The Credibility of our Christian Faith (by T)

My mind is really churning now as a result of RJS’s “Houston, we still have a problem” posts, and the comments and the linked conversations and speeches, and I imagine I’m not alone.  The issues that are sticking in my mind stem from the argument that Mohler and others have made, namely this: that the credibility of Christianity, or more specifically, of Christian theism, rises and falls on the credibility of Gen. 1-3, or, more importantly, on the credibility of the Grand Narrative of scripture, within which a YEC reading of Gen. 1-3 plays a necessary part. (I’ll briefly add that I thought Mohler kept a very high level of civility, and directness, in his discussion, which I’d like for everyone to imitate here.)  
First, I think a couple of definitions are in order, via the ever-ready Wikipedia: “theism . . . conceives of God as personal, present and active in the governance and organization of the world and the universe.”  It is often contrasted with “Deism” which sees God as “The Supreme Architect” or “Divine Clockmaker” who set the world in motion, but no longer intervenes in the world via either miracles, revelations or otherwise.
As I took in all the arguments I could not help but think of the (contrasting) source of Jesus’ own credibility and that of his disciples and apostles in the first century, and how exactly the people around them were strengthened in theism versus a mono or polytheistic deism.  
I was also thinking was how odd it was that folks were arguing that God’s present and personal activity in the world was completely at stake with the age of the earth debate. That would seem to require an assumption that God’s specific acts in Gen. 1-3, ironically, had far greater evidentiary weight for God’s present activity than his present acts.  Being in both conservative and charismatic circles, I could see how conservative (and largely cessationist) Christians would make that assumption, but this debate brought the “past-ness” of western, conservative theism to the fore.
For examples: 1. How likely is it that the man who has been healed of a deadly tumor or blindness via the prayer of Christians is going to stop being a Theist because of the age of earth debates? And, 2. How likely is it that the “untouchables” who are served and loved by Mother Theresa’s ongoing mission society are going to stop being Theists because of the age of earth debates?
On the personal side, which witness(es) of the Spirit does your tradition favor?  What convinces you most of Christian theism?  Which witness of God do you want to hear or see more often than you do?  Which would most strengthen your own faith that God is personally and presently involved in the world?


What these questions have in common is the ongoing work of the Spirit, through the Church, that testify both to God’s existence, power, and loving agenda.  They would also fall within the “Experience” category of Wesley’s Quadrilateral for theology.  Now I will be among the first to say that the scriptures are also such a witness, and a powerful, special and necessary one at that.  But as RJS mentioned and others seconded, we believe in Jesus because of the Spirit’s work through the Church, present and past of which Scripture is one, and though it may be properly central among them, it is not the only one, not even the only necessary one.  
Would any of us continue to believe the scriptures if we did not see those scriptures embodied at all, today and in Tradition, by the Church?  Or, for the scripturally inclined, the scriptures themselves don’t point to themselves as the only way God gives evidence or testimony or validation of his Son, his goodness, his message or even his messengers.  But the line of argument that acts like scripture is the only leg upon which our theism stands has highlighted to me one of the unforeseen costs, even dangers, of refusing to avail ourselves of all of the witnesses and works of the Spirit.  
It is obvious to me that the people who witness Christ in the Church, past and present, in their Experience, and in Scripture, and apply their Reason to all of them, do not have their theistic faith on the line just because evidence comes out, for instance, showing that the earth does in fact move, contrary to the express and implied teaching of scripture.  Or that the gospels vary on the details of Peter’s denials, or what have you.  Similarly, the person who experiences disappointment in praying for the sick is strengthened by other experiences and by a scriptural narrative that contains similar failures by the 12; and the one in the dark night of the soul can be strengthened by the love of Christ alive and active in others, both alive and long dead, some of whom have similar experience.   And the man who is betrayed by the Church can find other things in his experience, tradition and in scripture, to keep God’s credibility, and their faith, alive and functioning.
How about you? Do you see our favoritism regarding certain witnesses of the Spirit coming out in these debates?
 
On the right: Do you see the current responses from the right as at least partially due to the fact that the practical, modern announcement of the Christian faith by the far right has become an announcement of “Father, Son and Holy Scriptures” instead of the Spirit as the early church did and other branches of the Church did and does?  
Also, if Mohler is right that theism is what is ultimately under attack, wouldn’t pursuit and practice of a more robust and biblical theism, grounded in all four elements of Wesley’s Quadrilateral, be a helpful direction for Christians and churches, for their own faith and the witness they offer the world?  If our concern is truly with theism’s credibility (and not just our take on origins), does more attention to Acts 1-2 and Romans 12 seem more relevant or helpful than Gen. 1-3 and Romans 5 alone?  Would a more robust ecclesiology and/or appreciation for Tradition and even experience help ground our faith on the right?  Finally, is the exegetical maneuvering that Mohler argues is involved with the various old earth interpretations of Gen 1-3 any more extreme than the ones many conservatives have used to discourage or explain away the Spirit’s ongoing use of divine power for healing and prophetic service in today’s mission of the Church despite the overwhelming NT precedent and teaching? 
 
On the left: Are some responses to the origins debate grounded, from the progressive end, in a more deistic faith, or a theistic faith that devalues scripture vs. the other witnesses? 
 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • phil_style

    T (& Scott, RJS),
    This seems to me to be somewhat of a seminal blog post! I think the questions of this post are where the debate on this blog, and many others, has been heading for a number of years now.
    I’m not going to venture any answers though. But I will offer one observation:
    There still seems to be a different perspective on these issues on either side of the atlantic. Here in the UK/Europe, where (perhaps unsurprisingly) Wesley formulated the quadralateral, the primacy of Gen 1-3 is not as noticeable as is appears to be with our cross atlantic neighbours.
    CAPTCHA: arrivals ban –>> Sounds like the threat of excommunication to me… ;)

  • http://www.Mannsword.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

    Scot,
    Thanks for your set of questions – important and foundational ones!
    You minimize the centrality of Scripture suggesting that believers “do not have their theistic faith on the line just because evidence comes out, for instance, showing that the earth does in fact move, contrary to the express and implied teaching of scripture.”
    Admittedly, all thinking Christians experience some tension when their understanding of Scripture is contradicted. However, we assure ourselves that although we can’t reconcile the discordant elements, they do not necessarily spell out “contradiction.” I think that we can endure a certain amount of this tension, but the addition of more unresolved doubts and paradoxes eventually demand paradigm shift. Some of the parts have to be compromised if we are to continue to live with the Biblical faith.
    I’m all in favor of the witness of the Spirit. The problem arises when I try to understand what exactly He is witnessing about, apart from the use of TRUSTWORTHY Scripture. Sadly, the theistic evolutionist has not only rendered the Bible uncertain through his compromise with Darwin, he has also muddied the Spirit’s witness through this same compromise.

  • RJS

    Daniel,
    This post was written by T – a frequent commenter and occasional guest poster. It is written from his perspective and is part of an ongoing conversation.
    I disagree with your cast of the generic “theistic evolutionist” as rendering the Bible uncertain and muddling the Spirit’s witness. In fact what many of us – even most of us – are trying to do is to be faithful to scripture as trustworthy and reliable, while wrestling with the nature of faith as Christians have always done. The witness of the Spirit will be consistent with scripture as we have scripture through the work of the Spirit in the early church. But it will not be locked to some specific interpretation arising out of wrestling with the witness in the context of time and place.
    But I think T is dead on with his emphasis on the present work of the Spirit in the church.

  • Edward Vos

    Two books are worth mentioning here in this debate. 1) The Forth Day by Howard Van Till, 2nd Origins A Reformed Look at Creation, Design & Evolution. by Deborah B. Haarsma & Loren D Haarsma. Both books explore the scriptures well and help blend the notion that science is also part of God’s written text.
    Like Architects know how to read blue prints scientist know how to read the blue prints of life and the world God created for us. By reading the blue print of creation scientist gain a better understanding of how things work and were created. However, science can never answer or explain the purpose of creation. Asking a scientist who created the world is not a problem they can solve. Asking a scientist how something works or what is the cause or effect of things that happen in the natural world that they can answer. We need to start understanding that science is also a gift from God that allows us to see HIs handy work. The fact that scripture is not a science book is not for us to answer. God choses to reveal Himself to us in many ways, through scripture, science, people, and the Holy Spirit.

  • Dan

    I was a grumpy conservative in the last exchange, so I’ll make two objectvie clarifications.
    The question is framed in terms of the age of the earth, but I do not think that is the point conservatives are concerned with. T writes: “How likely is it that the man who has been healed of a deadly tumor or blindness via the prayer of Christians is going to stop being a Theist because of the age of earth debates?”
    The age of the earth is of importance to YEC only because it is associated with long ages of death before the fall of man. Some YEC apologists have suggested a number of resolutions to that problem, from different rates for the speed of light to the appearance of age to gravity/time dilation to even a “perspective” approach where the six days are refer to how creation appeared from the vantage point of earth allowing for long ages for the cosmos to form, but still avoiding death before the fall. My own view does not demand a 6000 year age nor a 24-hour day.
    The issue really isn’t age – it is the question of evil. If I could rephrase the question: “How likely is it that the man who has been healed of a deadly tumor or blindness via the prayer of Christians is going to stop being a Theist because he comes to believe evil, death, tumors and blindness are part of God’s design and not the result of sin?”
    The question is similar to the central implication of the Calvinist/Arminian debate. Is God the author of suffering and death?
    The second question almost equal is “How likely is it that a man who trusts the reliability of the apostolic testimony about the resurrection and virgin birth will lose his confidence in that testimony by becoming convinced Paul, Peter and Jesus were factually wrong about the historicity of Adam and the relationship between sin and death.”
    The age of the earth is a non-essential in that it is not a doctrine that affects salvation or our understanding of the nature of God. The question of evil is directly related to the nature of God and the meaning of redemption. The reliability of the apostolic witness also is important because a major argument in Paul’s theology is based on the relationship between sin and death, and if he is wrong on this point it necessarily erodes confidence in the reliability of the rest of the New Testament witness. If Paul is wrong about the problem, can he be right about the solution?
    If this discussion focuses on those issues rather than the age issue, it will be more informative and productive.

  • RJS

    Dan,
    You get to the heart of a key issue here. But in thinking about this we also have to get back to Satan and the role of the serpent in the Genesis story.
    Is it a consistent reading of scripture to suggest that evil enters with the sin of Adam? Evil is not of God – but it also predates Adam.
    Doesn’t this suggest that we need to think a bit harder when we think about Paul’s reference to the sin of Adam and to redemption?

  • http://mysticallimpet.blogspot.com Travis Greene

    Great post, great questions. I think the primary evidence for Christian credibility is love. If a person experiences the authentic love of God through the church community (and still more if that person experiences God’s gracious love through some healing or spiritual experience), I don’t see why they would be bothered by age of the earth debates, unless we have set things up so that they will be.
    I think trying to convince people they have to become YEC to be Christian is the same as arguing the Gentiles had to become Jewish to be Christian, and would be the same missional disaster.

  • http://thesometimespreacher.blogspot.com Andy Holt

    T, you probably see this as much as I do in your church circles. But what I’ve found is that conservative evangelicals (of which I am one, despite my particular understanding of Gen. 1) tend to give, at best, respect to experience, tradition, and reason; but they revere Scripture. The Bible is the measuring rod against which all else is compared. The four quadrants of the quadrilateral are by no means the same size.
    I think this is because, of the four, the Bible is the only fixed point, and the only one of divine origins. Personal experience is subjective. The humans who participated in our tradition were fallen and sinful. And reason is limited. Scripture is the only one of the four that is fully reliable and trustworthy. So everything else must be submitted to Scripture. Thus, the witness of the Spirit through the Bible is given preeminence, while the others are met with skepticism.
    Interpreting Genesis 1, then, becomes less an act of exegesis and more an act of spiritual warfare. Anything that sets itself up against the Bible must be destroyed. (Again, I’m trying my best to represent the YEC mindset, not necessarily my own perspective.) This is why there is such passion on the YEC side. Anyone who takes another position on Genesis 1 is a spineless compromiser who is surrendering to the enemy because they are surrendering the ground of the preeminence of Scripture. And when you give up that ground, it’s a short walk to losing the resurrection.
    As a former YEC guy, I’ve had to shift my pursuit from the defense of Scripture to the understanding of Scripture. In other words, I’ve had to learn what it means to pursue true and sound exegesis regardless of what or how a hostile culture is attacking the Bible. Attacks on Scripture should not influence my understanding of Scripture. I believe the Bible is strong enough to take care of itself, and that if I pursue true and sound exegesis, I’ll find bigger and better answers (and truth, and theology, etc.) than I ever could if I came to it looking for ammunition to wage war against Darwinism.

  • T

    Daniel,
    Your thrust (first comment) seems to be that any reading of Gen 1-3 other than YEC makes scripture untrustworthy, while other issues merely add “tension” without requiring a “paradigm shift.” But the finding that the earth did not move did require a paradigm shift for how we understand the universe and our world and for how we view those scriptures that clearly declare that the earth does not move. Everything you say of TE could be (and was) said regarding heliocentric theories.
    But Daniel, that’s not really the subject of this post. I’d be curious to hear your responses to the questions posed to folks “on the right” or some of the other questions. I agree that the subject of the source of evil is big, but as you mention regarding the Cal./Arm debate, it is within Christianity. But more to my point, I don’t really see how it should dominate the question of whether we’re theists or deists. The question of God’s present activity in the world isn’t really at stake with those issues. This is a post trying to look at how we arrive at, support and practice our belief that God is active in the world right now.

  • J.L. Schafer

    “…folks were arguing that God’s present and personal activity in the world was completely at stake with the age of the earth debate.”
    I think — or hope — that this accurately characterizes only a small minority in the evangelical world today. Perhaps that minority is over-represented in positions of leadership and influence. But it is an extreme position that is odds with the way the gospel was proclaimed in the early church.
    The early church staked its beliefs on the historical events of the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. This message came to them through the firsthand witness of the spostles, and through their shared experience of the reign of the risen Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit among them. As decades passed, these things were written down in Scripture, and Scripture became the primary means of connecting us to the apostolic witness. But I don’t think the basic principle has changed at all. When Jesus ascended to heaven, he didn’t leave us with a book. He left us with living, Spirit-filled persons who would testify about him: “You will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8) Scripture is extremely important. I believe that it is authoritative. But the proclamation of the gospel has always rested on apostolic witness and testimony of the Holy Spirit in multiple forms. When false teachings arose near the end of the first century, the apostle John urged believers to go back to that witness to renew and reaffirm their faith (1 John chapter 2).

  • http://faithandfood.morizot.net/ Scott Morizot

    Andy, I’m curious. How can people believe the Scripture is divine in origin, read it, and not believe that the church is also divine in origin? In fact, the foundation of the church, by any measure, precedes both the writing of NT scripture and its recognition by the church as “scripture”. Both are the product of a synergy between God and man, but the references to God forming, founding, sustaining, etc. the church in the NT texts are everywhere. Moreover, if reason is limited (which it is) then by necessity our individual interpretations of scripture will be limited.
    I’ve been in a church that is significantly more YEC than not my entire time as a christian, but I still don’t really understand the mindset behind it and whatever it is, it’s never been mine. So I always feel like I don’t have much to contribute in these sorts of discussions. I don’t sufficiently grasp why people feel the need to see reality through a YEC lens to say things that help the discussion along. When I try, I find it doesn’t usually help. But I am curious about the above from your comment. Thanks.

  • J.L. Schafer

    One more thought. About the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.
    Could it be that, when people place extreme weight on one of the four legs, it is a sign that the other legs have become too weak and wobbly?
    Post-Enlightenment western Christianity, with its emphasis on propositional truth, seems to hunger for an inerrant, infallible text, and anything short of this is seen as a dangerous erosion of the faith. But the modernist, evangelical, western wing of Christianity has greatly devalued the experiential and mystical elements of the faith which are still very important to Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and non-Western Protestant believers. Recovering a healthy respect for mystery, and fresh experience of the Holy Spirit working in the Church, might diminish that hunger for an inerrant, infallible text.

  • http://thesometimespreacher.blogspot.com/ Andy Holt

    Scott, that’s a great question that I’ve observed, too. Maybe the answer is in the mechanism of divine inspiration, but I’m just speculating. What did divine inspiration actually look like when these people wrote their contributions to the canon? Did they go into a trance? Did God overshadow them the way he overshadowed Mary? Did God control the physical movement of their hands as they wrote? Were the authors even conscious that they were writing God’s words?
    However it worked, I think many people draw a distinction between the divine inspiration of Scripture and whatever and however the Church came to be and is. The Bible came down from God, but the Church is being raised up to God. (Though, depending on how you read Rev. 21&22, the Church may also be “coming down” from God.) But you’re right to point out that this seems to be an inconsistency in thinking.

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    Good post, T.
    Scripture does have to have pride of place in that quadrilateral. Yet tradition, reason and experience I take as all necessary elements flowing from or as a circle with it through the Spirit.
    I have been in a Vineyard church in the past, a good experience for me. But I think how we look at the text, and this debate on origins related to that does end up mattering. I have become convinced that the best exegesis of Genesis 1-3 (and I like the point yesterday over comparing it with Revelation) as well as the best grappling with general revelation in the endeavor of science, do not support a YEC interpretation (although a brother-in-law influenced by Ken Ham and that group is strongly encouraging me to reconsider).
    Unfortunately young people have lost their faith over this, so I consider this a most serious matter indeed, and am glad for posts like this, and what RJS does on this blog, for BioLogos, etc.
    In the end we do have to get back to Scripture, because our understanding (whatever that might be) of tradition, etc., actually is dependent on what we understand of the witness of Scripture by the Spirit. But we do so understanding that tradition is part of the circle, that what the church has thought on this over the centuries does matter, and must be weighed in the balance. But that in the end the church has to keep coming back to Scripture as God’s witness by the Spirit, and nothing less than that.
    I will admit though that maybe in a church in which experience is emphasized as in healings, etc., that perhaps Christians will be more convinced of the validity and trustworthiness of the word, in spite of questions. But that should encourage such to search out the matter themselves along with others.

  • Paul Bruggink

    Re your “Do you see the current responses from the right as at least partially due to the fact that the practical, modern announcement of the Christian faith by the far right has become an announcement of “Father, Son and Holy Scriptures” instead of the Spirit as the early church did and other branches of the Church did and does?”
    John MacArthur’s recent blog posts supporting his interpretation of Gen. 1-11 are certainly an example of the above approach. In the PDF file referenced in his blog http://www.gty.org/Blog/B100713
    he refers to “the erosion of belief in Genesis among the Christian colleges in the national Christian College association” as “tacitly denying the authority of God’s Word”, “deliberately fudging on their interpretation of Genesis”, “abandoning the biblical account of creation”, “choosing to treat scientific theory as a higher authority than the plain treaching of Scripture”, “bending the rules of interpretation and playing games with the meaning of the text”, and “abandonment of the most important aspect of faith in the Bible–the conviction that Scripture is God’s Word and that it’s the ultimate, inviolable authority over every thought or theory of the human mind.”
    His “faith in the Bible” sounds to me like a bad case of bibliolatry.

  • Kenny Johnson

    So this summer our church is doing a “theology lounge,” and we’re covering the metanarative of the Bible in 6 Acts using the book, “The Drama of Scripture.” Last night we covered Acts 1 and 2: Creation and Fall. So because we were spending time in Genesis, the topic of interpretation, age of the earth, and evolution came up. We’re an Evangelical church, influenced by the emerging church movement, and part of the Evangelical Covenant Denom. For the most part, we’re a creedal church that also respects scriptures as having “authority.”
    I think some here would have been pleasantly surprised by the tone and civility in discussing these issues. First, our teaching pastor was leading the discussion and he told us that he believes Genesis 1 is a poetic genre and that its message is meant to be more theological than giving a historic chronology. I didn’t sense any discomfort from anyone. That surprised me… Who knows if he got any hate mail though. :)
    Second, evolution did come up and the pastor did say that he’s not convinced by it, but he said that scripture is not what makes him reject it. I believe him. Someone else did mention that they specifically reject evolution because of how they reconcile evolution with death occurring before the Fall. This does seem to be one of the major obstacles for people accepting an old earth or evolution. I understand that hesitation, but I’m beginning to feel comfortable with the tension. I have my own intellectual doubts about evolution (mostly as a sufficient naturalistic mechanism, not a theological one), but I think that as more theologians begin to work out the tension of the death and fall narratives in scripture, people will be less hesitant to believe that OE or evolution is a threat to scripture or orthodoxy.

  • Kenny Johnson

    Oh and I did refer people to check out Biologos (even though I have my own doubts about TE) for those who are wrestling with this issue, and my pastor seemed to also encourage the referral despite his own objections to evolution as a scientific theory.

  • Kenny Johnson

    I wonder if “plain reading of scripture” has more authority than scripture for JM? It seems like interpretation is also trumping the word itself.

  • Ben Wheaton

    J.L. Schafer,
    In your first post you stated that the early church did not have the Scriptures, but rather relied upon the apostolic witness and the work of the Spirit to confirm their beliefs. But this is not true; they did have the Scriptures, in the form of the Old Testament. Indeed, reading the New Testament gives a glimpse of how deeply entwined the authority of the Old Testament was in their confirmation of their beliefs. After all, Jesus’ rising from the dead meant nothing if it was not “according to the Scriptures.” And on the Emmaus road, Jesus explained to the two disciples whom he met there how they should have believed in him and understood the nature of his death from their reading of the Scriptures.
    I echo wholeheartedly Ted Gossard’s statement:
    “In the end we do have to get back to Scripture, because our understanding (whatever that might be) of tradition, etc., actually is dependent on what we understand of the witness of Scripture by the Spirit. But we do so understanding that tradition is part of the circle, that what the church has thought on this over the centuries does matter, and must be weighed in the balance. But that in the end the church has to keep coming back to Scripture as God’s witness by the Spirit, and nothing less than that.”

  • Paul Bruggink

    Kenny Johnson,
    You and your church are very fortunate to have a very good teaching pastor. If more pastors were like him, this whole issue of YEC vs. OEC vs. EC (TE) could eventually fall into the same category as Calvinism vs. Arminianism or the various views on the end times: something Christians agree to disagree on while acknowledging that there are alternative Christian views and that there just might be more than one way to interpret Scripture.

  • Dan

    RJS wrote: “But in thinking about this we also have to get back to Satan and the role of the serpent in the Genesis story.
    Is it a consistent reading of scripture to suggest that evil enters with the sin of Adam? Evil is not of God – but it also predates Adam.”
    No on doubts that Satan was in the Garden. How some have addressed the chronology of Lucifer’s fall and it’s effects on the cosmos prior to Genesis 3 is an open question.
    But how do you reconcile the role of the serpent with the Genesis story and the existence of evil? The Biologos site states: “The mechanisms that God used to create humans — like the misspelling of a gene during cell replication — can also produce pain and suffering — if that misspelling leads to cancer.”
    To be fair, the same article suggests a role of “freedom” in the presence of evil in the cosmos, but that only seems to suggest that genes are somehow free agents. Evil, in the Biologos view, clearly predated any free will choice of any rational being, so the conclusion has to remain that the gene mispellings, the predatory weeding out of the unfit, the mass extinctions of whole species, are part of God’s process of creation.
    The question is, how do you reconcile God’s character with this method? Surely you are not suggesting Lucifer is responsible for gene mispellings and natural disasters?
    My original point remains. The central issue in this debate is the origin of evil and that question can and does legitimately lead to a crisis of faith where as the age of the earth does not.

  • J.L. Schafer

    Ben, thank you for that helpful clarification. Yes, the early church had the OT Scriptures. But if they handled those Scriptures in the traditional ways, or tried to get back to original intent, they would never have seen Christ in them. On the day of Pentecost, Peter proclaimed that Psalms 16 and 110 were really about Jesus Christ. That was an outrageously radical reinterpretation, made possible by the historical events he had seen and the fresh inspiration of the Spirit in him. And the fact that 3,000 Jews found that reinterpretation convincing was a response to the powerful inner witness of the Spirit. By itself, the OT Scripture does not provide sufficient witness to reveal the fullness of the gospel. But it is a necessary part of the puzzle, for sure.

  • Jim

    I saw a video on youtube where William Lane Craig is asked how old the earth is, and Craig responds with the standard scientific answer of some billions of years old. Craig makes the point that, in fact, there is no Biblical teaching on how old the earth is, just as there is no Biblical teaching on the Periodic Table of the Elements. In order to come up with such a teaching one has to infer that teaching, one has to interpret Genesis to come to that conclusion.
    I have been baffled for many years as to why so many Christians have aligned themselves with anti-scientific teaching for which, in my opinion, there is no credible Biblical basis. Again, there is no teaching in the Bible about the Periodic Table of the Elements, but we don’t find Christians on a charge to “defeat” the teaching of the Periodic Table. I think that Christians who attack the scientific teachings regarding evolution and the age of the earth, and how the earth evolved in the world and cosmos, are just as misguided as if they took on the Periodic Table.
    One of the reasons I am so baffled about this is that I have found scholarship on the New Testament among these same groups to be exemplary, far exceeding in its standards and thoroughness what one finds in most popular works on the subject, or even what one finds in secular institutions. Yet when it comes to science (to Darwin and the age of the earth and the cosmos) the high standards of scholarship are simply abandoned. The result is that Christianity has gotten a really bad name among the scientifically educated.
    Fortunately there are millions of Jews and Christians who have zero problem both accepting the beauty of Genesis and the teachings of science. My hope is that this acceptance of science and its results will increase.
    Jim

  • http://thesometimespreacher.blogspot.com/ Andy Holt

    Jim,
    do you have that link handy? I would love to have that. Thanks.

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    It is interesting how YEC has answers for everything, including the dating of rocks, stars appearing to be millions of light years away, etc., etc., all sounding quite plausible to many intelligent people. And if acknowledging they may not be foolproof on their answers, resorting to their interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 (as straightforward literal history). So that YEC unabashedly arrives at their “science” from the perspective that it can never contradict this reading of Genesis (and their understanding of the flood in their reading is huge in their eyes as well in regard to this entire debate).
    While I think a proper exegesis of Genesis 1 and 2 alone taking into account its Ancient Near East origins does not go along with such a reading, so that the door is indeed left open to a different understanding of origins.
    I press this, because experience has to be grounded in something more than itself. While at the same time, as a recent commenter points out here, is dependent as well in the witness of the Spirit given to God’s people/the church. Meant to be lived out within this larger Story.

  • Kenny Johnson

    @Jim #23,
    I think the problem people have is that they can’t find comfort in the tension. to use myself as an example, there was a time where I needed to fit scripture into a tight little box where I could understand and explain everything. If something challenged that, it was very unwelcome on my part. So for example, because some feel that their theology requires that physical death is a result of sin, they can’t accept anything that would challenge that assumption. Generally speaking, and old earth and evolution in particular challenge this view.
    So now if death did occur before the fall then questions about the origin of evil, for example, are left unanswered — or at least not satisfactorily answered. I think for many, this tension is just too uncomfortable to bear.
    While I’ve never struggled with reconciling those two ideas before, I have been uneasy with other sources of tension. I’m learning to find comfort in the tension instead of always battling it.

  • Kenny Johnson

    William Lane Craig on The Age of the Earth:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyOZRMIe768

  • Justin Topp

    T,
    Great post!
    I love the word credibility in the title. I am really at a point where I think apologetics is for within the flock and credibility is for outside the flock. There is no air-tight apologetic anymore. We have to wrestle through what our experience, science, and other disciplines tell us about the world around us. And us, ourselves.
    You mentioned deism early in your post. I tend to think that those (myself included) who focus on these core issues/problems of the faith run the risk of being closet deists. We spend so much time focusing on how to understand and explain what God has done and written in the Bible. We absolutely need to augment it with a personal and communal faith that is vibrant and focused on relationship with God in the now. After all, that’s what separates theism from deism, right?
    Thanks again for the post.
    scienceandtheology.wordpress.com

  • T

    J.L.(12), Yes! And I agree, too, with Ted and others that try to put more weight on scripture than on tradition, experience or reason. BUT, can our focus on the scriptures, relative to tradition, reason and experience, be too great? Certainly the argument that origins issues put our belief in theism itself (that God acts at all in our world) on the line is indicative of some kind of ignorance, willful or otherwise, of God’s other witnesses of his actions via the Spirit and the Church?
    Scripture as primary in the quadrilateral produces and supports a strong faith in God. Scripture as the only witness seems not to do so, if Mohler is right that our theism has no basis apart from YEC. He seems to speak from perspective that, by definition, puts no reliance on the witness from the Spirit in experience or tradition.
    And, where is the concern for theism and for exegetical costs when it comes to cessationism, which thankfully, has been increasingly softened in conservative camps? Cessationism seems far more directly related to whether we are theists v. deists, AND, all the decent “conservative” exegetical arguments are on the side of practicing the Spirit’s gifts. Why is theism on the line with YEC, but not the entire thrust of the NT for practicing the gifts?
    captcha: aliens how

  • Daniel Mann

    RJS (and T),
    Thanks for your correction regarding the authorship.
    I have dialogued with many TEs, especially at BioLogos and I think I can make certain generalizations, even if they don’t fit every case:
    1. TEs claim that the Bible isn’t a science or history textbook. When you push them a little further, it becomes apparent that they are unwilling to accept the Bible’s teachings about the physical world, claiming instead that the Bible teaches spiritual truths.
    2. There is usually an attempt to demean the ID movement, apologetics, and to pejoratively associate creationists with YEC and various discredited, but unbiblical interpretations – easier targets.
    For instance, T (#9) mentions the teachings that the earth doesn’t move and geocentrism to discredit the Bible’s teachings about the physical world. However, these aren’t the teachings of the Bible! Take Psalm 93:1: Surely the world is established, so that it cannot be moved. This isn’t teaching that the earth is stationary, set on a pedestal, but instead that it will persist. Likewise, compare with Psalm 21:7: “For the king trusts in the LORD, and through the mercy of the Most High he shall not be moved.” This doesn’t mean that the king is immobile!
    3. TEs are too quick to point out where the Bible is in error!

  • JHM

    This is such an important post (as well as the whole “Houston” series).
    I grew up in churches where “sola scriptura” meant that the Bible was the *only* reliable source for Truth and knowledge about God. Tradition was associated with Catholic theology (popes, “wooden” liturgy, etc.) and so was not truly Christian. Reason was always suspect since scientists and philosophers since the Enlightenment were universally atheists bent on removing God from the mind and reality. Personal experience was a slippery slope into the charismatic “weirdness” and so couldn’t be trusted. The Spirit’s primary work was the authorship of the Bible (verbal and plenary).
    Fast forward to today. Even though I’ve been in churches all my life I’ve never heard of Wesley’s Quadrilateral until about a week ago. It’s a whole new way of thinking. As a young scientist I’ve been struggling for years to understand the proper place of reason (and science) in the Christian life. I’ve been longing for a sense of Tradition in which I can enter in to the history of the Christian church. It’s amazing when you think about the church being more than what you’ve experienced in your own lifetime. I’m really hoping that I can learn to see the work of the Holy Spirit come alive for me, that’s the one that has been the hardest for me to see.
    All-in-all, I think this has been a hugely transformative set of discussions that, for me anyway, goes *way* beyond Genesis 1-3. Perhaps that is why many Evangelicals are afraid to go down that road. They are afraid of a messy Christian life, one in which answers don’t all come easy, if at all. Scripture is relatively easy to read in a sense. It is much harder to think deeply, live in heterogeneous community, and trust that the same Holy Spirit who speaks to us also spoke to the centuries of brother’s and sister’s who came before us.

  • Kenny Johnson

    @Daniel Mann,
    I’m not TE (but open), but I think:
    #2 – This is true although the same happens in reverse. Look at the vitriol from YEC about TE and Biologos in particular. I’ve also seen attacks on TE from the ID camp. This is not one-sided.
    As for you example, what about Joshua 10:13? Is the Bible teaching the Geocentrism? Did the Sun stand still? Or did the Earth? Luther believed that heliocentrism was unbiblical because of this.
    #3 I don’t think that’s the intent. I think TEs are just trying to get people who claim to hold literalist or “plain meaning” interpretation to understand that they also interpret scripture through the lenses of reason, experience, science, etc.

  • RJS

    Daniel Mann,
    First – I am not sure T would class himself as “TE.” But he can speak for himself.
    Second – There are many aspects to these discussions that sometimes run together. But we need to continue to dialog. Many of us have different takes on different facets of the problem. There is no united block or conspiracy. We put out ideas and understandings and wrestle with the expectations. It is a back and forth, with revisions and growth in each step. In actuality we are all – you included, I expect – trying to figure out and wrestle with our faith.

  • Daniel Mann

    Justin,
    You are correct in writing, “We absolutely need to augment it [Scripture] with a personal and communal faith that is vibrant and focused on relationship with God in the now.”
    I would just add that our worship, love and life must be directed by Scripture. How do we worship in “Spirit and in Truth” (John 4:24) if not be the directions of Scripture? How do we understand Jesus, the “second Adam,” without a Scripture-based understanding of Adam? In other words, Scripture must be the DNA that instructs the assembly of everything else in the Christian life. This was the understanding of the Early Church. Therefore, they devoted themselves to the TEACHINGS of the Apostles (Acts 2:42).
    Likewise, when Jesus issued His Grand Commission, he didn’t direct His Apostles to teach how people could discern the voice of the Spirit but rather “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:20) His Word was to be central! Yes, the Spirit had to do His essential job, but our focus and nourishment was to be on Scripture.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Stupendous post – I have not read all the comments yet, but I offer:
    This conversation reminds me of a glass half empty versus a glass half full. The conservatives look at the part that an old earth changes and claims the glass is now only half full. The progressive looks at the glass and says there was always liquid in the bottom half of the glass.
    I guess part of the question is whether there ever was liquid in the top half of the glass whether you want it to be there or you don’t care that it is there. If we are swimming in the bottom then life continues to be good. Heck, the air is not closer to catch a breath (someone stop me!)

  • http://inlonelyexile.blogspot.com Jonathan

    Can anyone point me to a good resource on the circularity issue with citing Scripture to affirm the authority/inspiration/inerrancy of Scripture?
    I know some people address this problem (both on the ‘pro’ and ‘con’ sides) by saying that religious faith in a text is just irrational (i.e. we can’t give reasons that hang together logically).
    But I find that unsatisfying, largely because we can never answer the question “why THIS content/tradition/text of faith?” if it really is irrational/unreasonable.
    It seems a really basic, fundamental problem that I almost never hear addressed. Someone help a philosopher struggling in theological waters on this one?
    Captcha: against sigmund (and all of the hermeneutics of suspicion, I’d think…)

  • Scot McKnight

    Daniel, you say: In other words, Scripture must be the DNA that instructs the assembly of everything else in the Christian life. This was the understanding of the Early Church. Therefore, they devoted themselves to the TEACHINGS of the Apostles (Acts 2:42).
    But I wonder if you realize what you are saying: clearly the teachings of the apostles of Acts 2:42 is not the New Testament itself.
    The Early Church, in fact, did not do what you are saying they did: they were guided, yes, by the apostolic teaching but it was the Rule of Faith and that Rule of Faith shaped which books were in the NT. So, it’s not as simple as you suggest. There was an interaction between the apostolic faith of the Rule of Faith and the texts. The NT texts are the authoritative deposit of that apostolic witness.
    Are you with me on this?
    Your comment in the last paragraph is both cheeky and a false dichotomy.

  • Fish

    @daniel mann
    If you go back and read what the church said to Galileo, you will find perfectly crafted logical Biblical arguments for the Sun revolving around the earth. He tried your point, but obviously that interpretation didn’t make a dent in the literalist camp. Bruno had been burnt at the stake not long before that for similar thinking.
    The lynchpin verses about the physical world were those where the sun stood still for Joshua. This is impossible if the earth is not the center of the universe, and therefore any scientific conclusion that says otherwise is in contradiction of the Word.

  • Kenny Johnson

    @36
    I get the problem, but honestly, I see it as more of an issue for nonbelievers. I have other reasons for believing that scripture is a reliable witness to God’s revelation. So my faith in the authority of scripture is not just because it attests to its own authority.

  • SamB

    Ben (19) – What do you mean by “Jesus’ rising from the dead meant nothing if it was not according to the scripture?” If I don’t believe the Bible is foundational but is primary and given to us by God as He has chosen to give it, that what is foundational is that historically Jesus did rise from the dead, does that put me outside of Christianity? Is someone who does not believe the Bible is free of error of any kind and is infallible in the sense that it is incapable of error of any kind but does believe the Bible is able with God’s help to convey convincingly to humanity God’s love and forgiveness and grace and thus draw men and women into Jesus’ story to follow him, is that not enough?

  • http://inlonelyexile.blogspot.com Jonathan

    Kenny (39),
    Could you talk a little bit about what those are? I think it’d go a long way towards what T is asking about here and I’d find it helpful to hear what sort of language you’re using to express it.
    Thanks!

  • T

    Daniel,
    I’m not TE; frankly, I’m undecided on the issue of origins. I see weaknesses and strengths in all theories I’ve seen so far. Yet, my theism is completely in tact, which is part of my point.
    As my reference to the gifts should make clear, I don’t argue that the scriptures only teach spiritual truths. And I agree that the scriptures that say ‘the earth does not move’ don’t literally mean to say that the earth doesn’t move; the statement is intended to communicate what you said. But let’s be fair that our interpretation of this text is anything but the way Christians have always read it. The “plain reading” led both the Catholic Church and the Reformers to be nothing short of hostile, in a serious way, toward the folks who said that their data indicated that the earth did move. Try to soak in this history; the situation is amazingly analogous. I don’t want to tear down scripture, but lots of bad things have been done in the name of defending a given take on scripture, not least of which being Christ’s own crucifixion. People get the scriptures wrong; God’s people get the scriptures wrong. We need to hear the scriptures and the other voices of the Spirit. Each needs to be (and always is) informed by the others.
    I’m not arguing, either, that scripture is unimportant or even that it should be less than primary over our experience, tradition and reason. But the scriptures themselves give a multitude of examples of our faith being built up by the ongoing work of the Spirit via his Church, both in fruit (chiefly love) and gifts. Martin Luther serves and helps and strengthens our faith even today (even by his failures), along with many other contributors to Tradition. Then there are the present day members of his body whose present work via his Spirit are absolutely critical to supporting our belief that God is presently alive and working in the world; that Jesus IS Lord, not just was or will be. When Mohler argued that Theism was on the line in the age of earth debates, isn’t he implying that all these other witnesses of the Spirit, not to mention the rest of the scriptures, are of little value for our faith? This seems contrary to the stories we have in scripture itself. Consider the story of the man healed who was born blind. What he knew (that he was blind, and now he could see), though he admitted it wasn’t much, was sufficient for him to take a public and costly stand for Christ, even though he’d never seen him. He reasoned based on his experience, and the principles of the scriptures in his tradition, that God was acting through and with Jesus.

  • Scott Eaton

    It is posts like this (thanks T) and the ones by Scot and RJS that keep me faithfully coming to this blog.
    This whole debate seems to illuminate a serious problem within evangelicalism: we have made the Bible an idol to be worshipped rather than a revelation of God, culminating in the revelation of Jesus Christ, and the story of God’s interaction with His people.
    This strikes me at the root of the problem.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I think it would be rational for us (Christians) to reverse the order of accepting facts about the world and the relationship with God.
    1. If proved through repeatable quality experiment then reason needs to be reviewed
    2. If proved by reason, then teachers (the church) needs to be reviewed
    3. If proved by the church, then the scriptures need to be reviewed
    4. As a last resort, blindly accept scripture when no other information is available.
    This will sound terrible to the paper pope people, but if you think about it then it makes sense. The basis for all is scripture, but that could be overturned by the church if needed (that is, if there is a better interpretation). Church dogma and doctrine can be overturned by solid reason, if needed. Then solid reason would be overturned by repeatable, quality physical evidence if that proved that reason was wrong.

  • http://inlonelyexile.blogspot.com Jonathan

    DRT,
    If I’m understanding correctly, you’re suggesting an upper and a lower blade, that in communities accepting a theistic account of all of reality, could operate simultaneously?
    self-correction from above and below, so to speak?

  • T

    JHM,
    Thanks for your comment. The funny thing is that I was somewhat reluctant to post this. Big thanks to Scot and RJS for patiently building such a wonderful long-term conversation, with room for all views and implications.
    Scott (43), me too! Interacting with RJS and the rest of the Jesus Creed folks (absolutely including conservative folks, which I lean toward myself) has been very helpful to me.
    I’ve noticed that no one really wants to take up the theistic and exegetical concerns as they are applied to YEC and then apply the same to spiritual gifts. I can understand that. In any event, I do hope folks think about it, and slowly.

  • J.L. Schafer

    Daniel #34,
    Your example of worship being directed by Scripture is a fascinating one. Methods of worship were clearly delineated in the OT. But scanning the NT, I see very little about the how-to’s of worship. After the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the
    preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles virtually guaranteed
    that the apostolic faith would be contextualized in a wide
    variety of worship styles. Even if you want to adopt a regulative principle, the questions about what is permissible in worship
    are far from settled, because Jesus invalidated much of the OT worship and the NT gives few instructions in this regard. So while I agree with you in principle — that in all that we do we should be guided by Scripture — that doesn’t help us much in those areas where the Bible is rather silent. Another great example of why we truly need the witness of the Spirit.

  • Daniel Mann

    Fish,
    Don’t just set your sights on the church. Gallileo’s argument was also with the scientists of his day who had taken captive the theology of the church.
    You say that according to today’s science that the sun couldn’t have stood still. Perhaps your placing too much emphasis on science — and science can’t speak about one-time events — and not enough on God.

  • http://www.shapingwords.blospot.com Jim

    Thanks, Kenny, for supplying the link. That’s the one I had in mind, but I’m at work now and would have had to wait until tonight to locate it, so I appreciate the assist.
    Jim

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Jonathan, not sure upper and lower because it is more sequential. If I were to use the RCC as an example, they believe what is in the bible, but interpret it and keep the interpretations of the church fathers. Given a well thought out new line of thinking they would reinterpret their teachings. Given enough physical evidence they again would reinterpret.
    Solid, experitmental physical evidence trumps all.
    Reason trumps the rest
    Historic teaching trumps the rest
    Scripture trumps the rest
    Believing anything you want is at the bottom
    In this series then if someone is not a bible believer, then they could still be upright people because they have teaching (such as other religions), reason and physical evidence. We happen to think that the backstop of the bible is the best thing to have at our base rather than the scripture and teachings of other religions. But the reason and teaching of others could still be right, truth that is.

  • http://www.MannsWord.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

    J.L.,
    When Jesus informed the Samaritan woman that God seeks those who will worship Him in Spirit and in truth, He said volumes about worship.
    Although I certainly believe in the guidance and illumination of the Spirit, if it occurs apart from Scripture, it’s of little corporate value or persuasiveness. For instance, if someone told the church that the Spirit directed him to inform the congregation that they must now sing hymns backwards, there is no basis for agreement. However, if he instead declared that the Spirit illuminated for him a passage that showed him that they shouldn’t practice holy barking (1 Cor. 14:23), there is a basis for discussion and agreement.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    In my series, and to the point of this post, to have blatant disregard for solid, experimental physical evidence makes it so there is no credibility for Christianity.
    captcha: for families

  • http://inlonelyexile.blogspot.com Jonathan

    DRT,
    ah, thanks, that answered my question. I think you’d need some kind of an account where theological explanations sublated rational and experimental ones so that your religious beliefs were not just of the “God of the (ever receding) gaps” sort.
    And, having sublated them, they’d have to be conditioning (though not obliterating or manipulating) them in some way. Hence the “from below (experimental verification) and from above (conditioning higher synthesis)” language in my question.
    My question, just to show my cards, is basically Lonerganian.

  • http://www.MannsWord.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

    T,
    Thanks for the clarification. Sorry for erroneously assuming certain things about you. When you took issue with Mohler about the importance of Genesis 1-3 and its interpretation, I immediately assumed that you are a TE, trying to limit the area of contention to the historicity of Gen. 1-2. However, there are just too many NT passages that confirm the historicity and the theological centricity of these chapters. Therefore, once we deny the historicity of Gen. 1-3, we also contradict the references of Jesus and Paul.
    Although I agree with you that interpretation can be difficult and often mistaken, I also think that we can arrive at certainty in regards to many issues. (If this wasn’t the case, then all of our discussions are meaningless! This also troubles me about TEs – they often speak about being humble in regards to the way we interpret Scripture. However, they are anything but humble regarding their promotion of Darwinism!)
    Regarding the Spirit teaching us apart from Scripture, I think that you used a good example, but I’d like to make two caveats.
    1. The lessons that the blind man had learned would have had little relevance to anyone else unless he had already shared that understanding. (Please see my comments at #51).
    2. The Spirit usually illuminates us through an interpretative framework – Scripture. Often, when the Bible talks about the leading of the Spirit or the filling of the Spirit, it is referencing being filled by the Word whose author is the Spirit (1 Peter 1:11; also compare Eph. 5:18-21 with Col. 3:16-17 where the filling of the Spirit is paralleled with the filling of the Word.)
    But you also clarified your position on Scripture – that it is pre-eminent!

  • Andy Holt

    Kenny, thanks for the link to Craig’s statement on the age of the earth. I’m currently working to maintain an atmosphere of charity on the interpretation of Gen. 1 at my church, and having a statement like that from William Lane Craig certainly helps. Thanks to Jim, as well, for originally mentioning it.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Thanks Jonathan, being as I am uneducated it’s all new to me and I appreciate knowing another avenue for research. Without having the time to do that at the moment, your comment is good, and it leads to one change for my sequence.
    Personal Experience with God Trumps All
    Solid, experitmental physical evidence trumps the rest
    Reason trumps the rest
    Historic teaching trumps the rest
    Scripture trumps the rest
    There really isn’t more after that.
    Al Mohler has a problem because he is not letting reason or solid physical evidence trump his church teaching. If he had a personal revalation that God did indeed create the world as he says it did, then he could at least stand with his head held high and say that is his basis. But he is not. What he is implicitly doing is saying an order like this:
    SBC Church Teaching Trumps All
    Scripture trumps the rest
    Reason trumps the rest
    Physical Evidence next
    Personal experience last
    So for him, his church teaching is the most important thing (not the bible, btw). The vast vast majority of his speech was taken up with talking about how accepting the physical evidence would force the church teaching (about innerency and YEC) to change therefore he can not do that.
    To go outside reason like he has invites the cult tag in spades.
    captcha- mustiest believed (I kid you not)

  • T

    Daniel,
    No one is arguing for “guidance and illumination of the Spirit . . . apart from scripture.” At least not me!
    Paul actually does go into some detail about worship in I Corinthians, and specifically about how and why a local body should practice prophecy and tongues and other “workings of the Spirit” within and as part of the larger mission of agape. Some congregations flatly ignore much of Paul’s instruction there (both charismatic and non), including for instance the command to not forbid speaking in tongues. The biblical basis to do actually forbid tongues is not anything explicit, but rather the highly problematic inference that “the perfect” in I Cor. 13:10 refers to the closing of the canon, as if with the closed canon, we will then know God fully just like he already knows us. A good summary of the biblical issue is here: http://www.reformationtheology.com/2007/03/when_the_perfect_comes.php
    It is through the practice of prophecy, Paul says, (which isn’t the equivalent of writing scripture) that a unbeliever can come in to our gatherings, have his secrets laid bare and declare that “God is really among you!” which strikes me as dealing with the dead center issues of theism. If our concern is with good interpretation of the scriptures, and biblical worship and with theism, where are Mohler’s arguments on the issue of gifts? What is it about the gifts that turns conservatives into progressives regarding these scriptures? Why is theism at stake in origins but not gifts, when the gifts touch on the issue so directly?

  • T

    Daniel,
    And thanks for your reponse in 54! It posted while I was writing.

  • http://awaitingawhiterobe.blogspot.com MikeB

    Enjoying the conversation which has lots has raised lots of interesting points – age of the earth, origins of man, origin of evil, sign gifts, the role of Scripture.
    I think many have articulated the fact (and I agree) that the age of the earth is not exactly the issue. Nor is it only the interpretation of Gen 1-3. The whole of Scriptural teaching centers on creation, fall, sin, and redemption. The main issues are when death and sin entered or were they there from the start of creation. It seems that the acceptance of an old earth is based in part on the conclusions drawn from the geological and fossil records which present lots of death before Adam. This would contradict the plain teaching of many Scriptures regarding sin and death. It also does not line up with the teaching regarding creation being subjected to change after the fall.
    @T #57
    “It is through the practice of prophecy, Paul says, (which isn’t the equivalent of writing scripture) that a unbeliever can come in to our gatherings, have his secrets laid bare and declare that “God is really among you!” which strikes me as dealing with the dead center issues of theism”
    Actually prophecy would (IMO) be closest to Scripture than not. Prophecy is God’s special revelation and so is Scripture. Much of Scripture is actually prophetic teaching recorded. According to Paul, “Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.” (1 Cor 14:22) so sorry if I am missing it but I am not sure what point you are trying to make here.
    @Daniel #56
    “Personal Experience with God Trumps All
    Solid, experitmental physical evidence trumps the rest
    Reason trumps the rest
    Historic teaching trumps the rest
    Scripture trumps the rest
    There really isn’t more after that.”
    Except our experiences can be so subjective. Given this trumping all I think all religions would have a basis to claim they are correct. Even the antichrist and beast will have the ability to deceive and perform miraculous signs. It would seem that the Scriptural warnings to not fall for them would need to trump the actual experience.
    Besides the approach here seems to be inverted from how one ought to approach things – though I am not sure a sequential list is the best way to approach it anyway – there is much interplay between reason, general revelation, history. However God trumps all and the special revelation in Scripture is our primary basis for evaluating things from God’s point of view. Yes we certainly need the Spirit to aid us, but even the workings of the Spirit are to be tested – presumably against Scriptural teaching. Were not the Bereans told to subject Paul’s teaching to the Scriptures (which would have been the OT at that point in time)?
    captcha: blends discussions (seriously, which is appropriate for this comment too)

  • Kenny Johnson

    @Jonathan #41,
    Sorry, I took a nap. :) I probably can’t articulate my feelings as well as I’d like, but here are reason I believe the Bible is reliable:
    1) Cohesion of story. Skeptics like to point out contradiction or apparent contradictions, but I find, instead, a beautifully coherent story of Creation, Fall, and Redemption told through many different books and authors. I spent about 2 months once rapidly reading through the OT and was amazed at how well it all fit together.
    2) The “truth” of scripture. The main ethic rings true in my soul, so to speak. Even the counter-cultural ethic of Jesus speaks to my heart.
    3) Historical. Taking the NT in particular, the story of Jesus and the church is placed firmly in real history.
    4) The resurrection. This is big for me. I believe the resurrection is the best explanation for the beginning of the church. I believe the resurrection also vindicates Jesus’ claims. Therefore I take his disciples words to have authority.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    MikeB #59
    Understood that our personal experiences are subjective. But as an individual, my personal experience trumps all (unless I am nuts, or at least not too nuts). I made a longer post on this in my blog after I wrote that, but here is part of it:
    “…make the assumption by reading the bible that Jerusalem was a city in the time of Jesus. To add more credibility to this, one would see if the Christian Church teaches this. A quick search of the Roman Catholic Catechism would tell you that they indeed think it is a city in the Ancient Near East (ANE). Then you could think it is reasonable given both of those to think that. Then you could search Wikipedia and see if there is physical evidence for this. Then you can plan a trip and actually go there and know for sure that Jerusalem is a city that was in the ANE.”
    I also go through an argument like that for Jesus being the son of God. But the point is that this is for what a person needs to believe. In the end each of us has to decide what we as individuals are going to believe about God.
    Now the process for determining the Church’s position would not have my personal experience at the head of the list. It would probably have something like “lots and lots of people are having the same personal experience with God!” as being the top one on the list. But they too should follow this.
    http://lostcodex.com/2010/07/rational-religion/
    captcha – following pone (is Jesus the pone (a type of bread) of life?

  • Kenny Johnson

    @ Daniel #48
    “You say that according to today’s science that the sun couldn’t have stood still. Perhaps your placing too much emphasis on science — and science can’t speak about one-time events — and not enough on God.”
    The sun couldn’t have stood still because that’s not how the sun rises and sets. It doesn’t rise or set. The Earth rotates.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    ..and here is how I qualified the Personal Revelation:
    Step 1 would ask if I had a personal experience with God that I believe and makes it so. This would not mean, in this case, whether you participated in a religious service and had a feeling like you knew Jesus. Instead, step 1 would mean something like God spoke to you in your mind and gave you a vision of Jesus and he told you that this was Jesus and that he was part of God. If you have not had that then you go to step 2.

  • SSC

    The poster “T” makes a classic “Begging the Question” argument. To say that a person was healed through prayer because the person was sick, people prayed, and then the person was not sick, assumes that prayer can cause people to get well. The sequence of events itself does not prove cause and effect. The statement “I was healed” is simply a statement of faith, nothing more.

  • http://likeachildscience.blogspot.com/ like a child

    Great post, but it reminds me of the spark that lead me to the climax of my “dark night of the soul” – the lack of God’s witness in His church and His people. (And I’m still struggling) I was a scientist and most definitely favor TE, but I have a deep confusion with the concept of miracles in all of the Bible. No matter how you might explain away some miracles (such as the discussion in the comments of one of the “Houston” posts re multiplication of the loaves and fish), the fact still remains that you can’t explain away the one true Grand Miracle of the Resurrection. Everything is meaningless without it, and I’m still struggling with it, as much as I’d like to just have faith.
    That said, the one sharpest dagger to my faith was the lack of God’s witness in the church (currently for me it is the legalistic parenting movement and the massive expense of the Classical Christian schooling movement). It is ironic to have seen my faith disintegrate before my eyes because of this. Posts like yours will hopefully remind Christians to get back to the basics. For in John 13:34-35 Jesus said “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Integrating TE and incarnation models like Pete Enns’ is not an easy task, and complicated if one feels alone, or witnesses such uncivil attacks between the YEC/ID/TE people. I’m not worried if people take diverse views with respect to origins. I can live with diversity. What I can’t live with is a lack of love and compassion in the church, particularly for people like myself that have doubts. If Jesus is real, I need to see “evidence”, whether in my heart, my life, or His people.

  • RJS

    like a child,
    I don’t think we want to explain away miracles. That was a big part of the point I was trying to make in the post Thursday “The Miracles of Creation?” I do think we need to look at the intent and message of miracles as acts of God.
    But love – and in love – is the intent. If you catch me writing otherwise call me on it. (But love does not require agreeing with bad arguments.)

  • Daniel Mann

    Kenny,
    The Bible uses the common language of the people. Therefore, it says things like “the sun rose.” I say the same thing, but this doesn’t mean that I’m scientifically ignorant. I just want to be understood. If I spoke in technical language, no one would understand me. Therefore, I have no problem with the Bible’s account that the sun stood [observably] still.
    Please don’t be so quick to dismiss the veracity of the Bible! Please!

  • RJS

    Daniel Mann,
    But that language of the people argument can go right back into how we interpret Gen 1-11, and especially 1-3. We are not (at least I am not) trying to undermine the veracity of the Bible. I am claiming that we need to rethink some of our interpretation and understanding of the nature and intent of the text. This is not because I am trying to proclaim Darwinism – to begin with it is because the nature of the text doesn’t hold up to the literal-historical interpretation.

  • Jonathan

    I hate to be a nag about this, but I still haven’t really seen someone (aside from Kenny J’s personal account. Thanks!) address my question re: the nature of our claims about Scripture.
    If putting scripture as THE authority is ONLY rooted in claims scripture makes, then Christians are trapped in an irrational circle of verification. If it is grounded in some evidence or reasons outside of the texts, then Scripture must at the very least “share the stage,” so to speak, with those factors. If not be usurped, which I’m sure is the worry.
    If there is, in fact, external verification (or reasons, or even insufficient reasons, requiring some further step of faith), what is its/are their characteristics and what is its relationship to Scripture?

  • MikeB

    I would also like to “correct” what I meant here…
    “It seems that the acceptance of an old earth is based in part on the conclusions drawn from the geological and fossil records which present lots of death before Adam.”
    I did not mean for the geological and fossil record to necessarily support an old earth – but rather that an old earth hypothesis to explain the geological and fossil evidence posits an old earth with lots of death before Adam.
    DRT – have not read the blog but based on what you wrote on the comment vis Jerusalem, some thoughts – one what would you do about cities that we can’t experience/visit today that are cited in the Bible? What would we do if (hypothetical) the present Jerusalem we experience could not currently be dated to the time of Jesus? Assume that the Bible is wrong, that the city we call Jerusalem today is not the same city mentioned in the Bible, or allow that the dating techniques used may be incorrect?
    BTW your explanation cites Scriptural evidence for Jerusalem first… ;)

  • Daniel Mann

    T,
    I am not familiar with Mohler’s position on the gifts, but I think you raise a good point. Although I’m not Pentecostal and exercise a fare amount of skepticism when gifts are manifested, I share your assessment that many Evangelicals have gone too far in disqualifying them for today. It’s probably a matter of the tendency to be able to put everything into a nice neat box, but I don’t think that God would want to be placed in such a box.
    Nevertheless, I must admit that I have more of a problem with the TE who wants to spiritualize Gen. 1-3 than I do with the narrow but zealous Evangelicals. I feel that the TE position will ultimately undermine our confidence and understanding of the entirely of Scripture and subsequently the Christian faith. Besides, I perceive in many of them a preference for Darwin over Scripture. Often times, they will even explicitly state that Darwinism is more certain than Scripture, and therefore modify Scripture in such a way as to agree with Darwin. This is something that Scripture has warned against (Matthew 6:23-24; 15:6-9; 2 Cor. 10:4-5).

  • Kenny Johnson

    @Daniel Mann,
    But I believe you are reading that from a contemporary scientifically-informed reading. I do not think it is the plain-meaning of scripture. It’s certainly not how Luther understood it. He read it literally and condemned heliocentrism. This is all some are suggesting with the opening of Genesis. If Joshua can be figurative and our interpretation changes over time based on our understanding of the world, why can’t the same be said for Genesis? I’m not denying the truth of the Bible, so please don’t accuse me of that. Even if Joshua (or whoever wrote Joshua) believed that the sun literally stood still, I do not believe that denies the truth of the Bible. I’m surprised you do. Does inspiration really mean that Joshua also gained all the knowledge about how the universe works before he tell his story?

  • http://www.MannsWord.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

    Jonathan,
    There are many sound reasons to support the idea that the Bible is the Word of God – miracles along with extra-biblical attestation, fulfilled prophecy, transformed lives; internal consistency…
    However, you retort that, “If it [Scripture] is grounded in some evidence or reasons outside of the texts, then Scripture must at the very least “share the stage,” so to speak, with those factors. If not be usurped.”
    I must disagree with you here. If Scripture is supported by the testimonial evidence of His Resurrection, how does this evidence usurp the place of Scripture? Similarly, John the Baptist gave testimony in support of the Personhood of Jesus. However, this doesn’t make him as great as Jesus, even if it might help me to believe in Jesus.
    In fact, miracles are so central to our belief, that Jesus even said that He shouldn’t be believed without confirmatory evidences (John 5:31-38).

  • Daniel Mann

    Kenny,
    Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you or misunderstand you. Please forgive me.
    Indeed, I agree with you that we tend to see things through the worldview and science of our culture. Therefore, I tend to think that Luther had been misled by the science of his day to misinterpret Scripture — a real danger for us today.
    Are we misinterpreting Genesis 1-2? I’m sure we are. There is so much challenging material there that I suspect that none of us have it completely right. Nevertheless, the NT does place certain parameters around our interpretive possibilities. For instance, Jesus comments:
    • “Haven’t you read…that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)
    Because Jesus regarded these chapters as historical, I think that this bounds us to also regard them as historical.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Daniel Mann,
    I stopped dead in my tracks when I read this from you and could go no further, “I have more of a problem with the TE who wants to spiritualize Gen. 1-3 than I do with the narrow but zealous Evangelicals.”
    DUDE! This is the Bible. If it is not spiritualization then what is it!!!! I totally understand that there are facts in the bible. I totally understand that there are real people and real places. But let’s get serious here. The purpose of the bible is spiritualization!
    Now to see if someone else refuted this before i wrote it.

  • Kenny Johnson

    @Daniel Mann
    Firstly, not all TE interpretations deny a literal Adam and Eve. In fact, I believe Scot affirms a literal Adam. I’m personally agnostic on it. I haven’t done enough research. Secondly, I still don’t think we must read too much into Jesus’ teachings on the matter. The purpose of Jesus’ teaching there is about marriage, not whether Adam and Eve were historical persons.
    For the record, I’m not arguing for any particular interpretation, I just think there should be a little more charity here. I think our understanding of science and scripture leaves enough grey area that we can be humble about our views on the matter. And where you think TE is dangerous, I think trying to quiet it is even more dangerous. I think it’s more important to let people try to wrestle with the science and text than it is to get dogmatic about our own theology and interpretations. I’ve seen people leave the faith over this issue.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Kenny said,
    “I think it’s more important to let people try to wrestle with the science and text than it is to get dogmatic about our own theology and interpretations. I’ve seen people leave the faith over this issue.”
    I am nearly there for a second time. Perhaps Daniel will think that it is more important for me to believe exactly as he does as opposed to me loving other people, but the current day Christian religions certainly don’t show it. I spent 20 years away from the church and only in the past few have even felt that it was worth trying to save. Daniel, that has nothing to do with my belief in Jesus, it only has to do with me faith in the church.
    I spent the past 7 or so years in a church that ended up being more like Daniel preaches than what it seems the bible is about. Daniel, I don’t want to go there again. I don’t want to leave. But when you give a hard line like you do, then it seems to me that you are not interested in what Jesus was about. Instead, it seems that you are interested in a particular interpretation.
    Don’t you feel that each person needs to work on their own salvation for themselves? Don’t you think that it does not help if someone only says the things you want them to say because you are an authority? Don’t you think that it would be better for someone to doubt that the earth was created in 6 days than to doubt that the REAL purpose of Jesus was to tell us that it really is true that love rules over the rules of this world?
    What is more important? Someone understanding the teachings of Jesus or someone being able to recite the teachings of Jesus? What is more important that each generation wrestling with the wisdom, godliness and sanctification of Jesus or attesting to the literal interpretation of Gen 1-2 by the SBC? What is more important, the religion of man or the son of man?
    I guess I am on a roll, but to extend it a bit further, Wouldn’t it be right for someone to hold that there may be ambiguity than to hold to certainty that is incorrect? The only thing infallible about infallibility is that it will be wrong. What if there are other ways to interpret the Genesis poem? Do you think that the world is better off believing in a myth than a reality? Do you think that the world is unable to come to grips with the truth while someone else goes along and determines the truth?
    I better stop.

  • Daniel Mann

    Kenny,
    You wrote, “I think it’s more important to let people try to wrestle with the science and text than it is to get dogmatic about our own theology and interpretations. I’ve seen people leave the faith over this issue.”
    Aren’t there certain things to get dogmatic about? Don’t all of us who are expressing ourselves have a point of view? Aren’t we all trying to influence? Isn’t conversation largely about influencing people’s opinions, whether about them or the things that they are expressing? Ultimately, people will have to decide for themselves, and I wouldn’t try to take that away from them.
    Perhaps it is you who are now mis-characterizing me?
    DRT,
    When people “spiritualize,” they empty the passage of its concrete historical content, not that there isn’t a spiritual or theological meaning alongside of it.

  • Kenny Johnson

    @Daniel Mann
    I guess we’d have to define dogmatic first. :) But, yes I we can assert some certainty about the ancient church creeds, for example. I like my faith to be a simple faith — not tied up into too much theology. And I love theology! My faith rests in the person of Jesus. I can get dogmatic about that. :)
    But if my friend is a biologist and is interested in knowing Jesus, I’m not going to tell him that he needs to accept a literal Genesis 1 and deny evolution in order to have a relationship with His King. It wouldn’t even cross my mind.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Daniel Mann,
    Wrote:
    When people “spiritualize,” they empty the passage of its concrete historical content, not that there isn’t a spiritual or theological meaning alongside of it.
    You and I have different meanings for spriritualization. I contend that your spiritualization is my fantasy. In that sense I agree that fantasy of the spiritual will empty it of it’s content. But, I mean it differently. You are obliterating the dimensionality of the interpretation. You are robbing it of the essence of the it’s purpose, it’s flavor, it’s spirituality.
    I don’t have a problem with people believing the and interpreting the gospel and the interpretation on the theological and applicational level, but if you reduce the theology to a consumeristic and legitimized theology that is only good for Marxist application (opiate), then it is of no use.
    Perhaps I am off base here and what you intend is that there is a means of persuasion that does not beg the answer.. but I am not convinced.
    My interpretation of your goal is that there is an answer that it accommodating and that accommodation is your goal. What if the accommodation is the answer? What if the fact that there is no answer is the answer. What if we are supposed to figure out how many miles we are to walk when asked and the number of miles is irrelevant?
    Spiritualization does not empty the passage of it’s content (imho). That is the purpose of the passage. The bible is a message, not content.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Oops, I did not mean to hit enter. Please disregard all the punctuation and other grammatical errors that I made. The message is intact…though….
    ha! Captcha- rushes Maltreat (they must know me)

  • Napman

    Not sure that the quadrilateral is a helpful tool for understanding sources in theology. Experience is far too broad and ambiguous to provide much independent counsel to reflection. All experiences are themselves shaped by the cultural and intellectual backgrounds that make them intelligible to the one who has them.
    Neither is it clear to me how reason functions as a source for theology. Do we simply want our theologians to be reasonable? That is, to not commit logical errors? Not a lot of divine meaning to be derived from that.
    Beyond that, it seems reason and its close cousin rationality are themselves dependent on the cultural and intellectual traditions which shape the plausibility structures that determine what is “reasonable” in an evangelical bible college versus at a Harvard faculty cocktail party. Whose Justice, which rationality, indeed.
    Scripture itself is a product of tradition and a reflection of the mind of the church herself as well as (so we believe) God breathed. So let us use Scripture and tradition as our main sources for theological reflections and understand that the scientific tradition forms part of the intellectual context and tradition from which our theology is nourished.

  • Daniel Mann

    Kenny,
    I wouldn’t either!

  • http://tmorizot@gmail.com Scott Morizot

    Since T asked again about gifts, I have a few thoughts that start in one direction but come back, I think, to that. A number of people have mentioned the Wesleyan quadrilateral. I’m not convinced there are really four legs. Why? Scripture and reason can’t be considered two separate things as we can only interpret and understand Scripture through the exercise of our reason. Scripture and tradition can’t be considered separate things as we cannot interpret or apply scripture (in any meaningful sense) absent some tradition of interpretation. Even Sola Scriptura itself is an overarching tradition since it is a hermeneutic that cannot be developed from the text alone. It is rather a tradition of a way to use the text. Similarly, it’s difficult to separate tradition and reason since we cannot really reason well with no framework and we cannot grasp and apply our tradition absent reason.
    I would say those three “legs” are rather intertwined as pieces of a broader single category I would call something like knowledge of God. That leaves the fourth leg of the quadrilateral, experience, which I believe is truly something different from knowledge. Moreover, as T in part suggested, Christianity is not primarily dependent on knowledge of God. That’s not to diminish its importance at all, but to place it in the appropriate context of experiencing and growing in communion with God. We should test experience, as it is possible to be deceived, but the foundation of our faith does lie in our experience of God. I could have all the knowledge about the Christian God that I have today, and if I had never at any time experienced his love, it would mean nothing. There is no chance at all that I would be Christian. When I have questioned whether or not I truly wished to remain Christian, it’s the memory of that love that pushes me to pray the Jesus Prayer or take whatever other action I need to take to in some measure turn again toward the experience of communion with God.
    To illustrate their relative position, a very young child (or even an infant), someone who is mentally disabled, or someone who lives an illiterate existence in a culture with little opportunity to acquire Christian knowledge about God can all still be filled with the love of God, can experience God, and can grow in communion with God. I know that there are some Christians who would reject the idea that that is possible, but I would say they are in a small minority. At its core, Christianity is a faith based on experience, though not the single big conversion experience to which some strands try to reduce it.
    How does that tie into gifts? They can be a form of experience of God. We need to be discerning. I’m reminded of a story I heard about an Orthodox bishop (I think) who entered a one of the charismatic “barking” spiritual services. (I’m not sure what they were actually called.) He immediately said something to the effect, “That’s not the Holy Spirit. That’s the spirit of Anubis.” I had not thought of it in those terms before I heard that story, but I think he nailed it. That discernment is one of the reasons that the framework of tradition (with reason and scripture) may provide an important context for experience. But I think the experience of God is more critical to our faith than knowledge of God. Though again, both are certainly important.

  • RJS

    Daniel Mann (#83)
    With reference to your reply to Kenny’s comment (#79).
    How about a year after the biologist friend becomes a Christian and joins the church? Would you then spring on him the condition that theistic evolution is wrong and he needs a more literal understanding as part of maturing in faith?
    How is this not a “bait and switch” type technique?

  • like a child

    RJS,
    I very much appreciate your posts as well as the Jesus Creed blog. Of anywhere, this is the blog that most comes closest to displaying the “love” I was referring to in my earlier comment. It is the comments, sometimes here (not from you) and on other blogs that can be annoying. Please remember that, regardless of your stance on the origins of the Earth, we are still commanded display love for one another.
    With regards to miracles, it was a discussion in the comments. I guess I’m feeling much instability what to take away and what to hold onto. Part of it comes from the ultra-fundamentalist Baptist exposure to Christianity of my childhood….I feel like I keep on peeling back layers of what was legalism and I’m not sure what is left.
    Thanks to everyone that is part of the Jesus Creed blog for your contributions. It is the closest I have right now to a church. Too bad I can’t find something like this in real life.

  • EricG

    Like a child,
    I can really relate to your comments, including on your blog, which I just read through. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • http://www.MannsWord.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

    RJS,
    I’m not taking the position that you can’t be saved if you take Gen. 1-3 figuratively and un-historically (Therefore, there’s no bait and switch here; no necessity to pop the seeker with this issue at the beginning.) However, I’ve just seen too many instances where Darwin’s corrosive acid undermines the Christian faith. In “Saving Darwin,” BioLogos’ Karl Giberson writes:
    • “Acid is an appropriate metaphor for the erosion of my fundamentalism, as I slowly lost confidence in the Genesis story of creation and the scientific creationism that placed this ancient story within the framework of modern science….[Darwin’s] acid dissolved Adam and Eve; it ate through the Garden of Eden; it destroyed the historicity of the events of creation week. It etched holes in those parts of Christianity connected to the stories—the fall, “Christ as the second Adam,” the origins of sin, and nearly everything else that I counted sacred.” (9-10)
    You may merely regard this as a matter of interpretation, but I see it as the gutting of the Christian faith and any confidence we might have about it. If we can’t trust in the Bible’s teachings about the physical world, we will certainly be unable to trust in what is says about the spiritual.
    Also, by allowing this acid to do its work, it demonstrates that Darwin takes precedence over the Bible. Instead, I have far more respect for the faith of those who are willing to live with the tension. These say something like this, “I believe in the theory of evolution, but I don’t know how to put it together with the Bible. But that’s OK, because I’d rather live with this tension than to redo the Bible in order to make it amenable to Darwin.”

  • RJS

    Daniel Mann (#88),
    That is a rather graphic description in Saving Darwin. Karl Giberson is writing out of his own experience coming from a conservative background, having bought into the arguments of Henry Morris in “The Genesis Flood” among other things. Looking at the evidence in the light of day and education became an experience that did eat away at some of the things he held dear. Holding this paragraph (or book) up as a reason to resist is something of a problem though.
    I rather expect that many of the people who comment and wrestle here have had similar experiences. I wouldn’t be quite as graphic – I came from an evangelical but not fundamentalist background, so that might have helped. But there was still a sense of reality undermining faith, eating away at the foundation, as I moved through college and graduate school and beyond.
    What I am trying to do on Scot’s blog is to work through, think through all these issues – in public and in conversation – so that perhaps others will find it easier in the future, and less corrosive. And so that, perhaps, people like Kenny’s hypothetical biologist friend will be met by the church. (And since I don’t have all the answers – I learn much from the conversation at times.)
    It is also true, I think, that many people can’t find the safety or direction to wrestle and think through these issues in the local church. Sometimes because the local leadership or fellowship is anti-science, anti-evolution, but more often because the leaders are simply not well educated in the issues. Pastors cannot know everything or be everything to everyone. I hope that the conversation will help some of Scot’s many readers in active ministry to think through the issues as they deal with their own people.

  • Scot McKnight

    Daniel,
    I’d like to add one more point to RJS’s comments about Giberson. Notice, and I think you ignore this, that he spoke of “scientific creationism.” That, in my view, shifts everything he said about what the acid ate up. It was the scientific creationist’s viewpoints that fell one by one through his discoveries.
    And I sense you make everything an either or and a false dichotomy: it’s not science or faith and it’s not Bible or science but it is both-and.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Now that I can articulate better in the morning…er
    Daniel,
    The church that I was a part of for the past several years played it out by holding that there was a difference in the “facts” that you talk to seekers and believers. That as one grows in spiritual maturity then you participate in different conversations.
    I essentially agree with that. The problem is that they taught a very open and rational Christianity in the service, about love, about accepting others, about how it is OK to have a basic TE stance in the world. I think that is what you are saying. The people in the church who are just casually going there do need to be saved and it is OK for you, as you say “no necessity to pop the seeker with this issue at the beginning.”
    The problem, for me a very big problem, is that I consider this to be wholly unethical and a lie. How can our religions think that it is acceptable to lie to people at one stage of their development then tell them a truth at another stage of their development? I am not talking about simply going into more depth, more meaning of the religion, the switch from it being OK to not take Genesis literally, then to teach (as your subjects “mature”) that it should be taken literally is a gross misrepresentation of the fundamental nature of the religion being sold to the public. It is a lie. I know that is a strong word, but I really do think it is appropriate.
    There is an integrity problem in a church if there is one thing taught to seekers and another to “the mature”. In consumer product marketing this would be when someone built curiosity, then trial, then repeated purchases so they are hooked on your brand and then you can start changing the product so their loyalty will keep them there. That is the ways of man that the bible warns us about. That is not the ways of Jesus. The hole point of Jesus was that you don’t do things like that. Jesus did not tell them something wrong, then later something he considered right, he told them in parables that allowed them to have the same thoughts and take them to greater and greater depth. There is a big difference.
    I don’t mind if you or anyone else thinks they should take the literal view of the bible. That is up to you and thank you for expressing your view here. You have added a dimension to this conversation that was missing. I do have a problem when an organized church holds that view and does not tell people that they feel it is the only correct view. That is wrong in my view.

  • Daniel Mann

    RJS and Scot,
    I think that you are equating evolution with reason and science and therefore conclude that I must be rejecting science in favor of the Bible in a “black and white” manner. I too share with the both of you the concern of integrating all truth into our worldview and theology. I too disdain the idea of putting our head in the sand, and thereby creating a stumbling block for seekers and those who have questions.
    However, while you seek integration by softening what I think are the clear teachings of the Bible, I’ve found integration by rejecting macro-evolution – an integration that I feel is in accord with reason and science.
    Returning to Giberson: Scot, I think you need to reread the concessions that Giberson has made to evolution. Granted, he claims that the concessions stop there, and that he has retained the essentials of the Christian faith. But I’m confident that Darwin’s acid is corroding even more of his faith. Here’s why:
    It’s impossible to draw a line between the scientific-physical teaching of the Bible and the spiritual, which he wants to retain. Theology (the spiritual) consistently rests on the historical – on the works of God:
    1. The theology of the Cross rests squarely upon the history of the Cross.
    2. The assurance of our resurrection depends upon the historicity of Christ’s resurrection.
    3. Closer to the Genesis issue: The certainty of the final judgment rests upon the certainty of historical events – the worldwide flood (2 Peter 3:3-7). If the worldwide flood is just a myth, then the final judgment can be no more than a scare-tactic.
    4. Jesus’ teachings against divorce rest upon the creation accounts (Matthew 19:4-6; Gen. 1-2).
    If Darwin’s acid can corrode the physical teachings of the Bible, it will inevitably corrode the spiritual along with the physical.

  • Daniel Mann

    DRT,
    I don’t think you are being at all fair when you write, “The problem, for me a very big problem, is that I consider this to be wholly unethical and a lie. How can our religions think that it is acceptable to lie to people at one stage of their development then tell them a truth at another stage of their development?”
    It’s not a lie to not bring up every challenge to the Christian faith to the seeker or the new believer. If they raise the issue, then I deal with it, but I try to always major in the majors. This is a matter of love – to give the other person what they need at the right time and not to confront them with things that they can’t assimilate.
    There are thousands of other challenges to the Christian faith – challenges that can erode the central tenants if allowed to stand, like postmodernism, religious pluralism, promotion of various sins (which scar the conscience and militate against a Biblical faith), scientism, and moral relativism. Not thrusting these challenges in the face of a new believer does not equate with dishonesty but rather love and prudence.
    In contrast, this venue has already opened these issues for discussion. I think that I have just as much right as others to jump in.

  • RJS

    Daniel,
    You say: I’ve found integration by rejecting macro-evolution
    On what basis have you reached this conclusion? How much biology have you had (or for that matter any science)? Perhaps you’ve had a great deal – I know of a handful of people who hold this position who do know the science; but the number, even of Christians, who know the science and do not hold this position is far far greater – by orders of magnitude (order of magnitude = factor of 10 for those wondering).
    This is a key question. Perhaps Justin Topp (a biology professor) or some other expert will comment here. For many of us this just plain isn’t an option. The data, the support, for evolution is far too strong. We can argue about some aspects of ID – this is a different issue. But the general history of modification over time is extremely well supported.
    Building a bigger wall around Genesis isn’t going to keep us within, or bring us back into, the fold. We need a way forward – not a retrenchment and fortress.
    My whole purpose here is to seek this “way forward.”
    I agree completely that The theology of the Cross rests squarely upon the history of the Cross. and that the assurance of our resurrection depends upon the historicity of Christ’s resurrection. I don’t think many of us, at least those of us who are Christians, are arguing against this.
    But – the certainty of the final judgment does not rest upon the certainty of the worldwide flood (using 2 Peter 3:3-7 to defend a world-wide flood is faith demolishing). First – the final judgment is broadly supported and does not rest on only one passage, second – even in 2 Peter it need not be a world-wide flood, and third – the point of the passage is clear regardless of the historicity of the flood.
    And Jesus teaching on divorce rest on the Genesis teaching that God ordained marriage uniting a man and a woman. It does not depend on the genre of that text.

  • Scot McKnight

    Daniel, on #3:
    There are logical errors here. The certainty of the judgment does not rest on the certainty of (your perception of a) historical event but on the will of God. God can will judgment and texts can be non-historical statements about such.
    Your argument assumes your interpretation of both 2 Peter and the Flood, neither of which is certain, and neither of which is the unquestioned teaching of the Church world without end.
    Even if the Flood is a mytho-poetical tale, that does not mean the judgment is myth. This again works back through the logic of the assumption you have made. Judgment is fact because God wills it.
    Having said this, yes, the judgment is a firm teaching of Scripture; if one questions the whole of Scripture then one has no confidence in what it says about judgment. But it is not necessary to believe what you are saying. Logically there are other options.
    I will let the scientists take you on about macro-evolution and other theories you’ve got at work in your comments.

  • Daniel Mann

    RJS,
    You wrote, “Building a bigger wall around Genesis isn’t going to keep us within, or bring us back into, the fold. We need a way forward – not a retrenchment and fortress.”
    Please know that I share your concern, although not your solution. I believe that the “way forward” is to preach the Word (2 Tim. 4:1-3) and not to jump onto the bandwagon of the scientific consensus or any other consensus for that matter – secularism, moral relativism, gay marriage, etc. In this regard, I think that Giberson wrote something that should cause us to hesitate about any scientific consensus:
    • “How shocking it is today to acknowledge that VIRTUALLY EVERY EDUCATED PERSON IN THE WESTERN CULTURE [ my caps] at the time …shared Haeckel’s [racist] ideas. Countless atrocities around the globe were rationalized by the belief that superior races were improving the planet by exterminating defective elements…there can be little doubt that such viewpoints muted voices that would otherwise have been raised in protest.”
    Group-think and our cultural biases can exercise a powerful influence!
    You responded, “And Jesus teaching on divorce rest on the Genesis teaching that God ordained marriage uniting a man and a woman. It does not depend on the genre of that text.”
    According to Jesus’ reasoning, His teaching on divorce does rest upon the historicity of Gen. 1-2. Likewise, the 2 Peter passage, where Peter cites the flood to prove that God means business in terms of judgment. If the worldwide flood didn’t occur – and Peter does note in accordance with Genesis that it destroyed the “world” – then his argument is fallacious and the certainty of the final judgment is undermined.

  • Daniel Mann

    Scot,
    I’m arguing here about the CERTAINTY of judgment. Yes, I agree that many texts talk about the final judgment and that the doctrine is well-attested. However, Peter bases the CERTAINTY of judgment upon what God had done in the past.
    If the worldwide flood is myth, then we are left to wonder whether the future judgment will also prove to be myth. Yes, we can appeal to the other texts, but the certainty of a unified Scriptural testimony has been undermined by Peter’s “fallacious” argument. (please see my comment #96).

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Daniel,
    Thank you for continuing to post and think this through with me.
    Are you saying that if a church does not tell people that they believe the bible must be interpreted in what we are calling a literal fashion then they are not incurring an integrity problem? Isn’t that a sin of omission?
    It is obvious by your posts that the standard of literal interpretation you have is core to your religion. Wouldn’t it be paramount to tell that to seekers so they know what the end game is?
    If it is not that big of an issue then it should be easy to tell people that right up front and see what they do. If you were to tell a seeker, Jesus was resurrected and therefore brings the KoG here for us to share and we should love each other, because the Bible says that is what literally happened and we believe all the stories in the bible to be literally true, then would you not have a problem with keeping them there? If that does not create a problem then you should do it. If it does create a problem then you may have a problem with your faith.
    You know those commercials on TV where the guy in a suit is in a room with a little girl on a bicycle and he says do you want to ride the bicycle? and she says sure! and just as she starts he stops her and says Oh, but you have to stay within this box on the floor! And she gives him a disgusted look, and the point of the commercial is that children can see when you are pulling a fast one on them. This is exactly what you are doing by telling people that you believe in Jesus and his teachings, but you withhold in the fine print that the paper bible interpreted in a literal fashion despite any facts to the contrary is the final say in your religion. Even a child would recognize that you are causing them to sin and Jesus had a strong rebuke for people doing that.
    I contend that holding to your particular literal interpretation of the bible is not only the majors, but it is the fundamental precept by which you judge the faith. You do not put reason above it, you do not put personal experience above it, you do not put anything above it therefore it is the cornerstone of your faith. It is the standard that your faith is based on.
    Your faith is not based on what Jesus said and did and meant. It is based on your interpretation of what the Bible says. You must share that concept with the little girl before you tell her she can ride the bicycle.
    Again thanks for writing. You not only have the right, but I encourage it.
    captcha – grumpy tests

  • RJS

    Daniel,
    Evolution isn’t a moral issue of preference based in sin – like your issue of racism and racial superiority. We can use anything from scripture to science to support our sinful errors. As such it is also not surprising that the church in much of the country supported and justified racism and slavery on the basis of scripture. It split our churches. Read for example this post on the PCA. I could bring up many other examples – the SBC wasn’t exactly blameless (although I think they are owning up to the past and moving on).
    Rather evolution is an issue similar to the issue of geocentrism, but that analogy you routinely dismiss (see many comments by others above). It is an issue more akin to the ancient near east cosmology that permeates the OT text – and which you have no trouble arguing around.
    And finally – certainty of judgment is not based on one statement in 2 Peter. It is based on the NT witness and the teachings of Jesus. Proof-texting and resting on isolated verses out of context is one of the larger errors of modern fundamentalism.

  • Scot McKnight

    Daniel,
    I’m trying to figure out where you are getting this word “certainty.”
    I see an analogy being used: As the world was formed from water and destroyed by water, so the fire will consume the world. (Perhaps assuming fire was part of creation, but that’s not important here.)
    What the author does is anchor his logic in God’s word and I assume God’s word of promise or God’s faithfulness to his plan. That is, the God who created will judge.

  • Daniel Mann

    DRT,
    I think that I use the same principles of interpretation as RJS or Scot. We all want to try to regain the original intent or purpose of the Biblical literature, although they might think that in certain instances, it was intended to be understood more figuratively. However, this question has to be determined for each individual text or phrase. You can’t make generalizations.

  • RJS

    By the way Daniel, I agree with DRT and appreciate your engagement here.
    I will not understand the positions and reasoning of others if we don’t converse. And I rather expect that you are putting into words what others are thinking. The conversation is necessary.
    I said on my original post on Dr. Mohler’s speech (last Thursday) that we need the conversation. My only real objection to his speech was that he cast it as a battle with only one possible truly Christian position.

  • Daniel Mann

    RJS,
    I simply cited Giberson as an example to alert us to the dangers of jumping on the “scientific” consensus or bandwagon. (Yes, as you pointed out, there are also religious or denominational bandwagons that should also perk our suspicions!) It was the “scientific” bandwagon of evolution that had supported racism and eugenics. And this problem is endemic to evolution. If we evolved from pre-humans, then we should find a progressive line – some “humans” more evolved than others – and not a static category of “homo sapien” into which we all fall.
    Therefore, it’s in line with evolutionary thinking that certain races would be more evolved than others, and this imposes weighty moral considerations. Indeed, evolutionists are now eager to divorce themselves from such repugnant considerations, but they are endemic to the theory and contrary to the Bible (Gen. 1:26-27).
    Although I agree with you that proof-texting can be abused when inappropriately used out of context, we must remember that the NT proof-texted in hundreds of instances.
    Geocentricity, I think, is more the product of Biblical commentators having been influenced by the science or worldview of their day, rather than anything that the Bible taught. Therefore, I think that it better supports my concern about identifying ourselves with the scientific consensus of our day.

  • Daniel Mann

    Scot,
    I’m getting the concept of certainty from the Bible:
    • John 17:8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with CERTAINTY that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.
    • Luke 1:3-4 Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the CERTAINTY of the things you have been taught.
    • Col. 2:2-4 My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of COMPLETE UNDERSTANDING, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
    • Ephes. 5:5 For of this you can be SURE: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
    • 1 Tim. 3:13 Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great ASSURANCE in their faith in Christ Jesus.
    • Hebrews 3:14 We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the CONFIDENCE we had at first.
    Lacking this promise of certainty or assurance, we shrivel inside and live anemic and joyless lives. My joy comes from the fact that I KNOW that Jesus loves and forgives me. Lacking such certainty, I had been dying inside.
    I’m not saying that it comes immediately. However, it’s something that we need to seek and cry out for. However, if we don’t think it possible, we won’t cry out for it.

  • Scot McKnight

    Daniel,
    Thanks for this. Yes, the word “certainty” appears in the Bible though what it meant then and what it might mean in a post-Enlightenment, empirically-testable world where epistemological discussions clarify in all sorts of ways is something that needs to be considered. too.
    But I thought you were finding certainty in 2 Peter 3, and I see your argument that you think 2 Peter 3 is “certainly” saying a historical flood is needed for a belief in a final judgment. Is that not what you were saying? And, if so, where does the word certainty arise in 2 Pet 3?
    Otherwise, you are pleading for certainty for your interpretation.

  • Fish

    “Geocentricity, I think, is more the product of Biblical commentators having been influenced by the science or worldview of their day, rather than anything that the Bible taught.”
    IMO, this statement confuses the cart and the horse. I would phrase my conclusions from the history like this:
    Geocentricity, I think, is the product of scientists having founded their beliefs on the Bible as taught by Biblical scholars rather than a physical study of the world.
    Galileo wasn’t the first to say the earth revolved around the sun. Copernicus was saying it a century before. Kepler used math to build upon him. Bruno expanded by saying that the stars are like our sun, and it ended up being a big reason he was executed by the church.
    The true scientists were not starting with the Bible but with their own reason and let the chips fall where they may. This put them at odds with the religious Bible-based worldview, just as it does now.
    Then, and as today, the things the scientists believed and published were seen as denying the clear Word of God and creating a slippery slope. And while there were moderates, just as today, in the end they had no influence against the fundamentalists who saw it as a battle they HAD to win.
    In my own view, God is revealed in His creation just as He is revealed in Scripture, and we study both. Science is a gift from God, not a threat to Him. How wonderful it is that we have thousands of scientists engaged in studies of creation, because at the end of the day what they learn will bring us closer to God.
    captcha: wombs worth

  • Daniel Mann

    Scot,
    Regarding certainty: I don’t think that this thoroughly biblical concept requires the approval of the “post-Enlightenment, empirically-testable world where epistemological discussions clarify in all sorts of ways.”
    Regarding 2 Peter: I never claimed that this passage used the word “certainty.” However, Peter does argue that the scoffers can be confident about a future judgment by virtue of the evidence of God’s past judgment of the world – the Flood. I also argued that if the Flood didn’t take place, then Peter’s argument is fallacious, thereby undermining our confidence in both Scripture and in a final judgment.

  • Daniel Mann

    Fish,
    You wrote, “In my own view, God is revealed in His creation just as He is revealed in Scripture, and we study both. Science is a gift from God, not a threat to Him.”
    But there’s also bad science!

  • Scot McKnight

    Daniel,
    You’re waffling now. Yes, in fact, you did talk about certainty with respect to 2 Peter 3 and I queried you about where it was there and you say it isn’t there but now appeal to a larger sense of certainty in the Bible. Fair enough, I’m for using words the way Bible uses them and for letting biblical terms shape what we believe. So… one question, and this will help us all:
    What do you mean by “certainty”?

  • Daniel Mann

    Scot,
    Perhaps I’m misunderstanding you, but I thought that I had already answered you. I said the word “certainty” isn’t there, but that if Peter is wrong, then it undermines our certainty about the Bible and about the final judgment.
    You want me to define “certainty?” How about “assurance” or “confidence?” But I suspect that you are after something else.

  • Scot McKnight

    Daniel,
    We can drop that 2 Peter 3 and certainty issue. Certainty has meanings today as a result of the Enlightenment that many evangelicals assume and embrace without thinking what certainty means to the biblical authors. I think I see a shift in your comments from a post-Enlightenment sense to a more biblical sense of certainty. That latter one opens up the possibilities you are denying about the use of science and faith.
    If “certainty” means “confidence or “assurance,” then I can see this happening: someone thinks the Flood is mytho-poetical, that Peter may too, and that Peter’s analogy is logical to them, and they have confidence and assurance both in God’s final judgment and their interpretation and 2 Pet 3 strengthens that confidence and assurance.
    Let’s put this differently: Why can’t someone, using the analogous logic of 2 Pet 3, say Jesus was raised for me as Aslan came back to life after the Stone Table cracked?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Daniel wrote:
    “But there’s also bad science!”
    Agreed. But i am also sure you will agree there is bad exegesis. How can you tell one from the other?

  • Fish

    Daniel,
    “But there’s also bad science!”
    I totally agree. But scientists are constantly engaged in trying to prove each other and old theories wrong. Bad science will always make way for good science.
    A real life example is the Clovis people in North America. Past theories on how our continent was populated centered on these big-game hunters coming across the Bering Strait 12,000 years or so ago, and then spreading out across the landmass.
    This Clovis-first theory is now falling after decades of being taught and believed. There have been new archaeological discoveries as well as DNA and linguistics analysis that suggest this continent was populated by multiple migrations beginning several thousands of years before the Clovis horizon.
    The Clovis-first camp is not surrendering without a fight. Many academics have built their careers on it. They attack all new evidence. But their position is slowly but steadily falling.
    One could conclude that science was wrong and that would be correct. But it is more correct to say that science will always eventually get it right in its perpetual search for the truth.
    Thank you for your contributions to this discussion. I have enjoyed and learned from them.

  • Daniel Mann

    DRT,
    I think we always have to line up the text — whether of Scripture or the physical world — with our assessments of it.
    Scot,
    Please rephrase. I just don’t follow you.

  • Scot McKnight

    Just one question, Daniel:
    Why can’t someone, using the analogous logic of 2 Pet 3 (flood, final judgment), say Jesus was raised for me as Aslan came back to life after the Stone Table cracked?
    That’s true; that can lead to assurance; it can lead to confidence; of that I am certain.

  • Daniel Mann

    Fish,
    Good example, but will science eventually get it right??? Perhaps in some ways! I remember reading about the theory of the Ptolemaic Geocentric universe. Whatever problems it encountered, it was always able to add another qualification/formula to set it “straight.” However, with all of its exception clauses and formulas, it was becoming increasingly in-eloquent.
    I think that it demonstrated that it’s hard to disprove bad theories. They can always be patched up.

  • Daniel Mann

    Scot,
    I still don’t see your point. Second Peter is clearly and purposely founded upon historical fact, as Peter asserts. First, Peter makes an appeal to the “Holy Prophets” (3:2) — certainly trustworthy sources, at least in his thinking.
    Then Peter asserts that the scoffers “deliberately forget” HISTORY — the judgment of the worldwide flood (6). Then he compares this bedrock fact with the coming, real world judgment (7). What God had done once, He will do again.
    However, if the first is myth, then it opens the question to whether the final judgment is also myth, since they are so closely associated in Peter’s logic. Furthermore, if the flood is myth, then the scoffers can easily say, “Peter, we all know that this is a myth. There is no reason to believe that God will judge us in the future when His supposed past judgment was just figurative.”
    I don’t see where your analogy with Aslan comes from???

  • Scot McKnight

    Daniel,
    This will be my last comment on this.
    You assume your point: Assuming that the Flood story could be mytho-poetic, and assuming that Jews would or could know such, one could then argue that the argument from prophetic warning is also sustained by the Flood story as a story that renders meaning and threat in a Jewish world. That would be an alternative view to yours, and I see no willingness for you to entertain that as an option.
    But you assume the Flood story is history and then insert history into the line of logic, but that is circular reasoning.
    Aslan is mytho-poetic and one can infer from that story being a true story to other truths. Assuming one accepts the story as telling the truth.
    I could say, in accordance with this, that we should treat others the way the Good Samaritan treated others — and I think the Samaritan is fabled storied fictional figure that Jesus used to tell the truth.

  • http://www.MannsWord.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

    Scot,
    This has nothing to do with the matter of “circular reasoning,” but of invoking standard and widely accepted interpretive principles. If the writers of the Bible regarded the Flood as historical, then I must read the accounts this way. If Pip regarded his benefactor as a real person, then I must also read Dicken’s “Great Expectations” in this manner.
    Every Scriptural reference unequivocally regards Noah and the Flood as historical (1 Chronicles 1:3; Isaiah 54:9; Ezekiel 14:18, 20; Luke 3:36; Hebrews 11:7; 2 Peter 3:6-7) without any passages suggesting a figurative interpretation. Especially noteworthy are the following passages:
    1. Matthew 24:37-38: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark.” Here, Jesus compares the unexpectedness of the Flood with the unexpectedness of His return. If the Flood was myth, perhaps Jesus’ contemporaries would have been able to make the case that Jesus’ return was also intended as myth.
    2. 2 Peter 2:5: “if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others.” Here, Peter argues that if the divine judgments of the Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah actually happened, then too will God “hold the unrighteous for the Day of Judgment” (2:9).
    If you were an atheist, I couldn’t argue with you this way, but you too regard Scripture as authoritative. Therefore, the question that concerns us is this — “What does Scripture say about the Flood?” Scripture unequivocally declares it historical!

  • RJS

    Daniel,
    The flood is a much better example to use here than creation. It comes up more often and in more concrete ways than Adam or Eve.
    The irony is that the idea of a global flood is even less defensible historically and scientifically because it moves the timeline closer to rock solid history. The reality of God’s judgment, the idea that judgment can come abruptly, even the idea that God could, would, did use a flood for judgment, there is no problem here. But global, wiping out all land animals, birds, and humans? Not a chance. And mere 4000 – to 5000 years ago? Not even remotely believable in the context of all the evidence.
    The idea that you wouldn’t argue like this with an atheist gets us to the problem that DRT brought up. See all of us are able to think – even Christians – and the deep-seated dissonance caused by something like a “need” to believe in a global flood or the house of cards collapses drives many Christians away from the faith.
    We are left with (or I was left with) two options – think more deeply about the nature and truthfulness of scripture and its role in our faith, or walk away (actually the preferred option within many circles) shaking the dust as I go. But here I come/came back to the subject of T’s post – the credibility of our faith rests on the work of God and the witness and work of the Spirit – this includes, but is not limited to scripture. The reality and credibility of the faith is not tied to a specific view of the nature of scriptural authority and inspiration.
    I am convinced – no question – that we must rethink how we view scripture as authoritative and the form in which that authority comes. But does that mean ultimately dismissing the authority of scripture and Christianity as well? I don’t think it does. So two issues here: First – the authority is God’s not Paul’s or Peter’s (or whoever). Second – the message of God through these people comes in the context of their culture, making sense to those to whom they were speaking (and in their own experience and knowledge as well). So like your example with Pip in Great Expectations I read for meaning through their eyes – but I don’t necessarily think that they were correct in the history they used to make the point.

  • Scot McKnight

    Daniel,
    Yes it is circular reasoning. You assume a fact in a narrative of the Flood is a fact in history. Then you use that assumption as a conclusion you assert and conclude.
    That’s the point. Is it possible that the fact in a narrative is not actually a fact in history but a fact in a mytho-poetic account.
    Please understand once again that this is theoretical and a thought experiment.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Daniel,
    Again, thanks for sticking with this. I think that our Bible is useless if it can not be used to help atheists come to Jesus. What good is it if all it can be used for is to help people who are already “saved” learn more about their religion?
    The truth of the flood is not that it happened, but the story and shared culture of it. Just as George Washington admitted to chopping down the cherry tree (which probably is not historically true), we too need to own up to our mistakes and take ownership for them.
    captcha – Garden cohort

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Sorry for writing more but…
    If I were to assume that Jesus knew that the flood was not historical, then there are two cases.
    1. People in the audience also knew it was non-historical but understood the cultural meaning and significance behind the story,
    2. People in the audience did not know that it was non-historical and they too knew the cultural meaning and significance of the story.
    Regardless, the point he was making was valid and meaningful to all that were there. The flood is not some nuanced point, it was a really big thing in the culture! People will understand the point he is making regardless of the factuality of the event.
    Same thing today. If some people think that the flood literally happened then great, they still get the point that he is making. If some think it did not happen then that too is great, the cultural and spiritual significance of the actual point that Jesus was making is still intact. It truly is like my comment in the last post, whether GW did or did not own up to his action, the point I was making is still valid. The point Jesus was making was not about the historicity of a flood.
    If it does not take anything away from the reading and we know that it is very unlikely that such a thing happened, then why hold that belief? Jesus did not tell us to blindly follow rules, he was trying to say that we need to use judgment and love in our lives. The whole point of carrying the pack 2 miles when asked to do it 1 mile is not that we should double the amount of suffering others impose on us, but that we need to make sure that others see our servitude and kindness. By making it a rule that everything in the Bible has to be historically true is having a tin ear. It does not have to be (or it may be, it does not matter) to be true for it to have the meaning that is ascribed to it.
    Try the thought experiment of reading it as if the culture really understood the truth of the events without holding to the historicity. The meaning is intact! Not only is the meaning intact, but there are new meanings and new levels of meaning and new freedoms that provide meaning.
    I am totally not qualified to say what I am about to say, but I ask you as another Jesus follower to try this. Put yourself in the audience of 2 Peter 2. And say that I know that all of the things he is about to say are not historically accurate, but I also hold the belief that those are strong, proven and accepted ikons of the concepts that they represent. The string he is putting together is the very well accepted string of thought that god can punish if he wants. Those are all reminders to the people in the audience that they believe these things, that they really believe that god will bring destruction when needed. Remember, they may or may not actually believe that they historically happened, but they certainly participate in a culture that shares the truth that God will bring destruction to those who go against him.
    Later in the passage he talks about the donkey speaking. Now I think I am on pretty safe ground to say that what he is talking about here is not contingent on there having been a literal talking donkey (though it does say that in the OT). Instead, what he is gesturing at is the concept and truth portrayed in the talking donkey incident. This is highly conceptual and witty language that has meaning on many different levels. The last one that Peter meant to invoke would have been whether it was literally true that those things happened. It actually means more to allude to the lesson learned or the wisdom gained in each of those instead of the actual event itself.
    captcha – world stalled

  • Daniel Mann

    DRT,
    Let me make several observations about what you are saying.
    1. When you take the position that it doesn’t matter whether a certain passage is historical, you are assuming that you know enough about the intended purpose of the passage or Bible so that you can make that assessment. Do you really feel comfortable about arrogating that prerogative for yourself? Might God have a different opinion – that you are adding and subtracting from the Word He has given us to believe?
    2. It’s so patently obvious that many things must be historical. For instance, Paul argues that if Christ didn’t rise (history), then our faith is in vain (1 Cor. 15). In fact, theology doesn’t just spring up out of vacuum, but instead it’s sired and supported by historical events. The theology of the Cross depends upon the history of the Cross.
    3. As faithful Christians, aren’t we supposed to interpret the Bible faithfully, according to its intended meaning? If this is the case, what license do we have to relegate the Flood, for instance, to the status of myth, when all of the Biblical commentary unequivocally treats it as history?
    I think that your stance will hurt you in many ways. Instead of submitting to God’s Word and allowing it to judge and correct you, you are judging it, deciding what is necessary and what isn’t. In addition to this, you are taking such interpretative liberty, that it will backfire on you. You will most likely find that you will not have confidence in anything that Scripture teaches. I fear that it will become no more for you than a useless appendage.

  • Daniel Mann

    RJS,
    Thanks for your thoughtful and sensitive response. Although I too am concerned about the impact of the divergent teachings from university and traditional Christianity and the fact that many Christians are jumping-ship because of these tensions, our solutions are very different. While your solution is to bring the Christianity into conformity with the university, mine is to bring the university in line with Christianity. While I regard the teachings of Scripture as more trustworthy than those of the university, you regard the university as more authoritative. Consequently, you believe that the Biblical Flood isn’t “even remotely believable” (despite the consistent Biblical testimony that it is) and therefore seek to relegate it to the status of a myth.
    For me, this is very tragic. I can’t imagine how such a faith is faithful to God or how it could possibly serve those who adhere to it. After you have decided that you can’t trust the plain meaning of Scripture – that the Flood is historical, according to the Bible authors – then how are you going to trust the plain meaning of Scripture, that Jesus died for our sins? You claim that you “must rethink how we view Scripture.” But how are you going to trust such a rethinking that isn’t based on sound interpretive principles but instead is worldview-driven? If you can’t trust what Jesus taught regarding the Flood, how will you trust what He said regarding salvation? Perhaps this too might be a matter of Jesus teaching comforting myths?
    There are compelling reasons – objective and subjective – for regarding Scripture as fully trustworthy. There are also very satisfying reasons to doubt macroevolution, as many scientists do.
    Besides, I have far more to gain and less to loose by taking all thoughts captive unto Scripture (2 Cor. 10:4-5), rather than taking Scripture captive according to the present scientific consensus. I can tell you that there is a great joy in having confidence that I know what Scripture teaches (Col. 2:2-4) and that I am supremely loved and cared for by my Savior. I just don’t see how your reformulation of the Faith can give you this type of assurance!

  • Daniel Mann

    Scot,
    Let me try it again, although I fear that I might just be repeating myself. Here’s the reason why I don’t think I’m engaging in circular reasoning. I’m not trying to PROVE at this point that the Flood took place, but just that Scripture unequivocally and extensively said that it took place.
    If I wanted to prove that the Flood did take place historically, I’d cite Scripture, but I’d also reference scientific evidence — creation scientists have written much in support of the Flood — and also anthropological-testimonial evidence. I understand that around 200 people-groups recall the Flood. Pretty impressive, I think!

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Daniel,
    I almost don’t know how to respond other than you are saying that it is somehow bad for me to interpret scripture the way that I am yet it is OK to interpret it the way you are. Even more troubling, you are equating your interpretation with “God’s word” by which me and others should “submit” (this is not Islam).
    You are making choices in your interpretation but I fear that you do not see it that way.

  • Scot McKnight

    Daniel,
    What you want to conclude is that the Flood narrative is historical. You do this by saying the Bible says its historical. That’s not true. The Bible doesn’t ever say it is historical. The Bible affirms the narrative of the Flood in Genesis.
    You can conclude the Flood is historical by assuming the facts in the narrative are facts in history. The only other way to come to this conclusion is to prove from the Bible that the Bible says “this is actual events in history” (which it doesn’t) or show on other grounds that the Bible’s record about the Flood is historical fact. You came close to this by saying 200 some cultures — I’ve not heard that one — tell a Flood story. (By the way, if you go in that direction, you put yourself in the scientists’ camp.)
    One more thing: I don’t doubt the Flood narrative has the appearance of verisimilitude to actual events. No one would probably doubt that. But the appearance of verisimilitude doesn’t mean it can’t be fictional or mytho-poetic. What must be dealt with hermeneutically is that a fact in a narrative does not always mean a fact in history, and the process of discerning when such a fact is not a fact in history. No easy task, that’s for sure.

  • Scot McKnight

    Daniel,
    Now a question: if someone could prove to you on the basis of scientific evidence that the Flood was not universal and that all the animals did not die, would you say the Bible is not true?

  • Daniel Mann

    DRT,
    Interpretation isn’t something subjective (2 Peter 1:20-21). If it was, then I can see your point. I would merely be imposing my thoughts and feelings upon you.
    It is as legitimate to say that there is a correct interpretation as it is to say that the earth revolves around the sun, an interpretation of the observable data.
    Biblical interpretation is also an interpretation of the data. I pointed out that it’s not possible to construe the Flood as myth, and there’s a load of Biblical evidence to corroborate this.

  • Daniel Mann

    Scot,
    You wrote, “The Bible affirms the narrative of the Flood in Genesis.”
    Of course, we both agree there, but it also clearly affirms that the narrative is historical. If you wish to argue against this, then it’s not enough to merely make generalities. We have to look directly into Scripture, into what those various verses are saying.
    To answer your question, if science could prove that the worldwide flood never happened, then I would be compelled to try to understand the Bible differently. If the Bible won’t budge – and it doesn’t equivocate on the historicity of the Flood – then I will find myself in a pitiable position.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Daniel,
    You quote 2 Peter 1:20-21 to prove your point but in the very previous verse he discusses the morning star rising in their hearts. Is he talking about a bright light, lucifer, venus, what? If it is all unambiguous then he must be saying, what?
    That verse unambiguously proves that he will speak metaphorically…he may be doing it elsewhere.

  • Daniel Mann

    DRT,
    I’m not sure of your point?? I certainly acknowledge that the Bible is comprised of different types of statement — some metaphorical/figurative, some historical and concrete. Some teachings are parabolic, some are not.

  • Jeremiah Duomai

    “God made two great lights- the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars too.” (Gen 1.16) Ancient biblical interpreters thought that since lesser light implies the moon, the moon must be hot burning substance. Holy Spirit did not say “… and reflector of light was made to govern the night”, but accommodated the expression to the pre-scientific understanding of the time.
    The sun standing till for Joshua or “the sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises” were texts used to nail Galileo. These texts are not figurative expressions like that we read in Psalms where mountains clap or some sort of that kind. Calvin used principle of accommodation to interpret them, and so did Aquinas. To say that God erred scientifically, so to speak, to communicate certain truth about himself does not push me down the liberal path where resurrection and other miracles are undermined.


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