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

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Tue Mar 04 2008 - 15:29:21 EST

Given the idea of divine accomodation (& the adjective is crucial - it's God, not just the human writers, who accomodated), I don't think Paul's use of the Adam figure is as problematic as David suggests. The idea that Adam was an historical figure is part of the Jewish culture in which Paul & the early Christians functioned.

& I don't think the question of Jesus' views of cosmology & human origins is as sticky as Chuck suggests. If our theological argument for accomodation is that the inspirational action of the Spirit follows the kenotic pattern of the Incarnation then we should already be open to the possibility that Jesus held the views of human & cosmic origins that his Jewish contemporaries did. Note though that I say "possibility" - we simply don't have access to what Jesus actually knew about early human or cosmic history.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: David Opderbeck
  To: Austerberry, Charles
  Sent: Tuesday, March 04, 2008 11:15 AM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Pinnock on Climbing out of the Swamp (was Lamoureux, Concordism, and Inerrancy)

  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

    (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

    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

    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?


    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


    Nebraska Religious Coalition for Science Education

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Received on Tue Mar 4 15:31:11 2008

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