Recurring Mistakes in the Adam/Evolution Discussion

Over the past two weeks or so, there has been quite a bit of blog discussion over the question of Adam in light of evolution. I have kept up with various websites and other postings—not to mention comments on my own website.

Opinions vary, of course, and the Internet can be a good place to air one’s views and have a rousing back and forth debate. Nothing at all wrong with that. But, as I began reading editorials and comments, I saw patterns of responses that served more to obscure the issues before us than enlighten.

I began jotting down these patterns, thinking that, perhaps, I’ll write a brief post about “problems to avoid if we want to get anywhere in this important discussion.” But my list of recurring mistakes grew to fifteen—well beyond one post.

So, we’ll begin today with the first three recurring mistakes —in no particular order whatsoever. The others will follow in the days to come.

It’s all about the authority of the Bible. I can understand why this claim might have rhetorical effect, but this issue is not about biblical authority. It’s about how the Bible is to be interpreted. It’s about hermeneutics.

It’s always about hermeneutics.

I know that in some circles “hermeneutics” is code for “let’s find a way to get out of the plain meaning of the text.” But even a so-called “plain” or “literal” reading of the Bible is a hermeneutic—an approach to interpretation.

Literalism is a hermeneutical decision (even if implicit) as much as any other approach, and so needs to be defended as much as any other. Literalism is not the default godly way to read the Bible that preserves biblical authority. It is not the “normal” way of reading the Bible that gets a free pass while all others must face the bar of judgment.

So, when someone says, “I don’t read Genesis 1-3 as historical events, and here are the reasons why,” that person is not “denying biblical authority.” That person may be wrong, but that would have to be judged on some basis other than the ultimate literalist conversation-stopper, “You’re denying biblical authority.”

The Bible is not just “there.” It has to be interpreted. The issue is which interpretations are more defensible than others.

To put all this another way, appealing to biblical authority does not tell you how to interpret the Bible. That requires a lot more work. It always has. “Biblical authority” is a predisposition to the text. It is not a hermeneutic.

You’re giving science more authority than the Bible. This, too, may have some rhetorical effect, but it is entirely misguided.

To say that science gives us a more accurate understanding of human origins than the Bible is not putting science “over” the Bible—unless we assume that the Bible is prepared to give us scientific information.

There are numerous compelling reasons to think that Genesis is not prepared to provide such information—namely the fact that Genesis was written at least 2500 years ago by and for people, who, to state the obvious, were not thinking in modern scientific terms.

One might respond, “But Genesis was inspired by God, and so needs to be true.”
That assertion assumes (1) that “truth” requires historical accuracy (which needs to be defended rather than asserted), and (2) that a text inspired by God in antiquity would, by virtue of its being the word of God, need to give scientific rather than ancient accounts of origins (which is also an assumption that would need to be vigorously defended, not merely asserted).

Put another way, lying behind this error in thinking is the unstated assumption that the Bible, as the word of God, must predetermine the conclusions that scientific investigations can arrive at on any subject matter the Bible addresses.

To make this assumption is to run roughshod over the very contextual and historically conditioned nature of Scripture.

If Scripture were truly given priority over science in matters open to scientific inquiry, the church would have never gotten past Galileo’s discovery that the earth revolves around the sun.

But the church has never questioned the historicity of Adam. This is largely true—though it obscures the symbolism especially early interpreters found in the Garden story, but I digress. On the whole, this statement is correct.

But this rather obvious observation is irrelevant to the issue at hand.

Knowing what the history of the church has thought about Adam is not an argument for Adam’s historicity, as some seem to think, since the history of the church did not have evolution to deal with until recently.

That’s the whole point of this debate—evolution is a new factor we have to address.

Appealing to a time in church history before evolution was a factor as an authoritative voice in the discussion over evolution simply makes no sense. What Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and the Puritans assumed about human origins is not relevant. (And, no, I am not dismissing the study of church history, historical theology, etc., by saying this.)

Calling upon church history does not solve the problem; it simply restates it.

Appealing to church history does not end the discussion; it just reminds us why we need to have the discussion in the first place.

  • http://www.djfick.blogspot.com Daniel J. Fick

    For me, more than anything, this has provided a fuller understanding of where you are coming from. This is much appreciated!

    • peteenns

      Thanks, Daniel (I think ;-) )

  • http://www.dburnett.com David Burnett

    Good post Pete. Agreed.

  • http://resurrectingraleigh.wordpress.com/ David

    Great post! Thanks, Pete.

  • Michael Tilley

    Is there any chance you could make full posts accessible in RSS feeds? I really enjoy your posts and think highly of them, but it would be nice if I could access them directly from my feed reader and not have to click through unless I plan to comment.

    • peteenns

      I’ll talk to my IT geeks at patheos about that, Michael.

      • Michael Tilley

        Much appreciated.

  • Jedidiah Slaboda

    Thanks for this, Pete! More has to be said about all of these in the conversations many of us are having about the question of reading the Bible faithfully. That would require a course. Which makes me nostalgic for the days I got to study with you.

    One of the things that is most important to me personally as I think through re-approaching ancient Scripture with modern questions has to do with your third point.

    I think those of us with interests in new interpretations can do better at practicing what Wright calls a hermeneutic of love/charity/generosity (over against a hermeneutic of suspicion) toward our spiritual fathers and mothers. Something like remembering to honor our fathers and mothers in the faith especially when we come to the conclusion that they were wrong.

    They may be wrong. That’s the joy and adventure of having a Scriptural text as an authority. There are always ways in which we can find ourselves wrong. But we can be wrong in a lot of ways than in our interpretations. I can be wrong in failing to honor an interpretive tradition and running roughshod over that tradition. I may come to the conclusion that the ‘catholic’ stance on something is wrong but I hope to hold novel views with concern for the fact that I’ve departed from the tradition on that point. I hope to be courageous, honest but also patient when I am stepping outside the received tradition.

    Anyway, very grateful for your engagement here and elsewhere.

    • peteenns

      Good thoughts, Jed. Thanks for posting. And I thought you hated my classes :-)

  • http://prussic.wordpress.com tim prussic

    “To say that science gives us a more accurate understanding of human origins than the Bible is not putting science “over” the Bible—unless we assume that the Bible is prepared to give us scientific information.”

    This is a cop out. I understand that the Bible is not a book of science, but we are not epistemological dualists. Averroes is not our model; God doesn’t speak with a forked tongue. When the Bible speaks clearly about issues of cosmogony, what’s revealed MUST guide our “scientific” processes. It’s possible the church has *misunderstood* the text of Genesis 1, but it’s impossible that Genesis 1 doesn’t have to do with cosmogony. As such, it should guide our thinking.

    • peteenns

      Tim, you are illustrating the point.

      • Richard Worden Wilson

        Tim, if you had an even approximate understanding of what kind of cosmogony Genesis “describes” (as some like to say) you wouldn’t reasonably be able to say what you have. That cosmogony has increasingly and thoroughly been left behind by discoveries of the astronomical physical sciences, starting many centuries ago.
        Pete, one of your recent posts about issues related to evolution and theology included what I think is the most encouraging and courageous thing any biblical scholar has said: dealing reasonably with the new information coming from genetic and evolutionary science will require a change in world view (I’m paraphrasing). There are, of course, various world views evident in biblical and church history, but coming to grips with the kind of world view necessitated by scientific results will compel most all of us on into new perspectives. Kudos and Amens, even Hallelujahs!

        • peteenns

          Richard, we would all do well to learn the lessons of church history–unreasonable resistance to new challenges hurts the church.

    • Pf

      Tim, you are willing to ignore verifiable scientific information garnered by centuries of study by real people who have a documented and photographed studies in favor of an ancient story written by an unknown person at an unknown location for reasons you can only guess?

      Does that make sense?

  • Ken Buck

    Thanks Pete! This is both useful and helpful.

  • http://myramboknives.blogspot.com Britt

    Love Dr.E…(That’s my name for you)

  • Paul Brassey

    Pete, forgive me if you’ve covered this in your blog; this is my first appearance here. There is an issue in one of the comments above that I struggle with every Sunday morning (in the pew, not the pulpit). It is the implicit and also explicit equation: The (Christian) Bible is the (only and unique) Word of God. And Word of God comes to mean something like “words directly uttered by God for which the human writers were merely intermediaries.” My current pastor put it this way: “God speaks to us through the Bible; we speak to God through prayer.” I find this odd, because it is not what parts of the Bible teach about prayer; clearly God speaks to humans through prayer in biblical stories. Personally, I see the Bible as “the word of God” in a different sense of the genitive: not composed by God, but about God. It is, in fact, a collection of rather widely disparate points of view about God, the unity of which is located in the Jewish-Christian community from which it sprang. Parts of the Bible teach that God is also revealed through nature and through the human conscience. So for me the very notion that “The Bible is the Word (i.e., comprehensively and uniquely divine text) of (i.e, from) God” is itself imposed from the outside onto a collection of texts that as a whole does not teach this doctrine.

    • JenG

      I’m with you, Paul! The Bible may be many things but there are two things it is not: (a) the Bible is NOT a person (“The Bible says…”) and (b) the Bible is NOT God (“God says in His ‘Word’…”).

      This might seem elementary, but it seems to be the implication of the way most people speak about “Mr. Bible” and it’s a huge pet peeve of mine!

      • peteenns

        JenG, some might say, though, that if the Bible is God’s word, it speaks with God’s authority. What do you say about that? (Why should I have to answer all the questions…..)

        • JenG

          Ooo! Thanks for opportunity to clarify my thoughts. And for something to do all afternoon… this took awhile.

          To start, it has been my experience that the language we use in talking about the Bible is not terribly useful in taking conversations forward or conveying what we REALLY think about the nature of Scripture or how God communicates with people. For example, if I say “The Bible says/God says in His Word…” what I might really mean is “At some point in history, someone or a group of someones said or recorded these words and they were later edited, complied, copied, translated, translated again, copied some more and all those folks along the way may or may not have been inspired when they wrote/copied/translated them and I may or may not be inspired as I read them now or as I consider the interpretations of others and I am going to bear that in mind as I try to figure out if what I am reading matters or not and what to do about that”… versus someone else saying… “The Bible says…” and meaning “God spoke exact words to a specific author and then someone else copied those words exactly and then someone else translated them perfectly in to my native tongue and now I can easily read and understand what God has to say to me”. We are both uttering the exact same qualifier at the beginning of our statement but meaning two very different things (I have given extremes on both ends to prove a point – I realize it is rarely ever that cut and dry).

          So, someone comes up to me and says, “Jen, if the Bible is God’s word, it speaks with God’s authority”… Well, sure. Maybe. But first I would want to know what the person saying this means by the “Bible is God’s Word” – and even “God’s authority” for that matter – before I could even begin to go on with the conversation. There are SO many different definitions for those terms out there that it is difficult to discuss them without defining them clearly almost on a conversation by conversation basis. Which is tedious, to say the least, but necessary. Failure to do this results in people just talking over and past and under and around each other and rarely even discussing the same thing while having what they think is the same conversation.

          What we have a lot of them time is what I believe to be the real question behind a lot of these questions in the Adam/Science and the Bible discussions which is: “In what way is the Bible inspired (God’s Word?) and what does that mean for any possible real-life application of what we find therein?”. [If only someone would write a book on this… Ha!] From my own perspective, I think (a) of Scripture as authoritative in the sense that God has authorized or allowed for, not authored, the texts preserved for us in the Bible to be used in our lives for His good purpose, (b) of the adequacy of Scripture – rather than the inerrancy, (c) of the inspiration (How? I don’t know. The accommodation perspective helps me in some cases.) of the many/of the process – rather than inspiration of just the original author, and (d) of God speaking authoritatively through means other than Scripture, for instance the book of nature, tradition, and in many other ways – such as through prayer or the gift of wisdom, and of those means potentially superseding what we might think was being said in Scripture (how to decide when that is warranted is another problem altogether). If someone wants to define terms differently, or holds the view that the Bible is the next-best-thing we can have to God himself so much so that it replaces God himself in their life, then I take my cue from those more diplomatic than I and say that I respect those who differ in their right and ability to do so, that I am open to the possibility, however faint, that they are right, but that I profoundly disagree.

          How’s that, Prof Enns? C+…??? : ) Feel free to dock marks for run-on sentences and the over-use of (brackets) and “…”.

          As an aside, the cartoon made me laugh. But rather than someone’s wife calling, for me it’s my poor toddler! I think I am part of a rather small club… Stay-at-home-mom-under-30 theobloggers? Anyone?… Anyone?…

          • peteenns

            Well, I asked for it.

        • Nan Bush

          What’s key is making the distinction between “the Word of God” and “the words of God.”

          • peteenns

            I’m not sure I follow you, Nan.

    • peteenns

      Hi Paul. So glad to have you commenting here, old classmate! Your understanding of the genitive is a key point. The “wholly top down” view of the genitive can lead readers to expect things from the Bible it simply can’t deliver–like scientific information. It is a big problem.

  • Don Johnson

    I like the way the Catholic church formulates this: The latest Scripture text was written about 100 AD and science was invented in the 1600s. There is no reason to suspect there is an overlap, due to the time distance.

    In other words, looking for concordism with science in an ancient text is vain; it demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what one is dealing with in the text.

    • peteenns

      No argument from me, Don. :-)

  • http://pauljpark.wordpress.com Paul

    Hi again Dr Enns,

    So I’m trying to understand these points and I have a couple questions on the first point. I seem to get the point that the issue is not directly about Biblical authority, that is, as a predisposition to the text. But my question is, wouldn’t this ‘predisposition’ be a part of the hermeneutical tool that one brings while engaging in interpretation? So then, isn’t the type of hermeneutics tied to the way (or even type) of view you have of biblical authority? Or just so my questions aren’t confusing, to put it another way, how would you reply to those that claim the bible is the primary hermeneutic tool for interpreting the bible?

    And while I’m at it, I’d like to ask another, kind of on the 2nd point. You said, some erroneously assume that “truth requires historical accuracy”. But I find this a bit of a different claim to “truth requires historicity” (whether we know it accurately or not). I feel like I can see the error in claiming “truth requires historical accuracy” but would you say “truth requires historicity”, if not, what does it require?

    I do have another question but taking the que from the cartoon (which is hilarious) I will save it for another time. Hope you have time to reply. Thanks!

    • peteenns

      Paul, on your first point, I would simply say that Bible does not tell us how to interpet itself–it does not provide a hermeneutic. I would also add that it is impossible to interpet the Bible at all apart from some larger frame of reference that is, by definition, outside of the Bible.

    • peteenns

      Oh, your second question. Good point, so let me add that “truth does not require historicity–at least not everywhere. The issue there is one of genre recognition. Truth of Gospel accounts of the resurrection will not be addressed on the same genre-level as stories of primordial times.

      Thanks for taking the cartoon to heart. :-)

  • http://www.fellowtravelerblog.com rob Haskell

    Hi Peter – I basically agree with your assessments here, but I fear that the way you have crafted the material seems a bit misleading. I guess when I think of “mistakes” in the discussion I’m expecting insight into how the discussion is being carried out (which might apply to both sides). But it seems like here you are just calling all the basic assumptions that “literal adamists” make “mistakes”. Maybe I’m being too picky, but that’s just how it strikes me. The title attracted me because I thought you might be critiquing all parties involved. Still, good stuff and thanks for sharing.

    • peteenns

      Basically isn’t good enough, Rob. I need you to agree with me completely. (Hope you’re smiling).

      Sorry to have mislead you, but, yes, I am looking at mistakes made in defenses of a historical Adam. My feeling is that once these mistakes are seen for what they are, it will actually open up a true exchange where all parties can learn and grow.

    • Paul Brassey

      I’ll take a swing at this slider on the outside corner. What are some mistakes commonly made in the debate on the part of those who disagree with the literalist point of view? As Peter points out, all hermeneutics take an interpretive position formed outside the canon they are interpreting. The biblical scholar can get utterly lost in the minutia of textual dissection. He/she can come to believe that Truth is to be found through an accurate, incisive genre analysis, or through the surgical separation of literary or historical strands in the text. Recognizing the folly of such obsessions, other scholars look for Truth in locating the precise principle or community which accounts for the assembling of all these disparate layers or genres. Then they can all get together and yell at one another, in a genteel way, of course, in a scholarly meeting, over whose methodology is The Way.

      A related problem has to do with the bias toward contemporary scientific understandings as the standard for Truth: The ancients didn’t know about evolution, so now we must correct their perception of Truth from our superior vantage point. I’m not at all confident that we moderns have a superior conception of Truth, for all our technological advancement (if advancement is the correct assessment). We can become so confident of our intellectual superiority over the ancient texts and traditions that we become dismissive of them and fail to appreciate a level of wisdom hard-earned through toil and conflict across millennia. Hubris is the disease, and humility is the cure.

      • peteenns

        Paul, it’s funny you should write this a few days before I leave for SBL–the annual “sea of tweed” conference, where one of my main goals is to avoid the cynicism and self-congratulatory vibe that too often pervades those meetings. I could go on. Re: evolution, though, the issue is not correcting ancient perceptions of truth. For the audience I am mainly speaking to, it is getting them to engage more directly that the BIble bears the marks of it cultural moments. As I see it, it is not a matter of “correcting” anyone, but truly hearing what ancient authors were saying, rather than thinking we must align their view with ours on certain scientific matters. Ironically, such an effort obscures the ancient view.

  • http://www.intownchurch.com Brian Prentiss

    excellent thoughts Pete. I appreciate you distilling these misconceptions!

  • Stanley

    So, if the Adam and Eve story is not to be understood literally because such literalism has been rendered obsolete by science, I suppose we can, by the same token, dispose of Jonah and the Whale, The Flood, Moses leading his people through a parted sea, virgin births, Jesus walking on water, turning water into whine, waking the dead, and …yes, the very resurrection Christianity depends upon.

    Science decidedly contradicts all of these events, so what criterion are we using when culling out metaphorical information from literal one?

    • peteenns

      Stanley, I truly understand where you question is coming from, but I think you are quite wrong in the assumptions you are making. There are two things to keep in mind as you go though the list you give here. (1) The genre of literature you are dealing with (Genesis 1-11 and the Gospel are very different, for example). (2) There are many things outside of the scope of scientific investigation: Resurrection, for example, is one of them. Human origins is not. This is not an either/or or slippery slope issue.

  • Craig Wright

    As a lay adult Sunday School teacher, I deal with this situation by asking, “How many of you believe the earth revolves around the sun? Did you learn that from the Bible or science? Why did the early church believe the opposite, from the Bible or science?” To take a nonscientific issue, I ask, “Do any of you believe women should not vote in today’s national elections? What would you have believed 200 years ago, at the founding of our nation? Would your beliefs, then, have been formed by what you believe the Bible taught?”

  • Chase

    Dr. Enns,
    Thanks for your post, I have enjoyed reading and being challenged by some of your recent work.

    My question actually has to do with a point you make in “Inspiration and Incarnation.” As recent evidence from the ANE has afforded us an opportunity to gain greater historical insight into the cultural context of ancient Israel and the worldview assumptions that they inevitably would have been operating from, you make the point that evangelical scholars have at least admitted this evidence but have largely failed to take the doctrinal implications of this evidence into deeper consideration.

    In the context of the discussion of a historical Adam, my question then becomes your question; in light of contemporary evidence that renders a literal reading of the Adam, Eve, and Eden more improbable, rather than just admitting the evidence, what do you see are the real doctrinal implications for the church and the Bible that we inevitably must come face to face with and wrestle through? Obviously an exhaustive answer on such a question could take volumes of scholarly work, so I will try to be more specific.

    In the context of Romans 5, the reasoning of Paul’s argument seems to be from solidarity with Adam (a presumed historical figure with a presumed historical fall into sin) in guilt and death, to solidarity with Christ (a presumed historical figure with a presumed historical death and resurrection) in peace and eternal life. What are the implications then if Paul’s line of reasoning presumes upon a historical Adam and a historical fall, and then uses that presumption as the basis for articulating our hope in Christ?

    Once again I know this would require much space to answer exhaustively so let me try to narrow it a little more. I have grown admittedly weary of the dreaded slippery slope arguments that pervade much discussion about the nature of the Bible and its claims, which I think we both agree stem not from the Bible’s own teaching about how it operates, but rather originate in a modern preconception about how the Bible must in fact operate if it is truly the Word of God. I may break down if I hear one more time the argument “if you deny a literal interpretation of Genesis 1, you deny the resurrection.” However fallacious this kind of argumentation may be, I do at least understand the sentiment. The issue I have been wrestling with then is whether or not there is some proverbial “line” we must not cross, however elusive it may prove to be to establish, when we approach the claims of the Bible. What prevents us from saying Paul’s argument in Romans 5 is culturally conditioned by Second Temple Judaism and a 1st century worldview, and thus make a move to saying his claims about the essential centrality of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 is also based on such cultural and literary conditions? Once again I am not saying this kind of slippery slope is necessitated, I am simply using this as an example to ask if there is some hermeneutical tool that prevents us from even being able to move in such a direction? (You may bring in genre distinction here, but part of my question stems from arguments present across NT epistles which share the same genre).

    To sum up, 1) what in your mind are some of the doctrinal implications of denying a historical Adam, especially when it comes to NT testimony that seems to presume upon a historical Adam and then goes on to make theological claims based on that very presumption and 2) at the end of the day what hermeneutically, from a scholar’s perspective does in fact prevent a sort of either/or, slippery slope type move to denying some of the gospel claims that are in fact grounded in historical claims?

    Once again, sorry this is long winded, and I am not asking for an exhaustive explanation, just maybe some helpful direction for someone thinking not only theologically but also pastorally. Thanks again for your work and for driving these kinds of discussions forward in challenging new directions.

    • peteenns

      Chase, good questions, of course. Your answer deserves a book–or better half a book. In my upcoming The Evolution of Adam, I try to tackle these questions in the second half of the book.

  • Chase

    Somehow, I figured you might say that, guess I’ll just have pad your wallet a little more to obtain some answers :)

    • JenG

      @Chase: Have you read these articles? Might help while you anxiously wait to pad Pete’s wallet. I’ve got my Pay Pal account on high alert for when this book releases : D

      http://biologos.org/blog/pauls-adam-part-i/
      (there is also part 2, 3 and 4 but wordpress won’t let me give all the urls because it thinks I am a spammer)
      *note – Pete promises a Part 5 and never does deliver… perhaps that was a year and a half long cliff-hanger to his soon-to-be-released book? : ) I have a feeling whatever would’ve been in Part 5 would’ve been what you are looking for, Chase.

      I like this one too as a good foundational/introductory read on OT formation issues: http://biologos.org/blog/when-was-genesis-written-and-why-does-it-matter-a-brief-historical-survey

  • barlow

    In your new book, do you discuss theodicy? Also, what is the exact nature of your “miracle” filter. In other words, the ability to classify something as a miracle has a lot of explanatory utility in your worldview – it exonerates some scientifically impossible things from falsification (like the resurrection) but it places things like the human genome into a category of that which must be exactly what it seems to be. How does this work?

    I also think there is a theological assumption that drives some of your work. Your problem with Mohler’s approach, aside from its ad hoc nature, is that it raises the question about what kind of God would create such an easy to confuse situation. What kind of God would make Fossils? But I guess my theological concern is just as real. What kind of God would make a world governed by survival of the fittest from the get-go? What kind of God would make his image-bearers through a process that would have almost certainly involved a lot of distasteful behavior (as is on display in any zoo or nature program)? You would rather have a God that is harder to acquit from the problem of evil than to have a God who makes fossils. I’m not sure that’s really the optimal choice.

    Finally, a bonus. There is one place in the bible, not in the book of Genesis or in any kind of parable-like genre, where God instantly makes something that appears old and appears to have gone through processes. That thing even contained animal remains! I’m sure you can guess what I’m talking about. Doesn’t that show us pretty clearly exactly what kind of God could make a genome that could be interpreted to have come from some kind of evolutionary process? The God we have.

    • peteenns

      Barlow, I will grant you one point. I have been very clear that evolution definitely creates theological problems. But, that doesn’t mean evolution is wrong. It means we have theological cha;enges before us. The question is whether we want to address them.

  • eric kunkel

    Pete

    When Jesus told the parable of The Good Samaritan, there was a certain man on the road to Jericho, robbers, passersby, and the Samaritan — would his hearers have turned and thought, “ah yes, he must have been talking about that incident when Ahab the Vagabond was on that dangerous road last year.” And “that Samaritan tried to pay his bill at the Dead Sea Hilton, I remember.”

    After all, Jesus DID just say “there was a certain man ….” Perhaps another hearer said — No, I think he must have meant Ezekiel ben Enns, he had that happen to him just last week, as I heard it was kind of like that. He was down by the Dead Sea, copying some scrolls, leaving them in caves, and was on his way, back and forth from Jerusalem to Jericho. He was beaten up and they took his vellum and and 66 shekels.” I am certain that was the “certain man.” [Those two hearers accuse each other of certain error, exchange words and storm off, certainly missing the point.]

    Back to reality and to agree with you on something. One’s view or foundation of soteriology or one’s interpretation of Paul or whomever, may be based on the creation/lapsarian narrative in Genesis. But:

    Is also not our Ethics based on, or deeply indebted to this other narrative, or parable (or whatever genre) about the guy on the road to Jericho, told by Jesus? Is our ethics in peril if this incident was a story, meant to teach something in a memorable way?

    Notice I don’t say “only a story”. Maybe it did happen just like that. We can be certain of some things, and less certain of others. That is how knowledge is.

    Eric Kunkel

    • peteenns

      I follow you here, Eric. I imagine some would respond that Genesis is not a parable–but that only raises the question of genre. But in any event, what Genesis is “trying to do” when we read it carried much force that–like the Good Samaritan–is not dependent on a historical hook.

  • Chase

    Thanks JenG, those articles are indeed a good starting point.

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  • Sam Goss

    If someone believes the Bible is a book of science, then please explain I Kings 7:23? Ratio given between diameter and circumferemce is 3.14 not 3. We would be in trouble if this value for PI was used.

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  • http://purelybeloved.wordpress.com Kate Rae Davis

    Good points, concisely stated!

    I would add: post-Enlightenment split between truth (what really happened?) and meaning (what does it mean?!). In the biblical text, these two were held together. Today, a struggle of hermeneutics is to re-join them.

  • http://www.pubtheologian.com Bryan Berghoef

    Outstanding work, Peter. Your book, The Evolution of Adam is now on my birthday list!

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  • Phillip

    The common error is assuming that Genesis chapter 2 is re-telling the story of the Sixth Day (Genesis chapter 1). But the text does not declare this, and the differing variables will not allow it. Not logically.

    Genesis 1:25-27.
    Gen 2:18-19.
    Genesis 2:5. (Q ^ R) : (P -> Q) v (P -> R)
    ~R
    P -> Q
    VALID REASONING & PERFECTLY FACTUAL: Forging precedes agriculture in the history of modern man.

    Tilling the ground (chapters 2 & 4) is very different than picking herbs (chapter 1). Eth ha Adam of Genesis chapter 2 (who was “formed”, not “created”) was put in a specific location, and was told to eat only from the garden HE TENDED – that’s agriculture.
    The people “created” (not formed) before him on the Sixth were forages (former conclusion) and were not restricted to one place.
    Eve was called the mother of all “living”, not the mother of all “mankind”.

    • Phillip

      I can’t believe I forgot this.

      IF the “men and women” “created” on the sixth day were the first humans (P), THEN they were foragers (Q), OR they were tillers of the ground (R).

      “and there was NOT a man to till the ground.” (~R).

      THEREFORE, the men and women created on the sixth day were foragers (Q).

      P -> (Q ^ R) : (P -> Q) v (P -> R)
      ~R
      P -> Q

  • Phillip

    The “flyers” (CLV) or “winged” (Heb oph) of Leviticus 11.
    In Canonical Order from left to right:

    1. KINGDOM. Animalia. 11:13-23.
    2. PHYLUM Chordata. 11:13-19. / PHYLUM Arthropoda. 11:20-23.
    3. CLASS Aves. 11:13-19-. / CLASS Mamalia. 11:-19. / CLASS Insecta. 11:20-23.

    FACT: birds and the bat are the only Chordate flyers on earth. (Other Chordates that use aerial locomotion do so by means OTHER than flying, eg, gliding, parachuting, etc. Another valid division would be Vertebrates 11:13-19. / Invertebrates 11:20-23.)

    FACT: the first group of organisms listed in Lev 11:13-19- are members of the CLASS Aves: birds.

    FACT: the last organism listed in Lev 11:-19 is a member of the CLASS Mamalia: the bat.

    FACT: birds are NOT members of the CLASS Mamalia.

    CONCLUSION: the bat is NOT a bird.

    CONCLUSION: the bat is NOT the eagle. 11:13.

    CONCLUSION: the bat is NOT the ossifrage. 11:13.

    CONCLUSION: the bat is NOT the ospray. 11:13.

    CONCLUSION: the bat is NOT the vulture. 11:14.

    CONCLUSION: the bat is NOT the kite. 11:14.

    CONCLUSION: the bat is NOT every raven. 11:15.

    CONCLUSION: the bat is NOT the owl. 11:16.

    CONCLUSION: the bat is NOT the night hawk. 11:16.

    CONCLUSION: the bat is NOT the cuckow. 11:16.

    CONCLUSION: the bat is NOT the hawk. 11:16.

    CONCLUSION: the bat is NOT the little owl. 11:17.

    CONCLUSION: the bat is NOT the cormorant. 11:17.

    CONCLUSION: the bat is NOT the great owl. 11:17.

    CONCLUSION: the bat is NOT the swan. 11:18.

    CONCLUSION: the bat is NOT the pelican. 11:18.

    CONCLUSION: the bat is NOT the gier eagle. 11:18

    CONCLUSION: the bat is NOT the stork. 11:19.

    CONCLUSION: the bat is NOT the heron. 11:19.

    CONCLUSION: the bat is NOT the lapwing. 11:19.

    INQUIRY: If Leviticus is un-reliable as a taxonomic source, then from the text of Leviticus 11:13-19, and the Scientific Classification System, LOGICALLY CONCLUDE that the bat is a bird…

  • caspian

    Hey man, stumbled upon this today and it’s an excellent series of articles. Might have something more profound to type when I’ve finished the series. Cheers!


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