Date: Sat May 17 2003 - 02:03:11 EDT
In a message dated 05/16/2003 5:23:51 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
> Again, I don't challenge your scholarship. I have found it
> right on target. I probably wasn't specific enough in my
> post. Part of that is that your reasoning on Genesis seems
> so odd to me that I have a difficult time stating your
> You want to say God provided inaccurate information to
> the Hebrews because they couldn't handle accurate information.
> I really can't justify such a position. As for reason,
> I find it keeps me from error.
Well, my reasoning (and George's, though slightly different) seemed odd to
Glenn Morton. He kept saying the same thing you are saying here. I believe
this inability to understand comes from being deeply ingrained with a
paradigm, so deeply ingrained that it is very difficult to get out of the
box. The paradigm says, If God spoke Genesis, then everything he said,
science as well as lessons on faith and morals, would have to be accurate,
true. It could not be any other way.
This assumption, paradigm, is rooted in reason. It is not that one should not
be reasonable or jettison reason, but that reason is an inadequate and often
misleading SOURCE of true knowledge. That is Rationalism, using reason as a
source, is the error. The Greeks were famous for distrusting empirical data.
They wanted absolute truths, and the only way they felt they could get them
was to go from observations to reason. Not to experiments with the physical
world, but to abstract reason. The loved math. It is that love of rationalism
that gave us the dictum that if one dropped a heavy weight from a high
location and a light weight at exactly the same time, the heavy weight would
hit the ground first. This is a perfect example of rationalism. Human reason
is quite satisfied that, of course the heavy weight would hit the ground
first. I have even posed this question to college graduates who majored in
some liberal art, but had little scientific training, and they are very
skeptical when I tell them that both weights will hit the ground at the same
time. I especially remember one gal who graduated from UC Berkeley. When I
told her the weights would hit the ground at the same time, she said very
emphatically with strong doubt in her voice, "Are you sure?"
Similarly the perfectly reasonable assumption that God would not say anything
which was not true is from Reason. As a rule of thumb for the revelation
which God intended to make in Scripture, I accept his word as true, but it is
not an absolute: it is not true for everything found there. My position is
not that "God provided inaccurate information to the Hebrews because they
couldn't handle accurate information." God did not provide the cosmological
ideas in Gen 1 or even the Flood story. Those ideas were already present in
the culture when he decided to speak through the writer of Genesis. They were
apparently inherited from the patriarchs. In any case they were already
there, just as the right to divorce a wife for any reason was already there.
In the latter case the hardness of heart of the Israelites prevented God from
supplying the pure truth. At least that is what Jesus thought, and I agree.
In the case of the stories in Gen 1-11, I think providing a truer account
would have at least made the communication of the theological truths more
difficult. I think the Israelites would have been forced to stumble if they
had been asked implicitly to set aside their old ingrained prehistory. Also,
it seems clear to me both from Gen 1:26-28 and the history of mankind, that
God has delegated the discovery of scientific truth to humankind.
Accordingly, he does not reveal his knowledge of scientific truth. He does
not provide accurate information in that realm even to his chosen people, and
my study of Scripture shows me that all science in the Bible from Gen 1 to
Rev 21 is the science of the times.
As the OT shows, God had his hands full just trying to communicate
monotheism, holiness, etc. to the Israelites It would have been
counterproductive to add trying to teach them science, and there was no need
for it. In fact, Gen 1-11 is implicitly a polemic against the theology of the
times. It the basic prehistory had been set aside, the polemic and witness to
the true God would also have been undermined. It was written in the thinking
of the times because that is the way it would speak most forcibly to people.
So, instead of relying on Rationalism to tell me what God must do or must
have done, I just look at the empirical facts. They tell me he has not
corrected their ingrained prescientific prehistory, and it is equally clear
to me that the prehistory comes essentially from the Mesopotamians. In that
part of the world it is the science of the day. For the readers it was
scientifically up to date.
So, God did not provide inaccurate information. Nor is he of such a
rationalistic frame of mind that he feels compelled to correct all they
believed. He implanted curiosity in humankind and gave them the task of
correcting the science---which we have done and are continuing to do. God is
a father and a teacher, and the OT is a tutor, Paul says, for the people of
God in their youth. God adapted his revelation of true theology to the
ingrained prescientific mentality of the times. For example, they believed
the sky was a solid dome, and the Babylonians said it had been put up by
Marduk after a terrific battle with the sea-goddess Tiamat. In order to
correct the bad theology, God takes up the concept of a solid sky, but
reveals that the Creator did not have to battle any goddess or anyone else to
make the sky. Indeed, the sky is presented as a completely natural part of
the universe, not attached or ruled by any god except the God who created it.
You want to see the divine revelation here? It is in the setting forth of the
sky as a completely natural part of the universe. No other peoples at that
time could even think like that. There is more revelation than that, of
course. But, I am just illustrating that God did communicate true revelation
to the Israelites, but via their preexisting ingrained scientific
If I write anymore I will have a book here. So, I hope you can see my
approach to Genesis is perfectly reasonable but at the same time perfectly
honest. I don't have to distort the Bible or the sciences, and the
recognition that the science in Gen is ancient is based on the empirical
evidence showing that it is found in the ancient Near Eastern writings. The
recognition that the theology is indeed a divine revelation is based on the
witness of the Holy Spirit , yes, but also on the fact that the theology
stands in strong contrast, indeed in some places apparently purposeful
contrast to the theology of the times; and it is superior to that ancient
Think about this. It is a different paradigm, just as reasonable as the old
rationalistic one, but it flows from the data, not lording it over the data.
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