Re: [asa] Re: Eccliesiastes and other Biblical books on chance and necessity (was Re: [asa] historical versus experimental sciences)

From: <>
Date: Mon Aug 24 2009 - 16:05:18 EDT


I didn't realize that you had brought up the Ecclesiastes passage before.? Guess I missed that email.? Anyway, I was not trying to proof text, but to simply give an example of "chance" in scripture.? And contrary to the sea of Calvinism which ASA tends to be, I think there is plenty of it; especially exemplified throughout the O.T. stories.? Not least in Zechariah where God has used another nation (either Babylon or Persia, I forget) as a tool.? But then He complains, 'I was only a little angry, but you [Babylon or Persia] made things worse.'?? Everything that happens is not God's will.? Chance things do happen.? Elsewhere God "changes his mind" etc.? Some of this may be accomodating human language to the divine, but the overall impression remains.? I'm neither a theologian nor exegete, but God seems perfectly willing to use chance.

Polkinghorne for instance argues for laws of nature (necessity) and free process of the creation to explore what might be called possibility space (chance).?? This hardly seems earthshaking to me.? God as primary cause is no less cause just because he uses secondary causes, including chance.? Do I think the O.T. was talking about modern biological evolution?? No.?? Do I think it's a possible inference?? Probably.



Karl V. Evans (ASA member)

-----Original Message-----
From: Merv Bitikofer <>
To: Cameron Wybrow <>; asa <>
Sent: Sun, Aug 23, 2009 4:00 pm
Subject: [asa] Re: Eccliesiastes and other Biblical books on chance and necessity (was Re: [asa] historical versus experimental sciences)

I agree that proof-texting to find support for our favorite pre-accepted notions is a dangerous habit, but I think you over-react here. Nobody was claiming this as representative of some over-arching thematic summary of Scriptures --neither Karl, as I read him below, nor myself when I brought the same passage up earlier. But it does serve to inform us that we moderns are not observing anything new that ancients hadn't already observed and wrestled with. Whether or not you accept that Solomon was the author or whether it was added to what we call the O.T. much later, either way it comes from an ancient source ---and one with wisdom that anticipates questions we would still be asking three millenia later at that! ?
Even though I earlier expressed my own sympathies with the notion that the end of Job was "tacked on", nevertheless I do accept Scripture as being ultimately Divinely directed both to them now and to us today both in content and in the whole messy process of what got canonized at all the various points. So despite my own complaints, I do accept that in the end, the book of Job is what it is in its entirety. I think the content of Ecclesiastes also speaks for itself as a deeply profound book in the Bible --partly for its difference (as you so noted) from all the other books. That book alone is a lofty answer to any of us would-be proof-texters who want straightforward short answers found in one or two verses. One look at such a phrase as this: "everything is futility" or "vanity" should make anyone realize that this isn't even attempting to match any larger Biblical themes. But even within this book, the author doesn't let his conclusions rest there. His final words, are much
 more blended with the entire Biblical theme. I'm glad this book is there since it matches so many questions that still get asked today. The fact that we can see that they wondered also, that alone makes this a uniquely valuable contribution. ?
As for Proverbs, granted some of them are culturally quaint and fun to read. Did you know that also stuck in the middle of them you find gems like 16:7 or 24:17 (regarding enemies)?
or even best of all: 25:21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; If he is thirsty, give him water to drink:?
So apparently a couple of key figures we could all name from the N.T. must have paid attention to what was in the Proverbs as well. Not everything in Jesus' time was so revolutionary that it had never been suggested before. What was revolutionary was to have somebody actually live it and challenge us to do likewise.?
Cameron Wybrow wrote:?
> Nice try, Karl, but you'll have to do better than that.?
> > Ecclesiastes is not representative of "the biblical writers". In > fact, Ecclesiastes was not only a very late writing, but a very late > entry (possibly the last) into the Hebrew Bible, and there was a major > debate among the rabbis (about the first century A.D., when the Jewish > canon was in the process of closure), over whether or not it should be > admitted into Hebrew scriptures (George Foot Moore, *Judaism*, Vol. 1, > p. 86). There was serious doubt that its teaching was compatible with > the general teaching of the other Biblical books. As for the > Proverbs, they vary greatly in age, ethical and religious depth, and > consistency of teaching, and I don't put much more stock in most of > them than I put in the sayings I find in fortune cookies. > Your examples are from the two most secular books of the Bible (with > the possible exception of Esther). > > Far more common than "chance plus necessity" explanations in the > Hebrew Bible are explanations involving eit
 her a "hands-on", > intervening God, or a predetermined outcome, dictated long in advance > by God's will. Such explanations are predominant in the Law and the > Prophets. > > One must always be on guard against the temptation to engage in > "proof-texting". One can always find isolated passages in the Bible > which teach or appear to teach just about anything. If one looks hard > enough, one can find one or two obscure O.T. passages which are not > 100% clear about the non-existence of other Gods, but few readers > doubt that the main thrust of Biblical teaching is an exclusive > monotheism. I don't think it can be plausibly maintained that the > Hebrew scriptures teach that the major events in the human world (such > as the establishment of Israel, the Babylonian exile, etc.) or in the > natural world (such as its creation) have happened to a large extent > by "chance plus necessity". > > Of course, one can attempt, as many TEs do, to read the Bible in the > light of mode!
  understandings of nature, in such a way as to allow > "chance and

necessity" as a parallel, "scientific" analysis of what > happens in the world, alongside the God-driven, "theological" > interpretation. But whether this attempt proves successful or not, > I would contend that it is historically inaccurate to say that the > Biblical authors *teach* that everything happens through "chance and > necessity". They taught no such thing, and they believed no such thing. > > Cameron.?
> >?
> ----- Original Message -----?
> *From:* <>?
> *To:* <>?
> *Sent:* Friday, August 21, 2009 6:24 PM?
> *Subject:* Re: [asa] historical versus experimental sciences?
> Your comment on "chance and necessity" does indicate the sticking?
> point for ID and many evangelicals (as well as the late 19th?
> century Princeton Sem. crowd). Curiously it didn't seem to bother?
> the biblical writers. Qoheleth's statement in Ecclesiastes 9:11?
> could be used as a motto for Darwinian evolution (even as Cameron?
> wants to define it): "The race is not to the swift or the battle?
> to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the?
> brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to?
> them all." Similar thoughts are expressed in Proverbs.?
> > Karl?
> *******************?
> Karl V. Evans (asa member)?
> <>?
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Received on Mon Aug 24 16:06:22 2009

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