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

From: Austerberry, Charles <>
Date: Tue Mar 04 2008 - 16:46:53 EST

Well said, George. I agree that we can't know for sure what Jesus
thought about cosmology or origins, but I also agree that we still
worship Jesus Christ as God and Lord even if during His human life His
worldview was typical of Jewish peasants. Where to draw the line between
His humanity and His divinity (when it comes to mind and knowledge) is,
well, tricky if not sticky for me at least.
For example, when a gospel writer comments that Jesus knew the unspoken
thoughts of people, was that knowledge Jesus had divine, or was it human
knowledge that is typical of at least some people (those astute at
"reading" the motives, thoughts, etc. of others)? I grew up with a
mental picture of Jesus as having virtually all divine knowledge and
just keeping much of it to himself so he would "fit in" with his
completely mortal companions. Now I think most all of his knowledge was
human. It actually deepens my appreciation and love for Him,
considering how much He emptied himself of knowledge, and perhaps power
as well.
For example, I used to think that if Jesus wanted He could have come
down from the cross at any moment, and He did not because he was doing
His Father's will. But maybe a more accurate way to think of it is that
Jesus yielded to His Father's will when He allowed Himself to be
arrested. Any rescue from Herod and Pilate after that would have had to
come from the Father directly. And for our sake, that rescue did not
happen (until the Resurrection).
I hope such speculation is not irreverent. In any case, I agree that we
cannot be certain of such details. We need not be certain, either. The
depth of God's love for us through Christ is overwhelming regardless of
how much and what kind of divine knowledge Jesus had after the
Incarnation and before the Resurrection.
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 <>


        From: George Murphy []
        Sent: Tuesday, March 04, 2008 2:29 PM
        To: David Opderbeck; Austerberry, Charles
        Subject: Re: [asa] Pinnock on Climbing out of the Swamp (was
Lamoureux, Concordism, and Inerrancy)
        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
                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
                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
                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
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Received on Tue Mar 4 16:48:10 2008

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