Religion Prof: The Blog of James F. McGrath
The Blog of Dr. James F. McGrath, Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University, Indianapolis
From God of Evolution
How about Mark 10.6, ἀπὸ δὲ ἀρχῆς κτίσεως ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ ἐποίησεν αὐτούς?
You can see the genealogy of Adam’s sons in Genesis 5, which continues in Genesis 10. Though many in the latter are ethnonyms, by the time we get to Gen 11, this isn’t the case. And 1 Chronicles clearly presumes that exilic populations could trace their genealogies back to the beginning of creation.
In antiquity, in the absence of scientific theory to the contrary – and in the presence of what appears to be the “clear signs of his creation” (“Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature . . . have been understood and seen through the things he has made”) – there would have been no reason for Jews/Christians to presume that the world _wasn’t_ created in six days, and only several thousand years prior to their time. The latter was the unanimous view in antiquity (http://www.reddit.com/r/Christianity/comments/1pjt7a/how_much_fallibility_are_you_willing_to_accept/).
is this case, I think the larger absence of evidence _is_ evidence of absence.
Oh, I can certainly understand why ancient readers of the Bible might have presumed that the earth was relatively young. That is, however, not at all the same thing as the Christian faith depending on that assumption being correct.
The genealogies in the Bible often mislead modern readers, since for us, genealogies are about tracing genetic relatedness in chronological time. But when we check Matthew’s math and the details of the genealogy he provides against the sources he used, we see that ancient authors and readers viewed them differently.
If you happened to have seen the text, ignore the comment I made. Had accidentally posted it before finishing.
The serious problem here is that people now have the liberty to define “Christianity” however they want. Is Seventh-Day Adventism still Christianity? Syncretistic animism/Christianity in Central/South America and Africa? The views of John Dominic Crossan? John Shelby Spong? Mormonism?
Of course, I think the answer to all of these is going to be “yes.” So, on analogy to this, we could certainly accept a plurality of (Christian) views on cosmology/anthropology as well.
But I think people still fail to work through the ramifications of asking if the earliest Christians were creationists…and how _they_ might have thought differently, had they known what we know today. What if – what if – you could travel back in time, informing Jesus himself (or Paul) about modern scientific thought, critical Biblical studies, etc., and then ask them if these things were reconcilable with Christian belief? What if they said that these new insights invalidated their beliefs? I strongly, _strongly_ think that, if we had the ability to this, this would be a likely possibility.
So, in the end, I think one might be asking questions like “can Christianity exist without accepting any of the views of Jesus (or Paul, etc.)?” …which seems, to me, to be going far beyond John Shelby Spong territory (or anything else listed).
That is only a “problem” if one comes from one of the strands of Christianity that fosters the illusion that Christianity has only ever meant one thing, with diversity being heresy, and inevitably their own position being the one that supposedly defines what Christianity “really is.” But such PR claims have never reflected reality.
Christians have disagreed with one another since the very beginning. Already in the New Testament, we find Christians editing, reworking, creating, and adjusting Jesus’ words. And so if not accepting the views of Jesus or Paul is a problem for Christianity, then it is arguable that there has never been a Christianity, and abundantly clear that what we find in the New Testament does not deserve the name. But that seems a problematic stance to adopt.
I’m not talking about, you know, halakhic issues or whether the NT presupposes an adoptionist Christology or full-blown Trinitarianism, or things like that. I’m talking about radically exposing the naturalistic origins of religion itself – including the construction of belief in the Jewish deity himself.
If you were speaking to Jesus or Paul in the 1st century, and were able to (convincingly) deconstruct every ‘fact’ that they knew to be true about their religion, would they still have believed? Or, at the very least, would/could they admit that one cannot believe their _own_ message while accepting this deconstruction?
Yes, I suppose Christians might not have to believe in a literal Adam or Noah, or maybe not even a literal Abraham or Moses. But _historicity_ is not the only thing we can deconstruct. I think we can even deconstruct whether these stories even have any lasting or enviable or coherent theological meaning. And, as you know, pretty much every Biblical (and extrabiblical) verse has been subjected to a naturalistic-critical framework.
I’m willing, in theory, to consider a wide range of theological proposals. But I just don’t think Judaism or Christianity can exist without the Bible as an authoritative collection of documents.
just my 2 cents, but Jesus’ message had nothing to do with the history of the earth. his message was Love. i don’t think you can deconstruct that.
Yes, Love for Sinners. That’s why he gave his life for you and I, proving he is the Son of God.
Judaism and Christianity produced and collected texts. Not vice versa. I know that these texts have then taken on a central role to such an extent that it can be hard to imagine the religions without the texts. But ultimately, I don’t think anyone is suggesting that the texts be tossed out, just that they be read critically and with a willingness to argue with them. That is a long part of the history of Judaism, and even if it has been less obviously a part of Christianity, it is there too – for instance, when Luther discussed what to do with certain NT texts, such as the letter of James.
The very bible we read to day is the direct result of theologians argueing,omitting..editing and changing thousands of “biblical texts”. The very existence of a coherent bible is due to that.To say it is divinely complete and therefore unalterable is to deny its very real origins.
So, just to throw out another useless opinion… If I was an all-powerful God who stood outside all of space and time and was immune to cause and effect (which the Christian/Jewish/Muslim God MUST be to have created time itself), then I certainly wouldn’t try to explain advanced particle physics and orbital mechanics to 1000 bc sheepherders. Of COURSE He used a story: How else could He have possibly explained creation to primitive people? However… 1) Learning how the universe was actually, mechanically created (which is evolution and the “big bang” and so forth) doesn’t threaten my faith in God at all, because 2) God tells us to actually explore the majesty of creation for ourselves, and to be its stewards, so 3) Science + Faith is NOT a zero-sum game. You can have both/either/neither and still function. I don’t care what people believe personally, but when it blunts our understanding of the universe God created for us, THEN we are violating the intent of the bible. And in case you want to argue that God/the Bible is to be LITERALLY interpreted, then… 1) Why did Jesus talk in parables all the time? and 2) Where is the gigantic dome of water that hovers over the oceans? Because Genesis 1:7-8 is VERY clear that there is a massive dome of water hanging over us. But since we’ve sent rockets into space, that can NOT be correct.
The problem with using Genesis (any verse btw) is that the lineage from Adam to Noah specifically enumerates the exact time in years of the lives of these originators most of whom lived nearly a thousand years…add em all up and Holy Moses its over 12,000 yrs past…no so young earth after all.
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