Re: [asa] Was Adam a real person?

From: David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
Date: Sat Apr 12 2008 - 12:46:21 EDT

Bethany, as I explained, the term "cosmogenic myth" is an anachronism in the
sense that the ANE people of course would not have used that term. However,
I think the concept conveyed to us by that term is a more accurate
description of what the ANE people were doing with their cosmology and
origins stories than "science." Would you agree?

Let me give a little more context of my personal thinking here. As I've
read the various articles and debates Denis has published (his recent PSCF
article, his recent Christian Scholars Review article, and his debate with
Phil Johnson published by Regent), as well as other books and articles (Paul
Seely's recent PSCF article, Pete Enns' I&I book, Kent Sparks' "Gods Word in
Human Words"), I've come to greatly appreciate the notion of "accommodation"
in scripture. I agree with Denis that this is an important and extremely
useful concept, for faith-science issues as well as for other historical and
text-critical issues that arise in Biblical studies.

However, I also stand in the tradition of what I understand to be historic
orthodoxy in affirming that God does not err in scripture. From my
perspective, accommodation ought to be something evangelicals reappropriate
from the broader Christian tradition as part of a better rounded doctrine of
scripture -- it is both that God does not err in scripture and that God
accommodates in scripture.

In light of all that, I'm personally uncomfortable referring to the
cosmology reflected in scripture as "the science of the day," which science
is simply wrong and superseded by modern science. I would prefer to say
that the cosmology represented in scripture reflects the worldviews of the
human cultures from which scripture arose, which cultures simply were not
"scientific" as we understand that term today. Scripture is not
scientifically "wrong" because it simply isn't teaching or reflecting
"science."

This is exactly the kind of move I understand John Walton to be making in
his writings when he stresses that the ANE people had a non-material
ontology of nature that is entirely different from ours. I think this is
important because we an say that scripture is not "wrong" in reflecting this
non-material ontology. In fact, we affirm with scripture that there is a
God who assigns functions to the stuff of nature, and that the material
world is not all that exists. But at the same time, we can give what we
call "science" its own space to investigate the sorts of material causes
that scripture doesn't address.

When it comes to Biblical characters such as Adam, IMHO the issue becomes
even more complicated because we move from the ontology of nature to the
role and purpose of human beings and the character of history and
historiography. Walton deals with this in the second part of his ANE
Thought book, by noting the ANE stress on archetypes and social cohesion, as
against our modern individualism -- again, I think, a helpful distinction.

So, maybe I've misread both Walton and Denis, and I welcome discussion,
feedback, and correction, but this is the current trajectory of my own
thinking about these difficult and interesting questions.

On Fri, Apr 11, 2008 at 11:20 PM, Bethany Sollereder <bsollereder@gmail.com>
wrote:

> David,
>
> You admit your own anachronism by saying "*so yeah, that's a little
> anachronistic too". *Doesn't that reinforce Denis' point about you,
> saying both are anachronistic and you are just saying that his is "worse"
> than yours?
>
> What are the point of the questions? I don't understand how they add to
> the conversation... I mean the second one especially seems to be
> ridiculous. I don't think anyone thinks the Enuma Elish is a naturalistic
> explanation of the world. Can we move on?
>
> Bethany Sollereder
>
>
> On Fri, Apr 11, 2008 at 7:45 PM, David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
> wrote:
>
> > Denis -- can you address the merits or are you just going to keep on
> > name calling? It's tiresome and it should be beneath you.
> >
> > Speaking of selective "prooftexting," concerning anachronisms, this is
> > what I actually said: *Obviously, they wouldn't have used this term, so
> > yeah, that's a little anachronistic too. But I don't think its
> > anachronistic as a category in the way "science of the day" is anachronistic
> > as a category.
> >
> > *This is not "your anachronism is worst [sic] than my anachronism." I
> > am using a term they would not have used to describe what they were doing.
> > You are using a category of activity in which they were simply not engaged.
> > *
> > *
> > Now, can you answer these questions, or are you going to keep evading
> > them with ad hominems:
> >
> > -- do you agree that "science" as we define it today is limited to
> > natural explanations? Or do you contend that "science" as we define it
> > today can admit the immediate presence and activity of gods?
> >
> > -- do you agree that ANE cosmology is contingent on the immediate
> > presence and activity of gods? Or do you contend that the Enuma Elish is a
> > purely naturalistic explanation of how the universe came to be?
> >
> > On Fri, Apr 11, 2008 at 10:33 PM, Denis O. Lamoureux <
> > dlamoure@ualberta.ca> wrote:
> >
> > > Yep.
> > > Like a true lawyer, David has selectively proof texted my
> > > message, completely failing to deal with his insulting
> > > nonsensical argument:
> > >
> > > (1) So you admit your anachronism, but then argue
> > > that my anachronism is worst than yours.
> > >
> > > Goodness gracious! I suppose I should walk over
> > > to the law school to learn about this special way
> > > of arguing.
> > >
> > > Of course, David's only response is to whine about ad hom
> > > arguments and play his usual word games.
> > >
> > > And I haven't confused you with Phil Johnson. There you go
> > > again jumping to an injudicious conclusion. You're half a notch
> > > below Phil. He never padded his e-mails with all sorts of books
> > > he didn't understand (don't pedantic undergrads do that in their
> > > papers)?
> > >
> > > As Howard Van Till said to Phil a number of years ago: sophomoric
> > > arrogance.
> > >
> > > Counselor, don't give up your day job.
> > >
> > > Regards,
> > > Denis
> > >
> > > ----- Original Message -----
> > >
> > > *From:* David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
> > > *To:* Denis O. Lamoureux <dlamoure@ualberta.ca>
> > > *Cc:* Jack <drsyme@cablespeed.com> ; Dehler, Bernie<bernie.dehler@intel.com>;
> > > asa@lists.calvin.edu
> > > *Sent:* Friday, April 11, 2008 7:23 PM
> > > *Subject:* Re: [asa] Was Adam a real person?
> > >
> > > Denis said: You have misread and misrepresented Walton's book.
> > > But I guess misspeaking is standard and perfectly
> > > acceptable for lawyers . .
> > >
> > > I respond: Really, Denis, is this kind of garbage ad hominem argument
> > > necessary? I don't think I've "misread" Walton's book at all, though that
> > > certainly is possible. The claim that I've "misrepresented" it, however, is
> > > just offensive, because that implies malicious intent. I've been around
> > > here for a while, and if you understood that you'd know that I'm probably
> > > more on your "side" than not. But don't try to bully me and don't confuse
> > > me with Phil Johnson.
> > >
> > > I've also corresponded several times with Walton about his book in the
> > > past -- not in connection with this conversation -- and he made clear to me
> > > that we can't consider the ANE people to have been doing "literal" cosmology
> > > in the way that we would use the term "literal" because they were more
> > > interested in "functions" than "causes." In fact, this distinction between
> > > "functions" and "causes" is one of his main points about the ANE mindset,
> > > and if you've read his IVP commentary on Genesis you'll see that this is why
> > > he considers the "days" of Genesis 1 not to be "literal" days -- i.e., God's
> > > statements about the sun and moon don't cause the sun and moon to come into
> > > existence, they assign functions to the sun and moon of marking seasons and
> > > days and years. How is Walton your "colleague," BTW? Are you at Wheaton
> > > now?
> > >
> > > So, if Walton is using the shorthand "Old World Science," fine -- but
> > > I think he'd also agree that this does NOT imply "science" in the sense we
> > > use that term today, meaning explanations of natural causes.
> > >
> > > Anyway, let me ask you this:
> > >
> > > -- do you agree that "science" as we define it today is limited to
> > > natural explanations? Or do you contend that "science" as we define it
> > > today can admit the immediate presence and activity of gods?
> > >
> > > -- do you agree that ANE cosmology is contingent on the immediate
> > > presence and activity of gods? Or do you contend that the Enuma Elish is a
> > > purely naturalistic explanation of how the universe came to be?
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > On Fri, Apr 11, 2008 at 8:55 PM, Denis O. Lamoureux <
> > > dlamoure@ualberta.ca> wrote:
> > >
> > > > Hello David,
> > > > I'm the "Someone said" individual. Two points:
> > > >
> > > > (1) So you admit your anachronism, but then argue
> > > > that my anachronism is worst than yours.
> > > >
> > > > Goodness gracious! I suppose I should walk over
> > > > to the law school to learn about this special way
> > > > of arguing.
> > > >
> > > > (2) Just contacted my colleague John Walton whose
> > > > book you've appealed to in your posts. Regarding
> > > > the notion of ancient science or science of the day,
> > > > he writes:
> > > > I often use "Old World Science" as a way
> > > > of categorizing Israel's cosmic geography if
> > > > that clarifies anything.
> > > > You have misread and misrepresented Walton's book.
> > > > But I guess misspeaking is standard and perfectly
> > > > acceptable for lawyers . . .
> > > >
> > > > Regards,
> > > > Denis
> > > >
> > > > Denis O. Lamoureux DDS PhD PhD
> > > > Assistant Professor of Science & Religion
> > > > St. Joseph's College, University of Alberta
> > > > Edmonton, Alberta Canada T6G 2J5
> > > > Tel: 780 492 7681 ext.246
> > > > Fax: 780 492 8145
> > > > E-mail: dlamoure@ualberta.ca
> > > > Website: www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > ----- Original Message -----
> > > > *From:* David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
> > > > *To:* Denis O. Lamoureux <dlamoure@ualberta.ca>
> > > > *Cc:* Jack <drsyme@cablespeed.com> ; Dehler, Bernie<bernie.dehler@intel.com>;
> > > > asa@lists.calvin.edu
> > > > *Sent:* Friday, April 11, 2008 7:36 AM
> > > > *Subject:* Re: [asa] Was Adam a real person?
> > > >
> > > > Someone said: Now this is delicious. I'm accused of being
> > > > "anachronistic," and two sentences later David refers to "cosmogenic
> > > > myths." Does anyone think that J, P or R were constructing "cosmogenic
> > > > myths"? [I'm saying "someone said" b/c the string got long and I can't
> > > > figure out who's saying what!]
> > > >
> > > > I respond: Yes, I do think the author[s] of Gen. 1-4 was[were]
> > > > constructing / assembling / editing / redacting cosmogenic myths, just like
> > > > I think the authors and editors of the Enuma Elish were constructing /
> > > > assembling / editing / redacting cosmogenic myths. Obviously, they wouldn't
> > > > have used this term, so yeah, that's a little anachronistic too. But I
> > > > don't think its anachronistic as a category in the way "science of the day"
> > > > is anachronistic as a category. "Science" by definition means natural
> > > > explanations for natural phenomena, doesn't it? If one thing is certain,
> > > > it's that "methodological naturalism" would have been utterly,
> > > > incomprehensibly foreign to the ANE peoples.
> > > >
> > > > An acquaintance of mine who is an ANE scholar recommended to me
> > > > Thorkild Jacobsen's "The Treasures of Darkness: A History of Mesopotamian
> > > > Religion." A really captivating book. Reading the actual texts and poems
> > > > of the culture, and understanding the rituals associated with those texts,
> > > > its clear that they had no notion of transcendence of the gods. The
> > > > numinous was ever present for them. The earth and sky really were, in some
> > > > sense, Tiamat's body, the gods were really present in the people enacting
> > > > their parts in fertility rituals -- it reminds me a bit of the Roman notion
> > > > of the real presence of Christ in the host. Their marriage and love poems
> > > > are poignant too.
> > > >
> > > > If you want to call the numinous presence of Tiamat in the earth and
> > > > firmament "the science of the day," it seems to me you have to qualify the
> > > > word "science" so much that what it really means is "cosmogenic myths."
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > >
> > >
> > > --
> > > 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
> >
>
>

-- 
David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
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Received on Sat Apr 12 12:47:52 2008

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