I add my prayers and best wishes to those of the other respondents for your
speedy recovery. I've been following the exchange between you and Glenn
with great interest. I don't think I have much to contribute to this debate
and I certainly don't intend to muddy the waters.
In my journey as a Christian, I never had much of a problem with accepting
the, sometimes strange, stories in the Bible for which there is no evidence
to the contrary. For example, the floating axe head? No problem: if God
wants to make his point that way, who am I to question this! I wasn't
there, and the atoms in the axe head have most likely been recombined with
oxygen and have left no trace. The bitter water at Mara? Maybe it was
highly saline water or contained Epsom salt and all Moses did was to run the
water through a cellulose column. Even most of the historical records in
the Bible have not been a source of doubt to me; after all, I'm not a
historian or an archaeologist.
Lately, though. I've started to see myself as a penguin on an ice floe
heading north, towards the equator: I'm the penguin and the ice under my
feet is Word of God. As we obtain more and more information, more and more
of the OT turns out to be not what we were taught it to be. There was
apparently no "Adam" as he is portrayed in Genesis, and his missing rib
didn't turn into his spouse. There may not have been an Ark as we
understand it and Noah (or whoever he was) did not bring all the animals
with him. The book of Esther may have been little more than a "morale
booster" and Jonah may not have visited Nineveh.
Far be it for me to suggest that the Bible should be interpreted literally
and I'm not to suggest that the sun does indeed rise or that we should send
out expeditions to find the "four corners of the earth." I am fully aware
that much of the OT (and NT) texts may have lost much of its original
meaning and I can well imagine that the Hebrews would nod wisely when they
"got the point" as they heard the story of the creation of Eve. Trouble is,
we (at least I) don't " get the point."
I see a (to me) disturbing trend: the text in the Bible is accepted at face
value UNTIL there is [good] evidence to the contrary. For example, we have
no problem with Jonah in the belly of the fish/whale for three days UNTIL it
dawns on us that Jonah would not likely survive. At that stage we have,
IMHO, three options: 1) believe the story anyway and chalk Jonah's survival
up to a miracle, 2) consider the story a fabrication with, perhaps, a moral
dimension, or 3) relegate the story as not being important to our salvation.
We have no problem with a world-wide flood UNTIL we find evidence to the
contrary. We accept the story of water turning into wine because there is
no evidence to the contrary: the wine is long gone.
As a teenager in catechism class, I asked the elders what happened to all
that water during the flood. No answer. I asked why Cain was afraid of
being killed if Adam and Eve (and Seth) were the only ones on earth. No
In light of this, should we then accept that Jesus did indeed walk on the
water and that he stilled the storm, or is that also a "figure of speech," a
story that conveyed to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah? Does it matter
if we believe that he walked on water, turned water into wine, and healed
the blind? Does the virgin birth matter (other than to theologians)?
Another point: If the church fathers, who selected the text that now
constitutes our Bible, were to do so today, with the information that we
have, would they still select the same books?
As to your comment that we "... need to be less exclusivist and triumphalist
in our attitude toward other human communities and their attempts to
articulate their experience/concept of deity and to live a life consistent
with that experience/concept," does this not put the Word of God on close to
equal footing with the Koran, the Book of Mormon, or other "sacred
writings." Yes, I know that we can learn from the reverence that Native
Americans have for Creation.
Finally, how does this impact on the Sunday School curriculum? Do we still
tell the stories about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and let the kids
find out later that "it wasn't necessarily so," or do we tell them that
"it's only a story" so that they won't have to face disappointment later on?
The ice floe is melting....
From: Howard J. Van Till [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Thursday November 02, 2000 3:22 PM
Cc: ASA list
Subject: Re: Adam never met Eve
I knew you would not be able to resist making a response. But it seems that
in a number of instances you have extrapolated what I actually said into
absurd extremes that I would never propose. For example, I did *not* say:
1. that the expectation "that there is some objective information in the
Scriptures" constitutes bibliolatry.
2. that "everything in the OT was wrong or without evidence."
3. that the Bible is "only a book of morality tales."
I would suggest, however, that to treat every bit of the biblical text as
the direct "communication of an omnipotent God" that functions to give us
privileged information does invite bibliolatry and does encourage
disrespect for other religious traditions.
I would also suggest that we need to be less exclusivist and triumphalist in
our attitude toward other human communities and their attempts to articulate
their experience/concept of deity and to live a life consistent with that
> Hi Howard,
> I simply don't agree that it is 'bibliolatry' to expect that there is some
> objective information in the Scripture. I have asked this sequence of
> questions before but will do it again.
> 1. If there was no evidence for ancient Egypt, Sumer, the Hebrews, King
> David, Babylon, the exile etc. would one really see the Bible as being
> I don't think so. If everything in the OT was wrong or without evidence,
> one would pay attention to it. I don't pay attention to the book of Mormon
> because almost everything in it is objectively wrong--but it has great
> If we decide to change the interpretation of the Bible away from objective
> reality and make it only a book of morality tales, let's read Aesop's
> 2. How much of the Bible can be objectively false and still believe that
> really is the communication of an omnipotent God?
> Can we be told that the mating of two salamanders created the world and
> understand it as a beautiful story of creation showing God's love and
> 3. If we move away from objective data, what, other than our personal
> prejudices from our own culture, makes Christianity any different than
> Bhuddism, sikkism or animism?
> All of the above religions yield "valuable religious insights " just
> different ones from Judeo-Christianity. Why should we try to tell them our
> religion is the true one when all playing fields have been leveled by this
> flight from objective data?
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