From: Howard J. Van Till (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Thu Jun 26 2003 - 13:00:39 EDT
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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