Re: [asa] Carol Hill's Worldview Approach

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Fri Jun 01 2007 - 13:25:06 EDT

Chuck, I had some of the same impressions as you about Carol's article. It
seems to me that if the Bible reflects the writers' "worldview," that is the
same as saying God's written word is "accommodated" to human circumstances
and understanding. I had the sense that Carol was not really grasping the
meaning of "accommodation."

This particularly struck me when she wrote that "*God doesn't accommodate
himself to us; we accommodate ourselves to him*" (paraphrasing from memory
here -- don't have the paper in front of me). She seems to be confusing
"accommodation" with "authority" or "submission." Obviously, God doesn't
submit to us, in the sense of placing us in authority over himself; to the
contrary, we are required to submit to God's authority. But, without giving
up his ultimate authority, God *did* set aside his "rights" in the
incarnation / kenosis (Phil. 2:7). Clearly, by taking on the limitations of
a human body and nature, and enduring the cross, God "accommodated" himself
to us in Christ -- else we never would have been able to relate to Him.

This same incarnational model applies to scripture. In scripture, God
speaks to us in human language, in human literary categories, mediating His
revelation through the limitations of our culture / language -- and human
"worldviews." Theologians of every stripe, including even inerrantists,
recognize this and call it "accommodation" (see, e.g., Clark Pinnock's
chapter on the human aspects of scripture in "The Scripture Principle," or
the hermeneutical addendum to the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, or the
entry on "Accomodation" in Norm Geisler's "Encyclopedia of Christian
Apologetics"). I really don't understand why Carol would try to discard
this category altogether.

Carol's real beef, it seems to me, is the *extent* to which scripture is
accommodated, particularly given a high view of the authority and veracity
of scripture. Rather than dismissing accommodation as a general category, I
think Carol would better have said that Seely goes too far in dismissing the
essential historicity of something like the flood narrative. I think Carol
would say -- and I think I'd probably agree -- that dismissing any essential
historicity for something like the flood narrative unbalances the
relationship between accommodation and other hermeneutical principles. The
flood narrative is accommodated to the language, culture, worldview, etc. of
the ancient near east, and so it is a "truthful" narrative, even though its
universal language probably describes what we today, in scientific
terms, would call a "small," "local" event -- maybe not much more than a
riverine flood extending a few hundred kilometers.

We could say, then, that the Biblical flood narrative is to some extent
borrowed from Babylonian mythic literature, but that it is not *merely* a
re-casting of an entirely fictional story. To me, that results in a better
middle way between a "concordism" the imports modern notions of science
or historiography into the text, and an "accommodation" that seems to
willing to give up altogether on the historicity of foundational Biblical

On 6/1/07, Austerberry, Charles <> wrote:
> I'm interested in discussing Carol Hill's article in the recent (June
2007) PSCF (yes, the one with the wrong front cover - no need to spend money
on sending me a replacement cover, however!).
> The distinction between her view and Hugh Ross' concordist position seems
pretty clear. What is less clear to me is the distinction between her view
and Paul Seely's "divine accommodation" view, at least on some issues.
> For example, Hill's interpretation of Genesis 1 seems identical to
Seely's, Hyers', and many others. She calls it the "literary" approach. I
think some call it the "framework" approach. Regardless, I think it is
quite sound.
> In theory, Hill's interpretation of patriarchal ages seems distinct in
that she believes one could know the actual ages of the patriarchs, but ...
only if one knew how to interpret the numerology of the original, inspired
text. In practice, however, having access to the "original" text, plus
being confident in one's interpretation of the numerology, are both highly
unlikely. In practice, therefore, I think both Hill and Seely would
probably agree that we can't know the actual ages of the patriarchs with
much confidence, at least not now.
> Regarding Noah and the flood, again I think Seely and many other advocates
of the accommodation view would agree with Hill that at least one, and maybe
a few, devastating floods occurred in the history of the ancient near east,
and that this/these flood(s) is/are reflected in both Genesis and other
ancient documents. It may be, however, that Hill and Seely differ in their
views on Noah and the ark. Also, I think Hill expects Genesis, at least in
its original text and with proper interpretation, to accurately identify the
time and place of Noah's flood, whereas Seely would probably not expect such
historical accuracy even in theory.
> On the person of Adam, I do see a clear distinction between the view that
Adam represents (hu)mankind in general versus the view that Adam was an
historical individual. Hill's view on Adam seems close to Dick Fischer's.
> I guess I'm most interested in all this because of the motivation Hill
gives for wanting to distance her view from the accommodation view. Hill
writes: "Furthermore, if God actually teaches through fiction, cleverly
disguised as factual history, how can we separate fact from myth when
reading the Bible? How can we trust God as a God of truth? If we cannot
trust the historical accuracy of the Flood story, how can we trust the story
of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?" Glenn Morton and many
others have voiced the same general question.
> Personally, I find the approach taken by NT Wright to be the best. He
argues that the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ actually happened, not
by insisting that the whole Bible (in its original manuscripts) is "without
error," but by patiently examining the evidence pertinent to the
resurrection itself. The "Bible-as-a-whole-must-be-accurate" view might
support some in their faith, but it has also led many to lose theirs (Bart
Ehrman comes to mind as a prime example).
> Charles (Chuck) F. Austerberry, Ph.D.
> Assistant Professor of Biology
> Hixson-Lied Room 438
> Creighton University
> 2500 California Plaza
> Omaha, NE 68178
> Phone: 402-280-2154
> Fax: 402-280-5595
> e-mail:
> Nebraska Religious Coalition for Science Education

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Fri Jun 1 13:25:29 2007

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Fri Jun 01 2007 - 13:25:29 EDT