SEARCH THIS SITE

Bible Reference Index

Diglot Editions

Dunash ben Labrat

Ali Ahmad Said

Verbal System of Ancient Hebrew

The Bible as seen through the eyes of . . .

« The Absurdity of Thinking of the Flood Narrative as an Errant Text | Main | Jewish and Christian Approaches to the Psalms »

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Looney

Thanks for pointing me towards the Atrahasis Epic. One more thing to read!

My conclusion on reading the Epic of Gilgamesh was that its genre was the genre of the spoof: A bit of comedy central. The gods were there to make fun of. Spoofs are never the original, but you give me something more to check.

JohnFH

The Gilgamesh Epic clearly was meant to have entertainment value. Polytheists are not at all disinclined to spoof their gods, even if, on other occasions, they take them with deadly seriousness.

The best edition of Atrahasis is the following:

https://www.eisenbrauns.com/ECOM/_2XJ0QKHEF.HTM

Rick Wadholm Jr

What a wonderful post John (as if many of your others aren't)! I find it your writing on this to be a breath of fresh air and pray I always am enchanted with this ever-gripping story before us. I do not wish to demythologize the text myself (and find that to fall short of reading the text with authorial or original listener's intent). Indeed, the universal intent of Genesis 1-9 must be maintained despite the modern fascination with rejecting its universal claim. I often wonder why we cannot simply allow the text to speak for itself (not that we are every fully extracted from our own context, but it certainly is my aim to be extracted and then replaced as someone fundamentally changed by the word).

JohnFH

I thought Bernard Ramm demonstrated long ago the pitfalls of rationalistic exegesis.

Such exegesis nonetheless remains the means of choice to engage in (unconscious) misinterpretation on the part of many evangelicals.

G. Kyle Essary

Barr really disliked Ramm...not as much as Childs though, haha. I doubt Barr would have liked Waltke's OT Theology much either, but I personally think evangelicals should follow his trajectory.

Ten years ago, young evangelicals were all about the early church and then all about the Puritans. It wasn't eighty year old money that brought Banner of Truth back to life. Fortunately, young evangelicals are fast forwarding two hundred years and picking up Bavinck and Warfield. Both characterize quality confessional scholarship that engages with every field of knowledge. If the trend continued (and overcomes the counter-trend at schools like RTS), then evangelicals will have an exciting future.

G. Kyle Essary

My first paragraph above is hard to follow:
1. I meant to say Barr disliked Ramm less than he disliked Childs.
2. I meant to say that we evangelicals who love the Hebrew Bible should follow Waltke's trajectory. Not (necessarily) Barr's.

JohnFH

I can think of many signal contributions of James Barr to the field of biblical studies. For example, in the areas of philology and translation technique (the typology of literalism in ancient Greek versions). Furthermore, his insistence on *verbal* inspiration is an excellent point. His re-reading of Gen 2-3 is worth consideration.

But I think Childs got the better of Barr in terms of the need to do canonical exegesis.

As for the approach that evangelicals now take to a passage like Gen 6-9, apologetic concerns continue to determine exegesis all too often. For example, John Walton makes the following statement:

"[T]he possibility cannot be ruled out that the Genesis account is a pristine record as passed down from Noah that suffered corruption when transmitted in the hands of other cultures."

Of course the possibility cannot be ruled out, but if my doctrine of Scripture *requires* that such in fact was the case, I will be forced over and over again to take a defensive, obscurantist approach to questions of authorship, date, composition, and genre of vast swaths of biblical text.

Walton himself points in another direction, that of "viewing the narrative as a corrective reaction to the corrupt accounts circulating about the ancient world, rather than as a pristine and unadulterated tradition preserved from antiquity."

I'm quoting from Walton's "Flood" entry in the IVP Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch (Downers Grove: IVP, 2003) 315-326; 324.

That is an approach that fits much better with the data in hand. I would say that the biblical narrative is (1) interactive and critical over against precedent Mesopotamian tradition on several fronts: theological, anthropological, ecological, soteriological, and ethical; (2) conservative of that tradition in the sense of respecting its genre, which is protological and as such, given to recasting particular events in terms of universal truths.

When will believers in general and evangelicals in particular learn to identify and respect the genres the Bible is written in? That question is urgent now in a way it wasn't in the preceding 20 centuries, given the rise of historical consciousness.

Seth Sanders

I am loving this Walton exegesis! One of the best things about Tertullian's theory of Demonic Plagiarism is that it also cannot be ruled out.

But I mean, at root this is just stuff to comfort believers.

JohnFH

I suppose you're right, Seth.

Here is one believer who is discomfited and discomforted rather than encouraged by exegesis that, instead of drawing out what the text says - always of intense interest - seeks to reassure me that whatever the text says, it's right thanks to some sort of miracle.

But if the text is right by some sort of miracle, I can't be awed by what the text says; I will be awed by the fact that it is the product of a miracle. This is a huge strike against the "it cannot be ruled out" kind of exegesis if you think about it.

G. Kyle Essary

John,
I agree that it's critical over against other ANE accounts. But my next question would be whether the author saw it as "no, no, no...this is what really happened," or more like "no, no, no...since YHWH is God it would have looked like this." I hope the distinction is clear enough.

Seth,
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the topic explained a little more. There are some radical differences in the Hebrew tellings of these legends, and I think it makes sense that from their perspective they were retelling the ancient stories over against something they saw as corrupt. Of course, that might be more nuanced than what Walton is saying.

JohnFH

Hi Kyle,

The distinction is clear. It's (more of) the latter, I think: "since YHWH is God it would have looked like this."

But I wouldn't rule out the other completely, just that the "recovery method" of (a greater approximation to) the truth was not based on historical inquiry in the modern sense (as if that were even possible) but ironed out in a feedback loop situated within a multi-faceted political and religious metanarrative.

In a recent confirmation class - I love teaching confirmation because smart 7th and 8th graders have not learned the art of self-censure and ask the best questions when reading a text - one of the kids who is falling deeply in love with the biblical text and the God of whom it speaks wanted to know more about the long lives of those of the ten generations before the flood. It's a lot of fun to look at the numbers a little more closely if one is a math geek but beyond that I said that in the older Sumerian King List the numbers are 30,000 years old and such and it could be that the biblical author "un-exaggerated" the numbers to a more realistic level. Do you think he was on the right track? I intimated.

It's intimidating for adults and even for kids to be such proactive readers but they are anyway, on the sly, so I try to get out in front of them, but not too far, because sometimes they are my teachers, not the other way around.

Alan Lenzi

"[T]he possibility cannot be ruled out that the Genesis account is a pristine record as passed down from Noah that suffered corruption when transmitted in the hands of other cultures." What other brand of historian (other than "biblical") would give such a theory serious consideration! Wow. The possibility can't be ruled out that the story was written by aliens!

"But if the text is right by some sort of miracle, I can't be awed by what the text says; I will be awed by the fact that it is the product of a miracle." That's a false dichotomy, John. I'm surprised.

JohnFH

The position that Walton does not rule out seemed plausible enough in the 16th century. Calvin, who had no difficulty emphasizing the degree of accommodation in the manner of expression of Scripture, nonetheless thought of Gen 1-11 as based on an unbroken chain of oral tradition going to back to Adam. To this day, there are people who advocate such a position, but I don't see anyone making similar suppositions for comparable texts outside the Bible. So we are left with a house of cards constructed with apologetic intent.

The exercise backfires, I think, in the eyes of someone who approaches the text without a prior commitment to a theory of miraculous production.

My thesis is that the text is not incredible if it is read as protological narrative. It becomes incredible if it is treated as a transcript of pristine oral tradition handed down from one generation to the next. Then and now, of course, there are still other ways to take the text. I didn't mean to imply otherwise.

Seth Sanders

Kyle, your position does seem a lot more nuanced to me. John eloquently warns against the temptation to base the value of biblical narratives on something without much inherent value: first-ness.

But from my not always deep readings of the flood and cosmic combat narratives I don't get the sense they're mainly reacting against Babylonian, Canaanite, or non-Yahwistic Hebrew versions of these stories. At least, to begin with, they don't give any direct signal that they see them as non-Israelite at all! That is, unlike the polemics against idols in Isaiah, there's no overt reflection on the foreign-ness of these stories.

What fascinates me is what they didn't borrow: science, medicine and ritual. The fact that in the narratives that the Bible's editors chose to pass on, we have *nothing* of Babylonian or Canaanite astronomy or exorcism.

And what fascinates me even more is how that changes: Jonathan Ben-Dov has recently and convincingly argued that the oldest part of the oldest Jewish apocalypse, the Astronomical Book of Enoch, is nothing but an Aramaic variant of a school of Babylonian mathematical astronomy that you also see in those mainstays of the Babylonian curriculum, Mul.apin and Enuman Anu Enlil. So the question becomes: how did this stuff become kosher?

Yes, I have a theory :-)

JohnFH

I look forward, Seth, to your further thoughts on the topic.

It's true that there aren't direct signals that Gen 1-11 is responding to prior and competing mythologies. But I still think that is what is going on, at least in part. Similarly, there are no direct signals of Deuteronomy's indebtedness to, and counter-narrative to, neo-Assyrian treaty structure, themes, and detail. But the latter still seems to have been generative, at least in part, of the former.

You raise a host of issues and topics I'd love to discuss further, but I'm going to have to bite my tongue given other obligations at the moment.

Seth Sanders

Yeah, Dtr 13 is a pretty unimpeachable counterexample; there's just no way that an orally performed vernacular version of a vassal-treaty isn't in the core Dtr-writer's head; on the other hand of course he never mentions Assyria (SAA 2, now online in the most up-to-date editions, btw: the splash page is here
http://cdl.museum.upenn.edu/saa/ and the content confusingly linked here:
http://cdl.museum.upenn.edu/cgi-bin/cdlpager?project=saa )

But there's a big difference between a genre for administrating power, like a vassal treaty or law code, and a genre of imaginative narrative like Gilgamesh--not to mention a third type of genre, astronomical science, which appears relatively early in Babylonian but is only attested in Jewish works of the Hellenistic period. Surely such genres can invoke each other, but they talk to people very differently (or entail different participant roles, as we say in the anthro biz). And so they might involve very different kinds of mediation and response.

All of which is to say that Genesis 1-11 might stand in a very different relationship to its Babylonian and West Semitic parallels than Dtr 13 does to the Neo-Assyrian Vassal treaties. In turn, genres of 'science' like Mul.apin and the Enochic Astronomical Book might entail yet other responses.

JohnFH

The genres are different, and I concur that we need to allow for differentiated and genre-specific responses.

It might also be noted that, even if it is granted that Genesis 1-11 contains a large number of features that point to a Mesopotamian background, and even if it is granted that Gen 1-11 nonetheless stands apart from that background across the Aristotelian trichotomy - the true, the good, and the beautiful - we are at a loss with respect to determining how far back in the history of tradition the distancing took place, though a first working hypothesis might well posit a cultural process rather than a Hebrew author sitting down with the Atrahasis Epic or a West Semitic analogue in front of him and then rewriting here, there, but not everywhere.

In fact, based on Ezek 14:4, 20: 28:3, I'm guessing that Noah, like Job and Danel, was a figure about whom much was told throughout the Levant.

For the rest, inner-biblical recasting of tradition is always or almost always covert rather than overt and on that basis, I would expect the same when the tradition that is recast is part of a common ANE heritage.

BTW, the work of Ben-Dov that you mention sounds very interesting.

Vince Ragay

Has anybody ever thought that since Moses really talked to God (not unlike Noah really escaping a global Flood) and spent enough time doing so (not unlike Noah spending 120 years building the Ark); hence, he had access to vital information that no person -- including historian, theologian and scientist -- could either sufficiently comprehend and explain to anyone’s satisfaction or easily dismiss as having no veracity and legitimacy? That all that we can ever do to discredit his testimony is to say that his personal motivation was dubious and his journalistic style crude and undependable?

In the end, such an attitude of unbelief or intolerance can only lead many to lose sight of the important issue involved: faith in God and in His ability to clean up the world of sin, of error and of unbelief. The actual Flood took care of sin -- and the other two as well. Moses' written testimony corrected existing accounts or misconceptions about the Flood, and certainly endeavors to erase sin and unbelief. Finally, present discussions like this one is God's continuing battle with unbelief in the work He did through His servants. Sin and error, by the way, are sure products of unbelief.

The issue of Faith is as old as the issue of Sin, Unbelief and Death. No one can readily dismiss Moses and his little Noah story (4 chapters out of 187) and expect to accomplish as much cleansing and saving as God did with real water as we are doing through a flood of words in our polemic exercises. Even now, God sees us all as either safely inside the Ark (saved by faith), or floating in the floodwaters and hoping to be pulled into the Ark (seeking faith), or sinking slowly and drowning in the water (losing faith), or already dead and still unaware of the benevolence and power of God (dead to faith).

You can’t shed light upon something without creating some shadows here and there. Reading and accepting Noah’s story as Moses wrote it – even without us discovering the Ark today -- sheds more light in our minds and upon our souls than all the so-called discoveries of science can cast shadows upon the story.

JohnFH

Hi Vince,

Thanks for taking the time to engage.

Your approach to the text is a very old and prestigious one. It is a pretty recent thing for it to become standard practice to suggest that the book of Genesis is *not* a transcript of carefully preserved oral reports passed down from patriarch to patriarch, from Adam to Noah to Abraham to ... to Moses. If you take everything at so-called face value, it's only necessary to posit a half-dozen links at most in the chain of custody.

So why is that reconstruction of what happened out of vogue now? Why do fewer and fewer scholars attribute the Pentateuch to Moses in the first place?

A lot of it has to do with a better and far more detailed understanding of the history, literature, and culture(s) of the Ancient Near East. On that basis, and on the basis of internal considerations observed by a few close readers of the Bible since the Middle Ages, it has become commonplace to suggest that core Deuteronomy for example is best dated to the 7th century BC. With respect to Gen 6-9, it is now compared with the Atrahasis Epic in particular.

Once this is done, and in light of many other converging lines of evidence, the more probable explanation for Gen 6-9 would seem to be that it is a recasting of a protological narrative whose ultimate origin is in Mesopotamia.

That said, I want to point out that I otherwise read the text in the same way that you do. You see it as expressing truths that are valid for today. So do I.

I believe Gen 6-9 expresses universal truths. I believe it is historical in the deepest sense of the word. I'm guessing you believe the same about the parables of Jesus. It is no dishonor to a text or to ourselves to recognize that general truths are conveyed by means of a narrative which does not correspond to any one-off singular event, but to the deep structure of a large set of events.

If I'm not being clear enough, just say.

Vince Ragay

Hi John,

You are welcome. Appreciate your valuable info about how others have come to have a different way of reading Moses. All the while, I had thought that all one can read online are washed-down ideas and not the solid testimony of the Spirit as revealed to and expressed in plain language through the prophets.

I do wish to clarify what you mean with the statements: "That said, I want to point out that I otherwise read the text in the same way that you do." & "It is no dishonor to a text or to ourselves to recognize that general truths are conveyed by means of a narrative which does not correspond to any one-off singular event, but to the deep structure of a large set of events."

Does it mean you believe the story of Noah as a universal truth but that it was not factual, that is, not a real, historical event? Please explain. Thanks.

As for me, I do believe that Jesus' parables were not mere made-up stories but real events or anecdotes He Himself had encountered or had knowledge of somehow -- from the beggar who ended up in Paradise to the woman who lost her ring. A few , of course, described generalities common then and now, such as the sower and the woman who made a dough rise. The point then is that Noah's tale, as told by Moses, was, in its entirely, a factual narrative witnessed to by Noah and complete with his detailed log of dates and events, construction details and other pertinent facts. Hence, there is no other way for us to treat Moses's story other than the way -- as you seem to say -- we treat Jesus' own parables. That's basically hitting the issue on the head.

Please check out more on my take regarding the Flood tale in my blog: . Thank you very much.

JohnFH

Vince,

You have a nice blog there. Thanks for linking to it.

Let me try again.

On the one hand, we read the text in the same way, as conveying universal truths. For example, Gen 6-9 is a witness to God's unbreakable commitment to provide seed time and harvest to humankind year in and year out without condition, that is, regardless of the fact that our inclination to evil persists. The unilateral covenant affects not just us, but all creatures great and small, who are also the object of God's compassion. And so on.

On the other hand, you suggest that Gen 6-9 goes back to a detailed log compiled by Noah of dates and events, construction details and other pertinent facts. Moses would have had access to these written records in compiling his account.

In the case of Jesus' parables as well, you suggest that they report one-off events.

That's where we differ.

With respect to Jesus' parables, their truth value in my view sometimes depends on the fact that they describe something that would never happen as such, precisely in order to illustrate the truth that God's way are not our ways. You seem not to allow for this.

Thus, the parable of the sower describes a method of sowing that no farmer in his right mind would practice. But God is unlike us, so he sows even on rocky ground.

In the same way, a shepherd endangers the life of 99 sheep in order to save just 1. This too describes God's way, not the way of a human shepherd.

The points of these parables hinge on the fact that they describe things that do *not* happen in ordinary life.

I wonder if you can accept that, or if that way of reading the parables seems to dishonor the texts in your eyes.

With respect to Gen 6-9, the way that those who are versed in ancient Near Eastern literature, Bronze and Iron Age archeology, and a knowledge of ancient manuscripts tend to understand things goes like this. Long before an Israelite author wrote Gen 6-9, a singular flood event in southern Mesopotamia was universalized for the purposes of conveying fundamental truths about the deep structure of history and nature.

The tradition conceived of that structure in polytheistic terms because Mesopotamians were polytheists in antediluvian times, just as much as they were in post-diluvian times. An attempt used to be made to suggest the contrary, that people started off monotheists and fell away into polytheism; the problem is that there is no evidence that suggests this; apologists like to argue in a case like this that the evidence does not *rule out* something they consider to be an essential element in their system; but historians, and I fall into that category, follow the lead of the evidence, a different approach.

On this understanding, in the context of Israel's relationship with the God who called Israel into existence, the flood tradition was rewritten in various ways to reflect truth that Israel had grasped over generations. The author of Genesis - who does not seem to be Moses; note phrases like "The Canaanite was then in the land" - fit Gen 6-9 into the larger sequence of protological narratives that now comprise Gen 1-11.

Regardless of different views about the origins of Gen 1-11, few would deny that it is one of the most revelatory texts in existence, by design and in fact.

Even an unbeliever would be able to admit that. An unbeliever will counter with an alternative narrative of the deep structure of history and nature. So far though, I can't think of an alternative narrative that has anything like the protological depth and breadth of Gen 1-11. It covers all the bases, and admirably prepares the way for the rest of the Primary History which goes from Genesis to 2 Kings, a single continuous narrative the compiler of which could not have done so earlier than the last event recorded in 2 Kings during the Babylonian exile in the 6th cent. BC.

I'm not saying that in order to read Gen 1-11 for all it's worth, you have to buy into the understanding of the narrative's origins and the genre identifications I have outlined. On the contrary, you can read the text on the assumption that it came into existence along the lines you suggest, and still go on to assume that the text reveals the deep structure of nature and history. Either way the truth value of Gen 6-9 is respected.

Vince Ragay

Thank you, John. Appreciate you taking time to visit my blog.

Your latest discussion opens up several important and valid points which I wish to comment upon briefly before moving on to more crucial points.

First, the sower Jesus talked about, as I see it, was not technically a farmer who takes time to prepare a field before sowing his seeds. I like to think of him a Johnny-Appleseed-character who sows fruit seeds in a vast raw-land to turn it into a wild orchard. Sowing seeds in such a shotgun manner, I suppose, would be the best method in such a case. (Somehow, Jesus must have been talking about God Himself sowing "haphazardly" through the use of people, animals, winds, rains, springs, rivers, floods, erosion and other natural agents.) Had such a scenario ever happened before Jesus' time? Certainly it had and I would suppose there are many green people now who throw apple cores and other fruits seeds out their car windows in the hope that they could cause some seeds to sprout. I’ve done it often myself.

Second, a good shepherd does not leave the 99 to look for the missing one, unless he is sure the 99 are safe. If one or a few are in danger and the many can manage to remain safe, a wise pastor would seek the lost. The premise of the story is precisely the safety of the many who are not lost which allows a good caretaker to find the time and make the effort to recover the missing. Has that ever happened before? Stranger tales have been told before.

That said, I think you see my drift. Instead of saying that Jesus emphasized the impossible to prove the power or the impossibility of God's ways, why can't we accept that we humans -- a lot of us, I would say -- are of such noble minds and spirits that the Lord honored and chronicled our heroic deeds with Christ’s parables, making us appreciate how much we truly share His divine nature.

There is nothing miraculous about dough rising. As you said, it is the "structure of nature". On the other hand, there is a lot of hesitation in accepting the premise of poor Lazarus rejoicing and safe in Abraham's bosom while the rich man suffers the torments of Hades. Why? Because it was a made-up story, an impossibility? Then why did Jesus choose such a wild tale to tell plain folk? Did he not see the danger of offending scientists and theologians two millennia in the future?

No, the "structure of history" (your other yardstick) we want to employ has conveniently and erroneously relegated the depths of wisdom, experiences and qualifications of Christ to say such things into oblivion such that we accept only those things we feel are logical and reject those we feel are not. As simple as that!

Finally, let me refer you to these verses:
Luke 16:29, 31 – Abraham, in Jesus’ same parable, is said to have uttered these words: “They have Moses and the Prophets. . . ;” and “if they do not listen to Moses and the prophets. . . .”
Luke 24:44: Jesus declares: “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."

Do these verses seem like Abraham and Jesus do not believe Moses as the source or writer of the books ascribed to him, whether those of origins or the law? Can we then assail Jesus’ testimony of Abraham right in Paradise (“Before Abraham was, I AM.”) and, thereby, also disregard the authenticity of His parables and His acceptance of Moses as the writer of the Pentateuch? Where is the logic there?

He Who can claim He saw Abraham in Paradise with poor Lazarus (“After Abraham was, I AM” seems to be the conclusion here) must know that Moses did write (and, perhaps, also dictated part of) the Pentateuch. After all, it was Jesus Who talked to Moses on Mt. Sinai. How could He possibly forget His own history and deny Himself? But we seem bent on denying Him that right and honor.

JohnFH

Vince,

I believe I understand how your system works. You would rather err on the side of caution and not suggest that God accommodated his revelation to the expectations and culture of the day in any sense. Though there are Christians who have read the parables and believe that they convey absolute truth about God's ways with men whether or not the parables recount events that occurred or occur on the strictly human level, you would rather insist that the parables recount specific events on the human level that simultaneously convey truth about God's ways with men.

Though you know that Jesus was like us in everything except sin, you prefer to err on the side of caution and presume that he did not share any opinions about anything if in fact they simply represented common opinions of the day. For example, by the time of Jesus, it was standard practice to treat the Pentateuch as if it were written by Moses despite internal evidence to the contrary.

It is your hypothesis that if Moses did not write the Pentateuch as tradition of the time held, Jesus should have issued a correction as part of his teaching. It is my hypothesis that he should not have and in fact didn't, just as he didn't correct people at the time about many other things.

Your approach has a long tradition behind it but has not always been very helpful. For example, the Bible includes a number of expressions that lead to the view, in fact widely if not universally held in antiquity, that the sun moves and the earth is stationary.

I assume you are not dismayed that God did not correct the Bible authors or require them to write in such a way that we would all understand what Galileo and many others have demonstrated to be true.

The question is whether you are dismayed at the idea that God might have inspired the writer of Genesis to recount the origins of universe in language the people of the time could understand, without anticipating the finding of modern science such as they are.

The first fundamentalists, people like Hodge and Warfield, were not dismayed at such ideas. They simultaneously held to the inerrancy of scripture and creation through the process of evolution.

In the same way, I hold that Gen 6-9 leads into all truth even though it is most plausible to suggest that it goes back to and transforms a pre-existent tradition which recast a local flood in universal terms to make it a vehicle of protological truth.

If any of these ideas dismay you such that you would lose your faith if you seriously entertained them, by all means hold on to your faith, and leave the disturbing ideas alone.

On my own part, I do not find the views about genre and authorship I have outlined disturbing, but rather, respectful of all the evidence currently in hand, enlightening, and fully compatible with the ways of God as I otherwise understand them from Scripture.

Vince Ragay

Hi John,

I form my faith and the specifics of that belief based on clear and available evidences presented, primarily from Scriptures, which can stand by itself, being a harmonious picture of God’s dealings with humans throughout the ages. From Scriptures alone, one may find the truth and the serenity that comes with it. Whatever external evidences I find that confirm the initial testimony of the Bible, only serve to strengthen what the text already stated and proved. In the event that contradictions occur, I still do not accept the text’s validity just because I want to “err on the side of caution”, as you so put it rather explicitly. If faith were such a mechanical, risk-reduction process, we would all be sleepless wrecks nervously awaiting the latest scientific or archeological findings that will either confirm us right or prove us wrong. (I guess many people search for the Ark in the hope that they may remove their own faith-insecurities and those of others.) Those who will end up “dismayed” by what so-called modern ideas bring may be precisely those who approach faith in the manner you seem to welcome and practice.

For how can one welcome and “respect” two opposing ideas -- for instance, a global flood and a local flood -- in the face of God’s declaration that He will destroy “all flesh” and then tasks Noah to bring in “all” animals into the Ark and not be lost in the quagmire of inconsistency? How easier it would have been for Noah to move to safer grounds (along with the animals) and wait for the flood in Mesopotamia to subside? Why preach 120 years of a coming terrible judgment (while building a costly, gigantic Ark) if what any of the sinners then needed to do was reach dry land somewhere else? The issue then is not in wanting to be right by sticking to the textual evidence but in removing anything that presents itself to be an alternative to the evidences already attested to by God, by the OT writers and by the concurrence of the NT people and writers.

And why do we want to make faith such a negatively-founded process? (“To err on the side of caution” is not a matter of faith but of doubt.) Why should people choose the less risky or the lesser evil among several possible choices if there is an excellent choice available? Isn’t faith supposed to be an “evidence of things not seen and assurance of things hoped for”? If fire is the next harbinger of divine justice, how do we interpret it today: as literal fire (just like literal waters of the Flood) or something else less “disturbing”?

We have definitely reached that point in history when science has overtaken faith and taken away its primal role of lifting our minds and spirits to the level of God without any of our own efforts at building human ladders to where He is. The irony of Babel’s Tower (built obviously to prevent annihilation from another Flood, another undeniable proof that going “somewhere else” was not an option and that the sky was the only way out) was its removal of God and faith in Him as the sole solution to the human dilemma. Today, we continue doing the same approach to our salvation. Bad news is: First, there is a limit to human efforts. Second, confusion awaits those who conspire against Heaven’s plan. (I can see this in almost all the forums I visit, unfortunately.)

Finally, I find this statement of yours rather faulty and presumptuous: “God might have inspired the writer of Genesis to recount the origins of universe in language the people of the time could understand, without anticipating the finding of modern science such as they are.” Firstly, how else should God or Moses write other than in the language of their time? Secondly, was their language then such a faulty medium that they could have no way of incorporating what may have been self-evident (a water dome, a global flood and a decimated humanity as witnessed or experienced by Noah and his family) and, therefore, remain faithful to their calling as teachers of truth and even recorders of facts? Lastly, why would anticipating modern science be any problem to God or to those who accept His word at face-value if what was already revealed or recorded was in keeping with the facts (okay, call it scientific or observable evidences) witnessed by Noah, et al.? Furthermore, is saying “the Earth turns eastward” any better or more accurate than “the Sun rises in the East”? Did the Sun stop at Ai or the Earth did? Whichever moved or stopped (the Earth or the Sun), they all obey God’s design (to form a morning and an evening as originally laid out) and command (to vanquish Joshua’s enemy, as prayed for). If so, the text has power not just to make us believe in God and His ability to perform great and miraculous things but also to allow us to conform to His eternal plan.

One who accepts the testimony of three of the five proverbial blind Hindu men may come out with a picture of an elephant as being a wall standing on a huge tree trunk and having a rope at one end. He is like someone who accepts the incomplete visual and logical proofs of science alone. Ultimately, depending totally on science to confirm all we read in the Bible is like expecting 777 blind Hindus to tell one blind Hindu how an elephant actually looks like. No, it would have to take a miracle, like the elephant talking to the blind Hindu and projecting its image into his mind, to show him how it really looks. In reality, this is how the Incarnation did to all the OT evidences of Christ. Jesus is the power that makes our faith in Moses’ writings come alive, not just evidentially but in the total perspective of the human condition and destiny.

I say all this talk about modern science having such preeminence even in our supposedly intelligent discussions is a distraction Christians could avoid. Faith is the victory! Science may just be the Red Sea or the Flood that may arise to test that Faith. Either we set it aside or rise above it once and for all so we can all continue happily on our way.

JohnFH

Hi Vince,

We agree on the fact that Gen 1-11 communicate the deepest truths imaginable. We disagree on the how. I encourage you to take a look at John Walton's work in this regard. He stands halfway between my conclusions and yours. You will find his reasonings a little bit easier to digest.

The differences of opinion we have are inevitable, since you start with the Bible and look for confirmation elsewhere, whereas I follow the lead of the evidence from whatever source. I have not seen that evidence from outside the Bible requires me to reject the truth claims of the Bible. But I have seen that an examination of all the evidence helps me to identify what those truth claims are with greater precision.

The method I follow is a scientific one. Yours is a defensive stance. As I've already pointed out, your method is the same one followed by those who opposed Galileo. On the basis of the Bible, you are not going to reach the conclusions that Galileo did. There is every reason to believe that the biblical authors thought of the earth as stationary and the sun as making its rounds, But you don't feel bound by that. You have come to the conclusion that the truth of the Word does not depend on things the people who opposed Galileo thought could not be denied without calling into question the truth of the Bible. Which is fine, but you are inconsistent.

As I see it, this is your situation. Not only would you prefer not to accept that Gen 6-9 is a revision of traditions whose origins are Mesopotamian, a protological narrative that universalized a local event. Your whole system would be in tatters if you did. If you did, you would have to permit God to present revelation through means you object to. You are not ready to do that.

That is your presumption, and it puts you against a wall. Though I don't share your presumption, I'd rather have you hold on to it than lose your faith in the truth of the Bible.

I have my presumptions as well. I have this bold confidence that we don't have to set aside modern science, the historical method, and everything we know about ancient literature of which the Bible is an example. We explore them all and the Bible too and expect them to be mutually illuminating.

But I agree with you that the science and faith interface is a distraction if you think of science as some sort of happy hunting grounds in which you look for things that show that current scientific hypotheses are self-contradictory or things that concord with a prior and possibly faulty interpretation of the Bible.

It is not a distraction if one believes, as I do, that all truth has the same source. On this basis, I am ready and willing to revise my prior understandings of a biblical passages based on external evidence.

Vince, your method does not allow you do that.

You do it anyway, but you can't be up front about it, because where would it all stop? You are afraid, and I don't think you need be. Just my two cents.

Vince Ragay

John,

First, you put me into a corner for my being at risk of finding out my errors and, now, you want me to feel afraid just because I do not agree with your peculiar way of treating faith and science. Please remember that it is not me or my method or my faith that is at stake here but the whole idea of understanding the teachings of Christ (hence, the Truth) whether solely on Scriptures or both upon faith (our understanding of Scriptures) and science. Dwelling on our differences only prolongs the agony we are going through.

I do not intentionally look around for external evidences to “confirm” what I read in Scriptures. They come to me like jewels scattered in the sand while I leisurely enjoy the scenery of God’s revelation and creation. They shine some light, perhaps; but the Sun above already shines enough for me to walk in His grace. So, what should I be so afraid of? Should there be any fear in the perfect love of God? If there is something I should fear, it is people who look for minor external “treasures” other than what God has already shown right in our faces and go about telling others that is the way to go.

I merely stated that I have come upon the conclusion that, even without external support, the Scriptures can show us truths we might not have even imagined were there. Whether it be how people understand and practice the Communion tradition or devotion to Christ’s teachings or Noah’s story, the Bible, without waiting for what secular history, archeology or science has to say, will point us to the essence of God’s message to all humans. This is the story of my life and I hope someday to find more people who might have found out the same principle working in their lives. Until then, I will have to keep looking.

I leave it to you to read other books or sources to support your way of looking at things. But I, too, am a writer of books and what I have experienced precisely in relation to the revealed word only strengthens what the Lord has said: “If you abide in My word, you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Doing so, I have not added anything to the veracity of Scriptures. But I do hope others may be inspired to see the simplicity of the message and not be distracted by humanistic approaches.

I do not need to be defensive or to defend the Bible. It can do that on its own. Remember, the word of God will not return to Him without accomplishing its purpose. Please refrain, therefore, from judging my stance or comparing what I do with others. That has nothing to do with our discussion. Just express what I say as faulty based on principles and not on what you think would happen. Galileo discovered something great and useful, good for him! But did you ever ask yourself if Adam and the other patriarchs until Noah thought the Earth was flat? (Imagine Noah thinking of a global flood that will cover a flat Earth – you would go crazy, too! Of course, in your version, a flat Earth is what you would need for a localized flooding. How convenient! If I were Nimrod, instead of building a tower, I would have spent less than 50 years digging a canal to drain the waters out of Mesopotamia or, better still, off the edge of the Earth. No, you would think God would be wise enough not to bring a flood so miniscule even a mere carpenter can find a simple way out of by merely walking. So much for science!) You really think that those people thought the Earth was flat when they saw the Sun and the Moon as round? You must really think they and the Bible writers were that stupid? Did you not realize that a simple eclipse after sundown would have proven that the Earth was also round, among other evidences you think only modern scientists are capable of knowing? And how about the Earth moving around the Sun? You are basing your conclusion on the faulty assumption that the ancients did not know before Galileo did. What presumptuousness! (The Ionians knew this back in 600 BCE and the ancients of India in 500 BCE. The Rig Veda tells of astronomical data way back in 4500 BCE. Perhaps, a closer study will reveal what they already knew and make us wonder if we are any better today.) Just because Catholics persecuted Galileo for a supposed error doesn’t mean others did not know what Galileo discovered. We should be more concerned about the problem of how such knowledge disappeared and got replaced by erroneous teachings. Perhaps, it was the Catholics themselves who suppressed that truth, among so many other truths, from the beginning.

And what has flatness or the motion of the Earth have to do with God’s truth? You and others use these inconsequential minutiae to discredit all that God has accomplished in the lives of simple, faithful believers in the past and in the present. I say, it is you who are sowing confusion, error and fear among your readers. Thinking what you believe and do as better than those of others, you put yourself in a better position by making them feel at risk of dismay or unhappiness or fear. Do you really think this is teaching the Good News?

In short, I feel that you take faith simply as a way of understanding revelation and external proofs available to all who would dare consider them. No, it is more than that. It is a relationship with a living God Who still reveals Himself dynamically to those He calls His children and servants. Science is a crutch or colored-glasses forcing you to think the way you do. But seeing and understanding life and creation requires us to have the mind of Christ – that is, to really see God and the Universe through His eyes. As such, it requires only faith in the Holy Spirit dwelling in us -- and science, at this point, has become the antithesis of that faith and of the Spirit’s intent.

But if we allow science to serve faith (the way we should make friends with Mammon, not make him to be our master), there can be hope of redeeming it for humankind. Alas, it is too hard for many people not to be enamored by the power to do it their way instead of God’s. Like so many other things human-made, science has become a trap for many people.

Thank you so much for your time.

JohnFH

Thank you, Vince, for engaging on these issues.

I'll try again. You say:

"[I]t is not me or my method or my faith that is at stake here but the whole idea of understanding the teachings of Christ (hence, the Truth) whether solely on Scriptures or both upon faith (our understanding of Scriptures) and science."

That's where we differ. You take it for granted that Jesus is teaching on everything from who wrote the first five books of the Bible to the kind of history that Genesis 6-9 conveys. I do not.

You take it for granted that, if the people in Jesus' day thought that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible though he didn't, based on internal and external evidence, Jesus would have corrected them on that point. I do not presume such things.

You want to make Jesus into a dispenser of truth on every imaginable subject. It is not enough for you that he is the Way, the Truth, and Life, and no one comes to the Father except by him.

You also want him to be the guarantee of a correct account of biological origins, flood geology, and the authorship of the Pentateuch. But this flies in the face of the witness of the New Testament.

The Jesus of the New Testament is like unto us in everything except sin. His knowledge is limited in a variety of way as is ours. Even with respect to the timing of his own return, he remained in the dark.

I think it is true that you are afraid to work out the implications of these facts. No offense intended. I am not questioning the quality of your commitment to Christ. I assume it is as high or higher than mine.

You make rash assumptions. You assume that God should not have allowed an Israelite author to recast an existing protological narrative about Noah and the Flood without miraculous intervention such that the resultant biblical account is no longer a protological narrative but a transcript of conversations that took place on this day and that day in a sequence of events which, if we took a Way Back machine, we could observe and verify that they happened just as Gen 6-9 says they do.

I make no such assumption. I insist that we must read the text of Gen 6-9 just as it is written and expect every detail to convey universal truth to us. But I insist the same about the parables of Jesus without needing to rashly assume, as you do, that Jesus was retelling things he had seen with his human eyes and reporting them just as he saw them. No. Both Gen 6-9 and the parables convey the deepest truths to us, and are historical in the deepest sense. They reveal the deep structure of history and of God's ways with man, and they do that without needing to be chronicles of one-off events.

It should not bother you that Gen 6-9 does not correspond to current understandings of geology just as it did not bother Augustine that Gen 1 did not correspond to understandings about the origins of the universe of his time.

You yourself understand the principle, but do not apply it consistently. You say:

"And what has flatness or the motion of the Earth have to do with God’s truth? You and others use these inconsequential minutiae to discredit all that God has accomplished."

Of course, I am not using these "inconsequential minutiae," to which friends of mine in the sciences dedicate their professional lives, as a way of discrediting God. I point out rather that they call into question your way of thinking about God's truth. There is a difference.

I might take your own words and point them back at you:

And what has flood geology or the authorship of the Pentateuch have to do with God’s truth? You and others use these inconsequential minutiae to discredit all that God has accomplished, because you insist that things went down as you say they did, or all of God's truth is endangered.

Vince, there is a long tradition in the Christian church of seeing the sciences as related to one another, as all pointing to the truth, each in its own way. On this view, one branch of science is not expected to "prove" that another branch of science is correct. But it is expected that the various branches are compatible with each other.

On this understanding, formulated with care by Thomas Aquinas, theology is the queen of the sciences, and all of the other sciences are her servants.

You, on the other hand, want nothing to do with science, the study of history, or of ancient literature. According to your own words, it is only by accident that you run across things outside of the Bible which confirm the truth of the Bible in your eyes.

Vince, I have problems with your approach to knowledge. I worry about you just as you worry about me. Will your "accidental" approach to the acquisition of knowledge outside the Bible lead you to misinterpret some of things you read *in* the Bible? That is my concern.

Vince, I see you striving mightily to assume that the Bible authors were encyclopedia Browns who knew everything. But if your approach requires that one accept this theory of yours, for which there is so little evidence, you are making it very hard for people to enter the kingdom of God. Beware. Jesus warns about this.

I am convinced that an evolutionary biologist does not have to stop being an evolutionary biologist to be saved in Christ. I am convinced that a plate tectonics geologist does not have to stop being a plate tectonics geologist to find forgiveness. I am convinced that someone who studies the Bible historically, and comes to the conclusion, based on internal and external evidence, that Moses did not write the Pentateuch, does not have to repent of that conclusion when he repents of his sins before the throne of God.

If you suggest otherwise, beware. You are putting stumbling blocks before others. You are obstructing their access to salvation.

You are free to be a young earth creationist, a flood geologist, and a supporter of the idea that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. I am not suggesting your access to salvation is thereby hindered. But I am suggesting that if you make acceptance of your opinions conditions for salvation, you are endangering your own salvation. God is my witness, I am serious about what I say. I have already seen too many young people forced to choose between false alternatives.

Vince Ragay

Thanks for trying again, John, but seeing the way you think, I don’t suppose I can convince you to reconsider your peculiar modern view. Nevertheless, let me shoot an arrow blindly into the air.

Let me deal with each point you raised:

1. “You take it for granted that Jesus is teaching on everything from who wrote the first five books . . . to the kind of history that Genesis 6-9 conveys,”

The context of Jesus’ statements inevitably teaches us that Moses was the source or writer of those books. You don’t take that as fact or truth. I do.

“For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17) How else do I take these twin facts without hurting myself?

2. “… based on internal and external evidences, Jesus would have corrected them on that point.”

The fact that He didn’t and even stated that Moses did write and teach them, ends the argument. Walk your way, man.

3. “You want to make Jesus into a dispenser of truth on every imaginable subject.”

Your conclusion, not mine. But since you said it, why not? Jesus can do that, too. If you have faith enough that the Spirit will lead you to some truth, you just might be surprised how powerful Christ really is (John 21:25). As I have said, I have proven it in my life so many times. Does that make me better than others? No, but it has definitely made me a better person.

4. “You also want him to be the guarantee of a correct account of biological origins, flood geology, and the authorship of the Pentateuch. But this flies in the face of the witness of the New Testament.”

And why not? If you guys can claim confidently that biological evolution is the right process whereby God “created” life, then good for you. I thought that way before but not anymore. If you could only see how much we have been deceived by so-called science and by scientists who assumed certain things (Plate Tectonics, local Flood, etc.), you would see how the OT and NT make real and liberating sense.

5. “The Jesus of the New Testament is like unto us in everything except sin. His knowledge is limited in a variety of way as is ours. Even with respect to the timing of his own return, he remained in the dark.”

I do not know this Jesus you refer to. He is someone so many people have invented to replace the real Jesus – my Lord and my God -- I know and worship. (Did it ever occur to you that if Jesus is co-equal with the Father, then He would have to speak with the Father first as to when He or They, as One United Godhead, could finalize Their plans? “Not knowing” then is not the same as “not having made the decision yet”. Does the Son plan without talking to the Father? I think you are the one “in the dark”.)

6. “I think it is true that you are afraid to work out the implications of these facts. No offense intended.”

As you can see, if you really are following the essence of this discussion, I cannot but accept the facts as they are and not what I want them to be. It is you who has not accepted the facts in Scriptures. Or, you have assumed so many things that cause you to be led away from the path of understanding. It is you who have twisted the text, not I. Why should I then be afraid? The things you think are “facts” are actually “twisted ideas”. Like Saul, you find it hurts to kick at the goads. Hence, it is you who is afraid to face the reality the Bible plainly talks about.

7. “You make rash assumptions. You assume that God should not have allowed an Israelite author to recast an existing protological narrative about Noah and the Flood without miraculous intervention . . . .”

Here is where the fan splatters the dirt in our faces. You say God recast a story to make a myth. You assume that -- rashly, I must also say. For the witnesses of Noah, Jesus and Peter do not seem to tell me that I was the one who made the wrong assumption. It is you. You try to prove that what is written is not so. I have written a book that proves it did happen and without any miraculous giveaways from God. I am just another witness – born out of time – and if anyone cares to listen, I would be happy. If not, I am still happy and content that Noah, Moses, Jesus and Peter are on my side and not someone who does not even give Jesus enough respect or ascribe “all authority” to.

Scriptures do not only express “universal truth”, they also declare facts. God is not a writer of fiction. He may hide His stories in parables (true, simple stories to “confound” the foolish but to inform the wise) or in figurative images (as in Ezekiel, Daniel and John’s visions or prophecies); but behind those words or images are factual events that require being in tune with the Spirit or being given the key to those visions to understand fully. Without the Spirit or the special key, we run the risk of making wild conclusions. But thanks to God, He reveals His truth to the lowly in spirit in His own good time.

Your problem is that you think of the ancients as crude people telling tall-tales around bonfires. Some dismissively call Genesis as “narrative” and not as factual and historical journalism as if they were the only ones capable of intelligent observation. Read Genesis again and check this blog to will find how Moses methodically approached and recorded his encounter with God as if he were a real scientist:
(http://manariwa.blog.friendster.com/2006/11/gods-word-my-word-chapter-6/)

8. “It should not bother you that Gen 6-9 does not correspond to current understandings of geology just as it did not bother Augustine that Gen 1 did not correspond to understandings about the origins of the universe of his time.”

It was self-serving on my part to promote my book detailing my own findings about the Flood and the “current (mis)understandings” or inadequacies of the Plate Tectonics Theory, except that I was so eager to get someone to give me a fair hearing on the matter. (Alas, it’s an idea that seems too esoteric to many.) Scientists do not establish laws or truths, John. It is God and God alone Who does. If God said “I will send a global flood!” (with matching lightning and thunder to magnify His anger) and sent out eight witnesses to the fact, I do not go about doubting a record of their report attested to by no-nonsense prophets (do you really believe in one?) like Moses and Jesus. (Alright, we can probably forgive Jesus for not knowing when He will return; but, how can we not take His word about where He had been and who He had been talking to?)

9. “‘And what has flatness or the motion of the Earth have to do with God’s truth? You and others use these inconsequential minutiae to discredit all that God has accomplished.’”

I asked the question as a rhetorical statement. I repeat: Knowledge only has value when used to reinforce or confirm God’s revelation. Otherwise, we make Him a liar by superimposing our own ideas. Paul warned against “false prophets” and “so-called science”. Wrong knowledge arises when we “quench the Spirit”.

10. “You, on the other hand, want nothing to do with science, the study of history, or of ancient literature. According to your own words, it is only by accident that you run across things outside of the Bible which confirm the truth of the Bible in your eyes.”

Let me clarify so you will not make more wrong conclusions about me or about other things. I said clearly that science must serve faith, not the other way around. Many people use science as a tool to defuse or discredit faith and the evidences that support it. I read and use history and literature to broaden my perspective; however, I always try to differentiate between what God reveals and what humans teach. You seem to be unclear about that.

I never used the word “accident” – if I did, then I would also say that gold, diamonds and precious metals in the Earth are also accidents and not gifts from God to show the many treasures He has hidden somewhere where He wants us to walk. But the value of science pales in radiance to the value of the written word. The glitter of this world is passing whereas the glory of God’s truth is everlasting. Science has become one of the “lusts” of the human eyes and flesh. You probably reside in a country where science and technology have advanced far enough as to astound so many people to forget God. Many people live in poverty where I live and yet I still see so many faithful Christians – poor and rich alike. However, knowing that the trend even here is to follow the decadent ways of rich nations, I strive to convince and warn people.

11. “Vince, I see you striving mightily to assume that the Bible authors were encyclopedia Browns who knew everything. But if your approach requires that one accept this theory of yours, for which there is so little evidence, you are making it very hard for people to enter the kingdom of God. Beware. Jesus warns about this.”

Who said they “knew everything”? (Wrong conclusion again!) I only said they knew things or, perhaps, were aware of such things we never thought they knew. And I specifically mentioned the roundness of the Earth and the movement of the Earth around the Sun. (Why can’t you admit that you were wrong in telling me that without Galileo I could not conclude the reality of things? He was, in fact, at least two thousand years behind. This should have crushed your argument; but you still hold on to a fallacy.) Just because they had low technology doesn’t mean those people were not as intelligent, or even more so than us. The Ark was almost as heavy and just a bit shorter than the Titanic. A least four or five thousand years before that ill-fated ship, Noah built the Ark which saved the Earth, including you and me.

The Jesus and the God you claim to know have given us so many evidences which I accept willingly as truth and yet you have the gumption to tell me I am the one who makes it hard for others to enter the kingdom. You keep making wrong conclusions – I wonder why?

12. “I am convinced that an evolutionary biologist does not have to stop being an evolutionary biologist to be saved in Christ. . . .
If you suggest otherwise, beware. You are putting stumbling blocks before others. You are obstructing their access to salvation.”

Where did this come from? We never talked about salvation or repentance. We were discussing ideas that are essential in making us become better persons or believers. Inevitably though, the truth will have to suffer when people start claiming things about the Bible and about Jesus that put them lower than what God has placed them or made them to be. If you feel offended when I said you sow error, confusion or fear among people because of your stand, it is my desire to lovingly take you to task. And with your latest statement above regarding Jesus, I now feel more compelled to show you how you have entirely missed the mark.

13. “You are free to be a young earth creationist, a flood geologist, and a supporter of the idea that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. . . . God is my witness, I am serious about what I say. I have already seen too many young people forced to choose between false alternatives.”

I rarely use these fancy labels or names to categorize people and their beliefs. They divide people and segregate them into corners or factions they don’t really deserve. We have enough denominations already without dividing them further into smaller chunks within. The young (who probably are YECs (sic)) have no other choice than to be with other YECs while you go your way. You think they are wrong; I think otherwise. (We have a Judge for that.) Many of them may feel deprived only because they live in a society that worships science as well. And you know as well as I that this world is ruled by a deceiver.

For your information, I do not belong to any organized religious group. Christ never established an organization but a “spiritual kingdom” or a “royal nation” of believers. Did you not realize that in choosing to be other than a “YEC”, an “FG” or, well, a Non-Moses-Written-Pentateuch-Adherent, you have isolated yourself from others instead of embracing them? I have just proven it: I wrote to encourage you to see my point of view and you defended yourself against that possibility. Perhaps, you no longer wish to see or believe that there could be others who may have found a way to patch up the many differences or partitions we have as believers. I still have that hope and will continue to search for people who sincerely wish to choose that path to unity.

Not that I claim I have the key we all need. But as in so many other cases, people fail to listen when they should and fail to see when they should. John, the parable of Noah did happen. So did the parable of Jonah. But that is an entirely different story. Or is it?

JohnFH

Vince,

I'm sorry to hear that you do not belong to any organization, but the fact that you don't explains a lot. You are a wannabe shepherd without any sheep. You mean well, but that is what you are.

You can't seem to grasp what tremendous damage you do to the faith of others by your insistence on your approach to science. I know of no one who has dedicated his or her life to science who would not feel as if you ask them to choose between the methods of science and your method, with you identify with the truth.

For me, and for Christianity at its best down through the ages, the sciences are wonderful gifts of God subject to good and bad uses.

Like the study of history and ancient literature, science serves faith by pointing toward a series of probable truths on the basis of which scripture can be more accurately understood.

But you ask people to choose between science and faith, between the study of ancient history and faith, and between the study of ancient literature and faith.

If you run across something in science or ancient history or ancient literature that backs up your interpretation of scripture arrived at by pure induction, you accept it. If not, you throw it out. The fields of interest listed do not genuinely interest you. Your approach is the opposite of an authentic quest for knowledge.

Indeed, for you, science is of the world, the world is ruled by a deceiver, and those who "worship" science are worshipers of the devil. By means of this syllogism, you have built yourself a cage to keep the lions at bay.

The world is no doubt ruled by a deceiver, but you fail to reckon with the possibility that the deceiver has deceived you into spurning a great number of God's gifts.

You discard both the methods and results of modern science - unless, your health is at stake, in which case, medical science is given a pass by you; unless you want to make use of technology, in which case, the work of the worshipers of science suits you just fine - and thereby box yourself into a tiny space without air in which everything is made to conform to your courtroom logic.

No matter how much evidence exists that suggests that you need to rethink your positions, you are unfazed.

Like the great Johnny Cochran, you know how to sow reasonable doubt, and that's all that matters to you. You have long given up on pursuing the evidence wherever it may lead. Yours is the opposite of faith and you don't seem to notice.

I belong to a congregation that is in fellowship with other congregations, something that is taken for normal in the New Testament. In every congregation I have served in, there are people of all persuasions, from young earth creationists and flood geologists like you to evolutionary creationists. That's because where I come from, these are not salvation issues.

As far as I can see, you preach a version of Christianity in which you tell people that it's your way or the highway when it comes to your take on a thousand different questions on which Christians have always disagreed. This is what Paul calls a work of the flesh, a spirit of dissension.

Over and over again, you find it impossible to imagine that a believer might take a position at odds with yours and have excellent reasons for it.

You like to talk about "facts." But, to quote Irigo Montoya, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." A parable can be deeply factual even if it recounts a sequence of events that as such rarely happens in real life, or has never happened. Your view of facts is too small. You force God to follow your rules for revealing the truth. Should God want to reveal the truth through a description that is as far from a mere photograph of reality as a painting of Van Gogh, you object. You won't have it. Who are you to tell God what to do?

Even if you do not deny that someone can be an evolutionary creationist, regard Gen 6-9 as a revision of a narrative that at an earlier stage universalized a local flood, and be one of Christ's own flock, you treat those who so think, even if they do not make their opinions a test of anything, as dangerous foes of the faith.

That being the case, I say with full conviction, with the assurance that God will be our Judge, that it is you that sow error, confusion and fear among people.

Your ace-in-the-hole argument is a boomerang. You say that science is of the world, and the world is ruled by a deceiver. To which I say: the situation is far worse than you suppose.

Your apologetics, which speak of science, and therefore of many believers who are scientists, as under deception, are a tool of the devil.

It is the devil's method to pose "if-then" arguments to induce his prey into feeling compelled to demonstrate the truth. He tried it on Jesus but Jesus knew better (Matthew 4). You do not know better.

"If the Bible is truly the word of God, prove that it anticipates the results of modern inquiry on all topics, or contradicts the results of modern inquiry when the latter are false." There goes Vince, responding to the devil's beck and call.

You should have answered, "No, for it is written, you shall not put the Lord your God to the test."

Like the devil, you construct if-thens which, if taken seriously, destroy the faith of others. If Gen 6-9 reveals the deep structure of history by means of a revision of an ancient tradition which universalized a local flood event, then, according to you, our faith is destroyed.

This is how I see it. As you know by now, I am passionate in my opposition to your approach, so you might as well go elsewhere. In your desire to prove the truth, you have fallen into a trap of Satan. You have become his advocate, not God's.

We prove the truth as Christians in the following way: by the fruits of the Spirit which exclude the works of the flesh. By the quality of the life we live. Not by apologetics which put unnecessary obstacles in the way of the person who is grateful for the both the methods and results of science, and the possibility of learning new things from the study of ancient literature and history.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Google Blogrolls

a community of bloggers

  • Abnormal Interests
    Intrepid forays into realia and texts of the Ancient Near East, by Duane Smith
  • After Existentialism, Light
    A thoughtful theology blog by Kevin Davis, an M. Div. student at University of North Carolina-Charlotte
  • AKMA's Random Thoughts
    by A. K. M. Adam, Lecturer in New Testament at the University of Glasgow
  • alternate readings
    C. Stirling Bartholomew's place
  • Ancient Hebrew Grammar
    informed comment by Robert Holmstedt, Associate Professor, Ancient Hebrew and Northwest Semitic Languages, Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, University of Toronto, and John Cook, Associate Professor of Old Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary (Wilmore KY)
  • Antiquitopia
    one of the best blogs out there, by Jared Calaway, assistant professor in the Department of Religion at Illinois Wesleyan University.
  • Anumma - Hebrew Bible and Higher Education
    by G. Brooke Lester, Assistant Professor in Hebrew Bible, and Director for Emerging Pedagogies, at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (Evanston IL)
  • Awilum
    Insightful commentary on the Bible and the Ancient Near East, by Charles Halton
  • AWOL - The Ancient World Online
    notice and comment on open access material relating to the ancient world, by Charles Jones of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University
  • Balshanut
    top-notch Biblical Hebrew and Semitics blog by Peter Bekins, Ph. D. student, Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati OH, faculty member, Wright State University (archive)
  • Believing is Knowing
    Comments on things like prophecy, predestination, and reward and punishment from an orthodox Jewish perspective, by David Guttmann
  • Ben Byerly's Blog
    thoughts on the Bible, Africa, Kenya, aid, and social justice, by Ben Byerly, a PhD candidate at Africa International University (AIU), in Nairobi, Kenya working on “The Hopes of Israel and the Ends of Acts” (Luke’s narrative defense of Paul to Diaspora Judeans in Acts 16-20)
  • Berit Olam
    by a thoughtful Matt Morgan, Berkeley CA resident, grad student in Old Testament at Regent University, Vancouver BC (archive)
  • Better Bibles Blog
    Discussion of translation problems and review of English Bible translations by Wayne Leman, Iver Larsen, Mike Sangrey, and others
  • Bibbia Blog
    A Bible blog in Italian and English by former students of the PIB and PUG
  • Bible Background research and commentary
    by Craig Keener, professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary
  • Bible Design & Binding
    J. Mark Bertrand's place
  • BiblePlaces Blog
    a spotlight on the historical geography of the Holy Land, by Todd Bolen, formerly, Assistant Professor at the Israel Bible Extension campus of The Master's College, Santa Clarita CA
  • Biblicalia
    The riches of orthodoxy brought online by Kevin Edgecomb, a seminarian at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (Brookline MA)
  • Biblische Ausbildung
    by Stephen L. Cook, professor of Old Testament / Hebrew Bible at Virginia Theological Seminary
  • C. Orthodoxy
    Christian, Contemporary, Conscientious… or Just Confused, by Ken Brown, a very thoughtful blog (archive). Ken is currently a Dr. Theol. student at Georg-August-Universität in Göttingen, part of The Sofja-Kovalevskaja Research Group studying early Jewish Monotheism. His dissertation will focus on the presentation of God in Job.
  • Catholic Bibles
    a thoughtful blog about Bible translations by Timothy, who has a degree in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome (Angelicum) and teaches theology in a Catholic high school in Michigan
  • Chrisendom
    irreverent blog with a focus on the New Testament, by Chris Tilling, New Testament Tutor for St Mellitus College and St Paul's Theological Centre, London
  • Claude Mariottini
    a perspective on the Old Testament and current events by a professor of Old Testament at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, Chicagoland, Illinois
  • Codex: Biblical Studies Blogspot
    by Tyler Williams, a scholar of the Hebrew Bible and cognate literature, now Assistant Professor of Theology at The King's University College in Edmonton, Alberta (archive)
  • Colours of Scripture
    reflections on theology, philosophy, and literature, by Benjamin Smith, afflicted with scriptural synaesthesia, and located in London, England
  • Complegalitarian
    A team blog that discusses right ways and wrong ways Scripture might help in the social construction of gender (old archive only; more recent archive, unfortunately, no longer publicly available)
  • Connected Christianity
    a place to explore what it might be like if Christians finally got the head, heart, and hands of their faith re-connected (archive)
  • Conversational Theology
    Smart and delightful comment by Ros Clarke, a Ph.D. student at the University of the Highlands and Islands, at the (virtual) Highland Theological College (archive)
  • Daily Hebrew
    For students of biblical Hebrew and the ancient Near East, by Chip Hardy, a doctoral student at the University of Chicago
  • Daniel O. McClellan
    a fine blog by the same, who is pursuing a master of arts degree in biblical studies at Trinity Western University just outside of Vancouver, BC.
  • Davar Akher
    Looking for alternative explanations: comments on things Jewish and beyond, by Simon Holloway, a PhD student in Classical Hebrew and Biblical Studies at The University of Sydney, Australia
  • Deinde
    News and Discussion by Danny Zacharias
  • Discipulus scripturae
    Nathan Stitt's place
  • Dr. Claude Mariottini
    balanced comment by a professor of Old Testament at Northern Baptist Seminary, Lombard IL
  • Dr. Platypus
    insightful comment by Darrell Pursiful, editor at Smyth & Helwys Publishing, on the New Testament faculty of Mercer University
  • Dust
    A diary of Bob MacDonald's journey through the Psalms and other holy places in the Hebrew Bible
  • Eclexia
    The heart and mind of this Bible and theology blogger sing in unison
  • Eat, Drink, and be Merry
    The journey of a grad student with a love for ancient languages at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (archive)
  • Elizaphanian
    Rev Sam tussles with God, and limps away
  • Emerging from Babel
    Stephen investigates the potential of narrative and rhetorical criticism as a tool for expounding scripture
  • Evangelical Textual Criticism
    A group blog on NT and OT text-critical matters
  • Evedyahu
    excellent comment by Cristian Rata, Lecturer in Old Testament of Torch Trinity Graduate School of Theology, Seoul, Korea
  • Exegetica Digita
    discussion of Logos high-end syntax and discourse tools – running searches, providing the downloads (search files) and talking about what can be done and why it might matter for exegesis, by Mike Heiser
  • Exegetisk Teologi
    careful exegetical comment by Stefan Green (in Swedish)
  • Exploring Our Matrix
    Insightful reflections by James McGrath, ass't. professor of religion, Butler University
  • Faith Matters
    Mark Alter's place
  • Ferrell's Travel Blog
    comments of biblical studies, archaeology, history, and photography by a tour guide of Bible lands and professor emeritus of the Biblical Studies department at Florida College, Temple Terrace (FL)
  • Fors Clavigera
    James K. A. Smith, professor of philosophy at Calvin College, thinks out loud.
  • Friar's Fires
    an insightful blog by a pastor with a background in journalism, one of three he pens
  • Gentle Wisdom
    A fearless take on issues roiling Christendom today, by Peter Kirk, a Bible translator
  • Giluy Milta B‘alma
    by Ezra Chwat and Avraham David of the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts, Jewish National and Hebrew University Library, Jerusalem
  • He is Sufficient
    insightful comment on Bible translations, eschatology, and more, by Elshaddai Edwards
  • Higgaion
    by Chris Heard, Professor of Religion, Pepperdine University
  • Idle Musings of a Bookseller
    by James Spinti of Eisenbrauns
  • if i were a bell, i'd ring
    Tim Ricchiuiti’s place
  • Imaginary Grace
    Smooth, witty commentary by Angela Erisman (archive). Angela Erisman is a member of the theology faculty at Xavier University
  • James' Thoughts and Musings
    by James Pate, a doctoral student at HUC-JIR Cincinnati
  • Jewish Philosophy Place
    by Zachary (Zak) Braiterman, who teaches modern Jewish thought and philosophy in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University
  • kata ta biblia
    by Patrick George McCollough, M. Div. student, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena CA
  • Ketuvim
    Learned reflection from the keyboard of Jim Getz
  • Kilbabo
    Ben Johnson’s insightful blog
  • Kruse Kronicle - contemplating the intersection of work, the global economy, and Christian mission
    top quality content brought to readers by Michael W. Kruse
  • Larry Hurtado's blog
    emeritus professor of New Testament Language, Literature & Theology, University of Edinburgh
  • Law, Prophets, and Writings
    thoughtful blogging by William R. (Rusty) Osborne, Assistant Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies as College of the Ozarks and managing editor for Journal for the Evangelical Study of the Old Testament
  • Lingamish
    delightful fare by David Ker, Bible translator, who also lingalilngas.
  • Looney Fundamentalist
    a scientist who loves off-putting labels
  • Menachem Mendel
    A feisty blog on rabbinic literature and other Judaica by Michael Pitkowsky, Rabbinics Curriculum Coordinator at the Academy for Jewish Religion and adjunct instructor at Jewish Theological Seminary (New York)
  • mu-pàd-da
    scholarly blog by C. Jay Crisostomo, grad student in ANE studies at ?
  • Narrative and Ontology
    Astoundingly thoughtful comment from Phil Sumpter, a Ph.D. student in Bible, resident in Bonn, Germany
  • New Epistles
    by Kevin Sam, M. Div. student at the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Saskatoon SK
  • NT Weblog
    Mark Goodacre's blog, professor of New Testament, Duke University
  • Observatório Bíblico
    wide-ranging blog by Airton José da Silva, Professor de Bíblia Hebraica/Antigo Testamento na Faculdade de Teologia do CEARP de Ribeirão Preto, Brasile (in Portuguese)
  • Observatório Bíblico
    Blog sobre estudos acadêmicos da Bíblia, para Airton José da Silva, Professor de Bíblia Hebraica / Antigo Testamento na Faculdade de Teologia do CEARP de Ribeirão Preto, SP.
  • Occasional Publications
    excellent blogging by Daniel Driver, Brevard Childs' scholar extraordinaire
  • old testament passion
    Great stuff from Anthony Loke, a Methodist pastor and Old Testament lecturer in the Seminari Theoloji, Malaysia
  • Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Blog
    A weblog created for a course on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, by James Davila (archive)
  • On the Main Line
    Mississippi Fred MacDowell's musings on Hebraica and Judaica. With a name like that you can't go wrong.
  • p.ost an evangelical theology for the age to come
    seeking to retell the biblical story in the difficult transition from the centre to the margins following the collapse of Western Christendom, by Andrew Perriman, independent New Testament scholar, currently located in Dubai
  • PaleoJudaica
    by James Davila, professor of Early Jewish Studies at the University of St. Andrews, St Andrews, Scotland. Judaism and the Bible in the news; tidbits about ancient Judaism and its context
  • Pastoral Epistles
    by Rick Brannan and friends, a conceptually unique Bible blog
  • Pen and Parchment
    Michael Patton and company don't just think outside the box. They are tearing down its walls.
  • Pisteuomen
    by Michael Halcomb, pastor-scholar from the Bluegrass State
  • Pseudo-Polymath
    by Mark Olson, an Orthodox view on things
  • Purging my soul . . . one blog at a time
    great theoblog by Sam Nunnally
  • Qumranica
    weblog for a course on the Dead Sea Scrolls at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, taught by James R. Davila (archive)
  • Ralph the Sacred River
    by Edward Cook, a superb Aramaist
  • Random Bloggings
    by Calvin Park, M. Div. student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton MA
  • Resident aliens
    reflections of one not at home in this world
  • Revelation is Real
    Strong-minded comment from Tony Siew, lecturer at Trinity Theological College, Singapore
  • Ricoblog
    by Rick Brannan, it's the baby pictures I like the most
  • Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
    Nick Norelli's fabulous blog on Bible and theology
  • SansBlogue
    by Tim Bulkeley, lecturer in Old Testament, Carey Baptist College (New Zealand). His Hypertext Commentary on Amos is an interesting experiment
  • Ancient Near Eastern Languages
    texts and files to help people learn some ancient languages in self study, by Mike Heiser
  • Midrash, etc.
    A fine Hebrew-to-English blog on Midrash, by Carl Kinbar, Director of the New School for Jewish Studies and a facultm member at MJTI School of Jewish Studies.
  • Phil Lembo what I'm thinking
    a recovering lawyer, now in IT, with a passion for a faith worth living
  • Roses and Razorwire
    a top-notch Levantine archaeology blog, by Owen Chesnut, a doctoral student at Andrews University (MI)
  • Scripture & Theology
    a communal weblog dedicated to the intersection of biblical interpretation and the articulation of church doctrine, by Daniel Driver, Phil Sumpter, and others
  • Scripture Zealot
    by Jeff Contrast
  • Serving the Word
    incisive comment on the Hebrew Bible and related ancient matters, with special attention to problems of philology and linguistic anthropology, by Seth L. Sanders, Assistant Professor in the Religion Department of Trinity College, Hartford, CT
  • Singing in the Reign
    NT blog by Michael Barber (JP University) and Brad Pitre (Our Lady Holy Cross)
  • Stay Curious
    excellent comment on Hebrew Bible and Hebrew language topics, by Karyn Traphagen, graduate, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia PA (archive)
  • Sufficiency
    A personal take on the faith delivered to the saints, by Bob MacDonald, whose parallel blog on the Psalms in Hebrew is a colorful and innovative experiment
  • The Sundry Times
    Gary Zimmerli's place, with comment on Bible translations and church renewal
  • Sunestauromai: living the crucified life
    by a scholar-pastor based in the Grand Canyon National Park
  • ta biblia
    blog dedicated to the New Testament and the history of Christian origins, by Giovanni Bazzana
  • Targuman
    by Christian Brady, targum specialist extraordinaire, and dean of Schreyer Honors College, Penn State University
  • Targuman
    on biblical and rabbinic literature, Christian theology, gadgetry, photography, and the odd comic, by Christian Brady, associate professor of ancient Hebrew and Jewish literature and dean of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State
  • The Biblia Hebraica Blog
    a blog about Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, the history of the Ancient Near East and the classical world, Syro-Palestinian archaeology, early Judaism, early Christianity, New Testament interpretation, English Bible translations, biblical theology, religion and culture, philosophy, science fiction, and anything else relevant to the study of the Bible, by Douglas Magnum, PhD candidate, University of the Free State, South Africa
  • The Forbidden Gospels Blog
    by April DeConick, Professor of Biblical Studies, Rice University
  • The Naked Bible
    by Mike Heiser, academic editor at Logos Bible Software
  • The Reformed Reader
    by Andrew Compton, Ph.D. student in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures (focus on Hebrew and Semitic Languages) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
  • The Sacred Page
    a blog written by three Catholic Ph.D.s who are professors of Scripture and Theology: Michael Barber, Brant Pitre and John Bergsma
  • The Talmud Blog
    a group blog on Talmud News, Reviews, Culture, Currents, and Criticism
  • Theological German
    a site for reading and discussing theological German, by Mark Alter
  • theoutwardquest
    seeking spirituality as an outward, not an inward quest, by David Corder
  • This Lamp
    Incisive comment on Bible translations in the archives, by Rick Mansfield
  • Thoughts on Antiquity
    By Chris Weimer and friends, posts of interest on ancient Greek and Roman topics (archive). Chris is a graduate student at the City University of New York in Classics
  • Threads from Henry's Web
    Wide-ranging comment by Henry Neufeld, educator, publisher, and author
  • Tête-à-Tête-Tête
    smart commentary by "smijer," a Unitarian-Universalist
  • Undeception
    A great blog by Mike Douglas, a graduate student in biblical studies
  • What I Learned From Aristotle
    the Judaica posts are informative (archive)
  • Bouncing into Graceland
    a delightful blog on biblical and theological themes, by Esteban Vázquez (archive)
  • Weblog
    by Justin Anthony Knapp, a fearless Wikipedian (archive)
  • Writing in the Dust
    A collection of quotes by Wesley Hill, a doctoral student in New Testament studies at Durham University (UK), and a Christian who seeks the charism of chastity
  • גֵּר־וְתוֹשָׁב
    by David Miller, Associate Professor of New Testament and Early Judaism, Briercrest College & Seminary, Caronport, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • ואל-תמכר
    Buy truth and do not sell: wisdom, instruction, and understanding - a blog by Mitchell Powell, student of life at the intersection of Christ, Christianity, and Christendom
  • משלי אדם
    exploring wisdom literature, religion, and other academic pursuits, by Adam Couturier, M.A. in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible (graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)

Viewing Documents

  • Adobe Acrobat Reader
    To view the documents on this blog you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you do not have this, download it from the link above.
Blog powered by Typepad

Technorati

Terms


  • Ancient Hebrew Poetry is a weblog of John F. Hobbins. Opinions expressed herein do not reflect those of his professional affiliations. Unless otherwise indicated, the contents of Ancient Hebrew Poetry, including all text, images, and other media, are original and licensed under a Creative Commons License.

    Creative Commons License

    Copyright © 2005 by John F Hobbins.