Re: Seely's Views 2

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Sat Aug 28 2004 - 09:01:06 EDT

  ----- Original Message -----
  Sent: Saturday, August 28, 2004 6:19 AM
  Subject: Re: Seely's Views 2

  Glenn wrote,

    GRm: Unfortunately, Paul, you didn't understand what I was saying. Why isn't history left for us to discover for ourselves? Why did we need God to inspire a person of 5000 years ago to write a story which accomodated to the science of the day and thus didn't tell us the truth?

  It isn't written directly for you. You are reading over the shoulders of the original readers. It was written for them. Something had to form the skeleton on which the revelation was hung; so God used their science-pre-history. If a person were writing for people before oxygen was discovered, one would have to write in terms of phlogiston---even if the writer knew better. If a person were writing to people before Copernicus, one would have to write in terms of the sun moving around the earth---even if the writer knew better. Communication demands meeting people where they are. People are not computers. They are imbedded in cultural situations. You can't suppose that all there is logic and reason. God met people where they were. You can't come back on his inspired authors after science discovers a more accurate view and say, You did not tell the truth---unless there was intention to straighten out their science.

  The intention of Genesis is not to straighten out the Israelites' science or ours . And the intention is not hard to discern. Why do people read a cook book? To learn to fly-fish? Why do people read a train time-table? To learn to paint? The reason people read a document is very probably the reason the writer wrote it. So why over the past 2000 years have people read the Bible? To straighten out their understanding of geology? physics? Even when people took Gen 1-11 as VCR history, the purpose of reading even those chapters was not to come to a truer view of the scientific facts. Read the sermons of the Church fathers, the Reformers, Wesley, etc. even the ones they preached on Gen 1-11. The purpose of the sermons was to tell people about God, sin, obedience to God, salvation. And the fact that the Bible was used for that purpose way way way ahead of anything else tells you the intention of the Bible writers, which tells you the intention of God.
  I shouldn't have allowed myself even to look at this thread because I knew I'd get sucked in eventually if I did. But ...

  Paul's response is largely correct. Glenn, I think part of your refusal to listen to what he (& I) say about early Genesis is the idea that if these chapters don't show some historical or scientific concord with our present knowledge then they're just reduced to vague religious truths that are pretty much indistinguishable from a lot of other origins myths of other cultures. But that isn't the case. Just looking at the 1st creation account we can draw the following claims about God's relationship with the world & humanity.

  The whole world is the creation of one God.

  Creation is good - in fact, "very good" - but it is not divine.

  God brought living things into being from the materials of the world which he created.

  God has given humanity a special place, and special responsibility, in creation.

  The fact that humanity is told to "fill the earth and subdue it" shows that time & history are part of creation.
  & that history is given a goal, symbolized by the Sabbath.

  (This list is not meant to be exhaustive! & if you don't want to deal with Gen.1 because you want to treat it differently with your "Days of Proclamation" idea, a similar list could be made from Gen.2.)

  These claims are not simply the common currency of all religions. They certainly weren't in the ancient world: One can see this in the clear polemic against Babylonian polytheism (& implicitly in other polytheistic systems) shown in the way the celestial bodies are treated & the role of humanity. & they certainly aren't common currency today. & at that point I have to expand a bit on what Paul said, "It isn't written directly for you." But it is certainly for us as well, though at a remove of ~2600 years. That's why we can read it in church today (as at the Easter Vigil) & not have to stop to apologize for it because it doesn't sound much like modern scientific accounts of origins.

  So the idea that there's just nothing left of Gen.1 if history & science are abstracted falls to the ground.

  But now you may say, "Fine, but how do I know that any of those claims are true if they aren't tied to any observable facts?" But the same question can be asked about any concordist interpretation. All the historical &/or scientific concord still wouldn't allow you to conclude that those 5 essentially theological claims that I listed are true, or that you ought to put your trust in the putative God who supposedly did those things.

  I am not suggesting that one has to make a "leap of faith" for absolutely no reason, but the reason may not always be historical or scientific evidence directly related to the claims in question. The reason that Israel believed the claims about creation made in Gen.1 & 2 isn't because they had accurate data about the early earth but because they believed that they had experienced God's saving & sustaining work in their lives (Exodus &c) & then looked back to see the God of Israel as the creator of the universe.

Received on Sat Aug 28 09:47:57 2004

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