Re: [asa] Question for all the theistic evolutionists

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Sun Mar 18 2007 - 21:01:16 EDT

Greg -- I objected when Glenn used accomodation"ism" and I'll object to your
use too. Calling something an "ism" makes it too easy to dismiss (I would
say the same for concord"ism" too). Accomodation is simply a theological
principle that leads to some insights into the doctrine of inspiration,
which in turn leads to some applications in hermeneutics. One reason George
keeps steering things back to the primacy of Christ, I think, is that the
incarnation is the theological touchstone for our expectations about God's
self-revelation in the written scriptures. If God, in becoming incarnate,
accomodated himself of human limitations (part of the doctrine of the
kenosis), while still fully remaining God; and if Christ incarnate is God's
ultimate self-revelation, the divine logos; then it is reasonable to expect
that God's written self-revelation also will in some way be accomodated to
human limitations, without sacrificing it's divine character.

As Ted noted in another post, you can't necessarily define "how far"
accomodation goes. In a sense, it goes to all of scripture, because the
limited human language of scripture is *always* inadequate to *fully* convey
truth about an infinite God. I'm a little surprised that you would shy away
from this, given your sociological and epistemological bent -- one of the
things the resonates with me about the principle of accomodation is that it
seems very consistent with a chastened epistemology that recognizes the
social aspects of knowledge and language.

But in another sense, like any other hermeneutical tool, "how far" it goes
has to depend on context. And I would suggest that context from
extra-Biblical information counts here. I can't wait to read Davis Young's
new book on Calvin's doctrine of accomodation -- I anticipate that it will
flesh out how Calvin used facts from natural history to help determine how
this hermeneutical tool should apply to a particular text. So, for example,
if the facts from natural science very clearly tell us that humanity did not
spring from a single pair but arose from a population, or that a flood never
covered the whole earth, or the earth is not a flat disc, or the sun doesn't
revolve around the earth, etc., it would seem valid to at least suggest that
perhaps those Biblical texts that seem to say otherwise are at least in some
way accomodated to views about nature held by the original hearers of the

Now, I think I would agree with you that recognizing some accomodation to
ancient beliefs about the natural world doesn't in itself wholly settle the
matter of something like Adam's historicity. In my view, when we take all
of the Biblical witness together -- another, complementary principle of
hermeneutics -- it is very difficult to say there was never a "real" Adam at
all. So, for me, it is more a matter of trying to figure out the "essential
historicity" of the narratives concerning Adam. (I would not, though, say
that anyone who comes to a different conclusion is thereby rejecting the
entire witness of scripture).

For example, though the Bible seems to indicate a historical Adam from who
we have all inherited a sin nature, it does not seem so specific about
*how*that inheritance happens. Theologians in the 17th century
thought it had to
do with the humunculus, but that obviously isn't so. Many folks today seem
to think it has something to do with genetics, but that seems just as
eisegetical as the humunculus. Maybe the interpretive gloss that has grown
around this over the millennia is wrong, and it has nothing to do with
anything we would consider "biology" at all. Or, of course, it could be
some sort of physical connection that science as yet knows nothing of --
after all, genetics and population genetics are very young sciences.

It is a fair objection that this is a bit of a vague and indeterminate
process, but, it seems to me, such is the nature of exegesis and

On 3/18/07, Gregory Arago <> wrote:
> Linguistic correction:
> "Who asked the question about how far accomodation*-ism* is willing to
> go?"
> It seems to be the ideology of accomodationism and not just the
> accomodating itself that Jack is questioning here and that Glenn is
> taunting.
> g.a.
> *Jack <>* wrote:
> Why does an ahistoric passage have to be verifiable for it to be
> meaningful?
> But all of the scriptures point to truth of the risen Christ. That is
> what you have to hang your hat on. If that is proven incorrect, then
> everything else is meaningless.
> Who asked the question about how far accomodation is willing to go? Was
> that on this list or somewhere else? I am honestly interested in that
> answer.
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Received on Sun Mar 18 21:01:39 2007

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