According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - 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

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Transparent Moments of Scholarship when a Theologian Must Either Stay or Change, Part 10 - Anthony Le Donne


Anthony Le Donne

“aha” moments: biblical scholars tell their stories (9): Anthony Le Donne
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2014/07/aha-moments-biblical-scholars-tell-their-stories-9-anthony-le-donne/

by Peter Enns
July 16, 2014

The 9th installment in our “aha moments” series is by Anthony Le Donne, assistant professor of New Testament at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, OH, and formerly of Lincoln Christian University. He was terminated from that position as a direct result of his popular book Historical Jesus: What Can We Know and How Can We Know It? Le Donne, a widely respected New Testament scholar, has also written The Wife of Jesus: Ancient Texts and Modern Scandals and blogs at The Jesus Blog.

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It would be fair to say that I’ve moved from conservative to liberal in my views about the Bible. But since my perspective on what constitutes “conservative” and “liberal” has evolved, perhaps these labels are misplaced.

I will say, however, that if my teenage self could meet who I am now, that dashing young man would call me a liberal. He would also be dismayed to learn how poorly Italians age. It’s like going from Johnny Fontane to Luca Brasi overnight. [a reference to the film, The Godfather]

In my Johnny Fontane years I viewed Scripture as an owner’s manual for life. I remember hearing this metaphor used at church. Life would just be better, smoother, happier if we just adhered to the owner’s manual.

The Bible cautions against drunkenness, so we avoided alcohol. Simple. The Bible tells us to resolve our conflicts before coming together in communion. Who wants to hold a grudge anyway? So simple. The Bible tells us not to murder. Less murder seemed like a positive thing to us (Luca Brasi notwithstanding).

Following these instructions seemed beneficial. Sunday school taught me this: if I did what the Bible told me to do, I’d be on the right track.

Both now and then, I see great virtue in this paradigm. The legal instructions of Israel exhort care for resident foreigners. These Scriptures command good stewardship of the earth and care for animals. Jesus tells me to feed the poor. He tells me to help folks who cannot pay me back. I’m supposed to love people considered outsiders by most.

I think that I’m a better person for following, meditating on, and wrestling with these teachings whenever I can. So what’s the problem?

Part of having a “high view” of Scripture for evangelicals is reading the Bible closely and often. I did. When I did, one of the things I found was a teaching from Jesus about lust.

Lust was a big deal when I was an adolescent. For boys of a certain age, lust is a fulltime job. I tried to think about baseball. I really did. But biology is a Super Bowl commercial. I—like most boys—was at war with myself.

I turned to the Bible often with fear and trembling. Jesus told me that if I looked upon Daisy Duke [sic, Dukes of Hazzard] with lust in my heart, I was guilty of adultery. I kept reading. Jesus told me that if my right eye continued to sin, I should pluck it out. And here I was looking upon Linda Carter [sic, Wonder Woman] with both eyes!

I asked around. The standard evangelical advice I got was that this command wasn’t to be taken literally. The proper evangelical reading of this passage was to get the main point. What was the “didactic thrust” of Jesus’ words? Well, according to my youth pastors and mentors, Jesus was just using a bit of rhetorical flare to warn me against the dangers of lust. It would all make perfect sense if I just took it as a figurative speech.

I began to look for the didactic thrust of biblical teaching. The owner’s manual might command us to throw literal rocks at literal homosexuals, but the gist of that passage was that God hates homosexuality… but LOVES and FORGIVES all sinners (we’ve taken to shouting that last part—more for ourselves than for anyone else).

The rock-throwing part wasn’t to be taken literally, but the meaning behind the text seemed quite clear to us. Sometimes it seems that the clearest meaning of Scripture is the one that reinforces our own comfort zones.

Already as a high school student, the owner’s manual paradigm was stretched beyond usefulness. My evangelical world began to accommodate figural readings by looking for the underlying message. I think that this is where most evangelicals land.

We treat the Bible as an owner’s manual that we’re forced to interpret creatively at times. As long as we read selectively, we’re able to use the Bible to reinforce our “commonsense.” This way we get to keep our eyeballs and hands on our persons (Matt 5:27-30) but continue to reinforce our commonsense notions of sexual purity.

But what of the “underlying message” of Ezra 9-10?

By the grace of God, both my eyes survived adolescence and I was able to keep reading the Bible as a young adult. I was in high school when I first set my eyes on Ezra 9-10. I was able to sidestep the command to divorce and abandon children without much thought to the “literal sense” of this story. Obviously such a command shouldn’t be taken literally. After all, Jesus condemns divorce.

So I looked for the gist of God’s words through Ezra. The underlying message—it occurred to me—was that interracial marriage is sinful and disastrous to the purity of bloodlines. This teaching seemed remarkably similar to my grandmother’s disapproval of my parents’ relationship because my father was dark-skinned.

I’m not claiming that my 16-year-old exegesis was all that sophisticated. But any way you slice it, Ezra 9-10 is deeply troubling—especially so to folks with an owner’s manual view of the Bible.

My salvation during this crisis came from a fellow evangelical who pointed me to Jeremiah 29. In this passage, the Lord seems to command intermarriage as the Israelites find themselves in Babylon.

An owner’s manual view of the Bible might see this as a contradiction. But I found Jeremiah’s exhortations to be comforting. The prophet commands Israel to be culturally integrated within a milieu of religious and ethnic pluralism.

This wasn’t my only “aha” moment, but it was a significant realization in my life. The Bible—it occurred to me then—was much more than an owner’s manual.

In my adulthood, the Bible has become a multi-vocal conversation spanning centuries.

Voices are set against voices for good reason. Job is juxtaposed with Proverbs. Paul is juxtaposed with James. Mark is juxtaposed with Matthew (indeed, four Gospels are set together—as opposed to one official narrative).

Sometimes I heard my own voice set against an ancient one as I read. But my voice wasn’t alone. Sometimes there was a chorus of faithful voices on my side. Viewed as a multi-vocal conversation, I found room for me within the paradigm—me, including my right eye and right hand.

I also found Proverbs 26:4-5 to be a needed corrective to my view of the Bible as an owner’s manual:

Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
or you yourself will be just like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
or he will be wise in his own eyes.

In my Johnny Fontane years, I might have heard this passage as a contradiction. What am I supposed to do? Answer the fool or not? But when I hear these sayings as two voices collected within a multi-vocal collection, I am invited into a conversation.

More importantly, these divergent views are set side-by-side. Somewhere along the way, a faithful collector of tradition decided that these two sayings should be set into direct relationship. Once put together, these sayings were passed from generation to generation in a relationship of tension. There is something beautiful here that cannot be captured by the owner’s manual paradigm.

I no longer expect biblical voices to harmonize or to provide some sort of absolute Truth. As I encounter God through the many voices of the Bible (even when they debate or sound like my grandmother), I throw myself into a living and evolving relational Mystery.

I enter into the worship of God as I study the Bible. I don’t need the Bible to be infallible because it is just the entry point, not the ultimate destination.

For me the Bible isn’t something that demands my ultimate affirmation of commands and prohibitions. A high view of Scripture—for me at least—is one that views the Bible as much more than an owner’s manual.

But I will admit that I continue to struggle with my roots. I may not look like an evangelical to my younger self, but I find myself in evangelical default mode at times. Just when I think I’m out… they pull me back in!

This is why I rarely trust my own readings. I live within a community of honest academics (some Christian; some not) who have permission to correct me and better me. As such, the multi-vocal tradition continues. Because as much as I’d like to be Johnny Fontane, I’m not much of a soloist.



Book Review (RJS) - Four Views on the Historical Adam, Part 4


Amazon Link

The Historicity of Adam is a Gospel Issue (RJS)
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/07/15/the-historicity-of-adam-is-a-gospel-issue-rjs/

by RJS
Jul 15, 2014

The final major essay in Four Views on the Historical Adam is by William D. Barrick. In his chapter Barrick argues for a traditional young earth view of Adam as the unique, supernaturally created, seminal father of all humankind. He argues that this is central to the biblical story and the Christian worldview. If Adam is not historical we must wonder why there is a need for Jesus. According to Barrick “[t]hat makes the historicity of Adam a gospel issue.” (p. 222 – emphasis in the original).

Barrick’s stress on the importance of a young earth and a historical Adam exactly as described in Genesis 1-3 is rooted in his approach to scripture (what we might call his theology of scripture) and his understanding of the gospel story conveyed in scripture.

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In Barrick’s view, which he calls the traditional view, a historical Adam as the original man from whom all human beings descend is foundational to a biblical understanding of God’s creative activity, the history of the human race, the nature of mankind, the origin and nature of sin, the existence and nature of death, and the reality of salvation from sin; it is foundational to the progressive account of the historical events recorded in Genesis, … “and perhaps most importantly, foundational to a biblical understanding of Scripture’s authority, inspiration, and inerrancy.” (list and quote p. 199, emphasis mine)

This is important – everything in Barrick’s view rests on his approach to scripture as inspired and incapable of error of any sort. In his view the Holy Spirit superintended the writing of scripture and protected it from all error. This leads to very strict readings of the intended meaning and prevents serious consideration of the idea that mistaken understandings may have been included. His theology and, to be fair, the theology of many other Christians rests on this approach to scripture.

First, the traditional view commonly affirms that God gave the Genesis account of creation to Moses by special revelation. Thus the narrator is both omniscient and reliable, because the ultimate author is God himself. After all, if Adam was truly the first human being, there were no human eyewitnesses to his creation. Additionally, Adam could not have described the making of the woman, because he was in a deep sleep throughout the divine procedure. The only eyewitnesses are God and the angels. The only alternative to divine revelation would be an unlikely angelic report....

Second, traditionalists take the position that the declarations of Genesis bear the stamp of divine truth, historical fact, and historiographical accuracy. (p. 199-200)

He believes that the suggestion that the account contains mistaken ancient Near Eastern conceptions of cosmology “impugns God’s moral integrity.”

The Creation Account

The Biblical evidence for the traditional view of origins rests on the straightforward prosaic nature of the account of creation and of Adam and Eve. Evolution is not consistent with the biblical account for a number of reasons – but one is that Adam was created first and was alone … “if it takes countless years to produce one such individual, how will he survive long enough while another similarly developed individual evolves who is his compatible opposite in gender for the human race to begin?” (p. 210) The Genesis account refers explicitly to individuals and not to groups or populations and the traditional view takes this specification seriously.

Adam is the seminal (physical) head of the human race and Eve was produced directly from him using his DNA “altered by God at the time he formed her.”(p. 213) Sin enters into the human race before any children were produces and is transmitted to everyone else through the contribution of the male parent. Immediate death would have put an end to God’s plan for Adam and Eve, thus he allows them to produce offspring and eventually the seed who is the restorer – Christ. Not only is sin transmitted through the male but....

As far as that disobedience is concerned, the second masculine singular grammatical form, verbs, pronouns, and pronominal suffixes, throughout Genesis 3 make it clear that the Creator holds Adam accountable. As Eve’s husband, Adam is head of his family and responsible for both Eve’s and his actions leading to sin’s entrance into the world. (p. 214)

The climax of the Genesis 3 account is that “Adam and Eve produce children bearing their image as rebels against a holy God.” (p. 215)

The Gospel Story

Barrick sees strong support for the traditional view in the New Testament (as well as the rest of the Old). He suggests that the genealogies in both Matthew and Luke connect back to Adam, although only Luke does so explicitly. Paul makes reference to the one man in Acts 17 as well as 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5. He does not feel that an archetypal or any view of Adam other than as a single unique individual can fulfill the textual and theological role assigned to Adam. In fact, he argues that the biblical description of sin depends entirely on the historicity of Adam because it is both active rebellion and a state of being, but not an inherent aspect of the created order. The state of being alien from the created order entered through a man (Adam) and an act (Adam’s).

Adam must be a completely righteous person, bearing the image of God, who succumbs to a specific temptation from outside his own person and who represents the entire human race. (p. 221)

He concludes his discussion of the thrust of the argument, connecting Christ, atonement, resurrection, and Adam:

It is no accident or mere coincidence that Paul addresses the issue of Adam in the same context (1 Cor 15:21-22, 45-49). The implication is inescapable: Denial of the historicity of Adam, like denial of the historicity of Christ’s resurrection, destroys the foundations of the Christian faith. (p. 223 emphasis in the original)

In Barrick’s view the only reason that people stray from the view he has described is because they allow extrabiblical sources to trump (or even nuance) the biblical account. This includes extrabiblical information from geology, evolution, and archaeology (especially ancient texts) as well as other errant human studies.

When a reader of the Bible accepts extrabiblical evidence (whether from ancient Near Eastern documentation or from modern scientists’ interpretation of circumstantial evidence) over the biblical record, that denigrates the biblical record and treats it with skepticism rather than as the prima facie evidence. (p. 226)

The adherent to the traditional view turns to science only to refute the secular scientist, not because they care about science as primary evidence. We must stand on the testimony of the biblical text. “Science changes, the Scripture does not.” (p. 227) He finishes by quoting John Walton from his commentary on Genesis to close his essay: “We need to defend the teaching of the text, not a scientific reconstruction of the text or statements that are read between the lines of the text.” (p. 227)

In the next post on this book we will look at the responses offered by Denis Lamoureux, John Walton and Jack Collins along with William Barrick’s rejoinder and some thoughts of my own.


* * * * * * * * * * *




Responses to the Traditional View of Adam (RJS)
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/07/17/responses-to-the-traditional-view-of-adam-rjs/

by RJS
Jul 17, 2014

In the final major essay in Four Views on the Historical Adam William Barrick argued for a traditional young earth view of Adam as the unique, supernaturally created, seminal father of all humankind. His view was outlined in the previous post on the book: The Historicity of Adam is a Gospel Issue. In this post we will look at the responses offered by Denis Lamoureux, John Walton, and Jack Collins as well as William Barrick’s rejoinder to their comments.

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DL's Rebuttal

Denis Lamoureux agrees with Barrick’s summary of the reality and meaning of sin but not with his conclusion that this depends entirely on the historicity of Adam. He feels that Barrick’s strategy of connecting the historicity of Adam with the historicity of Christ and the resurrection, thereby making it a gospel issue, is unwarranted. A serious regard for scripture does not require this:

The gospel is about Jesus Christ, not Adam. The gospel is about the reality of sin, not about how sin entered the world. The gospel is about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, not specifically for Adam’s sin. And it is because of the gospel that we are called “Christ-ians” and not “Adam-ites.”(p. 229)

At many places in his essay Barrick responds to statements made by Peter Enns in The Evolution of Adam – in fact this seems to be in his sights more than any of the immediate views presented in this book. Denis is correct however that a criticism of Pete’s view is often a criticism of his as well. He disagrees with Barrick that accommodation to a human perspective, allowing ancient cosmology into the text for example, denigrates ancient Israel or the Bible, and it certainly does not impugn God’s moral integrity (all claims Barrick makes). Rather, we have to take the text we have before us (which does include ancient cosmology) whether we like it or not.

Lamoureux also points out that Christian tradition is not inerrant - and the traditional view is not necessarily the correct view. Martin Luther’s 1534 Bible features a diagram of the universe using the ancient cosmology and Luther’s lectures on creation in Genesis indicate that he believed this cosmology was accurate – including the firmament and waters above. We need to be open to revisions in tradition as we study scripture in each new generation.

Walton's Rebuttal

John Walton believes that Barrick consistently misunderstood or misrepresented what he means by archetype. He equates archetypal with allegorical and this is not what Walton means by archetypal. Rather he (Walton) argues that the authors in scripture were using Adam in an archetypal manner and that this is the role that Adam plays in their arguments. An archtype can be historical, but need not be historical.

Walton lists nine other ways that he thinks that Barrick uses faulty logic and fails to make a case for his position. He objects to the slippery slope argument that Barrick uses at times. Barrick has a tendency to state his conclusions as obvious – which makes it difficult to carry on a useful conversation. Barrick bundles together issues that are not necessarily connected logically – such as when he jumps from Eve’s role in the temptation to gender hierarchy. In a section discussing the ways that Barrick uses logical non sequiturs providing four examples he ends with an example where Barrick quotes Walton’s own NIVAC commentary on Genesis and misapplies it … “When he says “in other words,” he draws illegitimate conclusions from the statement he quotes me as making – a form of non sequitur.” (p. 242 referring to a quote and conclusion by Barrick on pp. 225-226)

In conclusion, my objections to Barrick’s positions derive largely from how he conducts his argumentation and the absence of evidence for the details of the positions he maintains. (p. 243)

Collin's Rebuttal

Jack Collins agrees with some of Barrick’s points including the importance of the historicity of Adam. He disagrees with the tight connection between historicity and a literal hermeneutic. He feels that the definition of inerrancy that Barrick uses suffers from some serious problems. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy is more nuancedScripture should be evaluated according to its usage and purpose, not according to our standard of truth or error. While Barrick correctly worries about improper use of ancient Near Eastern documents, this shouldn’t prevent the proper use of such documents.

When it comes to whether we should compare the material we find in the Bible to the materials we find from surrounding cultures, it seems almost obvious that of course we should. The biblical writers spoke into a specific context and regularly had to warn their audiences against the blandishments of the competing worldviews. Whether it be an Old Testament prophet inveighing agains idolatry and syncretism, or a New Testament apostle reminding people about Greco-Roman depravity, these warnings are common stuff. Surely a sane interpreter will do what he or she can to discover what these dangers were. (p. 250)

He also thinks that Barrick is too hard on science and scientists – an issue that needs a good deal more nuance (he refers to his book Science and Faith).

Barrick's Rejoinder

In his rejoinder William Barrick reiterates his main point. We must put scripture first, and none of the old earth positions do this. Biblical scholars like Lamoureux, Walton, and Collins minimize to some degree or other the historical accuracy of the text:

“Minimalists rely more heavily on human authority as the lynch-pin for their argumentation than on the divine authority of Scripture. … Their statements indicate that the yardstick for determining biblical truth resides with the most current scientific beliefs, not the objective biblical revelation itself.” (p. 252)

Minimalists pick and choose which statements are truly inerrant based on human reasoning. Young-earth adherents do not do this. Thus, Barrick’s argument for his position on the historicity of Adam is ultimately quite simple.

Young-earth evidence for the historicity of Adam comes from Scripture itself and its own direct statements. Such biblical evidence does not require confirmation from any external scientific, historical, or sociological evidence. When the Genesis record declares that God created the woman out of the material that he took from Adam, we require no other evidence to conclude that they shared DNA and that she was specially created. The fact that Scripture speaks only of a first man and first woman and that it presents them as the actual historical parents of the entire human race is evidence enough to believe those truths. (p. 253)

The Scripture contains God’s very words and these are always completely truthful – no ancient cosmology and no use of myth (a word he views entirely as a negative) or story. The chief difference between his view and that of all who hold to an old-earth is that “old-earth viewpoints accept modern scientist’s interpretations of observable data.” (p. 254) Barrick and others who hold to a traditional young-earth view stand on Scripture alone.

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RJS' Conclusion

And a final comment of my own. William Barrick is quite clear about the foundation for his view. It is an approach to Scripture as the bedrock of faith that many of us grew up with. But it is not clear that the Scripture we actually possess can stand up to the load that Barrick places upon it.

Denis Lamoureux (the only contributor to this book with a strong science background – Jack Collins has a BS and MS computer science and systems engineering from MIT which is impressive, but not quite the same) comments that it was his study of Genesis 1-11 that first led him away from the young-earth view.

I agree with Denis – it is my reading of the biblical text itself that leads me away from the young-earth view and from the hard view of inerrancy that Barrick defends. Not just Genesis 1-11; but the entirety of Scripture.

Scripture is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. As Paul states it is the Holy Scriptures which are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Useful for training so that we may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. But we stand on the reality of God and Christ, this is our only foundation.

I take scripture seriously enough that I have listened to it through many times over the last couple of years in order to allow the sweep from beginning to end to penetrate into my understanding of who and what I am and we are – as God’s people. I don’t find the hard view of inerrancy that gives rise to Barrick’s young-earth view consistent with the Scripture we have inherited. We need to take Scripture seriously but on its own terms.

I accept an old-earth and an evolutionary creation because I see this as where the scientific evidence leads. But I do not think that this is in conflict with the sweep and message of Scripture, including most importantly the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God’s Messiah for our sins.

The question we need to ask about the young-earth view is quite simple: Is this really the right way to interpret Scripture?

I don’t think that it is. Nor do Lamoureux, Walton, Collins (or Enns who is clearly in Barrick’s sights), although we don’t all agree on exactly what this means for the historicity of Adam.