The truth of Genesis

by Richard on October 30, 2007

I was talking to someone recently about the evolution ‘debate’. He got very troubled when I spoke of the first chapter of Genesis as a myth. “If Genesis 1 isn’t true, how can we trust anything the Bible says?” he asked.

Imagine yourself in one of those photobooths that takes passport pictures. When you collect the pictures, are you happy with them? Will you be showing them proudly to friends? I strongly doubt it! The photograph may be an accurate image of a specific moment, but it is unlikely to be a “good” picture. On the other hand, an artist with a few simple materials may produce a portrait of you that is less “accurate” than the photobooth, but more truthful in the insight it provides. “Painting the soul” is the way I believe the arty types put it. You can see this even in children’s drawings. They may not be draughtsmen, but you can learn a lot about a child’s family (for example) by the way that they draw them. There is truth there for those with eyes to see. That’s why painters did not go out of business with the advent of photography. In some mysterious way they are able to present truth which goes beyond the merely representational.

Changing my metaphor, another way to think of this is in terms of maps. A map may be true or false, just as a myth may be. But even a good map can be useless or even dangerous if it is used for the wrong purpose. Any visitor to London who tries to navigate the streets using only the iconic ‘underground’ map is going to learn the truth of this very quickly. Similarly, a world atlas may well be accurate — but don’t try to use it to round Cape Horn.

When I say that - for example - Genesis 1 is a myth, I do not mean it isn’t true or that I am rejecting it. I mean that it conveys a truth about God, creation and human beings which goes beyond the merely
representational “photograph” which is offered to us by cosmology and the rest. Neither am I denigrating the truth which these sciences offer. Just as a photograph is not “contradicted” by a painting, the myth of Genesis is not contradicted by science. The whole notion is absurd! A photograph can be compared to a painting, and it is sometimes instructive to do so. But they are in no sense competitors.

Of course, a problem would arise if you present a painting and claim that it is a photograph. Do that, and you shift the ‘truth claims’ of your picture from one category into another and you will inevitably judge it unfairly, using the wrong criteria. Taking Genesis as science or history is to do exactly this: taking a sophisticated work of art and talking about it as though it were a photograph. Not even one of those artful photographs that the really gifted are able to take, but a crude photobooth snapshot.

{ 109 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Paul Martin 10.30.07 at 11:48 am

Can’t argue with that, Richard.

Good science and good theology can be in harmoney with one another. In my all too humble opinion, a literalist view of Genesis 1 is not just bad science but is also poor Biblical study.

Seeing Genesis 1 as myth in the proper sense of the term is about taking the Bible seriously.

2

Allan R. Bevere 10.30.07 at 12:59 pm

Richard:

Good post. I have also found that the word “myth” really trips up people on Genesis. I try to avoid the term, but your analogy is quite good, and will use it in the future.

Thanks!

3

Randy 10.30.07 at 1:50 pm

Well done, Richard. I hope you will allow me to use your metaphors.

4

Richard 10.30.07 at 2:09 pm

Thanks, chaps. By all means, help yourself Randy.

5

dh 10.30.07 at 3:46 pm

I don’t believe it is “bad Biblical study” to take a literal view of Genesis 1. Good science and good theology I agree can be in harmony that is why I agree with Scientists who have looked at the Mt. St. Helens fossils that were created in over a decade, Dr. D. David Humphries who has looked into “white holes” and has found that things can appear in the universe older than they actually are, scientists who have looked into the concept of a “worldwide flood” and have found to be plausible in how the strata of the earth is formed which makes the world appear older than it actually is, etc.

Many, many scientists who once believed like you all did have changed to believe like I do in light of the evidence. Many even went out to disprove the literal nature of Genesis and came back changed. To “good science” is subject to interpretation. I’ll end with this “knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,[b] 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God[c] spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21

6

Andy 10.30.07 at 10:55 pm

Curious, if a parable is like a myth? Jesus, seemed to have no problem using parables to describe the kingdom of God.

And another thought would he have held the same views of other rabbis of the first century about the creation story - that is, it was a story not fact about the very important beginnings of creation.

I’m no theologian, but Richard’s description is a very good metaphor for a the truth in Scripture.

7

Bene D 10.31.07 at 8:19 am

Okay Richard riddle me this, given you have science and religion degrees.

Why is this such an issue?
Why all the desperate fighting?

My theory is upswings in evolution/creationism debate is more about social upheaval than sciences and faith.

8

Kim 10.31.07 at 11:06 am

Bingo, BD! The hoo-ha is certainly not about faith and science as we know it, Spock!

9

dh 10.31.07 at 5:10 pm

Social upheavals as opposed to science and Faith? I still see scientists who used to believe in evolution and inlight of the facts believe in creationism. I definitiely wouldn’t call this “not faith as we know it”. Social upheaval? I know Kim and Richardhave mentioned before that Jesus was all about that. It seems to me that Creationism is part of that and therefore part of true faith

10

Joel 11.01.07 at 12:34 am

A few years back I attended a “church growth” seminar in which several questions were asked to determine whether or not one has a “Christian” world view. I was sailing along quite well until maybe the 10th or 11th question, and my view was suddenly “secular.” It seemed to be set up as an “all” or “nothing” test such that my dissent from even one “correct” answer placed me as a secular non-believer.

I think there is something to be said that the evolution debate is something of a side show to the larger matter, which is the church, congregationally and individually is trying to integrate both rapid changes in culture and advances in science and technology with the faith. Some are sincerely struggling while others may view faith more in terms of peoples or views to be excluded. Still others see opportunities to use the “faith” as an entry point to gaining political power or social dominance as opposed to transformation initiated by God.

11

Bene D 11.01.07 at 5:01 am

No DH, not as opposed to.

Nicely said Joel.

12

dh 11.01.07 at 3:50 pm

I don’t believe that believing in a literal creation of Gen 1 as being “social dominance and political power”. I know many people whose lives have been transformed by believing in a literal Genesis 1 creation. I know many scientists who were Evolutionists and in light of the facts changed to not believe those things. There has been more and more science that has made scientists question many of the aspects of science that goes against what Genesis 1 actually says.

My statements should not be construed that I believe that people who believe in Evolution are “not Christians” “Believers” etc. However, I still believe that Creationism is truth.

My 1st post on this entire thread one should reread it goes into specific detail of how Evolutionists are changing and are questioning their anti-literal Genesis 1 belief.

Believing in a literal Genesis 1 is NOT political or social dominance.

13

paul 11.01.07 at 4:24 pm

biblical study ,scientfic study, Social study. I don’t pretend to understand, but pease address your comments to us poor mortals,and not take the the high flying route. Please explain

14

dh 11.01.07 at 5:06 pm

Paul, was your comment referring to myself? If so: What explaination would you like? What explaination are you referring to that is needed? I will be glad to discuss this with you but I need to know where it is needed and some of the details where you need clarification first.

15

Joel 11.01.07 at 5:33 pm

dh,

My point has really nothing to do with whether or not one believes the creation as myth or supports or opposes the theory of evolution. My point is that these are artificial dividing lines for Christians. I don’t see these issues as being at the heart of Christianity. Love of neighbor, sharing the Good News is at times being overwhelmed by disagreement on issues that are at the margins.

16

dh 11.01.07 at 6:06 pm

Well Joel, my discussion on this doesn’t cloud the fact that I “love neighbor, sharing the Good News”. I am just pointing out how many people “cloud the facts” of how the literal Creation story as being factual. I know you wasn’t getting into whether one believes that or not. I just don’t believe the lines are artificial when Scripture is pretty clear when it says “Evening and Morning” for each and every day of Creation. What is “artificial” about that? Also, what is “political, etc.” about reading literally in Genesis when it says specifically “Evening and Morning” were each and every day of creation?

These were the issues that I “took issue” with. I also “take issue” with the “dividing lines being artificial”. It is only for the love of people not to be away from the truth and Sharing the Good News of how God created the world in such a miraculous way as in seven days that I mention these things. The literal truth of God’s Word IS part of the heart of Christianity. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”

17

Joel 11.01.07 at 7:21 pm

dh,

What is artificial is the idea one has to believe that there was an historical Eve who was created from one of Adam’s ribs in order to be considered Christian. I’m not dismissing the differences in opinion, only the elevation of those differences to a height they don’t deserve. I’m not putting down anyone who believes differently.

18

paul 11.01.07 at 7:26 pm

I still believe creation is truth!!!!!!!!! is bishop usher alive and well!

19

dh 11.01.07 at 9:02 pm

It seems to me that if one says they are a Christian which requires belief that Jesus (who was at all times God) died and rose again, that it shouldn’t be a stretch to believe that there was a historical Eve created from one of Adam’s ribs and all of the many other miracles as stated in the Bible. I personally believe ALL of the miracles as stated directly in the Bible.

To me the most miraclulous of all of the miracles in the Bible is Christ’s (being God) birth, death and resurrection. To me all of the other miracles or literal statements are nothing compared with that. So to me, since I believe in Christ’s death and resurrection all of the other things in the Bible are easy to believe literally. Again, I have never said it is needed to be a Christian but I would consider it odd and in the worst case the category that the Apostle Paul addressed to Christians who he stated were Christians but happened to believe “false doctrine”.

Paul, who on earth is bishop usher?

20

Bene D 11.02.07 at 7:19 am

O Lord forgive me, especially my sins of omission - James Ussher

21

dh 11.02.07 at 2:35 pm

I’ll reiterate this I said previously. I believe it is very logical that since we a Christians believe in the most miraculous of all miracles (God being born on earth, death, resurrection and transfiguration into heaven) then why can’t we believe in all of the many other miracles of the Bible? This is what I said previously:

“To me the most miraclulous of all of the miracles in the Bible is Christ’s (being God) birth, death and resurrection. To me all of the other miracles or literal statements are nothing compared with that. So to me, since I believe in Christ’s death and resurrection all of the other things in the Bible are easy to believe literally. Again, I have never said it is needed to be a Christian but I would consider it odd and in the worst case the category that the Apostle Paul addressed to Christians who he stated were Christians but happened to believe “false doctrine”.”

22

paul 11.06.07 at 4:45 pm

Who is Bishop Ussher?(please excuse the typing). The Bishop of Armagh who managed to convince his colleagues that the World was created with all it’s infinte wonder on the 23 October,a monday at 9.00am in the year 4004BC. Remember he preached this in the late 1770s. 2007 do we still believe in the science of the18th century. Can we please thik clearly,

23

dh 11.08.07 at 2:46 pm

Paul, do you believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus?

24

dh 11.08.07 at 3:06 pm

I know scientists who have Phd’s in all of the areas of science who used to believe like you do who don’t in light of the evidence. Claiming it to be “18th century science” doesn’t change the facts.

Dr. D David Humphries, Dr. Ken Ham, Dr. Gary Parker,

However, even more importantly than the science the fact that Scripture says specifically “evening and morning” with regard to each and every day of creation what other choice can there be? We can’t pick and choose what is metaphor and what is not in Scripture. We must take Scripture for what it says.

25

WolfOfChrist 02.07.08 at 6:15 pm

I am a christian, i had a road to Damascus experience and christ appeared to me, since then i have been a christian and heavily involved in my church, i am also doing a diploma in christian theology via correspondence. But the Genesis debate is something i struggle with constantly. And the problem i find is it is hard to openly question it in front of christian peers without them looking at me like i am a heathen, or engaging in a conversation with nothing else in mind but to convince me , i sometimes feel thats ok but are they just convincing me in a biggoted way?
I am not sure where i sit on the issue but i am not comfortable with it at all , i am envious that most christians take Genesis in thier stride , i sometimes think surely they are naive? i can’t see how anyone of even half a degree of intellect can just accept The Adam and eve thing, are they just being blinkered ? or do more christians struggle with the literal concept of Genesis but just not let on?

I would appreciate comments please.

is Adam and eve to be taken literally?

or is it sort of like a parable?

26

DH 02.07.08 at 8:22 pm

WolfofChrist, I respect your heart and attitude. I think it is wonderful that God changed your life with a Damascus experience. That totally encourages me. I will say this with all tenderness and care, just because we struggle with something doesn’t mean that the thing we are stuggling with is not truthful in a literal way. For me, I don’t believe I am naive to believe that Genesis is literal. I however don’t believe you are a heathen. So I’m sorry that other Christians are projecting that attitude toward you. When I read many of the books like “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” and such I understand that there is a logic to believing in the literality of Genesis that is not “naive” or whatever.

So my admonision to you is to not “throw the baby out with the bath water” with regard to a literal understanding of Genesis. There are some wonderful, intelligent, PHd’s in science that happen to believe in literality of Genesis. So as you see there is a balance. We just can’t call these PHd’s in science who believe in a literal understanding of Genesis as being “naive”. When one looks at the evidence and I mean all of the evidence with equal time on each side one and with equal enthusiasm then one can see that a literal understanding of Genesis is not a stretch.

I believe one needs to believe in Adam and Eve literally but I pray that God will bless you and give you wisdom as God will reveal this to you as you strive to serve Him and look to be obedient to what He has for your life. God bless you wolfofchrist. P.S. I pray that God will help you to change you name from “wolf” to “lamb”. :)

27

Diana 02.19.09 at 2:49 am

I have one question for you. it is a little bit irrelavent but biblical anyhow so here it is.
If God created the earth then who or what created God, is there a greater thing that did this?
Because if God had the ability to create something then it (by it I am referring to God) must have had the ability to think and that ability has never been found to exist without beginning and end. Not that I mean to say that God has ended or will necessarily end, I just mean to say that it must have started at some point in time. The only way for God not to have a beginning or and end is for him to be a general existence that is always there and is non-dependant on anything such as time or goodness. Unless in Genesis God is time, because, when I think about it, time is the beginning and the end of everything, everything is dependent on time, without time nothing would just stay as nothing, but time allows everything to have creation does it not? Time allows creation of thought, action and life, without time, if time were to stop right now we would end, everything would end, there would be no more of anything. Everything is dependant on time and if God can actually think then it is dependant on time too. So the question here is if God supposedly created everything in the Universe why was time already there, if it wasn’t for time God wouldn’t be able to do anything not even think. So is God akin to time? Is Time a part of God? Or God a part of Time? After all time allows for everything. Time is the origin of everything, without time to develop nothing not event the earth would exist.

28

Rachel 02.19.09 at 2:17 pm

Diana
Rather than thinking about whether time is a part of God, or vice versa, how about trying out thinking of time as part of God’s creation, where God is not limited to existing within time? Might this help?

29

Kim 02.19.09 at 3:03 pm

Hi Diana,

More specifically, try not to think about these things apart from Jesus Christ, try thinking instead about God’s eternal Word/Son, through whom creation came to be, made temporal flesh in Jesus. If God has eternally decided to be for the world in Jesus of Nazareth - who lived, died, and rose about two thousand years ago - then time cannot be alien to God; indeed time can be seen to be enclosed in and embraced by God. If we keep our eye on Jesus Christ from start to finish, rather than speculate about these things philosophically, we will not mistake God’s eternity for timelessness.

30

Rachel 02.20.09 at 4:33 pm

Thought-provoking answer Kim. And the recent cartoon 657 on asbojesus seems to be making the same point..

31

Brent 03.15.09 at 9:22 pm

I’ve been doing a fair bit of study regarding certain new testament topics that relate to specific portions of the beginning of the book of Genesis. A point that has confronted me is our premature assumptions about interpretation. Quite frankly, I’m not convinced that exegetical standards we use for the bulk of scripture can be applied to the early portions of Genesis. For instance, we can point out specific historical contexts for the rest of scripture, which provide an invaluable tool for responsible interpretation. The early chapters of Genesis, however, are set in a space/time we cannot easily or accurately pinpoint. We can compare to Genesis to other creation stories, and ask the question, ‘Why?’. Through the early books in the bible we interpret the rest of scripture. Through what foundational truth do we interpret Genesis?

32

DH 03.16.09 at 3:45 pm

Well Brent, if we look at the early chapters of Genesis as more literal then that exegetical standard IS not a problem. Hense my response earlier in the discussion.

I really liked Rachels’ response. I might add that God created time. I will add that God is not limited to time but if He says in His word that something happened within a specific period of time then that is the way it happened. When it says “evening and morning” were each of the specific says then it happened that way not because God is limited by time but that God is telling us that is how it happened.

33

NW 09.27.09 at 7:17 pm

Very late to comment, hope it’s alright. I’ve spent some (too much maybe) time arguing about anti-religious attitudes online, and creationism seems to have done a huge amount of damage in terms of letting religion be discredited. Of course, the balancing existence of reasonable religious attitudes such as yours aren’t conveniently unscientific enough to make much of an impression, unfortunately.

I think there may be a hard lesson for Christians to be learned in terms of what Jesus said about keeping others away from him. Maybe we really need to reserve our faith for the things that definitely deserve them.

34

Richard 09.27.09 at 8:10 pm

Very glad of your comment, NW — especially as it is so kind!

35

DH 09.28.09 at 3:36 pm

How can creationism done the damage of letting relion being discredited when it could easily be the other wya around in that science puts limits on God by the foundation of not believing in the miraculous. If as Christians we believe in the miraculous resurrection of Christ then why is it so impossible for people to believe in Creationism when that is just as much miraculous? Why pick and choose? If God says in His Word “evening and morning” were the very days then I don’t see how we can take it any differently than what it says.

To me I see more of science doing the damage to discredit the miraculous of God than the other way around. I will say there is a growing number of Scientists who are recognizing this and have found scientific findings that support Scripture and God’s Word and just because a majority of secular scientists believe a certain way doesn’t mean it is correct.

36

DH 09.28.09 at 3:45 pm

NW said in his site: Claiming the Bible is literally God’s Word is idolatry.” How can he say this when it is not idolatry? We worship God over the Word’s God spoke through the Bible so there is no “idolatry”. If God said something in His Word then we have no choice but to take Him at His Word. If not we are just being disobedient to what He says. Belief in Evolution (ie cross-specie) is founded on the inability to believe in the miraculous. To be honest if a person can’t believe in the miraculous then that is one thing that can prevent people from coming to Faith in Christ. Do we understand fully everything about God? No but we sure can get a pretty good idea 85-90% from God’s Word.

37

Tony Buglass 09.28.09 at 4:08 pm

“Belief in Evolution (ie cross-specie) is founded on the inability to believe in the miraculous.”

Not quite. Evolution may IMPLY a non-miraculous view of the world, but it doesn’t start there. The question of miracle is actually irrelevant to the method.

Science begins by asking a particular set of questions, aimed at explaining the data. The data are key. In the case of evolution, the data led to a particular theory as to how different species arose, which has been further clarified by other data. There is no need to bring in the hypothesis of miracle in order to explain this set of data, any more than we need divine intervention to explain how hydrogen and oxygen combine to make water.

“If as Christians we believe in the miraculous resurrection of Christ then why is it so impossible for people to believe in Creationism when that is just as much miraculous? ”

That’s a false question. I believe in the resurrection of Jesus because the evidence suggests to me that it happened. If the way it happened is therefore defined as miracle, then I believe in miracles. But the evidence for the way the earth appears to have come into existence does not itself suggest a miraculous process - that is a solution which has been imposed upon the evidence, and is unnecessary.

That is why it can be argued that creationism can be said to discredit religion (and here I make a clear distinction between creationism and a doctrine of creation - I do believe that God created the universe, just not the way creationism seeks to explain it). The problem is that the secular world has its own sophisticated way of viewing the world, and swallowing a simple creationism is too big a step. Even if there is validity in the doctrine, it is not the best place to start or even a helpful position to advocate, because it comes across as simple obscurantism.

Simply, if you want to attract people to Christ, that is not the way to do it. Start somewhere else.

38

DH 09.28.09 at 5:27 pm

(read the second paragraph, I really liked your response so don’t focus solely on the first paragraph :) ) However, one cannot deny the evidence of the miraculous of creation within the explaination from Scripture as opposed to the so-called evidence of evolution-cross specie. I don’t consider creation evidence to be “hypothesis” . Just because the secular world sees so-called evidence of the data for evolution doesn’t mean that they are correct or that it is fact. That too is a solution imposed on the evidence and is as well unecessary. To me believing in the resurrection and not believing in creationism makes no sense. They both have evidence to support both and both are both miraculous.

You mentioned “Even if there is validity in the doctrine, it is not the best place to start or even a helpful position to advocate, because it comes across as simple obscurantism. Simply, if you want to attract people to Christ, that is not the way to do it. Start somewhere else.”
I totally agree and I appreciate that, while you may not believe in creationism, you still consider it as being a valid doctrine. However, I will say that if Scripture says “evening and morning” were the days and science says otherwise that doesn’t mean we should accept as true what science says. The fact remains that science has a predisposition against the miraculous. My hypothesis is that if scientists didn’t have this predisposition they wouldn’t be so hasty to reject from the data creationism. I know many an atheistic scientist who over time looked at the data and became a creation scientist. We shouldn’t be so quick to reject outright creation scientists who in am jority came from an atheistic science background.

You say “Evolution may IMPLY a non-miraculous view of the world, but it doesn’t start there. The question of miracle is actually irrelevant to the method.” I think that is the problem of science. It appears that science take an unmentioned conclusion that is implied and tries to find evidence to support that conclusion. They might say or do a good job of hiding this but the underlying fact of being against the miraculous clouds the truth from the evidence they obtain. For every scientist who operates in this way I can find a creation scientist who from that very data has a different conclusion.

39

Tony Buglass 09.28.09 at 8:52 pm

“I don’t consider creation evidence to be “hypothesis” . Just because the secular world sees so-called evidence of the data for evolution doesn’t mean that they are correct or that it is fact.”

Sorry, pal, I don’t think you understand the terms you are using. This is about the basic method of scientific explanation. The initial data are the facts, the evidence, biblical or otherwise. “Hypothesis” means the initial attempt (guess) at explaining that set of data. The hypothesis is then tested against further data - if it all fits, the hypothesis progresses to a theory or working model. If appropriate, further refinement may enable the theory to become a law - which is why the law of gravity can be so termed (tested and confirmed) but evolution can only remain a theory, because it cannot be confirmed by standard experimentation. However, in scientific terms, the initial hypothesis is supported by sufficient evidence - it has not been falsified, which is the basis of all empirical methodology.

“I will say that if Scripture says “evening and morning”…”

You have failed to appreciate the genre of the text, and therefore the style - this is not about literal 24-hour days; the text has a poetic structure.

“…believing in the resurrection and not believing in creationism makes no sense.”

On the contrary. You seem to me to begin from the prior belief in the miraculous, and accept that anything which is described as miraculous is therefore true. I prefer to begin from the evidence, decide from that what is most likely to have happened, and if that is explained by something which we call miracle, fair enough. In this case, having studied the resurrection traditions at great length and depth (that was my M Th thesis), I conclude that no other explanation satisfactorily accounts for all the evidence; it is not enough to explain the stories in terms of bereavement reactions, or grief response, or mythological symbolism - Jesus was raised from the dead. That case stands alone - however, just because I therefore believe in the miraculous, does not mean I have to believe in every miracle which is alleged to have happened. I have heard many reports over the years of miraculous things which were supposed to have happened - on closer examination, they did not; denying them does not mean a general denial of the miraculous, rather a denial of certain events. In the same way, while I am perfectly persuaded of the historicity of the resurrection, and indeed happy to accept the historicity of other miracles of Jesus, I am not thereby bound to accept the claims of a seven-day process of creation just because I accept other miracles. Each case stands or falls on its own merits, and that one simply doesn’t fit the evidence.

“I know many an atheistic scientist who over time looked at the data and became a creation scientist. … For every scientist who operates in this way I can find a creation scientist who from that very data has a different conclusion.”

Hmmm. Well, that’s the sort of unverifiable claim that simply begs me to say “for every creationist you produce I can produce a scientist who is a Christian and does not believe in creationism.” It’s an empty claim, since neither of us can really produce anything more than lists of names. The case has to be argued on its own merits, not tit-for-tat point-scoring. You have already dismissed orthodox scientists on the grounds of their materialist ‘predisposition’ - suppose I say that the position is not a predisposition, but the conclusion of a prior study? So why should I not dismiss your whole argument on the basis of your supernaturalist disposition? Either you argue on a level playing field, or you in your turn bring faith into discredit, on the grounds of defensive obscurantism. Earns no brownie points here!

40

DH 09.29.09 at 2:45 pm

Tony, I know I kind of went down a path of discussion away from the point I was trying to make (even though what I said is great for a start on a discussion between creationism and evolution).

I really wanted to focus on what you said here and it happened to include not a discussion to get you to support creationism but more a discussion as to why I believe in creationism which I will discuss later.

I really liked what you said here:
“You mentioned “Even if there is validity in the doctrine, it is not the best place to start or even a helpful position to advocate, because it comes across as simple obscurantism. Simply, if you want to attract people to Christ, that is not the way to do it. Start somewhere else.”
I totally agree and I appreciate that, while you may not believe in creationism, you still consider it as being a valid doctrine.”

What I find very wonderful within your response is that while you don’t believe in creationism you consider it a “valid doctrine”. I am so glad that you feel that way. The reason I believe in creationism is way beyond the belief in the miraculous and even the belief in the literal Word of God. I believe that much of the evidience is too quickly dismissed in the areas of creation science, evidence which happens to go against evolution, evidence which supports a young universe, etc.

Some of my favorite educators is Lee Stroble, Dr. D James Humphries and Josh McDowell and others. Not to get in a discussion of “lists” that is not the point, but all of these men were ex-supporters of evolution and were highly educated men who saw flaws in the evidence they were reading and believing to the point they could not adhere to the belief in evolution. It seems to me that scientists don’t look at all of the evidence or at the very least come up with great evidence but conclude wrongly from the evidence.

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Tony Buglass 09.29.09 at 9:12 pm

“The reason I believe in creationism is way beyond the belief in the miraculous and even the belief in the literal Word of God. ”

OK, let’s unpack a little further. In the first place, I do NOT believe in the literal Word of God. I’m not sure what that is supposed to mean, or what it is intended to solve - the facts simply militate against it being a useful doctrine. What is the literal word? - a particular translation? The originals? But we don’t have the originals, and most of our manuscripts show significant development, copying errors, etc - so arguing for something to be literally true when we haven’t got it really just compounds the problem.

Secondly, let’s not get carried away, here - what I actually said was “even if there is validity in the doctrine…” I am far from accepting creationism as true - I accept that some accept and believe it, and that’s as far as I will go. I do believe in a doctrine of creation, but that is not the same thing. So I’m glad you appreciate my openness to things I don’t accept, but don’t get too excited!

Thirdly, your reasons for believing in creationism just don’t make sense. You seem to me to be arguing that the belief comes first, and the evidence must be marshalled to fit - and if the evidence doesn’t fit, then the evidence is wrong. That is back-to-front thinking, to me. I begin from the data, the evidence; I attempt to explain it, and I modify that explanation as I uncover more data. That is a scientific approach, and it works.

The miraculous or supernatural is really not an issue, as far as I’m concerned. Yes science generally doesn’t allow for it, but that is because it isn’t part of the scientific enquiry - any more than infra-red or ultra-violet form part of a discussion about visible light. Science has its place, and within its sphere is very clear. Beyond that sphere of application, the rules may change somewhat, but must be consistent with what we know elsewhere, or the whole ball-game turns to nonsense.

So you claim does leave me pondering whether it is sensible or logical, let alone scientific. And questions of creation are not only theological but scientific. You can’t just write it off.

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Tim Chesterton 09.29.09 at 9:34 pm

David Keen has touched on this issue here. I find myself in complete agreement with him, but hesitate to argue the subject, because my experience has been that no one’s mind gets changed. I also fine that so many people who get hot under the collar about creationism aren’t really that interested in responsible stewardship of God’s creation.

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NW 09.30.09 at 9:46 am

@Tim Chesterton, that link seems to be broken unfortunately, sounds interesting though…

@DH: in terms of what the Bible itself says, the Word is God, not any book. Placing the Bible, as valuable as it is, in the place of God, strikes me as idolizing the Bible. It also almost necessarily places one’s own interpretation in God’s place, since reading always brings along one’s own assumptions.

I think an idolizing attitude towards the Bible, in the form of Bibilical literalism, is also what gets people into trouble with distinguishing what should and shouldn’t be read literally, as physical events, as literal but supernatural events, as spiritual events… Whereas we don’t really have to follow any slippery slope down to having to believe everything literally or giving the whole thing up! We can apply reason and determine what we should believe and in what sense. We have to be selective with our faith, at the risk of cheapening it.

(In discussions with “New Atheist” types, that slippery slope argument has come up a lot as an argument against Christianity by the way. “If you believe Jesus was the Son of God, you must also believe .”)

That cheapening is what’s happened with creationism IMO. There are very hostile voices who are very good at making religion look bad, and at using creationism in particular to do so. The question then is, is creationism (and more generally Biblical literalism) really a core belief of the Christian faith? Do we have to defend it, as if it really is representative of our faith? Or should we say, no, this is a very specific, literalistic interpretation of the role of the Bible in our faith, and attacking all of Christianity through it constitutes a Straw Man argument.

Creationism not only provides that easy Straw Man to characterize religion, it can arguably become un-Christian in its attitude to truth and humility. The arguments of creationism and ID are demonstrably untrue (I realize we’ll disagree here, but this is what I think and what a broad public perception is), so that betrays what should be a core principle of Christianity; and how humble is it really to consider one’s specific interpretation of the Bible to be Divine Truth? I don’t mean to be offensive DH, but I really believe creationism presents Christianity in a very bad light and hence keeps people away from what it could offer them.

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Tim Chesterton 09.30.09 at 12:41 pm

NW, I just clicked the link and it worked fine for me. However, here it is in long form:

http://davidkeen.blogspot.com/2009/09/telegraph-fail-on-creation-and.html

Last night I was leading an inquirers’ course at our little church. There were five people present, and all of them without exception found a literal understanding of Genesis 1-3 to be a barrier to an intelligent person considering Christianity (this came up as we were discussing the ‘Bible as a play in six acts’ approach to understanding the big sweep of the biblical story). When I pointed out to them that Genesis 1 is written very much like a hymn with six verses, with similar structure in each verse, and with correspondence between verse 1 &4, 2 & 5, 3 & 6 (’form’ and ‘fulness’) - in other words, it bears all the marks of being a poetic account of creation - the sighs of relief were pretty obvious.

Which if course is not the same as saying that the thing’s a lie. There are many different kinds of truth . Scientists write truth and so do poets, but we’d better not apply the same tools for understanding what they write.

I also find it helpful to note the similarities and differences between the Genesis accounts and the Babylonian creation myths (if, as many scholars believe, Genesis 1 took its final form during the Babylonian captivity, it’s highly likely that there is some sort of relationship), and also the rather major differences between the two creation accounts in Genesis 1 & 2.

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NW 09.30.09 at 1:43 pm

Thanks Tim (the first link actually works here at work too; must have been something about my set up at home). I agree with the article too. It’s so frustrating the discussion has been framed so successfully as science == atheism versus religion == creationism.

It was good to hear how that inquirer’s course went :) I’m reading Karen Armstrong’s The Case for God: What Religion Really Means and she goes into the “mindset” of the creation myths too, as fluid stories expressing various ideas (or political goals, in her version). I’m not really knowledgeable enough to really evaluate her description in terms of history, but there were lots of references to follow up. I think one of the main theses is that literalism is a product of a very specific x-th century Western intellectual trend, but I haven’t got to that part yet.

As I understand it, if you look at Jewish interpretations they’re generally non-literal as well.

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DH 09.30.09 at 3:12 pm

Tim, I DO value God’s creation. I know no one who doesn’t value God’s creation. Being good stewards to God’s creation is 3extremely important. However, we have to prevent laws of unintended consequences when trying to help the environment. Are we going over boasrd helping the environment in such a way that we create more poor people than otherwise? I’m not saying that should limit our responsibility or action but that solving the environmental problem is a multiple constraint thing as opposed to solely one solution.

NW, I’m not idolizing the Bible or placing my view over God’s. When God through His Word says something then it isn’t me but God through His Word saying it. When one adds to it by not allowing for what literally is said in God’s Word then I see that being the problem as opposed to the other way around.

Just because it prevents people from believing doesn’t mean the problem is with Creationism. I know many a person who believe that believing that homosexuality is a sin prevents them from believing in God but I would say strongly that that is “cheapening the faith” by allowing for relativism.

NW, how humble is it that you don’t even consider the truth of Creationism. We can all say this statement toward each other. Also, limiting the belief in miracles also attempts to cheapen the Faith as well. NW, it was the broad public perception at the time of Noah that God wouldn’t destroy the earth by a flood and He did. Faith is not a majority democracy or based on polls but what God’s Word says. Also, I’m NOT placing the Bible over God but looking at what God says in His Word for what it says. There is a HUGE difference and I take extreme issue with you saying that I place the Bible over God when I do NOT do that.

Tim, there is NOT a difference in the creatrion accounts between chapt 1 and 2 because from 1 to 2 or even the third chapters are not always chronological. When one understands that the one understands that chapter 1 is the overview and chapter 2 gives a little more detail. There is no “contradiction”. Also just because a bunch of scholars say it was during the Babylonisn period doesn’t mean that that is the case when Scripture says Moses wrote it. Also remember the Jewish got it wrong about Jesus and got it wrong with regard to the afterlife so why should we look at “non-literal” interpretations. Maybe people need to rethink to themselves why they let themselves from not believing in the Creationism as opposed to attacking Creationism? What is wrong with taking Scripture for what it literally says?

You all need to read “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” by Josh McDowell.

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DH 09.30.09 at 3:17 pm

I take extreme issue with people who suggest indirectly like Tim that intelligent people cannot consider the literal Creation. I know many an intelligent person who are Creationist. Are you saying they are not intelligent? I don’t consider Creationism to be the thing that prevents people from considering Faith in God. I man’s own knowledge to prevent people from considering Faith in God. Scripture says “knowledge puffs up”. A mentor of mine said “Eternity is 12 inches from your head to your heart.”

NW and Tim you both need to read “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” by Josh McDowell.

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Richard 09.30.09 at 3:55 pm

I’ve read it, DH. You don’t want to know what I thought of it. Let’s just say I’m not a fan of Josh McDowell.

But you really do need to read carefully what people have said before you respond. Tim did not say “intelligent people cannot consider the literal Creation”. Clearly, they do. (Speaking for myself, I’d call subscribing to creationism an abrogation of one’s intelligence, but that’s me) What Tim wrote, of the 5 people attending his enquirers’ course, was “…all of them without exception found a literal understanding of Genesis 1-3 to be a barrier to an intelligent person considering Christianity”. I’ve had similar experiences. If you tell people (incidentally, in full agreement with Richard Dawkins!) that faith requires a literalist understanding of the Bible, that is a huge problem for anyone even slightly informed about the science. Or the Bible, since no matter how you try to manipulate it, Genesis 1 & 2 do say different things.

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DH 09.30.09 at 4:34 pm

Richard, I never said they didn’t say different things but they are both referring to the same event one with more detail the other is an overview. There is NO contradiction. That isn’t a manipulation but taking the Scripture at its context not its pre-text. Thomas considered Jesus’s physical resurrection as a abrrier to believing that Jesus was in fact resurrected and yet Jesus said “Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe.”

I think this discussion shows how ones own intelligence can prevent people from considering Christianity. Scripture talks about how “knowledge puffs up” and all about “man’s wisdom”.

P.S. Richard abrogation? come on I would never say that from the other end of the spectrum why believe that here? I understand that happens to be your view but maybe you need to rethink that. It takes intelligence and Faith/faith (respectively for Creationism and evolution) so to say it is an abrogation is an innaccurate observation.

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Tim Chesterton 09.30.09 at 5:14 pm

DH, I have also read Josh MacDowell’s books and found them simplistic and wanting.

As far as Genesis 1 & 2 go, consider that in Genesis 1 the animals are created before the human beings, whereas in Genesis 2 they are created after the man but before the woman. Also, in Genesis 1 the plants and vegetation are created before human beings (on day three), whereas in Genesis 2:4-7 it states quite categorically that ‘in the day’ (note - not six days here, but ‘the day’) when God created the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up… - then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground…’ So, in Genesis 1 the plants and vegetation and animal life set the stage for the coming of humankind, but in Genesis 2 they follow on from it.

And even if we ignore this detail of chronology (which on the face of it is just as literal as your oft-quoted ‘there was evening and there was morning’), if the authors of Genesis had in mind a literal day are we then to assume that on day 6 of creation God created first of all the man, then every single animal, then brought every single animal on earth to the man for him to name them, then put him into a deep sleep and created a woman?

I’m sorry, DH, but any intelligent person can see that if you take them as literal accounts Genesis 1 and 2 contradict each other. I’m not ’suggesting it indirectly’, I’m stating it quite categorically. I’m sorry if you find this insulting, but I agree with Richard that subscribing to creationism is an abrogation of one’s intelligence.

Finally, I take issue with your inference that the Bible says homosexuality is a sin. It does not. The word ‘homosexuality’ is never mentioned in the Bible; in fact, there is no word in the original languages of the bible that directly corresponds to what we now mean when we use the word ‘homosexuality’.

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Richard 09.30.09 at 5:17 pm

No, I don’t think it is. To my mind, a literalist reading of Genesis 1 & 2 flies in the face of both the scientific evidence and the scriptures too.

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DH 09.30.09 at 6:14 pm

http://www.carm.org/bible-difficulties/genesis-deuteronomy/dont-genesis-1-and-2-present-contradictory-creation-accounts

So you see there is no contradiction in that Gen 2 gives a detailed acount of day 6 an overview just like I mentioned.

Here are some extremely detailed info:
http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/513

http://www.josh.org/site/c.ddKDIMNtEqG/b.5140573/k.6EF0/Don8217t_Genesis_1_and_2_contain_contradictory_accounts_of_creation.htm

Tim, I take issue that you don’t see homosexuality as a sin when in fact Romans 1 gives clear definitions of the term without mentioning the term in terms of “exchanging the natural uses” and as well 1 Cor 6 and we could mention other passages I desire to focus on the NT references. To suggest otherwise flies in the face of what Scripture says.

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NW 09.30.09 at 6:29 pm

>> NW, I’m not idolizing the Bible or placing my view over God’s. When God through His Word says something then it isn’t me but God through His Word saying it. When one adds to it by not allowing for what literally is said in God’s Word then I see that being the problem as opposed to the other way around.

But wouldn’t you admit you’re adding a *literalist interpretation* to how you read the Bible?

>>Just because it prevents people from believing doesn’t mean the problem is with Creationism. I know many a person who believe that believing that homosexuality is a sin prevents them from believing in God but I would say strongly that that is “cheapening the faith” by allowing for relativism.

It doesn’t necessarily imply that, but it does make it much worse if creationism / bibilical literalism *isn’t* true, so I think it’s something to keep in mind.

By the way, I notice you used the term “Creationism”. For clarity, when I use the term “creationism” uncapitalized, I’m referring to literalist creationism. Not the general belief in Creation. I think that’s the usual usage, not sure though.

>>NW, how humble is it that you don’t even consider the truth of Creationism. We can all say this statement toward each other. Also, limiting the belief in miracles also attempts to cheapen the Faith as well. NW, it was the broad public perception at the time of Noah that God wouldn’t destroy the earth by a flood and He did. Faith is not a majority democracy or based on polls but what God’s Word says. Also, I’m NOT placing the Bible over God but looking at what God says in His Word for what it says. There is a HUGE difference and I take extreme issue with you saying that I place the Bible over God when I do NOT do that.

Well, first off, for some personal background, I used to be a creationist. At least till my second year at university. At that time I could look out the window and accept a creationist world, and switch back and forth with “seeing” how a billions of years old Earth and evolution had generated the view (which I still consider just as much a creation). I probably utilized every creationist argument out there to support the first view. What eventually changed my mind was a realization that I didn’t believe in the creationist view *for the right reasons*. It was because of social pressure from my religious group, it was out of a habit, it was out of rigidity, it was out of wanting to be “right”, it was out of fear. It wasn’t out of love for God or truth or anything good. There were no fruits of the spirit growing from it. And when I dropped the creationist beliefs, it turned out I still had faith, but one without unnecessary claims and baggage and hypocrisy. Again, a personal, subjective experience, but I’m not dismissing the view without having lived it.

Aside from that, I’m definitely not claiming I’m exceptionally humble as a person, but in terms of how to read the Bible I believe it’s important not to claim to know things that one doesn’t, not to think or pretend one has more knowledge than one does. The humility especially comes in if you say “God says X”, when you’re really saying “my interpretation of this text in the Bible is X”. It elevates an opinion about how to read the Bible to divine truth. Conversely, if you say: I don’t know, but I’ll be as honest as possible and try to follow the truth as best I can; I don’t think that reflects an equivalent lack of humility.

Again, I don’t want to offend or upset you, but I’m not going to lie about what I think of what you believe about these things. All I can try is to disagree as respectfully as possible.

>> Tim, there is NOT a difference in the creatrion accounts between chapt 1 and 2 because from 1 to 2 or even the third chapters are not always chronological. When one understands that the one understands that chapter 1 is the overview and chapter 2 gives a little more detail. There is no “contradiction”. Also just because a bunch of scholars say it was during the Babylonisn period doesn’t mean that that is the case when Scripture says Moses wrote it. Also remember the Jewish got it wrong about Jesus and got it wrong with regard to the afterlife so why should we look at “non-literal” interpretations. Maybe people need to rethink to themselves why they let themselves from not believing in the Creationism as opposed to attacking Creationism? What is wrong with taking Scripture for what it literally says?

What’s wrong with it from a non-creationist perspective is, basically, that the literal interpretation isn’t true, using the best tools we have to determine the facts; and we should care about the truth; hence, we should reject the literalist interpretation.

>>You all need to read “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” by Josh McDowell.

Haven’t read it, but I - although I’m kind of regretting it - just ordered a book about why Anthony Flew rejected atheism. I hadn’t researched it, and it turns out he was inspired by intelligent design arguments, which I don’t have a lot of confidence in; but I’ll give it a shot since it’s coming.

Concerning the “abrogation of intelligence”, for me personally, in my creationist years I applied all the intelligence I had on creationism, but there was a blind spot, a lack of realization of what I was using my mind *for*, or in other words, whether I might be misusing it. It’s not that it makes you a stupid person (my grades were fine), which I’m sure isn’t what Richard meant, it’s more a misappropriation of intelligence than a lack of it. Trying to recall what it was like for me, there was maybe a lack of ability to subject certain fundamental assumptions to critical thought, and those assumptions wrapped / warped all the intelligence around them.

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Tim Chesterton 09.30.09 at 8:28 pm

That link that you gave, DH? I was expecting something a little more than that!

It says Proof that it is not a creative account is found in the fact that animals aren’t even mentioned until after the creation of Adam. Why? Probably because their purpose was designated by Adam. They didn’t need to be mentioned until after Adam was created.

Er - the text doesn’t say they weren’t mentioned until after Adam was created, it says they weren’t created until after he was! Verse 19: ‘So out of the ground the LORD God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air…’ Oh, by the way, according to Genesis 1 the birds of the air were created on day 5 and the animals on day 6…

I repeat that homosexuality - the sexual orientation which prefers the same sex to opposite sex - is not mentioned in the Bible. What is mentioned is certain forms of same-sex sexual activity. Some forms of homosexual or lesbian activity are condemned as sinful, but same-sex attraction itself - which is what most people today mean by the term ‘homosexuality’ - is not.

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DH 09.30.09 at 8:44 pm

NW, with regard to the “idolizing the Bible” I don’t believe I’m adding a literal interpretation but taking God’s Word for what it says. That isn’t me but what God says in His Word. I still can’t believe you believe I’m “idolizing the Bible” when that clearly is not the case. I sense a little “red-herring” in your arguments which I kind of take issue with. I try not in discussion to do that sort of thing to other people. However, Lord knows that sometimes however rarely I do that. Kim? you know that. :)

With regard to my view not being humble I see many a person who agree with you who are not as well. Your statements regarding that assume that people who believe in C/creationism are not humble which I disagree. Just because a person believes strongly that God’s Word says something literally doesn’t mean they are not humble.

You mention this “It was because of social pressure from my religious group, it was out of a habit, it was out of rigidity, it was out of wanting to be “right”, it was out of fear. It wasn’t out of love for God or truth or anything good.” I’m sorry that you had such a bad experience. I think that may be one of the reason there is a growing number of atheists and agnostics and that is not based on the teaching but the WAY something is taught. When we discuss I try not to present C/creationism in the negative light that you have experienced. If I have let me know and we can discuss that further.

You mentioned: “It doesn’t necessarily imply that, but it does make it much worse if creationism / bibilical literalism *isn’t* true, so I think it’s something to keep in mind.” I don’t believe in praxis with regard to my particular view of Creation but lets assume for the sake of discussion. Couldn’t we say the same thing with regard to your particular view as well? Wouldn’t it be worse as well if one teaches the rejection of creationism/biblical literalism when in fact it is in the end true? Something to think about.

I think many a person who don’t believe in C/creationism or Biblical literalism have many overgeneralizations toward these people including myself. We are hypocrits, harsh, rigid or fearful. That is in fact not the case. I know some people within the group I happen to agree with have that attitude but a person who has that attitude doesn’t make their particular view any less wrong. It just gives a bad appearance to the particular view. Analogy: If a child ask a person “What color is the sky?” and person A yelled at the kid “blue” and person B in a kind way said “blue” then many a child would reject person A due to the way the answer was presented even though it is a known fact that the sky is blue. I believe that is analogous as to why many people reject biblical literalism or C/creationism.

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DH 09.30.09 at 8:53 pm

Tim you say “I repeat that homosexuality - the sexual orientation which prefers the same sex to opposite sex - is not mentioned in the Bible. What is mentioned is certain forms of same-sex sexual activity. Some forms of homosexual or lesbian activity are condemned as sinful, but same-sex attraction itself - which is what most people today mean by the term ‘homosexuality’ - is not.”

No amount of reptition doesn’t put aside the clear admonishment in Romans 1 with regard to “natural relations of the man with the woman” and vice versa. I will clarify my position of what I said so you can better understand my position. Homosexual attraction is a temptation and is not a sin. Homosexual ACTION or the acting upon that homosexual attraction IS a sin. Sexual relations is only allowed within marriage and between one man and one woman.

You said “‘So out of the ground the LORD God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air…’ Oh, by the way, according to Genesis 1 the birds of the air were created on day 5 and the animals on day 6…”

Yes Tim you got it right. However, chapter two gives a detailed account of day. None of what you said contradicted this.

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Tim Chesterton 09.30.09 at 9:08 pm

Yes Tim you got it right. However, chapter two gives a detailed account of day. None of what you said contradicted this.

But Genesis 2 says that the animals and birds were created on the same day, after the man but before the woman.

Genesis 1 says that they were created on two separate days, birds on day 5, and animals on day 6, and that the man and the woman were both created after the animals.

Which is right? They can’t both be (if we’re understanding the text literally).

I appreciate your clarification of your position with regard to homosexuality. The blanket statement that ‘homosexuality is a sin’ can cause untold grief to people who hear you saying that because they experience same-sex attraction they are automatically sinful. I think we should be very, very careful about how we use language so as not to cause people to stumble.

However, I note that many gay and lesbian Christians who want to commit themselves to lifelong monogamous unions with each other do not see themselves described in Romans 1:18-32. What they see described there are idolaters who engage in same-sex sexual activity in the context of the temple worship of idols. Romans 1 goes on to talk about these people in these terms: ‘They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious towards parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practise such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practise them’.

Now, DH, tell me, how many gay and lesbian Christians do you know? Are these words true of them? And if these words are not true of them, what does that mean?

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Tony Buglass 09.30.09 at 9:11 pm

“Also just because a bunch of scholars say it was during the Babylonisn period doesn’t mean that that is the case when Scripture says Moses wrote it.”

Oh, dear. “A bunch of scholars”. You diss the vast majority of experts on the language, text and archeology of the OT period like that, and expect us to prefer Josh McDowell? Is this a poker game - I’ll raise your Alt, Hermann and Noth, and bet one McDowell!!

It’s really very simple in principle, if complicated in detail. You are wilfuly ignoring a whole lot of very clever people, who have been studying this stuff for lifetimes, and know it far better than you (or McDowell) ever will. That won’t do - I don’t buy it, I find it short-sighted and arrogant.

Let’s put the basic issue in simple terms for you. The language of Gen.1 is not the same as that of Gen.2. They do not come from the same hand. They do not come from the same period. What you are doing is a bit like someone reading a few pages of “Macbeth”, a few pages of “David Copperfield”, and arguing that the same person wrote both. It simply will not do. What you are doing is beginning with a prior belief in the literal inspiration of the whole Bible, and then attempting to squeeze all the available evidence (ie the text) into that mould. You do it without any knowledge of the original languages, and a sparse knowledge of the history of the period, and you expect to persuade other people that you are right.

I explained above the proper methodology for this kind of process. You may well start from such a view of the Bible (I did). You then subject that interpretation to the facts - language, text, archeology, other hard facts about the Bible. Where the prior belief does not fit the facts, you change the belief; you cannot change the facts. That is what you have so far failed to do, and until you do, your arguments here will persuade no-one. (And we’ve been through the homosexuality debate recently - until you show sign of having listened to the arguments and data we presented there, I’m not going into it again here.)

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Kim 10.01.09 at 6:23 am

I have come to the conclusion that DH is the cunning plan of some ultra-conservative evangelical think (sic) tank to divert the time, otherwise well spent on Christian witness, of good and sensible people like, er, just about everybody else who comments at this blog. There are three possible responses.: (1) consider him a penance, a wall against which you knock your head, responding only briefly (except during Lent); (2) consider him an exercise, a punching bag on which to hone your apologetic uppercuts, responding at length (except on the sabbath); or (3) consider him, dear Christian anglers, the fish you’ll never catch - and cut bait. I now try to stick to the third option, though it’s hard to resist dangling the line now and then. And DH is - apart from his cold-blooded politics - such a nice little carp.

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Tony Buglass 10.01.09 at 1:33 pm

I think I worked out pretty quickly that I’d make little progress in persuading DH. However, this is a public forum, and our debates are read by lots of other folk. I treasure the hope that some of them will be influenced by the conversation.

And it’s a very productive displacement exercise, when I have much more boring things to deal with! :D

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Kim 10.01.09 at 2:06 pm

Good point, Tony, about the “public forum”. I guess if Connexions turned into “The DH Show” people would think they’d tuned into a bonkers God blog. Keep up the spledid work, Hercules, of cleaning DH’s Augean stables! I’ll lend a shovel now and then.

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DH 10.01.09 at 3:26 pm

Tim, thanks for the generous post positive to my clarification. I have had friends at work who happened to be homosexual. I try to operate in such a way of disapprove the action but care for the person. This has been found very positive in my interaction with homosexuals. They knew my view but reciprocated their respect for me as well as I toward them. With regard to the rest of the passage on Romans 1 one must look at this as a progression of sin, sin leading to sin. When one understands that then one can see that verses 18-32 do not embody all of the people who happen to be homosexual. However, I’m sure some people fall into those categories just as some who are not fall into those as well. The passage points out by the use of the definition of homosexuality that it is a sin (remember my clarification) and also pointing out ALL of the many things that seperate us from God. I also don’t believe it pertains solely to people confined to “idol-worship” who practice homosexuality.

Kim and Tony, I would hope you would think of me in a little more positive light and realize that I’m a commited believer. I understand you both thik of me as a “nice little carp”.

Tony, I HAVE listened to the arguments and data and they do not support what Scripture says. You may say that it does but that doesn’t change what Scripture says. You say that I project a view onto Scripture and I would say the same thing with regard to your view on homosexuality. You and maybe even Tim are taking a prior belief that homosexuality is okay and squeeze that prior belief into the mold. I’m not Romans 1 is very clear.

People can listen to a view and the data of the view but that doesn’t mean that it is accurate or right.

Tony, you say this: “The language of Gen.1 is not the same as that of Gen.2. They do not come from the same hand. They do not come from the same period.” That is your opinion. Just because you and others say it doesn’t make it anymore true. I could say that it is arrogant that you believe they are from different hands. I understand that there is a difference but when one reads the explainations from the sites I quoted one can see the clear understanding that one goes from a multiple day format and the other is within one particular day. You also say I ignore a lot of cleaver people and I could say the same thing about with regard to Josh McDowell and others. I find it very argoant of you to say indirectly that many scholars would know more than MCdowell would ever know. Kind of being a hypocrite with the “arrogance” line, Tony. I see your view as being short-sighted. I never called you “arogant” or “short-sighted” I did rebuke many scholars but it is a fact that Truth is not “majority rule” and I get the impression of many that that is the argument they portray and they deny the predispositon going into looking at the so-called facts and even when there are facts on a particular subject they take the predisposition and project that onto their conclusions and then get as many people “peer reviews” to “get on board” so that their view is looked at in a better light thereby attemping to influence or change the “Truth for a lie” like Scripture says.

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Tim Chesterton 10.01.09 at 3:31 pm

DH, you said, I understand that there is a difference but when one reads the explainations from the sites I quoted one can see the clear understanding that one goes from a multiple day format and the other is within one particular day.

I repeat my earlier comment, which you have not answered:

Genesis 2 says that the animals and birds were created on the same day, after the man but before the woman.

Genesis 1 says that they were created on two separate days, birds on day 5, and animals on day 6, and that the man and the woman were both created after the animals.

Which is right? They can’t both be (if we’re understanding the text literally).

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DH 10.01.09 at 3:48 pm

Tim, I stand by what the sites I quoted say and it is as I explained. They explained it better so one may need to reread what all three of the sites say about it. It seems to me the explaination is clear and that Genesis 2 is the detail within a single day. When one looks at “in the day” it can mean period or a specific day the way Gen 2 writes it is not in such a way that there is a contradiction with Gen 1 because Gen 2 is referring to how I explained. So they ARE both literally correct. You are actually projecting a pretext onto Gen 2. When I look at Scripture literally it is not within the context of a pretext.

If we understand the text literally without a pretext then they are both correct literally.

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NW 10.01.09 at 3:58 pm

>> NW, with regard to the “idolizing the Bible” I don’t believe I’m adding a literal interpretation but taking God’s Word for what it says. That isn’t me but what God says in His Word. I still can’t believe you believe I’m “idolizing the Bible” when that clearly is not the case. I sense a little “red-herring” in your arguments which I kind of take issue with.

If there’s a red herring argument involved somewhere I promise it’s not conscious at least. What you describe above is what I mean by idolizing the Bible, except added to that you’re also idolizing *your interpretation of* the Bible. The Bible doesn’t say, Read this text literally. It’s all you. Your interpretation. If you say “This is God’s Word”, but it’s not the divine, absolute Word of God but just your interpretation of the Bible, how is that not idolization? Where’s the distinction between you, DH, your opinion, your assumptions, and the true Word of God? How do you justify refusing to make that distinction?

>> With regard to my view not being humble I see many a person who agree with you who are not as well. Your statements regarding that assume that people who believe in C/creationism are not humble which I disagree. Just because a person believes strongly that God’s Word says something literally doesn’t mean they are not humble.

As I said, I really want to separate the humility of an individual and of a specific belief. You or I or anyone could have humility in very many ways, but still have an implicitly arrogant assumption about a specific subject.

>> You mention this “It was because of social pressure from my religious group, it was out of a habit, it was out of rigidity, it was out of wanting to be “right”, it was out of fear. It wasn’t out of love for God or truth or anything good.” I’m sorry that you had such a bad experience. I think that may be one of the reason there is a growing number of atheists and agnostics and that is not based on the teaching but the WAY something is taught. When we discuss I try not to present C/creationism in the negative light that you have experienced. If I have let me know and we can discuss that further.

Thank you. The point I really wanted to make though is this: I discovered I had no reason to believe in creationism / literalism. I could see no scientific or spiritual truth in it. Therefore I should reject it, right? So I wonder what reason can you provide to believe in those things, i.e. not accepting them as an assumption implicitly?

As for your presentation, to an extent yes, but more that you remind me of me rather than the worst of the “Christians” I encountered. I’ll have to think about it and how to phrase things correctly though.

>>You mentioned: “It doesn’t necessarily imply that, but it does make it much worse if creationism / bibilical literalism *isn’t* true, so I think it’s something to keep in mind.” I don’t believe in praxis with regard to my particular view of Creation but lets assume for the sake of discussion. Couldn’t we say the same thing with regard to your particular view as well? Wouldn’t it be worse as well if one teaches the rejection of creationism/biblical literalism when in fact it is in the end true? Something to think about.

It’s not a symmetrical problem though. As Tim mentioned, and as I think you could see the consequences of the evolution - creationism “wars” are, creationism and literalism really is a barrier for people. *Not* being a literalist doesn’t have an equivalent effect.

>>I think many a person who don’t believe in C/creationism or Biblical literalism have many overgeneralizations toward these people including myself. We are hypocrits, harsh, rigid or fearful. That is in fact not the case. I know some people within the group I happen to agree with have that attitude but a person who has that attitude doesn’t make their particular view any less wrong. It just gives a bad appearance to the particular view. Analogy: If a child ask a person “What color is the sky?” and person A yelled at the kid “blue” and person B in a kind way said “blue” then many a child would reject person A due to the way the answer was presented even though it is a known fact that the sky is blue. I believe that is analogous as to why many people reject biblical literalism or C/creationism.

I really think it’s mostly just because it’s a pretty clearly untrue / unjustified belief in terms of both faith and science. *If* specifically creationists showed really exceptional “fruits of the spirit” it would given me pause even in the face of scientific evidence. That’s not my (limited, of course) experience though.

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Tim Chesterton 10.01.09 at 4:49 pm

DH, one of the sites you reference suggests that the Hebrew of Genesis 2 could be translated ‘had formed’, thus allegedly doing away with the contradiction between Genesis 1 and 2 about the order of creation.

I checked with every Bible translation on my shelf. Close at hand I had the King James Version, Revised Standard Version, New Revised Standard Version, New International Version, Today’s New International Version, New English Bible, Revised English Bible, Good News, English Standard Version, the Message, New Living Translation.

The only two translations following the suggestion of ‘had formed’ were the NIV and TNIV. Even the ESV, produced by a committee of staunch evangelicals, has ‘formed’ with a footnote stating ‘or “had formed”‘ (footnotes denote what the scholars believe to be a less likely translation). All of the other versions without exception have ‘formed’, with no footnote, which therefore indicates the views of the majority of OT translators, even in the conservative evangelical world.

It seems to me that the only possible reason to translate the verb as ‘had formed’ is a desire to force a harmonisation between the two passages. In other words, the small minority of scholars who want to translate it ‘had formed’ are starting with a presupposition that the Bible has no contradictions and are then ironing out any contradictions they see in the text in order to conform to their presupposition.

Funnily enough, this is exactly what you are accusing us of doing. I think the shoe’s on the other foot here!

Finally, I would like to protest the language of at least one of the sites you referenced, which claims that those who see contradictions between Genesis 1 and 2 do not believe that the Bible is inspired by God. This is completely untrue. I certainly believe that the Bible is inspired by God; I simply believe that it is not always inspired history.

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DH 10.01.09 at 5:13 pm

NW, idolizing is placing something OVER God. Nothing I have said implies that. I have always placed God over what I, others, or what God says. We should focus on Him over all else and nothing I have said IS placed over God Himself. So you are totally wrong to say I’m “idolizing the Bible” when I’m not placing the Bible over God Himself. I really take issue with that and wish that part of the discussions was eliminated.

While you may not see Spiritual truth in it doesn’t mean there is no Spiritual truth in it. Just because a person says there is no Spiritual Truth in it doesn’t make it any more less true.

You state “As Tim mentioned, and as I think you could see the consequences of the evolution - creationism “wars” are, creationism and literalism really is a barrier for people. *Not* being a literalist doesn’t have an equivalent effect.” I disagree there ARE equivilent effects. Evolution and non-literalism CAN be a barrier for people as well. You may not see it but that doesn’t mean there is no barrier. I have seen it and others as well.

On the last paragraph: I’m sorry that you have not seen or observed the “fruit of the Spirit” with regard to C/creationist. I think that proves the point of the analogy that I gave. I hope that what you you have observed from what I said shows the “fruit of the Spirit”. If it has not let me know. I’m always want to fine tune my heart and attitude to the Glory of Christ.

With regard to the reasons (I should say I but it can work for you as well) to believe in the creationism/literalism is that I see no Spiritual truth in the opposite. There is a tendency to reject the majority of the miracles in the Bible and I believe that misses the great point of Scripture which includes many miracles. The Spiritual Truth of the omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, etc. of the Trinity and the facts of those aspects of the Trinity onto Christ who was God in flesh in addition is wonderful to me and I hope others. The fact that an all powerful, all knowing God who cares about every single dot, tittle, hair, etc. of everything in the universe and can relate being that Jesus was fully God as well is so wonderful that it makes me “fall on my knees because I’m a man of unclean lips”. Does that make sense? I’msure it doesn’t but at least you can see the “fruit of the Spirit” of what and how I believe. Also, it is hard for me to think of my relationship with God in such a way that I do not take Him at His Word. It seems counterintuitive as a Believer for me to reject what God says specifically in His Word. It seems like man projecting onto the Word as opposed to what it literally says. These are the reasons why I will never accept the non-literal/ noncreationism you have portrayed but I hope what I said here gives you pause and a greater appreciation for the view/s I happen to hold.

I really have enjoyed talking with you NW and I hope I “gave you pause” in the discussion. Again I am so sorry for the “bad experiences” you have had in the past. I hope that I can help put aside the “stereotypes” and at least see the “fruits of the Spirit” in my view/s. I truly want to do more for Christ and really care aboout people to do the same. I’m sure you feel the same way. God bless you NW and may we both strive to more for Christ and be obedient to what He says for His Glory alone. :)

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DH 10.01.09 at 5:18 pm

Tim, just because there is no footnote mentioned doesn’t mean that the translation doesn’t adhere to the view of the footnote. I don’t see it “ball on the other foot” but an understanding of the point that Gen 1 and 2 are in fact consistent with each other. Gen 1 being the “specific days” and “in the day” of Gen 2 refering to a specific day with “had formed” as well.

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NW 10.02.09 at 6:29 am

Hi DH,

Just splitting up the points for overview.

1. Idolatry / interpretations.

I understand that the idolatry part of the discussion is uncomfortable. It’s just such a central part of what I think is wrong with creationism that I feel it needs to be taken along when discussing it. But we can agree to disagree of course. And maybe there’s a better word than idolatry, but I can’t think of one that better expresses what I mean.

I would just like to say, when I say idolatry I don’t mean putting something *above* God, but putting something that isn’t God *in His place*, or treating something as God which actually isn’t God. So very directly, in the sentence:

<> says that the world was literally created in seven days.

from my point of view, you’re put something not-God in God’s place, because what you should be saying is:

<> says that the world was literally created in seven days.

It would already be so different if creationists just said: “I personally don’t see a reason not to take Genesis literally”, instead of claiming that *God says* creationism is true.

I also think we should reserve the term “the Word of God” to the Word of John 1, which doesn’t refer to the Bible but to something much more, the medium of creation even.

2. Barriers to belief.

Could you say some more about ways you’ve seen Christians accepting evolution and non-literalism have kept people away from Christianity? In my experiences it’s almost always been the assumption that Christianity equals creationism that has made people think Christianity is unlikely to contain much of truth or value to them, but there might be some kind of selection bias there.

3. Scientific or spirituals truth in creationism.

It was very interesting to read your take here, thanks. Very many things there do make sense to me, but they do so without having to accept a literal interpretation of Genesis; e.g. the spiritual truths of the Trinity, the Incarnation and a caring, all-knowing, all-powerful God aren’t specifically *creationist* truths. I don’t lose those things by interpreting the creation stories of Genesis to poetically reflect the truth. I think everyone here accepts the message of the creation stories in terms of: the universe came to exist via the Creator’s willed, ordered act. It’s only the details, the form in which the message is conveyed, like the use of days, that non-creationist Christians say we shouldn’t take literally.

I was thinking about this, and it’s interesting to compare the Christian creation stories with the Greek myths, of fundamental chaos, and sex and violence as forming factors. A non-literal reading of Genesis already represents a fundamentally different view of the basis of reality - ordered, pure and willed - despite the physical world we live in (which chaos, sex and violence goes a very long way to explaining). That fits very well with the rest of Christian faith I think: nobody denies the chaos of the world, but we believe there’s a deeper, better reality. Non-literalism applies that same truth to creation: there’s a deeper Order, a truth underlying the chaos, sex and violence. But we don’t deny those things playing a role.

You have a point about miracles. In principle it’s separate from a non-literal belief in Genesis, but we do have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. While I think we can, and have to, use science as one way to see if we should take the creation stories literally, miracles by definition are almost certainly never going to have scientific justification, so that requires a different approach.

4. Obedience.

We share that motivation I think. For me, it starts with out Lord’s first commandment:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

For me personally, a non-literal interpretation of Genesis and a rejection of Biblical literalism are direct consequences of loving God with all my mind. That doesn’t mean I necessarily believe you and other creationists must be disobeying the first commandment: we can only do our best and that could lead us to different conclusions. It does means we have an obligation to be as honest and as logical as possible, and that’s where I believe many - I’m not saying all, or your personally DH - creationists get tempted to sin when trying to justify their beliefs.

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NW 10.02.09 at 6:32 am

Oops, using those HTML-style angled brackets in those example sentences wasn’t a good idea I see. They should read like this:

* God * says that the world was literally created in seven days.

and

*My interpretation of the Bible * says that the world was literally created in seven days.

Sorry about that.

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Tony Buglass 10.02.09 at 8:15 am

DH: “Tony, you say this: “The language of Gen.1 is not the same as that of Gen.2. They do not come from the same hand. They do not come from the same period.” That is your opinion. Just because you and others say it doesn’t make it anymore true. I could say that it is arrogant that you believe they are from different hands.”

Well, you tell me. Which is the more arrogant - for someone who has studied Hebrew, and used biblical languages in the study of the scriptures for over 30 years to come to a considered judgment on the technical issue of language style, or for someone who doesn’t read a word of it to dismiss those who have as arrogant and wrong?

I will say it again - the language and style of Gen.1 is quite, quite different to the language of Gen.2. The differences are not such as will be easily explained by the same person changing emphasis or genre, they are different in ways which occur elsewhere in the texts, and indicate the compiling of texts from different periods in the tradition. I gave you comparable examples from English - I trust that you would not mistake a page of Dickens for a page of Shakespeare? There are similar differences elsewhere in the OT - the differences in some of the Psalms are so marked as to have almost a completely different set of vocabulary. Some of them come from the North, and some from the South - and that for me is less a matter of reading the commentaries than of actually translating them, and having to go and look up so many new words, and then work out why.

You can argue the case as much as you like. You can diss learned people (people who know far more about this than you - is that arrogant or not?) because what they say doesn’t fit your chosen ideology of belief. That will not alter the nature of the evidence against your case - the facts simply do not support your argument. And anyone with half a brain reading his debate will recognise that.

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Richard 10.02.09 at 10:22 am

As, indeed, I do :)

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Tim Chesterton 10.02.09 at 12:56 pm

DH, you said, Tim, just because there is no footnote mentioned doesn’t mean that the translation doesn’t adhere to the view of the footnote.

Er - yes it does - and your assertion to the contrary really makes me wonder about your knowledge of how Bible translators present their work. If Bible translators think there is a significant possibility that a text could be translated in another way, they footnote it.

As I said, of the twelve major translations on my shelves,, only the NIV and TNIV used ‘had formed’. Even the highly conservative evangelical ESV used ‘formed’ with a footnote, indicating what they thought was a less likely reading, ‘had formed’. I’ve since checked the New American Standard Version, the Contemporary English Version, the American Standard Version, the Holman Christian Standard Bible, the New Jerusalem Bible, and the New American Bible. All of them have ‘formed’, without even a footnote. 18 translations, and only two support the view of your website, DH. George Bush was elected on a much smaller majority than that!

Face it - the vast majority of Hebrew scholars think the text should be translated ‘formed’. And so I repeat my question. Genesis 1 says that the birds were created on the fifth day, the other animals on the sixth day, followed by humankind. Genesis 2 says that the man was created first, then the animals and birds, then the woman - all on the same day. They can’t both be literally true. Which is right? And why is there a difference?

I’ll tell you why there’ a difference. Because the authors of Genesis 1 were creating a literary masterpiece, in which the six days of creation were divided into two groups which scholars often call ‘form’ and ‘fulness’. In other words, in days 1 to 3 God creates the forms, and in days 4-6 he fills them. So on day 2 he creates the sky, and on day 5 he fills it with birds. On day 4 he forms the dry land, and on day 6 he fills it with animals and human beings. In other words, the authors, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are consciously creating a work of literature, not a literal scientific account.

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DH 10.02.09 at 4:04 pm

NW, I still think you need to refrain the “idolatry” thing from discussion. Anyone who believes oposite of you could say the same thing about you. I think you need to extract the term from discussion or even thought. You mention: “It would already be so different if creationists just said: “I personally don’t see a reason not to take Genesis literally”, instead of claiming that *God says* creationism is true.” I see nothing wrong and it is not idolatry to say that God in His Word supports creation when light was created first and that Scriptures “evening and morning” were each of the days. So it would be disengenuous for me to believe like you believe. So you see how that isn’t idolatry? I don’t believe God says anything in support of evolution. For you to project onto that or a lack in the belief in miracles could easily be another form of “idolatry” under your logic. You may need to refrain and retract the “idolatry” from discussion in that it can “turn on its head” in such a way that is unproductive and not what God desires of us.

Also, I don’t believe anything in the world or universe is chaos except when man or sin (not that all chaos is sin). We know some scientists adhere to “choas theory” and othjer do not.

The overal theme of Scripture and God’s Word is one of order. With the John 1 statement I agree but the Word of God and the Bible are consistent with each other. If God says something within the context of John 1 it will never contradict what the Bible says. God’s Word and all parts of God’s Word or consistent and accurate with each other. So I CAN refer to the Word of God and its parts which include the Bible as I have discussed witthout reservation contrary to the implications you have mentioned.

With regard to barriers to belief, science promotes as you have acknowledged promotes a lack of belief in miracles taken in the extreme this can prevent one from considering Christianity. Even believing in evolution in the extreme can prevent people from having “Faith that is not seen and yet believe”. So does that help?

Obedience: We are on the same page but one must not deny that people who believe in evolution and non-literal understanding of the Bible are just as easily tempted to sin because the temptation is to reject all miracles just like what you said with regard to creationism in the reverse.

Does this make sense? If you need a little more clarification just ask. Don’t ask with red-herrings, etc. :) (just kidding)

Again Tim, many a translation don’t have many footnotes and a lack of a footnote many times doesn’t mean they disagree with what another translation has as a footnote. Also, I believe both Gen 1 and 2 are both right. It is totally your opinion that the Genesis 1 and 2 accounts were not a literal account. However, my view doesn’t discount your correct observation how the Bible is great literature. However, that is secondary to the point of Scripture which is authoritative and orderly.

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NW 10.02.09 at 7:59 pm

The problem is, DH, the idolatry thing is, to me, maybe the major underlying criticism I have with creationism and literalism, so it’s hard for me to carry on the discussion and leave it out. But again, it’s OK by me to agree to disagree for now. I would like to clarify that I’d not say that every creationist is aware of the serious problem that I believe is there, so I have no reason to think you’re not honestly trying to believe the right thing, just as we non-literalists are.

On the Bible being identifiable with God’s Word, I basically see it in the same way as the prophets: they conveyed a message from God, but were still human, limited and fallible. It would be very wrong to consider a prophet to *be* the Word of God, right? So how can identifying the book containing (among other things of course) what those prophets said with the Word of God be justified? It’s even one step further removed from the Source after all (the Word (Divine) -> Message -> prophet (not Divine) -> written account).

On barriers, ah, I think we’re talking about slightly different kinds of barriers then. I mean beliefs that, because there are Christians who have them, can push people away from Christ. I’d agree that there are other kinds of “barrier” beliefs too.

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Tim Chesterton 10.02.09 at 8:21 pm

Also, I believe both Gen 1 and 2 are both right.

Well, that’s fine, but you have to demonstrate to us how they can both be right, when they contradict each other as far as the order of creation is concerned. And you can’t use the ‘had formed’ translation option as an escape hatch, because the vast majority of OT translators, even in the conservative evangelical world, think it’s a mistranslation. So the onus is still on you to actually show us how they can both be right, instead of constantly asserting over and over again “they don’t contradict, they don’t contradict”.

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DH 10.02.09 at 9:03 pm

Tim, that is your opinion of the vast majority of OT scholars within the conservative evangelical world. Again just because they don’t put a footnote doesn’t mean they disagree with the others which have the footnote. They have never said specifically in the majority within the conservative evangelical world that it is a mistranslation they just don’t have the footnote mention (period). There is a difference. So it seems to me your adding your opinion to something that is solely not having a footnote. You are reading into the observation as opposed to taking the observation alone.

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Tim Chesterton 10.02.09 at 9:14 pm

Hmm. When 16 out of 18 Bible translations say ‘We think this is the way this should be translated’, I call that the vast majority. I think George W. Bush would agree!

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DH 10.02.09 at 9:26 pm

Tim they never sais that that is YOU adding those words. Not having a footnote doesn’t mean they disagree with others having a footnote.

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Tim Chesterton 10.03.09 at 12:18 am

Oh, so what you’re saying is that all these Bible scholars got together and said, “Well, folks, we really think that verse should be translated, “The Lord God had formed the animals, but just to confuse everyone, we’re going to translate it, “The Lord God formed the animals, and we’re not even going to mark our mistranslation with a footnote”?

Come on, DH! Even if these other versions all had ‘had formed’ as an alternative in the footnotes (and not actually in the text) , that would still argue against your view because it would mean that the translators thought this was the least likely option! Surely you can see that? If they thought it was more likely, they would put it in the text!

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Beth 10.04.09 at 5:47 pm

Tim, you are valiant.

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Tim Chesterton 10.04.09 at 8:51 pm

Or foolish…

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DH 10.05.09 at 3:01 pm

“If they thought it was more likely, they would put it in the text!”

Not necessarily Also now your going down a whole other road on the misunderstanding of even a footnote let alone the misunderstanding of a footnote. Just because something is in a footnote doesn’t mean they think it is the “least likely option”. That too is you adding as well.

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Tim Chesterton 10.05.09 at 5:03 pm

OK, DH, please explain to me why, in your world, Bible scholars would decide that a reading they think is the more likely reading would be relegated to a footnote and not put into the text.

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DH 10.05.09 at 7:08 pm

Tim, why are you going down a “red-herring path”? If you don’t understand the purpose of footnotes then you really need to rethink this type of discussion. There are 4 types of reasons. Your understanding is that it detracts from the text. My understanding is that it does not.

Here is the definition:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Footnote

The first reason listed is the reason for the footnote and it doesn’t contradict the text. Your understanding is something else down the line which is secondary or tertiary. Analogous to looking at the definitions of words. Some have multiple definitions and one must first look at the primary before looking at the others. You are the latter.

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DH 10.05.09 at 7:39 pm

I think you are making this discussion go backwards. Maybe we need to rethink the continuation of this discussion. I’m sorry that you seem to have a problem with the omnipotence of God and with the fact that God had a hand in each and every aspect of Creation/

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Tim Chesterton 10.05.09 at 7:47 pm

None of these definitions in Wikipedia address the issue of how Bible translations use footnotes.

There are two main reasons why Bible translations use footnotes. first, if there are differences between manuscripts (because, as you know, the various manuscripts we have for books of the Bible do not always agree), the translators will put what they think is the most likely reading in the text, and then give alternative reading(s) in the footnotes. Second, if there is a question of the correct translation of the original, the translators will put what they believe to be the most likely translation in the text, and if there is another possibility which they believe to be less likely, but still worthy of consideration, they will put it in the footnotes.

This is not my interpretation, DH, this is how Bible translators work.

So here is the situation with regard to Genesis 2:19. Of the eighteen translations I consulted, fifteen translated it as something like ‘So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal…’, and did not consider any other alternative to be likely enough to put it in a footnote. One translation, the ESV, translated the text as ‘formed’, but put ‘or “had formed”‘ in a footnote, which indicates, according to standard practice, that they think it a less likely reading, but worthy of consideration. Two translations, the TNIV and NIV, have ‘had formed’. Thus a very large majority think ‘formed’ to be the correct reading.

This is not a matter of my interpretation - this is what standard Bible translation practice shows to be the scholarly consensus. If you can’t see that, then there is no point in continuing this discussion.

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DH 10.05.09 at 8:17 pm

Bible translations use footnotes for many more reasons than the two you have mentioned here. The Bible is God inspired perfect LITIARY (not screeming)work so the reasons for footnotes are similar to any other use of footnotes in any other litiary work as well. It only makes sense.

http://www.grisda.org/origins/16049.htm
http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2194
https://mail.jaars.org/~bt/agk-paper-gen2.doc

Tim, do you believe that God had a hand in each and every single aspect of Creation or not?

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Tim Chesterton 10.05.09 at 11:36 pm

Tim, do you believe that God had a hand in each and every single aspect of Creation or not?

That’s an insulting question, and has absolutely nothing to do with the discussion between us. The answer is “Of course I do; I’m a Christian”.

Bible translations use footnotes for many more reasons than the two you have mentioned here.

Indeed they do, which is why, if you had read my previous post carefully, you would have noticed that I said, “two main reasons. However, it is quite clear that in the ESV, the footnote at Genesis 2:19 indicates that ‘had formed’ is a possible translation, but not as likely as ‘formed’ (if it had been more likely, they would have put ‘had formed’ in the text).

But this issue of footnotes is a distraction, as only one of the eighteen versions I consulted, the ESV, even uses a footnote. The vast majority of the others have all translated the phrase in question as ‘formed’. The online resources you cite have all devised ingenious ways of getting around the contradictions between Genesis 1 and 2, but in my opinion (and there is a considerable body of of Christian scholarly opinion behind it) these supposed answers are forced and contrived.

To conclude (because I’m going to stop here), I believe that the early chapters of Genesis are divinely inspired poetic / mythical / theological writing, answering the questions of who created the world and why, who human beings are and why they were created, and why there is evil in the world. To read it as literal narrative is to completely misunderstand how this sort of literature (which was common in the ancient world) works. Furthermore it does harm to the credibility of the Christian gospel in the world because it tells educated people that if they can’t swallow a young earth and six day creation they can’t swallow the Christian faith in general.

And now I’m done. I’m afraid I’ve reluctantly come to accept that Kim was right, DH; argument with you is futile, because your mind is completely closed. And I understand how that can be; I also was once more of a fundamentalist, clinging to the security of a supposedly inerrant Bible, resolutely ignoring the troubling contradictions I tried hard not to notice. But gradually, through prayer and study, I changed my mind, and I feel my current opinion is a much more honest acceptance of the Bible as it really is and not as I wish it were. I love the Bible and regard it as authoritative, but my statement of faith is ‘Jesus is Lord’, not ‘the Bible is inerrant’.

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DH 10.06.09 at 3:14 pm

Tim, but if you believe in evolution then how can one say God had a hand in each and every detail? Are you saying God had a hand in each and every detail in having monkeys leading to be humans if one believes in evolution?

You say”However, it is quite clear that in the ESV, the footnote at Genesis 2:19 indicates that ‘had formed’ is a possible translation, but not as likely as ‘formed’ (if it had been more likely, they would have put ‘had formed’ in the text).” There are more than two if one looks at the reasons for footnotes definition I quoted. The footnotes are used to clarify the text NOT to say that there are multiple translations for the word. That is YOUR projection.

With the supposed contradictions it is YOUR opinion that they are contrived. You say I’m closed, couldn’t we say the same things about you regarding your accusation that the authors of the sites I quoted conclusions are “contrived”? It seems to me a double standard to say I’m closed and yet call the authors of the sites to the point of not considering them and then call them “contrived”.

I too believe strongly that Jesus is Lord but also that the Bible is innerent.

91

Richard 10.06.09 at 3:54 pm

You’re going to have to give this one up, DH. Simply put, you’re just wrong about this. If a Bible translator puts an alternative reading in a footnote, it’s because they think it a less likely translation. Otherise it would be in the main text. There’s nothing complicated about it.

92

DH 10.06.09 at 4:02 pm

Richard, you can say I’m wrong but the fact is footnotes are used for multiple reasons and you all are focusing on really only one reason. Clarity of the original text is one reason that you have not addressed that IS legitimate by translators and IS used in this case.

Example: In English there is only one word for snow in the English language in Eskimo there are many many more. (If we use the analogy that English is analogous to the Hebrew used in the OT and Eskimo is analoguous to the English translation of the Bible.) Then it is totally reasonable and not for alternative translation sake that if one looks at the context of the English written in the text to show the accurate form of snow in Exkimo as a footnote. The same goes for here in the Bible.

93

Richard 10.06.09 at 4:10 pm

Of course, DH. It makes perfect sense for a Bible translator to put her clearest translation in a footnote. Absolutely.

Not.

Oh, and the eskimo words for snow thing. It’s an oft-repeated myth. Sorry.

94

tortoise 10.06.09 at 4:46 pm

OK, rather than seeking to generalise from a Wikipedia article on footnotes, let’s have a look at how the ESV compilers themselves explain their use of footnotes:

Types of Textual Footnotes

1. Alternative Translations. Footnotes of this kind provide alternative translations for specific words or phrases when there is a strong possibility that such words or phrases could be translated in another way, such as: “Or keep awake” (see Matt. 26:38); and “Or down payment” (see Eph. 1:14). In such cases, the translation deemed to have the stronger support is in the text while other possible renderings are given in the note. [my emphasis]
2. Explanation of Greek and Hebrew Terms. Notes of this kind relate primarily to the meaning of specific Greek or Hebrew terms…
3. Other Explanatory Notes. Footnotes of this kind provide clarifying information…
4. Technical Translation Notes. Footnotes of this kind indicate how decisions have been made in the translation of difficult Hebrew and Greek passages…

Now, I don’t happen to have a copy of the ESV to hand but Tim C has said (in comment 87 above) that its footnote for Genesis 2.19 reads “or, ‘had formed’”. This means that the footnote is in the ESV’s standard form for their “alternative translations” category outlined above, and therefore that they consider ‘had formed’ to be a less likely translation (even if, apparently alone among Bible translations other than the NIV/TNIV, they consider it ’strongly possible’).

To paraphrase what a certain other commenter here is fond of remarking: That’s not my interpretation, it’s the ESV’s w0rd.

95

DH 10.06.09 at 4:48 pm

It makes clear to put the actual word in the translation and the definition or phrase for the word in the footnote for clarification.

Richard you are missing the point. Replace it with Spanish and reread the analogy and see the point:

http://spanish.about.com/od/spanishvocabulary/a/snow.htm

or Finnish:
http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1201359

Richard, get back to the point of what I wrote and don’t nitpick me. The point is the mainthing and the point is very clear.

96

DH 10.06.09 at 6:14 pm

“they consider ‘had formed’ to be a less likely translation.”
That is still your interpretation.

If one looks at reason #3 or #4 those prove my point and I also find it interesting that there are 2 more reasons regarding the use of footnotes than the number Mr. Tim C. said.

97

tortoise 10.06.09 at 6:46 pm

It is perfectly clear from the ESV’s own explanation from the page that I cited that where the ESV footnote is in the form “Or, ….. “, that means it is the first type of footnote - i.e. “alternative translation” offering in the footnote what they consider a possible but less likely translation.

Read not only the summary I quoted, but the full text of the Footnotes section on the ESV page I linked to (it’s right at the bottom of the page, appropriately enough). You’ll see that they helpfully give examples of the wording they use for the different categories of footnote. The only category for which they use the form “Or, ….” is what they list as #1.

The purpose of a footnote is to clarify, not to confuse (I imagine we can agree on that much, at least) - so why would the ESV translators, having set out so clearly the different categories of footnote and how each distinct category may be recognised, choose in this single instance to confuse matters by deviating from their standard format, making (as you claim) a category #3 or #4 look exactly and solely like a category #1?

98

Richard 10.06.09 at 6:59 pm

DH - on my own blog, I can be as pedantic as I choose to be. But there was more to my point than pedantry: if you’re going to accept a myth like the ‘eskimo words for snow’ thing uncritically, that makes me wonder how much else you’re just repeating uncritically — I mean, without thinking about it. Tortoise has made the point well. I can add no more.

99

Tim Chesterton 10.06.09 at 7:40 pm

If one looks at reason #3 or #4 those prove my point and I also find it interesting that there are 2 more reasons regarding the use of footnotes than the number Mr. Tim C. said.

Arrrrggghhhh!!!!

As I said before, if you will read the post in question carefully (which seems to be a difficult thing for you to do) you will see that I said there were ‘two main reasons…

C.S. Lewis (universally recognised to be quite a conservative Christian writer) has some good thoughts on the issue of what biblical inspiration is and is not; I’ve quoted a few of them on my blog here.

100

DH 10.06.09 at 8:38 pm

Richard, I’m glad you brought my attention to the Eskimo language thing. I DID look at it critically after you mentioned it and I accept what you stated that in Eskimo that there is NOT the multiple words for snow but that really wasn’t the main point. I then mentioned another langauge (Finnish) that better confirms the analogy I was trying to relay.

Tortoise it isn’t to confuse but to help people understand the clarification of the word used. Did you read the analogy that I wrote (albeit with the Finnish language instead of Eskimo as Richard was nice to point out)?

Tortoise copied the post in question and it states 4. So why would one continue to state there is two? Also it says “such as” but that doesn’t mean that it is the case ineach and every case. It seems the usage still falls within $3 or #4.

101

tortoise 10.06.09 at 9:27 pm

DH, I did read what you wrote, and what you linked to. But it’s not an analogy. An analogy is when something is similar or equivalent to what you’re trying to describe.

In Genesis 2.19, what we have is a conundrum over the appropriate tense of a verb (and, to be precise, the significance of a waw-consecutive prefix in the Hebrew). Nobody is disputing the choice of verb: we’re all agreed that the verb is “to form”. The question is, in what tense is that agreed verb being used - perfect/aorist, or pluperfect? In addressing this question, the ESV footnote is in the appropriate form to indicate an alternative but less likely translation to that included in the main text.

That’s very different from your scenario, in which the source of the dilemma is that ‘language A’ has a multitude of different nouns that are all translated by a single noun in ‘language B’. In that scenario, a footnote in would explain the particular meaning of the noun used in the original language, and the footnote would be written in the appropriate form to indicate a clarification of the meaning of a word in the main text.

Also it says “such as” but that doesn’t mean that it is the case ineach and every case

Yes, it does. When the ESV board have been so diligent and specific in setting out their footnote criteria, categories, and crucially the formats that their different types of footnote follow, then yes, it does.

102

Beth 10.07.09 at 10:04 am

That page about Finnish has so many glaring linguistic errors it makes me shudder. And tortoise is right, it isn’t an analogy at all.

103

DH 10.07.09 at 3:53 pm

I say the footnote is the appropriate way to address clarifying information. To me the tense is what is being clarified by the footnote as part of the translation and the analogy

Beth why nitpick the analogy? The point is not what specific language but that whatever language that has multiple words for snow compared to English which has only one is analogous to the discussion we are having regarding the passages being discussed. That is the point and it really doesn’t help the discussion to nitpick AN ANALOGY when the point of the analogy is very clear.

Tortoise I believe they are clear and that there can be multiple reasons for footnotes. It doesn’t say that in each and every case that the reason for the footnote is what you say it is. The footnote is a clarifying footnote.

The analogy is similar to what I’m trying to describe, You just don’t believe what I’m trying to describe which is clouding and is projecting onto your judgement of what I’m saying. Anytime one language has one word to describe something even in terms of tense like you are mentioning and another has multiple words or tenses then a footnote is appropriate and needed for clarifying but that doesn’t mean that it is an alternative translation aka the analogy I gave.

104

NW 10.07.09 at 11:26 pm

Would it maybe be helpful to take the context, especially the previous verse, into consideration as well?

18 ” Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” 19 Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.”

The end of verse 20 implies that they were looking for a helper amongst the animals before Eve was made. Wouldn’t it be strange if verse 19 - God forming the animals - had nothing to do with verse 18 - God saying He _will_ make a helper, not _had made_ a set of potential helpers? Verse 19 wouldn’t fit in the context anymore:

A:
1) I *will make* a helper.
2) Here are animals I *already made* to be searched for potential helpers.
3) But no helper is found amongst the animals.

versus

B:
1) I *will make* a helper.
2) God *makes* the animals as potential helpers.
3) But no helper is found amongst the animals.

In both cases God eventually does make a helper - Eve - but the step from 1 to 2 makes less sense in A. You lose the *literality* of Gen 1 and 2 with B, but I think you gain a more coherent text.

As for the footnotes, I can’t see how you can say “had formed” is a clarification of the tense of “formed” DH. As tortoise says, they’re *different* tenses. They contradict each other. It would be like saying “I am going” could be clarified by “I went”.

105

Stuart Anderson 03.19.10 at 12:01 am

I do not believe that the Bible contradicts itself, and I believe it is Truth, from the first Word in Genesis to the last Word in Revelation. As Jesus is The Word of GOD, it must be true.
Genesis
Chapter 1 says God made the birds on day 5 and the animals on day 6; then He made man & woman.
Chapter 2 says God made man, then the birds and animals; He then brought them to Adam to name

Is it possible Genesis 2:19 should maybe read - So from the ground the LORD God, (having) formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, brought them to Adam…

106

Richard 03.19.10 at 11:55 am

I don’t think the Bible contradicts itself either, Stuart - ‘contradiction’ implies that both the stories you cite are giving a modern historical description of events. But they aren’t. That’s my point. The opening chapters of Genesis are myths, conveying great truth.
But if you insist on them being historical, then they *do* contradict one another. Unless you do distort the text to make it say what you want it to.

107

dh 10.29.10 at 10:55 pm

I can’t believe that you are saying that Stuart is distoring the text when that clearly is not the case. I personally believe A makes sense. I know many who say “Old English” doesn’t makes sense but that doesn’t mean that when one truly reads Old English that it can’t make more sense

108

Tim Chesterton 10.29.10 at 11:24 pm

Are you guys really going to refight this one? You didn’t succeed in convincing each other the last time. What makes you think this time will be different?

109

Kim 10.30.10 at 6:25 am

Still, Tim, some comic relief from the Israel-Palestine shambles.

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