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

From: George Murphy <gmurphy@raex.com>
Date: Tue Mar 04 2008 - 21:49:28 EST

1) There is clearly a lot of theological editing - redaction if you want to be fancy - in the gospels. While I would agree that there were substantial eyewitness sources, the gospels were written post-Easter by people who believed Jesus to Messiah, Lord Savior and Son of God (even though the latter term probably didn't have its full Nicene significance for them), & they were writing to, inter alia, proclaim that he was those things. When John has Nathanael proclaim Jesus as Son of God and King of Israel at the very beginning of his ministry he is either (a) giving an historical account which blatantly contradicts Mark, where no one except the demons & Peter - sort of - recognizes who Jesus is until his death or (b) he is reading back into the history a post-Easter knowledge of Jesus. & if (b) is true then the possibility that texts which suggest divine knowledge on Jesus' part represent a similar reading back into Jesus life a post-Easter understanding of the truth (N.B.) of who he is.

2) My purpose was not to defend Chuck's "typical" - which he has since elaborated.

3) Arians denied the "full divinity" of Christ but were willing to say that he was in some sense "divine," "God" &c by nature - the first & highest of creatures, &c. That's why Nicea had to resort to "homoousios with the Father" to get something they wouldn't accept. The Arians actually had a much higher christology than some liberal Christians - as in fact the Qur`an does too!

Shalom
George
http://web.raex.com/~gmurphy/
  ----- Original Message -----
  From: David Opderbeck
  To: George Murphy
  Cc: Austerberry, Charles ; asa@lists.calvin.edu
  Sent: Tuesday, March 04, 2008 9:19 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Pinnock on Climbing out of the Swamp (was Lamoureux, Concordism, and Inerrancy)

  1 -- no, I've learned too much about the Gospels to think they're simple straightforward histories. But, I do believe they are based on eyewitness accounts, and i do believe they actually tell us about what Jesus did and said, even if they are arranged and stylized by the authors -- i.e., I reject the effort to reconstruct the "historical" Jesus by sorting the texts as authentic or inauthentic based on their supposed relation to prior traditions or communities (looking forward to reading, but haven't read yet, Baukham's "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses")

  2. you are confusing, I think, a raw socioeconomic class description with what I think was Chuck's effort to classify Jesus' abilities. If I said "Einstein was a typical turn-of-the-century German Jew," that would be an inaccurate statement about Einstein, unless we're simply talking about a raw fact of his birth. Obviously, Jesus was born into an ordinary first century Jewish Palestinian family and lived as a human being in that culture (interesting question whether Jesus' family were actually "peasants" as we think of that term or more a sort of middle class within the context of the Jewish community -- he did, after all, practice a trade; they weren't beggars). And I think it's more than fair to say that Jesus' uniqueness wasn't only the result of his human qualities.

  3. My understanding is that Arianism and Docetism are opposite sides of a coin -- Docetism denied Jesus' full humanity while Arianism denied his full divinity. That's what I was getting at. Adoptionism, true, is another way of avoiding the paradoxes of the Trinity by de-emphasizing Christ's inherent divinity.

  On Tue, Mar 4, 2008 at 8:14 PM, George Murphy <gmurphy@raex.com> wrote:

    1st, you seem to be assuming that the gospels can be read as more or less straight historical accounts.

    2d, there are plenty of examples of people with extraordinary, though human, abilities from quite ordinary backgrounds. To say that Jesus was a Jerwish peasant doesn't require that he be an average jewish peasant.

    3d, adoptionism, not Arianism, is the antithesis of docetism. It's quite consistent with Arianism that Jesus could have & display supernatural knowledge & power.

    Shalom
    George
    http://web.raex.com/~gmurphy/
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: David Opderbeck
      To: Austerberry, Charles
      Cc: George Murphy ; asa@lists.calvin.edu
      Sent: Tuesday, March 04, 2008 7:31 PM
      Subject: Re: [asa] Pinnock on Climbing out of the Swamp (was Lamoureux, Concordism, and Inerrancy)

      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 head.

      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 <cfauster@creighton.edu> wrote:

        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: cfauster@creighton.edu

        Nebraska Religious Coalition for Science Education
        http://nrcse.creighton.edu

----------------------------------------------------------------------
          From: George Murphy [mailto:gmurphy@raex.com]
          Sent: Tuesday, March 04, 2008 2:29 PM
          To: David Opderbeck; Austerberry, Charles

          Cc: asa@lists.calvin.edu

          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
          http://web.raex.com/~gmurphy/
            ----- Original Message -----
            From: David Opderbeck
            To: Austerberry, Charles
            Cc: asa@lists.calvin.edu
            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 <cfauster@creighton.edu> 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: cfauster@creighton.edu

              Nebraska Religious Coalition for Science Education
              http://nrcse.creighton.edu

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Received on Tue Mar 4 21:55:47 2008

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