Re: [asa] Pinnock on Climbing out of the Swam (was Lamoureux, Concordism, and Inerrancy)

From: George Murphy <gmurphy@raex.com>
Date: Mon Mar 03 2008 - 16:06:32 EST

Don -

While I agree with what you've said about Genesis itself, I think that your
final sentence - or rather Pinnock - needs some correction. You said:

"Pinnock says that it is the evidence of the text, rather than the desire to
avoid modern criticism from science, which ought to move evangelicals away
from a misreading of the first creation account as a scientifically
informative tract and burdening themselves with enormous and unnecessary
difficulties."

I think that it is important to emphasize that there is evidence both
internal to the text (which Pinnock refers to) and external to it (i.e.,
scientific knowledge about the world) that points to a non-historical,
non-modern science reading of the Genesis creation accounts. The internal
evidence tells us that there are other legitimate ways of reading the text
but cannot in themselves absolutely rule them out. After all, there is a
long tradition of Jewish & Christian scholars before the rise of modern
science who did read them in that way. It is then the scientific evidence
which tells us - if we think that our theology ought to be coherent with the
way the world really is - that among the available choices we should read
the texts as something other than historical or scientific narratives.
Science doesn't dictate to theology but theology needs to take science
seriously.

I think it's especially important to be clear about this when we're talking
to skeptics or critics of Christian. It will strike them as disingenuous in
the extreme if we seem to be saying, "Well, we didn't really need science to
tell us anything."

Shalom
George
http://web.raex.com/~gmurphy/

----- Original Message -----
From: "Don Nield" <d.nield@auckland.ac.nz>
To: "David Opderbeck" <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
Cc: "Michael Roberts" <michael.andrea.r@ukonline.co.uk>; "George Murphy"
<gmurphy@raex.com>; "ASA list" <asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Monday, March 03, 2008 3:38 PM
Subject: [asa] Pinnock on Climbing out of the Swam (was Lamoureux,
Concordism, and Inerrancy)

>I heartily agree with David's recommendation. Back in 2000, in an article
>in "Stimulus" (a N. Z. publication) in response to an article by Jonathan
>Sarfati, I wrote:
> In a long two-part article which traces the centuries-old effort to
> harmonize the Bible with modern science, written by the evangelical
> geologist Davis Young12, the author concluded that the effort had failed.
> He wrote (page 1) "The evangelical community is still mired in a swamp in
> its attempt to understand the proper relationship between biblical
> interpretation and the scientific endeavor." Another evangelical, Clark
> Pinnock13, took up this theme. He wrote that the way out of the swamp is
> to begin reading early Genesis appropriately in its own context, in the
> setting of the life of ancient Israel, and to stop forcing modern agendas
> upon it. Evangelicals who are supportive of the final authority of the
> Scripture ought to be open to this. Pinnock is convinced that the text of
> early Genesis invites a literary reading which does not call for a close
> scientific concordance. The purpose of Genesis 1-11 first and foremost is
> to teach certain theological truths which lie behind God's striking a
> covenant with Abraham and his seed. The statement that God made the sun,
> moon and stars on the fourth day, ought to tell us that this is not a
> scientific statement. There are numerous indications that the writer of
> Genesis 1 wanted to combat the errors contained in the creation myths of
> the ancient world. There are evidences of literary artistry in the
> construction of Genesis 1, notably the parallelism between the first and
> second triad of days. The author is using the Hebrew week as a literary
> framework for displaying the theology of creation. God creates the spaces,
> and then he populates them. Pinnock says that it is the evidence of the
> text, rather than the desire to avoid modern criticism from science, which
> ought to move evangelicals away from a misreading of the first creation
> account as a scientifically informative tract and burdening themselves
> with enormous and unnecessary difficulties.
> 12. D.A. Young, "Scripture in the hands of a geologist, " /Westminster
> Theological Journal, /49 (1987), 1-34, 257-304.
> 13. C. H. Pinnock, Climbing out of a swamp: The evangelical struggle to
> understand the Creation texts. /Interpretation/ 43 (1989), 143-155.
> Don/ /
>
> David Opderbeck wrote:
>> Here is a quiz for everyone. Who said the following about Gen. 1-2, in
>> criticism of "concordism" in evangelical hermeneutics, and when was it
>> said? (I think the answer challenges Lamoureux's overly-broad thesis
>> about
>> evangelical hermeneutics, particularly as the author of this statement is
>> mentioned en passant in one of Denis' footnotes):
>>
>> there is a modern set of presuppositions, linked to the realist
>> epistemology
>> most evangelicals favor, which has a profound influence on their
>> exegesis.
>> Having a realist epistemology means that they will tend to favor truth of
>> a
>> factual and scientific kind and not be quite so open to truth of a more
>> symbolic or metaphorical type. One sees it in the evangelical doctrine of
>> biblical inspiration, which is protective of cognitive truth in general
>> and
>> factual inerrancy in particular. It means hermeneutically that the
>> "natural"
>> way to read the Bible is to read it as literally and as factually as
>> possible. In apologetics too evangelicals like to appeal to empirical
>> reason: They like to ask, If you can't trust the Bible in matters of
>> fact,
>> when can you trust it? In many ways then, evangelicals are in substantial
>> agreement with the modern agenda which also prefers the factual and the
>> scientific over the symbolic and figurative. What could be more modern
>> that
>> to search for scientific truth in texts three thousand years old? Such a
>> modern presupposition will demand the right to read the Bible in modern
>> terms whatever the authorial intention of the text might be. It just
>> assumes
>> that our values must have been the same as those entertained by the
>> ancient
>> Israelites.
>>
>> The influence of these presuppositions and this mindset is
>> overwhelmingly
>> powerful, and the difficulty standing in the way of evangelicals
>> transcending it is enormous. Changing one's presuppositions is a painful
>> business, and it will not be easy for evangelicals to listen to the
>> Bible's
>> own agenda and to put their own on the shelf. Yet it can be done, and it
>> is
>> happening.
>>
>> This area of hermeneutics also reveals the "docetic" potential very
>> near
>> the surface of the evangelical doctrine of Scripture, an unconscious wish
>> not to have God's Word enter into the creaturely realm.31 A strong
>> emphasis
>> on the divine inspiration of the text naturally tends to overshadow the
>> obligation to read the Bible in its own human and historical setting in
>> order to grasp its truth. It encourages readers to seek the pure divine
>> message to themselves here and now and to assume they will grasp its
>> meaning
>> best by reading the text in the most "natural" way, which means, in a way
>> congenial to the assumptions of the reader, maximizing the danger of text
>> manipulation.
>>
>> Inevitably this also leads to theological impoverishment. So much time
>> and
>> energy is consumed tilting at windmills that little gets said about the
>> actual doctrine of creation.
>>
>>
>> The answer: Clark Pinnock, in 1989 ("Climbing Out of a Swamp: The
>> Evangelical Struggle to Understand the Creation Texts," Interpretation 43
>> No. 2 (1989)). If you can gain access to this article, do so -- it is
>> very
>> worthwhile.
>>
>>
>>
>>
>
>
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Received on Mon Mar 3 16:07:40 2008

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