Re: [asa] biological evolution and a literal Adam- logically inconsistent?

From: Merv <>
Date: Mon Sep 01 2008 - 15:36:58 EDT

And I would even take it farther than David O. --and say that I don't
see too much difficulty in teasing out figurative or literal here (which
may be the "blessing" of comparative ignorance on my part since I'm not
as knowledgeable on ANE mythologies or related subjects and can happily
proceed to oversimplification in glorious ignorance of all the
nuances.) What's wrong with taking the fall as a figurative story
illustrating a real state of mankind? In this case the referent is a
quite real thing (our historical and present sinful state), but the
reference to it and how it started is a figurative story given to help
us understand. Although if you were to press me on exactly *what* that
story helps us understand beyond the bare fact that we fell into sin --I
would be at loss. Indeed it has been badly abused to justify poor
treatment of women ("first sinners", after all). So it would seem to me
that at least some of any intended message in that passage miscarried in
regard to our present culture.

But I do know this: "figurative" does not necessarily equal
"false". God is my "rock" or my "fortress", and just because those
symbols (the references) aren't literally true in the sense of God being
a rock somewhere, doesn't make the referent (God) any less literally
real. The metaphors are supposed to be for our benefit although that
benefit seems to be lost on many modern people who are perhaps more
inclined scientifically than towards literary understanding.

I do agree with David O. that separating out the figurative from literal
(as well as discerning the substantial overlap of the two) is a messy
and hard business as we proceed on through the Scriptures. I don't
think there are any easy formulas for that. ---Theological and
intellectual sweat; and in the end: God's grace to cover for our
inevitable misunderstandings and misapplications. That's as close as I
would propose for a formula for building understanding. (Maybe I had
better listen up regarding those ANE cultures.)


David Opderbeck wrote:
> Bernie said: My original question is how could people take "the
> making of man by forming dust" figurative and then the immediately
> following story of the fall literally (real talking serpent, real tree
> of life, etc.). Isn't it inconsistent to take one literal and the
> other figurative?
> I respond: that's what I thought your question was originally. No, I
> don't see why this is inconsistent at all. It is not a simple type of
> literature that is either "literal" or "figurative" in a binary
> fashion. I think it's incredibly difficult to tease out what is to be
> taken each way.
> Again, I give an example from sports: "Yankees slaughtered the Tigers
> today." Did the Yankees literally kill the Tigers? No, that is a
> figurative expression. Was there a real historical game to which that
> figure refers? Yes. It is not necessarily either-or.
> In a similar way, the fact that the Fall story doesn't appear to be a
> simple, straightforwardly "literal" account doesn't necessarily mean
> it has no historical referent.
> On Mon, Sep 1, 2008 at 2:37 PM, Dehler, Bernie
> < <>> wrote:
> So Merv- I think you are saying Gen. 2 and 3 are both figurative.
> My original question is how could people take "the making of man
> by forming dust" figurative and then the immediately following
> story of the fall literally (real talking serpent, real tree of
> life, etc.). Isn't it inconsistent to take one literal and the
> other figurative? Sounds like you take them both figurative, so it
> is not an issue for you. Seems to me if the first is taken
> figuratively, then it is even that much easier to take the fall
> story figurative because it is more obvious a departure from real
> life.
> Is the story of the fall literal or figurative? It seems to me
> that the vast majority of Christians go agnostic on that question,
> because it is so difficult to deal with the ramifications. For
> example, I don't think I found any definite answers from Hugh
> Ross' ministry (Reasons to Believe- Old Earth Creationist) on it
> (I didn't do a thorough search, so if someone knows his take, you
> can share).
> ...Bernie
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Merv [ <>]
> Sent: Monday, September 01, 2008 9:51 AM
> To: Dehler, Bernie; <>
> Subject: Re: [asa] biological evolution and a literal Adam-
> logically inconsistent?
> Dehler, Bernie wrote:
> > . . . . . . . .
> > I don't get that response. If God made man from dust, and it is
> literally true, that means he really scooped up real dust. If God
> didn't really scoop up real dust, then it is a figurative saying.
> >
> > When the Bible says we are all made of dust (Gen. 18:27 and
> > Psalm 103:14), maybe it is referring to the ancient science when
> they thought Adam really was literally made from real dust?
> >
> > Today we may say our bodies are made of stardust (considering
> cosmological evolution), but there's no way they could have had
> that idea, I think.
> >
> > ...Bernie
> >
> Bernie, I think you're anthropomorphizing God by imagining that
> the only
> way the claim [He made us from dust] can be true is if God
> (looking like
> a human with hands) literally appeared, and began shaping Adam
> from some
> handy dirt much like a child playing in a sandbox. In this sense I
> think most would agree that the passage is 100% figurative. Where
> else
> in the Bible does God ever assume human form (except at Bethlehem) and
> do things in that way? Very rarely --yes I know there are the
> human-looking visitors Abraham & a couple others which carry the label
> "Angel of the Lord". But almost always God is still given 100% credit
> for doing things in a mediated sense by influencing people's hearts
> (pharaoh, Moses,...) or by using natural things to bring about
> events (a
> wind drying up the red sea or bringing the locusts into Egypt,
> knitting
> us together in our mothers' wombs...). Surely you don't dispute
> those
> passages because of the absence of an actual figure with knitting
> needles failing to appear on any sonograms? (I know you don't,
> and yet
> I think this very illustrative of the point I'm attempting to make.)
> Even the O.T. authors don't insist that the only work that can
> qualify
> as being God's is work he did while looking and working like a human
> with human hands. And it is Scripturally unwarranted to insist on
> such
> a thing for this passage (which also makes no claim about *how* God
> formed the dust, but only that he did). So if you are uncomfortable
> with accepting both literal and figurative in this case --fine: ditch
> the literal. It was 100% figurative --and also 100% true. It also
> happens to correspond with what evolutionary theory teaches (the
> "made
> with dust" part) so any who are troubled by wanting to have their
> truth
> "only in literal form, please" can actually still have it in this
> case
> and save their head scratching for other passages where truth doesn't
> easily accommodate modern literalist form. The prophets of old had no
> problems with metaphor (e.g. that God is a potter and we are the
> clay);
> so we probably shouldn't either --nor should we relegate it down to
> "second-class truth" because of its non-literal status.
> --Merv

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Received on Mon Sep 1 15:37:56 2008

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