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Jed Paschall

Dr. Walton was my ANE and Genesis professor at Moody. I was there as he was completing his Genesis commentary ( even after hearing and reading countless discussions I still don't think I am entirely sure what he means about God assigning "functions" in Gen. 1).

What I found most helpful in his teachings were his mastery of the ANE background of the Hebrew Bible, his identification of idolatry as the primary sin in Gen. 11, and his insistence on the culture-bound nature of God's revelation to Israel (especially as it pertains to cosmology and science).

The net effect of his insights for me personally were instrumental in averting the all too common crisis of faith that so many of us with Christian backgrounds face when presented with some of modern science's compelling claims about the physical universe and higher criticism's claims regarding the composition of the scriptures. I feel like I can navigate these perplexing issues, glean new understanding from them without the need to dismiss them off-hand, and at the end of the day maintain my my convictions that rest comfortably within confessional Christianity.

JohnFH

Jed,

That's a fine witness.

Thanks for excellent blogwork, by the way, including your fine series on mental illness.

Alan Lenzi

John, I just followed the link to Art Boulet's blog to see what all the Westminsterites were saying about this book. Holy cow, it's like a different century over there in the comments section! They're like in Inquisition mode 24/7. Why can't I avert my browser from such a spectacle!

JohnFH

Alan,

I agree. In particular, the notion that Genesis 1 is in error if God inspired it but did not incorporate within it anticipations of modern science insofar as modern science is accurate, is absurd.

After all, in terms of the original readership, it would have been ridiculous of God to have inspired the author of Genesis such that all "pre-scientific" and "legendary" elements were expunged.

If that had been done, no one at the time would have been able to make heads or tails of the narrative. It's as simple as that.

In terms of a contemporary readership, one might think that God expects readers who take certain findings of modern science for granted not to be alarmed that the book of Genesis does not anticipate those findings.

What bothers me about the thread is the number of people on it who seem to buy into an absurd standard of error when it comes to a text.

It is still true today that the points formulated in whatever anyone says or writes will be couched in terms of beliefs shared at the time between author and audience, beliefs which, to a future readership a century or a millennium down the road, will seem quaint and outmoded.

Insofar as we ARE that future readership vis-a-vis an ancient text, awareness of the outmodedness of a text's biology, geography, whatever, is not the end of the process of interpretation. It is the beginning.

The truth-value of a text, if it has any, is independent of its culturally contingent aspects. If not, then there is nothing we can say or write now that has any truth value outside of our particular time and place. Those who think in those terms are best left to their own devices. If they themselves decline to assign a potential truth-value to their words. why should we overrule them on that score?

Alan Lenzi

Articulate as usual. Thanks for responding to my expression of astonishment.

Re: this: >>The truth-value of a text, if it has any, is independent of its culturally contingent aspects.<<

You're starting to sound like an Idealist! :) One might also entertain the idea that an ancient text's truth-value is dependent on the degree to which its interpreters find some analogy with it, whether in its cultural contingencies or its larger narrative significance (in its time), in their own contemporary times, so that they can relate the ancient text meaningfully to their own situation. (Sort of reader-centered, but not without some controls from the text.)

For example, we want to know where we came from, just as we suspect the Israelites did. Genesis 1 is their answer, which in broad strokes (God established everything almost effortlessly), is still a theologically viable answer even in light of the speculations of modern cosmological thinking. . . . Anyway, thanks for posting about Walton.

JohnFH

Thanks, Alan, for the conversation.

I very much like your phenomenologically-oriented description of "truth-value" in practice. It sounds accurate to me, though it sidesteps the truth-question as such.

And yes, I make use of a distinction we are familiar with from idealism all the way back to Plato, in order to distinguish between a kernel of truth and a husk of cultural contingency.

You sound like a Barthian whereas I come across as a Bultmannian! Yikes.

Famously, Barth responded to Bultmann's demythologization project by suggesting that, if the alternative is the kernel (some sort of existential experience for Bultmann) or the husk (the belief in resurrection, for example), he would take the husk, confident that he would get a kernel along with it (not necessarily the one Bultmann had in mind though).

I've always sided with Barth on that score. So I need to problematize my Bultmannian formulation along the lines you suggest.

cristian

Nice post John. That quote from Walton got stuck in my mind too when I read the free pages from IVP. I hope to read the whole book too.

I posted this useful info from a sermon by James Montgomery Boice on Genesis 1:
http://preachinggenesis.wordpress.com/2009/07/01/notes-on-genesis-1-part-i/

I found it useful myself.
Blessings,
Chris

JohnFH

Hi Chris,

That is a very fine quote you put up on one of your blogs. For those of us in your fan club, it would be nice if you created an RSS feed of your combined output.

Alan Lenzi

Barth . . . Bultmann . . . Blech!

JohnFH

Alan,

In philosophical hermeneutics, Bultmann would be closest to Heidegger and Barth would be closest to Hans-Georg Gadamer, Paul Ricoeur, Emmanuel Levinas, and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

It's possible, of course, that these dudes are too steeped in Western philosophy, heavily dependent as it is on the categories of the Jewish and Christian traditions, for your liking.

There probably is a sense in which someone like Bruce Lincoln covers the same ground.

Alan Lenzi

Just saw this. There was a time when I was really keen on getting into the work of all of the men you named. Philosophical hermeneutics sounded so exciting. But with time that enthusiasm and enticement faded. . . . Maybe it will return some day.

cristian

John - thanks for the nice words. Unfortunately, I am not sure how to create that RSS feed!

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