Creationism: Snapshot No. 4

Sunrise in Samaria

Halfway back to Jerusalem from Jericho, our bus full of American students stopped at a place designed to lure busloads of Americans. The Good Samaritan Inn is not really an inn, it's a gift shop. It sells postcards, T-shirts and souvenirs such as olive-wood crosses hand carved with care by Muslim and Jewish craftsmen.

The gift shop takes its name, of course, from the story of the Good Samaritan (see Luke 10:25-37). It's a clever name and a clever pretext for locating a gift shop on this ancient roadway.

But, to answer the question frequently asked by American tourists, it is not at the site of the "real" inn from the story. There is no such place. It's not that kind of story.

"Who is my neighbor?" a teacher of the law asks Jesus. And Jesus, in reply, tells this story. It's not exactly a straight answer, but then the teacher of the law wasn't asking the right question. "Who is my neighbor?" he asked, meaning "Who is it that I am required to love?" Jesus' parabolic answer, essentially, is "Just be a neighbor. Real neighbors don't ask questions like that."

The story of the Good Samaritan is a good story, a beautiful and well-crafted story. It is a story that conveys important truths. But it is not a true story. Jesus never claims to be retelling an actual event that actually happened.

It's not the kind of story that anyone could tell as a "true story." There was no journalist present to offer such a report. No one was present to witness all the elements in this story, which is told from the perspective of an omniscient, third-person narrator and not from the perspective of an eyewitness.

If your response to the tenth chapter of Luke is to set out on an archaeological expedition in search of the actual site of the actual Good Samaritan's Inn, then you've completely misunderstood the story. Not only would you have utterly missed the point, but you'd be inflicting other, different meaning on the passage. This is a refined and elaborate form of illiteracy, but it is still illiteracy.

Many Christians insist on this same illiterate approach to the first chapter of Genesis. They insist on reading it "literally," by which they mean taking a story that is not a journalistic eyewitness account and pretending that it is one.

This is the same problem an earlier generation of Christians encountered when their "literal" interpretation of Psalm 19 — "the sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end" — required them to reject Galileo and Copernicus.

The late John Paul II's apology to Galileo did not constitute a rejection of Psalm 19 or a dismissal of that passage. It constituted a rejection of the purportedly "literal" interpretation of the Psalm which inflicted on it whole constructs of meaning alien to the text itself.

The sun rises. The sun sets. A certain man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell among thieves. The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

  • Don

    So Zug,
    What did the Apostle Paul “experience” on the road to Damascus?
    Don

  • Ray

    The same thing Mohammed experienced in his cave near Mecca?
    The same thing Michael travesser experienced?
    The same thing Sri Aurobindo experienced in prison?

  • ZUG

    What did The Apostle Paul experience….?? How the hell should I know…?
    Maybe it’s the same thing I experienced the first time I watched “The Galaxy Being”…

  • Beth

    I want to comment on the idea of having a ‘direct experience with the creator’…
    A few posters have written about their spiritual experiences with the implication that these experiences offer proof not only of the existence of the deity in question but also of the rightness of their particular doctrine.
    Might I humbly suggest that you reread the posts in question? IIRC, I’m the only one here who went on about ‘direct experience’, and I certainly never offered it as “proof not only of the existence of the deity in question but also of the rightness of their particular doctrine.” Nor am I likely to. I am an agnostic, and I am also a spiritual pragmatist — that is, I believe that the ‘right’ set of beliefs for any particular person, is whatever makes them better, happier people.

  • Don

    Zug,
    The proof that He was actually there, as alluded to in your first post, is whether the encounter produces a lasting and changed disposition that is favourable towards His character being developed in you.
    As opposed to imitiating it, which soon becomes exhausting. The proof is in the pudding, not the recipe, including hand raising etc.
    Many people encountered Jesus during His life and were touched, impressed,confronted or offended by Him, but only a few were profoundly changed for good, in both senses of the word. Those that were, as I read it, were those whose attitude was, or became one one of brokenness or as I have put it to Mabus, at an end of themselves. Those that are “full of themselves” are in no condition to receive anything out of the ordinary from God. Its not that God won’t, He simply can’t.
    As far as Paul goes, I’m simply asking you to consider his encounter, where he was in his religous pursuits at the time, and what the encounter produced in his life thereafter. “How the hell should you know” is all in the book of Acts.I am sure Paul also “felt” the experience, and his subsequent blindness.
    Unless Christinaity can result in as Peter puts it, becoming a “partaker of the Divine nature”, it has nothing more to offer than any other religous pursuit, and deserves to be held up as not being able to deliver the goods. But if it can, and in laymann’s terms, it results in a close friendship with God and the behaviour of Jesus being spontaneously demonstated in one’s life,, then it should surely deserve a less dismissive approach.

  • Ray

    Why do you think that Paul encountered God, but Joseph Smith didn’t, and Mohammed didn’t encounter Gabriel?

  • Beth

    The proof is in the pudding
    Or, as someone once said, “By their fruits shall you know them.” I agree with nearly everything you wrpte. In fact I wanted to put something similar in my last post, but couldn’t find the words to put it as clearly as you did. It’s not so much the experience itself, but the effects of the experience on our lives that determines its value, and tells is whether we’re on the right spiritual path.
    My only issue with your comment is the one that Ray raised: how does any of this make Christianity any more valuable or authentic than any other religion or even atheism? From what I’ve seen virtually all belief systems have the power to profoundly change people for the good (and virtually all can be used to encourage and justify great evil).

  • Beth

    The proof is in the pudding
    Or, as someone once said, “By their fruits shall you know them.” I agree with nearly everything you wrpte. In fact I wanted to put something similar in my last post, but couldn’t find the words to put it as clearly as you did. It’s not so much the experience itself, but the effects of the experience on our lives that determines its value, and tells is whether we’re on the right spiritual path.
    My only issue with your comment is the one that Ray raised: how does any of this make Christianity any more valuable or authentic than any other religion or even atheism? From what I’ve seen virtually all belief systems have the power to profoundly change people for the good (and virtually all can be used to encourage and justify great evil).

  • Don

    Beth and Ray,
    Hmmm. I enter dangerous territory. I actually havent said anything about other people who claim to have encountered God, but I get your point. I suppose one can only know what one knows, in terms of the experiential ie. if it works, dont fix it!
    However, and you guys can join the dots, IF Jesus was who he seems to claim he was (albeit somewhat cryptically), then logically, He would have to be a hard, but I suppose not impossible, act to follow.

  • Don Banks

    Oh, and Beth, ever noticed that in the world there is no shortage of recipe books, but not many really good cake shops?

  • Ray

    Trying to join the dots…
    IF Jesus really was the son of/God then he would have a major impact on the lives of his followers. Is that what you mean?
    So your argument is -
    IF an experience is of the one true god,
    THEN it would have a major effect on the life of the person having the experience.
    Paul’s life changed dramatically after his religious experience THEREFORE it was an experience of the one true god.
    This is the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent.
    ‘If A then B’ does not imply ‘if B then A’. The example we used in college was ‘IF it was raining THEN the ground will be wet’, which is true, but the ground could also be wet because of a burst pipe, so you can’t argue that the ground being wet means it must have been raining. Similarly, just because an experience changed your life, doesn’t mean it must have been an experience of the one, true god.

  • Don

    However, if the wet came from the sky, it is probably not via a burst pipe…

  • Ray

    Sure, but that’s not relevant to the logical form of the argument. At that point you’re no longer arguing ‘A > B’, ‘B’, ‘therefore A’, you’re arguing ‘A > B’, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘therefore A’ and assuming that ‘B & C > A’ is valid. You’re not assuming the consequent, you’re assuming the presence of some unstated axiom.
    To get back to the problem, the situation is this -
    You want to argue that Paul’s experience was a true religious experience of the one, true, real god. (statement 1)
    You also want to argue (I assume) that Mohammed and Joseph Smith’s experiences were not true religious experiences of the one, true, real god. (statement 2)
    Your argument for statement 1 is that Paul’s experience was life-changing, and lead to him being an extremely active and successful proselytiser for the religion he became a believer in. But the same argument can be made for statement 2, because Mohammed and Joseph Smith also became extremely active and successful proselytisers. So I think you have to find a different argument for statement 1.

  • ken loch

    Do you know the god of aesthetics? Similar to the christian god. On my website, I’m explaining the likeness and nature of aesthetics enlightened genius. My explanation is based on my own first hand experience. When refering to the concept of creationism, it should be referred to aesthetics, because when it comes to creating anything and it also being relative to beauty and truth, the genius is god’s go between. Jesus’ teachings did not and does not have the authority over the concept of creationism or the sin shared by the artist, scientist, theologian, philosopher, … . At judgment, the genius sits on that throne. Fear him.

  • http://ilx.wh3rd.net/thread.php?showall=true&msgid=3438286#6080792 I Love Everything

    Creationism

    Last part:
    …The story of the Good Samaritan is a good story, a beautiful and well-crafted story. It is a story that conveys important truths. But it is not a true story. Jesus never claims to be retelling an actual event that actually happened.
    It…

  • David_Evans

    “No one was present to witness all the elements in this story, which is told from the perspective of an omniscient, third-person narrator…”

    Surely Jesus was uniquely entitled to that perspective.

    Just quibbling.


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