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

From: Peter Ruest <pruest@mysunrise.ch>
Date: Thu Sep 01 2005 - 11:19:09 EDT

Iain,

Iain Strachan wrote (31 Aug 2005 11:16:37 +0100):
> On 8/22/05, Peter Ruest <pruest@mysunrise.ch> wrote:
>
>>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"?
>
> Sorry for the confusion! It was a not-thinking typo. What I meant
> was that the word "relegating" implied that an allegorical
> interpretation was worth less than a literal interpretation.

Ok, that's how I took it. My answer is in my last post (22 Aug.)

> Need more time to take your other comments on board; only just
> returned from holiday.
>
> Concerning whether it's a historical narrative, doesn't the fact that
> "evening and morning" are written for day 1, and the sun wasn't
> created till day 4 imply again that a literal/historical
> interpretation is not indicated here, and that maybe this is a
> literary device?

You may not agree with my reading (and it might provoke storm warnings with
Michael), but I claim it is a possible interpretation of the Hebrew text which
gives more reasonable results than assuming the sun to be created on day 4. I
don't take Gen.1:1 as a title, but as preceding day 1. Nothing in the text
suggests v.1 should be a title: it rather reads like a narrative starting with
v.1 and continuing with v.2. Otherwise, the "Earth" of v.2 would "hang in the
air": where did it come from? There is no other indication of its creation than
that in v.1, which therefore must logically precede v.2. (And the title is in
the colophon of Gen.2:4). But then, what are the "heavens" created "in the
beginnning"? No stars, no sun, no moon? Can you imagine an old Hebrew conceiving
of a heaven without heavenly bodies? No. "The heavens and the Earth" was the
usual expression for what we call "the universe", including the sun and the
stars. And in fact, on day 4, there is no evidence for a creation of heavenly
bodies. The verb "create" is not used, and what God "made" is not the luminaries
themselves, but He "developed" their lights, or light rays /ma'or/, by giving
these into the expanse (i.e. the atmosphere), so that they may give light to the
earth dwellers for orientation. This corresponds to changing the atmosphere to
make it transparent. In contrast, the light of day 1 is /'or/, diffuse light,
and light-giving bodies are called /ner/ or /menorah/, not used in Gen.1.

> Like Nicodemus saying "How can a man enter his
> mother's womb again", I could ask "How can there be evening and
> morning before there's a sun?", and perhaps I'd be missing the point
> just as much as Nicodemus was.

The Nicodemus story is not really a parallel. What he misunderstood was just a
single expression, to be "born again" or "born from above", whereas in Gen.1-2:4
we have an entire narrative of 35 verses. Is its real content just the idea that
it is God who created all (and that it is therefore good)? Then what's the use
of all the details of the narrative?

> As a software engineer, I tend to see Gen 1 as a kind of requirements
> document for the functioning system. "Let there be" seems like a set
> of specifications. I might design a piece of software with many
> different components & specify in a design document that there shall
> be a module that displays a graph of the data on a screen. The point
> at which I actually "create" or write the software that does this, is
> not necessarily in the same order as the various components appear in
> the design document. So Gen 1: is perhaps a blueprint for a "very
> good" creation.

This analogy does not really take into consideration the narrative form of Gen.1
- which is enhanced by the 7-day structure. You would not think of writing a
software specification whose outline structure would conflict with the logic of
its implementation. God's universe has to be a functioning whole at each point
during its creation. This would correspond to a requirement of each software
module to be testable immediately - without stubs. I rather get the impression
that the software creation analogy is just a trick to evade the perceived
problem of creation day 4.

> In the very last book of the bible we have a series
> of visions that show the restoration of creation to what God
> originally intended.

Eschatology is a notoriously difficult field, and I don't think it can be easily
used as a help for the interpretation of creation.

> In between lies a history whose principal
> element is how we get saved and become eventually part of that perfect
> creation.

And for interpretation, this may be the easiest part, and it is an eon full of
history, divine interventions, divine prophecy, and divine providence working
through created "natural" processes.

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 Thu Sep 1 11:21:10 2005

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