Re: [asa] Does ASA believe in Adam and Eve?

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Fri Mar 30 2007 - 12:04:14 EDT

----- Original Message -----
  From: David Opderbeck
  To: George Murphy
  Cc: ;
  Sent: Friday, March 30, 2007 7:52 AM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Does ASA believe in Adam and Eve?

  George said: I do not think that the biblical writers - of Genesis or II Peter - had any idea about a a flood which destroyed some human beings but left others unscathed. The table of the nations in Gen.10 was intended to include the whole inhabited world as the author & his culture knew it.

  I think I agree with you here that this seems to be the most natural reading of the text -- though Phil and Dick have pointed out some interesting reasons in this and other threads why this might not be so.

  But even granting this, it seems to me that we could still say that the Bible writers can't be taken to have been making any comment about whether the flood affected people they didn't know existed -- people in Australia and North America and such. Or to put it more transparently from my hermeneutical perspective: it would not be "error" if Moses / Peter's universal language about the flood is "disproved" by the existence of people in other parts of the world, which the writers wouldn't have known about, who weren't affected by it. This approach, of course, creates many big problems of its own -- particularly that the flood would have had to occurred well before historical times, and even then it's difficult to fit it into any plausible chronology of human migration. So, personally, I have to recognize this as a point of tension that I can't resolve, while thinking more deeply about my hermeneutical presuppositions.

  There's a difference between error & deceit. Example: If & when YECs start to awaken from their dogmatic slumbers, they may think of something like the day = geological epoch scheme so that they can continue to read Genesis in a semi-historical manner. This doesn't work if it's examined in any detail but if I'm discussing the matter with such a person at that stage of their thinking I'll probably say, "Yes, that's one way of looking at it." I am not trying to deceive them by aquiescing in their error - which I hope will only be temporary.

  Along those hermeneutical lines, I wonder to what extent my Western, rationalist cultural baggage affects what I percieve to be the most "natural" or "plain" reading of texts like these, and likewise how that baggage affects my ideas about what the most "straightforward" or "reasonable" explanation for the Biblical phenomena are. Being raised and educated in the milieu of Enlightenment skepticism my first response to any claim is doubt: "that can't be right;" "prove it!" And, I'm conditioned to read most texts in a very simple, common-sense realist way: it says what it says at face vale, and if the face value statement is wrong, the text's claims are bogus.

  I'm not really so convinced anymore that this is always the best way to approach the phenomena scripture. I've been influenced in recent years by left-evangelical / post-evangelical theologians such as Stan Grenz and Donald Bloesch, most of whom have been influenced in varying degrees by Barth, and who tend emphasize the role of the community in continually receiving and understanding the text afresh as the Holy Spirit speaks in and through the text to the Church.

  It may very well be that what we take as the "face value" or "common sense reading" of a text like 2 Peter is not at all what would have appeared common-sensical to the original hearers in a Second Temple Judaism cultural and hermeneutical context; and it may be that the Holy Spirit is asking us to understand the text in fresh ways today in our modern / post-modern context. I want to retain the notion of scripture as fully truthful and "without error" as a theological proposition the Church has consistently embraced, stemming from a foundational belief in God's truthful character, but to strip from this notion our Western rationalist skepticism and our overly precise views about the nature of language. Given that, I'm a little more open to the view that a text like 2 Peter might echo some background cultural assumptions about the flood without necessarily authoritatively communicating those background assumptions to the Church "in error."
  I agree to a great extent with what you say here. I would insist, though, that the grounding of such an approach be christological & not simply cultural or linguistic. As the Word became not some Edenic humanity but "the likeness of sinful flesh" with "no beauty that we should desire him," scripture is not some Platonic form of communication but human language with all its cultural baggage & individual idiosyncrasies. & as it is true of Christ that "in our human and sinful existence as a man He did not sin" (Barth), so scripture, in fallible human words & concepts, witnesses faithfully to God's revelation.

  Yet when all is said & done, the biblical writers are talking about the real world that we live in. In doing so they sometimes make use of understandings of the physical world, history (including the authorship of texts) &c which are wrong. We ought not always be jumping to the conclusion that texts are in error, but sometimes they are.


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Received on Fri Mar 30 11:05:14 2007

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