Re: Exegesis or Eisegesis?

From: Howard J. Van Till (
Date: Fri Dec 28 2001 - 10:23:18 EST

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    >From: Peter Ruest <>
    > Howard, I am sorry, but I get the impression that you still have not
    > understood what I have been trying to say for quite a while. Have I
    > really failed to communicate my ideas? So let me try once more, although
    > this forces me to repeat various points I brought up in my PSCF papers
    > and on this list.

    Thanks, but I see no need for further repetition.

    This conversation may not go anywhere, but let me select just one of our
    points of disagreement for additional comment. Take #2.

    You originally said:

    > > If God is responsible for an individual's personality (not sin, of course),
    > > wouldn't it be by means of some kind of (non-coercive, not violating any
    > > physical law) hidden intervention in a huge number of details like
    > > selecting, during meiosis, whether gene xyz of the ovum-to-be comes from
    > > the mother's or the father's side, or letting a C-14 atom decay near a
    > > given cytidylic residue at a given moment, etc.?

    ... to which I replied:

    >> 2. Are you telling us, Peter, that God manipulates the genetic makeup
    >> of every person so as to actualize particular individual
    >> personalities? If so, is God then responsible for some of the
    >> miserable personalities that I am acquainted with? May I, for
    >> instance, blame God for my own personality defects?

     ... to which you responded:

    > Again, you are reading something into my text which I didn't write
    > (eisegesis). You derogatively talk about God's "manipulating", where I
    > considered divine providence - as it might be seen from a metaphysical
    > viewpoint.

    Peter, if the divine choice of which specific genes are taken from the
    father's sperm and which specific genes are taken from the mother's egg is
    not "manipulation," then there is no such thing as "manipulation."
    Substituting the word "providence" does not change the character of what has
    been done.

    I recall an illustrative story (attributed to Abraham Lincoln, I believe):
    Abe asked a companion, "Jack, if you call a dog's tail a leg, then how many
    legs does a dog have?" "Five," answered Abe's innocent friend. "No, Jack,"
    said Abe, "only four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one."

    > Similarly, you talk about God being responsible for our sin,
    > which I explicitely excluded.

    Please show me where I made any reference to "sin." I don't see any such
    reference. However, now that you mention it, it surely is convenient that
    God's crafting of individual personalities evidently takes place only in the
    arena of personality traits that have nothing to do with such things as
    temptation, selfishness, covetousness, envy, greed, lust, hatred, violence,

    > The straw man of determinism you impose on
    > my formulations is just as eisegetic and unjustified.

    "Determinism" is your word, not mine. I presume that you are NOT saying that
    EVERY portion of the personality of EVERY human individual is specifically
    chosen by God. I assume, rather, that your view is one of the following:

    1. SOME portion of EVERY individual personality is specifically chosen by
    God. (Basis for choice =?)

    2. EVERY portion of SOME individual personalities is specifically chosen by
    God. (Basis for choice =?)

    3. SOME portion of SOME individual personalities is specifically chosen by
    God. (Basis for choice =?)

    4. (similar statements re individual animals?)

    > I am surprised
    > that you should believe, as it appears from this comment of yours, that
    > God should _not_ be directly responsible for _any_ part of an individual
    > human's personality. This question doesn't even depend on any theory of
    > ours about _how_ he would create an individual person. Or do I
    > misinterpret you here?

    My point is that I see no justification whatsoever for the idea that the
    biblical texts you cite [Ps 139:13, 16, Ps 102:18, Is 43:7, Malachi 2:10, Ps
    104:30] provide any support for your thesis that God DIRECTLY chooses
    INDIVIDUAL personality traits by gene selection. Although my concept of the
    nature of the Bible is quite different from yours, I have a high respect for
    the Bible and do not enjoy seeing it used as a source of proof texts for
    theories totally foreign to the historical text.

    You have every right to craft a metaphysical theory of the sort you propose,
    but why sprinkle it with snippets of biblical text dealing with entirely
    different agendas?

    Howard Van Till

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