Re: Schaefer's Book

From: Peter Ruest <>
Date: Mon Aug 16 2004 - 11:05:03 EDT

Several times on this list, Jan de Koning has complained of having to
repeat his old arguments again and again, and nobody seems to be
listening. Sometimes, I feel the same frustration. Although I have
little hope of finding an agreement now, I'd like to shortly comment
about three types of statements taken from Michael Roberts', Jan de
Koning's, and Paul Seely's last posts on this thread:

- Michael Roberts wrote: "The writer had no knowledge or concern about
science and beyond the fact that God is creator of all that is".
- Jan de Koning wrote: "People who insist that God spoke to people 5000
years ago in a scientific language cannot be convinced of their error...
Insisting that God spoke to them in a language they would not understand
makes the Bible a book that is doubtful... God did not speak in 21st
century English to people who could not read or write. So God did not
intend to teach them modern science."
- Paul Seely wrote: "... was it the INTENTION of God to teach us HOW the
universe was created, the order, the length of time, the nature of the
physical world, etc.? Did any prophet, apostle, or Jesus ever cite
Scripture in order to teach physical science?"

On this list, we have for years - on and off - discussed the
interpretation of Gen.1-2. Still you keep falsely charging Dick Fischer,
Glenn Morton, me and others of claiming the Bible to teach science,
although each of us has repeatedly rejected that charge. None of us has
ever claimed that the biblical writers knew modern science, or that God
wanted to teach us science through revelation. But our corrections and
clarifications keep being ignored.

It is not that we would disagree about everything, however:

- Michael Roberts wrote: "I see Gen 1 as a hymn to God the creator".
- Jan de Koning wrote: "God spoke to them in a language they understood,
and about situations they understood... Luckily there are Christian
theologians (even in the 19th century) who are willing to admit that God
could create using evolution... Let us... agree that we are God's
children, because Jesus, God's Son died for our sins."
- Paul Seely wrote: "I do not believe Genesis 1 (or 1--11) is 'only the
work of the human writer.' I do believe that it is 100% divinely
inspired... The purpose of the inspiration is to give us information
that educates us spiritually, not scientifically."

Dick, Glenn, I and others you denigrate as "concordists" will fully
agree with all of these beliefs of yours under (B). But we strongly
disagree about the importance of harmony between revelation and reality,
as well as about claims of having found, once for all, _the_ correct
interpretation of a text, down to the details.

- Michael Roberts wrote: "I won't make a big issue about this as there
are more important things to worry about".
- Jan de Koning wrote: "Let us drop the subject..."

I get the impression that you don't want to enter into a genuine
discussion of what really concerns us (cf. my last paragraph above). You
keep ignoring or misrepresenting what we say. You keep implicitly
calling our concerns misguided, without - as it seems to me - even
trying to understand them. I grant that you understand the YECs' (and
probably the ID people's) concerns and the problems with them. But we
are not in the same boat.

For your Genesis interpretation, you keep appealing to scholarly
authorities, referring to what some call a large majority of OT
scholars. But as Dick Fischer has emphasized in his last post, "Sure
Casssuto knew his Hebrew. He was simply not as tuned in on the
historical underpinning of Genesis as we can be today. We are not duty
bound to the same ignorance that hampered these long-dead commentators.
If we can't learn anything, we are doomed to repeat past mistakes."
Unfortunately, this does not only apply to long-dead commentators, but
also to some living ones who refuse to reconsider, scrutinize and
challenge what they once learned in their theological studies, including
the assumptions underlying some of the dominant theories.

Your strawman of "concordism" seems to refer to seeking and fabricating
a concordance between a strawy literalism in text interpretation
(ignoring all genre differences) and some selected facts of modern
science - and in this you mix us up with YECs (who often replace science
with pseudoscience).

But there is a huge difference between any of this and our idea that a
biblical text may not only have, as its central content and appeal, a
clearly theological message, but may also be compatible _both_ with what
the ancient biblical writer (or people of any other period of human
history) knew (not just believed) about reality (or science) _and_ with
what we know about it today. Now, compatibility is not the same thing as
identity - a text never gives a complete description of a state of
affairs, only a very fragmentary one, concentrating on a few points
important to its own objective.

Nevertheless, such compatibility would not be feasible with a purely
human text. But I believe it is possible with God inspiring his chosen
prophet, guiding his thinking - even while fully respecting his
personality. I don't know to what extent God had this aim of
compatibility in his inspiration activity, but I find it very
interesting that often such compatibilities can be found in the biblical
text. I am also surprised at how often a claimed incompatibility between
a biblical text and science (or between different parts of the biblical
texts) can be resolved quite easily, even when accomplished OT scholars
thought it couldn't be done.

Granted that often our examples of compatibility may not be quite
watertight, and they are certainly not cast-iron, but the same caveat
applies to many of the traditional text interpretations which many
commentator-authorities agree upon. Shouldn't a new proposal be judged
on its own merits, rather than merely in the context of traditional
views, discussing real evidence, rather than just appealing to authorities?


Dr. Peter Ruest, CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern, Switzerland
<> - Biochemistry - Creation and evolution
"..the work which God created to evolve it" (Genesis 2:3)
Received on Mon Aug 16 11:35:07 2004

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