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

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Tue Mar 04 2008 - 19:31:11 EST

While the issues surrounding the divine self-limitation involved in Jesus'
development as an incarnate human being are fascinating, it seems to me not
evident at all that Jesus' "worldview was typical of Jewish peasants." The
Gospels certainly don't portray Jesus as one with the mindset of a typical
Jewish peasant (assuming, for the sake of argument, that this is even a
valid sociological category) -- in fact, he baffled his closest disciples,
most of whom were regular folks, just as often as he ticked off the
religious and political elites. If nothing else, Jesus must have been
raised with family knowledge of the strange events surrounding his birth.
To the extent "typical" Jewish Palestinian peasants had expectations for the
Messiah, many of them expected a warrior king who would lead a
violent military revolt against Rome, and Jesus turned that idea on its

Nor do the Gospels seem to suggest that "most all of [Jesus] knowledge was
human," at least not during the period of his public ministry, which is the
bulk of what the Gospels cover. It would be very hard to explain Jesus'
miracles, his public teaching, and strange events such as the
transfiguration if we have to think of Jesus' knowledge as mostly human. In
avoiding Docetism, it's too tempting to succumb to Arianism.

To me, it seems better to try to address Jesus' statements that might relate
to cosmology or origins at the level of hermeneutics without getting into
questions about the Trinity and divine knowledge. There are various
approaches we might take, including the fact that Jesus doesn't say very
much at all about these topics, and certainly not with any level of detail,
and even more certainly without any apparent intent to teach modern science.
On Tue, Mar 4, 2008 at 4:46 PM, Austerberry, Charles <>

> 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.
> Cheers!
> Chuck
> 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
> ------------------------------
> *From:* George Murphy []
> *Sent:* Tuesday, March 04, 2008 2:29 PM
> *To:* David Opderbeck; Austerberry, Charles
> *Cc:*
> *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.
> Shalom
> George
> ----- Original Message -----
> *From:* David Opderbeck <>
> *To:* Austerberry, Charles <>
> *Cc:*
> *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
> > 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 19:32:16 2008

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