Re: [asa] RE: (fall-away) TE and apologetics

From: David Campbell <>
Date: Mon Sep 21 2009 - 12:12:01 EDT

> Regardless whether one accepts a historical Adam (as Carol asserts) or not
> (as Lamoureux asserts), there is a useful "balance" in the juxtaposition of
> Carol's and Denis's presentations. If you take Denis's view out of context,
> you might conclude that all the ancient ideas were just "wrong" (as you
> say). Carol's presentation emphasizes (and I think Denis would agree with
> this much) that the notions of the Ancients were "inaccurate" and
> "imprecise" as a result of their primitive science, but they were not just
> making things up (constructing complete fictions) out of the blue. Whatever
> the incidental trappings were, the writers were nonetheless attempting to
> express the nature of realities that they had genuine beliefs of having
> encountered. For Carol, the reality includes a historical Adam; for Denis,
> the reality includes the real experience of the Israelites with a God who
> delivered them from Egypt (to name what I presume is just one sort of
> example he would offer).

I had a bit of similar discussion with Paul Seely at the meeting.
Take the classic issues of geocentrism, a flat earth, or a solid
firmament. First, note that the Bible does not actually state that
the earth is flat or that the sun goes around the earth or that the
sky is solid. Clearly that is the picture behind the imagery of
several passages, but the Bible stops short of affirming those or
giving any particular significance to them. Secondly, they are
accurate representations of how things look. It's not like YEC, which
falsely claims that the earth looks young when in fact it looks old.
Biblical biogeography and cultural anthropology is solidly
accurate-the creatures and cultures described are those of the ancient
Near East and southern Europe, in contrast to some work of fiction
like the Book of Mormon which has creatures and cultures of the
ancient Near East in America. Jesus would have been acquainted with
poppy seeds, which are smaller than mustard seeds but don't grow into
as big a plant. For the purpose of the illustration, mustard is small

Taking such things as serious scientific mistakes makes the same
exegetical error as creation science does in taking their
interpretation of Genesis 1 to be inerrant science. In both cases an
ancient record focused on theological topics is being misread as a
modern scientific document. Ironically, scientific creationism is a
modernistic reading of Genesis.

As far as we can trace it, the Bible is quite accurate historically.
The nations, cultures, and kings are those known from the
archaeological record. Of course, there are plenty of individuals for
whom we have no outside record, but the match with what we do have is
quite good. (Kitchen's On the Reliability of the Old Testament
[Eerdmans] is a somewhat idiosyncratic and quite entertaining source
on this topic). The geopolitical situation for Abraham to Jacob
matches well with the known conditions of the day, as does Joseph's
encounter with Egyptian culture. Then there is a sudden population
influx into the highlands of Canaan, distinguished by their dearth of
pigs and idols, and Egyptian mention of Israelites, in the late 1200's
BC, by which time the general cultural features reflected in the
Pentateuch (e.g., tabernacle construction, law and treaty format,
etc.) were fairly familiar. The pharaoh who gave Gaza to Solomon left
records, as did the pharaoh who raided Rehoboam (the latter coming up
with booty rather reminiscent of the accounts of Solomon's wealth.)
Run-ins with Assyria and Babylon were also generally well-documented
by those powers, though not until the Babylonian Chronicle do we have
significant historical recording as opposed to boastful records of
one's exploits, ignoring any setbacks. Much more sparsely, we have
some records from neighboring small nations; notably, they call Judah
the "House of David" and Israel the "House of Omri" [even after Omri's
dynasty is overthrown]. David and Solomon's small empire is poorly
documented externally because there was a regional power vacuum that
enabled it to exist.

On the other hand, the Bible is selective in its historical records,
including only what the authors thought was relevant and using
rhetoric (e.g., the declaration in Joshua 11 that "all that breathed"
were killed, a phrase also used of the Flood, when a few chapters
later explicitly asserts what a realistic reading of the account in
ch. 11 suggests, that there was a lot of serious mopping up to do) and
local perspectives (e.g., the reported extent of David and Solomon's
empire includes treaty-bound vassal states with no significant Jewish
influence or presence as well as thoroughly subjugated areas and any
number of intermediate situations).

Neither of these prove the theological merit of the Bible; after all,
the outside archaeological evidence consists in large part of the
records of nearby nations in which other gods are invoked. What it
does show is that the Bible is a compilation of genuine ancient Near
Eastern documents, written in accord with the literary norms of the
day (which change over the nearly two millenia it spans).

Assessing the theological merit of the Bible will depend on personal
spiritual experience and judgement. At the same time, theological
judgements based on whether something sounds good to me are highly
suspect. External evidence such as the Bible or theological tradition
help counter the subjective component. Likewise, many popular systems
sound suspiciously like an attempt to formulate a theology well-suited
to modern taste (e.g., much process theology) or trying to impose
perceived simplification on what is probably in reality complex (e.g.,
the standard heretical approach of replacing the Trinity with either
unitarian or polytheistic models).

Dr. David Campbell
425 Scientific Collections
University of Alabama
"I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"
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Received on Mon Sep 21 12:12:45 2009

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