According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater
Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma
It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds
assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

RJS - Inspiration? Yes! – Inerrancy? No.

David Livingstone

Pre-Adamism and Hermeneutics (RJS)

by RJS
Aug 14, 2014

Several years ago I read and posted on David Livingstone’s book Adam’s Ancestors: Race, Religion, and the Politics of Human Origins. This is a book I enjoyed reading, so it was a real pleasure to meet David at the Evolution and Christian Faith Workshop last month, and to have an opportunity to talk about the book among other things. Given our recent focus on the question of Adam, not to mention the discussion of Biblical Inerrancy, Adam’s Ancestors is a book that warrants another look and some edited reposts. Today we have the final installment.

In Chapter 9, Dimensions: concluding reflections, Livingstone ties together several themes running through his book. For our purposes today I would like to consider one of these – concordism and the role of concordism in our understanding of the relationship between science and scripture.

Concordism expects a concord, an agreement between claims of scripture and reality. On one level I am a concordist – for example I believe that the historical and theological claims relating to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus match reality. There is a historical and a theological concordance with reality.

But is concordism the right approach to all of scripture? When and at what level is agreement to be expected?

When it comes to Genesis 1-4 I am not a concordist … or am I? Perhaps the line is not so clear. I certainly don’t think that the purpose of Genesis One is to teach cosmology, history or science. Concordist approaches – finding modern science in the ancient text – seem deeply flawed.

On the other hand an accommodationist view – that God “accommodated” his message to the knowledge and understanding of the day has problems of its own. Some find these problems particularly apparent in the issues such as Adam and Fall, the image of God and the soul. The accommodationist approach can simply dismiss features of the text as an artifact of the ancient context and fail to consider fully the meaning and intent of the text.

Both traditional concordist and accommodationist views seem to miss the target in understanding the nature of this Scripture passage as “God-breathed.”

Taking a slightly different look at the problem, as Christians we expect a concord between the teaching of scripture and reality. One of the difficulties is that the teaching of scripture can take many forms…poetry, story, proverbs, history, prophecy, apocalyptic imagery, and more. These forms are molded in time and place – not only by the worldview and knowledge of the day (ANE cosmology for example), but also by the literary forms at work in the culture. Neither concordism nor accommodation seems to provide the correct nuance of understanding and approach.

In the history of the development of thinking about pre-adamite man the concept wavered between a defense of the authority of scripture and a challenge to the authority of scripture. By and large, however, pre-adamite man is a concept that was and is embraced to keep faith with both science and scripture. Livingstone suggests that the investigation of the history of pre-adamism sheds light on concordism and the role of concordism.

As such it [pre-adamism] discloses something about the general nature of concordist proposals. By working to preserve the peace between science and theology, it is not so much that pre-adamism acted as a conceptual bridge between two discrete spheres of knowledge and belief. Rather it functioned as a kind of mold that sculpted both scientific commitment and theological conviction into a distinctive shape. Harmonizing schemes are not to be thought of as passively zipping together two disparate sets of beliefs. They are, rather, agents actively fashioning both scientific theory and religious doctrine into new forms. … Harmonizing strategies are thus rarely single-unit ideas; rather, they are conceptual systems – packages of ideas – that transform the very notions they seek to unite. (pp. 220-221)

Livingstone’s insight – that harmonizing strategies are generally a package of ideas that transform the notions they seek to unite – is worth serious consideration. Every Christian thinker has wrestled with scripture and the story of scripture in the context of a day and age. Perhaps this two way street – with scientific theories informing and transforming interpretation and doctrine shaping the view of science – is the normal, natural, God ordained approach. We read Augustine, not to see threads of modern science in his thought, but to see how he wrestled with the common knowledge of his day and the story of scripture. We read Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Warfield, and Ramm, and see how they wrestled and thought, achieving a harmony between what they saw in scripture and what they knew from the world around them.

Paul told Timothy that all scripture is God-breathed, but it is in the context of a statement that defines a purpose for scripture. It gives “wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ” and it is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” I suggest – and put out for discussion – the idea that both the concordist approach and the accommodationist approach miss the point. They fail to wrestle fully with the nature of scripture, its purpose and its form.

I’ve rambled somewhat here – but would like to conclude with a question or two and open a discussion.

  • What role do you think harmonization should play in our understanding of scripture?
  • At what level should we expect a concord between science and scripture?
  • What approach should we take toward scripture?

David Livingstone’s new book Dealing with Darwin: Place, Politics, and Rhetoric in Religious Engagements with Evolution was the basis for his lecture in Oxford. I’ve ordered the book and will post on it soon – it should prove as interesting as Adam’s Ancestors.

* * * * * * * * *

Inspiration? Yes! – Inerrancy? (RJS)

by RJS
Aug 19, 2014

The post last Thursday (Pre-adamism and Hermeneutics) focused on the methods of biblical interpretation brought to bear in considerations of Adam and pre-adamic populations, particularly on the role concordism played and the effect of the harmonizing strategies on interpretation. The discussion of concordism and harmonizing strategies developed to keep faith with both science and scripture leads quite naturally into a broader discussion of biblical inspiration, inerrancy and the authority of scripture as the Word of God. After all, the purpose of a concordist approach is to preserve the inerrancy and thus authority of the text.

What does inerrancy have to do with inspiration and/or authority? A commenter on one of Scot’s posts on Five Views of Biblical Inerrancy brought up Charles Ryrie’s statement on biblical inspiration (the commenter found it in a Study Bible, but I also find it on p. 76 of Basic Theology):

Formerly all that was necessary to affirm one’s belief in full inspiration was the statement, “I believe in the inspiration of the Bible.” But when some did not extend inspiration to the words of the text it became necessary to say, “I believe in the verbal inspiration of the Bible.” To counter the teaching that not all parts of the Bible were inspired, one had to say, “I believe in the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Bible.” Then because some did not want to ascribe total accuracy to the Bible, it was necessary to say, “I believe in the verbal, plenary, infallible, inerrant inspiration of the Bible.” But then “infallible” and “inerrant” began to be limited to matters of faith only rather than also embracing all that the Bible records (including historical facts, genealogies, accounts of Creation, etc.), so it became necessary to add the concept of “unlimited inerrancy.” Each addition to the basic statement arose because of an erroneous teaching. (emphasis added)

Ryrie continues (also p. 76) …

The doctrine of inspiration is not something theologians have to force on the Bible. Rather it is a teaching of the Bible itself, a conclusion derived from the data contained in it.

I agree with Ryrie – inspiration is not something theologians have to force on the Bible and I believe in the inspiration of the Bible. But most of the subsequent refinements (responses to what Ryrie considered erroneous teachings), that define exactly what is meant to some people by “inspiration” culminating in “unlimited inerrancy,” do have to be forced on the text. These are not really something the Bible teaches of itself as a whole or conclusions that can be derived from the data contained in it. In fact they lead to a great deal of cognitive dissonance as many come to fear (or realize) that the text does not live up to the pronouncements.

Concern with inerrancy changes our focus. There is another consequence as well. David Livingstone pointed out that the harmonizing strategies used to achieve concord between science and the Bible transform our understanding of the message of scripture. This isn’t just true for questions of science. Harmonizing strategies within scripture also tend to fall into the same trap … strategies reconciling the details of the differing accounts of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 and even Job; the histories in Samuel, Kings and Chronicles; the details in the Gospels (there are differences both between John and the synoptic gospels and between incidents within the synoptic gospels – as with the fig tree for example: Wither the Fig Tree, Whither the Wandering Saints); Paul’s account of his post Damascus journey with the account given in Acts; and this isn’t a complete list. The harmonizing strategies used transform the notions they seek to unite. At the very least harmonizing strategies draw attention away from the core message of passages they seek to defend.

Inerrancy and all the ensuing imperatives, fine-tuned definitions, and fights, with bodies thrown off the boat, churned up in the wake, seems a largely irrelevant and sometimes destructive concept. We need to take scripture seriously – but taking scripture seriously means reading it (all of it) and living it. Neither rigid literalism nor a sifting of error from truth are appropriate.

The alternatives. When it comes to scripture the alternative to inerrant isn’t errant. I do not believe the bible is errant. But “inerrant” (at least inerrant as it has come to be defined in evangelical Christianity) is simply not a useful term to describe what scripture actually is or what it testifies about itself. We have to take the bible as we have it, with poetry, story, proverbs, history, prophecy, apocalyptic imagery, satire, ancient Near Eastern myth, anachronisms, … with all of the trappings. Here we have a faithful transmission of God’s work in his world, his law, his character and more, recorded in forms shaped by experience and context of the people involved, including authors and editors. It is foolishness (the wisdom of the world) to force it into a mold (unlimited inerrancy) of our own making.

Perhaps the best alternative to inerrant is quite simply to return to Ryrie’s first statement without all the detailed baggage he wishes to encumber upon it – I believe in the inspiration of the Bible. And we can go a step further with Paul. Paul wrote to Timothy that all scripture is God-breathed (inspired) in the context of a statement that defines the purpose for scripture. It gives “wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ” and it is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

When we try to define a tighter fence we will become entangled in the rusty barbed wire we have used and we add to scripture (the message of the cross) a structure of our own human construction.

My 2¢ for what it is worth (and I realize that some will think it worth nothing or even less than nothing).

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