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

From: Don Nield <>
Date: Mon Mar 03 2008 - 16:57:16 EST

I agree with your amendment of what Pinnock should have said but did not.

George Murphy wrote:
> 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
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Don Nield" <>
> To: "David Opderbeck" <>
> Cc: "Michael Roberts" <>; "George
> Murphy" <>; "ASA list" <>
> 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 16:58:11 2008

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