[asa] Re: Eccliesiastes and other Biblical books on chance and necessity

From: Cameron Wybrow <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
Date: Tue Aug 25 2009 - 20:33:44 EDT

Perhaps I was over-reacting to Karl's post a bit, Merv, but I think it is
important to distinguish between *the* Biblical writers (which generally
implies either all the Biblical writers, or most of them) and *some*
Biblical writers (which need not imply any more than two of them). Karl
gave one example and one non-specific reference, for a total of only two
Biblical books, and arguably two of the least important Biblical books, and
therefore "the Biblical writers" sounds greatly overstated.

I see that Karl has since replied again, but the example he gives from
Zechariah seems to me a very muddy example of "chance", if it's an example
of chance at all.

I am, however, sympathetic with Karl's protest against the "sea of
Calvinism" on this list. I understand why he would want to bring out
aspects of the Bible that Calvinists don't emphasize. I agree with him to
the extent that I don't think the Old Testament has the monolithic emphasis
on God's will that Calvinism often presents. Not *all* of the Old Testament
is couched in terms of a God-ordained determinism. But I wouldn't rest the
argument so much on "chance" as Karl does. I think it would be better to
emphasize passages where God is said to "repent" of something, or where God,
through the prophets, seems to be giving Israel an opportunity to escape its
coming punishment, if only it will amend its ways. The flexibility in
historical events comes less from chance, I would submit, than from the
possibility of changed attitudes, on behalf of either Israel or God.

But back to your comments, Merv. Yes, there are no doubt verses in Proverbs
that are right at the heart of the Christian message. However, I don't find
that any of the proverbs quoted by Jesus teach that everything comes about
by chance. And yes, there may be a spiritual wisdom in Ecclesiastes's
emphasis on the contingencies of life, and that wisdom may be what justifies
including it in the Bible. I was not saying that because Ecclesiastes is an
oddball book, it is therefore false. I was saying that it is not
representative of the mainstream teaching of the Old Testament, and should
not be employed as an indication of the view of "the Biblical writers". If
Karl had said "at least one Biblical writer, the writer of Ecclesiastes,
gives a major role to chance", I would have been less inclined to object.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Merv Bitikofer" <mrb22667@kansas.net>
To: "Cameron Wybrow" <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>; "asa" <asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Sunday, August 23, 2009 6:00 PM
Subject: 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.
> --Merv

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Received on Tue Aug 25 20:34:41 2009

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