<< Hi Paul. In Gen 1:1 and concordism (was Apology) you wrote
>Preach God as a Father caring enough to speak to his little children in
terms of their pre-understanding.
Thanks for that remark. It fits beautifully. >>
Before discussing Gen 1 further, I want to expand this. In the OT God is
bringing a revelation of himself to people who lived over 3000 years ago. If
you visit Plimouth Plantation in Plymouth, MA or the Jamestown Virtual Colony
in Virginia, you can talk to people who have been trained not to speak to you
outside of the ideas and knowledge that existed 300 years ago. If you speak
of the world as it is understood today, they find it "queer." Now imagine
what difference there would be 3000 years ago. Now imagine you have a message
to bring these people, do you speak in terms of your understanding or theirs?
When missionaries go to translate the NT for proto-scientific peoples, they
run into culturally ingrained ways of thinking that sometimes force them to
change what the NT really says. I have from good sources that a missionary
went to the Bedouin and tried to tell them that "the wise man built his house
upon a rock, and the foolish man upon the sand." Since they build their
houses (tents) only on sand and found it ridiculous that anyone would try to
pound tent pegs into a rock, they insisted, that is, intellectual
explanations did not dissuade them, that Matt 7:24 ff should read, The wise
man built his house upon the sand..." The translation is the exact opposite
of what the NT really says. It is a false translation. It is not true to the
objective facts. But, the message could not be communicated any other way.
The ingrained cultural mentality demanded it.
In a New Guinea tribe where pigs are the most important cultural animal, John
1:29 reads, "Behold the Pig of God." Is that an accurate translation? Is it
true to the facts? No, but the cultural mentality of that tribe demanded it.
Why didn't the missionary just explain that sheep are the main animal in the
OT? Were the New Guinea people too stupid to understand that? No, but the
ingrained cultural mentality demanded it
When the Bedouin tribal people grow up intellectually, they will hopefully be
able to face the fact that the missionary made a false statement out of love,
out of concern to communicate the saving message to them. It would be
grotesque for them to say "Well, if we can't trust him to tell it like it is
in the realm of tents, then how can we trust any of his translation?" And
then divide into two camps (1) the missionary said "sand" so we must deny the
actual facts, or (2) the missionary said "sand" but sandstone is made of
sand, so it really means "rock."
But, would God say something that was not true, not up to the standards of
his character? Missionaries can do it, but God cannot? As far as science is
concerned, I believe God delegated that task to mankind and does not reveal
scientific truth in the OT. I am all the more persuaded of this because I
have seen many cases throughout the OT and NT where the science qua science
is the science of the times; and I have never seen it vice-versa. But, would
God really do that? Would he accommodate his message to ingrained cultural
beliefs that are dead wrong false?
Jesus looked at Deut 24:1-4, a God-inspired law, which in v. 3 allows a man
to divorce his wife on the basis of "hating" her, which in OT talk means he
found someone else he likes better (e.g. Gen 29:31), and said, "Because of
your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment." (Mark 10:5) What is
going on here? Most commentators recognize that Easy Divorce was in ingrained
cultural belief that had been going on for years before Moses got there; and
God accommodated his revelation to that ingrained cultural belief.
Commentators usually call it a "concession." And, you don't make concessions
I was looking the other day at Ex 21:2-6, where a male slave is allowed to go
free after 7 years, but if his owner gave him a female slave as a wife, she
and the children do not go out with him (period). The only option he has if
he wants to keep his family intact is to volunteer to be a slave the rest of
his life. That is God's law. Does it sound fair to you? Or does it sound
contrary to the character of God, as revealed in Christ? Is it just possible
that it is an accommodation to their ingrained cultural beliefs? To their
ingrained hardness of heart? Modern evangelicals with their man-made doctrine
of absolute inerrancy will seek a way to subordinate this word of God to
their doctrine, but Calvin for one would do no such thing. He rails
vociferously against the injustice of this law. He saw clearly that it was an
accommodation to their hardness of heart.
I could expand further. There a number of other concessions to hardness of
heart in the OT, and they also show that the "high view" of Scripture is not
a biblical view, not the view of Jesus, not the view of God, and ought to be
laid aside. Without further examples I hope you can still grasp that these
concessions are indeed contrary to God's character as truth and holiness, but
in line with his character as LOVE. Every biblical "error" should remind us
that God really has entered into history, and they should remind us of his
incarnation, his coming to us where we were, his setting aside of divine
prerogatives, his death for us.
I will come back to the Gen 1:1 discussion in my next emails.
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