Re: How to encourage a former creationist to persevere in faith?

From: Peter Ruest <pruest@mysunrise.ch>
Date: Mon Aug 22 2005 - 11:05:10 EDT

Iain Strachan wrote (21 Aug 2005 21:02:38 +0100):
> ...
> I'd take issue with one point:
>
>
> >> I agree with Glenn Morton and Dick Fischer that this requirement is not really
> >> met by relegating the first few Genesis chapters, wholly or in part, to
> >> categories like myth and allegory.
>
>
> I don't really like the word "relegating" here as it implies that it's
> somehow worth less than the allegory.

I am not sure I understand what you mean here. What would be "worth less than
the allegory"? Do you mean that I would be implying that the spiritual content
would be worth less than the narrative taken as history? No, I don't imply this.
But maybe I have just used the word "relegate" inappropriately. What I mean is
that considering a text as myth or allegory (excluding any alternative or
additional interpretation) risks missing an important aspect.

> But when Jesus uses the term
> "born again" to Nicodemus, it means and is worth so much MORE than the
> rigidly literal meaning ascribed by N (can a man enter his mother's
> womb a second time ..).

I agree that the important meaning here is the spiritual rebirth, while the
meaning first alluded to by Nicodemus represents the illustration of the
spiritual meaning. The context makes the meaning of Jesus' expression
unmistakeably clear. But I wouldn't call this an allegory.

I would refer to Gal.4:22-31 as a clear allegory (even explicitely called such
in v.24: "allegoroumena"). But this does not make the story of Abraham, Sarah
and Hagar any less historical.

But in the early Genesis chapters, nothing is explicitely called an allegory or
a myth, and nothing gives a clear indication that the text is not to be taken as
a narrative (which we moderns would call historical). The question of how
"literal" an expression would have to be taken has to be decided in each case
separately. A truly literal interpretation of a text or expression respects its
intended mode (including possibilities like simile, metaphor, anthropomorphism,
illustrative fable like Judges 9:8-15, etc.).

> The first few Genesis chapters may or may not be literal history, but
> their real value and teaching to us is surely about spiritual states -
> it is the basis of the whole gospel that our Fallen state requires
> redemption. Whether that Fall corresponds to an actual historical
> event, or whether it's an allegorical tale to illustrate the spirutual
> state of all of us, seems not that important, because neither
> interpretation gets away from the fact that we ARE fallen, sinful
> beings and need the redemption through Christ.

Most on this list will probably agree that the important spiritual teaching of
Gen.3 for us is that our fallen state requires redemption through Christ. But
this fact does not indicate whether any (or all) of the story told also narrates
something which actually happened. Strictly speaking, a spiritual teaching for
us is an application of a text, not a direct interpretation.

As far as the fall reported in Gen.3 is concerned, I am sure about its spiritual
meaning, but I am not sure about its status as narrative. I tend to take Adam as
a historical person, but not as the first genuinely human being. I take his fall
as historical and as representative for the fall of every other human (before
and after his time). Regarding the details of Gen.2:15-3:24, one would have to
evaluate them individually as to their significance - historical, metaphorical,
anthropomorphism, etc.

However, I was mainly thinking of Gen.1:1-2:14, which has (in addition to
various spiritual applications) too many indications of historicity and
parallels to the history of the Earth to be only an allegory (or myth) and
nothing else. Many other biblical texts have multiple meanings (particularly in
the prophets, as their use in the New Testament shows).

Cheers,
Peter

-- 
Dr. Peter Ruest, CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern, Switzerland
<pruest@dplanet.ch> - Biochemistry - Creation and evolution
"..the work which God created to evolve it" (Genesis 2:3)
Received on Mon Aug 22 15:05:39 2005

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