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
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

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Is Genesis Real History?



Is Genesis real history? Simple answer... it is, and is not, and a literal reading of a nation's legendary history doesn't make it any plainer as evidenced by archaeological finds discounting parts of it while reconfirming other parts of it.

So why then read the bible? Can God be found in its pages?

Again, the short answer is yes but extrapolating mythic literature into biblical fact isn't quite that easy unless you prefer to rewrite your own religion which has been done lots of times including within today's present Christian groups and movements around the world.

As example, would you read Viking lores and legends as factual? Probably not, unless you're a Marvel comic freak. Otherwise we have to work behind the lores and legends to get to their meaning for a civilization.

Need some biblical examples? For one, there has never been a global flood. Want another? Nor was there an original couple - but one could say with certainty there was a mitochondrial Eve but with no primary Adam.

Do these facts change our idea of God? Sure, but not His presence in our lives. What it rather reflects is the ancient's idea of God sometimes as a violent, angry, judgmental, impersonal God. Of course there were other impressions of God in the Old Testament but we'll leave it at that for the moment.

Then Jesus comes along in the New Testament and says "Love your neighbor" and "Know your God is a redeeming God." The only intolerance God showed during Jesus' ministry was for religious people who wouldn't love their neighbor because their idea of God was screwed up.

As an aside, I think we see this quite plainly in today's radicalized elements of Christianity, don't we? 

Conclusion? Reading the bible intelligently is far more warranted than reading it as you think you understand it however sincere your heart.

R.E. Slater
May 1, 2018


* * * * * * * * * * *




Is Genesis real history?

Introduction

Man from dust, woman from rib. A talking snake. Two mysterious trees. A massive flood. Confusion of languages. What do we make of these stories? Did it all really happen as described by the early chapters of Genesis? Is Genesis giving us accurate history?

Any account of past events can be considered history. Genesis recounts past events—such as God’s creation of the world and human beings—so in this sense, Genesis is history. However, Genesis is theological history and uses figurative language in some of its descriptions. The author of Genesis is not interested in telling us how God created (in material terms) or how long it took.

We believe Genesis is a true account that, like other ancient narratives, uses vivid imagery to describe past events. It is silent on the scientific questions we might wish it to answer. A close reading of the text provides clues that indicate where a plain sense meaning is not intended. For example, in Genesis 1, there are three evenings and mornings with no sun, moon, and stars, so these are not regular days as we understand them (though they function that way in the text; they are literary days). Or consider Genesis 2:7, when God forms Adam from dust and breathes into his nostrils. This could not have happened exactly as described, because we know from other passages in the Bible that God is Spirit with neither hands nor lungs.

Inspiration and authority of Genesis

Genesis is the inspired word of God, but no human observer was present during the creation of the world, and God did not simply dictate a transcript of phenomena or events to the author of Genesis. Inspiration does not work that way.

In Genesis 1, we have an Israelite author’s account of God’s creative acts communicated to an Israelite audience. We believe that the understanding of the narrator in Genesis is God-given and therefore we accept it as offering an authoritative and true understanding of the world. However, it was not intended to enable us to reconstruct the creation events according to the scientific understanding of today or meet the demands of our modern worldview.

The genre and literary style of Genesis

Asking about history is asking about genre. Often when people identify Genesis as history they are arguing against identifying it with other genres (such as myth) or other forms of literary packaging (such as poetry). They might think that identifying Genesis as myth or poetry undermines or compromises its truth claims. But truth can be conveyed through a variety of genres or literary packages. We need to ask how Genesis delivers its truth claims—what the narrator’s intentions are.

The book of Genesis packages its truth claims largely in narrative, interspersed with genealogies. Chapters 1–11 describe the founding of the human race, leading up to God’s covenant with Abraham. Chapters 12–50 recount significant developments in the story of Abraham’s family, the ancestors of Israel, thus providing the backdrop to the covenant God made with Israel at Sinai. The early events described—including the side-by-side accounts of creation (ch. 1–2) and Adam and Eve’s primal act of disobedience (ch. 3)—are the opening episodes of the human story that lead to the story of Israel.

We can benefit from investigating how narratives in the Old Testament and the ancient world packaged truth related to past events. Even when their narratives deal with real events, the events are narrated as a means to a theological end.

Means to a theological end

Narratives—ancient or modern—are rarely bare chronicles of events as they happened. Take a reality TV show, for example. When an episode is filmed, multiple cameras are used to capture many events and conversations. The director then selects, arranges, and edits the raw footage to produce a coherent story consistent with the show’s agenda. Neither the director nor the viewers would expect to be able to reconstruct the raw footage from the finished product. The situation is similar in any historical account, which is a selective telling of events to serve a particular purpose. The case is no different with ancient narratives such as Genesis.

Ancient authors were more interested in the meaning of events rather than the details of the events. In that sense these narratives are not like most modern historical narratives. If we were to try to reduce their recorded event to a series of propositional truth claims, we would miss the entire point of their narrative.

When ancient narratives are interpretations of the past, they are generally not written simply to describe the past. Rather, they serve the present. Their work may be based on real events and real people, but their narratives do not explore “what really happened” in the style modern readers tend to expect. Rather, ancient narratives address the world of the narrator’s time, shedding light on that world and providing a perspective for the hearers to embrace. It is this perspective on the world, not the details used to reconstruct the events of the past, that the narrator wishes to convey to his audience.

Case study: the Flood of Genesis 6–9

Let’s apply this approach to one of the most famous stories in Genesis: the story of Noah and the Flood, found in Genesis 6–9. The Genesis Flood story is likely based on a set of even more ancient stories about an actual catastrophic regional flood event in the ancient Near East. These older legends were part of the cultural backdrop in which Genesis was written. The inspired author is re-casting these older stories using ancient literary conventions, in order to teach about the seriousness of sin and the merciful love of God for his creation. The story, based on a past flood event, is told using hyperbolic language to serve these theological points.

Genesis 6 portrays a world spinning out of control because of rebellion against God’s order. God acts to preserve his creation by returning it to the state of watery nothingness depicted in Genesis 1:2. Noah is called to participate in this preservation plan through the building of an Ark, which will allow the Earth to be repopulated and renewed after the destructive waters of the Flood subside. When this happens, God renews his covenant with humankind and reiterates his love for creation. This narrative pattern of human sin, God’s judgment, and God’s mercy is repeated throughout Genesis. The story of the Flood is intentionally told in a way that weaves the story into this larger narrative.

Like all of Genesis, the Flood story is part of God’s revelation to humankind. It informed Israel’s understanding of God’s relationship to creation and to Israel as his chosen people. This is a revelation of God to the people of Israel, not a revelation about the bare facts of science or natural history. In trying to reconstruct the details of “what really happened,” many have missed the theological point of the story.

The story of Genesis

The narratives of Genesis focus on conflict and resolution. God’s purpose from the beginning is to have his presence fill the earth; humans are to image God and subdue the earth, i.e., bring about order and fruitfulness in creation (Gen 1–2). Conflict enters the story when humans rebel against God (Gen 3). Shalom is shattered, and the earth is cursed. Further degeneration takes place (Gen 4–6) until God brings judgment and mercy (Gen 6–9). Humans then attempt to restore God’s presence (Gen 11) before God launches his own initiative to re-establish his presence on Earth (the covenant).

Genesis 1–11, then, is the founding story of humanity, ending in crisis. These narratives give a real and true assessment of God’s initial purposes and the human plight. Genesis 12–50 is the founding story of the nation with whom the covenant is eventually made at Sinai. The covenant establishes the relationship to Abraham and his descendants, provides the structure for living in God’s presence, and lays the foundation for God’s presence to be established on earth.

Conclusion

All narratives have purposes and perspectives. Genesis is a collection of ancient narratives, written and compiled by those who share the culture and literary styles of the ancient world. Like the narratives of their ancient Near Eastern neighbors, these narratives eliminate all details except those the narrator thinks are important to shape the message for his particular purpose.

The creation narratives are not included in Scripture so that we can receive a direct transmission from God about the phenomena of pre-human history; they are there because the inspired author’s interpretation of his present situation, through his narration of the events of the past, reveals truth about God and God’s purposes.

The truth of Genesis must not be judged by whether we can use it to reconstruct the “plain facts” of creation. The author wrote about past events (e.g., creation of the cosmos and humanity, humanity’s initial innocence and rebellion), but did so using evocative imagery. While all Christians can read the Bible profitably, our theological understanding is enriched as we learn more about the original audience and cultural context of Genesis. In turn, we see the continued significance and relevance of the text for our own lives.

- biologos

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