Re: [asa] Was Adam a real person?

From: David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
Date: Thu Apr 10 2008 - 19:31:05 EDT

Bernie, I think it's useful to distinguish technology from natural science
in this discusion. Obviously ancient near eastern peoples had technology of
various sorts, some of it quite impressive. But to call the raquia a kind
of "science" I think is mistaken. The Babylonians had this same topology of
the universe, but you also have to put it into the context of stories like
the Enuma Elish, which explain the material universe as the broken body of
the goddess Tiamat. You can in a sense say the Babylonian's "literally"
believed the earth and heavens were made of Tiamat's body, but really the
notion of "made of" imports a category that doesn't exist in their
thinking. They simply had no notion of matter being comprised of elements
and subject to natural laws as we do.

I also think it's dangerous to say bluntly "scripture is wrong when it
contradicts what we know from science." The categories of "scripture" and
"science" have to be more nuanced than such a blunt statement allows, IMHO
-- and of course we also have to deal with the function of scripture as a
norm for a particular community (the ancient Hebrews, and the Church), the
mediation of the text of scripture via hermeneutics within the community of
faith, and the role of the Holy Spirit in directing the people of God in and
through scripture. Yes, the Church had to adjust its understanding of
geocentrism as a result of Copernicus and Gallileo -- but this doesn't mean
scripture was "wrong." It means God guided the Church to a fuller
understanding of HIs whole revelation.

On Thu, Apr 10, 2008 at 7:07 PM, Dehler, Bernie <bernie.dehler@intel.com>
wrote:

> DF Siemens said:
> "It looks to me as though there is a problem with ambiguity. Every culture
> has its explanations for phenomena. Bernie calls this the science of the
> day. David wants to keep science to its current English sense."
>
>
>
> I think the science of their day said there was a dome (firmament)
> covering the earth, and above the dome was an ocean (water). The stars were
> in the dome, under the ocean. That aligns with Gen. 1. Their modern
> science is in agreement with Scripture, as if someone wrote it from that
> perspective. We would never tell a story like that today because we all
> know there is no water over the stars (except for some YEC's who still
> believe it … because the Bible teaches it … see
> http://www.icr.org/article/3472/ and look at their picture drawing of
> it). These YEC's go for ancient science because it is the science taught in
> the Bible.
>
>
>
> David Opderbeck said:
> "No, it's just anachronistic to call what the Babylonians and ancient
> Hebrews were doing "science." Take a look at John Walton's book
> "Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament." It is a completely
> foreign mindset to our contemporary scientific worldview."
>
>
>
> I think I know what you mean by stating there's a difference between
> Hebrew thinking and Greek-based logic. However, both had "science." Look
> at medicine. What did the early Hebrews do? The best they could with their
> "medical science" of the day- probably treated with herbs and oitments from
> wisdom gained thru the ages. How about math? They didn't have algebra, but
> they probably counted in order to pay taxes, make trades, etc. (Maybe that
> is why tithe is 10%-- count on your fingers, 1 for every 10.) Then they
> also did amazing things like Stonehedge (other ancients) and had
> technologies (lost to us) for building the pyramids. So they surely weren't
> all ignorant poets, which I'm sure you also recognize. They had science
> just like we do, only it was primitive and we have built on it and refined
> it. That is Dawkin's idea of the meme—evolving to a higher state over time
> (thought evolution).
>
>
>
> Donald Calbreath said:
> "Now, let's see if I have it straight. If the Scripture disagrees with
> our understanding of science, then Scripture is wrong - is that correct? It
> could be that our understanding of science is somehow incomplete, couldn't
> it?"
>
>
>
> Yes, the Scripture is wrong if it contradicts what we know from science.
> This was the whole problem with Galileo and geocentricty vs.
> heliocentricity. We only repeat the same battle because we didn't learn
> from the last one—we all have been raised knowing the earth circles the sun
> rather than vice-versa. Only this time, the stakes are much higher with
> evolution and theological ramifications. If God created man via evolution
> then He did not create the first man from a pile of dirt—they are mutually
> exclusive hypothesis.
>
>
>
> Don also said:
> "Help me out here, folks. Using your logic, there's really nothing left
> to hold fast to. And how does this fit in with your understanding of the
> ASA statement of faith?"
>
>
>
> We can't "hold fast" to something just because we want to place faith in
> it. (Otherwise we may just as well be Mormons or Muslims.) Our allegiance
> has to be to truth, above all. I believe if we seek truth it will lead to
> Jesus and God. If that means some of the Bible has error, some doesn't, and
> it has to be sorted out, so be it. The Bible can still be "inspired" and a
> "rule for faith." It is like no other book. I think the Bible has to be
> knocked-off of it's pedestal, which is so high for some people that it looks
> like they worship it. I don't think the Bible is the "Word of God," but
> encapsulates "some" of the Word of God (not all the things Jesus did and
> said were written), and the whole "Word of God" is in the person of Jesus
> who became flesh.
>
>
>
> David Operbeck said:
> "The problem is that applying the categories of modern science to the
> ancient Hebrew narratives of origins is a category mistake. Scripture isn't
> "wrong" here because it isn't giving us "science." "
>
>
>
> If Scripture offers a hypothesis that can be checked by science, then it
> is in the realm of science. If Scripture seriously teaches that man was
> made from a pile of dirt and not other animals, then there are consequences
> we would see in the genome. Special creation for man is at odds with
> evolution, and looking at the genome can settle the debate. We can look
> into this; the ancients could not, including the Apostle Paul. Our theology
> will shift based on this new info.
>
>
>
> I appreciate the chance to bounce my ideas off of you all- thanks! You
> are all helping me refine my ideas.
>
>
> ------------------------------
>
> *From:* D. F. Siemens, Jr. [mailto:dfsiemensjr@juno.com]
> *Sent:* Thursday, April 10, 2008 2:06 PM
> *To:* Dehler, Bernie
> *Cc:* asa@lists.calvin.edu
> *Subject:* Re: [asa] Was Adam a real person?
>
>
>
> It looks to me as though there is a problem with ambiguity. Every culture
> has its explanations for phenomena. Bernie calls this the science of the
> day. David wants to keep science to its current English sense. But there is
> the broader sense of /wissen/ in German and the earlier /scientia/. The
> latter at least required an organized approach. An animist will explain the
> accident a person had after killing a bear as the spirit of the bear
> retaliating because it was not placated. Such an acceptable explanation for
> animism is clearly not scientific in the contemporary sense. But there are
> many today whose notion of luck is not all that different in its underlying
> motive.
>
>
>
> The discussion that has been going on recognizes the similarity between
> the early biblical report and that of ANE mythology. Dick insists that the
> mythology is derived from the historical data in the Bible. I believe that
> the biblical report is derived from the mythology of the area that the
> earliest Hebrews came from. Unfortunately, I do not see that it is possible
> to have a definitive proof of either position. But I am persuaded that there
> are unintended consequences of Dick's view that make it highly unlikely.
> Additionally, as I noted in "Extended Humpty Dumpty Semantics and Genesis
> 1," PSCF 59:194 (September 2007), the descriptive language ties scripture to
> ANE views.
>
> Dave (ASA)
>
>
>
> On Thu, 10 Apr 2008 12:14:55 -0700 "Dehler, Bernie" <
> bernie.dehler@intel.com> writes:
>
> "It seems to me that "the closest understanding of Biblical origins" is
> that the writers and redactors of the Biblical creation and flood texts
> didn't seem terribly concerned about precision or consistency. It's
> anachronistic to say that God accommodated the Biblical creation texts to
> the "science" of the day. There was no "science" in that day as we know
> it. Rather, God accommodated to a mode of communicating through cosmogenic
> myths, in which function, not structure or chronology, are the primary
> concerns."
>
>
>
> I disagree. I think every day and age has its "modern science." That's
> the whole point- the Genesis story makes perfect sense in the science of
> it's day, but not in our day, since we know more.
>
>
>
> When it says Adam had children and gives ages for Adam and his offspring,
> this is just plainly an *error* if evolution is true and Adam was not the
> first man created. The Adam that was made in Gen. 2 from dirt is the same
> that is the father of Cain and Abel. He is either real or not; can't be
> real in one chapter but not the other, if the same hermeneutic is used the
> same on both passages for this one book of the Bible called Genesis. There
> may be spiritual truth and allegory in it, but if evolution is true, the
> literal (standard YEC) interpretation is false. Just my ideas.
>
>
> ------------------------------
>
> *From:* David Opderbeck [mailto:dopderbeck@gmail.com]
> *Sent:* Thursday, April 10, 2008 6:06 AM
> *To:* Jack
> *Cc:* Denis O. Lamoureux; Dehler, Bernie; asa@lists.calvin.edu
> *Subject:* Re: [asa] Was Adam a real person?
>
>
>
> I second what Jack said below. I'd also add this about YEC being "the
> closest understanding of Biblical origins":
>
>
>
> -- the textual evidence seems ambiguous at best. We have "days" in Gen. 1
> with no Sun; we have obvious poetic parallelisms among the Gen. 1 "days"; we
> have a day 7 that seems never to end; and we have a separate, inconsistent
> account in Gen. 2, which turns the order of creation in Gen. 1 upside down.
>
>
>
>
> -- YEC is inseparable from flood geology. There is no suggestion in the
> text, including in the flood story, that the flood dramatically reshaped
> global geology (or even the landscape of the flat, four-cornered earth
> assumed to exist by the Biblical writers).
>
>
>
>
>
> -- the history of interpretation of these texts includes numerous ancient
> efforts to understand the "days" as something more than literal
>
>
>
> It seems to me that "the closest understanding of Biblical origins" is
> that the writers and redactors of the Biblical creation and flood texts
> didn't seem terribly concerned about precision or consistency. It's
> anachronistic to say that God accommodated the Biblical creation texts to
> the "science" of the day. There was no "science" in that day as we know
> it. Rather, God accommodated to a mode of communicating through cosmogenic
> myths, in which function, not structure or chronology, are the primary
> concerns.
>
>
>
>
>
> On Wed, Apr 9, 2008 at 10:59 PM, Jack <drsyme@cablespeed.com> wrote:
>
> Ok hold on one second here.
>
> Perhaps I need to read your book. But there is a difference between
> understanding big bang cosmology and evolutionary theory, and understanding
> whether or not Adam was historical or mythical. What I am hearing from you
> in this email is a 21st century bias against the ancients, and I think the
> ancients may have known more than you seem to give them credit for.
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Denis O. Lamoureux" <
> dlamoure@ualberta.ca>
> To: "Dehler, Bernie" <bernie.dehler@intel.com>; <asa@lists.calvin.edu>
> Sent: Wednesday, April 09, 2008 10:42 PM
> Subject: Re: [asa] Was Adam a real person?
>
> Hi Bernie,
> Everything you ask/state in your note is perfectly logical.
>
> Did the writers of Genesis believe in an Adam? Yes.
> Did Paul believe in an Adam? Yes
> Is young earth creation the closest understanding of the Biblical view of
> origins? Yes.
>
> So how can I as an evangelical Xian open the concluding chapter of my book
> with the following sentence:
> My central conclusion in this book is clear: Adam never existed, and
> this fact
> has no impact whatsoever on the foundational beliefs of Christianity.
> It takes me some 400 pages to get there, and obviously I can give a
> satisfying
> answer in one e-mail.
>
> However, the 'quick & dirty' answer is that the de novo creation (quick &
> complete)
> of humans is an ancient understanding of origins. In starting the
> revelatory process,
> the Holy Spirit accommodated to the origins science of the day. The Holy
> Spirit used de novo creation as an incidental vessel to deliver the
> Messages
> of Faith: the God of the Bible is the Creator, the creation is very good,
> and humans
> are created in God's Image.
>
> Another way of looking at it is to remember when we first met Christ. Did
> the
> Lord not come down to our level? So to with the ancient Hebrews. They
> would never have understood Big Bang cosmology or evolutionary biology.
>
> So one word: Grace.
>
> Hope this helps.
> Denis
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Dehler, Bernie" <
> bernie.dehler@intel.com>
> To: <asa@lists.calvin.edu>
> Sent: Tuesday, April 08, 2008 10:36 AM
> Subject: [asa] Was Adam a real person?
>
> Hi all-
>
> I still have a question. For those who think that Adam was not a real
> person in history, how do you answer the critic that says this idea
> undermines the whole Bible, since likewise if Adam didn't exist then
> other characters maybe didn't exist either (Noah, Jonah, Abraham, &
> Moses). If the Bible is undermined, then the faith is on shaky ground,
> since it is difficult to know what is true and what isn't.
>
> I've asked before, but don't think I've gotten any straight, crisp,
> answers. Can someone point me to some references or sources for the
> answer? Is this a straight-forward question that is being routinely
> ignored or shunted or re-directed?
>
> I'm not looking for answers as to why Adam must have been real, but
> looking for answers to the criticism of those who say he was not a real
> person.
>
> Here's what I think the answer is-- tell me if it looks reasonable:
>
> The Bible must be studied with what we know of nature. If a Biblical
> story conflicts with natural science, then we must pick the clearer over
> the foggier; and if science is clearer, we must accept that. Example,
> those who read the Bible with ancient science thought the sun revolved
> around the earth. Now we know the earth revolves around the sun, so
> science is therefore used to interpret Scripture. Likewise, we know
> that evolution works on groups of people, and there was no "first,
> unique" man... man evolved like all other life-forms, over vast amounts
> of times within populations. Therefore, we know from science there was
> no first man named Adam, as there is no such thing as a "first" man.
>
>
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>
>
> --
> David W. Opderbeck
> Associate Professor of Law
> Seton Hall University Law School
> Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
>
>
>
>

-- 
David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
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Received on Thu Apr 10 19:33:46 2008

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