Re: Concordist sequence--why be a concordist?

From: Howard J. Van Till (
Date: Thu Jun 26 2003 - 13:00:39 EDT

  • Next message: George Murphy: "Re: Concordist sequence--why be a concordist?"

    A few days ago I asked:

    >Having observed once again on this list several concordist attempts to bring
    >pieces of early Genesis text into agreement (concord) with pieces of modern
    >natural science, I am led to ask a series of closely related questions:
    >What is the purpose or goal of this exercise?
    >Why is concord expected?
    >Why is concord desired?
    >When specimens of concord have been crafted, what has been gained?

    My thanks to those of you who ventured a reply. Most of your replies served
    to affirm my long-standing evaluation of the concordist approach. This also
    ties in closely with my earlier remarks on the theory evaluation criteria
    for theological theorizing.

    In those remarks I suggested that there might be great benefit for theology
    to learn from the history of science. Like much of popular and preached
    theology today, science was once an authority-based enterprise.
    Simplistically stated, the text of Aristotle was the authority on questions
    regarding the natural world. A few centuries ago science discovered the
    benefits of moving from a textual authority-based system to an experience- &
    reason-based empirical approach. We all know what has been gained by that

    But popular & preached theology today (out of step with much of
    professional theology) continues to operate on the old authority-based
    model. Ideally, according to that tradition, faithful theology must be
    derived from the biblical text (or at least be consistent with it). That
    being the case, then the unblemished credibility of the text must be
    preserved. If the text is going to serve as the authority, then it must have
    the requisite quality of holding up under all manner of scrutiny.

    Over the last couple of centuries, the natural sciences have become one of
    the most powerful scrutinizers of received, authority-based traditions,
    including the tradition of designating the biblical text as a
    divinely-inspired authoritative text for all manner of things, including
    many matters to which the sciences have empirical access. So, if the
    authority of the canonical text is to be maintained, then the reading of the
    text and the results of science must be in agreement -- concord.

    What, then is the purpose or goal of concordism? To demonstrate that the
    Bible, especially Genesis, is supported by the results of science, thereby
    strengthening the credibility and authority of the canon.

    Why is concord expected? Because if the Bible is inspired in the strong
    sense (Terry's version, for instance) then it has to be factually correct.
    Insofar as the empirical sciences have rightly generated factually correct
    information regarding the universe, then it is important that the concord of
    Bible and science be demonstrated.

    Why is concord desired? To ensure the continuing credibility of the canon
    that has been designated as being inspired and authoritative, thereby
    stabilizing the belief system of the community.

    When specimens of concord have been crafted, what has been gained?
    Reassurance that all is (or at least appears to be) well with the received


    Concordism, in my judgment, is necessitated by the choice to designate a
    written text as inspired (in strong the sense of containing information
    received directly from God) followed by the present situation of seeing that
    the designated text is subject to comparison with other highly credible
    sources of information on some topics. Concordism's purpose is to preserve
    textual credibility so that textual authority can still be maintained by the

    Why do the statements of faith of many conservative Christian organizations
    begin with a declaration concerning the Bible? It is a natural and
    unsurprising expression of the traditional textual authority-based system of
    theological theory evaluation.

    Concordism is not, of course, the only way to strengthen the case for an
    inspired (strong sense) canon. Vernon Jenkins' numerical enterprise, for
    example, has the same overall goal. But Vernon's high regard for his own YEC
    reading of the text, coupled with his low regard for the empirical sciences,
    requires him to find an alternative to the more familiar concordistic
    approaches. And for Vernon, finding certain "interesting" numbers generated
    by character-to-number transformations does the trick.

    Howard Van Till

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