Re: [asa] The ASA and the Soft Sciences (ASA focus for the future)

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Mon Jan 05 2009 - 18:51:24 EST

Hi Dick,

First, a minor linguistic quibble; "Dreaming" and "Aboriginies" are both proper nouns and should be capitalized in this context.

As for the substantial matters:

I'd be a bit tentative in critiquing your position as I haven't studied it in any depth. I would like to read your book (although time and finances are against me!) but I imagine that your position is close to that of Sailhammer as expressed in "Genesis Unbound" (Multnomah Books, 1996) - i.e. that Gen 1 is a creation account proper with the following chapters of Genesis being specifically related to issues surrounding "the land" and God's gift of same to the descendants of Israel.

But let's unpack this a bit.

You say that "we still haven't figured that out" - by which I take you to be making the claim that while Genesis is history, it's history of a culturally important sort, and that "we" haven't yet gotten our heads around the fact that it's NOT simply about historical event. It's not simply about what happened "back in the day" but grounds present reality in a significant way. So you ALREADY have at least one significant parallel with the Dreaming.

Further, unless you want to argue that Genesis has NO contemporary significance for non-Israelites, that is unless you want to claim that Genesis tells us nothing about spiritual realities over and above the mere fact that a certain piece of land belongs to a certain group of people, then you'd seem to be making the claim that Genesis is in a other significant ways "more than history". This is particularly so for those of us who take Genesis as an inspired text through which God can open our understanding of spiritual realities. So you now have a SECOND significant parallel with the Dreaming.

I could go on, but the observation to which I wish to draw attention is this: even in claiming that Genesis is "history" you immediately want to qualify that term in ways which seek to bring out the fact that the Genesis text is spiritually significant, and that this spiritual significance is not a matter simply of historical activity on God's part, but reflects an ongoing reality in the present.

But to this, I only make the point that this is PRECISELY the sort of text that Australian Aboriginals regard as "a Dreaming". It grounds CONTEMPORARY spiritual and earthly realities in a story about the past - it has the form of history, but it isn't primarily about the past.

But, when it's all said and done, I have no real axe to grind here. I merely wished to support David O.'s original contention that we might have something to learn from non-western Christians by means of a concrete example of how one non-western culture resolves the issues at hand through a sophisticated approach to narrative. Understand that they have NO problem with evolution! None! Nada! Nichts! Not a sausage! So clearly the suggestion that western Christians are going to "resolve" this issue for non-westerners is simply hubris of the worst kind. They have ALREADY resolved it using the categories of their own culture. And that's the only point that needs making.


Dick Fischer wrote:
> Hi Murray:
> Or why not consider Genesis as history? Regarding the Genesis narrative
> as "true" certainly is orthodox, however, some departure from orthodoxy
> is necessary or we remain in the middle of a muddle.
> Try this instead of "dreaming." Consider Moses as the author who knew
> the lineage of the Israelites from literature available to him at the
> time, perhaps in Egypt, or maybe in the hands of the Levites. He
> compiled this history and gave it to his people to tell them where they
> came from. When early Christians received Genesis, being ignorant of
> geology, anthropology, etc., they misunderstood Genesis 2-11 as the
> history of the beginnings of the entire human race. Unfortunately,
> 2,000 years later and we still haven't figured that out. Well, some of
> us haven't.
> I'll put that scenario up against the Australian aborigines any time.
> Dick Fischer, GPA president
> Genesis Proclaimed Association
> "Finding Harmony in Bible, Science and History"
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [] On
> Behalf Of Murray Hogg
> Sent: Monday, January 05, 2009 7:40 AM
> To: ASA
> Subject: Re: [asa] The ASA and the Soft Sciences (ASA focus for the
> future)
> Hi All,
> I'll only offer the observation here that the only people I've ever met
> who offer anything like a fully-orbed, theologically orthodox,
> scientifically informed, and biblically literate resolution of the nexus
> between evolution and Christian faith have been Australian Aboriginal
> Christians.
> This is primarily because of the approach they take to Genesis -
> treating it as "a Dreaming" rather than as a historical narrative. I'm
> sorry that I can't easily flesh that out much more as the Dreaming is a
> quite profound approach to describing reality through the use of
> narrative which has no counterpart in western thought.
> The problem for contemporary westerners is that we tend to have a pretty
> stark dichotomy between the notions of "history" and "myth" - with the
> former being "true" and the later "false." But the Dreaming is quite
> another category altogether - it reads like history, but it has more
> affinity with something like a Platonic plane of forms.
> As such a Dreaming might read to us like a historical narrative, but
> it's actually a description of present reality, of the proper order of
> things, so to speak. As such to ask the question "did it happen?" is
> actually a category error (and will only result in much shaking of heads
> amongst Aboriginals dismayed by white-fella's ignorance). The only
> proper question is "is it so?" -- which one answers by appeal to the
> power of the Dreaming in question. Very powerful Dreamings have a sort
> of intuitive obviousness which can't be gainsaid and in some respects an
> Aboriginal might appropriate the famous words of CS Lewis to say
> something like: "I know that this Dreaming is true, not because I see
> it, but because by it I see everything else".
> As a consequence of this sort of approach to Genesis, Australian
> Aboriginals tend not to find ANY difficulty in holding together
> evolution and the biblical account of creation. The key is not
> critiquing the science, but in understanding the role of creation
> stories in "ancient" cultures. Personally, I think westerners are by and
> large clueless on this score and, as David suggests, we could learn ALOT
> from our third-world brothers and sisters in regards to how creation
> stories should be appropriated.
> Blessings,
> Murray.
> Dehler, Bernie wrote:
>> David, when you say:
>> "Maybe some of our brothers and sisters from parts of the world that
>> aren't so influenced by rationalism will some day offer some solutions
>> that /we/ will need to integrate"
>> I'm wondering what you could possibly mean by that. It seems to me
> that
>> the educated western world is at the forefront of integrating science
>> and religion; groups such as the ASA. How could another place come up
>> with better understanding after groups like ASA have been struggling
>> with it for many years- many of the brightest scientists and
>> theologians? Are you thinking maybe a mystic or prophet of God will
>> arise to illuminate all of this?
>> .Bernie
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Received on Mon Jan 5 18:52:01 2009

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