Re: The forgotten verses

From: George Murphy (
Date: Thu Jun 12 2003 - 09:04:09 EDT

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    Vernon -

    My comments are interspersed below.

    Vernon Jenkins wrote:
    > George,
    > Thanks for your latest comments. I'll address these in the order given.
    > GM:
    > The story of the Good Samaritan is a true and authoritative answer to the
    > question "Who is my neighbor?" made by Jesus Christ. Whether or not a
    > series of events actually happened that way - i.e., that a man really was
    > going down from Jerusalem to Jericho &c - is utterly irrelevant to the truth
    > of the story for the purpose for which
    > it was intended.
    > The relevance of this is that it shows that it is not necessary for a text
    > to describe historical events as they actually happened (even though the
    > text may be in the form of a narrative of events) in order for the text to
    > be true and authoritative. This is the case even if the text is spoken by,
    > or inspired by, God. Thus if God did indeed inspire the Genesis creation
    > stories, it does not follow that they are accurate accounts of a series of
    > events which actually happened in the history of the world. They are true,
    > but they may be true in other ways, just as Jesus' parables were.
    > Of course this does not show that the Genesis texts are _not_ accurate
    > history. Having opened up the range of possibilities for their
    > interpretation, we must now look at the internal evidence (the texts
    > themselves and their context) and the external evidence (/inter alia/,
    > scientific knowledge of the world) to decide how to understand them. An
    > intepreter may decide that they are indeed accurate historical accounts, but
    > is not justified in asserting /a priori/ that they are.
    > You will note that your mathematical arguments don't come in here. They
    > have, in fact, been taken out of play by my willingness to accept them for
    > the sake of the argument. I am agreeing that the biblical texts are
    > divinely inspired & true. But that doesn't determine what kind of texts
    > they are.
    > VJ:
    > I am disappointed that you merely accept the numerical phenomena 'for the
    > sake of argument'. Do you thereby infer that there is not enough here to
    > interest the _serious_ scientist? To cause him to inquire who their author
    > might be? And what the purpose of this display of extreme ingenuity
    > (particularly in respect of the Bible's first verse)?

            I have said from the outset that I am accepting your numerical claim "for the
    sake of argument" so there is no reason for you to be surprised. And since I already
    accept the conclusion that you draw from it - that scripture is inspired by God - I
    would think that there is no reason for you to be "disappointed."

    > But to return to your earlier point: why should we believe Gen.1 to be in
    > the nature of a parable? Is it intended to convey an important biblical
    > principle, or pattern for living? Surely not. It is rather to reveal how the
    > universe, the world and ourselves came to be. And how does what you believe
    > harmonise with the time scales provided in Gen.5 and 11, and Lk.3 - which
    > clearly provide the basis for Bishop Ussher's calculations and (in respect
    > of the two former) the Jews' assigning the figure 5763 AM to the current
    > year? Are these data also to be classed as 'parable'.

            I did not say that Genesis 1 is a "parable." My point was that there are other
    types of literature besides accurate historical and scientific narrative which are true,
    and that such types are found in scripture. Jesus' parables provide just one example.
            You apparently have not grasped this point. Your statement that "It is rather
    to reveal how the universe, the world and ourselves came to be" is simply a restatement
    of the idea that Genesis 1 can only be understood as an accurate scientific and
    historical narrative - a claim that I have shown to be false. I can only suggest that
    you re-read what I said above with some care.
    > GM:
    > If "miracle" means phenomena which are beyond the capacities of created
    > agents even with divine cooperation, then (almost by definition) science
    > can't explain them. But are the processes by which the universe came to its
    > present state and life developed
    > miraculous in that sense? Certainly science can't answer the question "Why
    > is there something rather than nothing?" but beyond that I see no reason in
    > principle why anything in the developmental history of the world can't be
    > dealt with by science. In
    > particular, scripture gives no justification for the view that the origin of
    > life was miraculous. If anything, the picture of mediated creation of life
    > in Genesis 1 points in the opposite direction.
    > Notes: 1. I think the above definition of "miracle" too restrictive but I
    > gather that this is more or less what you mean.
    > 2. It's not clear to me that YECs would have to reject your
    > mathematical arguments, but that's not to the point here. I put you in the
    > YEC camp simply because you believe in a young earth.
    > VJ:
    > But don't the sentences beginning "Let...." clearly indicate divine fiat?
    > As, for example, in "Let the earth bring forth grass..." (Gen.1:11). Isn't
    > that a description of 'miracle' ? And why should we find reference to the
    > Creation week of 7 days among the Ten Commandments (Ex.20:8-11) if these
    > were not actual 'days' as we normally understand the term?

            Of course the statements "Let there be ..." indicate divine command, but by no
    means require miracle in the sense defined above. Quite the contrary. God commands the
    earth and the waters to bring forth living things, meaning that they have the capability
    to do so when God wills it. I.e., the description of the creation of life in Genesis 1
    is clearly _non_miraculous - something that many of the church fathers realized. E.g.,
    Ephrem of Edessa (4th century) says concerning 1:11:
            "Thus, through light and water the earth brought forth everything. While God is
            able to bring forth everything from the earth without these things, it was His
    will to show that there was nothing created on earth that was not created for the
    purpose of mankind or for his service."
    > GM:
    > One of the founders of modern scientific cosmology, who developed an early
    > version of big bang theory was Georges Lemaitre, a Roman Catholic priest.
    > Do you imagine that he was attempting to "overturn revelation"? Numerous
    > other examples could be given. When science practiced in what you call a
    > neutral manner is pursued in certain directions one naturally comes up with
    > evidence which supports the view of an old and evolving universe. In the
    > great majority of cases this is not the result of any attempt to eliminate
    > God but simply a matter of honestly following a trail of
    > observational and theoretical research.
    > Moreover, one does not "overturn revelation" by presenting evidence that the
    > earth is old. One overturns a particular interpretation of revelation.
    > Again the discussion above on the nature of the Genesis texts is germane.
    > VJ:
    > I thought you might agree that no one is immune from God's strictures
    > concerning the essential man - not even Roman Catholic priests.

            Of course sin continues to affect Christians. But your statement, "On the other
    hand [science's] use as an aid in formulating a history of the earth which attempts to
    overturn revelation is a completely different matter", implies something much stronger.
    It suggests that anyone - including a Christian - who uses science to find out about the
    past history of the universe is invloved in a deliberate, conscious attempt to "overturn
    revelation." And that is, shall we say, an overstatement.
            But perhaps you mean that sin continues to affect the thinking of Christians
    even below the level of consciousness to the extent that their perceptions and
    interpretations of the external world are unreliable. There is, first, absolutely no
    biblical warrant for such an idea. But if it were true then you can have no confidence
    at all in - to begin with - the mathematics you use in analyzing Genesis 1. & you can
    have no confidence that your interpretation of scripture is correct. Why should anyone
    trust anything you say since you too are so badly distorted by sin.
            What your claims seem to come down to is that Vernon Jenkins has been
    sufficiently freed from the power of sin to know the truth, and that all who disagree
    with him on these matters are - literally - insane. If that's your view - whether or
    not you explicitly avow it - then there's no point in continuing this conversation.

    George L. Murphy

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