> without having the parents raise the barricades. To try to get
> conservative christians to teach a view that they think undermines the
> reasons to believe the Bible is like spitting into a strong wind.

IF this is really so it's a terrible indictment of conservative Christians.
"Jesus Christ and him crucified" is the sine qua non of any genuine Christianity.
To try to convince people that some old earth &/or evolutionary scenario is true
while reinforcing essentially idolatrous ideas about the Bible is theologically
irrelevant (for no one is going to be saved by accepting or not accepting evolution) &
amounts to a hardening of hearts.

> Most people who approach this issue (like you) offer nothing in the way of
> a scenario
> that preserves what the conservative Christians want. All we offer them is
> unconditional surrender--which they, to our (amazing) amazement, reject.

What I try to offer is a view which is theologically & scientifically sound.
Whether or not it's what people want is another matter. I'm scarecely amazed that
it often isn't. What many people want is a theology of glory, a book of rules they can
try to follow, easy answers &c.

> Secondly, I find theological problems with a God who either can't or won't
> tell us the unadulterated truth!

In the form you demand.

> >> Looking at the literary style I see in Psalms I don't see it in early
> >> Genesis. Where are the similies?
> >
> > 1st, you miss the point of my reply. Your claim was that Christian attempts
> >to interpret Genesis other than as historical narratives are modern
> innovations. The
> >examples I cited shows that they aren't. Whether or not patristic or
> >medieval allegorizing is valid is another question.
> > 2d, the point (& in large part weakness) of allegory is that one can
> interpret
> >a text that looks like straight history as something else - either in
> addition to or
> >in place of the historical reading. The account of Abram, Sarai, & Hagar
> reads on the
> >surface as an historical account, but they are, according to St. Paul, "an
> allegory"
> >speaking of something not at all evident on the surface (Gal.4:21-31).
> So are you saying that Abram, Sarai and Hagar are as allegorical as Genesis
> 1? If so, there isn't much of history in Genesis at all. You will probably
> say no. Pulling allegories from real history is easy but it doesn't mean
> that the history is false.

Refer back to point 1, which I've already repeated several times. The
extensive use of allegorical interpretation in the early & medieval churches shows
your statement about the modernity of non-historical interpretations to be false.
Beyond that, I made the point that the whole point of allegory is to give such non-
historical reading of texts which appear to be historical narrative. I am NOT
recommending wholesale allegorical interpretation, though St. Paul's use of it
shows that it shouldn't be ruled out entirely. & you're right - texts can (& often
were) read both as real history and allegory.

> > 3d, there's a lot of Hebrew poetry in the OT that doesn't come across as
> poetry
> >in most English version.
> Give examples. I find it much easier to follow and accept an argument that
> gives examples for claims like this.

See the article "Poetry, Hebrew" by N.K. Gottwald in _The Interpreter's
Dictionary of the Bible_. To quote a bit -
"Fully one third of the OT text is poetic in form. Psalms, Proverbs, Song of
Songs, Lamentations, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Habbakkuk, and Zephaniah are poetic in their
entirety (with the exception of superscriptions). The greater parts of Job, Isaiah,
Hosea, Joel, and Amos are poetic, and Jeremiah is about one half poetry. Several books
have substantial poetic portions in otherwise prose material: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers,
Deuteronomy, Judges, I and II Samuel, Ecclessiastes, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah.
Only seven OT books appear to contain no poetic lines: Leviticus, Ruth, Ezra, Nehemiah,
Esther, Haggai, and Malachi."
A thorough commentary on the Hebrew text gives more details - e.g., J.A.
Thompson's _The Book of Jeremiah_.
Gottwald's article also discusses the various features of Hebrew poetry -
different types of parallelism, assonance, &c.

> >> > Say for (over) simplicity that Gen.1-11 contains stories. _Details
> >> matter in
> >> >stories_!
> >>
> >> Why stories? I think the only reason moderns believe that Genesis has no
> >> bearing on creation as it actually happened is because they have been
> >> unable to present a scenario that matches the Biblical account. Thus we
> >> call it stories, or poetry, anything so long as we don't have to deal with
> >> it as any form of history--which is what the ancients thought it was.
> >
> > Again you miss the point. You argued that details are only important if one
> >is presenting a set of historically or scientifically accurate
> propositions. That is
> >manifestly false.
> You missed my point here. I am saying that the allegorical approach is the
> easy way out of the problem. and as I noted above, it has such little
> effect against the YECs, indeed, it feeds the fires of YECism. And that
> this approach was taken not because the Bible requires it, but because
> educated people couldn't find a reasonable scenario.

I guiess we can play dueling missed points all year. All I said here is
that details matter in stories, a fact which anyone who's read detective novels (e.g.)
knows. Allegory has nothing to do with this.
> > You keep misrepresenting my position as saying that God "can't" or "isn't
> able
> >to" &c do certain things. & the idea that if God really loved us he'd
> reveal scientific
> I am not misrepresenting. I am drawing the conclusion from the assumption.
> God chose not to tell us the true historical facts of creation. Therefore
> God told us a fib. God chose not to tell us the true historical facts of
> creation, therefore God made up a pretty fairy tale for intellectually
> inferior children who were too dumb to understand simplified truths.

When asked "Who is my neighbor" Jesus did not give a legal definition but
told a story. (Whose historical truth is utterly irrelevant - & yes, we've been over
this before, & yes, it "could have" happened, & no, that has nothing to do with the
point here, which is that Jesus didn't give the kind of answer the man wanted.

> >> The universe came from a hot fire.
> >> The earth formed from a big cloud.
> >> Life sprang forth from the waters.
> >> Man was created when a creature that lived in the trees was changed.
> >>
> >> There is absolutely nothing in the above 4 sentences that contradicts
> >> science and that a 5000 BC farmer couldn't have understood. Is it
> >> exhaustive? NO. Is it understandable? Yes. Does it conflict with science?
> >> NO! The implications of your view for God's communicative abilities is
> >> bad. Couldn't God think of doing this? Of course He should have been able
> >> to do it. But then since He didn't, we prefer to say He spoke gibberish
> >> that only a theologian can understand and interpret. That is troubling.

Note that while these statements are all kindergarten versions of theories which
are probably correct, & I think at present that they're true, they are all debatable.
They are all relatively recent theories. E.g., the idea that some types of clays formed
a matrix in which the original formation of molecules took place, rather than the more
commonly proposed pre-biotic soup, certainly can't be ruled out at present. So what you
would have God do is give an elementary version of our understanding of origins circa
2000 A.D. If we'd been debating this in 1900 your examples would have been quite
different, & they might have to be quite different in 2100.
Instead (as noted later) God apparently made use of the near-eastern science of
~1000 B.C., adapting it for theological purposes because it's primarily a theological,
rather than a scientific, statement.

> > In fact, what God was willing to condescend to do was to use the scientific
> >ideas of the world held by Israel & its neighbors ~3000 years ago (flat
> earth, dome of
> >the sky, waters above the heavens &c), adapting them freely where
> necessary to make
> >theological points (e.g., the treatment of the heavenly bodies on the 4th
> day).
> Did God tell you he was condescending? See there are as many assumptions
> in your view as the YECs have in theirs and as I have in my view. The
> problem is that these assumptions become believed to the point that we
> can't see the world in anyother way. You obviously believe your view which
> is the way it should be. But you are not seeing the questionable
> assumptions that go into your view. These assumptions include that God
> condescends and tells false stories to shepherds, that the shepherds are
> too ignorant to be able to understand what we understand today (which is a
> form of modern egotism which is quite widespread; we are not the
> intellectual superiors of the ancients--we only know more), That you know
> what God's intention was--to tell an allegory when it isn't all that clear
> that that is what He is doing. There are lots of other assumptions that I
> would question in your view.

Phil.2:5-11 is precisely about God condescending, & thus revealing his
character. & empirically, Genesis 1 read strictly as a scientific account, is not in
agrrement with what we know about the universe - there ain't no dome & there ain't no
waters above the firmament.

> >> That means that the Bible has NOTHING useful to say about creation; not
> >> even anything to say about who made it.
> >
> > Nonsense. It says that the God who brought Israel out of Egypt & raised
> Jesus
> >from the dead is the creator of the universe - a highly non-trivial claim.
> But just an unsubstantiated claim. How do you know this isn't an
> allegorical claim also? How do you know this claim is historical? I can
> claim to create the world and it is a highly non-trivial claim. Prove me
> wrong! You can't. Allah, Molech and Ra and a thousand other deities also
> claim to have created the universe also. Who is correct and by what means
> do we judge? If Jehovah doesn't have some knowledge that the others don't
> have, then I say there is a problem.

The Bible identifies God by what God does. You want God to prove himself by
explaining what he has done in terms of your categories.

> > In other words, you have a list of conditions God has to meet before you'll
> >accept him as God?
> NO, I have a list of expectations about God and His nature that should play
> a role in how I interpret the Bible! I don't expect God to lie or
> misrepresent in any fashion what He claims to have done! If He does
> misrepresent things, then He is not to be trusted. Period. I won't trust
> Clinton because of his lies. Why should I trust God when you say He
> misrepresents things.

Let me preface the next statement by saying that I am NOT claiming Genesis
1 to be a parable! But Jesus' teaching in parables & especially the explanation of
_why_ he taught in parables in Mark 4:10-12 is germane here.

> >> OK, which parts are not poetry? Lay it out.
> >
> > Again you miss the point. Identification of "poetry" in the strict sense
> >is a matter of looking carefully at the structure of the Hebrew. Deciding
> whether or
> >not to read words as metaphors &c is more difficult: The grammatical
> structure of
> >"My heart is broken" is the same as that of "My pencil is broken."
> > But the point (& I quite understand why you want to avoid it) is that what
> >I've already said twice: The motif of the struggle with the sea, the sea
> monsters &c
> >runs through the OT as a way of speaking about creation & no one wants to
> interpret
> >it as an account of events which really happened.
> But you keep avoiding explaining exactly what traits in Genesis 1-11 make
> it poetry. It shouldn't be hard to lay this out but you don't.

I never said that Genesis 1-11 is poetry (though it contains some bits).
The only reason "poetry" came up this time is that you wanted to dismiss the
_Chaoskampf_ passages because they were poetry.

> > (A horrible thought creeps upon me: It it possible that Glenn will argue
> >that it _could have_ happened that way, that maybe God "really did" "slay
> Rahab of
> >the Deep with a deadly wound"? May it not be!)
> Why do you avoid laying out the criteria for poetry--in defendable detail?

Again, see Gottwald's article - though this is really getting off the track.

> Why do you avoid explaining which parts of Genesis 1-11 are history and
> which aren't? If you can't explain this, defend this and lay it out, I
> would say it is not a clearly thought out position.

I already gave a couple of examples. One can also give examples of clearly
NONhistorical passages, like 6:1-4, & partial duplications, like the genealogies of
chapters 4 & 5. But picking out all the historical fragments is something about which
competent commentators will differ. A "clearly thought out position" is that these
chapters are a theological statement about creation, the spread of sin, God's judgment
and covenant, as preparation for the call of Abram when we really begin to get into
something like history.

> >> OK, so are the genealogies supposed to represent historical figures?
> >
> > They undoubdtedly have some historical information. That doesn't mean
> that they
> >have the kind of genealogical accuracy that the DAR would ask for.)
> OK so if the genealogies have historical information, then I presume that
> this means that Noah existed. Did he build an ark? Did Tubalcain live?

Your presumption is wrong. I said "have some historical information," not "are
completely accurate."

> So we are now saying that God didn't tell us the truth because He would
> have hindered science? Where does this information come from? Why does God
> care about scientific progress when he doesn't care to tell us anything
> true about science?

I made this statement _en passant_ but I think it's true. Don't you know
the difference between solving a problem yourself & looking up the answer in the
back of the book? As a physics teacher, I certainly get more satisfaction from
students being able to work a problem than from telling them the answer.

George L. Murphy