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

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Tue Mar 04 2008 - 11:15:25 EST

Right, and here's where I brought up Pinnock and others like Pinnock who
represent what I'd call "moderate" or others might call "progressive"
evangelicals. I didn't intend to say that Pinnock contradicts Lamoureux's
entire thesis. What I wanted to say is that rhetorically, it seems to me
Lamoureux sets up a box: "evangelical=inerrancy=literal
hermeneutic=concordist." That box, I think, is too small. Certainly there
is a group of influential evangelicals who think that box is exactly right.
Maybe numerically that group commands the largest following within
evangelicalism right now -- assuming more than a handful of people in the
churches really understand these debates. But why cede the center to them?
I'd be very interested to see a social science survey of theology profs in
colleges and seminaries that self-identify as "evangelical' as to nuances on
"inerrancy" and hermeneutics. I don't think the results would be quite so
tight -- maybe not even totally coherent.

I think this matters because I don't want to see the notion of accommodation
set up as an "alternative" to an evangelical doctrine of scripture. In my
view, when we start to see accommodation as an "alternative" to inerrancy,
we start to get into dangerous territory. Instead, I think we need to
understand "accommodation" as part of what the categories of "truth" and
"error" mean in relation to the scripture God actually gave us. We don't
impose "inerrant" on the text as a logical construct from the outside (ala
Geisler) regardless of historical criticism; we rather affirm that God does
not err and build up what that means from the inside, taking into accound
sound historical criticism.

The question of Paul's use of Adam is of course a key flashpoint here.
Personally, I find it very difficult to dismiss Paul's references to Adam
as merely an accommodation to cultural modes of thought. "Adam" has nothing
to do with general cultural background assumptions about the cosmos (e.g.,
the raqia). Rather, Adam is presented as a key figure in redemption
history. I don't think Adam can be placed into the same background as the
solid firmament or the rising and setting sun. But of course we know it's
impossible to identify an "Adam" of biology or anthropology. So perhaps
there's accommodation in this instance in the sense that God doesn't reveal
in scripture, through Paul or otherwise, anything like the full biological /
anthropological picture of human origins, but the story is nevertheless
universal, true and "historical" (even if the details of its telling are in
some senses mythological).

In sort of critical realist terms, it raises questions about what it would
mean to be the "first man" at a theological level, and about how that
theological level might emerge from, yet be distinct from, the biological /
anthropological level. We might never have answers to that question, but
personally I'd prefer to frame things in those terms than to play
"accommodation" against "history" or "inerrancy."

On Tue, Mar 4, 2008 at 10:20 AM, Austerberry, Charles <> wrote:

> Denis Lamoureux made one important point, I think: God's inspiration of
> the Biblical writers apparently did not override those writers'
> contemporary views of the cosmos. Rather, divine inspiration replaced
> polytheistic mythology with monotheistic theological truth. Seely's
> communication at the end of the PSCF issue makes much the same argument
> as Lamoureux's essay. I find them both pretty compelling. By the way,
> no doubt we today also have some cosmology, biology, etc. that in the
> future will be seen to be erroneous.
> Lamoureux says that concordism takes two forms, both fueled by a refusal
> to accept that Biblical writers had what we now know to be) mistaken
> cosmologies, such as the solid firmament, and waters above the
> firmament:
> (1) Straining to translate Hebrew and Greek words so that the
> scientific/historical errors are minimized - e.g., arguing that the
> Biblical texts don't really refer to waters above a solid firmament, but
> to expanses, atmospheres, clouds, etc.
> (2) Claiming that the Biblical authors wrote metaphorically about waters
> above a solid firmament - even in the same verse in which the moon and
> stars, for example, were written about in a literal, non-metaphorical
> sense.
> I certainly agree (and I think Lamoureux does too) that the writer(s) of
> Genesis 1 used a literary device - the framework of two triads of days,
> with creation of habitats in days 1-3 and creation of inhabitants in the
> corresponding days 4-6. But within that symbolic story, there are still
> clear non-symbolic references to ancient cosmology (e.g. firmament with
> waters above) that were as real to the writer as the sun, moon, and
> stars.
> Lamoureux ends his essay by noting that Biblical writers apparently had
> no concept of the evolution of living organisms. But that Paul, for
> example, erroneously thought a single Adam was literally the first man
> should not shock us nor shake our faith. E.O. Wilson (in his book
> Consilience) claims that the absence of evolution in the Bible led him
> to reject the Bible. The same could be said of Darwin himself.
> Lamoureux might note that such is the result of concordist hermeneutics
> which refuses to accept that God accommodates the erroneous worldviews
> of the people God is inspiring.
> Where it gets stickier is, what was Jesus' own view of cosmology and
> origins? Did Christ empty Himself of knowledge of evolution, for
> example, when He was incarnated as Jesus in first century Palestine?
> Cheers!
> 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
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Received on Tue Mar 4 11:16:39 2008

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