Re: [asa] Ratcheting Concordism in Dennis Venema's talk at ASA meeting

From: Dennis Venema <>
Date: Wed Dec 02 2009 - 18:11:01 EST

What Doug & Steve said. Now get out of my head, guys.



On 02/12/09 12:48 PM, "Steve Martin" <> wrote:


Exactly my thoughts re: the original question & Bernie's answer. I believe the point Dennis was making in his presentation was that an ANE phenomenological hermeneutic allows one to abandon the ratchet completely. (I wasn't there but in listening to the audio it seems like he was rushed near the end and finished really quickly; he may not have discussed this as much as he would have liked). Therefore although the historical / scientific concordence of Gen 1-11 is possibly an interesting topic, it may be something that is somewhat irrelevant to our faith. (eg. If Dick Fischers tenacious search for the historical Adam comes up gold, well that's great & very interesting - why discount the ancient's ability to pass down their history orally? Maybe the biblical minimalists will need a ratchet of their own going the other way :-) ). And in fact, what evangelical biblical scholars are increasing claiming (eg. Walton's latest) is that looking for any kind of concordence in early Gen might be doing a disservice to the high view of scripture.

And on why this topic is irrelevant to broader Christian theology (ie. not a process as Bernie suggests), is that there seem to be very, very good theological, hermeneutic, and literary reasons NOT to demand concord for the earliest chapters of Gen. But, for other areas of scripture, this is not the case. The best example may be the four gospels which have all the hallmarks of historical biography from that period (eg. Burridge - What are the Gospels?) So we should expect pretty good historical concord for these (at least the same level of concordence as typical biographical / historical writing of that period).


On Wed, Dec 2, 2009 at 1:51 PM, Douglas Hayworth <> wrote:

I'm glad you asked the question and got Dennis to confirm that he coined the term "racheting concordism". I remember him using the term but hadn't thought to clarify where it originated. It'll be nice to have this fact on record for the benefit of historians 50 years from now! Dennis, how does it feel to know that you'll be the topic of an esoteric discussion of etymology some day!?

It's easy to take the concept of racheting concordism too far, but I'll do it for a moment in order to make a point. In some sense, all of us believers are prone to racheting logic; we all hold out that science and the Christian view of reality make sense together (i.e., are compatible or concordist in some general fundamental way). In our own minds, we all continually maintain ways to reconcile the two competing kinds of information (formally complementary epistemologies). Which of us doesn't take some comfort in the "good fit" between a Big Bang universe (an actual beginning) and our belief in creation?

I think this is how Bernie was interpreting racheting when he outlined his progression from YEC to atheism. But, strictly speaking, this is not the usage that Dennis intends, and attempting to apply the phrase this broadly makes it less useful. Bernie may have been forced to atheism via this racheting logic, but most of us remain theists precisely because we break free of the rachet with regard to strict concordism. Dennis' rachet applies only to those who believe that science and scripture speak the same language. Most of us allow the two languages to interact and dialogue, but we do not cogitate under the assumption that they are the same.

Once we are free from strict concordism, there cease to be any notches in our mind's rachet because we are not counting on the rachet to prove or anchor the faith. We simply hold the rope in our hands and trust the Spirit to tell us when to let it slide or hold it tight.


On Tue, Dec 1, 2009 at 7:40 AM, Steve Martin <> wrote:

Hi all,

I was interested in Dennis Venema's term "Ratcheting Concordism" at the ASA meeting. (see presentation slides here <> & audio here <> ... his brief mention of ratcheting concordism occurs around 36:00 min time).

Dennis describes ratcheting concordism as a scriptural concordist strategy that, when in the face of overwhelming evidence, will ratchet over one position and lock in there (until the next batch of evidence comes along).

Now, I know Dennis isn't a theologian but I'm intrigued by that term ... & I think it is helpful (not like I'm showing my cards here :-) ). I'm wondering a) if this is a new term and b) if others think this is helpful. I would especially be interested in hearing comments from those who believe that some historical and/or scientific concordism is important &/or essential for interpreting Gen 1-11 if we are to hold a high view of scripture.

cc'ing Dennis too ... not sure if you are as hit-and-miss on this list as I am.

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Received on Wed Dec 2 18:08:26 2009

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